Friday, December 1, 2017

Light the World - Day 1

Today is the start of the Light the World campaign by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are challenges each day leading up to Christmas - different ways to Light the World through service. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join in. Just think of what a difference we can make!

Today's challenge is found in Matthew 10:8 - "Freely ye have received, freely give." 

I love today's video. I wish there were vending machines like this in my little corner of the world!



What am I doing today? I'm going to make a donation to my favorite charity, Educate the Kids. It's run by a friend of mine from Scotland. 100% of donations go to help the children in a small village in Kenya. Educate the Kids has built an orphanage and two schools for these kids. They also provide lunch (and sometimes breakfast) each day for the school children. For some, this is the only food these kids get. I've been feeling so, so grateful for all my blessings and know that a little bit will go a long way to help those in extreme poverty. Educate the Kids is working miracles for these children through education.

Go to https://www.mormon.org/ to find out more about the campaign and to see all the challenges. Are you in?

Let's do this! We can #LighttheWorld. :)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Shrimp Bug Contraption

You've probably never heard of a shrimp bug. That's because we made up the name. Years ago at certain times of the year, we would find these large bugs in our basement that sort of looked like a cricket, but they were brown with super long antennae and really long legs that could jump like 3 feet or more. They were terrifying. Their bodies sort of resembled a shrimp so we named them shrimp bugs and we all hated them. 


We later learned that they are actually called Camel Crickets, but we still call them shrimp bugs. We still get them. We still hate them. Unfortunately, we've had more than usual this year.

Sadie found one on the stairs last week after everyone had gone to bed. It was pretty late, but she was determined to make sure it wouldn't crawl (or jump!) into her room during the night. Here's the contraption she came up with:


You can see a few purple and pink ponytail holders on the stair behind the black folder. Sadie initially fired those at the bug to see if she could just annihilate it outright. It never moved so she thought maybe it was dead. See the markers and highlighters under the tub against the wall? She tried those next, throwing them at the shrimp bug which annoyed it enough that it crawled up the wall. She trapped it against the wall with the plastic tub, but then she was stuck. She couldn't let go or the tub would fall. She reached as far as she could and was barely able to grab Sterling's music folder which she propped against the bucket while she ran for tape. Once she secured the bucket to the wall, she kept the folder there for extra support then put her trash can next to that for added peace of mind. 

When I went downstairs the next morning, this note was on top of the bucket:

"Caution Massive Shrimp Bug!!! (caught by me so give me a medal of bravery)... or a blizzard  -Sadie Stowell
What a funny girl. :)

Fortunately for us all, camel crickets aren't invasive. They don't bite or get into food or otherwise cause trouble. They are just really big and ugly and terrifying. Sadie is the only one who sleeps in the basement and that's the only place we've found them, but I'm not worried about her. She's obviously got it under control.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Too Many Ducks

I know, I know. It's been forever. Life is good, it really is. I just haven't taken time to document the good stuff. But tonight I realized that there have been several things lately that have made me laugh or smile and I need to share! This one is definitely good for a laugh. I've watched it four times so far and I crack up every time!



Gotta love it! :)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Sterling at ReMix


In August, I mentioned that Sterling attended ReMix Vocal Academy at BYU during the summer. It's a pretty intense and amazing A Cappella camp, run by the director of BYU's Vocal Point. There were about 120 kids at ReMix that week (session B). They were all divided into 8 different groups. Sterling was on the Blue Team.

The final concert was pretty cool! It started off with all 120 kids for the intro "Unpack Your Heart." You can't see Sterling in this video, but he was there and he was a beatboxer during this number.



That was great, but it wasn't my favorite. After the opener, each group did their own number. Sterling's group sang "There's A Place For Us," by Carrie Underwood. Again, Sterling was the beatboxer. I think he sounds pretty good!!



That was great, but it wasn't my favorite. During the concert, they had a few beatboxers come out for a demo. Sterling (in blue) was selected to participate along with a Red Team member and one of the counselors (in green).


Okay, that was awesome and was definitely one of my favorites! We all loved it and the audience was going crazy. It was pretty cool! :)

The final number was a Mashup and Sterling was the second soloist.


