Monday, February 29, 2016

What Is That Thing?

Well, I did it! I managed to blog every day in February. I will admit there were many days where I just wanted to forget the whole thing, but it was good for me to come up with something happy every day. I'm glad I did it and I'm glad I have a record of all the little things I normally skip over. I'd like to get in the habit of posting more than before -- but not every day. :)

So for today, I thought I'd post something completely random and a little bit freaky. I found this in the far reaches of my freezer:


What on earth? Any guesses? 

My first thought was that one of my boys was trying to preserve some poor creature's skull. In my freezer. With the food. Ew. Then I thought it was an extremely old, forgotten snowball that someone intended to save so they could pull it out in July. As in last July. Which led to the thought that I really need to clean out my freezer more often.

Still unsure what I was looking at, I naturally put it back in the freezer. When I found it again a couple weeks later, my kids were home so I asked if they knew anything about it. Spencer was the one who solved the mystery of the frozen skull snowball. 

Dry ice. 

Spencer received a shipment of frozen mice for his snake that were packed in dry ice. Being the scientist that he is, he proceeded to conduct all sorts of cool experiments. When he was done, he had a few little chunks of dry ice left so he put them in some water and left them outside for a while. When he came back, the water around the dry ice was starting to freeze. He eventually put the remains in the freezer and forgot about it. 

Fast forward a few months... And that is how to make a skull snowball. :) 

{Happy Leap Day, by the way.}

Sunday, February 28, 2016

How We Landed in Illinois and Why It Matters

Sam, Savannah and Spencer - about 2 years after we moved to Illinois (2002)
It was February 2000. We were living in Columbus, Ohio. Jeff had graduated about 6 months earlier with his PhD in Psychobiology from the Ohio State University and then immediately started a two year Post-doctoral fellowship in Psychoneuroimmunology. We had three kids -- Sam was almost 4, Savannah was 2 and Spencer, the baby, was almost 6 months old.

Jeff's adviser, Jan, approached him one day to let him know that they had been extended an offer to move their lab to the University of Miami in Florida. They were seriously considering it and felt it was only fair to let Jeff know. While we were more than welcome to move with them, Jan understood if we didn't want to relocate our young family for just one year. With her blessing, Jeff started looking for a job.

February is not the best time to look for teaching positions within higher education. As Jeff entered the job market, there were relatively few positions available. He optimistically applied for everything that was even a remote possibility and we hoped for the best. After a position or two didn't work out (one school paid less than Jeff received at his postdoc!!) he was given an interview for a tenure-track position in the Psychology Department at Eastern Illinois University.

To make a long story short, Jeff was offered the job. Because of the demands of his postdoc, we had one day to make the five hour drive with three kids in tow to look at houses. After looking at 9 houses within our meager price range, we found one that seemed like a good fit. Knowing we couldn't come back to look again, we offered the asking price (a whopping $72,500), packed up the kids and drove the five hours back to Columbus. We were relieved the next day to hear our offer had been accepted.

We moved here on July 31, 2000. We attended church on Sunday and were invited to the Bishop's home for dinner that week. It was there that the Bishop informed us, "I prayed you here." He said he needed a Young Men President and extended the calling to Jeff. We hadn't even been here for 2 weeks.

I believe Bishop Lunt. I think he really did pray us here. Why? Well, shortly after Jeff accepted the position at Eastern and we'd found a home, we learned that the lab would not be moving to Florida. We could have stayed in Columbus. And we LOVED Columbus! But Heavenly Father knew where He needed us and through an unusual series of events, He got us here. Looking back over the past 15+ years, we are exactly where we are supposed to be.

