Thursday, June 30, 2011

Notes From the Road

We have happily arrived at our first destination in Utah.  Yippee!!  I'll spare you the painful details of our 2+ hour delay once we arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.  There was a lot of sitting and not going anywhere in massive traffic with closed roads and lots of confusion, but we were so happy to finally pull into my sister's driveway and spend an enjoyable evening with her and her cute girls.  The kids are all snuggled in their beds and I have no doubt that we'll all sleep very well tonight!

I just wanted to share a few of the funnies from our travels so far:

While driving through Kansas City, Sadie said, "This kind of looks like France.  I see the Eiffel Tower."

A random comment from Sadie somewhere in Kansas, "What if they called Chicago Chi-frog-o?"

At a very hot and humid rest stop in Kansas, Soren announced, "If I was a liquid, I would evaporate quick!"

The most important lesson learned so far:  Do not give Sadie a bottle of flavored water and ask her to only drink a little bit.  She will drink the whole thing and then have to use the bathroom every 20 minutes.  Then she'll ask for more water and repeat the process.  If only bathrooms were conveniently located every 20 minutes... 

I'll add photos in the morning!  Good night.  :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Honk and Wave

We're on the road!  Our trek west begins today and we'll be driving for the lot of it.  Today will find us traveling through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado - en route to Utah, Idaho, Utah (again) and Nevada.  Here's a lovely rendition of our family in our two-tone 12-seater Ford van (compliments of Sadie-bug) so you'll recognize us on the road:


And here's how we look from the back:


Honk and wave if you see us!  Jeff figured out a rough estimate of our round-trip mileage.  Of course this doesn't include all the places we'll go within each destination, but just traveling from place to place we've got 4,347 miles of fun ahead of us.  (Translation: 72 hours in the van.  Fortunately, not all in a row...)  Wish us luck!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My First Giveaway: Mind Organization for Moms

I like to consider myself an organized person.  I like to think that I am a highly functional mother who can balance the various demands on my time -- if only I could remember what those demands are!!  So I write little notes to myself and then I end up finding index cards, scraps of paper, and scribbles in the margins of various documents all over the house.  Or else I'm constantly going through mental lists of things I need to do so that I won't forget anything.  As a result, I'm often distracted by what I forgot or by what's coming up.  My kids rarely get just me without the million other little things clouding our interactions.  Too often it's, "Just let me handle this first so I won't forget," or it's, "I just don't have time right now."  Jeff and the kids are my top priority, but they wouldn't tell you that.  It's no longer obvious by where and how I'm spending my time.  Something needs to change...

Enter Mind Organization for Moms.  {M.O.M for short.  Isn't that cute?}  Here's what their website says about the program:   

When you implement this process into your life, you will:
  • gain control over your tasks, eliminating that constant “overwhelmed” feeling
  • develop stronger relationships
  • keep track of those great ideas you have swirling in your head
  • effectively handle the projects that matter to you, and
  • stop that “deer-in-the-headlights” feeling you get a hundred times a day when you realize you forgot to do something important.
This is really about creating the life of your dreams.

Wow, sign me up!!  This is just what I need.  I recently received the program and I've started to implement  the steps.  Just the tips on how to organize your e-mail inbox has saved me time and stress.  Everything I've read and done so far makes so much sense.  I'm still learning the ins and outs, but I'm so excited and grateful for the help.  This program is so intuitive.  There's a lot of "Why didn't I think of that?" going on in my head! 

Here's the best part.  The Power of Moms has given me one full version of  Mind Organization for Moms to give away!  Yippee!!  Here's all you have to do:

Simply leave a comment telling me why you need to get organized, what's most difficult about organization, or anything else that might help the ladies over at The Power of Moms understand your needs.  (I'm telling you, this program deals with the real needs of real moms!)

I'm so excited about this!!  I'll leave the contest open for about a week.  I'll announce a randomly selected winner on Wednesday, July 6.  Tell your friends and good luck!!  :)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Kid Time

I cut out this article at least 10 years ago from my in-laws local paper when we were on vacation in Oregon.  It's been hanging on my fridge most of the time since then.  I love the philosophy of spending more time with my kids as a way to find balance.  One of my goals is to simplify my life so I can be more "present" with my kids.  Honestly, I have a long way to go, but I just keep remembering one of my new favorite quotes: 

"A year from now, you'll probably wish you had started today."   

