Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy Events

What a relaxing and enjoyable week!  Here are a few highlights:

1.  The MINI fix.  At a recent oil change, we were told my MINI would need the head gasket replaced to stop a slow oil and coolant leak. Argh! That just sounds expensive. We called the MINI dealership in St. Louis to schedule the service. When I asked for an estimate on a head gasket, the attendant said he's never seen a head gasket go out on a MINI. Ever. Then he told us it was probably the seal around the thermostat, an easy fix. Sure enough, when Jeff removed the old one it was broken in two places. He installed the new part and we're good as new!  Hooray for a $25 fix!!

2.  Snow!!  I'm not sure how many times I've heard "I wish it would snow," during this break, but Tuesday morning's winter wonderland was proof that wishes do come true. It didn't last very long, but the kids were satisfied.

3.  Games.  We got several new non-electronic games for Christmas. We've had a great time playing them together. I like the quick ones myself (Blink, Ruckus and Spot It) and Qwirkle is really fun, but the kids have enjoyed several rounds of Killer Bunnies which is their favorite.  Sam and Savannah tried to pull an all nighter on Monday and played it until 3:00am.

4.  BYU Won!  We are so happy that BYU managed to pull off a win in their Bowl game today against Tulsa. True to form, they waited until the very end of the 4th quarter to wrap things up. I busied myself putting away Christmas decorations so I wouldn't go crazy with all the near misses, but I'm grateful for how things ended up.  24-21. Go Cougs!
Life is good!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our Christmas Card - Better Late Than Never!

I'm totally cheating.  I didn't send out Christmas cards this year.  I really meant to, but it just never came together.   Besides, we haven't had a family picture taken since 2008 and I think Christmas cards need a family picture.  (I'm on it for 2012!)  I had Sadie draw this lovely rendition of us so at least you can get a pretty good idea of what we all look like right now:
Our most recent family picture - by Sadie, December 2011
Here are a few highlights of our year:

  • We drove to Idaho, Utah and Nevada and spent over two weeks visiting family and various landmarks.  We were just shy of 5000 miles round trip, a new record for us.  
  • Sam's voice dropped 3 octaves and he is now mistaken for Jeff instead of Missy when he answers the phone.  He loves plants, especially cacti and carnivorous varieties.  (Age 15)
  • Savannah got glasses and braces and started High School - welcome to the awkward teenage phase. She has graduated to contacts and looks forward to getting her braces off in a few weeks. Jeff and Missy are happy that she cannot date for two years. She has a beautiful voice and is amazing on the piano!  (Age 14)
  • Spencer was ordained a Deacon at church and graduated to the Young Men program.  He also quit 7th grade and now enjoys school from home. (Age 12)
  • Sterling composed his first orchestra piece, March of the Victorians, in about three days and is currently writing in the individual instrument parts. He also enjoys writing stories. Sterling still loves all things Lego and has an unstoppable imagination. (Age 10)
  • Soren was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while we were vacationing in Idaho.  He is our resident Pokemon expert and has designed some original Pokemon of his own.  (Age 8)
  • Sadie runs the house and keeps us all in line.  She is a great reader and loves to help daddy with whatever he is doing.  She is losing teeth left and right and loves first grade and elephants.  (Age 6)
  • Jeff was promoted to Full Professor.  He is currently rated 4.8 out of 5.0 on and has a chili pepper by his name because he's so hot! He enjoys working on projects to improve our home and recently turned an unfinished storage closet into a beautiful office/plant nursery for Sam.
  • Missy keeps herself busy doing the typical mom things - mostly cooking, cleaning, laundry, and forcing kids to practice instruments against their will - but is also enjoying a new adventure as the Young Women president at church.  She has decided that homework should be abolished and makes it through the school year by looking forward to each day off.  
We are looking forward to a great new year.  We hope 2012 is your best year so far!