Why am I sharing this journey now? Because I live in Illinois. It's no big secret that Illinois is in the worst financial shape in the country. Jeff works for a state university, but the state has given EIU (and every other state university) exactly zero dollars this school year. The state has still not been able to agree on a budget even though the deadline was July 1 of last year. They're squabbling over whether to cut higher education by 20 or 30%, but in the meantime, we've effectively received a 100% cut while they duke it out. Eastern is getting desperate. They've cut civil service positions, put others on mandatory furlough, canceled festivals and other events, and a whole slew of other things to save money anywhere they can. Jeff is cautiously optimistic, but we can't help but wonder about the future.

So I think back to what brought us here. I've learned that Heavenly Father knows where He needs us. If that's here, we're more than happy to stay. We're not losing sleep over the current state of our state, but we are looking to the future and wondering what's in store. I'm glad I'm not in charge!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Snow Fort Fun

Remember Spencer and Sterling's fort from Wednesday's blizzard?


Well, the kids had a 2-hour early dismissal from school yesterday. It was a beautiful day so the kids spent a lot of time outside. Spencer spent a few hours reinforcing and carving out more of the fort. He even added an igloo-like entrance. The next two pictures were taken today when it became obvious that our snow structures' days are numbered. Other than our forts and our snowman, there's hardly any snow left in our yard. Tomorrow we're expecting temps in the 60's. 


The kids were trying to see how many people they could fit inside the fort. I couldn't get a good picture with the shadows so I told them to stick their hands out so we could see that they had four of them in there.


Good times! 

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Happy Couple

My oldest nephew was married today! We're so happy for Jordan and Kenzie. :) I wish we could have been there to share their special day, but I hope they know how much we love them and wish them every happiness as they begin their lives together.



Thursday, February 25, 2016

Blessed and Happy...

I've been reading through the talks that were given during the last General Conference (October 2015) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We always make it a priority to watch each session of Conference as a live stream every April and October, but I also make time to read each talk again before the next Conference. I'm just finishing up and have been really inspired by a couple of the addresses from the Sunday afternoon session.


Elder Von G. Keetch gave a talk entitled, "Blessed and Happy Are Those Who Keep the Commandments of God." I really enjoyed his perspective. So many people see the commandments as restrictions or things that keep us from really enjoying life. But Elder Keetch turns it around and shows us that the commandments are a generous gift from a loving Heavenly Father who "gives us divine direction, through His commands and loving guidance, so that we may avoid the dangers--so that we may set a course in our lives that is protected from spiritual predators and the gaping jaws of sin." I love that.

Here's a fun little video that was created for the youth of the church that illustrates a principle similar to one Elder Keetch shared in his talk.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Snow Day

It was 68º on Saturday. After such a beautiful weekend in the middle of the most mild February, we were surprised by the Blizzard Warning we were under today. But we love snow days so there was no complaining here! Jeff headed to campus only to find that, surprisingly, Eastern's classes were canceled, too. :) He stayed to work on a presentation and get a few other things done, but he decided to come home when the power went out mid-morning. Fortunately the power wasn't out for long and we ended up having a great day together!

Our day was filled with:
Lots of reading.
A little homework.
Comfort food.
Family games.
Playing outside for hours.
Perfect packing snow.
A giant snowman.
Snow forts.
Sled rides.
Homemade hot chocolate.
The Lego movie.

This is the giant snowman that Jeff and Soren built. 

This was the perfect packing snow!
You can see the layers as the snow easily rolled up on itself. 

Spencer and Sterling worked hard on their snow fort. I think this is Spencer carving out the interior.
Sadie and Soren had their own fort across the yard. 

Who needs a 4-wheeler? Jeff gave the kids "sled rides" with his lawnmower. :)

I love days like this!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

On Repeat

If you've ever wondered what we're listening to around here, chances are it's one of the following:

  • BYU Vocal Point. My kids are in love with their arrangements and their sound! We listen over and over and over again. Here's the current favorite:





  • Anything by John Williams. Sterling is his biggest fan and tries to name each song that comes on. Fortunately, Sterling has played several pieces in orchestra (Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, etc...) so he knows his stuff. 
  • The soundtrack to Shrek: The Musical. Spencer was just cast as Pinocchio in our high school's production. The songs are clever and catchy and the kids can't get enough! (I, however, have had enough...)
  • My Collin Raye station on Pandora. :) If you come over when the kids aren't home, this is what I'll be listening to. 
  • My Marvin Goldstein station on Pandora. This is our choice every Sunday. It's full of beautiful instrumental hymns and other reverent music.  
  • The Piano Guys. We never get tired of them. Ever. 
That about wraps it up. It's not a very long list, but we know what we like! 

