Thursday, February 27, 2014

The REST of the Story

 I called the university post office the other day to find out what was happening to Spencer's mail, since (as mentioned in the last post) I had been addressing it to the wrong box all year and he was not receiving any of it.    I was more than a little surprised when the  mailroom employee, Sheryl, knew exactly who Spence was out of the approximately 20,000 students who have their mailboxes at the university.

It turns out that not that many people get personal letters sent to them on a weekly basis.

And even fewer of them have those personal letters are consistently addressed to the wrong box number.

Sheryl knew of Spencer because his box was chock full of misaddressed letters that she had gone out of her way to put in the right box.  

Come to find out, there is a separate place where he receives university mail and package notifications, which he does check on a regular basis.  But it was not until we started researching why he wasn't getting any of my mail, did we learn that he has an actual US postal service mailbox as well that HE HASN'T CHECKED ALL YEAR!!!!!
So he got months' worth of letters all in one fell swoop and I am now feeling really dumb about that postcard I sent.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Sneak Peek

Here's a sneak peek at our house progress this week.

our living room...

and kitchen….

You may notice one big difference from the kitchen pictures in my last post….the floors!  They were the last big part of our remodeling and they are in process of getting finished right now.

We took forever to decide whether to go light or dark, but in the end opted for a nice medium brown.  It's a way different look than the natural finish we had before, but we absolutely love it!!!!

The worst part about it all is that we've been living in our basement this week.  Pretty much that means that we have 6 people crammed into tight quarters, we are eating convenience foods cooked in a toaster oven,  I have nowhere to go (other than the bathroom all 6 of us are sharing) to get one iota of privacy, and we are sleeping in mattresses on the floor.   Combine all that with the fact that Glen is working crazy hours, and you'll just have to excuse me if I look or act a little haggard or grumpy this week.

Which brings me to two things that have made me very grumpy in the last 24-hours.  First off, our dog!     He's a very sweet dog 93% of the time, but he's as out of sort as I am with our basement abode.  He's barking more than usual, following our every move,  and stealing food as soon as we turn our backs!  We opted not to set up our table since we were downstairs for such a short period of time, but it's proving to be a challenge not to have a safe place to set food down.  Here's what happened when I opened the front door while I was in the middle of fixing the kids' lunches today….

Last but not least, I  literally shed tears yesterday when I discovered that we had Spence's address at JMU incorrect and he hasn't received a single letter we've sent him all year.  Here I was thinking he was just being a typical teenage boy and not mentioning  the letters, but in reality he hasn't received even one.    Here's the postcard I'm thinking of sending to the students who live at the incorrect address who haven't bothered to return the letters to sender or tried to track Spencer down.  

 That'll show them.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Snow Day: Part 2

Growing up in a Minnesota means I have a soft spot in my heart for snow.  I don't have a soft enough spot to ever want to live in  Minnesota during winter again, but  I certainly do appreciate a good snow storm every so often to keep the winter lively.  Virginia winters are perfect for me in that they're usually pretty mild, but with a good deal of unpredictability to always keep us wondering what the weather will be.  Some winters we see nary a flake and other winters we get a handful of small to medium size storms that keep us on our toes.   And then every four or five years or so,  we get the kind of storm that makes both me and the kids giddy with excitement!  10+ inches at one time gives me a huge dose of nostalgia for home, ensures that the kids are out of school for a few days, and gives everyone the opportunity to frolic in the snow!  

Last week's storm was one of those perfect storms and before the weekend was over I realized that I had taken a kajillion pictures of the fun we had.   Don't laugh, Minnesota friends!  Snow really is a big deal around here!  Here's a little glimpse at some more of the fun we had!  


I was so happy to see how neighbors rushed together to help another neighbor whose driveway had been blocked back in by the snowplow wake.   We live in a pretty keep-to-yourself kind of neighborhood, so I love that during snowstorms we get to talk to neighbors we rarely see otherwise!   

Cami about dropped this colorful carton of eggs when she opened them to make us a yummy breakfast during the snow days.  They were straight from the chicken coop of my friend, Shelly, who has a variety of hens, hence the variety of colors.  Once Cami realized that they were probably the freshest eggs she'd ever eaten in her life, she got quite excited about them! 