The Stowell Family

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I am a Christian

I am a Christian.  I believe in and follow Jesus Christ.  The Jesus Christ that I believe in was born to a mortal mother, Mary, and an immortal father, even God.  He lived a perfect life and, therefore, was the only person who was able to sacrifice himself as a ransom for my sins and for yours.  He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane for the sins of all mankind.  He was falsely accused and ultimately gave His life on the cross.  He rose three days later and appeared to many before ascending to His Father in Heaven.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the only way back to the Father.  I believe that there is nothing that I can do to save myself.  If I were to work my entire life doing my best to overcome the effects of sin and death, I would still fall short.  Without Jesus Christ and His ultimate sacrifice, I would not be able to obtain exaltation and eternal life.  While I fully understand that my works cannot and will not save me, I believe that my faith should be evident in my works.  The way I live is my testimony of Him, but it is only through Him that I can be saved.

I am a Christian.  I am also a Mormon – a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  There are those who would tell me that these two statements are incompatible, that Mormons are not Christian.  They might go on to give a definition of Christianity that, for example, includes references to councils where men decided the nature of Christ and His relationship to God.  Their statements do not prove that I am not a Christian, they simply prove that I am not a Catholic or a Baptist or a member of numerous other Christian denominations.  I submit that we actually believe in the same Jesus Christ, we simply understand Him differently.  Jesus Christ is my Savior.  I am a Mormon and I am a Christian.
On this Christmas day, the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth, I just wanted you to know. 

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Leading Up

Here are some of the activities that have kept us busy in the days leading up to Christmas:

Gingerbread houses with our friends.  Corn Pops and Candy Corn make great decor!
Sam's has more attention to the landscaping. You can tell he's our budding Botanist! I love the backyard pumpkin patch.
Soren went a little frosting crazy!
Sadie did a great job by herself!
I came up with this fun sign for Sadie's teacher.  She loved it!
Another teacher gift. 
We made miniature Santa's Underwear this year as a small favor to go with other gifts.  I like them even better than the big ones. They are only about 5" tall.  Cute!
My best attempt to make these cookies with this icing.  Mine may not be as cute, but they were delish!
Last but not least, a visit to our friend, Rosie, on her 90th birthday which happens to be today. 
Tonight we've already managed to lose a tooth (Sadie), practice our musical numbers for church tomorrow (Sam, Sterling and Savannah), and get ready for bed.  It's time for our family read-through of the Christmas story from Luke 2, setting out cookies for Santa, and - if my kids are anything like I was when I was little - lying in bed wide awake wondering if they'll ever be able to fall asleep in anticipation of the long-awaited day!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Funny: Kid History Christmas

Here's the lastest from Kid History - plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in this one!  Cheers.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nobody Loves Me

I found this on my pillow this afternoon.  Someone is being sneaky.  :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Not A Moment Too Soon

Dear Parent or Guardian:
      You are receiving this letter because your child has been identified as a contact of someone who has a suspected case of pertussis (whooping cough)....

Dear Parent or Guardian:
      This letter is to inform you that there have been a few confirmed cases of head lice in your child's classroom....

What do you do when these letters come home in your kids' backpacks on Monday?  You scratch your head.  You wonder if your cough is suddenly getting worse.  You scratch your head again.  Then you thank heaven that Christmas Break starts on Tuesday.  At least that's what you do if you are me.

Two weeks off is not going to be long enough...!!

A Christmas Recital

Another video.  I know.  Surprise.

Oh, but you're going to love this! Sterling had his violin recital on Friday. Sam, who still takes an occasional lesson, agreed to play a duet with Sterling as well. (Hooray!) So if you have a few minutes, enjoy Sam and Sterling playing "Good Christian Men Rejoice," and Sterling playing "Allegro," by Fiocco.  (Sterling is accompanied by Savannah.)

Maybe next year we'll sit where we can see Sterling's hand finding all those fancy notes!! :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Where Are You Christmas?

