Thursday, December 31, 2015

Our 2015 Month-by-Month!

Here's a glimpse of our 2015 broken into month-by-month highlights!   Read to the end to find my big announcement. 

January--We found  super cheap plane tickets to CA and introduced the kids to their first taste of DisneyLand!

February--Cami got accepted to BYU!

March--Spence's Make-a-Wish trip finally came through and we all went to NEW ZEALAND!!!!

April--Emma went on her 8th grade trip to Turkey!

May--Spencer hit his 3-year mark of being in remission from leukemia!

June--Cami graduated from high school, gave the valedictory speech, received several scholarships, and in general left HS with a bang!

July--I spent my third year in a row at YW camp!

August--road trip to Idaho, Colorado, and Utah!  We enjoy spending time together as a family  before dropping Cami off at BYU.

September--We went to Michigan to witness what turned out to be BYU's biggest football flop of the season.   On the bright side, we got a super cute picture of our family, which had it included Spence and Cam, surely would have been on our Christmas card this year!

October--I stayed completely awake through all four sessions of General Conference and took detailed and colorful notes.  

November--Epic girls' trip to San Diego to celebrate my sister's 40th birthday, which was awesome,  even if it did mean that I lost my brain afterward.

December--Glen and I went on an awesome anniversary trip to NYC.  

And, finally why you're all reading this far in the first place, I have decided that after nearly nine years that it's time for me to retire from regularly posting on this blog.  It's simply too much of a distraction for me and less of a joy than it once was.  I still may post here occasionally for out-of-the-ordinary occurrences, but I will no longer  be challenging myself to blog about the day-to-day happenings in our family anymore.

Alright, alright...you can stop cheering now.

 I will truly miss this blog as an outlet and definitely miss the connection I feel from it.  

Now I will leave all of you, dear readers, with a little Lara silliness in the form of a video we made for my dad's fake birthday today:     

22-Years of Us!

On December 18th, Glen and I celebrated 22-years together by taking a trip to New York City!   My sister watched the kids and we left the hustle and bustle of home and drove to the uber hustle and bustle of the Big Apple!  

It's only four hours from home, but NYC has a culture all its own that gives it a bit of a foreign feel.

We thought these billboards in Times Square were especially cool. 

This was the view from our hotel window, which  meant that our room was light as day all night long. 

We ate good food, watched "Something Rotten" on Broadway, got some shopping done...

and watched the Christmas Spectacular performance by the Rockettes, which happen to feature one of the coolest nativity scenes we'd ever seen in our entire lives! 

After that we braved the cold and the wind and took a tour bus ride and ferry boat around town.  
It was a great way to spend our anniversary and made me extra grateful for Glen.  He's a good, kind, hard-working husband that still makes my heart go pitter-patter!

Stay tuned for one more blogpost later today with a BIG announcement....

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

True Awesomeness!

  This is my Young Women's team:   
back row:   me, Kelly (1st counselor), Kim (secretary), Cindy (personal progress specialist), Corinne (assistant beehive adviser)
front row:  Rochelle (2nd counselor), Laura  (laurel adviser), Ashley (mia maid adviser), Katie (assistant beehive adviser)

   These ladies keep me afloat with their friendship, hard work, creativity, and general awesomeness.    I've been in this calling for 3-1/2-years now and I am more grateful than ever for their willingness to be my partners in loving and serving the 34 young women we have in our ward.  

Thanks to these wonderful women and to each of the wonderful young women that brighten my life tremendously.   

Ella♥Maya♥Meg♥Alyvia♥Bella♥Martha♥Coco♥Gianna♥Amelia♥Eden♥
♥Kate♥Maeve♥Lola♥McKenzie♥Clarissa♥Aubrey♥Maria♥
♥Morgan♥Ana♥Elena♥Emma♥Auli'i♥Allie♥Nadine♥Anna W♥Sidney♥Mikayla♥
♥Marina♥Miko♥Courtney♥Rachel♥Ashley♥Anna B♥Annika♥

And thanks to our Savior, Jesus Christ, whose birth and sacrifice provide the reason why we do what we do in the first place.    

