Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Matching Christmas Pajamas and Other Random Things

NOTE:  Here are  the pajamas we are eyeing this year.  


We have a long-standing Christmas tradition in our family (dating back to when Glen was a child) that on Christmas Eve we each open a new pair of pajamas.  Up until a few years ago we've just bought random pajamas for everyone....

Then, I'm not sure what got my brain going in that direction, but one year I decided it would be fun if all of our pajamas matched. 

These were our first matching pajamas, which I must say were quite "rocking"...

Then in 2010 there were these awesome footie pajamas that were comfy cozy as can be...unless you had to use the potty in the middle of the night.

Then last year brought us these festive jammies, which I must say are the softest, most comfortable pajamas I've ever worn.  Even after a year of heavy usage, they look and feel brand new...

My sister took this photo of us on our back deck on Christmas Day 2011--- just a couple of weeks before Spencer's diagnosis.  I love that even our dog jumped into the picture (unnoticed until later).  When I look at Spence I am struck with how thin and pale he looks and while he'd already been to the doctor once at that point, we were all still clueless to the monster that was ravaging his body.    This picture now has become a very poignant memory to me as one of the last moments captured of the carefree family life we enjoyed before that fateful day in early January rolled around. 

 Shortly after the photo was taken,  I  posted it to my blogs as a Christmas greeting to my cyber friends.    I got a several comments pretty quickly about how cute they thought the jammies were,  but little did I know that 11 months later it would become the closest thing to a viral blogpost as I've ever had.  It has been my most popular post by a long shot ever since mid-October and people were constantly contacting me to find out where we'd bought the pj's.  I since have added the link to the store and the words to the post, but it strikes me as ironic that after four years of food blogging that my most popular post has nothing to do with my cooking.  :)

Here was our 2012 version...

On a totally different note, I just wanted to show off my new entry way decorations.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am not big into home decorating.  In fact you could call me the anti-decorator.   I've had the same Christmas decorations for well over a decade and haven't ever thought twice about it.    Then the other day, I caught a bug.  A bug that many women have year round, but for me it was a new feeling.  I had the strongest urge to put up something new and different in our entry way.  

It took a few days and a trip to JoAnn's to figure out what I was going to do, but here is my very first totally original Lara-inspired Christmas entry way creation...
Ellie found the stick in the backyard for me and I added clip-on birds and berries to it...

I put it with floral foam into this very cute basket and SEWED MY OWN TABLE RUNNER (without a pattern I might add) to go underneath. 

It's pretty much the randomest, craftiest thing I've ever done for our home in my entire life, so please feel free to shower your adoring accolades on me.  Or at least refrain from mocking me for the unpainted wood trim in the background of the picture that may or may not have been there for almost an entire year.   

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

6 Month Check-Up

Nearly six months ago to the day, Spencer walked out the door of the hospital jubilant that his days as a cancer patient were finally finished.  Since then he has gone on a boy scout high adventure to Florida, annoyed his siblings a gazillion times, hiked a mountain (Old Rag), started his senior year of high school, and joined the winter track team.   Slowly, slowly  life is feeling almost normal again. 

Right now I am sitting here at his six month check up.  Spencer is sacked out next to me in a deep Benadryl/early morning seminary induced sleep and I am enjoying the guilt-free time for me  to sit down and tell the world how thrilled we are that his counts look good and he is still healthy! 

Today's check-up was no different than his others.  There was some minor IV trauma (blood dripping all over the floor), but eventually they got his blood sample, then the doctor came in, examined him, and told us that everything looks good.  We are now sitting in the back of the clinic while Spencer is getting his very last Pentamidine infusion ever.  No more infusions means no more IVs, a fact which makes Spencer very happy! 


Clinic Stats:  Weight:  72.5 kg, WBC: 3.49, ANC:  1740, Hgb:  15.2, Platelets: 156

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Making a Difference in Our Own Way

There is no more helpless a feeling in life than to see someone you love so dearly in pain and suffering.  You can sit devotedly by their sides, praying and longing with all your heart to somehow relieve just a little bit of the pain they're facing, but in reality you know that there is nothing you can do.  He will get better.  Or he won't.  It is in God's hands.