That piece was a favorite as well. There was so much energy and you could tell these kids had worked hard and were having a great time out there!

Sterling loved his experience at ReMix and can't wait to return - along with Soren - next summer. We're all looking forward to it! :)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Paint Louis


The city of St. Louis has a graffiti event every year, cleverly called Paint Louis. Graffiti artists paint sections of the flood wall south of the gateway arch.

Having previously studied this art form, a missionary serving in the St. Louis area decided last year that he wanted to be a part of the event. He was accepted to participate, received permission from his mission president and he and his companion got to work. The event was held a few weeks ago. I love how they were able to share their message in such a unique way. And I love the final result, right down to their graffiti "tag" in the top right corner.

Click here to read the whole story. It's pretty cool!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Saying Goodbye: It Doesn't Get Any Easier

Spencer reported to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah this afternoon. His two-years of missionary service has officially begun.

I'm so happy for him! We've wanted him to have this opportunity and experience, literally, since he was born. That's what makes the pain of separation so ironic. We wanted him to go, but wish he could stay here forever. Yeah, it doesn't really make sense. But I felt the same way when Sam left for his mission and again when I dropped Savannah, then Sam, off at college. It's hard to let go, but it's in the going that they learn and grow and become.

Spencer flew out yesterday, but before we left for the airport he had to get in just a little more of his favorite game...


We've played a ton of badminton over the last 5 months as is evident by the dirt patches on the court. Spencer is the man to beat. Even in their suits, Spencer and Jeff couldn't resist one last opportunity to play. Now we all have two years to get good enough to beat Spencer when he gets home. ;)

One last picture of the gang. It's sad to see these good friends separated.

Still smiling on the way to the airport.


Mercifully, Spencer flew out of a small airport.
We were given extra time together because security was taking a break.

Spencer had a one-hour layover in Chicago which turned into a 4-hour layover. I, of course, was worried about him because...well, because I'm his mother. Mercifully, a member of the church from Utah who happened to be at the same gate as Spencer texted me and we were able to communicate briefly so Spencer knew we were all aware of his delay (especially those waiting for him in Utah) and I knew he was doing well. We were all super happy when he finally reached the ground in Utah.

He stayed with my brother, Rob, last night and they went to lunch with Sam and Savannah before reporting to the MTC. He called me for one last tearful goodbye after lunch. The tears were mostly mine. Spencer didn't break down until he said goodbye.


Within thirty minutes of his arrival at the MTC, Spencer sent me a super quick e-mail. He said, "I know I'm doing the right thing," and also mentioned that his district (the other missionaries he would be in classes with) was "crazy awesome." Those are words to calm a mother's heart.

Spencer is ready. He knows how to work, and he's easy to get along with. He has a strong testimony of the Savior and His Atoning Sacrifice.

He's going to be just fine.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Where in the World? Savannah Edition

Imagesource

And here we go again! :)

If it feels like we just did this, we did. Now Savannah's mission papers have been submitted and we're gathering guesses. No one accurately guessed that Spencer would be called to the Idaho Idaho Falls Mission. He's been making the necessary preparations and is getting excited and a little nervous. (He'll be a great missionary!) He reports to the Missionary Training Center on October 4.

We can't wait to learn where Savannah will serve!


Here's are the guesses so far:

1. Senegal
2. Netherlands
3. Austria
4. Salt Lake City Temple Square
5. Tahiti
6. California
7. Guatemala
8. Washington D.C.
9. Texas
10. Puerto Rico
11. Spain
12. Vanuatu
13. Scotland
14. Kenya
15. Oklahoma
16. Australia
17. East Coast
18. Greenland
19. Costa Rica
20. China
21. Baltic States
22. Japan

Where do YOU think Savannah will go?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Lessons Learned From the Total Solar Eclipse

I know I already blogged about our eclipse experience on August 21, but I can't stop thinking about it. I learned a couple of things that are noteworthy and I wanted to record them while they are still meaningful.