I am grateful for this Christmas season that reminds me of the great blessing it is to have a knowledge of the beauty and simplicity of God's great plan.   I love the gospel and find comfort in the peace and perspective that it brings me.

#ASaviorisBorn
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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Top Ten of Christmas 2015!

10.   It was 70º and humid!
 Now I'm a Minnesota girl who actually doesn't mind a white Christmas, but, hey, if it's not snowy, then why not warm enough for short sleeves?   It was awesome! 

9.  I didn't cook!
We used to try to do a fancy meal either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but a few years ago, I followed the lead of my friend, Karen, and opted for simplicity and low stress.  Now we go out on Christmas Eve (this year it was Cheesecake Factory) and eat something easy on Christmas Day.  We still have a nice family dinner and our Christmas in Bethlehem dinner sometime during the break, but it's so much more enjoyable not doing it on Christmas!

8. We played games!
...and got a few new games, including a funny, weird game filled with lots of childish potty humor called Exploding Kittens.  

7. It was filled with gloriously wonderful music!
We have the best ward choir director EVER (no exaggeration) and are surrounded by exceptionally talented people.   The Christmas music was definitely one of the highlights of the season.

6.  Our Christmas devotional!
I copied these booklets filled with scriptures, music, and beautiful pictures from a friend several years ago and they're still one of my favorite elements of our Christmas traditions.

5.  Christmas card love!  
Not only did I have way too much fun writing our letter this year, but I am loving our full mailbox!    Stay tuned for a blogpost with  our card and letter soon (just in case you didn't get a copy in the mail)!

4.  Awesome Christmas pajamas!
When I bought them back in October, I had no idea that we would actually need short-sleeve pjs for Christmas, but as it turned out, it was serendipitously perfect!   And, as a bonus,  we looked cute in them, if I do say so myself.

3.  Exclamation marks!!!
I often have to hold myself back from punctuating every sentence with exclamation marks, but fun holidays, like Christmas, give me the perfect excuse to be unapologetically exclamatory!!!!!!!!  
!!

2.  Everyone was happy!
Last year we had some jealousy/disappointment amongst a couple of the kids, which was very discouraging to us on several levels.  This year, to our delight,  everyone was happy, grateful, and content.

1.  Having everyone home!
By far the best part about this Christmas is having all seven of us together.   Now that Cami lives across the country and Glen works long, crazy hours, I treasure these moments more than ever.   



MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!   


Monday, December 21, 2015

She's Back!


Cami finished with finals on Friday, got her teeth fixed this morning...

and finally arrived back home this evening.   

We are all very excited to have her home and look forward to spending the next couple of weeks with the whole family together!      

We missed our Cami girl! 

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Of Elves, Santa, and True Love

Our snitchy little Elf on the Shelf, Delph, caught some incriminating material on my camera last night....

Oops!   That's me smooching Santa Claus who dropped by for a quick early visit. 


Glen needn't be too jealous though, since I went out in public with him looking like this....

he should know now (if 22 years of marriage didn't already demonstrate it)  that my love for him is true and allegiant.

And Santa's beard was too tickly anyway.   

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Family Update without the OCD

 When I write our Christmas letter I get in a zone.  My family can tell you that I'm very intense during the writing phase and get kind of obsessed with tweaking it and making it as different as I can from  the average letter.   It's a process that I enjoy very much, but after I start sending them out, I invariably notice something I don't like about them.  Sometimes it's a weird word I used.   Or  something about the design that I don't like.   Or whatever.  This year it was both of those.   

Besides the weird word issue and the design that didn't look quite as good on paper as it did on my computer screen, this year I felt like some details were lacking.    So I decided to take to the blog to issue a more informative update on our family.    The one I might  have sent if I didn't suffer from Christmas card induced OCD.    

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Glen:   Glen was hoping that the sale of his company (not that it's actually "his" company, but the company he works for)  would herald in a less  demanding and stressful work environment for him, but alas it has not.   He still works more hours than he ever has in his life and we are both really hoping for some changes this upcoming year that will help him to find a better family, self, spiritual, work balance.   He works with the deacons at church and enjoys that a lot.  His goal is to lose 45-lbs by his 45th birthday in June.  

