Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pie Making

This week, since the church building was unavailable, all the youth activities were held off site (and that means the counselor's house.) 

A few weeks ago when we were planning our upcoming activities, the Beehive Presidency decided that they would like to learn how to make pies.  Since I now own a food processor, that turned out to be perfectly timed.  I invited all 7 of my Beehives over to my house tonight.  (June was also here and loved hanging out with the older girls and helping.)  When we originally planned this activity, I didn't realize that the Scout Master had already invited all eight of his Deacons to come to our house for their activity, too.  If you include the 4 youth leaders and one Bishopric member, we definitely had a full house!  The boys stayed upstairs, though, and the girls all stayed in the kitchen.  

After an hour and a half, every surface of my kitchen was covered in flour and so were most of the girls.  But we produced six pies, a bunch of little cinnamon sugar crispy things, and a huge bowl of delicious REAL whipped cream.  I'm not sure that they mastered the art of pie making, but they did learn how to measure accurately, use a food processor, roll pastry dough, the difference between butter and shortening, and that Cool Whip and whipped cream are two totally different things.  I'm sure those things will come around again sometime in their lives.  In the meantime, we all had a great night...even with a bunch of boys upstairs.  :)

I'm so grateful to be able to work and play with these girls on a regular basis.  They are energetic and smart and delightful to be around.  I love this calling!


Home Lunches

Just before the end of the last school year, we discovered that our elementary school kids didn't really like the school lunches they had been purchasing everyday.  They were mostly just eating the sides and throwing away the rest.  (great...

For the remaining few weeks of school, we decided to switch exclusively to home lunches.  The kids selected the sandwich/fruit/chip combination of their dreams, and I went to Kroger to restock the pantry and to make my grocery budget accommodate one more meal during the day.  It was a huge success.

In August of this year, we added "new lunch bags" to our vast list of school supplies.  Each of the kids picked a new, fun lunch bag so they would be excited about eating lunch everyday.  And I went back to the old lunch menu from the end of last year because if they loved it in May, they should love it in August, right?  Apparently sometime over the summer, Mack decided that turkey and cheese sandwiches weren't really working for him anymore.  Again, this was information that took awhile to uncover.  Why don't they just speak up when they're not  happy?  After a few unsatisfying lunch experiences and several weeks of begging, Mack went back to school lunches.  I added enough money to his lunch account to last for at least 2 weeks and sent him happily off to school.  

One week later, I got a reminder notification email from the school saying that Mack's account was almost out of money.  (???)  How was that possible when I had put more than enough money in there to last for at least two weeks?  Through the beauty of the school's internet lunch account system, I was able to get onto Mack's itemized report and find that he was purchasing not just one, but TWO lunches everyday.  I wondered if maybe there was some computer error or if he was donating lunch to a needy friend.  But that afternoon, he and I had a talk and he confirmed that he was actually eating two lunches a day!  We talked about budgets and food and portions, and I told him that he was only allowed to eat ONE lunch a day.  I packed bigger snacks and sometimes even packed two.  But a few days later, after I had once again replenished his account, I got another reminder notice from the school.  (Ugh...)  Mack and I talked again, and finally decided that the best thing to do was to go back to home lunches.  He thought it would be "too tempting" for him to see all those options and not go through the lunch line more than once.  So we were back to turkey and cheese sandwiches...

This morning, when I woke up, I found this on the counter...

Apparently he had gotten up in the middle of the night to write it.  Typically I'm not a fan of the kids placing orders for their lunches, but in this case, it was a simple request, so I did it.  This afternoon, Mack came home from school, hugged and kissed me, and said,

"Mommy!  That was the BEST lunch EVER!  Can I have peanut butter and honey sandwiches every day for the whole rest of the year???" 

Who knew it would be so easy to make an 8 year old happy?  All this time, I was just making things too complicated. (That happens every now and then in my life.)

Last night, before bed, he said,
" you need a new note every day, or can I just keep putting this one on the counter in the morning?" 

I assured him that I would probably be able to remember peanut butter and honey even without the note, but that I would keep the note anyway.  

Oh how I love that kid!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Today is the Scout Master's birthday.  Unlike his high maintenance wife who likes a lot of fuss, tons of presents, and surprise parties for her birthday; the Scout Master prefers quiet, calm birthdays.  He was completely content with donuts for breakfast, lunch with friends, and presents and dinner with the kids.

Just after we put all the kids to bed, Mack came back down the stairs with one last present...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


We had Thanksgiving a day early this year.  