Adam stayed up late into the night on Thursday to keep working on his snow fort...

and it turned out to be a good thing he enjoyed it while he could, because it got to be 50-degrees on Friday and the fort was a sloppy mess before long.


Cami, Emma, and Ellie hosted their own little restaurant night at our house.  Cami and Emma did all the cooking and  Ellie took the orders and delivered all the food on roller blades.  

Veggie burgers with a quinoa base, topped with caramelized onions, fresh avocado, a fried egg, and freshly baked sweet potato fries…   YUM!!


In the past week-and-a-half, Cami has made 31 dozen cupcakes.  4 dozen for a regular order, 12 dozen for a fundraiser at Madison HS to raise money for cancer research, 5 dozen for a wedding, and  10 dozen for an impromptu Valentine's Day sale.  

I think this was her prettiest batch yet!  The coconut and vanilla/strawberry ones were my favorites this time, with the double chocolate close behind.  I am now swearing off sugar again….


We got another inch of snow last night (and another 2-hour delayed start of school) and now it is supposed to be in the 50's the rest of the week.  While I have enjoyed this wild and crazy winter, I do have to say that I'm quite excited about the springtime temps right about now!


Monday, February 17, 2014

New Beginnings

Last night was a special night for the young women at our church.  It is called "New Beginnings" and is a sort of kick-off activity for the whole year.  We introduce the yearly theme (Come Unto Christ), meet all the girls who will turning 12 and joining YW through the year, and hear how the individual young women live the YW values each day.   Each of these lovely girls (27 in all, plus another 4 coming during the year) played a part during the program in some way and I left there in awe at the  strength and beauty that emanates from each one of them.

When we realized that we had scheduled New Beginnings right in the middle of the Olympics, we decided that it was too perfect not use that as a theme for our decorations and food.  Besides the fun factor of the Olympic decor though, there were a myriad of spiritual corollaries to the Olympic athletes that made beautiful tie-ins to living the gospel as well.  One of the highlights was hearing about how Sochi silver medalist, Noelle Pikus-Pace, wore her YW medallion during all of her races and did shout-outs to the youth during interviews.

I'm blessed to work with these two lovely women, Julianne and Kelly,  who are my counselors and served as the Olympic commentators for the evening.  They are fun, fabulous, and a joy to work with (as are the other advisers and leaders as well).  

I love each one of the twenty-seven young women in our ward (church congregation) and am so proud of the way they choose to live their lives each and every day.  They are an inspiration to me and I am truly grateful for the time I get to spend with them each week.  


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Minnesotan + Coloradan

What happens when a Minnesotan and a Coloradan get married?

Besides a bunch of teasing about whose homeland is colder (I definitely win that argument), you also get a couple of weather skeptics who are constantly poking fun at the hype that the weather receives here in the DC area.   When forecasters started predicting that a big snowstorm may be coming that could leave us with 5-10 inches of snow,  it was hard not to get excited first, then leery about whether this one would be yet another dud storm where the temps would hover just above freezing and bring us nothing but another rainstorm.

They seemed to have a little more confidence in this storm than usual, but after a whole lot of false alarms over the past few years, we have gotten used to only expecting the lower end of storm totals, if anything at all.

So when we woke up this  morning to an entire foot of snow (even more than was predicted), there was elation in our house….from the kids that there was no school yet again and from Glen and I that we could all have a day at home together.  Although we haven't even had a full week of school since Christmas break, Glen always still has to work, so it ruins the fun a bit.

With the roads looking like this though, there was no way Glen was going anywhere today!    Yay!  

Here's a little glimpse of how we've spent this first real deal snow day we've had in about four years….


Adam decided he really wanted a bird to land in his hands, so he's spent over an hour motionless out on the deck with birdseed in his hands.   He has had a few little wrens and a dark-eyed junco  land near him and this little one who looked like he was trying to make friends, but thus far none have ventured into his hands.   We always enjoy how many more birds we get at our feeders after a snowstorm!

Cami, as always, had to find something cute she could wear outside in the snow….

the hand-me-down boots from Adam, however, were an unexpected addition to her fashionable ensemble.  