Tonight Sadie convinced Jeff to put up the tent in the garage and we're camping out!   Sounds like a good start to me.  :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Good News About Strep Throat

Sam and Savannah during better days
Boy have we been sick around here!!  Sore throats, headaches, fevers, chills and fatigue top the list.  I took Sam and Savannah in to see the doctor today because, after 4 days, they weren't getting any better.  I figured they would receive a diagnosis similar to Sadie's last week.  She tested negative for strep, but the doctor gave her a prescription for oral antibiotics and she was better the next day.  I was pretty surprised when the doctor informed Sam and Savannah they would each be receiving a shot of penicillin to treat strep.

Savannah hates shots.  Hates them as in terrified.  I believe her exact words were, "I would rather take poop flavored medicine 500 times a day for a month than get a shot!"  But she was fighting a losing battle.  My doctor doesn't mess around with strep.  He gives a shot of long acting penicillin and then he knows he got it.  And, unless you're Savannah, that's the good news about strep.  No 10 days of taking pills three times a day.  No fighting kids to take their meds or wondering what to do when they forget.  One shot and you're done.

After Savannah bravely got her shot, one nurse said something like, "I let Trudy give that shot because she has the most experience.  I've only been a nurse for two days so I'll practice on Sam."  Sam's eyes got pretty big before the nurse laughed and admitted she's been a nurse for 20 years.  Add that to the doctor joking that it would hurt less for Savannah to get the shot in her bottom than her leg because her butt is so big...  (At 5'5" and 102 pounds, Savannah's butt is not very big!)  It was pretty enjoyable for a doctor visit.  Well, except for the shots. 

Jeff, Soren and I are coming down with something.  We may be visiting the doctor on Monday if it keeps getting worse.  I hope it's not strep...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Little Alien

Alternate title:  You know it's time for a haircut when...  :)

I couldn't help but smile when this adorable little alien appeared the other night, fresh from the shower, with the greeting, "I come in peace."  I've decided to keep him. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quest for the Best - Youth Conference Highlights

I spent last Thursday, Friday and Saturday with 9 Young Women from my ward at Youth Conference.  We traveled to Springfield and joined with that Stake for all events.  I realize that I should have taken a lot more pictures, but I've included a few with a rundown of the activities over those three fun days.

Thursday:
The conference kicked off with a service project working with autistic kids.  I was impressed by the youth.  They were enthusiastic and I heard many positive comments afterward. We did some team building activities with the youth after the autistic kids went home.  After we changed at our host family homes, we had a speaker then dinner and a dance.  Of course, the youth look forward to the dances!  This one was really fun with a Hawaiian theme and lots of fun activities throughout.  (Sam came in 3rd in the hula hoop contest!)  The dance was held at an indoor pavilion in a very nice park.  We had the most beautiful sunset that evening as our backdrop. 
We got a little lost trying to get back to our host home that night, but everything worked out in the end.  Whew!

Friday:
Scavenger Hunt at a park and the U of I Springfield Campus.  Okay, this was SO fun!!  I was a group leader to 11 youth.  We had a sheet of paper with all the things we had to find.  There were about 35 things in each location (the park and the campus) that we had to find and take a picture of with our whole group.  I had the camera so I got plenty of pictures from this.  Here are a few of the things we had to find:
A broken column sculpture

A window with a circle in a triangle

Human checkers

A blue Stage Door

A Boat Dock

Triple X

A picture of an animal found in Antarctica, Africa, and South America (Who knew, right?)
My group won the scavenger hunt (yay for us!) and we each got a candy bar for our reward.  There were only 2 things out of the 70+ on the list that we didn't find.  :)

From here it was pizza for lunch, then we changed into Sunday best and the afternoon was spent attending four different workshops.  Jeff and I were asked several weeks ago if we would teach a workshop on scripture study.  I had no idea at the time that I'd be attending Youth Conference with the Young Women so it was fun to see Jeff when he came up on Friday.  I think our class went well.  We taught it four times and the youth seemed to enjoy it.  The other classes were on Higher Education, Dating and Communication, and Dance Instruction.  (The youth learned how to Salsa and then they played several songs during the dance that night for the kids to practice their moves!)  Again, the evening ended with dinner and a dance.


