Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Weathering the Storms

I seem to be aware of a lot of people lately who are going through some really tough times. I know a 15-year old who was recently diagnosed with cancer. Almost 200 employees at the university where Jeff works are receiving layoff notices this week because the state hasn't come through with any funding this year. A friend of mine struggles with debilitating depression. I could go on. 

Adversity is part of life. What makes me sad is when trying times cause people to turn away from God instead of relying on Him to see them through. I was impressed by a message I read recently by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf that addresses this issue. I've included part of the message below. It was comforting for me! :)
"Experienced pilots understand that they can’t always control the things that happen around them. They can’t just turn off the turbulence. They can’t make the rain or snow vanish. They can't cause the wind to stop blowing or change its direction.

"But they also understand that it’s mistake to fear turbulence or strong winds -- and especially to be paralyzed by them. The way to land safely when conditions are less than ideal is to stay on the correct track and glide path as perfectly as possible.

"We can’t always control the storms that life puts in our path. Sometimes things simply don’t go our way. We may feel shaken and blown about by the turbulence of disappointment, doubt, fear, sadness, or stress.

"During those times, it is easy to get caught up in everything that is going wrong and to make our troubles the center of our thoughts. The temptation is to focus on the trials we are facing instead of on the Savior and our testimony of truth.

"But that is not the best way to navigate through our challenges in life.

"Just as an experienced pilot keeps his focus not on the storm but on the center of the runway and the correct touchdown point, so too should we keep our focus on the center of our faith--our Savior, His gospel, and the plan of our Heavenly Father--and on our ultimate goal--to return safely to our heavenly destination. We should trust God and make staying on the track of discipleship the focus of our efforts. We should keep our eyes, heart, and mind focused on living the way we know we should.

"Showing our faith and trust in Heavenly Father by joyfully keeping His commandments will bring us happiness and glory. And if we stay on the path, we will get through any turbulence--no matter how strong it may appear--and return safely to our heavenly home."

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

1000 = 10%

This is it, my 1,000th post! Bring on the fireworks.

Only 9,000 more happy things to go! It took me five and a half years to get here. At this rate, I'll finish up sometime in the year 2065, give or take...

One of my favorite things about this blog is when my kids sit down and scroll through it. Or sometimes they'll click on their name in the tags and look at all the posts about them. I think it might be their happy place, too. :)

Before and After: Wood Floors is one of the most viewed posts over the last five years.

Another popular one was about the little blue finches at our feeder in the spring of 2011. 

Sterling's fourth grade student council poster is the picture from my blog that has been pinned the most on Pinterest.

We have highs and lows like anyone else, but I love that I have a place to record the good times -- the big and little things that make me smile. These are the things I want to remember.

Here's to the next 49 years!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Dippin' Dots

Our snowfall this morning looked just like Dippin' Dots. Before long it turned into regular snow, but it was fun while it lasted!

(I was too cold to go out and take a picture myself, but it looked just like this!)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3

We went to see Kung Fu Panda 3 last night. We're big fans of the first and second movies and this one didn't disappoint. It was unpredictable, funny, and thought provoking.

No spoilers here, but there was a quote near the beginning of the movie that I thought was pretty pertinent to life in general.

If you only do what you can do, 
you'll never be more than you are now.
--Master Shifu

It's true. We have to get out of our comfort zone to realize our true potential. But we can also capitalize on our strengths for the best chance of success (another theme of the movie). 

We all loved the movie and can't wait to see it again! :)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

On Sale

We're loving the price of gas around here. It's been dropping fairly steadily over the past several weeks and months. I remember one summer when we were anticipating our annual trek to Utah and Idaho. We were watching gas prices pretty closely because they were so high. Our van gets all of about 12 mpg and gas was over $4/gallon. That gets pretty pricey when you're driving 1500 miles each way!

Tonight we were on our way home from Kung Fu Panda 3 (great show, by the way) and gas was $1.43!! The van was on empty so we pulled in. Jeff decided to add a car wash so the price of gas dropped to $1.33/gallon. For real.

As if that weren't enough, the price of milk has been dropping steadily as well. Just like fuel, we were rationing our milk intake several years ago when the price jumped to over $4/gallon. Yesterday I bought it for $1.55. Yes!! :) It sure helps the food and fuel budgets to have prices like that. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Great Food Contrast

At the end of January, Jeff and the boys went on the annual Scout Klondike Derby. This is an event I will never understand. Let's all go sleep outside in the middle of winter. Definitely not my idea of a good time.


