Thursday, April 28, 2016

Shrek: The Musical

It's that time of year again. Our high school will be putting on their spring musical next week! This year I was again in charge of getting the t-shirts. It was pretty easy this time around because I was given a logo pack to use so I didn't have to design anything other than adding the school name and dates.

Spencer is playing the part of Pinocchio, one of the fairytale creatures. They were given old suitcases for one of their props and told to take them home and make them fit their specific role. Here is what Spencer started with:

Because Pinocchio is made of wood (despite his insistence that he's a real boy), a wooden suitcase was the logical design. Here's what we came up with:

I helped him come up with the design and my friend generously donated wood grain contact paper she had left over from another project. Spencer did most of the work himself. He did a great job!

Sterling will be the violinist in the pit orchestra. That's something he's always wanted to do, but the score hasn't included a violin part for the past several shows. He's been practicing hard and is excited to be involved.

If you're anywhere near my little corner of the world, come on out for the musical! If past years are any indication, you won't be sorry. It's always top notch and loads of fun! Feel free to contact me for information.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Lip Sync Battle

Saturday night was a Stake Youth Lip Sync Battle at church. (A Stake is just a group of wards or congregations in a specific geographical area.) They've never done anything like this before out here and my boys were excited!! They decided on a less-than-serious song by BYU Vocal Point (of course!) and worked out their moves. At stake was a "solid gold plastic trophy," and there was plenty of good competition for the prize.

My phone died before the boys ever set foot on stage, but fortunately Jeff's parents were in town from Idaho and Carol filmed it with her phone. Jeff made a cameo appearance which was a hit. (Jeff is the Stake President and loves working with the youth!)

At the end of the evening, the youth chose their champions. "The Stowell Boys" won the trophy. It was a fun event! :)

The Stowell Boys - Winners of the first annual Lip Sync Battle (with their friend, Anna)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Looper

Sterling was saving his money for a Looper Pedal. They aren't cheap so he was constantly asking, "What can I do?" to earn some extra cash. He was happily doing things that are typically my responsibility or jobs that don't get done on a regular basis. The money was coming in steadily, but not fast enough.

Then I realized that a Looper Pedal alone wouldn't do him much good. He'd need a microphone going in and a speaker coming out. Plus, the Looper he'd picked out was really set up for the guitar and a vocal one cost a little more. The price was climbing. I hesitated to tell Sterling because I didn't want to deflate his hopes. Then I had an idea.

For years I've thought about getting some sound equipment for these musical kids of ours, but each time I look into it, I get so overwhelmed by the options and the prices and not knowing where to start. I eventually abandon the idea. Knowing all of our kids would enjoy the equipment, I decided to look into it once more and see just what it would take to get Sterling set up.

I purchased a microphone, PA speaker, and a Looper as well as the cords needed to hook everything up. I asked Sterling if he was willing to give me the money he'd earned so far and we'd take care of the rest.* He jumped at the offer. We gave the equipment to the kids on Easter and, no joke, within 10 minutes of getting everything out of the boxes, Sterling was making some cool music.

It's pretty slick. He records one track and then pushes the loop button with his foot and it plays it again so he can record another track right along with it. Then he can add another voice and another and he just goes right on singing with his own self.

I asked Sterling to give me a quick demo of his Looper Pedal so here you go. (The Looper is on the floor.) This is real time just as you see it. Fun stuff!!

*Jeff and I always try to make our Easter gifts meaningful to the holiday. We gave the microphone and speaker to all the kids after we had them look up scripture verses about crying out with the "sound of a trump" (microphone) and "hearing" the word of the Lord (speaker). Here's how I tied Sterling's Looper Pedal in --  We have a children's book called "You Are Priceless," by Stephen E. Robinson. The book retells 'the parable of the bicycle' that's found in his book (a favorite of mine), "Believing Christ." The parable of the bicycle tells the story of a little girl saving for a bike. She saves and saves, but comes to the realization that she'll never have enough. Then her dad says, "Give me all you've got and a hug and a kiss and the bike is yours." Then the book goes on to compare this to what Christ did for us. No matter what we do, we'll always be short of perfection. We simply cannot gain exaltation without the saving power of Christ's Atonement. Christ asks for our best ("Give me all you've got,") and our love ("and a hug and a kiss") and He'll make up the difference where we fall short. We read the story to our kids and then asked Sterling if he was willing to give us all he'd saved so far (and a hug and a kiss) for a Looper Pedal. He was. He didn't know then that I'd already purchased the pedal. I wish I had a picture of his face when he realized he wouldn't have to wait. :)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

BYU Vocal Point: Ultimate A Cappella Mashup

I was just wondering the other day when Vocal Point would come out with a new song. We haven't tired of listening to their other stuff, but we're always up for one of their new adventures.

This one doesn't disappoint. Filmed in one take (and one shot!), it's pretty cool visually, but the music... The music is goooooooood!

This is what you get when 25 years of BYU Vocal Point alumni come together. You're going to love it!

(I can't wait to see Sterling's face when he hears this!)

Friday, April 1, 2016


I survived my first teenager! Hard to believe, but Sam is twenty today.