Lesson one (and fairly obvious) is that, even when the sun is completely covered up by the moon, you can still see the sun's aura. The sun never completely disappears. Its power still radiates from behind the darkness. For me, this drove home the fact that no matter how dark our circumstances, God is always there. Nothing is too devastating or bleak for God to make His presence known. If we look for Him, we will find Him. This is a beautiful message and one I hope I never forget.

But Lesson two is the one I've really been pondering for the past week or so. It is this: When we are fully committed, we open ourselves up to blessings and experiences we can't even imagine.

Bear with me as I try to articulate my thoughts.

We live only two hours from the totality zone. That means that our maximum eclipse was pretty close to totality. The graphic illustrates what it would have looked like from our home. Not bad. Our initial plan was to stay home and view it through our special glasses as it approached the maximum for our area. Our experience would be good enough without having to go out of our way, right?

Wrong!

Fortunately, I was talking with a friend a few days before the eclipse. She'd read some thoughts by an eclipse chaser and he noted that the difference between 99% totality and 100% totality is huge! No comparison. The experience is completely different. Well, that got me thinking and wondering if it might be worth the drive after all. It didn't take much to get the kids on board; after all, they'd get to miss a good chunk of the school day.

Because I've already shared our eclipse experience, I won't go into all the details again. I'll just focus on a few things that illustrate what I mean by lesson two.

For starters, unless you are viewing totality, you must wear solar glasses which literally block out everything except the sun. We had our glasses on while watching the moon slide into totality. When only the tiniest sliver of sun was still visible, I peeked over the rim of my glasses to see what it really looked like and, to my surprise, the sun still appeared so bright that it looked like the full sun was shining. It was only when the eclipse reached totality that we could remove the glasses and that made all the difference. It revealed a different world. From the significant dimming of the sky to the visible stars and the evening sounds, it was really stunning. Back home, none of that was part of the limited experience. They couldn't remove the glasses, yet they didn't know what they had missed. They just didn't see what all the fuss was about. And that's the problem. When we give a half-hearted effort, we may never realize that we compromised the outcome. It took more effort and time to see the eclipse in its totality, but as a result, our experience was worlds away from the one back home.

There is a quote that I came across 25 years ago by William Hutchison Murray. I've thought about it so many times. It says,

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way."

Elder Gary B. Sabin summed this up well in a talk given last April:
"We don’t hold back to see what the minimum is we can get by with.... When we are fully committed and “all in,” heaven shakes for our good. When we are lukewarm or only partially committed, we lose out on some of heaven’s choicest blessings."
I believe this because I've seen it happen. When I am fully committed, my experiences are significantly different. "Heaven shakes for [my] good" and "Providence moves, too." Who wouldn't want that? 

Don't be afraid to be all in. It's worth it!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Spencer's Week

We've had a great week! Sam and Savannah were home from BYU for a few days (they haven't been home since January!) and it was so good having the whole family together. It's going to be a while before that happens again. With Spencer leaving for the Idaho Idaho Falls Mission next month, December 2019 is the next logical time we'll be together. That made it pretty hard to say goodbye to Sam and Savannah yesterday, but all the good things we have to look forward to made it a little more bearable.




Spencer's had quite a week and it was so nice that Sam and Savannah could be a part of it. On Tuesday night, Spencer received his Eagle Scout award. Many friends and ward members attended the Court of Honor and it was a nice event to celebrate Spencer's long-awaited achievement. He's really enjoyed his time in Scouting and has been a great mentor to his younger brothers and the other boys in the troop. He'll definitely be missed!

An Eagle Court of Honor wouldn't be complete without eagle cookies.

I forgot to take pictures at the Court of Honor so the kitchen will do in a pinch. ;)

On Thursday, Spencer went through the temple for the first time. We headed out super early that morning to head to St. Louis. It was a beautiful drive and a beautiful day. I was so happy that Sam and Savannah were able to be there, too.


The grounds of the temple were gorgeous with flowers blooming everywhere.



BYU starts on Tuesday. Spencer reports for his mission on October 4. Onward and upward!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Be the One

This video really speaks for itself. We love Gentri and the positive messages they so beautifully articulate through their music. Enjoy!