Ellie spent 10 minutes explaining to me exactly how little girls in the "olden days" stayed warm out in the snow (with lots of layers underneath their dresses), so I shouldn't have been too surprised when she put on her fanciest dress and refused to wear snowpants as she play outside.  In the end, she came back in soaking wet from head-to-toe and hopefully convinced that modern winter wear is  a good thing to embrace.

Glen says that there's no way that he can miss another day of work tomorrow, so eventually we assembled the shoveling brigade to dig our driveway out before the rain made everything too soggy and even heavier to lift…

It took nearly three hours, even with the whole family out helping….

but eventually we got our driveway all cleared out...

and cleared a path to the mailbox.  
Based on neighbors' reports about road conditions, I still don't think we're going anywhere anytime today, but now at least we can drink our hot chocolate  in peace knowing we did our part to clear out!

Now it's time to sled, sit on the back deck some more, blog, bake cupcakes, and do laundry...


Monday, February 10, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile

I am finding that my brain struggles with writing meaningful blog posts when I'm in the hubbub of daily life.  From the moment I wake up at 5:30am to the moment I crash sometime in the 10:00pm hour (if I'm lucky), I am usually running and still haven't found  a natural time in my schedule that suits itself well to blogging.  Most of my friends have long ago abandoned their blogs or update them very infrequently.   I, however,  still love…perhaps am slightly obsessed…with capturing the little moments in our lives and squeeze in a post whenever I can.  

This is one of those posts that is a conglomeration of a whole lot of pictures and mini-stories that I've wanted to share, but haven't had the time to devote to writing a whole blog post about them.   The stories and pictures are not related to each other in any way, other than they show a glimpse of little aspects of life and motherhood that are making me smile right now!


Monopoly!  Spencer led the family in almost daily games of Monopoly when he was home for winter break.  He was cutthroat (in a  nice way) and usually won, but they loved playing with him anyway!  Now Adam is the ringleader and he employs many of the same game strategies that he learned from Spencer!

Cousin time!   I am so grateful that my kids are growing up with a relationship with at least some of their cousins.  I love the fun they have when they are all together and love that it gives them the opportunity to interact with younger children!

Ellie, in particular, is blessed to have a whole host of girl cousins to play dress-up with and giggle and laugh with her.  She fits in so well with them that some days I wonder if Pete and Mika would even notice if I left her at their house for a few days!

We bought our house 12-1/2 years ago and always thought we'd move at least one more time before settling down for good.  It turns out that we have settled down and don't have any intentions on moving.  Our house has been pretty tight the last few years with the older kids needing/wanting more of their own space, but we've made it work. When Spence went to college,  it gave  Emma the opportunity to move out of the room she was sharing with Ellie and Adam  and into Spencer's old room. How surprised I was when she made the switch, that we discovered that she's actually a very tidy child.  I had no idea I had any of those!!!  

I love that I have children who are thoughtful enough to write us notes like this one below that we found waiting for us the other day.    She knew how to make my day!

I think it's funny that Cami snacks on Wheat Chex, just like I did when I was pregnant with her all those years ago!  In fact, Wheat Chex is actually a family favorite cereal.  Yesterday I opened a box for breakfast and by lunchtime it was completely empty!  Better than Lucky Charms!    

Here is a glimpse of John, our adopted friend.  He is here, far away from his family, for a few months  for some career training and we like to have him over for dinner once a week to give him a break from his roommates and give him a taste of family life.  He is always teaching the kids some new skills--like drawing, computer skills, massage techniques, etc.--and we will miss him when he returns to his family and a new job soon!  

Last, but not least, I love seeing my little nephew, Jack, grow into his own personality.  I love, love, love that toddler stage of life and when I get baby hungry in the slightest (an exceedingly rare occurrence anymore), it's for sweet little ones the same age that Jack is….not for a newborn.   I love this picture of he and my sister-in-law, Karey!    

Friday, February 7, 2014

Flashback Friday: Visiting the Berlin Wall

As part of geography in our homeschool we've been learning about Europe.  It's the only place in the world that I've actually visited other the US, Canada, and Mexico, so it's been fun to share some of my memories with them of what it is like there.