Saturday:
We managed to pack everything up in the pouring rain and then spent the morning at the church for breakfast, a speaker, and testimonies.  The speaker was Brother Mike Bednar (Elder Bednar's son - he's in our Stake).  He spoke of the importance of choosing the best things (going along with the "Quest for the Best" theme) and shared a quote from his dad,
"It's good to know, better to do, and best to become."   
Good counsel, for sure.  After testimonies, it was lunch and then home.

A great three days!  I can tell this calling as YW President will be filled with lots of fun adventures.  We're off to a good start!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cupcakes and Other Gifts

Yesterday we celebrated Jeff's birthday as well as Father's Day.  I guess that's kind of like having a birthday on Christmas...it's hard to keep them separate.  We did our best and I made Jeff his favorite apple pie for his birthday "cake" and then I found this darling cupcake idea from Family Fun and we made these for his Father's Day treat.  (We used chocolate chip muffins instead of a brownie mix.)  They were a big hit!


Little Sadie-bug went all out and gave daddy some pretty thoughtful gifts.  She wrapped up a few of her favorite girly toys and gave them to dad.

Jeff with his new "Princess Laptop"

Admiring his very own pink Lego house

I think Sadie was pretty smart because then she convinced him to spend a good chunk of the afternoon with her as they built the Lego house together.  One of her favorite things in the world is having daddy all to herself!!  I can't say I blame her -- Jeff's a pretty great guy and I love spending time with him, too.  It was a great day!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dad -- The Eternal Optimist

About three years ago, when I used to attend our county memoir writing group, I wrote a tribute to my dad.  While some of my family may have read this before, I think it's perfect for my Father's Day post.  Love you, dad!
My Dad is no stranger to hard times. He lost his Mom when he was 21. He happened to be living in Switzerland as a missionary at the time and didn’t learn of her death until the day of the funeral. It’s not like she would have been there if he’d rushed home and he felt that she would have wanted him to stay where he was. About ten years later, his youngest brother was forced off the road and killed in what was called an automobile homicide. His Dad passed away a year later from cancer.
Then there were the financial setbacks, like when he got a second mortgage on his home to loan his best friend $30,000. His friend never did pay him back but somehow the friendship survived. Several years later, while working as a stock broker, Dad was sued for 3 million dollars. His brokerage license was revoked during the investigation. The legal bills amounted to over $20,000. Eventually his brokerage license was reinstated as they could find no evidence of wrongdoing on his part. He always maintained that he had done nothing wrong, but he had bills to pay and a family to support so he’d long ago moved on to other jobs. He’s never been the type to sit around collecting food stamps.
Dad hasn’t escaped health problems. Some things were accidental, like the time most of his teeth were knocked out in a car accident shortly before his marriage. Other things were just unfortunate, like when he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2003. When Dad called to tell me this news, I immediately broke down. But then he started saying things like, “I think this is a wonderful opportunity”, and “Everyone should be given a chance like this to look at their life with a new perspective.” Whatever Dad! I just want to be sad about it, okay? When they found out the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes, Dad didn’t change his tune. That’s when he started saying things like, “I’ll treat this to a point, but I’m not going to jump through hoops to spare my life. I don’t fear death.” Okay, thanks Dad, but I kind of like having you around! He did have surgery to remove the cancerous portion of his intestine and then went through a round of chemotherapy which, by the way, he said he’d never do again. He eats well and walks several miles a day and says he feels better than he has in 20 years.
Despite these trials and setbacks, Dad is an optimist. He always sees the glass as half full. More than once I’ve heard him say, “I refuse to worry about this.” On the other hand, I’ve heard my Mom say, “Dad refuses to worry about this so I have to do all the worrying for both of us!” While growing up I remember thinking Dad would be really upset about something only to find his “no sweat” attitude shining through. Take for instance the time I was driving his little car around and noticed some smoke coming out of the hood. In my limited understanding of cars, I passed it off as steam from the snow that was melting on the car. However when I got home and walked to the front of the car, I saw that the front grille was covered with black oil. I was scared as I walked in the house and said, “Dad, there’s something wrong with the car.” He followed me out, saw the oil, popped the hood, and calmly said, “It looks like we’ve lost the oil cap. No biggie. I’ll take care of it.” And that was the end of it.
Part of Dad’s optimism is a great sense of humor that took me several years to appreciate. My siblings and I were not allowed to date until we were 16. Right about the time my older sister turned 16, there was a rumor that if you wanted to ask her out, you had to have an interview with my Dad. One brave young man, accepting this rumor as truth, called and asked Dad when he could come for his interview. Dad, happy to humor him and torture his daughters, invited him over. My sister and I were horrified and I imagined how miserable I’d be throughout my dateless life! Following the date, my sister informed Dad that he would never do that again. And he didn’t. After that, what usually happened is that Dad would just chat with our date when they came to pick us up. They never knew they were being interviewed and I remember comments like, “Your Dad is cool!” as we left the house.
Dad loves his family and just wants them around him. I remember the time I was living in Columbus, Ohio with my young family. Dad had a business trip 3 ½ hours away from us. As soon as he got off the plane, he drove the 3 ½ hours to see us, spent the night, then drove the 3 ½ hours back in the morning. To him this 7 hour detour was no big deal. He just wanted to see his grandkids. Then there was the time we flew from Columbus to Utah without telling Dad we were coming. My sister arranged a family gathering at her house. When Dad arrived and saw that everyone was there, he didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the evening. He said it was the best surprise he’s ever had.
Years ago Dad told me that his dream was to buy a large plot of land, subdivide it and give each of the kids a lot so that we could all live on the same cul-de-sac. With my parents now living in Nevada, my siblings in Utah, and my little family in Illinois, that dream probably won’t come true. But it’s easy for me to pick up the phone and get a healthy dose of Dad’s optimism when I need his perspective. For example, we both own shares of the same stock and when I called to ask his opinion when it dropped in price, his response was, “It’s on sale! I just bought more!”
One of my kids was being silly the other day. I jokingly told her she gets that from her dad. She said, “Actually I get it from Grandpa because he’s always funny.” I hope all of my kids will have their grandpa’s optimism. It helps to make this world a happier, friendlier place!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Toothless