I looked through a bunch of pictures and picked out a few oldies to share. (I would have picked more, but my computer is acting up and is   s--o--o--o--o    s--l--o--w.  I gave up and decided these will do.)

I love this boy! 

Sam and his cousin, Jake -- Our two missionaries from the Martin side of the family. (Jake is in Puerto Rico.)

Oh, how I love this picture of all my boys! This is from my little sister's wedding several years ago.

Isn't this the greatest photo? Grandpa Stowell is having as much fun as the kids. :)

The whole motley crew. I think this is a first day of school photo. Maybe 2008-ish...?

Here is a recent one. This cute family took Sam and his companion out to dinner just two days ago and sent me this photo. What a good looking guy!

A few things I love about Sam: He's kind and considerate, and always striving to become better. He is a good friend. He is changing lives as a missionary. {People have called and e-mailed to tell me what a difference Sam has made in their lives!} Sam is smart and creative. He is super funny and has a great sense of humor. He's crazy and loves to have a good time and help others get involved. Sam doesn't care what other people think about him. He is a great example and role model for his brothers. They really miss him and look up to him so much!

Happy Birthday, Sam!! Less than 4 months until we can hug you again. Five weeks until we can talk to you (skype). :) I can't wait to see what the next 20 years hold for you. Plenty of exciting opportunities and adventures just ahead.

I hope twenty is your best year so far!! :)


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Finding Ute Perkins

My sixth great grandfather was Ute Perkins. He moved to Illinois in the late 1830's, joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when missionaries came through his town and welcomed many of the Saints to Perkins Settlement when they were driven out of Missouri shortly after that. Ute and his wife, Sarah, were the first permanent white settlers in the area. Perkins Settlement had other names over the years including Ramus* and Macedonia. When the Saints were driven out of Illinois, the name was changed to Webster and remains so today. 

I knew Ute and Sarah were buried in Webster Cemetery and I knew that it wasn't far from Carthage (10-15 miles) so I really wanted to see if we could find his grave. The problem was, neither our GPS nor Jeff's phone knew of Webster. It was like it didn't exist. 

Fortunately, we had a map of Old Nauvoo that showed the land as it was in the 1840's. Everything was laid out in 1 mile blocks. According to the map, "Ramus" was 8 miles north and 3 miles east of Carthage. So after our Carthage tour, we started driving north. Just before we'd gone 8 miles, a road sign said "Webster" with an arrow to turn left (east). After winding around a bit, we drove right to little Webster, Illinois. 

The cemetery was tucked away amidst fields and farms. Fortunately, Webster is very small so it didn't take us long to find it. We quickly located Ute and Sarah's grave marker, took pictures, and then explored the cemetery for a few minutes before heading for home.

The bottom of the marker says, "They Led the Way."

This was a great end to our Spring Break. The drive home was beautiful with huge "Toy Story" clouds (big fluffy ones with flat bottoms) and wide open spaces. 

A cute little country church

Our Spring Break getaway was exactly what we needed.

*Some fun trivia for members of the LDS church - two revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received in Ramus, Illinois: Sections 130 and 131. 

Nauvoo and Carthage

The Nauvoo Temple

I'll finish off the month with a few more details of our Spring Break. The lake house we stayed at was about 30 miles away from Nauvoo, Illinois. We've visited Nauvoo in the past, but it's been a few years and neither Soren nor Sadie remembered it.

Spencer, Soren and Sterling in front of the Nauvoo Temple

On Wednesday morning (March 16), Sadie and I dropped the boys off at the Nauvoo Temple where they were able to do some baptisms for the dead for some family names that Grandma Stowell sent them. The girls strolled around town visiting the Fudge Factory (Yum!) and a cute gift shop. We picked up a few postcards for Sam then walked up to the post office for stamps so we could mail them from Nauvoo. We finally headed to the Visitors' Center and looked around at the many displays while we waited for the boys. We were able to watch a movie about Old Nauvoo and what it was like at its peak.  Sadie thought that was fun because we were the only ones in a huge auditorium.

Joseph and Hyrum's Last Ride

Once the boys were finished, we did the Nauvoo tour. There are a LOT of things to see and do in Nauvoo. Here is a list, in no particular order, of what we were able to see in about 5 or 6 hours:

Our Nauvoo Brick and "Prairie Diamond" rings

Old Nauvoo Burial Grounds

It was a busy day. The weather was perfectly mild and comfortable, and we enjoyed seeing our old favorite sites and exploring some new ones. As much as we crammed in, there is still more to see on our next trip to Nauvoo. :)

A pretty view of the Mississippi River on our drive back to the lake house. 

The next day we drove into Carthage for a quick tour of the jail before heading home. This is where Joseph and Hyrum were shot and killed. We watched a film about Joseph Smith's life and got to walk through the home/jail where he spent his last days. We walked where we had walked and felt that we were on hallowed ground. 

Statue of Joseph and Hyrum outside of Carthage Jail

This is the window that Joseph Smith jumped out of when he was shot and killed.