A few weeks ago, the missionary dinner calendar came around in RS.  With the Scout Master's current travel schedule, I knew Thanksgiving week was our only opportunity to feed the missionaries, so I signed up for tonight.  We don't have family in town.  We weren't traveling anywhere this year.  So I thought it would be fun to have someone to share Thanksgiving with...and who better than the missionaries?   They were already committed to dinner with someone else for Thursday, so I decided to just have our dinner a day early...which means they will have Thanksgiving twice, but I don't think they'll mind.  And then our dinner for 8 turned into dinner for 9, and then dinner for 14. 

When we walked into this house in June, I knew instantly that it was the right place for our family.  I pictured family nights, firesides, music, lots of kids, family and friends.  And that is exactly what happened tonight.  After a great dinner, we all lingered in the dining room (which is adjacent to the piano/music room.)  Someone asked Spell Girl to play her bass for us which she happily did.  Then TCD played the piano.  Then one of the missionaries played the piano and SANG!  And then (and this was the BEST part), while some of us were distracted in the kitchen, our new friend, Chad, picked up our lonely, neglected guitar, and RESTRUNG it!  And then he played it!  And then they all played together!!  

Yep, Elder Park is playing the maracas!  Chad was playing Feliz Navidad.  (So fun!)

Seriously, it was like one of those artsy jam sessions right in my living room.  It made my heart happy to hear that music coming from my house and my children and our friends.  We all had such a great night.  And I am so very grateful for the opportunity to live in this place at this time. 


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Food Processor

My plan for a relaxing week has evolved into a week in the kitchen...which is totally fine with me.  We invited the missionaries for Thanksgiving dinner, and then on Sunday we invited one more person, and then yesterday when we found out our neighbors were staying in town, we invited them, too.  We're up to 14 people!  It's been a few years since I've made an entire Thanksgiving dinner and I've NEVER done it on my own.  So I've become intimately acquainted with the Food Network Thanksgiving Week and  My laptop and I have been happily cooking for the last two days.  But yesterday, I realized that there is a kitchen appliance that regularly appears on the Food Network that I don't currently own...

I have carefully budgeted my grocery money this week to include a pretty extensive dinner for 14 people.  But I really felt like the execution of that dinner would not be entirely possible without the appliance of my dreams.   So I took $40 out of next week's grocery money and bought a very low end, but functional food processor.  I'm keeping my options open for a future upgrade.  Not everyone in my house was on board with this purchase, but I did it anyway.  And this morning, I opened the box...(insert angels singing HERE)

I didn't realize until today that I have lived almost 42 years without this amazing and totally essential appliance.  My new best friend and I made bread (...yep! BREAD), homemade cranberry sauce, a GORGEOUS apple pie, and we prepped all the onions, celery and cornbread crumbs for tomorrow.  

Oh, Food Processor, where have you been all my life.   I LOVE LOVE LOVE you! 

Monday, November 21, 2011


Some Family Nights in our home are better than others.  There is always music.  There is always a spiritual thought.  And someone always gets mad about something...always.  With six very strong and very distinct personalities, it's inevitable.  We had all those things tonight, too, but it was an awesome FHE nonetheless. 

A couple of years ago, about 6 years into our financial drought in Mendon, someone wonderful was inspired to share with us a little of what they had.  It made a huge impact on all of us.  And because of that huge impact, we decided that when things changed in our lives, we would make sure to always remember that experience and to do the same for someone else if we ever had the opportunity.  We have had a few of them.

There is a family in our ward who is currently having some challenges.  After the Bishop and Craig worked out the logistics last week, we decided we would take care of their Thanksgiving dinner.  So tonight, for Family Night, we took the kids to the grocery store to buy all the stuff and then we drove over and dropped it all off at the house.  This is the first time they've been with us to do this sort of thing, and I have to say, it was SO much more fun WITH them.  It's chaotic to take 4 kids to the grocery store under any circumstances, but even more so at 6:30pm on the Monday before Thanksgiving with excitement and a lot of input about what we should buy.  But I don't think anyone even noticed, and it was happy chaos.  They were so enthusiastic about it.

Savannah:  "Let's get them breakfast, too, because they're going to need to eat something the next morning."

Megan:  "ONE pie, Mommy?  Really?  They need to have options.  Let's get them a pumpkin AND an apple."

Emma:  "This list is way too short.  There isn't enough stuff in our cart."

McKay:  "You know what we should have done?  I should have dressed up like a duck.  And then I could have knocked on their door.  And then when they opened it, I could have quacked."  ( sort of have to know him to appreciate that.)