I can't even tell you how heartbreaking it was to watch Spencer have his independence ripped out from underneath him in the very moment his friends were stretching their wings.   Instead of taking his college entrance exams, he was getting daily blood tests and monthly bone marrow biopsies.  Instead of participating in sports, he was lethargically dragging an IV pole around the hem/onc floor of the hospital.  Instead of getting his driver's license, he was talking to a dietician who was giving him hints to help him gain back a little of the 40-lbs he lost during his treatment.   

With the new perspective this experience has brought us, we are fully aware that none of what he missed really matters in the scheme of things.  He is healthy again and that is enough.   

However his recovery is  not all that matters.  While the prognosis for people with  Spencer's type of leukemia (AML) has improved dramatically over the years, its cure rate is still barely over 50%.  While we rejoice in the fact that Spencer is in happy part of that statistic,  my heart breaks to think of how many of our hem/onc friends that haven't made it. 

There's Sydney, a 12-year-old girl whose room was next door to Spencer's for part of his treatment.  She fought AML for over a year and never made it into remission long enough to get to go home for even a few days.  A whole year her mother sat with her in the hospital and eventually left there empty-armed and heartbroken.  Then there's 5-year-old Ryan whose mother we met online.  Their family was stationed overseas when he was diagnosed just a few months before Spencer.  I cheered with her when he went into remission and was released from the hospital.  Sadly though, his remission was short-lived and he passed away just days before his sixth birthday.  He never even went to kindergarten.   Then there's Jeanie.  I've never mentioned her here before, but she was a 10-year-old girl in Cami's 5th grade class who passed away from AML almost five years ago.  She was the first child I ever met with cancer and I remember visiting her in some of the very same rooms that Spencer stayed in.   It still think of Jeanie and her grieving mother often.  

In fact I think of each of those families with empty places at their table this holiday season.  While I  can't do much to take away the pain that Sydney's, Ryan's, and Jeanie's families face each day without their child, Glen and I feel committed that we have to do something to make a difference.  We are not doctors or medical researchers who can find a cure ourselves, but are committed to help the cause in our own way. 

We may not look it, but both Glen and I are endurance athletes at heart.  Right now we are out-of-shape endurance athletes, but we are looking to fix the out-of-shape part while making our own contribution to finding a cure for Leukemia. 

Glen is committed to running a marathon for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society in March and also a century bike ride for them in May.  I will run a half-marathon while he is running the marathon.  As part of that commitment, we have ambitiously decided to raise as much money as possible to help in the cause. 

Please consider visiting Glen's fundraising page and making a donation.  It can be small or large.  Anonymous or not.  Please help us in our quest to make sure that there are more happy endings like Spencer's. 
(Let us know if you are also interested in joining with Glen to form a team ("Team Spencer") and doing your own fundraising. Or, if you are comfortable with it, "Share" this link and help get the word out.  Thank you, thank you for all you have done to help us get through our difficult season and for helping in our ambition to further the efforts to find a cure for Leukemia.)


"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do." 
Edward Everett Hale

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

I oddly don't remember much at all about last Thanksgiving.   I recalled that it had been at our house and that some family came, but beyond that I couldn't think of a single detail about it without looking at the blogpost I'd written about it.   After being grateful that at least it was recorded somewhere and smiling at how much a couple of my kids have grown (Emma in particular), I wondered how much of the last year I would remember without the blog.  I'm beginning to realize that my brain tends to block out stressful memories.  While last Thanksgiving wasn't necessarily stressful itself, it was at the beginning stage of worrying about Spencer and apparently got clumped into the brain block. 

Knowing that that's how my brain works makes me all the more grateful for this blog and also makes me not want to get too far behind on posting, so that the memories are not forgotten.


  Thanksgiving weekend was the last of three dates we had listed on Spence's Make-a-Wish form as potential dates for his trip, so we held off planning anything until the very last minute just in case they surprised us at the last second.  Finally when we still hadn't heard anything a week-and-a-half beforehand, we decided that we should probably start to think about our holiday plans.  Luckily we didn't have to think too hard because right when we began to assume that we were staying put for Thanksgiving was right when my brother Pete invited us to join their family for Thanksgiving at their house. 

I should probably lie and say how disappointed I was not to host again this year, but I have to admit that I was pretty darn excited that I could make my pies and rolls and not worry about the other details of dinner.  We also may or may not have been excited to not have to stress about cleaning up beforehand.  :)

This year we brought the sweet potato rolls (me), 4 pies (apple (me), lemon meringue (me), pistachio (Cami), and Nutella cream(Emma)), and a broccoli salad (Glen).    Mika did a much better job on the turkey and ham than I ever did, somehow making them both moist and flavorful--something that has always eluded me.  I don't know who made what, but there was also stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, eggplant, and mashed potatoes....all of which was delicious too!

