Friday, April 22, 2016

Five Things For Friday

1. A spring-cleaning success story: I cleaned the oven literally for the first time ever! 

2. We discovered a huge uprooted tree that had fallen into the Iowa River. John wanted to walk out on the trunk as far as he could over the water, but this was as far as I'd let him go. I'm usually pretty relaxed about what I'll let him do, but I wasn't relaxed about that! I've got my limits and they happen to coincide with common sense (usually).

3. I've been eating healthy vegetarian lunches lately and my favorite is this one of a baked potato with a big side of steamed vegetables. I love this meal! I'm convinced there are few things more delicious and healthy than freshly steamed vegetables. And no matter what my dad or other health nuts have to say about it, I think it's healthy even with the butter, sour cream, and sprinkling of shredded cheese in the potato!

4. We had these wonderful elders over for dinner last week. I love these guys and the special spirit they bring into our home and the good example they set for our boys. It was Elder Anninos' last Sunday meal on his mission (he's the one on the right). As of today he has finished his mission and he'll be home in Montana by the end of the day. It's amazing how much life can change in the course of a few days! Well done thou good and faithful servant! 

5. Yesterday I got my monthly facial and tomorrow I'm getting my monthly massage. It's a tough life.

P.S. "The Jungle Book" movie was amazing! We loved it! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Snake School

In January Sam created his very own school for snakes, and he, of course, was the schoolmaster. 
Or should I say, snakemaster?


He read them one of his favorite snake books, The Splendid Spotted Snake.

Another day he made this (weird) fort on the stairs. 

I don't think you need to worry about anyone coming into that box, Sam!

Another day he dressed up like a skeletal General Grievous with Jedi leanings. He wore this get-up for several days around the house and he wouldn't take it off, not even for dinner guests or a home teacher visit (and our home teacher happens to be the Stake President).

I love this funny boy!

What Was Up in January

What have I been up to the last few months? Well, I'm glad you asked. Let's start with January.

-No, let's start with Christmas. It was a nice one. Except for poor, poor Peter, who got horribly, wretchedly sick. Sick for Christmas Eve, Christmas day, and beyond. Last year it was me who was sick for Christmas, and this year it was him, and his sickness was much worse then what I had. He ended up having to check in to the E.R. the day after Christmas, and not to get too graphic or anything, but he threw up so much and so hard that it burst the blood vessels in his eyes. Hilarity ensued when we went on vacation a few days later and a lot of people did double-takes when they saw his creepy red eyes. It was so funny!    

"Doesn't the red of this background bring out the red in my eyes nicely?"

Adding to the fun was where we were at. We rang in the New Year at Kalahari, one of our favorite indoor water parks and theme parks in Wisconsin Dells. As always, it was a good time.

Here was Sam navigating himself through stacks of inner tubes. This is what happens when you get there early in the day. I'm a big believer in getting to parks early before it gets crowded and lines get long. I hope the boys will still cooperate with doing that when they're teenagers! Wishful thinking, I know.

One boy up high...

...and the other playing it safe a little further down.

We went bowling, where Peter got his revenge and whipped all of our butts.

Oh Instagram, I still don't miss you very much and this didn't tempt me to return to you.
It was a cute photo prop though!

Sam is such a happy boy.

-And then it was back to reality. We saw a fox in the field next to our house on a frigid Sunday afternoon. We watched him pounce on something in the field, probably an unfortunate mouse. This was an unusual event as we rarely see foxes around here. My camera wouldn't zoom in on it well and this is the best picture I was able to get.

What does the fox say?
"It's cold out here!"

 -We broke out the bounce house (once).

-Boo Boo and I enjoyed watching the deer in the yard. I always sympathize with deer in winter. It's cold out, they're hungry and food is hard to find, and they have to watch out for hunters, cars, and crazy dogs who want nothing more than to chase them down (not mentioning any names here).

-In the midst of quarter-end when he was working late nights and Saturdays, Peter had a birthday. I got him a cookie dough ice cream cake from Cold Stone Creamery. I can't believe I'm married to a 37-year-old. We're getting old. 