We finally finished shopping and then we drove to the house.  We didn't tell the kids whose house it was and we've never been there before, so they didn't recognize it.  We stealthily unloaded the bags out of the back of the van, and quietly walked up to the front porch.  And until the point where I ran into the metal planter hanging from the wall, I don't think anyone heard us.  

We ran back and piled into the van and drove away quickly...directly to Dairy Queen because, oh yeah, Family Night has to include a treat!   

Just a few minutes ago we received a text from the Bishop saying that the family had received their surprise and they were so grateful.  Even if we had never gotten that text, it still would have been an amazing experience for all of us.  The part that was the best for me was when we got home, and Megan said, "I wish we could do that for everyone.  I love the way it feels when you give stuff to people!"  

Me too...totally.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Allen Eagles

This afternoon, we went to Cowboy Stadium for the second round of Playoffs for the Allen Eagles. 
 I LOVE LOVE LOVE this stadium!
And it's a good thing we get to come here once a year to watch the high school playoffs because I would never be caught dead at an actual Cowboys game.  :)

Up to this point, the Eagles were undefeated.  Through the season...through the first playoff game against Keller Cental last week...and then...Euless Trinity High School!  These guys are seriously scary.  We lost to them last year.  There are quite a few BIG Polynesian players on their team, so they start every game with a "haka."
Haka (singular is the same as plural: haka) is a traditional ancestral war cry, dance or challenge from the Māori people of New Zealand. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. The New Zealand rugby team's practice of performing a haka before their matches has made the dance more widely known around the world.  (Wikipedia)
Here's the Trinity Trojans' haka from a couple of years ago...
...scary, huh??  Would you want to play against those guys??

They were BIG, intimidating, and for the first quarter they kicked our butts!  But then, as usual, our family's favorite player, Andrew Rodriguez, caught a couple of great passes and finally made the first TD of the game.  

But, by the half we were still down 19-14.  
 Andrew was frustrated, but managed a little wave as he walked off the field.

The Scout Master made friends with a colorful cotton candy guy during the halftime show.

After halftime, no matter where we are, no matter what the score, we always...always kick it into gear.  I'm pretty sure that's to the band's credit because they play their heads off after the stress of the halftime show is over.  We sat next to them this time, and it was awesome.  With all the energy they produce, I think I could have even caught a couple of TD passes!  
 (that cute redhead in the middle of that percussion section is TCD's cute friend, Jeff)

Oh, how I wish I could end this post by saying that we won against these crazy scary Tongan guys, but unfortunately, we didn't.  This is how close we came...

 ...8 yards! 

The final score was 28-21

But no matter what...we still LOVE this incredible team.  They are so talented and so determined and we have loved every second of every game this season.   They have LEFT NO DOUBT in our minds that they are true champions. 

Friday, November 18, 2011


This afternoon, we officially started our Thanksgiving Break!  9 whole days of sleeping in, hanging out, baking stuff, playing, and eating...HOORAY!!

Last weekend, TCD added SEWING to that list of relaxing things she wanted to do over the break.   She has already converted my dining room/piano room into a scene from Project Runway.  There are scraps of fabric, two sewing machines, pattern pieces, and one dress form (who we have lovingly named Lola) strewn from the front door all the way through the dining room.  

Here's what she's making...
More like the pink one than the wedding gown, with no train and less poof.  And she's modifying the top so that it's more modest, with sleeves and a back.  Something like this..
Her finished dress will be in navy blue satin with black lace accents.  I really have no idea where they're going to go because I haven't quite caught her vision yet, but I trust her fashion intuition and creativity, and I'm sure it will be beautiful.

Since I came with ZERO sewing ability and have acquired NONE along the way in this life, I can't help her at all.  She has to do this all be herself.  I think she's ok with that, though.  

Really?  Who decides that they're going to make a formal gown over Thanksgiving Break???  :)

I'll keep you posted on the progress...

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Last night, we had our Young Women in Excellence program.  (I am still totally kicking myself that I didn't have my camera and missed all the amazing opportunities for pictures.  Too many things to remember...)

Our theme was Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful.
We decorated the room with flowers, pictures of the girls, and all the girls' Personal Progress projects (which were incredible, by the way!)  At the end of an amazing night, we had LOTS of flowers left over.  Each girl got to take her own flower home (the one that her parents picked to represent her.)  The smaller arrangements went home with the Bishop and a few of the leaders.  But the large bouquet of roses with the single daisy in the middle (like the picture above) we weren't sure what to do with.  It was large and stunningly beautiful and it needed to go to someone who needed it and who would love it.  As a presidency, we were discussing who to give it to, when TCD came bounding up behind us and said, "Can we PLEASE give it to Casey!"