The 12-and-under cousins feasting at the kids' table...

The adults' turn at the table...

Cami and  Emma fought (literally) the whole time over who got to hold baby Jack Spencer....
 Ellie was more distracted playing with her cousins, but eventually had to get in on the baby action too...

Later on, the tryptophan kicked in for the young...

and the not so young...

Cami is pleased to announce that she's officially made it in life now that cousin Davin refers to her as his friend....

I believe there was also a bit of football watching that went on with the bros, but can't be sure since us ladies were too busy ignoring the kids and talking about grown-up girly things (like how loud and often our husbands snore and other such scandalous topics) . 

Later on we went home and left our Ellie behind for a cousin sleepover. 

The festivities continued the next day when Pete dropped a tired but happy Ellie back off to our house.   The girls played "Extremely Cute Pilgrims" with each other for hours....

meanwhile Davin played lacrosse with Emma...
and Bridgette won the "how-can-I-possibly-be-any-cuter?" contest when she posed with subtle head tilts and huge smiles whenever I came near her with the camera!  

Now I've got Thanksgiving all blogged, stay tuned for the Christmas posts to begin ...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Each Thanksgiving, we have an activity where each member of the family writes on a slip of paper the things they are grateful for at that time.  Depending on the year, sometimes it's a one-time deal.  Other times we try to keep it up during the whole month of November.  Some years I'm creative and have the slips of paper cut into cutesy autumn shapes, while other years we rip off corners of paper and throw them into a shoebox. However formal we are or aren't though, reading through the slips always proves to be an entertaining experience, while we get a little glimpse into everyone's state of the mind at the time they wrote the slip.  We've read things like "I'm grateful for rolling down the hill," and "I'm grateful for being able to take a nap in homeroom." and "I'm grateful for squirrels," and "I'm grateful that I didn't swear when that guy cut me off today."

We haven't started our Blessing Box yet this year, but sometime over the next few days we will gather as a family and each write down some of our blessings. 

I envision it being a very full box this year. 

Here are some of the entries I plan on putting into the box: 

  • Doctors that were responsive to our concerns and got the ball rolling for Spencer to get diagnosed on the day he did.
  • A former boss who offered a generous severance package for Glen to stop working for them
  • The HR employee who was helping Glen through his termination papers, who was so stricken with our situation that she became our advocate and made sure that we stayed insured at far less cost than most people incur for COBRA insurance.
  • Family who traveled across the country on a moment's notice to lend their assistance and ensure that our kids' lives could stay as normal as possible while we were taking care of Spencer. 
  • Excellent insurance which required us to only pay very little out-of-pocket expense for Spencer's $250,000+ treatment for leukemia  {we heard several times during his treatment that our insurance was among the best they'd ever seen}
  • Myriads of doctors and nurses who used their skills to help Spencer's body to regain its health.
  • The opportunity to work through the swirl of my emotions by writing on this blog.
  • Dozens of friends who filled sign-up sheet after sign-up sheet (usually within mere minutes of them being published), so that our family could continue eating delicious and nourishing food while we took up residence in the hospital with Spence.
  • A strong network of friends, young and old, who visited regularly and made sure that Spencer was never lonely during his months in the hospital.
  • The kids' elementary school teachers who not only were sensitive to our upside down home life last school year, but also went out of their way to show support to Spencer and to us. They seriously couldn't have been any more amazing.
  • The Gospel of Jesus Christ which kept us grounded and gave us the courage and perspective we needed to face this challenge.
  • A whole network of people around the world (many who we didn't even know) that sent cards and gifts, and most importantly just prayed for our son. The thought still brings tears to my eyes.
  • The scriptures, which brought so much comfort to me--especially on those quiet mornings in the hospital when Spence would sleep late and I had none of my normal morning responsibilities.
  • Family that has continued to come visit us, even after he was better.
  • New callings at church, which we both love.
  • Five months of clean check-ups. 
  • A fitness challenge to help us get back into a better life balance.
  • A new job that Glen is excited about.
  • God's comfort and guidance through every step of the way, along with the knowledge that even in the darkest moments of our lives, that we are not forgotten.