What are you listening to?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Feeding the Pigs


Wait, did I say pigs? Obviously I meant feeding the birds, but sometimes it's hard to tell. I've never seen birds go through so much food and I've never seen birds stick around all winter! I fill up their feeder every couple of days. You can see from the photo above that our feeder has become quite the gathering spot. This flurry of activity is a fairly common sight. The feeder sits right outside our big dining room and has provided plenty of entertainment this winter.

These pictures were taken a week or so ago when we still had snow on the ground. The snow makes a great backdrop to see the birds and the mess they make. Sometimes I wonder if the birds at the feeder are actually eating anything or if they are just knocking the seed onto the ground for other birds to eat. This scattering of seed on the ground in the photo below is mild compared to what is there now.


A friend of mine who raises chickens which provide his family with eggs wanted to know, "Why do you feed the birds. What value do they provide?"

"Sheer joy."

He considered that for a second and said, "It's worth it then."

Yes, it's definitely worth it.




Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Sabbath

I was in my second year at Ricks College, enrolled in a Physical Science class. I was taking the class to meet a general education requirement but my professor was hard! His name was Fabrizio Pinto from Italy. He spoke with a thick Italian accent which forced me to lean in and listen a little closer. Sometimes he tried to make jokes: "My name is Fabrizio Pinto. Pinto like the car, the bean and the horse." Once I'd processed what he said, it was too late to laugh. I think he understood that because once he said, "I try to tell jokes, but it makes laugh nobody."

I managed to get an A in the class simply because Professor Pinto, mercifully, graded on the curve. Despite my struggle in the class, Dr. Pinto made me feel really smart. He even called me into his office one day and told me he'd be happy to give me a great recommendation if I'd like to be a TA for Physical Science students when I transferred to BYU. I respectfully declined, but I'll admit I was flattered that he even thought I was capable of helping anyone with science!

The fact that Physical Science was one of my hardest classes isn't the point of this post. When I think back on that class, what I remember most is that it was from Professor Pinto that I first realized the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy.

Stay with me here...

One day near the beginning of the semester - it could have even been the first day of class - Dr. Pinto announced that homework would never be due on Monday. Why? Because he never wanted to be the reason we did homework on Sunday. 

Wait. No homework on Sunday? I was a good kid and always attended my church meetings. I didn't participate in sporting activities or go shopping on the Sabbath. But no homework? I'd never really considered the idea. But after hearing Dr. Pinto suggest it, I thought about it a lot. Finally I decided that if he felt so strongly about it, maybe I shouldn't do any homework on Sunday. So I didn't. And do you want to know what happened?

I never needed to.

Through this act of faith, I was blessed with more time during the week. I mean, I know I didn't actually have more time, but it felt like it because I was able to use the time that I had more effectively. I was able to easily get everything done that I needed to in the time I had. Assignments didn't take as long as expected. Studying for tests was more productive. And I was able to enjoy the Sabbath without turning it into a mad cramming session to be ready for Monday. The Sabbath became a delight (see Isaiah 58:13).

I have reflected on that experience many, many times over the past 26 years. I am so grateful for Dr. Pinto and his subtle lesson on keeping the Sabbath day holy. It has had a huge impact on my life.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover


If I'd seen this book in the library, I would have walked right past it. This does not look like my kind of book. But I was intrigued when a friend, whose judgement I respect and trust, gave it five stars (which she seldom does) and said it's "just about perfect."

So I checked it out.