I had a Friday Funny all set to post today and then I saw this. The instrumentals are amazing alone, but when the little girl started to sing, I cried. I know. Hard to believe from me, but still...  And when she hugged her daddy at the end, I was a mess. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I'm sure I'll be listening to this again and again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Spencer Sings

We loved Spencer's middle school chorus concert last night.  Here's a little glimpse, featuring "The Twelve Days After Christmas."  Enjoy! (Spencer is in the front row - white shirt, blue and white tie.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Soren Says

It was a Fast Sunday and Soren, as usual, was struggling with hunger pains.  He was in a pretty sour mood, but when he came down the stairs all dressed up in his Sunday best, I blurted out,

"Oh Soren, you look so handsome! I just want to kiss you and eat you up!"  

He immediately deadpanned,

"Well, you can't eat."  

What a funny kid!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Contacting Santa Claus

Have your kids started writing their letters to Santa? Here's an alternative - Let them call instead!


Santa probably won't answer the phone - he's pretty busy this time of year - but it's fun for your kids to hear his voice on the answering machine and to leave him a message.

Or, send him an e-mail and he's sure to reply:

Note to parents:   If you want an audio copy of your child's message (fun to listen to years later), send an e-mail to the address above with your child's name, age, and when the message was left and he'll do his best to e-mail it to you!  Merry Christmas!

{Santa's website:}

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Recipe: Graham Cracker Toffee

Okay, so I'm not a huge fan (or even a little fan) of cold weather, but it does make me want to bake.  This yummy confection is super easy to throw together and it makes a lot.  I hope you love it as much as we do!

Graham Cracker Toffee
12 graham crackers, broken into quarters
Slivered almonds
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350º. Cover a cookie sheet (jelly roll pan) with graham cracker quarters and sprinkle with slivered almonds. Here's a little tip: If you have a silicone baking mat, use it. Otherwise, if you don't take your finished toffee off the cookie sheet early enough, it will be there permanently. I just got my mat and it has changed my life forever.  :)
In a saucepan, combine butter, margarine and sugar. (No, I don't know why it calls for butter AND margarine.  Would all butter work?  I don't see why not, but I've never tried.) Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Drizzle over graham crackers.  Bake at 350º for 7 minutes.  (If you do not have a silicone baking mat, remove from cookie sheet as soon as they are cool enough to handle.)  Separate the crackers, allow to cool completely and enjoy!

Toffee mixture drizzled over top, ready for oven.

All bubbly, just out of the oven.
The foam settles quickly.  Waiting until they are cool enough is the hardest part!

Coming soon:  Saltine Cracker Toffee!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

One of the Great Ones

Today we lost one of the greatest of the greatest generation.  Don Sanders - age 90 and World War II veteran - passed away.  Somehow it seems fitting that he died on Pearl Harbor day.

Don had some pretty incredible stories to tell about his years in the war.  He had several near-death experiences.  Once he was saved because he and his fellow soldiers boarded a ship in alphabetical order which put him near the front.  When a Japanese sub literally cut the ship in half, most of the soldiers went down with it. Don and several others survived and were able to hang on to what was left of the ship until they were rescued the next morning.

Don was given several medals and awards including a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He was shot in the leg during a bonsai attack in the Philippines.  It took five days to evacuate him to a hospital ship and by then he had gangrene in his leg and it was swollen to twice its size. Amputation was put off only because of higher priority emergency gut wounds arriving at the hospital. By the time the doctor returned to Don the next morning, maggots had eaten away much of the poison in his leg, the swelling went down, and it was determined that his leg could be saved. Despite these and other horrific experiences, including severe dehydration and the perils of being surrounded by the enemy time and time again, Don served three years without a furlough.

A kinder, gentler man would be hard to find.  We first met Don several years ago when he spent his days making furniture in his garage and we were in need of a couple of dressers.  Over the years we purchased several things from him and even had him make some custom items like our piano bench and a dresser/armoire for our bedroom.  We easily became friends and enjoyed visiting with him at his home on a few occasions or at community events.  Don and his wife surprised us with a visit on Christmas morning one year which was a highlight of our day.