-John had his first band concert. It was really fun to watch (and hear). They played one of my favorite songs, Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," and it really did fill me with joy to hear that and to have John be a part of it. I'm so happy with how much he likes playing trombone. He's taken to it much better than he did to piano.

That's him walking to his seat, third one from the right. We couldn't see him for the rest of the concert! But we could hear him! 

-My evening mug of hot chocolate tastes especially good in this Downton Abbey mug!

-I got a new church calling. I'm now the Wolf Den leader for Cub Scouts. I'd been wanting to serve in Scouts for awhile, so although it was sad for me to leave Nursery, I'm happy with this new opportunity. I think the Scout program is so important and so good for boys. I feel like boys are being left behind and unfavorably targeted in many ways in today's world, and because of that I'm totally committed to doing my best for them in the Scouting program. Perhaps because I'm a mother of sons, I feel very strongly that we need to do better for our boys and give them a lot of loving support and instruction from the time they're young. The calling certainly has its challenges--we have twelve(!!) active, energetic 8-year-old boys in our den--but the activities are fun and my den co-leader and I work well together.
As for the picture below, I made these M&M cookies (from scratch!) for January's Pack Meeting and I was pleased with how well they turned out!

 -The boys met Herky the Hawkeye (the University of Iowa's mascot). He disapproved of John's Patriots shirt (the Pats aren't popular in the Midwest, I have no idea why), but he was kind enough to take a picture with them anyway.

-I went to see Jeb Bush speak! I love being able to see the presidential candidates every four years. One of the things I like best about living here is the Iowa Caucus. It's neat to see the candidates in person and to get a feel for them that way. I was really impressed with Jeb. He was thoughtful, sincere, substantive, and well-spoken. I'm disappointed that he didn't do better in the campaign. I think he would have made a fine president and that he was a much stronger candidate than he was given credit for. 

He was looking right at me here. What's up, Jeb?

-I did some cleaning and organizing work in the storage room and came across this box that I started seven or eight  years ago when we still lived in Connecticut. I had a dream then of someday owning a house on Cape Cod and so I started this box and over the years I filled it with things for this future dream house. And then in 2013, that house became a reality! I fully believe in the power of doing concrete things like this to help make dreams and goals actually come true, whether it's a vision board or a Pinterest board, a list, or a simple cardboard box. This alone won't make it happen but it puts you on the path to getting there. 

-I was reading the paper one day and came across this picture of a Dodge Caravan from the 80s. This was my family's car when I was a kid! This minivan was the coolest! (Not really...obviously.) It was a nice blast from the past to see it again.

And that was some of what was up in January.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Five Things for Friday

This post is brought to you by the happy and not-so-happy happenings of this past week!

1. Monday: I'll start with the not-so-happy. Normally I like Mondays and getting back into the swing of things, but this wasn't a good Monday. I hesitate to complain about my bad days because normally they're nothing compared to what so many other people are going through in the world, so in that respect I'm grateful for my bad days because I know they could be much, much worse. This lends me important perspective and a better outlook, but I'm still not on board with a happy welcoming attitude when they happen. I'm not that perfect!
Anyway, Monday was a bad day because, among other things, I had to do too much running around, some of it for errands of an unplanned and unpleasant nature, and my equilibrium gets messed up when that happens. I am nothing if not a deliberate planner (and a bit of a control freak), and when life messes with my plans, I sometimes have a hard time dealing, especially when I'm overtired (which I was) and when the weather isn't good (it was cold, windy, and sunny, a combination that I detest).
I did however enjoy watching Disney Night on Dancing With the Stars, and then I went to bed and put an end to this crappy day!  

2. Tuesday: Tuesday was much better. No unplanned trips out, no emergencies, and I got everything done that I needed and wanted to do. We stopped at the shop that I consign things at and when I was browsing through the middle-grade and young-adult books, I was thrilled to come upon some of the thrillers (get it?) that I liked reading when I was in junior high. I love how books can bring you so quickly back to the specific time and place in your life that you were at when you read them. It was a thrilling(!!) blast from the past!