With Savannah away at college and Soren old enough to go with the boys this year, Sadie and I were left to enjoy some one-on-one girl time together. After sleeping in on Saturday (a luxury we don't often enjoy around here) we made a yummy brunch of chocolate chip pancakes, bacon and chocolate milk.

I snapped this picture to send to Jeff --

My words: "Mmmm. Yummy brunch!"
This is what he sent in return --

Jeff's words: "Anything tastes good when you're hungry." 

It really doesn't help the let's all go sleep outside in the middle of winter argument, does it? :)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Paul Smith: Inspiring Artist

There are those who seem resigned to their fate when life deals them a rough hand and then there are those who rise up and make lemonade with life's lemons. Paul Smith makes some pretty inspiring lemonade. :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Trying For All-State

Illinois Honors All-State Orchestra, Chorus, and Band
Sam and Savannah both went to All-State in High School. Sam played violin in the All-State Orchestra his junior year and then sang in the Honors All-State Choir his senior year. Savannah sang in the Honors All-State Choir her junior and senior years.

Spencer has always been inspired by his older siblings and has, in many ways, followed in their footsteps. Spencer wanted to go to All-State just like they did.

Now, I'm not trying to be mean or pick on Spencer when I say this, but music doesn't come as naturally to him. My other kids just get it. They don't really have to think that hard about what to do because it's second nature. That's not how it's been for Spencer. He loves music, but where his siblings have natural talent, he has the work ethic. Spencer practices and works and listens over and over and over and over again.

One evening before bed, he and I were talking in his room. We could hear Sterling and Soren goofing off and singing a song they'd learned in their chorus class. They were harmonizing and sounded really great even though there were some difficult harmonies in the song. Spencer said, "Mom, do you hear that? Do you hear how easy it is for them? They don't even have to work at it and they sound great. I work and work and it's still hard for me." This was a day or two before auditions that would determine who went to All-State. Spencer had been working really hard to prepare, but was feeling overwhelmed. So we talked about why he wanted to go to All-State. I think he felt like he'd be letting us down if he didn't get in because Sam and Savannah both went. I assured him that he has his own gifts and talents and that we don't expect him to do the same things Sam and Savannah did. If he wanted to work hard and try for his own benefit, that's great, but All-State wasn't something we expected from our kids.

I hope that eased the pressure. Spencer continued to prepare and he auditioned as planned. He made it into the District Choir which was a good experience. The All-State kids are chosen from District so Spencer remained hopeful.

It was just before the holiday break when the news came in.

Spencer didn't get into All-State.

He got into HONORS All-State! No joke. I was so happy for him. :) His hard work paid off.

From the nosebleed section where we were sitting, this blurry picture taken before the concert started was the best I could do. Spencer is right in the center.

All-State was last week in Peoria. Spencer had the best experience! We drove up for the closing concert. As I sat there listening to the best high school choir in the state of Illinois, I was so grateful that Spencer was able to be a part of it. He earned it!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The 14-Day Challenge

Are you up for a challenge? How about one that will bring sunshine and smiles to those around you? I'm pretty confident it will fill you with sunshine and smiles, too. It's a win/win!

Monday, February 1, 2016

My February Happy

February is not my favorite month. In fact, if I had to pick my least favorite month, it would be February.

Think about it. The holidays are over. Everything is in full-swing once again - school, homework, play practice... Not much to look forward to. We're right in the middle of winter which is my least favorite season. The days are starting to get longer, but they are still pretty short. February is the hardest month to find my motivation. I spin my wheels a lot just trying to gear up to get things done. I'm usually cold and tired and maybe a little bit depressed.

So I've decided to do something about it. My goal is to post a blog entry every day in February. I know it doesn't sound like much, but this blog is my happy place. If I am going to post on my blog, I have to think of something happy. My hope is that focusing on the positive will put a different spin on things and I'll make it through February with a smile on my face and maybe even a few projects completed.

So for starters, let's talk about the weather. :) Things are looking pretty good for February in my little corner of the world. January left with a bang (it was 62ยบ yesterday!!) and February isn't looking too shabby. (In contrast, this is what February looked like in 2014.)

I'm looking forward to a happy February! :)