My family didn't have lots of money, but I did have a dad who loved to travel and made it a priority to make sure we kids got a chance to see a little more of the world.   It was 1987 and the oldest five of us kids, plus two friends joined my mom and dad for a trip of a lifetime to Europe.  To save money we intended to camp most of the time we were there and had a big utilitarian van rented to drive everywhere.

Unfortunately 1987 turned out to be one of the coldest, rainiest summers in European history (to this day you can actually still read articles about how unusually cold and wet it was) and camping proved to be more miserable than we could bear sometimes.  We did still camp a lot of the time, but we ended up in hotels far more often than my parents budgeted for and even still spent a good portion of the trip damp and shivering.    We visited 13 countries (France, England, Austria, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, East Germany, West Germany, Hungary, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia) and despite the bad weather had a mostly fantastic time.  

One of my most vivid memories of the trip was our time spent in Berlin.   We spent time in both East and West Berlin and we were all struck by the  appalling and stark differences between the two sides.  Although previously the vibrant capital city of Germany, a couple of decades of separation had lent two very different feelings to the two sides.  Gray and depressing is the best way I can think to describe East Berlin (and the other Eastern European cities that we visited) and I don't know how you could ever get used to the machine guns everywhere you turned.   The buildings, the streets, and even the people lacked the color, vitality, and drive that we found abundantly through most of Europe and we all left there with a strong appreciation for what it meant to be an American.
Me with four of my seven siblings standing on the West side of the Berlin Wall.
Don't judge my crazy hair--remember that not only had we been camping in the wet and the cold,
but clearly my hair was suffering for lack of a curling iron with proper European voltage!

 A bit more than two years after that trip was when I heard the news that the Berlin Wall was being ripped down.  I remember being awestruck and excited as my family sat glued to the television coverage of the wall being torn down.   I still get emotional when I think of what that moment meant for the families who had been separated for so many years!


"The wall was an edifice of fear. On Nov. 9 , 1989, it became a place of joy. For 28 years, East Germans could not even approach it. On Nov. 9, 1989, people danced on it - and the world looked different afterward"
German President Horst Koehler.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Today...Ice, Meltdowns, and Paint

*I had a total and complete meltdown about cupcakes today.   About 288 cupcakes to be precise.   Next FHE at our house is going to be about not overcommitting yourself and it will be directed at one particular teenage girl.

*We took our lives into our hands when we left our house today.  We got a very thin layer of ice overnight that coated everything, including our sidewalks, driveway, and grassy hill.  I literally thought I might have to have to crawl on my hands and knees to get back up to our front door as even the grass was as slippery as an ice skating rink.
*I think 5/7 people in our family may officially have all the words memorized to, "Let it Go," from the movie, Frozen.   I don't sound as good as this little girl, but I'm pretty sure with as much as we listen to the soundtrack that one of us will probably be chosen to be an understudy for Idina Menzel in her next movie.  

*It took my 1-1/2 hours to pick up Emma and Cami from school today.  Their schools are only a mile or so apart, but traffic coming home was so horrible (and unrelated to the aforementioned ice) that it almost made me want to bake a couple hundred cupcakes instead of sitting another minute in the car.

*Yesterday we finished getting our kitchen and living room painted.   Now it's just the floors and decorating and we will finally be done!  Are we always this slow when it comes to house projects?  Yes.  Yes, we are.
The blue and brown are gone, gone, gone!!!

*I am only blogging tonight because I am still grumpy.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Kissing Party

I couldn't tell who was more excited about Glen coming home early one day last week---Glen, Ellie, or Rocky!  Normally he comes home after the sun is down and we don't know that he's arrived until he's walking in the door.  That day, though, Ellie caught sight of him pulling up in the car and she simply couldn't contain her excitement long enough to wait for him to walk up the stairs.  She and Rocky were literally jumping up and down in the doorway ready to pounce on him so they could  deliver his welcome home hugs and kisses the second he walked in.

Seeing Ellie's unbridled joy at her Daddy coming home early and the expression on Glen's face for the enthusiastic welcome  just about melted my mother heart.   I sure love my family!  


Sunday, February 2, 2014

We Are Ready!

We've got our "healthy" snack….

and our festive snack…. 

Glen is wearing his favorite old shirt, paint splatters and all….

Now we are ready to party and cheer on Glen's hometown!   

Go Broncos!!!!

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