Lara:   I am still YW president (and have been for 3-1/2-years).  I absolutely love the calling and know that it will be a tough adjustment when I do get released, which almost certainly will be sometime this upcoming year.  I am still homeschooling Emma, Adam, and Ellie and am enjoying our first year to not have any kids in public school.   I love to go on long hikes whenever possible and am constantly badgering people to join me on my hiking adventures.  I

Spencer (20):   It's weird having Spence home again, but we really like being able to see him on a regular basis.  He keeps himself pretty busy between work and friends.  Right now he's looking into some growth options (including travel) that he could potentially pursue this upcoming year.   His health remains good, however both of he and I retain an increased anxiety about his health this time of year, since Christmastime was right in the zone before his diagnosis (4-years ago) when he was so sick.  Kudos to Spence for choosing the coolest Make-A-Wish ever and letting his family accompany him on a once-in-a-lifetime dream trip to New Zealand.

Cami (18):   Cami graduated from high school with all sorts of honors and scholarships bestowed upon her and is now absolutely loving BYU life.  We are really, really excited for her to come home for Christmas next week.   She has done very well in her classes and has enjoyed being on her own for the first time.    She is having some major dental work done right after finals, because doing it in Utah, rather than here in Virginia, is going to save a few thousand dollars.  (alleluia!)   She's already let me know that she really hopes to do some babysitting while she's home, not necessarily because she needs the extra money, but because she's really missed spending time with kids while she's been away at school.  Her plan is to head on a mission this summer.

Emma (15):   Emma is our only true morning person in the family and, ironically, she's the first one who's gotten the benefit of the later early morning seminary start time (since our district delayed the start time of high schools this year).     She absolutely loves seminary and wakes up early to give herself plenty of time to get ready, read the scriptures, and to make a wholesome breakfast.   We love her daily singing performances and her ability to stick to the things she sets her mind to.   She has taken a few cupcakes orders since Cami left, but most recently she's taken a job cooking meals a couple times a week for a local family.

Adam (13):  Adam's schedule has gotten significantly busier this year and he seems to really thrive on the  busyness.  Besides Rubik-ing, he loves to ride his bike, play soccer with his friends, and do practically anything to avoid having to write his weekly essay.    He's become quite adept at strategy games and is always looking for opportunities to wrangle someone into playing with him.  His current favorite games are 7 Wonders and  Dominion.  Lucky for me, he is the kid most game for joining me in my hikes, which is great since I very much enjoy his informative and scientific conversations!  Adam and Emma have both been recently called as family history consultants in our ward, which has lit them both on fire doing their family history, but especially Adam.

Ellie (10):  Ellie has recently taken a job as a mother's helper.  She's naturally very nurturing and she loves that she's getting paid to do something she enjoys so much.   She has plowed through and finally finished all the Harry Potter books, which was a relief to me, because they served as a huge distraction for too many months.   She is now contemplating what books to start reading next.     I consider her the only true extrovert in our family and it's a delight to watch her natural ease with connecting with people of all ages.


And on another note.....

Here's the family picture that did NOT make the cut onto our card this year.  It's not the best picture of us as a family, but I designed a hobbit-themed card with it and really liked that it showed we were somewhere cool.   Unfortunately every person I showed it to before ordering thought that it was a nativity scene, rather than a hobbit house, which pretty effectively made my hobbit references look sacrilegiously out of place.


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Why did I write and publish two blogposts on the same day?

It's because I set a goal for myself back in August to publish three times a week and I stuck with that goal religiously until last week when I was in the throes of Christmas carding.   I didn't want to let another week go by without reaching my goal, so today is getting two!


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Lara's 5 Commandments on Writing a Christmas Letter

These "commandments" could probably be better classified as "Lara's Philosophy on Christmas Letters" than actual commandments, but they were so much more fun to write in scriptural language that I got a little carried away.

#1  Thou shalt not skip writing a Christmas letter because "nothing exciting happened".   Almost every year, this thought briefly crosses my mind, but then I remember that there is nothing more boring than a letterless Christmas card, except no Christmas card at all.

