Saturday, October 31, 2015

And the Award for Coolest Mail Carrier Goes To...

Does your mail carrier dress up for Halloween? Seriously, how cool is that? :)

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Amazing Grace

Oh, I'm in love with this brand new video by the Piano Guys. Filmed in Scotland, it made me all homesick for my favorite place on earth. Complete with bagpipes and even a short refrain of "Scotland the Brave" in the middle, it gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes.

The song is called "Fight Song/Amazing Grace (Scottish Style)" and I loved what they had to say about it. (It's pretty wordy, but so beautiful):

When we first heard Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” we were inspired by its message. In a world where we too often talk about our differences, we have at least one thing in common. We all struggle. Not in the same way, nor at the same level, but we all want a fighting chance. And we all share in one gift: The will to make the most of our lives. To take what we’ve been given and turn it into something better could be considered the sentient measuring stick of success. But to do so seldom is simple and more often requires we fight. Not against each other. But against the current threatening to drown the ambition in us.
There is tremendous purpose in struggle. It is when the struggle becomes so fierce that we must fight to swim or sink. John Newton, who penned “Amazing Grace,” worked on a slave trader ship and condoned inhuman atrocities. It was when his ship was on the verge of being torn apart in a violent storm when he called out for Grace. When his feet were once again planted on firm soil he determined to change. His covenant was written into these words,
“I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.”
Grace is the defining moment when we face and fight a monster poised to define us or destroy us.
This song and video for us was a struggle, but a beautifully defining one. We chose the Scottish culture to depict the dichotomy between Grace and struggle. Who else is tough enough and yet delicate enough to don a kilt in battle? And the Scottish pipe and drum are the ultimate conveyors of melody and cadence. One represents Grace, the other the indomitable fight. Our dream was to film one of the most iconic castles on the Earth, Eilean Donan Castle in Dornie, Scotland.
Grace somehow made this video possible. We had to postpone our trip to Scotland several times, and when we could no longer postpone we had to leap in faith because just before we left everything had fallen through. It wasn’t until we were in the moment and had to let go of our pride and anxiety when everything Gracefully came together. We want to give special props to Paul. When the drone capturing our aerial footage took a nose dive into the frigid waters surrounding Eilean Donan, he took one for the team and jumped in after it, heroically saving the scenes you are seeing today!
From our youth we’ve been taught that when faced with insurmountable, unthinkable odds, we cheerfully do all that lies within our power, and then stand still with the utmost assurance to let fate, destiny, karma, or to let God do the rest. It isn’t easy, but every time we have an opportunity to practice it we get a little better. We’ve found, as John Newton discovered, the closer we get to the furnace of the affliction the more our obstinance and pride burns off revealing the best way to win a fight in ourselves is to let Grace fight the battle instead.
We recognize that this video is far less important than a fight for one’s life. We hope this music will serve as an anthem for those that are in the fight of their lives. We have people close to us who inspire us every day with their grace in the face of such a struggle. This video is dedicated to them: The superheroes in our lives that don’t wear capes, but wear a smile under villainous pressure — those that have been through so many defining moments that they are intimately acquainted with Grace and know it be close cousins with hope. They know that when they can’t fully understand the purpose of a struggle, they instead recognize that knowing there is a purpose is enough. We pray that “Grace will bring them safety through.”
Finally, we feel grateful and we’d like to say, with John Newton, “When we’ve been [here] ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.”

Pumpkin Color

Here's my contribution to Halloween.

I had some fun with a grown-up coloring contest. I figured a couple hours of coloring therapy was worth it for a chance to win a $100 gift card to a craft website I frequent. If nothing else, I got a fall decoration out of it. :)

We still need to make our mostly-annual sugar cookies and we have yet to carve a pumpkin, but there's a chill in the air and the trees are turning the most vibrant shades of yellow, orange, red and purple.

Happy Fall!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I don't know what it says about me, but this video really struck a chord. I've watched it several times and I'm touched each time. I'm filled with thoughts that I need to improve, first of all, and then I realize various ways that I can improve my relationships with those around me. For me, it provided some serious food for thought, but also hope and gratitude for the relationships I have.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

XC - No Excuses

I've mentioned before how much I love Cross Country! I still think it's an amazing sport and I admire anyone who participates.

Spencer has had a great season. It's coming to an end with the biggest races over the next few weekends. He is only seconds away from lettering and he's really pushed himself and accomplished more than he thought he could. He's had personal bests at several races this year and he is fit and toned from his hours of practice.