And with that, I sign off today with one of my favorite Thanksgiving hymns and the wish that your Thanksgiving will be filled with love, joy, and lots of good food!  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rebel with Nothing to Write About...

There once was this lady who loved to blog. 

She blogged in any season
for no special reason. 

She loved capturing moments
and making people smile
and bragging when she runs more than a mile

Some days she blogs about things that start off  concerning, but end up funny
and some things that are exciting the whole way through
and occasionally some things that make people say boo hoo.
Of course her favorite kind are the kind that make people say tee hee hee! 
and make people think she is witty!

But lately she's been in a writing funk,
being tired, distracted, and taking care of a kid with a feverish junk.

So what's a girl to do,
who is getting tired of waiting for her writer's block to be through?


How about blogging about nothing at all?
And with the nothingness hoping that if she throws in a few links to favorite posts of the past,
it will remind her of days when she used to be on the ball
and with brainpower that was occasionally semi-fast.

Then she'll throw in a picture that has nothing to do with anything...

other than showing the world that the lady's favorite Sunday of the year was last week.

Friday, November 16, 2012

One Step Closer to Normalcy

I am pleased to announce that Glen has signed a job offer to begin working at a local mid-size company the Monday after Thanksgiving.     We're excited to be staying here in the area and even more excited for the career opportunity it presents to Glen! 

While it will definitely take some getting used to not having my grocery shopping companion, kid entertainer,  or assistant chauffeur around anymore...
we know this is the next step forward and we are completely thrilled for this new opportunity! 

I don't envision that life will ever be quite the same as it was before January 10, 2012 (nor do we necessarily want it to be), however we are hopeful that this exciting development brings us one step closer to achieving that new sense of normalcy that we've been longing for for almost an entire year. 

Thank you to all those of you who have helped Glen and our family along in this aspect of our journey.  So many of you helped him make connections, gave him resume pointers, gave us little gifts, and prayed for us along the way.   We are deeply indebted to all of you. 

Thank you. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Of Heating Vents and Good Books

I remember on winter afternoons as a child, grabbing my fuzzy blanket and a book to read and curling up, blanket tented around my shoulders, over our family's favorite heating vent. 

What?  Your family didn't have a favorite heating vent? 

Well then, you probably didn't grow up in Minnesota with parents who kept the thermostat set in the low 60's to save money.    Cozying up with a warm blanket over a heating vent was our idea of bliss and getting the heating vent that also happened to be in the direct path of the afternoon's sun rays was pure heaven.  Being the oldest meant that I usually got the coveted spot on the family room floor myself, but occasionally some bold sibling would get there and try to lay claim to it before I did.  It was then that they learned that  I was more than just poufy bangs and tapered jeans.  I won't divulge my enviable dueling tactics, but let's just say that I usually reclaimed my spot very quickly, which was good, because the heat made my  bruises feel better. 

While I read many a book, curled up in that spot, it also become my favored nap location.  In fact,  on Sunday afternoons the whole main floor of the house (where the heating vents were on the floor) became Naptime central.   You could literally walk around the house and find kid after kid curled up sound asleep, not in their beds, but over their special heating vent.    I can't be sure since I was usually sleeping, but I'm pretty convinced that visiting relatives would jostle us the first few times they witnessed this strange behavior just to make sure we were okay. 

Rest assured, we were more than okay.   We were making warm and fuzzy memories (other than the bruises) that will never be forgotten.

I haven't had to duel anyone for a heating vent in over 20-years and thankfully now live in climate that does not require tented heating vents to get warm in the wintertime, but still I associate reading with sitting in the warm  glow of the winter afternoon sun in my living room.    Even now when I feel like I'm deep in the trenches of life,
setting aside some time to read a novel never fails to soothe my soul.   Though it seems counter-intuitive to do something as seemingly  unproductive as reading while my brain is caught up in the worries about all the things that lay undone, it's still therapeutic to me to get lost in a book for a few hours.  That's why joining a book group a few years ago was just the motivation I needed to make sure that at minimum I was reading a book a month.  