#2  Thou shalt avoid using trite clichés like the plague, because, heaven help us, I may be off my rocker, but I don't want people to know that I've lost my marbles.  We're all in the same boat anyway and this commandment is making zero sense whatsoever.    All I'm really trying to say is that for the love of all that's good, please avoid starting your letter with woeful reminiscings on the passage of time.

#3  Thou shalt not write a letter that filleth both sides of a paper with excessive verbiage.  A letter that spills onto both sides of the paper  should either use a large font, clever writing, or  a bunch of pictures...or even better...all of the above.

#4  Thou shalt think outside the box and not limit yourself to a formal letter style.   Over the years we've done a  top ten list, our year in NUMB3RS, a fairy tale, a list of what we're grateful for, a WANTED poster, and this year a toy catalog.    None of them would win any creativity awards, but I like to hope that at least I've done my small part in preventing Christmas card induced narcolepsy at least.

#5  Thou shalt not make the entire letter a list of the fabulous accomplishments of your awesomely perfect family.  Even if you are awesomely perfect and haven't so much as sneezed all year, believe me when I say that no one really wants to know it!    This isn't really an issue for us, since we are decidedly awesome, but faaaaaaaaaaaaar from perfect.   Even still I need to remind myself that listing out our accomplishments is just portraying a very small and unrepresentative piece of who we are.  

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Stay tuned for our Christmas card/letter reveal and a behind-the-scenes glimpse coming soon!

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Where?

After months of committing myself to posting here  at least three times per week, I have fallen off the wagon the past week or two!   

Why?  

Am I sick?   Are my kids sick?  Do I have too many parties to attend?  Too much shopping?    

NO!  

It's because of this....

It's Christmas card time!!! 

It's my favorite time of the year and despite all the time it's taken to create them, I've very much enjoyed making this year's card and letter.    Now everything is printed, our card wall/door is starting to fill up,  and I've finally got my first batch in the mail today. 

Be prepared for some serious awesomeness, er, maybe it's more like silliness coming soon to a mailbox near you! 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Good/Bad News


The bad news is that my washer is old and my dryer has been on the fritz for the last few months.

The good news is that we've had a mild autumn with lots of sunshine and nice temps, which has made drying clothes outside on a clothesline actually pretty pleasant.

The bad news is that it's gotten cold and rainy lately.

The good news is that there was some pretty good deals on washer/dryer combos this past weekend.

The bad news is that they incorrectly installed the washer and our laundry room flooded after the first load of laundry.

The good news (I thought) was that everything was under warranty and they would certainly bend over backwards to make their brand new product work properly.

The bad news is that I was wrong. And Sears sucks. And I now have a perfectly functioning dryer and no washer and they can't come until Monday to fix it.

The good news is that it's cold and rainy, so washing my clothes outside in the meantime should be a breeze.

Thanks, Sears!




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UPDATE: the contractor who installed our washer yesterday randomly called us this evening looking for a lost tool. We didn't have the tool, but he jumped into action and came immediately to our house when I told him we were having issues. He stayed (on his own time) and waited through an entire wash cycle to see what the issue was. It turns out that a drain pipe was jostled during installation and likely caused the problem. Nothing was officially fixed, but some adjustments were made and hopefully the issue has been solved for now. I still am unhappy with Sears who didn't seem interested in helping us at all, but Ernesto (not a Sears employee, but a private contractor) came to the rescue and is the hero of my day!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Art in Real Life

Recently while studying Mary Cassatt we decided to recreate two of her paintings in real life...

Ellie was a willing model who enjoyed the challenge...

Our dog not so much. Rocky wanted nothing to do with being on an empty chair, so Ellie gave up and let him cuddle with her!  


What else are we doing?  

* Cami went to California for Thanksgiving, made a dozen pies for the big day, and recently started a blog. 

 *Ellie and I did a presentation about her seizures to a local Cub Scout troop tonight. They were learning about how to treat people with disabilities or that are different from them.  Ellie was a happy participant and rocked  answering all of their questions! 