Casey is a close friend of one of the boys in our ward (Ben).  She is 15 and a Sophomore at the high school.  Her family is not LDS, but awhile ago, Ben started talking to her about our Church and about the Book of Mormon.  He invited her to a few activities and then in July took a bold step and invited her to come to the Book of Mormon Read-a-Thon.  Someone who had never read the Book of Mormon before and who wasn't a member of our church committed to two 12 hour days of listening to the Book of Mormon on CD.  She stuck with the whole thing all the way through and guess what!  She loved it!!  That weekend was my first experience with Casey.  Since then, I have had several others.  She comes to church with Ben every Sunday at 9am.  She attends as many activities as her parents will allow.  She has connected with every single girl in our ward, as well as with all of the leaders, and we have all come to love her so much.  She registered on to start her Personal Progress and has completed more experiences than most of the other girls!  What an inspiration it would have been to have Casey present the projects she's completed and the things she's learned.  Unfortunately, her parents aren't quite as excited about her interest in the church as she is, so she comes to very few mid-week activities.  We all missed her at this one.  So when TCD suggested that we give the bouquet to Casey, there was no question that that was the perfect plan for those gorgeous flowers.   

Today, after school, TCD, Spell Girl and I drove over to Casey's house with the bouquet.  When she saw it, she smiled bigger than I have ever seen her smile, and then she started to cry.  She said, "I can't believe you guys came all the way over here to give me these!"  TCD explained the theme and pointed out the daisy and told her how much we missed her last night.  Casey hugged all three of us about six times and then thanked us profusely.  I have never seen a girl more excited or more deserving of those beautiful flowers.  She is the very epitome of our theme, and I am so overwhelmed and grateful that TCD had the inspiration to take that bouquet to that beautiful girl. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cross Country

Did you know that during the middle school years, children's brains are like little sponges??

Growth and change are an integral part of adolescence. Studies on the brain during the last decade show that it -- along with height, weight and hormones --goes through dramatic changes during the middle school years. While outward changes are easy to see, brain development goes much deeper, but it can go far in explaining how and why your child does what he does.
According to the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), there is a surge of production of the brain’s gray matter prior to puberty. Before this finding in 1999, it was thought that the brain overproduced gray matter only until about 18 months of age -- after which there was a steady decline as unused brain cells were discarded. We now know that the area of brain growth during adolescence centers on the frontal lobe. This is the control center for “executive functions” such as planning, impulse control and reasoning.

A few weeks ago, after I heard that, I mentioned it to Spell Girl.  I told her this is the time she should try everything, because the stuff she fills that sponge with during these years is more likely to stick with her through adulthood.  Well, she's totally taken that suggestion to heart.  (She's not a typical teenager.)

This year, she has decided to try everything she's ever thought of trying in her whole life.  The most recent of those things is the Cross Country team.  They practice for two hours everyday after school.  And everyday when I pick her up, she is so excited.  Not just excited about running...excited about LIFE!  She said yesterday, "Mommy, I feel so great when I run.  It's like I feel energized or something!"  

She had her first meet today at Celebration Park.  All the local middle schools in the area were there and they competed by age group.  The 7th grade girls ran right after the 7th grade boys and right before the torrential downpour!  It was so much fun to watch her run.  She was steady and consistent and finished right in the middle of the group.   When she finished she was so proud of herself for sticking with a steady pace the whole way and not walking at all.  She said, "Mommy, I was yelling at the boys during their race, to KEEP GOING!  I thought I would be a hypocrite if I didn't take my own advice."  She also has a cute friend who she wanted to push a little.  They both ran the whole thing! 


I'm so glad her little spongy brain is absorbing so much great stuff right now!   I LOVE middle school!

Beautiful Things

I can't manage to pull together a complete post these days that isn't trivial, but I heard this today and thought it was worth keeping...

"Nervousness can keep us from making beautiful things happen..."

What beautiful things are out there that I'm missing because I'm too stuck in doubt to find them?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful

Next week is our Young Women in Excellence program.  The one night during the year where the girls get to display the things they've worked on for Personal Progress.  It's the night when we get to celebrate the incredible skills and talents these girls are discovering in themselves.  

The theme for the night is BE YOUR OWN KIND OF BEAUTIFUL. 
We'll have one of these bouquets on the table with the roses and one single daisy.  But our YW President also had a great idea to make a bouquet of flowers based on the girls.  We asked each of the moms to think of a flower that represents their daughter and to also include the reasons she picked it.  Our plan is to put all the flowers together into a very unique, and potentially gorgeous bouquet, just like they are!