So I was hanging out at the youth dance last night when I got a text from Savannah that said, "Sadie just discovered her first loose tooth!  She's pretty excited."

I wasn't surprised that she was excited.  I mean, ever since her first kindergarten classmate lost a tooth, she has been waiting her turn.  "When will I have a loose tooth?" is a question we've heard dozens of times over the past 9 months.  Today when I got home, I expected very little movement and a long wait for the tooth to come out.  After all, we've been through this plenty of times before with the other kids and it always takes longer than expected.  Well, not for this determined little girl!!  Sadie wiggled away and that tooth just got looser and looser as the day went on.  Finally, tonight, she convinced daddy to pull it out. 

Loose tooth one day, gone the next.  This is one happy little girl!

(By the way, Youth Conference was great!  I'll post some of our adventures soon!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Playin' in the Potty

By the time you read this, I'll be off enjoying a few days at Youth Conference.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy one of my all-time favorite photo collages of my kids.  I put this together several years ago and it hangs in my half-bath/laundry room.  It always makes me smile!

"Let them be little 'cause they're only that way for a while."

Mmmm, I love these guys!!  {See you on Saturday!}  :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Soren

Oh, how I love this boy!!  Soren is 8 years old today (already?) and here are some pretty great reasons why I love this awesome kid:

1.  Soren has the face of an angel and skin like peaches and cream.  I know it sounds funny to say, but he is just so soft!  I love to kiss his perfect little cheeks!
2.  Soren is as smart as a whip.  He totally gets math and is also an excellent reader.  He also writes well.    His teachers go out of their way to tell me what a pleasure it is to have him in class.


3.  Soren is funny.  He has his own little spin on the world around him and I love to see his interpretation of things.  Here is his version of The Sacred Grove (or at least how his imagination gets him through long meetings): 

4.  Soren is a blessing.  You may remember from this post that we were told Soren would likely be born with Down Syndrome.  He obviously wasn't and we are so thankful for him and his health every day.


5.  Soren is tenderhearted.  He knows the right thing to say when someone is down and he tries to help when someone is having an off day.  I'm always impressed by his thoughtfulness.
6.  Soren is genuine.  He's not afraid to express joy or fear.  His enthusiasm is contagious and he can melt the toughest heart with his compassion.


7.  Soren is fun.  He loves to play games and is a good little opponent.  He enjoys inviting friends over to our house and is considerate and fair.  He is a good friend.
8.  Soren loves spending time with me (and vice-versa!).  From tucking him in at night to cuddling during a movie, he is my little buddy and I can't imagine my life without him.