Don, you will be missed.  Thanks for your example of strength through adversity and patience amidst affliction. Rest in peace.
Don in the Homecoming parade a few years ago.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cello Wars

Wow!  This is amazing!!  Thanks, Grandma, for the heads up.  I wish you could have been here to see Sterling's face light up when the bows turned into light sabers.  Priceless!  {Find out more about The Piano Guys here.}

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Concert

Sam and Sterling had their Holiday Concert with the University orchestra tonight.  It was amazing!  The concert hall sold out.  It completely cheered my heart to see my boys up there playing their hearts out.  The High School choir was invited to participate in a couple of the choral numbers so Sam was able to sing with the choir for one number and play his violin in the orchestra for the rest.

It's such a blessing that the conductor of the orchestra provides outreach programs which allow the high school kids to have this experience to sing with the college choir as well as the Symphonic Honors Initiative Program (SHIP) which allows my kids to play violin with the orchestra.

Tonight's concert was awesome!  I loved every minute of it!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Even though my kids are way past learning their letters, we still have our alphabet magnets on the fridge and they still end up spelling out whatever the kids can dream up on a regular basis.  Somebody (Sterling, was that you?) was spelling Jeff - or trying to.  What do you do when there's only one F?  You get creative.
Pretty clever!  :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Marry Chrismas

Sadie worked pretty hard to make this for Jeff for Christmas.  She put it in a huge box ("I don't want it to rip") and set it under the tree.  So cute!  He's going to love it.  :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Personal Day

Sterling forgot to bring home a worksheet yesterday.  It was pretty late last night when he realized his mistake and there was nothing we could do about it.  Because it was due first thing this morning, Sterling knew he'd have to work on it in Study Hall during recess.  While this may not sound like a big deal to you and me, it was as good as a death sentence for Sterling.  He fell apart and pleaded with me to keep him home from school.

I wanted to.  I really, really wanted to.  I had visions of my 7th grade self when I forgot my English book which was a 50 point penalty.  I was so worried about it that I got sick in my cooking class and had to go home before English.  Except I wasn't really sick.

But somehow I kicked into mom mode and gave Sterling the "you can do hard things" lecture.  He was still upset when he woke up and had a very rough morning.  He worried about his teacher's reaction.  I assured him that she would be understanding, but would have to follow through with the consequence.  He worried that his classmates would make a big deal about it when he got called to Study Hall.  They probably would, too.  He's a really smart kid and so, naturally, they get some satisfaction at pointing out his imperfections.  Despite his tears and his fears, I finally coaxed him out the door.

He walked in the house again a few minutes later.  I helped him settle down and then drove him to school.  By this time he was at least 20 minutes late which required that I sign him in at the office with a reason for his tardiness.  I jotted down "crisis" and walked him to class at his request.  He was unloading his backpack when he realized that his class was in music and he had left his recorder and sheet music at home.  I could see him starting to fall apart again and so I did what I'd wanted to do all along.  I took him home.  I stopped in at the office, crossed his name off the late roster and told the ladies that he would be taking a personal day.

We all need a personal day once in a while.  I think I did the right thing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dear Homework

We had a lovely Thanksgiving break.  The kids were happy, the weather was amazing, the food was great, we had a nice visit with friends, Jeff completed a big home improvement project (more on that later) and I finished my Christmas shopping!  {Hooray for!!!  By the way, this is by far the earliest I've ever been done shopping for my kids. I'm so excited to actually enjoy December without people breaking out in the gimme's all the time!}

One of the main reasons we enjoyed such a carefree long weekend was the lack of homework.  Sure, the older kids had some projects to complete, but they've known about those for a while and were grateful for the days off to have extra time to focus on them.  The younger ones just emptied the Thanksgiving themed artwork, word searches and empty lunchboxes from their backpacks and enjoyed their break.  Ahh, bliss!

