Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Because I'm in complete denial that Spencer went and turned FIFTEEN today, please excuse me while I reminisce. I may have posted this before, but we were remembering at dinner some of the funny things he used to say.

Age 5:
"I don't have any earwax anymore. My ears are just plain, plain, plain."

One day Spencer came home from Kindergarten and asked, "Are some markers pregnant?" We looked at him kind of funny so he repeated himself. "Are some markers pregnant?" Another strange look. "Wait, what does pregnant mean?" We explained it means you have a baby in your tummy. So he asked, "Does it also mean something that doesn't come off?" The light went on and we said, "Oh, you mean 'permanent.'" "Yeah. Mrs. Fleming has some markers that are permanent..."

Spencer still makes us laugh, plus he's super smart and responsible and kind and handsome and overall just a really great young man. In another day or two he'll have his permit so he can DRIVE! I mean, just slow down a little please!!

Happy Birthday, Spencer! I hope all your wishes come true and I hope fifteen is your best year so far!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cool Weather Campout

Three weeks ago, with only two weeks left of our summer break, we had the most beautiful late July weather ever: Mid-70's during the day and mid-50's at night. Seriously unheard of in our little corner of the world! With Savannah at girls' camp for the week, the rest of us decided to head out on an overnight camping trip of our own.

*No bugs! I'm not sure where all the mosquitoes gathered for the evening, but they were not in our campsite. Hooray!! :)

*Good food. Fresh corn on the cob and dutch oven pizza for dinner. S'mores (of course) for dessert. Yum!

*Good company. I love hanging out with this bunch!!

*Hanging out around the campfire. We had some cool fire crystals that turned the fire different colors. 

*Beautiful surroundings. With such a mild summer and just enough rain, everything was still green and lush and beautiful! The picture below was taken when the smoke from our morning campfire highlighted the sun streams through the trees.

What a great way to start winding down our summer. :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

First Day: Look For the Good

Ready or not...

It's the first day of school. I know. August 12. If you ask me, there should still be three weeks of summer.

But no one asked me.

My challenge to each of my kids as they headed out the door was to look for the good. It's out there. But sometimes, when you're worried or scared, it's easier to look for the negative to confirm our fears. (It's out there, too.) I told them there will be good and bad things that happen today but I want them to look for the good. I hope they do. I hope they find bunches of it!

And I hope they come home happy. :)

Sadie, our happy fourth grader. Today couldn't come soon enough for this girl!

Soren, sixth grade. This year he's the big man on campus!

Sterling, seventh grade. Braving the middle school!

Spencer, tenth grade. He knows the ropes. 

Savannah left in a hurry before I could get a good before-school photo so I'm stealing one we took the other day... 

Savannah is a SENIOR!! She's already looking forward to May 15... (slow down, please!)

{As a side note, please notice our green grass. This is a novelty. This has been the mildest summer we've ever had, by far. It's rained more than usual, and we've had weeks of temperatures in the 70's. Unheard of. Usually, in July and August, we're lucky if it cools off to the 70's at night! So while the grass is usually brown and very thirsty by the end of July and August, this year it's a lush green. I just wanted to note that here because it may be a while before it happens again and I don't want to forget!}

Friday, August 8, 2014

Two Truths and a Lie

Understatement: Sterling is a crazy kid. You just never know what he's going to come up with next. Last week, Sterling got a hold of our video camera and decided to make his own "I'm a Mormon" video. He did all the filming himself. He wrote the script and set up the shots. We didn't even know he was doing this until he finished and wanted us to watch it. It's even mostly true. Sterling really does play the violin and he has actually played while jumping on a pogo stick and riding the Ripstik. He was the Fiddler in Fiddler on the Roof last summer, and he is a Mormon. But there is one part where he gets a little carried away... Just make sure you watch until the very end.

My favorite line: But I knew that God was helping me every step of the way, even though each step was just a little bit of a hop. How does he come up with this stuff??

I told you he was crazy! :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Elder Stowell

We received this photo yesterday from Sam's mission president,
taken the day Sam arrived in Arizona.