I love you, Soren.  Happy Birthday!  I'm so glad you're mine!
Love,
Mom

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Brothers


Look at these handsome guys!  Last week they sweated it out at Cub Scout day camp (over 90ยบ and humid both days).  This was Soren's first experience with Cub Scouts.  He was less than a week from his 8th birthday so he was able to join in on the events and, boy howdy, he was sure happy to have his big brother with him!  Soren could hardly sleep the night before because he was pretty nervous about the whole thing.  Sterling kept him close the whole time and took great care of his little bro.  These two have always been close and I'm glad they love spending time together.  I sure love my little pirates!

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Favorite Bug

By far my favorite bug, fireflies are the only insects I'll willingly let in the house.  We saw our first ones of the year last week and we all look forward to this time of year when we can spend long summer evenings catching them in our yard.  We love to see them sparkling over the corn fields when we're driving through the back roads - our own little fireworks display.

Fireflies are one of my favorite things about living in the Midwest!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Happy Mr. Onion Face

As soon as we got home from church today, I went to the kitchen to check on the roast.  As I lifted the lid off of the crock pot, here is what I found:

 There was Happy Mr. Onion Face smiling up at me.  Seriously.  Isn't that funny?  We thought so!
Here's a close up in case you don't see it... 

In other news, I was sustained today as the new Young Women President in our ward.  It's a big job and I'm a little overwhelmed by the whole thing, but I'm sure it will be a grand adventure.  For starters, I'm off to Youth Conference for three days this week.  Fun stuff!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Lily

Jeff went out to light the grill for dinner tonight and found a little friend clinging to the side of the barbecue.  Spencer immediately dubbed her "Lily" and the kids played with her in the grass until dinner.  We periodically find toads in our yard, but this is the first time we've found a tree frog.  Great plans were made to keep her and she spent the dinner hour in an ice cream bucket on the kitchen counter.  We know frogs, which means we know about live crickets, heat lamps, and spraying down tanks several times a day.  We also know we're going on a 3 week vacation in about 3 weeks and we quickly realized that we aren't ready for a pet right now. 

The kids reluctantly agreed that we needed to let her go and Sadie decided her "garden" was the best place.  Lily clung to a leaf for a minute or two then nestled in under this plant (below) which sure looks like a better place to hang out than an old ice cream bucket! 



Bye, Lily.  Hopefully we'll see you around.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Strawberry Pits

Sadie:  "Mom, I just smelled my armpits and they smell like strawberries.  Wanna smell?"

Hmmm, tempting...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Bike Trail

Spencer and I have been getting up early to ride bikes before the heat of the day and before Jeff leaves for work.  We have a sweet bike trail about 3 blocks from our house that goes at least 10 miles in one direction (not that we've ever been that far...).  It's a beautiful ride!  Yesterday I brought the camera along so I could capture some of the things we see.  Sadie was up and wanted to join us so the three of us had a nice ride.  It was pretty stop-and-go because I took so many pictures, but we saw some cool stuff.  If you were to join us, here are some of the things you might see:

 Just before getting on the trail, we pass the grain silos.  In a few months we'll have the big trucks driving down our street to drop off their harvests of corn and soybeans.  This is one of the landmarks we use to help people find our house:

The old, abandoned Brown Shoe Company Building is one of the first things we come to on the trail. We have a lot of old factories up on our side of town.  Life in our little corner of the world sure must have been different back in the day when these factories were up and running.
 
Here are my sidekicks heading off on the trail.  It's paved for maybe the first half mile. 

We always see wildlife.  Yesterday it was a turtle, three bunnies, and way too many cicadas!  At one point we saw something from a distance that resembled an otter or groundhog or something about that size.  He hurried into the brush before we could get a photo.



Check out this moth!  He is at least 4" across.  I wonder if the piece of straw/grass bent because of his size...  He was huge and very cool!

There are always pretty wildflowers and other flora along the way:

And more cicadas...  There were spots where they were pretty thick.  They are the reason Spencer refused to ride this morning.  One landed on Sadie's back which freaked her out until I told her that he was tired and just wanted a ride.  

This part of the trail is a little rough, but I like how it's framed in by the poles.

You can imagine how thrilled I was when, just as we turned around to start back, Sadie hopped off her bike and said she was walking home.  Seriously?  Fortunately she changed her mind about 30 seconds later.  Whew!

What a nice way to start the day!