Spencer with his sprint at the end of a race.                  Photo by Lynne Oliver

This year was a first for XC at the middle school level. Sterling was thrilled and enjoyed his participation a year earlier than he expected. His season has officially ended, but he's got the bug and is hoping to join a running club to keep in shape until track season in the spring. The volunteer coach who was instrumental in getting XC approved this year is seriously the best and was constantly motivating these kids to do and become better - not only on the course, but in life. What you do before and after a race matters every bit as much as what happens during it. And I'm not just talking training and healthy habits. Coach Mac motivated these kids to be kind and hard working and helpful. I'll say it again - he's the best!

Sterling's end-of-race kick.                         Photo by Charlotte Bednar

My contribution was the middle school t-shirt/sweatshirt design. 

It's been a great season! I'm looking forward to next year.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sun Dogs

I was picking up my kids from their after-school practices and rehearsals last week when I saw two little "suns" on either side of the sun. Do you know what those are? They are sun dogs! This is only the second time I've ever seen them. You can kind of see how they fall on either side of an invisible arc around the sun.

Anyway, it's kind of a cool phenomenon. I get a little bit giddy when I see them so there you go!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Harvest Fun

I harvested our butternut squash today. Seeing them sitting on the counter, I just couldn't resist...

Do you recognize Jimmy from VeggieTales?  I just quickly penciled him in, but I think he's so cute! Of course, my kids think I'm totally insane awesome! 

Love it! :)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

BYU Sunset

My brother Rob sent me this photo from the BYU game tonight. Look at that sky! Oh, so pretty. 

Not only was the evening perfect for a football game, but we came away with the win (45-38). 

It doesn't get much better than that. Go Cougars!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Meet Forest

After a month of research and deliberation, Spencer purchased a ball python and named him Forest. 

I'm good with snakes. As long as I know they're not harmful (and Forest isn't harmful), they don't bother me. I didn't, however, have any desire to take care of a pet. Spencer was allowed to purchase Forest with the understanding that I won't take care of him. I won't feed him, clean his cage, or pay for his supplies. So far so good.

Forest eats mice. Spencer thaws the frozen mouse then wiggles it around a little until Forest grabs it and eats it. The first feeding was pretty traumatic. Spencer held the mouse's tail between his fingers and wiggled it around. But when Forest lunged for it, Spencer got scared and dropped the Forest latched onto Spencer's thumb instead, then quickly wrapped the rest of his body around Spencer's wrist to suffocate his "catch." It was very exciting. Fortunately, Forest didn't hold on for long and Spencer was not deterred. Forest found his real meal. Spencer got online and bought 10" tweezers to feed Forest with in the future.

The most excitement came after Forest had been with us for all of four days. Sadie got home from school and ran upstairs to see how Forest was doing. She immediately ran back down the stairs yelling, "Forest's cage is open!" Seriously? My first question was, "Is Forest still in there?" Sadie didn't know. She hadn't taken the time to look. 

I immediately ran up the stairs hoping for the best, but Forest's cage was empty. The only way Forest could have gotten out of the room was the A/C vent. I started seeing visions of waking up in the morning with a snake coiled up at the foot of my bed. He could be anywhere in the house. After a panicked call to Jeff, Sadie and I went back up to start looking. Within a minute, Sadie yelled, "I found him!" 

Forest's cage has a slight (~1/2") arch at the bottom. He had climbed out of his cage and had coiled himself up in this small gap underneath. He was perfectly cozy and hidden - exactly what he likes best. That's one of those mistakes that only happens once. I'm glad we got that out of the way and I'm SO glad that Forest stayed nearby.

Forest, all snuggled up on my belly while Spencer cleaned his cage.  
Spencer is proving to be a great caretaker. He makes sure Forest's cage has enough humidity, he cleans up Forest's messes, he feeds him, and he handles him like an expert. Spencer even helped Forest with his first shed when Forest couldn't manage to do it on his own.

I think this might work out okay. :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

General Conference

I love General Conference. I say that every six months, but it's one of my favorite weekends! This past weekend did not disappoint. It filled me right up!

Three new apostles were sustained: Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Elder Gary E. Stevenson and Elder Dale G. Renlund. Before now, there haven't been three apostles sustained in the same conference since 1906.

It was so hard to pick just a few talks to post here - there were so many good ones! But here are some that immediately come to mind.

And then there's our sweet prophet, President Monson. He gave a great talk, but a few minutes before he was through, it was obvious he was struggling. He was literally leaning on the pulpit by the end and breathing heavily. I'm sure there were thousands of silent prayers being said on his behalf to help him finish his message.

What a blessing it is to hear the word of the Lord from his chosen prophet and apostles. I'm looking forward to studying their words over the next six months. There is so much to learn and apply and I can't wait to dive right in!