Through my participation in the book group over the last several years, I've read a lot of great books (and a few not-so-great ones too) that I never would have read otherwise.  Recently I  came across this list of what books were considered to be among the top 100  in American literature.   I'm not sure where the list came from and I'm not sure that I would necessarily agree with all the books that are listed, but I was struck when checking off the ones that I have read, at what a dent I've made by reading a book or two a month for all these years.  

some of the books I've read in the last few months

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 The Brothers Karamosov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince- Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I know that I would not be considered all that well-read in literary circles,
I still like to think  that thirty-six out of a hundred isn't too shabby for someone as busy as I am.  Speaking of busy,   it's high time that I get back to the task at hand.  The task for which I sat down in the computer in the first place.  Book group is tonight and I am leading the discussion.  I read the book (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) while on the plane to California, but have yet to compile my list of thought-provoking questions.  
While I sit here thinking deep thoughts about medical ethics, I'd love to hear how many books you've read on the list. 

Happy Reading! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fitness Challenge 2012 Rules, Invitation, and FAQ's

When Glen and I participated in the fitness challenge in 2010, we took the competition very seriously and ended making some serious long-term life style changes from our participation.   We didn't end up winning the money, but felt like winners anyway because we'd improved our daily habits so much. When the contest was over, we did loosen up a bit, but ended up maintaining many of those habits long-term.    It's been 2-1/2 years since our participation and while I'd like to say that we've stayed on the bandwagon, alas life has caught up with us and we are now fully entrenched in our bad habits (mostly eating too many sweets) again.   

We are excited about participating in this new challenge, but worried that we wouldn't catch the competitive bug unless we added in the incentive ($20 entrance fee per person to be used toward the prize money) and we got a few more people to join in.  So, we hereby invite anyone who is interested in making some healthy lifestyle changes for this upcoming holiday join our challenge, which starts this Wednesday!    Read below for details. 


The contest duration will be 12 weeks (with a little mercy built in for the holidays).

These will be the rules for the challenge:

$20 participation fee for adults / $5 for kids  (100% goes toward the prize money) and must be received by my sister (via PayPal) by Wednesday 10:00am EST (email me at for her contact info). 

Daily challenges will be tracked for 5 days per week (to allow for a holiday party indulgence here and there):

*Daily challenges:
1. Exercise (30+ minutes)= 5 pts per week
2. No Dessert= 5 pts per week
3. No Eating after 8:30 pm= 5 pts per week
4. No Soda= 5 pts per week
5. Read at least 1 Chapter of Scriptures= 5 pts per week   (Non-religious people could change this to reading a chapter of a philosophy or self-help book instead)

Weekly Challenges
6. Holding family night weekly (could be a formal night with a lesson, lunch out with your mom, or just a game night.  It's just meant to be 1/2 hour of uninterrupted family time (no cellphones))= 1 pt per week
7. Mystery Point= 1 pt per week
8. Lose one pound or maintain your weight if you are already at an ideal weight.= 1 pt per week

You are expected to do items 1-5 five times per week and each day will be worth 1 point in each category. Items 6-8 are worth 1 point each per week as you are only expected to do them once.

*  Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve will be FREE days (meaning that you'll  get three days off those weeks).

At the end of each week, you will be required to send my sister your total points for the week by Sunday at 9:00pm PST. We will send you a spreadsheet which will make keeping track of your points very easy. (o: 

The winners of this contest will be determined by the person(s):
a. Having earned the most points at the end of the 12 week period 

b.Having the highest percentage of weight loss.


c.  the child with the highest number of points

Meaning we will have three winners (two adults and a child), unless of course the person with the greatest weight loss also has the highest points, in which case there would only be one adult and one child winner. The prize amounts will be determined once we receive all of our entries and know how much money we have.

Still have questions? 

Here's a list of FAQ's:

What kind of exercise should I do?   
It doesn't really  could be a fast walk, jogging, biking, swimming, an exercise video, a spinning class, etc.    The main point is that it should be somewhat challenging for you and should raise your heart rate for the 30 minutes. 

What if I don't have any weight to lose? 
No problem!  There will be two adult winners of this for who loses the highest percentage of weight and the other with the highest point total.    This is all about establishing healthy habits!

What if it's my birthday that week (or a holiday party)?   
We've created this challenge with the a little leniency built in, so that you don't have to be the prude turning their nose up at the food spread at every party.  You have two "off-days" per week, so just plan them accordingly to coincide with your birthdays and holiday parties.   Off-days, of course, shouldn't mean all-out indulgence....but that it's okay to have a dessert or two.    Additionally, we've made Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve FREE days, meaning that you'll get three days off those weeks instead of the two. 

What about syrup on my pancakes?  Or a muffin for breakfast? 