*Spencer had yet another double ear infection this past week that left him extremely hard of hearing.   Thankfully his hearing is improving now that the antibiotics are kicking in.   I've got him an appointment for an ENT next week to get to the bottom of these new ear issues.  

*Emma is loving all the Christmas music out right now and spends a couple hours each day playing the piano and singing.   I love it. She also recently took a job cooking dinners a couple times a week for someone.   It's a great job and she is really enjoying the challenge.  

*Adam is our main worm caretaker, our resident fix-it guy, my most challenging child to homeschool, our puzzle solver, and joke teller....in other words, he makes me laugh, cry, yell, thank, and cheer on a regular basis!   

*Ellie is half-way through the 7th Harry Potter and couldn't be more excited about it! 

*Our Elf on the Shelf is back in business.  He had a little more reluctant  entrance this year, but I guess he's here to stay for a few more weeks.  

*Glen is on a quest to lose 45-lbs by his 45th birthday (in June) and he's made some good beginning strides towards that goal.   

*Taking his lead, I am avoiding sweets right now. 

*Madeleine, the inspirational AML fighter from London that I've recently connected with, is not doing well.  Please keep her in your prayers.  



Saturday, November 28, 2015

Please Pass the Rolls

"Please pass the rolls," an innocent child politely asks at  Thanksgiving dinner. 

Without even thinking, I pick up a roll and toss it across the table where it promptly thumps the unsuspecting child on the chest and bounces onto the floor.  

What can I say?  

Thanks, Dad, for not only teaching me that skill/trick/annoying habit (whatever you want to call it), but ingraining it so fully into my brain that, to me, that is just how you pass the rolls.  And we have rolls just infrequently enough that the kids seem to forget it until the first time someone asks for a roll.

 You do know that I can see you rolling your eyes through the computer screen, right?     And, yes, I know you're wondering when someone will nominate me as tackiest mother of the century.    Don't worry, though,  I already bagged that award about 20-years ago.     

To all future in-laws that one day marry into our family.  

I'm truly, truly sorry.

  
On the bright side, this was a rare photo shoot my kids were happy to pose for!

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Gratitude for the Moment

Thanksgiving's here and this post is dedicated to some of the things I'm grateful for (in no particular order):

