Wednesday, October 1, 2014

This Little Bird Wants In To The House!

Back in June there was a very funny day when a little yellow bird tried to get into the house all. day. long! 
All throughout the day I kept hearing it tap against the same window in the living room as it attempted to fly in. I don't know if it thought the glass would eventually disappear or crack, but whatever the case, it cracked me up. Unfortunately for the bird that's the only cracking that happened. This has happened before with the same type of bird (or who knows, maybe it's the exact same bird?). Speaking of the type of bird, it's a Goldfinch, which happens to be the state bird of Iowa. I don't know if it has the highest amount of intelligence, but it sure is endearing and cute.

There's our little wannabe intruder, perched on the branch outside of the window, center of the picture. 
I'm going to name it Goldie and make it a female so that it's easier to refer to for the rest of this post, replacing the dehumanizing (debirding?) reference "it" and the potentially insulting (to the bird) "he/she, his/her." 

Where's Goldie?

Goldie really seemed to believe strongly in the classic saying, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."
Unfortunately no amount of trying was going to lead to success. 
I took these pictures throughout the day of Goldie's numerous attempts to fly in.

Sam, enjoying the show.
Can you spot Goldie?

He thought it was hilarious! Because it was! 

Look at Goldie's poor little beak, open (from the exertion?) and hopefully uninjured. Her pride may have been a little hurt, but hopefully not her beak. I think she's just taking a little breather between attempts.

 We decided to go outside and see the bird in the flesh...I mean, the feathers. It was hard because of how high up she was. Our view was actually better inside. There's a paradox in there somewhere. 
Can you spot Goldie in the picture below? Put your Where's Waldo skills to the test!

Perched on top of the window. Another strategy perhaps?

The whole thing was really funny and sweet and made for an entertaining and unique day. 
I love animals and their antics!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

June Sunset

I posted some June sunset pictures yesterday, but I wanted to give these ones their own post. The sky was amazing and so beautiful on this evening in June. It's really neat how the setting sun can light up the sky when you can't even see the sun itself. Talk about power and influence!


Then the color faded from gold to gold-tinged pink.

It was beautiful. Sights like these make me grateful to be alive. I believe that the beauties of nature are not just scientific occurences, but that they are more importantly evidence of God's love for us and serve as reminders of where we came from and where we're going, and that He's there, watching over it all.

(Deep thoughts inspired by the sunset-lit sky.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Joyful June

June was a good month. School was out, the weather was nice, the boys got to do some fun camps, and I got a lot of things done that needed to get done before we left for the rest of the summer. June is one of my favorite months because I love the beginning of summer!

I take the news reports and studies that warn about the dangers of iPad use in children with a grain of salt. Yes, don't overdo it, put filters on, and monitor their usage, but that's about it. My boys bond and get along well when they have iPad time. If they were on them all the time, that would be a problem, but they're not, so it's not. iPads are just part of a well-rounded life that includes lots of other activities. And I get some of my best candid photo opps of them when they're both using their iPads because they're peacefully occupied (and therefore they don't stick their tongues (or butts) out at me). :-)

Our good friends the Bodilys moved to Idaho in June, and we took care of their kids on their last evening in Iowa while they were at Chad's graduation from dental school. I've had the pleasure of watching their kids grow up, and my kids have so much fun with them. Our families moved to Iowa the same summer, and Annie and I served in the Primary Presidency together for most of our time here. We've had many fun get-togethers over the years. We were sad to see them go and we miss them a lot!  

It's fun pretending I have daughters when Jane and Maylie are over! 

Sam created quite a picnic for some lucky Angry Birds and a snake and helicopter one day.
The helicopter especially enjoyed it.

Sharpening his cutting skills (get it?), which he's quite good at.
It's funny how different kids in the same family can be. John struggled a lot with his fine motor skills, but they're a breeze for Sam.

I have a soft spot for hamburger cakes. My mom made one for my 9th birthday when we had just moved to Layton, Utah and it was the neatest thing and helped me to feel remembered and special in the midst of a big move. Whenever I see hamburger cakes I think of that, that I mattered enough for my mom to make me a unique cake when we were busy moving to a new part of the country. So when I saw one of these at Wal-Mart I had to get it. And it was actually really, really good--nice and moist and not overly sugary since it's not covered in frosting.  

YUM! I ate the majority of it. :-)

Early summer greeness in and around the yard.

Pretty yellow flowers that popped up in part of the landscaping. They looked tropical!

And since I'm on the subject of nature, here are a few pretty sky shots of sunsets that I took in June from the front yard. The sky is often at its most lovely after the rain, which I find symbolic.

Same tree, different sunsets, 
one pink-hued and the other, golden.

Our cutie pups, Yogi and Boo Boo. 

Brody napping on the porch one day. Now THAT is naptime bliss!

Peaceful cows on the neighborhood farm.
Look at the babies on the left! 