A Monster Calls is very compelling. I found myself picking it up whenever I could sneak in a minute or two (or 15 or 60). Spencer had a bunch of friends over this afternoon. I was reading in the living room, but had to discreetly get up and go in my bedroom when the tears started. I couldn't help it. I knew if I had to talk to anyone, I'd be a disaster. I pretty much cried through the last fourth of the book. I had decided I'd like to read it aloud with Soren, but I quickly realized there were parts where I would not be able to talk through the tears.

The illustrations throughout are beautifully haunting, and completely appropriate for the story.


Here is the book description from Goodreads:

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.


I know how it looks, but A Monster Calls isn't scary. It's just very honest and real. And sad. And completely unique. I'm not sure I've ever read a book like it before.

If you read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

{Recommended for ages 12+.}

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sick Day

Sterling was feeling kind of crummy the other day. Something's been going around and while there's no fever or major symptoms, it just makes you want to curl up and stay home. So when the school nurse called, I didn't hesitate to bring Sterling home for the afternoon.

I thought maybe he'd snuggle in and watch a movie or read a book. Maybe he'd take a nap.

Nope. Not Sterling.

Something happens to this kid when the demands of school ease up for a bit. His creativity kicks in and he starts exploring new ideas. I could hear him upstairs playing with Legos and at one point I thought I even heard him playing the violin. I was impressed. Give Sterling a little down time and he'll entertain himself for hours.

The video below shows the result of his "sick day." Not bad for a couple hours of free time.



I should really keep him home from school more often... ;)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Before and After: My Dining Room Table

We have two dining room tables. When Sam and Savannah were at home, we used both tables, end to end, which comfortably fit all eight of us. Once Savannah left, we were able to go down to one table with the center leaf extended to make a square.

We weren't sure what to do with the table we weren't using anymore. The top of it was in pretty rough shape because our dining room is Grand Central Station around here. (Because we don't have an eat-in kitchen, our dining room table is used for every meal as well as homework, games, etc.) I had seen some fun stenciling ideas on the internet and my wheels started turning.  I figured I had nothing to lose so I decided to sand down the top and try out an idea.

This shows the contrast between the original table and what was underneath.
All sanded and ready to go!

December 24th was unseasonably warm so I was able to do all the sanding then. Unfortunately, the weather turned pretty cold after that so the newly sanded table sat in the garage for the next several weeks. (I'm a big wimp when it comes to the cold!) Last week, Jeff hauled the table in the house and set it up in the basement so I could finish my project.

I used some old vinyl colors I never use and cut out huge stencils. Then I went to work with navy and white stain. I only have a couple of pictures of the process. In the first one, you can see why I had a hard time knowing if the blue was dark enough. The poor lighting and the contrast between the funky stencil colors and the navy stain was very misleading. I believe I added one more coat of blue stain after this picture was taken. Once the stencil was removed, the color really popped!


Almost done. All I had left at this point was to finish the white stripes on the right side and fill in a few more letters (University) with white.


And, as of about 9:00 this morning, here's the all-but-finished project. The only thing left to do is to finish it off with a few coats of polyurethane. Jeff is planning to do that this weekend.


A close up. I love how it turned out! 

Overall, the project was harder than I expected and I learned a lot along the way, but I love our one-of-a-kind table. Can you tell we love our BYU? :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Candy Bomber

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Harrison Ford, and Gail Halvorsen

Isn't this the greatest picture? If I had to pick my favorite pilots, these three would top my list! Click Here to read a little about the event that brought them together.

Gail Halvorsen (far right), also known as "The Candy Bomber," is one of my heroes. I first learned his story in 2012 when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir paid tribute to him in their annual Christmas concert. You can hear Tom Brokaw tell the story in the video below. (You might want to grab a tissue...)