Carthage was a great way to end our church history tour. Just one more quick stop before we headed home, but that's a post of its own...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Currant Bush

This little video is just what I needed today. I'm not very good at taking correction. It embarrasses me and gets my defenses up. At certain times in my life I've been better at humility and making changes when necessary, but lately it's not the norm.

The story told in this video is one I'm familiar with and have even shared with my Seminary class. I stumbled across it today and realize I needed the reminder. I hope you like it, too.

[If you're interested, I've included the full story of the currant bush below, as told by Elder Hugh B. Brown at a BYU commencement address on 31 May 1968.]

Could I tell you just a quick story out of my own experience in life? Sixty-odd years ago I was on a farm in Canada. I had purchased the farm from another who had been somewhat careless in keeping it up. I went out one morning and found a currant bush that was at least six feet high. I knew that it was going all to wood. There was no sign of blossom or of fruit. I had had some experience in pruning trees before we left Salt Lake to go to Canada, as my father had a fruit farm. So I got my pruning shears and went to work on that currant bush, and I clipped it and cut it and cut it down until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps.
And as I looked at them, I yielded to an impulse, which I often have, to talk with inanimate things and have them talk to me. It’s a ridiculous habit. It’s one I can’t overcome. As I looked at this little clump of stumps, there seemed to be a tear on each one, and I said, “What’s the matter, currant bush? What are you crying about?”
And I thought I heard that currant bush speak. It seemed to say, “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as large as the fruit tree and the shade tree, and now you have cut me down. And all in the garden will look upon me with contempt and pity. How could you do it? I thought you were the gardener here.”
I thought I heard that from the currant bush. I thought it so much that I answered it.
I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. If I let you go the way you want to go, you will never amount to anything. But someday, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to think back and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”
Ten years passed, and I found myself in Europe. I had made some progress in the First World War in the Canadian army. In fact, I was a field officer, and there was only one man between me and the rank of general, which I had cherished in my heart for years. Then he became a casualty. And the day after, I received a telegram from London from General Turner, who was in charge of all Canadian officers. The telegram said, “Be in my office tomorrow morning at ten o’clock.”
I puffed up. I called my special servant. (We called them “batmen” over there.) I said, “Polish my boots and my buttons. Make me look like a general, because I am going up tomorrow to be appointed.”
He did the best he could with what he had to work on, and I went to London. I walked into the office of the general. I saluted him smartly, and he replied to my salute as higher officers usually do to juniors—sort of a “Get out of the way, worm.” Then he said, “Sit down, Brown.”
I was deflated. I sat down. And he said, “Brown, you are entitled to this promotion, but I cannot make it. You have qualified and passed the regulations, you have had the experience, and you are entitled to it in every way, but I cannot make this appointment.”
Just then he went into the other room to answer a phone call, and I did what most every officer and man in the army would do under those circumstances: I looked over on his desk to see what my personal history sheet showed. And I saw written on the bottom of that history sheet in large capital letters: “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.”
Now at that time we were hated heartily in Britain, and I knew why he couldn’t make the appointment. Finally he came back and said, “That’s all, Brown.”
I saluted him, less heartily than before, and went out. On my way back to Shorncliffe, 120 kilometers away, I thought every turn of the wheels that clacked across the rails was saying, “You’re a failure. You must go home and be called a coward by those who do not understand.”
And bitterness rose in my heart until I arrived, finally, in my tent, and I rather vigorously threw my cap on the cot, together with my Sam Browne belt. I clenched my fist, and I shook it at heaven, and I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I’ve done everything that I knew how to do to uphold the standards of the Church. I was making such wonderful growth, and now you’ve cut me down. How could you do it?”
And then I heard a voice. It sounded like my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to be. If I let you go the way you want to go, you will never amount to anything. And someday, when you are ripened in life, you are going to shout back across the time and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”
Those words—which I recognize now as my words to the currant bush and that had become God’s word to me—drove me to my knees, where I prayed for forgiveness for my arrogance and my ambition.
As I was praying there, I heard some Mormon boys in an adjoining tent singing the closing number to an M.I.A. session, which I usually attended with them. And I recognized these words, which all of you have memorized:
It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me;
But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.
. . .
So trusting my all to thy tender care,
And knowing thou lovest me,
I’ll do thy will with a heart sincere;
I’ll be what you want me to be.

[“It May Not Be on the Mountain Height,” Hymns,1948, no. 75]
My young friends and brothers and sisters, will you remember that little experience that changed my whole life? Had the Gardener not taken control and done for me what was best for me, or if I had gone the way I wanted to go, I would have returned to Canada as a senior commanding officer of western Canada. I would have raised my family in a barracks. My six daughters would have had little chance to marry in the Church. I myself would probably have gone down and down. I do not know what might have happened, but this I know, and this I say to you and to Him in your presence, looking back over sixty years: “Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Scott Sterling is Back

I'm pretty sure everyone and their dog has seen the first Scott Sterling video where our soccer star saves the day...with his face.

Well, he's back and playing volleyball this time. It's the National Championship game, no less, between the Tarhills and the Bulldogs.

Funny stuff. :)

Sunday, March 27, 2016


Happy Easter! The Savior's Atonement is my biggest blessing.