1. a loving husband who supports me in my pursuits 2.  Ellie and her ability to draw a smile out of the grumpiest of souls 3. Five {mostly} great kids who keep me on my toes 4. Emma and the beautiful music she fills our home with 5. Adam's curiosity that makes me want to figure things out right along side him 6.  Cami's weekly FaceTime calls  7. Spencer's continued good health 8. the changing seasons  9. a working washing machine, because when your dryer doesn't work it makes you especially appreciate what does work 10. parents who raised me in the gospel 11. a free hobby (this blog) that keeps me challenged and excited 12.   a Trader Joe's store near the kids' math class, which means I get to do the bulk of my grocery shopping there for the school year 13. the warm fuzzy blankets that I got for a great deal at Costco--they're the perfect weight and stay soft even after washing several times!  14. kids that are happy  to help cook--teaching my kids to cook and allowing them to make their messes in the kitchen is paying for itself ten-fold now that they're older!  15. long walks on beautiful days 16. having the kids home with me during the day  17. sisters who will listen to me when I'm having a bad day 18. a bright and spacious kitchen to cook in 19. it's less than a month until Cami's home for Christmas 20. the Book of Mormon 21. Thirty-three amazing young women from church that I get the privilege of spending time with each week  22.  my terry cloth robe 23. hair dye, because without it I'd be 100% gray 24. my ward's book club that gives me a good excuse to read challenging literature and engage in interesting discussions each month 25. cute shoes that are comfortable too, because otherwise I'd only wear tennis shoes  26. my not-very-hairy arms --it sounds weird, but they're also jiggly and covered with a bajillion freckles, so I am looking for the positives here! 27. a nearby thrift store that makes shopping sooooo much more fun than shopping at department stores 28. children's toothbrushes, because adult ones are too big to reach my back teeth 29. sunny days that make drying clothes outside on the clothesline while our dryer is broken so much easier 30. the ceiling fan in our bedroom that gets the air flowing, so I can actually sleep 31. bridges, so that we don't have to ford rivers and streams anymore 32. cute sweats that I actually dare wear in public  33. good music to energize the day  34.  inspired church leaders who give us guidance for this day and time 35. almond milk, because dairy and me do not agree with each other  36. hot water that comes straight from the tap!  37. Trader Joe's chocolate chips, which are cheap, dairy-free, and oh so good!   38. Madeleine, a beautiful 18-year-old AML fighter from London,  who recently introduced herself to me on FB.  She's on her third bout with this horrible disease and in the short time I've known her she's  become an inspiration to me.  39. automatic "do not disturb" setting on my phone, because it saves me from a lot of late-night group texts among my siblings in an earlier time zone!  40. the gospel of Jesus Christ  that gives me perspective on the hard things we face in life 41. cancer researchers who work diligently to find a cure, especially for those who've dedicated themselves for finding cures for childhood cancers  42. doctors and nurses who devote their lives to working to help sick patients be cured 43. the US postal service--I love sending mail almost as much as I love receiving it 44.Speaking of mail--I'm grateful for Amazon Prime!   For a girl who doesn't love to shop, Amazon Prime is a godsend!  45. later start-time for seminary this year--I seriously feel so much more well-rested being able to get up at 6:00am, rather than 5:15am! 46. dams, because, well...who isn't grateful for dams?  47. a working dishwasher, because we went for a couple of years before our kitchen was redone without one and I am really happy to not be washing dishes by hand today! 48. Christmas cards--mine are already ordered and I can't wait until they start arriving in our mailbox from all over the country!  49. My parents and siblings!  I love how we keep in touch and can easily still talk and laugh together!  50. YOU!   Thank you for visiting my blog today and actually caring enough to read this gargantuan list!


HAPPY THANKSGIVING!   

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Acing the Algorithms

Here's a quick glimpse of what's been occupying Adam's spare time lately...

After working on it for the last few weeks, he can now consistently solve the Rubik's cube from any position in about a minute, sometimes well under.    In other words, he's aced the algorithms and is now working on perfecting  his speed even further!

He also bought himself a few other puzzle cubes (some of them not very cube-y) and is working on solving those as well.   So far he's aced the 2x2, 3x3, and the silver crazy cube.


Adam's also been teaching Glen a few of his tricks and  Glen can now solve a cube, although not near as speedily as Adam, for the first time in his life.

Way to go Adam!  

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Missing in Action

In the 100-hours since I've been home from my trip to San Diego,  I've slept through the alarm once,  forgotten to give Ellie her medicine twice, eaten my weight in chocolate, missed paying an important bill, forgotten a commitment, didn't enforce the kids' music practice at all, and for the first 24-hours thought all the toiletries had been stolen out of my bag until I found them all right underneath my bag the next day.

In other words....my brain is officially missing in action.  

I think I used it a couple times in San Diego while trying to figure out the music settings on my phone.    And maybe a little at Trader Joes when I pondered whether to get peppermint or chocolate covered JoeJoes and ended up buying both.     But other than that, I haven't seen it at all.  

In the meantime, my brainless state has proven to be a bit of a liability for me.    A couple of days ago, I eagerly tried to take advantage of a great earlybird discount for ordering our Christmas cards.   I designed what I thought was a very hilarious Hobbit themed Christmas card, but was a bit disheartened when I promptly got shot down by all my proof-readers because the card was  too nativity-ish and trashy at the same time.  Think about that for a minute.   Yep, they used nativity and trashy in the same sentence, which meant that I promptly ordered a million of them on the spot.  

Then yesterday, after thinking briefly that I might have regained the use of my cognitive abilities again,  I decided to help my mom out in her quest to collect the rest of the Christmas wish lists from my siblings.     I thought myself extremely clever and informed my entire extended family that my mom was buying them all puppies unless they sent her their list  pronto.     Unfortunately, my clever plot was quickly foiled when on the spot one of my brothers gladly rescinded his Christmas list and is now expecting  a cute little puppy in his stocking.  Sorry, Mom.