3. Wednesday: Wednesday was neat because three related coincidences happened. 
First, I got a really nice comment on my blog from the sister of one of my friends from church, my author friend Jamie who I've done some editing work for in the past. 
Then I got an email from the sister-in-law of another friend from church, asking if I'd be able to edit her book manuscript. Both of these things were out of the blue and they were both from women who I don't personally know and hadn't heard from before, who are sisters of friends of mine from church, and they both involved my editing work (well, kind of). 
And THEN the clincher is that the book review that I read in The Wall Street Journal that very day was for a book that's all about life's coincidences and how they're not as random as we think; that there are actual mathematical probabilities behind them and stuff. 

Maybe that doesn't impress you much, but as for me...

4. Thursday: I found out that the new principal at the kids' school is 29 years old. What!? How can I be older than the principal? How can the principal be the same age as my youngest brother? This is madness.
Speaking of school, I went to John's fifth grade class' "Poetry Cafe" where they recited poetry both together and on their own in a really neat presentation. I enjoyed it so much!   
Also on Thursday, we went and saw the Broadway production of "Annie," one of my all-time favorite musicals. It was really good and it was worth the disruption in our normal Thursday evening routine and the lack of sleep we got from getting home so late!  

5. This weekend: The weather is supposed to be gorgeous this weekend (clear, mild, and in the 70s)--finally! Poor Peter has to work, but the boys and I will get out and enjoy the fresh air, as well as get in and enjoy the movie theater air when we go see Disney's newest movie The Jungle Book. (Have I mentioned before how much I love Disney and just about everything it does?) 
Sam is especially excited to see Kaa (the snake!).

Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Blog Awakens

Hey. It's been awhile! Did you miss me? 

I haven't taken this long of a break from my blog in awhile, not since Sam was born. I wasn't planning on taking such a long break, but then I read this great book Essentialism in January that helped me to re-order my priorities and simplify my life. I realized that some things in my life need to go on the back burner, and blogging is one of them. It's just not an essential, and I want to focus on the essentials so that I can get really good at them. What are the essentials, you may ask? That's a post for a different day, but suffice it to say that there are four of them and none of them involve a computer or the internet!

But it doesn't mean that I have to cut blogging out completely. I've been thinking about doing that, but my family apparently misses my posts and since we live far away from them, I will continue to blog about our life so that they can see what we're doing out here in the Midwest, especially as far as the kids are concerned. And there is value in recording our lives in this way, especially since I have my blog published in book format each year. That's living, breathing family history work right there! Not really, but you know what I mean. I plan to still sometimes do thoughtful posts about things I have opinions about and silly posts about things I have opinions about, because I like to write and get my opinions out there, for whatever they're worth.

I don't think I'm going to blog about our vacations anymore, because those posts are time-consuming to put together and it's redundant to do it because I make photo albums of our trips and I usually post my favorite pictures of each trip on Facebook. I think a Facebook photo album and an actual photo album are enough. {Simplify!} I may do some posts about a few aspects of vacation, or one that contains my favorite pictures, but that's it. So I deleted the blogging file folders on my desktop that contained the pictures of our trip to Orlando in November 2014 and our cruise to the Caribbean in March 2015, and I'm not even going to go there with our (amazing) trip to DisneyWorld last month. You shall never know the joys of those trips on my blog! Sorry! I'm sure you're devastated.

I'm not going to blog anymore the way I've done for years where it's part of my almost daily schedule. It takes too much time and I don't get enough personal benefit from it to give it that much time anymore. Right now I'm thinking I'll do it for about half the year, and only when I have the time in my day to do it. An hour here, an hour there, and that's it. I'm also going to stop reading as many blogs and just pick a few to keep following. Simplification is the name of the game! And I am in it to win it! (Enough of the cliches, Donna!) 

So that's my plan as far as my "sweet" little blog here goes.
Do you like the title of this post? I do, because it alludes to one of my new favorite movies, The Force Awakens. I think it may have the best movie trailer of all time. Almost every time I watch it, I get goosebumps or tear up. It has so many parallels to what I believe about life and the purpose of life.
I love this trailer. I'm not crazy, I swear.

The blog has officially awakened!