Then a few months later, I read a book recommended by one of my kids' teachers that told the whole story of the Candy Bomber. It makes my heart happy (and tears leak out of my eyeballs) when I think of the lives he's touched and the difference he made at such a dark time. In short, World War II was over, but Germany was in pretty rough shape. Operation "Vittles" had U.S. Servicemen dropping food and supplies in the war ravaged cities to help the civilians survive. Gail Halvorsen started dropping candy and gum in little handkerchief parachutes to the children that would watch the planes come in. His idea took off from there. For so many, these little bundles from heaven were a light in the darkness.

What an inspiration!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Potential

There was once a sculptor working in his studio with hammer and chisel on a large block of marble. A little boy who was watching him saw nothing except large and small pieces of stone falling to the right and left. He didn't know what was happening. When the little boy returned a few weeks later, he saw to his great surprise, a large and powerful lion sitting in the place where the stone had stood. In amazement he turned to the sculptor and asked, "How did you know there was a lion in there?"

Imagesource
I found the above story in one of my flats when I was a missionary. I don't have a reference - it was on some random papers that someone had left behind. I've always loved the story and the message. I was thinking about it tonight and wanted to share.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could help others discover their lion within? Goethe said, "Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being."

Monday, February 15, 2016

My Favorite Missionary


I really haven't posted much about Sam lately. I don't know why. He definitely makes me happy! He was recently transferred which means he has a new companion. It sounds like they get along well. I've already heard from members telling me what a great guy Sam is. I love those e-mails!

Tomorrow is Sam's 19-month mark in the mission field. Only 5 months to go! I'll admit, the time dragged for about the first 9-months, but now it's flying by and he'll be home before we know it! I can't wait. :)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day!


Isn't this the cutest? I found the idea here. I don't have a color printer so I did the next best thing - I put a piece of tracing paper over my computer screen and traced Yoda's outline and then colored it in. Yes, for real. Ha ha!! Desperate times (i.e., procrastination) call for desperate measures. My kids loved their Valentines, but Sterling informed me that Yoda's lightsaber glow stick is supposed to be green. Who knew? :)

I hope you had a great day!
XO

{Below, enjoy a little Valentine's Day fun from Studio C.}

Friday, February 12, 2016

Maltesers

One of the things I miss about Scotland is the sweets. (Why is it that European chocolate is so much better?) With little corner shops located at the most convenient locations, it was easy to stop in and pick up a "sweetie" or two.

Side note: One of my missionary companions was very generous in sharing her sweets. She would usually hand me half of whatever she was eating and say, "Better your butt than mine." Ah, memories. :)

Anyway, I was pretty excited yesterday when I was shopping at a nearby salvage store and found Maltesers, one of my favorite Scottish treats. I hurried and grabbed several packages and then thought about it and grabbed a few more.


Do you like Whoppers? Maltesers are basically the same thing, but better! I've come across them before so Jeff and the kids are already fans.

What a happy surprise! :)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Twenty-One Years Ago Today

Last night, Sadie told Jeff and me that we both had to wake her up in the morning. She said there would be a special surprise waiting for us and we had to come together.

As I started turning her door knob this morning, I heard her little voice, "Who is out there?"

"It's mom."

"Okay. Is daddy with you?"

"Yes."

"Okay. You can come in." We opened the door and she said, "Turn on the light."

As we entered her room, we saw our big surprise. There, on the wall above her bed, was this:


Unbeknownst to us, Sadie drew and colored each letter earlier in the evening and waited until Jeff tucked her in. Then she climbed out of bed and put up her sweet little masterpiece.

I'm glad someone around here likes to celebrate big events. Sadie doesn't get that from me, but it made Jeff and me feel like a million bucks that our engagement anniversary was so important to our cute little 10-year old girl.


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! :)
Imagesource
"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!

Imagesource
(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. 


Update on March 30: Gas prices fell a little more before they started climbing again, but they are still under $2. (Maybe around $1.85 right now.) But milk prices have continued to fall. It's only low at a couple of stores, but I paid $1.19 last week. For a GALLON! :) 

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.

Anyway.

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 62º 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! :)