Then tonight I was writing this blogpost, and  I thought to myself, "Lara, (because I always refer to myself in third-person in my thoughts) Why not embrace your newfound empty-headedness and start writing poetry?"  

Hmmmm, why not indeed?      

See my first masterpiece:

My name used to be Lara Crain, 
but now it is Lara No-Brain. 
I love to sleep 
and hope my kids don't make a peep,
because if there's nothing in my head, 
I may as well be in bed.  

Good night! 



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

San Diego!

My younger sister, Kristina,  turns 40 this week....

so my sister, Heather and I flew out to California this past weekend to help her celebrate! 

We spent the weekend in a beach house in San Diego...

and had a great time hanging out in the sand and the sunshine together! 

We got pedicures, massages, went on long walks, went shopping, hung out at the beach, ate good food, played games,  and in general had a fun and relaxing weekend.   

A few more of her friends also  joined in the celebrations and we laughed to realize that together we'd left a total of 48 children at home with their daddies to be there that weekend.    
(I'm the one on the far left in the picture below)

Except for the crazy windstorm on Sunday night, we had perfect weather the entire weekend...
(I'm fourth from left in this picture)

 I missed being with my family, but loved the time  away and the opportunity to soak in the beauty of my surroundings...   

the beauty of the area, the beauty of spending time with my sisters, and the beauty of friendships anew.

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Congrats to Madeleine, the AML fighting wonder girl (she's on her third go-around fighting against this horrible disease), who was the only one to correctly guess my location!    I haven't figured out your prize yet, but stay tuned for something! 

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Where Am I?

Where in the world am I right now?



Hint:  
I am in the state of my birth. 
I'm in one of my top 3 favorite cities in the US. 
There's been lots of sunshine and sand (plus a much needed rainstorm that I apparently brought with me from home).
I can hear the ocean waves from my window at night.
I'm at 32.7º N latitude. 


Stay tuned for the answer  (and some photos) coming soon!

Friday, November 13, 2015

7 Surefire Conversation Killers

Ever stuck in a long conversation and just want to get out?
 Here are four surefire conversation killers I've perfected for you...guaranteed to work every time!  

1. Mention that you have five kids. 
This one doesn't work quite as well on fellow Mormons, but for the average gentile it works quite nicely.   They might politely ask how old the kids are and start rattling off all the reasons why they could never have a big family, but soon thereafter the conversation will fizzle like a dying sparkler dunked in a bucket of water. 

2.  Mention that you homeschool your kids.    
 Instant judgment!   I've been shocked at what an instant  conversation killer it is to mention homeschooling.  "I could never do that," is usually followed by a very ignorant comment about the lack of social lives my kids must have (or the slightly less offensive mention that their kids are too social to ever be homeschooled).   As if my kids are perfectly compliant anti-social beings!  NOT!   For the record, my kids are way more social now than when they were in school and had so little time to do anything other than sleep, eat, go to school, and do their stinking homework.  

3. Mention that your kid had cancer.  Or that one of them has epilepsy.   
There are a few people that have a curiosity about those types of things and will ask lots of questions (which I like answering), but for most people all conversation will magically cease shortly thereafter. Sometimes I tell myself that I should ban health-of-my-kids topics from conversations with most people, but it's a huge part of my life and I struggle trying to hide it away.  

4. Be naturally a little on the awkward side.
IN other words, conversations were  already challenging for me before I had reasons #1, 2, and 3 in my life, and now I've got all four.  

So basically that means that I can comfortably carry on a conversation  about a) today's weather b) your cute socks c) tomorrow's weather.

And that's about it.  

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Narrowly Avoiding Death by Boredom

   I've always liked weekends, but now that I'm a homeschooling mom...I love the weekends.  I love sleeping in a little, I love being off academic duty, and I love the change of scenery as the weekday routines fly out the window on the weekends.   This past weekend was a very average weekend, so, since my main purpose of this blog is to find a sure cure for insomnia, I,  of course,  am blogging about it in every excruciating detail.    I will do a minute by minute recap from 7:00am-10:00pm  each day and then do  a summary of each of our dreams. 