I'm happy to report that Sam has safely arrived in Arizona and is working with an amazing trainer as he begins his missionary service in Mesa. I've started another blog where I will post his e-mails home...

Feel free to check it out. His letter from yesterday is super newsy and positive. I've been missing and worrying about him way more than I expected, but my worries melted away after I read his letter. Sam is going to be just fine!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vacation Highlights: Utah

Utah is hard to write about. And I hardly have any pictures. :( I think we were in a fog just trying to balance fun and family with the fact that Sam would be leaving on the 16th and we wanted to make sure he was ready to go (he was) and that we were ready to say goodbye (we weren't).

We arrived in Utah on the evening of July 13th and stayed for a week with my brother Dave and his darling wife, Tanya. The first few days we saw lots of family. Sunday night everyone, minus my youngest brother, was gathered at my brother Dave's house when we arrived. It was so fun catching up and watching the cousins together. They all get along really well. Monday night we went to see my brother and niece perform in Shrek: The Musical. What a fun show! The Herriman Arts Council did a fantastic job putting together a quality production. We loved it!

Tuesday night we had a big barbecue at my brother Steve's house. We were able to get all but two of the cousins together for a picture. (Emma was, once again, performing in Shrek and baby Hank wouldn't make it up from Nevada until Thursday of that week.) What a great bunch of kids. Taylor, near the front in the teal tank top, had so much fun with Sam that night. She even convinced him to perform a little dance with her. When she left that night, she was completely bawling her little eyes out knowing that she wouldn't see Sam again for two years!

Wednesday was rough. After we dropped Sam off at the MTC, we mustered up the energy to head to BYU for a campus tour. Savannah will be submitting her application this fall and the tour was very beneficial in letting her know what to expect as she applies to BYU and prepares to apply to the nursing program at the end of her freshman year. I'm glad we went. It really helped to get Savannah super excited, but we were missing Sam more than I expected. We just tried not to talk about it because every time I opened my mouth, tears leaked out my eyeballs.

That night I was torturing myself by watching things like this and I decided that what I really needed was chocolate. Jeff and my brother were out running errands so we texted them and, boy howdy, did they ever come through! Introducing the chocolate dome from Kneaders: Brownie base, chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, rolled in chocolate shavings with a dollop of whipped cream - just what the doctor ordered. Oh, so yummy and rich and perfect for drowning my sorrows! I was still missing Sam, but at least I was happy about it.
Kneaders Chocolate Domes. The ultimate chocolate comfort food.      Imagesource
Jeff and I spent Friday evening with some of my best high school friends. You know those friends where, even if it's been 5, 10, 15 or 20 years, you can pick up where you left off? That's how it is with this group. It turns out, three of them were in the same boat -- missing their kids who had very recently left on missions, too. It helped to talk with them and hear that a) I'm normal and b) it gets better. We had a great evening and left feeling a lot lighter.

Saturday morning, Jeff and three of our kids went with several other family members to hike the Y. It was a pretty good (steep) hike, but everyone who tried made it! :) I'll post a picture from Savannah when she gets home from Girls' Camp.

I'm leaving out a lot of detail. Once Sam left, everything got a little foggy. But we had a great time in Utah and we're so blessed to have been able to spend time with everyone in my family. It was a great vacation!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Vacation Highlights: Dancing

A few months before our vacation, ideas were submitted for fun family activities we could do together. Someone mentioned a dance and the idea took off. Uncle Randy put his DJ skills to work and we even borrowed a great sound system and turned grandma and grandpa's backyard into a ballroom. Neighbors were invited and the dance was a success. You can see from the photos below that the Stowells (and their friends) have got the moves. It was a great night!

My boys showing off their moves.

Lots of line dances and plenty of willing participants

Grandma and Grandpa. So sweet!

The big girl cousins: Katie, Sarah, Savannah and Briana

Sometimes you just have to twirl.

There was plenty of traditional dancing as well.