Speaking of animals, John can be quite the animal himself. Any guess as to what type?

John never met a tree or a rope that he didn't want to scale. He has always loved climbing and he's really good at it! 

 Sam and I were driving around one day and I looked back when we got to one of our stops and he looked like this. He'd put the hat on like that himself and everything.
 Homey-G Sam in da house! I mean, da car! (I know, I'm a dork. But at least my son is cool!)

And last but not least, I got a great set of owl bookends on clearance from Kohl's!

Some other notable (to me) things that happened in "joyful June":
  • I randomly noticed one day that I had gotten to 10,000 pins on Pinterest! I love Pinterest (obviously).
  • Best new show discovery: The Bletchley Circle on PBS. Really good. I'm bummed that it didn't get renewed for Season 3.

  • Another good TV discovery was The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. He's hilarious! Clean-cut, nice, and really, really funny. His thank-you notes crack me up every time. I'm usually not up late enough to watch this show, but when I am, it never fails to make me smile.
  • One more great thing I saw on TV was The Making of a Lady on PBS. This movie was fascinating, creepy, and unlike any period piece I've ever seen before. I couldn't stop thinking about it for days. I watched it in the morning while I worked out and then I watched it again that night. I NEVER do that! Now I want to read the book that it's based on, The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Meanwhile, the movie is stored away safe and sound in the DVR for my future viewing pleasure.

  • Best movies I saw (in the theater): Maleficent; X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Worst movie I saw: The Lone Ranger. It was an odd mix of funny and sad. It didn't quite work. The one truly enjoyable part was the final climactic scene with the classic William Tell overture playing.
  • Best book I read: The Fault in Our Stars  by John Green
  • One of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project, e-mailed me back in response to a quick e-mail comment I sent to a blog post of hers! The more I read of her writing in her books and on her blog, the more I realize that she and I are like kindred spirits in a lot of ways.
  • Another good discovery: Orchard Green restaurant in Iowa City. Peter and I had dinner there to celebrate our 12th anniversary. It was in a historic, elegant building and the food was delicious. It's one of my new favorite downtown restaurants. 
  • June reminded me of how much I love nectarines because it's the month that they're in season and are at their sweetest, juiciest, and most delicious. I ate lots of nectarines in June. :-)
And those are the random makings of a joyful June 2014!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Five Things for Friday

I wasn't going to do a "Five Things" today, but I had enough things to write about, so here it is!

1. Last week a lot of my friends were posting a link on Facebook to a new Mormon Messages video called "You Never Know," so I took the time to watch it since it was popular and involved a mom of young kids, something I obviously can relate to. It's good and worth watching.

However, I was surprised to find as I watched that some things in the video bugged me. I don't usually feel that way with Mormon Messages because I think they're really well done. Don't get me wrong; I could totally relate to a lot of what was in the video and I appreciate its main message very much. I will even admit that my eyes filled up with tears at the end when President Hinckley's voice came on and he said those wonderful words of wisdom, words that I agree with. I realize that the whole point of the video is "You never know how much good you do," especially when you have a bad day and are tired and dejected by the end of it, and the details shown in the video are really secondary to that. But some of those details bugged me, and I think they point to a bigger problem that many people have, especially women, both in and out of the Mormon church.

The mom (I'll refer to her as "the mom" for simplicity's sake) doesn't say "no" to some of the things requested of her, and I think she should have. There's nothing wrong with that--it's not always selfish to say "no." I very much believe that you have to take care of yourself so that you can be happy and healthy and therefore able to take the best care that you can of your family. That's what's most important. This is something I've really been working on in my own life, and I KNOW that it makes a difference and I'm a better and happier mother, wife, and woman for it. It's about trying to live a well-balanced life. It's not about saying no to service opportunities; it's about saying yes to them when it's something you can handle and/or want to handle. This video did not portray that well. Again, that's not the main point of this message, but I still think it matters and is worth talking about.

Specifically, there were two things in the video that drove me nuts. The first was the friend who showed up at the mom's doorstep asking last-minute if she could watch her daughter, right then and there. First of all, who does that? Secondly, the friend could clearly see that the mom was on her way out the door and that it wasn't a good time for her, but she left her daughter with her anyway, and only said "Thank you" when she picked her up later and quickly left. I found the whole scenario to not be very believable. The mom should have said, "I'm sorry, I can't do it," or she could have taken the girl along on her errands, since she had her own daughter with her anyway, instead of staying home and not going out to do what she was planning on doing. I thought it was rude of the woman to just show up and put her on the spot like that. Later in the video you see that it was an important doctor's appointment that may have been a last-minute emergency, and it really did help her to be able to have that time with her doctor and husband, but I'm not sure that it dismisses being so inconsiderate without much explanation. So that whole scene bothered me. 