By Sunday evening, with the realization that their long awaited weekend of freedom was at an end, people started getting agitated around here.  I was frustrated right along with them.  All too often, moods are determined by the demands of school.  It's been a hard year in that regard.  My kids are pulled in so many different directions and school has been pulling the hardest.  A couple of weeks ago I was particularly frustrated and so I wrote a letter to vent my feelings.  I'm just not sure who to send it to.  Here it is, for what it's worth....

Dear Homework,

I hate you.  There, I said it.  In fact, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you! 

I hate how you follow my kids home from school every day.  I hate how you stay way too long and suck the fun out of everything.  I hate how you make my kids feel guilty when they want to spend time with anyone (or anything) else while you’re still here.  I will admit that there have been times I have felt your meaningful contribution to our lives.  Sadly, those times are rare.  Mostly, I just hate you and the black cloud that hangs over my house when you are around.

When you tell my kids they have to read, then they get no enjoyment out of reading.  When you tell them to do math, they complain because they already did math at school.  When you tell them to write, they disappear and try to hide from you and say their tummy hurts and sneak outside because they’d much rather run and play.  But when they come in, you’re still here!  You never take the hint.  I’ve tried to help them get rid of you.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down right next to them to try to help them meet your daily demands.  I’ve colored their maps for social studies. (Since when is Social Studies an art class?)  I’ve helped them brainstorm for papers even when they tell me, “That’s not how my teacher does it!”  If it’s always supposed to be how the teacher does it, then I say let them do it at school where the teacher is!  Actually, I say that even if it’s not always supposed to be how the teacher does it.  So there.

The teacher has my kids for over 7 hours a day.  You know what?  I think that’s enough.  If you always follow them home, when do I get them?  With you here, meal times are always stressful.  With you here, bedtime gets later and later.  Sometimes you even have the nerve to still be here when they wake up in the morning!  When do my kids get to be kids?  When do they get to read for pleasure?  When do they get to be excited about what interests them without having to write a report about it?  An amazing thing happens when you leave them alone:  My kids are curious.  They use their imaginations.  They read and play together and laugh and sing and joke together.  But when you’re here, they fight and cry and yell.  You are a bully.

I hate you.

The Mom

(How many days until Christmas break?)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Pioneer Speak and Alpha Males

You just never know what you'll encounter in my little corner of the world.

This morning, my little Sadie climbed in bed with me and said, "Good morrow.  How now?"  She informed me that's how the pilgrims said, "Good morning.  How are you?"  Her 1st grade teacher told the kids to speak in pilgrim language until after Thanksgiving.  After lunch she asked, "What's for sup?"  What a nut!

I came home from running errands this afternoon to a very tearful Sterling.  When I asked him what was wrong, his explanation started with, "When Spencer and I were fighting for Alpha Male..."  Then Jeff chimes in from the kitchen, "I thought I was the Alpha Male."  Apparently there's a little too much testosterone around here!

Welcome to my world.  :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kid-Friendly Turkey

Isn't this a cute little turkey?  Soren's 3rd grade class made these with their 1st grade buddies this morning.  Luckily it was my day to help in the classroom so I was working with some pretty happy kids.  There were plenty of sticky fingers and smiling faces to go around.  A fun morning!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happiness Is...

...Kermit the Frog!

Oh, how I love the Muppets!  I was so excited when I heard that there is a new movie coming out this week.  I downloaded the soundtrack this morning ($5 on  Hooray!) and have been dancing and smiling to the fresh, fun, silly songs for a good part of the day.  There's nothing like Camilla the chicken "singing" Forget You.  I can't wait to see how Are You a Man or a Muppet fits into the movie.  Rainbow Connection is still a favorite.  Fun stuff!

Admittedly, I'm a total cheapskate so it may be a while before we see the show.  We'll either be going on $4 Tuesday (with free popcorn for everyone!) or - gasp! - we'll wait until it comes out on DVD.  On second thought, $4 Tuesday is sounding pretty good!  :)

I can't wait!!

