Sunday, March 30, 2014

Feeding the Hungry

What happens when about 20 young women take time out from their busy schedules and spend a bit more than an hour working together?

They can make 120 sandwiches, package them up, and mark them with "use by" dates...

make several dozen cookies and a couple of batches of rice krispie treats...

then fill a table full of lunch bags with clementines, treats, chips, and granola bars.

Working together they made 60 full lunches, which bright and early the next day I delivered to the local homeless shelter, which was so grateful to receive them.

I stand in awe of these beautiful young women who, even with a full load of homework and other activities,  sacrifice their time to come each week and make a difference in the world.  They are amazing and I feel privileged to spend time with them on a regular basis!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Anti-Billion Dollar Bracket

Back when we were first married, a bunch of our friends each pooled a couple dollars and had a March Madness bracket tournament.   I am not a huge sports fan, but in the name of fun I filled out a bracket anyway.  With a bit of serendipitous luck,  I somehow ended up beating everyone else.   Too bad the organizer  was so annoyed that a girl won that he refused to award the prize money.  Despite my lack of a prize, though, for twenty years I have prided myself on my skillful bracket choosing and have opted not to ruin my "streak" by filling out anymore brackets.

Until this year.

For some reason, even unbeknownst to myself, I got a bee in my bonnet a couple of weeks ago that we would have a whole family March Madness  tournament and the winner would choose a family adventure for us to go on.   I printed off brackets for everyone, painstakingly explained the whole numbering/ranking system to everyone, then handed them pens.  Glen and the kids were a little perplexed at my random burst of interest in basketball, but did not complain about the potential for a fun family activity (except for Ellie who decided it was too much writing for her).

I was a little giddy about it all and thought that this was my chance to prove my basketball predicting skills once and for all.

Too bad my luck ran out a couple of decades ago, because this year I officially have the worst bracket... EVER!

I like to call it the "Anti-Billion-Dollar Bracket", because not only am I not going to win any of Warren Buffet's prize money, but I'm also losing to the member of my family who picked their brackets based solely on which color of jersey she liked best.
I will take a little solace, though,  that Glen isn't winning either and it looks like we might have an eleven-year-old who inherited a bit of his mother's skills (from 20 years ago).


Sunday, March 23, 2014

my brithday Ellies blog post

I got online tonight and found this blogpost already started for me.  Apparently a sweet little birthday girl wanted to make sure that I didn't forget to write her a blogpost in honor of her ninth birthday, so she just started writing it herself.     I left the title exactly as she had begun it.

Unfortunately My computer is on the fritz (hence the lack of blogging)  and I have no access to my pictures currently, therefore this will be a barebones unillustrated post written on my iPad.  I am really hoping that the Apple store can save my ailing MacBook!

From day one of Ellie's life she had a gregarious energy that left us both delighted and in awe.  With Both Glen and I being pretty introverted, we had never seen a bubbly extroverted personality so up close and personal before and it was hard not to fall in love with her magnetic and loving personality instantly.   She loves connecting with people with every part of who she is and she wants nothing more than to be everyone's best friend.

If there's something to be said about Ellie is that she dreams big.    She wishes  that she could teach her own preschool, be a published author, sing solos in church, be an artist, and ride horses every day.  It's one of the main reasons why I opted to homeschool her...her vivacity was getting trampled by seven hours of sitting still every day while the school was trying their hardest to get her to fit into their neat little round hole.  Not that I necessarily blame the school or the teacher--in fact we loved them both--but, in my opinion, the whole educational system of America does not serve the needs of the creative and energetic thinkers very well, of which Ellie is both!

One more thing about Ellie is that she sees the world through a different lens than most people.   She simply processes things in an innovative and beautiful way that constantly amazes me.  When you look at something creative or lovely and wonder how someone came up with the idea, it's most likely someone who, like Ellie, isn't looking at it with an analytical mindset.   When I look I see Logic and patterns.   She looks at the same things and sees stories and ideas that glimmer with potential.

I will have to blog in more detail about her actual birthday when my computer is fixed (hopefully), but suffice it to say that there was a delicious cake made by her sisters, a ruffly new dress, a fun new present, and lots of cheerful energy bubbling around our house today.