The other thing that bugged me was when someone called to see if the mom could bring dinner over that night to a family who had a new baby. The mom had plans that evening to see a cousin who was in town just for a short while. She should have just said "no." It was a last-minute request, she had her own kids to feed and care for, she needed to get ready to go out, and she would have been perfectly justified in saying that she couldn't do it that night.  
OR, she could have just ordered the family a pizza instead of making them a homecooked meal, which resulted in her missing getting together with her cousin that night and caused her to be frustrated with the kids and discouraged with everything at the end of the day. That is not healthy self-care. Granted, it was partly her own fault for forgetting that she had agreed to provide the dinner until the last minute. But if she'd been better organized that probably wouldn't have happened. Lack of organization like that can be another sign of lack of self-care.
OR she could have put the meatloaf or casserole or whatever it was together and brought it over uncooked and they could have easily popped it in the oven themselves. Nothing wrong with that! 
OR (and this is my feminist streak talking), the new dad could have taken care of dinner himself for a night--men can do that, after all. I'm going a little overboard now, but you get my point--I disagree with the mom doing what she did because of how it impacted her and her family. She should have put herself and her kids first. It's OKAY to do that. (And obviously I'm not judging the mom, since clearly she is an actress and this isn't real; I'm judging the video's content.)

A friend of mine posted this quote on Facebook in regards to the video this week, and I found that it was the perfect antidote to my discontented feelings about the video. This is a quote from Sister Cheiko Okazaki, who served on the Relief Society General Presidency years ago. She expresses my feelings in an articulate and succinct way:   

"Many Mormon women do not have clear boundaries for themselves. They feel a sense of confusion about who they are, because many competing voices lay claim to them and they try to accommodate them all. For example, when I became a member of the Relief Society general presidency, I was appalled at how many women were tormented by guilt about their responsibilities as mothers. . . . .It is a strength for women to be able to cross their own boundaries easily when they are meeting the needs of their children and serving others, but it is a great disadvantage when they feel every call for service as an imperative which they are obligated to meet. Remember, a boundary has “yes” on one side and “no” on the other. A woman who never feels that she can say “no” is lacking an important element of personal identity and, hence, personal safety.”

I wish the video had presented the principle of self-care better and why it's important and not selfish. I'm glad that it shows the real struggles of mothers, that life and their homes don't have to be perfect, that they themselves aren't perfect, that the father isn't always in the picture very much, if at all. Now the next step is for one of these videos to show that self-care is an empowering, essential service to one's own self and to her (or his) family. I think a more effective message would have gone along the lines of something like this:  
You can still have a bad day even when you do take care of yourself and your family's needs first, you can still feel like a failure at the end of the day and be short-tempered with your family, your efforts at giving service might not go very well, but you still don't know the good that you may have done that day.

Having said all that, I want to reiterate that I really do like the main message that the video sends. I wouldn't have teared up at the end if it hadn't touched me and spoken to me in some way. 

2. Speaking of self-care...I started blow-drying and styling my hair this week, after years of not doing it because of the tragic (seriously, tragic) damage that my hair has been dealing with after those botched highlights I got four years ago. Heat styling was just making it even more dry and damaged, so I've hardly done it over the past four years. But my hair seems to have finally gotten over it and is a lot healthier now. It's ready to move on to the next step. Yeah!! It desperately needs the volume and style that blow-drying gives it. I don't think it's ever going to grow any longer than my shoulders again, but that's okay. I can live with that, and I like shorter hair anyway. I can also live without highlights and hair dye. I'm happy with my natural blond color, especially in summer when it lightens up and gets some nice sun-kissed highlights. I can be happy with healthy hair that looks good enough. It doesn't have to be the best hair in the room (it's never been the best hair in the room!). Anyway, I'm not going to blow-dry every day because I don't want to over-do it and my hair air-dries quickly anyway because it's so thin, but on the days that I do blow-dry, I use this Pantene Overnight Miracle serum at night, and it seems to really help repair or prevent damage.

I also like John Frieda's Luxurious Volume Fine to Full Blow-Out Spray.

I hope this fascinating hair news added something special to your day in some way. Ha ha.

3. I couldn't resist getting this cute Halloween shirt that I saw on Zulily this week. It's a good thing I got it when I did because it ended up completely selling out!

 Now isn't that just the cutest? I mean, cu-hootest?
Ha ha!
I mean...hoo-hoo!

4. We're having a beautiful Iowa fall! Summer will always be my favorite, but when the temperatures are mild and the foliage is turning colors and the sky is a beautiful blue, it helps ease the transition between seasons beautifully (literally). I picked out the first pumpkin for the front stoop yesterday and I'm looking forward to filling the porch steps with them in the weeks to come. It really is a nice time of year!

5. Wow, I've been being much more wordy on my blog than I usually am. It must be the three months that I took off from it. It's kind of funny that I can't seem to shut up. I should probably try to "keep it pithy" more often in the future. (Bonus points for you if you know where that phrase comes from!) 

Have a great weekend!