Sadie and Jeff danced to their song, "My Little Girl" on Sadie's last 8-year old day.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Vacation Highlights: Triathlon

Bright and early on July 10, we were up and ready for our first ever Family Triathlon. The first event was the swim which took place in the chilly Rigby Lake. Surprisingly, I acclimated to the cold water rather quickly and made it through the .3 mile swim without a problem. I was the only girl who did the full swim (there were about 5 men). A few of the kids swam a shorter length of a hundred yards or so. Sorry, but I refuse to post any pictures of the swim. This is a happy blog and I intend to keep it that way. :)

For the cycling portion, most of the kids and some adults rode 4 miles around grandma and grandpa's neighborhood. One of my nieces wanted to tackle the full 12 mile bike ride, but her parents were concerned about whether she'd be able to make it. I was more than happy to take up the rear so I could keep an eye on her and honestly, that was my preferred pace anyway! The scenery was so pretty. I shot a few photos with my iPod so you can see how beautiful our surroundings were.

Jeff came in first for the bike ride and I came in last, but it was a gorgeous and comfortable ride. The run picked up right where the bikes left off. Three times around the neighborhood equals 5K. I originally signed up to run just 1 mile, but realized that I could walk the 5K and still say I did it. (I did it!!!)

We passed out t-shirts, drank lots of water and gatorade, and didn't do much for the rest of the day. :) It was a great goal to work for and I'm hoping we might be able to do it again!

Way to go, Sam and Savannah!!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Vacation Highlights: Idaho

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed when I think about our vacation. We crammed in plenty of fun and there's no way I'll be able to remember everything! The kids got to see all of their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, except for one cousin, Jordan, who is on a mission in Nevada. That's pretty good considering our families are spread out over Illinois (us), Washington, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Nevada.

We left home on the evening of July 3 and drove straight through the night to arrive in Idaho 24.5 hours later. I'll post separate entries for our Stowell family triathlon and a fun family/neighborhood dance, but otherwise here is a small sampling of photos from the Idaho part of our trip, July 4-13.

Three generations of Stowell missionaries. I love this picture!

Sam loves Grandpa's '32 Chevy. Grandpa is planning to sell it soon so Sam got in a lot of driving time.

Savannah modeled grandma's wedding dress. Cute little bridesmaids. :)

One of many beautiful sunsets in Idaho. 

Just a crazy picture of Sadie. We were at Nielsen's Frozen Custard (Yum!) and she was being silly.

This sign hangs in a little cottage in the gardens at BYU-Idaho. 

The adults attended a temple session in Idaho Falls one evening.

Pretty Idaho Falls Temple silhouette

A cousins temple trip a few days later

Sam and Ruby were buddies all week. It went by too fast!

Not pictured: waterskiing and tubing on Ririe Reservoir, playing at Rigby Lake, the best BBQ dinner ever, Sadie's birthday (sadly, it was pretty lame), climbing a rock wall (so fun!), floating down the Snake River with my sister-in-law Krista's family, some intense minute-to-win-it competitions, and Savannah's perfect dates with her long-time crush.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bundling Up in July

We're having some pretty crazy weather. July in our little corner of the world is known for being hot and humid. It rarely rains so everyone's grass turns brown and we spend a lot of time indoors.

But not this year.

Tuesday at the Cardinals game we had typical Illinois July weather: low 90's that felt like 100º and plenty of humidity. By Thursday it was sunny and 75º. I kicked the kids out of the house and forced them to play outside. It's just not something they think of doing at the end of July. We even set up the tent last night and slept in the backyard. During the night, the temperature dropped down into the 50's and it felt so nice to snuggle down into our sleeping bags instead of laying on top of them just wishing for a breeze! Today was a little rainy, but beautiful this evening - again in the 70's. When I booted the kids out the door again after dinner, I laughed when Sadie came back in for a jacket because she was "freezing."

July 25th and all bundled up!

Apparently we're in for a stormy weekend, but by Monday we're back into the low 70's and it looks like it might just be a perfect week. Savannah will be at girls' camp and the rest of us may decide to go camping, too. I could get used to this!!