We sure love our Ellie Bellie!!

Happy 9th birthday!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Becoming Reacquainted with Pi(e)

I am proud to say that I remember what these formulas mean and how I can use them.

A = π r2                     C = 2 π r

After a couple of decade hiatus from ever needing to use them, this year I have become  reacquainted well with the ubiquitous mathematical symbol, pi and its formulas.   Apparently fifth graders do a lot of finding the circumferences and areas of circle in math and being a homeschool teacher means I get a front row seat on how it all goes down.

Not that homeschooling has given me any greater insight into WHY I would use these formulas in a real life situation, but just in case any of you ever wants to find out the area of your  dinner plates or the circumference of your hula hoop,  you know who to call!

March 14th (3/14 = 3.14 = π) rolled around this year and between my newfound pi using prowess and my new kitchen, I figured I had better reason to celebrate Pi Day than I ever have before.
So we made pies.   Lots of them.

I helped my sister, AnnaLisa, make a few pies for her Pi party.  Then I made a pie for a friend.   Then I made a few more to share at our homeschool cultural night.

I made apple, lemon meringue, and chocolate.

Emma made a banana cream and  Ellie made her own caramel cheesecake--both without recipes I might add.

It was a fun and delicious way to celebrate and although I never once thought about using π while I was making pie...

but at least I know I could have if the need had arisen.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Reckless? Spontaneity

Glen has been working crazy hours the past few months.  This past week was worse than usual and I was discouraged when, on Saturday afternoon, I realized that we hadn't spent a single minute all together as a family since Spencer had been home for his Spring Break.  It didn't help, of course, that it was not Spring Break for the rest of the kids.  Save for Spencer being at home, we had a very normal week with seminary, school, kids' activities, and Glen working until the wee hours of the morning.  

So  it got to be 5:00pm  on Saturday, we hadn't been together all week, and everyone was snipping at each other like grumpy cats.    All that and we still had a full slate of things we were supposed to do that night. 

That was when we decided that it was time for some good old fashioned reckless spontaneity.  
We bagged our responsible evening activities and opted, instead,  for fresh air and family time.

It was literally the only time we had been all together all week and it turned out to be the healing balm we all needed to forget our busyness and stress and just enjoy being together. 

We went to Gravelly Point, a beautiful park situated right on the Potomac River and adjacent to Reagan National Airport.  
The weather was perfect for a little walk, the sunset was gorgeous, and a  whole-family game of touch football turned out to be a great giggle inducing activity for everyone--young and old.  

We watched the moon rise over the Potomac and kept playing until dark.

Afterward we ate a late dinner at Red Robin and had no regrets about the way we'd spent our evening.  

Then, today we dropped Spencer back off at JMU. 

We raced there right after church to beat the winter storm that already has school cancelled again for tomorrow. It's the kids' eleventh snow day of the year.  They've added two more days onto the end of the school year for make-up days. Tomorrow, though, is a FREE DAY, which means we can sleep in in peace!

The kids already have grand intentions for fun tomorrow!  Apparently we are having family round of  Chopped (a cooking show on Food Network).  I am the judge and I'm supposed to pick out four ingredients and let them conjure up something delicious to eat with them.  And they promised to clean up after themselves.  

It may be a bit more winter than I'd hoped for this late in the season, but you won't find me complaining about yummy food to eat and a day to sleep past the 5:00am hour! 


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Reason Why

Bikes have been dusted off, my walking shoes are back in action, and our backyard remembers that there are more inhabitants in our house than just a dog.

Finally after last week's late-season snowstorm, I am happy to say that we are actually getting some springtime weather and I don't know who's happier about it--me or the kids.

Today it was a balmy 70-degrees and I could not pass up the opportunity to take the kids on a morning walk before starting in on their school work.

And I'm glad I did because this afternoon some dark clouds rolled in and the wind started howling.

Now it is 34-degrees and I have a very important question to ask all of you?

Why, whenever I hear the wind howl, do I want to break out into this song?

♪♫♬  The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside.  Couldn't keep it in.  Heaven knows I tried.  Let it go, let it go.  I am one with the wind and sky…. ♪♫♬

And why do I now associate this song with flatulence?