This not meant to be a NO sugar challenge, but a no dessert challenge.  In my opinion, it's okay to have a whole-grain muffin  as part of a healthy breakfast, but you should be careful where you go with it.  I think that  that as soon as those "gray foods" (like muffins) turn into mid-afternoon pick-me-up snacks and/or an after dinner almost-treat, then you're getting into the dessert zone.  We're trying to wean ourselves of bad habits, so these "gray foods" should be eaten sparingly (or forbidden altogether if that's easier for you).

Do my two days off per week have to be the weekend? 

In general, we like to make the days off on the weekend, only because it's easier for us to stay in the routine that way, however it does not matter.  We gave this contest two days off per week, so that you can plan them around holiday festivities that you may have.

What are the weekly challenges? 

The weekly challenges are meant to introduce a little element of the unknown into the contest.  Participants in the fitness challenge will take turns choosing from some pre-selected weekly challenges that will be worth one bonus point weekly.    These challenges will be made known to everyone in advance, although it will not be known until the end of the week which one will be in effect. 

What are the ages for the kids' contest?
The kids contest is open to anyone 18 and younger who wants to participate with the lower entrance fee and lower prize money.  The rules will be the same, but the entrance fee is only $5, therefore making the potential prize money much less as well.  Kids are NOT required to enter the kids' portion of the contest.  Two of my kids are serious and want to put up their own $20 and will be participating with the adults.    Kids will not have to weigh themselves at all. 

Please feel free to ask me any more questions you have. 

HOW DO I JOIN? It's as simple as emailing me ASAP ( with your intention to join.   I will send you the info of how to pay (in person or via PayPal), keeping in mind that you won't be an official point accumulating participant until your entry fee is received.  We will send you a spreadsheet to track your points.  Contest starts this Wednesday! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Top Ten of this Week

Truth be told, it's been a rather long, tiring week. 
It's not that anything bad has happened...
it's more that I'm just sleep deprived and have a lot on my brain.  
My brain likes to vent in writing, so I just wrote a rambling post complaining about some of the annoying happenings of our week.  It was all ready to publish.
Then I decided that I didn't really want to depress anyone else anymore than I wanted to remind my future self how petty and grumpy I get when I don't sleep enough. 
So tonight, instead of complaining, I'm going all Pollyanna on you and playing the "Glad Game" instead.
I present to you the top ten glad happenings from this week!

10--Going to parent-teacher conferences for the younger kids and hearing about how not only are they doing well in school, but that they're also hard-working, respectful, and get along well with others.  Seriously, nothing makes me prouder! 

9--Made two awesome new recipes in a row (Creamy Mexican Chowder and BBQ Chicken and Potato Casserole)  Both will be appearing on Recipe Shoebox sometime in the next few weeks! 

8-- Got out of Costco with five happy kids (two of which were not my own) and a total of less than $200.   (see picture below)

7--My friend, Jenny, agreed to come to YW and teach us all how to make her delicious homemade caramel apples.  It was a fun night spent with the young women and I am happy to be bulking up on  chocolate/caramel before our family's upcoming fitness challenge.  (see item #1)

6--I took the kids on a trip to the zoo on one of the days off.  It was a bit chilly that day, but I loved having all the kids together for an outing as it rarely happens anymore.  (see picture)

5--A seven-year-old who still says cute things on an almost daily basis, especially since the rest of the kids seem to have outgrown that stage.   This week I loved hearing her pray for the people in "Yew Nork" and watching her bubble with excitement when I finally found a playdate for her.    She's had two of her best friends move away in the last few months and we've really struggled to help her find new playmates.   

4--realizing that I've got my sister, K, totally hooked on the Iphone/Ipad game, Scramble.  A take-off of Boggle, my family loves this game and is quite good at it (if I do say so myself).  It has been fun to see their family learn to enjoy it too.    (In case you're looking for a new challenger, our user name is:  wawadehut25) 

3--Spencer signed up to participate in winter track.  He mostly means his participation to be a means to get in shape for lacrosse, but it's his first foray back into sports since being sick and we're thrilled that he's healthy enough to participate! 

2--being a part of the amazing winter clothing drive for the people in New York and New Jersey.  Glen drove one of five trucks up there on Tuesday (they added one more truck at the last minute) and the people on the receiving end were so appreciative.   The coats and other outdoor winter clothing were already given to the Red Cross to distribute quickly before the winter storm hit. 