Since I have two daughters in YW, these are the flowers I picked:

TCD = water lily
I picked this flower because TCD stands out.  Just like these gorgeous, majestic flowers draw you to them, so does TCD.  She is confident, bold and unapologetic.  And in a pond full of lily pads, she is the one that you notice. 

Spell Girl = Purple Phlox
I picked these for Spell Girl because they remind me of little fairy bouquets.  They are wispy and delicate and tiny like she is.  At first you might not notice how beautiful they are, but then when you look more closely, you realize that they're these gorgeous little complex flowers, just like Spell Girl.  

 June = Tiger Lily
Even though June isn't in YW yet, I needed to pick a flower for her, too.  She is vibrant and feisty like this flower.  She is capable and confident.  She is gorgeous, but totally doesn't know it.

It's been so much fun to think about this activity this morning and to take the time to pick the right flower for each of my girls.  I love that they are all THEIR OWN KIND OF BEAUTIFUL.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Star Wars

If there were a soundtrack running through my life this week, it would be the Star Wars theme.  Nope, we haven't been fighting Storm Troopers.  Mack has discovered Star Wars!  

For his birthday, one of his friends gave him a Lego Star Wars set, and since then he's been slightly obsessed.  There are Star Wars "dudes" sprinkled all over the house, stuffed in pockets, and floating around in the washing machine.

There's a Lego Star Wars website where you can follow a daily blog...which we do!

And on Saturday, we checked out all five movies from the library.  Mack has watched the entire series at least three times.  How is it that he can have all the dialog between Yoda and Luke memorized, but he can't remember where he put his shoes??

I haven't allowed myself to just sit and watch the entire series with Mack, or even one whole movie, but I have felt this familiar fondness listening to it in the background while I make dinner.  And it's a great way to motivate him to finish his homework.  

 May the Force Be With You


Why is texting so much more enticing than actual spoken conversation??

This morning, the Scout Master (from yet another business trip) texted me:

SM:  Hi there!  How has your morning been with the kids?

The teenagers in my car heard the familiar text notification sound and hijacked my phone when they realized it was their dad. 

TCD:  Hello.  This is one of the kids.
SM:  Hello one of the kids.  How are you?
Spell Girl:  Hi Daddy!  That was TCD.  This is Spell Girl.  I love you!
SM:  Love you, too.  Are you excited about track today?
TCD:  Hello Daddy.  I am TCD now.
SM:  This is getting confusing.
Spell Girl:  It's Spell Girl this time. YES!  I'm excited about track.
TCD:  No, I'm TCD.  Stop being confused Daddy because then u confuse me and then I get really confused!
SM:  :)  How did you like the Progressive Dinner last night?
Spell Girl:  It was awesome.  (This is Spell Girl.)
SM:  I heard Taylor had a nice long talk with you. :)
TCD:  Oh, are you talking to me now?  Um, yes, Taylor said I was always by myself everywhere and I also got Cameron's number and so now he probably thinks I'm a freak bc I asked for his number and he gave it to me but he didn't know why I was asking and then I was hoping that his dad would explain to him and also I ate some taquitos for breakfast.  :)
SM:  TCD, I know you have the phone now and you're taking too long to type your text.
TCD:  Patience, Old Grasshopper!
SM:  Yep, I knew it.  LOL
Spell Girl:  Daddy, you are 2 old 2 say LOL!
SM:  Still laughing about the breakfast tacos.  That was a funny insert.
TCD:  Oh, thank you...that's why it was taking so long to type bc I was trying to figure out how to spell taquitos.
SM:  OK, you should be close to dropping her off now.  Text me back once she's gone.
TCD:  Thanx Daddy.  I heard that!
SM:  Oops!  Love you, TCD.  Have a great day!
Spell Girl:  Too late.  She's gone.
SM:  :)

There was more dialog between Spell Girl and her dad during the remaining 10 minutes from the Freshman Center to the Middle School, but it wasn't as hilarious as the texting circus that occurred during the first half of the drive.  It was so funny to see these two girls get so excited about talking to their dad!  They were tossing the phone from the front seat to the back, and squealing every time they heard that notification sound.  I had to remind them that he LIVES HERE on most days and they can talk to him whenever they want to.  Something about that texting, though, made it much more fun than a regular conversation.  I love that it was an opportunity for them to connect with him this morning. 

I love technology and I love teenagers!