Oh yeah…

I have five kids.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Sugar and Spice

Having three girls means that drama abounds in our house.   
If it's not boy trauma, it's homework frustration.  Or hair or skin woes.  
Or just  plain old hormonal induced grumpiness.  

With all that, though, also comes an incredible amount of sweetness.  
I love to watch Emma wake up extra early so she can curl Ellie's hair for her on Sunday morning.  
And Cami volunteering to make dinner on a weekend night despite the fact that she's had as long of a week as I've had, is something that melts my heart every time.
And no one can bring a smile to my face like Ellie.  She is sunshine encapsulated and loves nothing more than helping people around her to be happy.

Although sometimes their "spiciness" can be a bit much at times, 
I am so grateful to be their mother, so that I can soak up every bit of the sweetness.     


Saturday, March 8, 2014


Yesterday I drove to JMU and picked up a tired and weak Spencer who was starting his spring break with a violent stomach bug.    It was the first stomach bag our family has seen in 3 or 4 years (other than the c-diff he got while he was in the hospital).  

Then today Glen and I were sitting on our bed, each doing our own thing.

A child walks holding her tummy and moaning that she really doesn't feel well.  

One parent jumps up,  screams at  her to run to the bathroom, and escorts her to the toilet at the exact moment she starts vomiting.  

For the next minute that parent holds her hair, rubs her back, and talks soothingly to her while she pretty thoroughly loses the contents of her stomach.  

Finally the parent helps her to freshen up.  

All this occurs approximately 10 feet away and within direct line of sight from the other, unnamed parent, who is still sitting contentedly on the bed watching the BYU game and not having the slightest idea of anything being amiss.  
What?! I didn't hear any screaming or vomiting?    This is a great game!  

Now poor Ellie is begging to eat and already sad that she can't go to church tomorrow.  Good thing she has Spence as her #1 go-to guy for snuggles, since he's the only one who's already had the bug and doesn't need to be scared of her germs!

It's also a good thing I have a new haircut to distract me from the fact that we are already 2 for 7 with this stomach bug and it hasn't even been 24-hours yet since Spence introduced it to us.  


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Identity Crisis in the Snow

I'm in process of going through a blog identity crisis….again.   It happens to me every couple of years.

 I love blogging.  It's as much a relaxing outlet for me as it is a way to capture the moments in our family's history.  Sometimes, though,  I start feeling like it's time for something different.  I haven't figured out what that different is yet, but I probably will at least be taking it out of my Facebook feed soon.  

 Everyone will still be welcome to read my blog (and I really hope you will), but lately I've been feeling like I'm shoving it into people's faces too much.    When Spencer was sick, people wanted to see the up-to-date happenings on his treatment in their Facebook feed.   Now that he's done with that life….hopefully forever…I'm quite sure that no one really cares all that much about the latest snowstorm.  Or the ramblings of my day.   Or the other random and boring things I like to blog about and if I've been annoying you with it all….I'm sorry!

But if you do like it…bookmark it and come back often!  I'll still be blogging regularly.  :)


In the meantime, here's another round of cute playing-in-the-snow pictures.

We had quite the gathering at our awesome sledding hill yesterday (our 10th snow day of the year) and it was fun to see it getting so much use!   We don't have many kids in our neighborhood, so we have to think ahead and invite people to come over.

The kids had twice as much fun with their friends there.

And it was hard not to smile at their giggles and happiness!

They were outside for 3+ hours yesterday afternoon in the around 30-degree temps.   Ellie wasn't phased a bit though and even laid down to make snow angels.

Adam and his friend Logan were the big boys of the hill and looked all cool with their open jackets and sunglasses!

Even AnnaLisa couldn't resist getting in on the action by taking her own little ride down the hill.

Goodbye snow!  It was fun to have you around so much this year.

But I really, really, really hope we won't be seeing you again until next winter!


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

winter reflections

Winter has never been my best time of the year.  I look back at my journal entries from my winters in Minnesota as a teenager and I am sure that I suffered from fairly severe S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder).    All through the winter months, my journal entries would smack of discouragement and negativity, then magically change to a more positive tone come April or May of every year.   I never caught on to the pattern though until moving to a warmer climate.  Since living in Virginia (39° N latitude), I sometimes still struggle in winters, but on a much less severe scale than when I lived in Minnesota (45° N latitude).  