(All photos:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

On Service

Serve others.  Be happy.  :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Personal Progress Gum

I just wanted to show off this cute gum wrapper that we gave out at our Young Women in Excellence. Designed by my friend, Jen, these are a cute reminder for the young women to work on their Personal Progress.  The back of the wrapper says, "Chews to finish a goal this month."  Too cute!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


We had our Young Women in Excellence program last night.  I was a little bit worried about it.  Some of our girls haven't been very excited about Personal Progress.  Since Young Women in Excellence is a "celebration of Personal Progress," I challenged each of them to do something that they could share last night.  Well those amazing girls stepped right up to the plate and did a great job!  I was so proud of them as they shared what they've learned, what they still hope to accomplish, and how setting goals has helped them.  A member of our Bishopric is doing the program with the girls so he contributed his accomplishments last night as well.
Our theme was S.T.A.R. - Stand for Truth And Righteousness
There is a Primary song called I Am Like a Star which went along with our theme for the evening: S.T.A.R. - Stand for Truth And Righteousness. (No credit to myself for that one.  The internet is full of good ideas!!)  I wrote a second verse to the Primary song which went like this:  I am like a star shining brightly, shining for the whole world to see.  I can be a light, stand for truth and right, and be all that He wants me to be. The young women sang that as our special musical number for the evening.  Simple and sweet.

Our Bishop challenged each young woman to:  Seize the Day (Carpe Diem), live life more abundantly (see John 10:10), and be anxiously engaged in good causes (D&C 58:27).  [Maybe he forgot he was speaking to the young women because I'm pretty sure that was all for me!!]

It was a great evening, complete with an impressive display of food at the end.  From spiced cider, meatballs, little sausages wrapped in crescent rolls to a huge veggie tray and star shaped cupcakes, there was something for everyone.  The young men and cub scouts who found us after their activities enjoyed the treats as well.  :)  (Hooray for a wonderful counselor who took on the food challenge and outdid herself.  Otherwise, we would have had homemade cookies and water...)

Overall, a great evening!  (I am SO glad that's over!!)

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Weekend With the Grands

The kids knew someone was coming to see us last weekend.  We didn't tell them who it was and their imaginations were pretty active in guessing who our special guests would be. 

Sam knew our mystery guests would be attending the Symphony Orchestra concert to hear him and Sterling play and, boy howdy, did they ever practice hard!  (It was awesome, by the way!!) 

Everyone was pretty excited when Grandma and Grandpa Stowell showed up late Thursday night! 

Together we enjoyed beautiful warm (but windy!!) weather, several fun activities associated with 11-11-11 on Friday, celebrated Sterling's birthday on Saturday and soaked up the amazing music at the symphony on Sunday.  It was a great weekend!  We were sad to see them go this morning. 

Thanks for coming, Grandma and Grandpa!  Hurry back!!  :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Double Digits

A big, enthusiastic Happy Birthday to my lego loving, picture drawing, battle planning, secret spying, story writing, heart melting, fiddle playing cowboy!
Ten years already!  I love you, Sterling.  (You'll always be my Boogie!)
Could you get any cuter?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eleven Eleven Eleven

During Middle School, Savannah and her friends would always make a wish at 11:11.  Apparently it's pretty lucky.  So I guess that today, right now, must be just about as lucky as one can get!

11:11 on 11-11-11

{I'll never see that again!}

Thank A Soldier

"Dear Soldier, Thank you for serving our country, saving my freedom, keeping us safe, and last, being my hero.  Your friend, Soren"
My sentiments exactly.  Put your flag up.  It's Veteran's Day!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thank You Notes

That's some good advice!  I made up some cute little note cards so I can jot down a quick thank you when the thought crosses my mind.  I'm going to try to send them off more often.  Who doesn't like happy mail?  :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Who Are These People?

My iPod has obviously been abducted by aliens.  I have no idea who any of these people are.