1--Learning that my sister is hosting a family fitness challenge starting next week.  Those months in the hospital, followed by the success of Cami's cupcake business this summer has not done kind things to my waistline.  We did a similar challenge a few years ago  (click on the link to see what it was all about) and loved how it focused not only on eating better and exercising more, but also includes spiritual fitness (like reading the scriptures and having FHE ).   I am very much looking forward to a little positive peer pressure to help whip me back into shape! 

at the zoo

Ellie can still get me to smile on even the grumpiest day

A couple of the  beautiful YW and their lovely caramel apple creations!
BBQ chicken potato casserole....delish!

Creamy Mexican Chowder...a new family favorite!

ONLY $179 at Costco?!  Hallelujah!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Enjoying the High Water at Great Falls

With Glen at home a lot of the time lately while he looks for a new job,  we're trying to take advantage of some of the off-times between interviews/workshops/etc by going on outings together that we normally would not have the time to do.    Since we're trying to do things on the cheap, the outings almost always involve either running errands together or  spending time in the outdoors.  We've walked around lakes, gone to Costco together ( a new experience for him), explored new parks, and most recently visited Great Falls solely for the purpose of me taking pictures of it after Hurricane Sandy. 

Far from historically high levels, Great Falls was still a sight to behold on November 1, 2012 ( a few days after  our area was grazed by Hurricane Sandy).    It was supposed to have crested sometime that morning, so I think these pictures were taken at near its highest stage. 

The water was a roiling mass of debris and mud and it was awe-inspiring (and slightly disconcerting) to see how close we were to the water compared to normal water levels. 

Between the deafening sound of the river and the nearness of the water to the pedestrian overlooks,  it was somehow easier to imagine how the river ever hits those high water marks that look so unattainable up listed on the signs near the visitor center. 

After admiring the power of the falls for a while, we hiked along the river trail hoping to take in some beautiful fall foliage.  We did see some colors, but mostly they had already fallen to the ground. 

It seemed that the winds of the hurricane had hastened the leaves falling and with the gray clouds that filled the sky that day, the whole landscape seemed rather muted and earth-toned. 

A little off the trail we discovered this beautiful little inlet of water from the Potomac River, where the water was also surprisingly high.  I loved the natural stone walls here and it made me wonder if that's what the fjords of Scandinavia look like. 

We are praying fervently for Glen to find a job soon, but in the meantime I'm soaking up this bonus time with my husband and know that it will be  a serious adjustment for us both when life gets back to the REAL normal.  The normal where I drive the kids everywhere they need to go during the day,  where I go grocery shopping by myself again, and where my day-time conversations are either on the phone or with myself.  


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Doing Good in a Big Way

On Friday evening we heard for the first time about an emergency winter clothing drive that our church stake (a stake is roughly equivalent to a Catholic parish and consists of several smaller church congregations) would host on Monday to gather much needed warm clothing and blankets for victims of Hurricane Sandy in the NY/NJ area.  Although it wasn't a lot of notice, people immediately started spreading the word and by the time Sunday rolled around, it had gained so much momentum that five local stakes had joined ranks to help as well. 

Tonight, we went as a family to take a shift to help with the process of  gathering and sorting of all the goods.  We showed up about half way through the collection time and ended up being totally flabbergasted by the amazing sight that greeted us. 

They had a drive through area all set up, so that cars could come through and be unloaded without the driver ever having to leave their car.    The entire time we were there I never once saw less than five cars in the line at any time and usually there were many more than that. 

Armies of youth were standing by to unload each car bag by bag...

They would bring the bags into the gym and add it to the pile that literally stood over 7-feet high...

From the pile, volunteers would take the bags and sort them into boxes by size, gender, and type of clothing (many of them still with their tags on)...

By the time I left at 10:30 tonight, three 26-foot trucks had already been STUFFED TO THE GILLS...
and the gym was still COMPLETELY filled. 

Right now the plan is to send four trucks up to New York first thing in the morning, one of which Glen will be driving.  Over 500 missionaries and other volunteers are slated to receive and distribute the donations.  

The rest of the goods will be sorted tomorrow and taken to New Jersey later this week.

It was truly a remarkable thing to participate in
and  made me all the more proud to be a part of such
a generous community of people
a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(aka  "Mormon Helping Hands"!)

Morning Update:  
We voted early this morning and Glen is on his way to NY!

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