Spencer getting diagnosed with leukemia at the beginning of January was both a blessing and a curse.  On the one hand, it was nice to have the kids well established in their routines at school at that point,  so the disruption to their daily schedules was minimal.  Also, I think it was helpful that we were in "hunkering down" mode already which made the long days at  the hospital seem slightly less daunting to face.  

ON the other hand, since his time in the hospital two winters ago, I have discovered that wintertime is a struggle in a new way for me.  First off, I worry a lot more Spencer's health in the winter.  Because my memories of his diagnosis are all wrapped up with the winter, I automatically think the worst whenever he mentions that he isn't feeling well.   It's actually a little easier with this now that he's at college, so that I'm not constantly checking his pallor or wondering if that extra nap he took has any meaning, however it does seem like he's gotten sick an awful lot this school year, which has made me worry a lot!  Secondly, S.A.D. or not, I am definitely more emotionally fragile than usual in the winter…especially at the end of winter when undoubtedly my vitamin D stores are at their lowest.    I am especially sensitive to others who are struggling with their own serious health issues or with those of a child. I've gotten to the point, that I can't even watch videos of kids with cancer anymore.  It's just too much for me.  

So, I share all this, because this long winter is starting to get to me.  March in Virginia is usually a very mild time of year and we start spending more and more time outside.  Although I love the snow and the variety it brings to winters (even the days off of school are something I look forward to), yesterday's snowstorm was a hard one for me.  In fact, yesterday was just plain a hard day for me.  I had been disappointed by something the night before and I woke up that morning feeling off-kilter and sad.  I tried to stay away from everyone for a while, but I worried that if I didn't snap out of it soon that my negativity could taint what would otherwise be a fun day off of school for the kids.  Finally, I decided that I needed to get outside for a while.    Never mind that it was about 20-degrees and still snowing, I needed fresh air, quiet time to reflect, and something creative for my brain to think about.  

So I went on a photo-walk.  

 I didn't take any amazing pictures.  I had no eye opening "ah-ha" moments.    I just walked and enjoyed the quiet stillness. The brisk air was invigorating.  The solitude gave me the time to feel closer to God and to see my very shallow problems for what they actually are. I came home still subdued, but not sad anymore.  

We enjoyed the rest of the day playing outside, drinking hot chocolate, walking to the shopping center for some dinner, playing board games, and watching a very dumb movie.  

It was a good day.  


Here are some of the pictures I took:  

A sparrow enjoying  the snow...

                              Barefoot!                                     Daddy will help pack down the powdery snow!

Snowplows everywhere!  

Lee Highway--a normally very busy road--was deserted!

The stream looked so pretty in the snow...

I love the striking contrast of a cardinal in the snow! 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Youth Ice Skating Activity 2014

A lot of people assume that with my Minnesotan heritage that I would be good at winter sports, but truth is, I've been skiing and/or ice skating approximately 3 times in my life.    And during one of those skiing trips I was accessory to a plow-over of an innocent bystander when mine and my friend's ski braking techniques (the snowplow?) lacked a little in the direction department.    In other words I am pretty much as oxymoronic as a Minnesotan as a Hawaiian would be who doesn't like the water.  

BUT despite my snow sport inabilities….

I sure had fun helping to plan an ice skating activity for the youth at our church.  

The youth let us know that they love ice skating, but it was going to end up costing way too much to take all of them to the local outdoor rink.  My counselor and I put our heads together and figured out that we could rent out the rink for the entire night, combine with a couple of other wards (congregations) and could have a great inexpensive, but very fun activity.

Tuesday night was the night.  

We carpooled up to the Reston Town Center Ice Pavilion...

and had a fun night. 

You will not be surprised to know that I kept my feel solidly planted on cement covered surfaces the whole night...

and enjoyed my role as ice skating photographer.

There were a few minor injuries...

but all in all, a very fun night was had by the youth and adults alike! 

And I am proud to say...

that all these native warm(er) weather Virginians...

including my own children...

are much better skaters than I am. 

And that's probably a good thing, 

since this long and cold winter (by Virginia standards) isn't done yet
and they may all be skiing or skating to school this coming week!  

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