Or maybe not.     

I don't want to be accused of causing anyone to die of boredom, so, by super popular demand, instead I will just post the highlights of our very average weekend, which should be just boring enough to induce slumber, but not quite boring enough to induce death.    A good balance, I think.  

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Ellie and Adam played in their last soccer games of the season on Saturday!    Ellie and Adam were  clearly  one of the least experienced players on their respective teams, but they both improved a lot during the season and had fun, so it was definitely a successful season as far as we're concerned!   Adam's coach was fantastic and other than the time Ellie's coach yelled at her team for "sucking" and made half the girls cry, he was actually a pretty good coach too. 

Emma made another wedding cake!   Cami made one before she left for college and word got out, so  Emma's gotten two more orders since she's left.   The orderers  use this as their cake to cut into.  


 We lost our leftover Sunday dinner (fajitas and homemade guacamole) in an unfortunate and very messy crash...  


 I've been trying to stay in my church clothes on Sundays, but this Sunday we went on a walk and I got cold, so I put on my exercise leggings as an extra layer.   I walked all over the neighborhood (3-1/2 miles) looking like this and immediately got called by 3 fashion agencies all wanting me to be their next designer. ↓↓↓

I got bold and ordered five boxes of apples this year.  The plan was to eat lots of them fresh, make delicious apple treats, and dehydrate the rest.   It's been a few weeks now and I'm two boxes down, three to go and I'm getting nervous.

I deactivated my Facebook account...again.   I had been keeping it at arm's length for the last few months, letting Glen be the keeper of my password and not getting on often, but the latest Facebook "strife" was causing me stress and I decided that I needed another break from it.   


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Monday, November 9, 2015

Where We've Been

We could count on going on at least one road trip every summer of my childhood.    The trips mostly consisted of  treks from our home in Minnesota to the grandparents' homes in Wyoming and Oklahoma, but often my dad would alter the route just so we could visit more states.   Notice I didn't say, "see something cool or new,"  I said, "visit more states," which to my dad was more important than what we actually saw while we were there in a new state.   Usually touring a city meant a drive by of important sites and occasionally a visit to something that had free admission.  We usually camped along the way or crammed all 10 of us into one cheap motel room.    By the time I left home, I had been to every state in the continental US and  even with the drive-by touring,  I truly have been to a lot of cool places in my life.   

Now that we have our own family and airplane tickets are too pricey to stomach for our entire family, we have turned into summer road trippers too!    We usually go a little slower and stay in one place a little longer than we did growing up, but we have driven on every summer vacation for more than a decade now....even to Utah and California!  

For the sake of future trip planning purposes, below you will find our states visited maps:  


My map (missing Alaska):
I've had Alaska as my lone state left to visit for over 20-years and still I haven't been able to convince Glen to take me there! 
49 states

 
Create Your Own Visited States Map



 Cami and Emma's map (missing Alaska, Hawaii, and the deep South):
42 states


 
Create Your Own Visited States Map




 Adam and Ellie's map (missing Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, and the deep South):
40 states

 
Create Your Own Visited States Map





 Glen's and Spencer's map (missing Alaska and deepest of the deep South):
46 states

 
Create Your Own Visited States Map


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Now we just need to plan a trip to the deep south!


Friday, November 6, 2015

Thoughts on a Foggy Morning

The air was unseasonably warm and humid for a November morning and the autumn colors seemed muted and gray in the morning fog.  


 The patchy fog was so thick, it was easy to imagine that I was walking amongst the clouds, weightless and without a care in the world.  Only the solid ground beneath my feet brought me back to a sense of my reality.   A reality that is anything but weightless, ever moving, ever full of lists of things that have to be done.      

It was through that ethereal dream-like atmosphere that I walked along, where I was continually met with a sense of wonder and delight as  dark forms cloaked in a hundred shades of gray... 

sprang to life as I drew nearer.  


 Vibrant colors emerging from their wispy cloaks...

  
and reminded me that life is beautiful and solid ground isn't such a bad place to be.  


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