Thursday, February 28, 2013

Throwback Thursday

It's birthday week here, so throwback birthday pictures seemed appropriate.  

When I was growing up, my parents were very close friends with our next door neighbors, Bob and Virginia.  They were a nice couple about the same age as my parents with a son about my age (who was insufferable!)  Virginia made the best desserts in the world and she officially assigned herself to make all of my birthday cakes from the day she met me.
She was a brash, vulgar, loud woman from New York, but she adored my family and we had a special bond.  She spoke for me, and plowed over people who got in my way, and defended me at the bus stop.  I loved her.  

All of her cakes were pretty extravagant.  And she was usually very good at picking my favorite colors and decorating with little things that were representative of my personality.  Once she made the top of the cake look like stables with horses everywhere and I got to keep the horses after we ate the cake.  And then another one looked like a record player (record player = what we used in the 70s to listen to music, before cassette tapes, before CDs and waaay before iTunes)...only it was covered in purple frosting, which was my favorite color, and which my mother hated.  But Virginia snuck and made me a purple cake anyway.  I loved that woman. 
I'm not sure whose personality this cake represented because I've never liked chocolate, I had never seen snow at this point in my life, and I had certainly never expressed an interest in skiing.  But, it was still a pretty amazing cake and extremely thoughtful of her to go to so much effort.  I totally remember those little candy rocks on the top.  So yummy.

Today, my birthday tastes are a little more sophisticated...vanilla bean cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory and not a single plastic horse on the top.  But I love remembering those amazing childhood birthday cakes and how lucky I was to have had such a sweet, generous neighbor who was super talented with frosting.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Well, she passed her drivers test this morning...and I'm pretty sure our lives have just changed forever.  (eek!...)

Monday, February 25, 2013


You know what!  I'm going to shamelessly post about this today because I really love my birthday.  I love presents.  I love being spoiled.  I love that people I haven't talked to in forever take the time to drop something in the mail and remind me that they still love me.  And at 43, I think it's ok to just come right out and say that.   

Here's what 43 looks like...
  • Driving...lots and LOTS of driving
  • Less chasing after toddlers, and more desperately trying to fly in the radar of my busy teenagers
  • Many, many more hours spent deep in conversation about life, boys, college, boys, driving, and um...BOYS
  • More free time during the day, and NONE on the weekends
  • More time to read, ponder, write, reflect and learn than EVER and a greater desire to do all that stuff
  • Lunch dates instead of playdates
  • Sonic ice instead of Diet DP
  • The gym instead of the park
  • Smoothies instead of Pop Tarts
  • Relaxed instead of frantic
  • Gratitude instead of complaining
  • Close friends instead of casual acquaintances
  • People instead of stuff
  • Real instead of fiction
  • 70s instead of TOP 40
  • Conference talks instead of talk shows
  • Connecting instead of comparing
  • LAUNCHING instead of waiting
  • Mammograms
  • Grey hair
  • larger print
  • earlier bedtimes
  • ...and driving...lots and LOTS of driving

Sounds amazing, doesn't it?  Well, it is.  

Today has been a great day.  I'm so grateful for a thoughtful husband, awesome kids, and amazing friends who take really good care of me.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Last Photography Class

This morning, in our final 20 minutes, we showed our three favorite shots of the week to the rest of the class, this time on a giant screen via flash drive and a laptop.  I had no idea what I was doing so I just randomly picked a jpeg file and clicked on it.  These are the first two shots that came up.  Only mild reviews...good color, etc...

...and then I clicked on the arrow and showed them this one...
...and the class literally erupted in applause.  Really!  I'm not sure who started it, but I turned around and the whole class was cheering for this picture.  How exciting is that?!  And I was so happy they liked it because other than the Sonic cup picture that I accidentally took on my first day, this is the best one I've taken in the last six weeks.  Spell Girl wants it enlarged and hung in her room...maybe one of those canvas prints?

I have totally loved taking this class.  I'm not an expert yet, but I know how to get there faster than I did 6 weeks ago.  I feel more confident using my camera and I'm taking better pictures...and not just by accident!  

But the thing I've loved the most about this class is the part where I've gotten to meet such nice people, and we've all helped each other get better.  It was so fun to see all of their pictures and to see their confidence levels grow, too.  I'm going to miss all my photography friends.  I'm sure they would HATE these pictures being anywhere on the internet, so I'll leave their identities anonymous, but it was fun to "shoot" each other when we practiced things like depth of field and white balance in the classroom.  And now I have them forever preserved!  

Thanks, everyone, for an amazing 6 weeks!  

Oh, and just in case you missed this shot a few weeks's the best picture I've ever taken in my might have to become a canvas print, too.
Ode to a Sonic Cup

Friday, February 22, 2013

High Five for Friday

Favorite Conversation of the Week:  
On President's Day, all of Flowering Buttercup's friends ditched her and made plans early while she was still 11:00am...shocking, huh??  June was out with her friends.  Mack was across the street.  And Spell Girl was at her desk writing her latest character development into her book of scribbles.
FB:  (to Spell...) Will you play with me?  Pleeeeease.... 
SG:  ugh...wait, I need to finish this scribble. 
FB:  What??  What in the heck is a scribble? 
SG:'s an idea that I have for my book... 
FB:  Are you done scribbling yet? 
SG:  Nope. 
FB:  Well, how long does a scribble take??
SG:  It'll be faster if you wait just a minute and stop asking me to play with you. 
FB:  (waiting...about 30 seconds...) 
FB:  Now will you play with me?? 
SG: (still writing, trying to ignore her sister) 
FB:  (totally indignant and pacing outside SG's room...)  Do you know why Mommy and Daddy even HAD you?? you could PLAY with me!!  
Well, what can you really do after an argument like that, but hurry and finish your scribbling and play with your persistent sister?  (Incidentally, that is NOT why we had Spell Girl.)  

Favorite Email of the Week:  I love when my birthday gets closer and I start to get Happy Birthday wishes from all my favorite places.  I'm using this one TODAY!

Most Beautiful Music of the Week:

Spell Girl's Pre UIL Orchestra Concert.  Amazing music.  I'm so happy I got to listen to it all day on Thursday. 

Best Lunch Date of the Week:
You know what...I actually had TWO amazing lunch dates this week, but this one was with the Scout Master, and it was today, and it's the only one I remembered to take a picture of.  
chicken enchiladas at Blue Mesa...YUM!

Quote of the Week:
"You will never regret the things you do, only the things you don't do." - Steve Jobs

Thursday, February 21, 2013


I love haircut days at our house.  It's so nice to get rid of that long, shaggy, unmanageable mane and be able to see this cute face again.   Since the Scout Master was home and Mack was willing, we took advantage of the opportunity and got out the clippers.  Hooray for at least one member of our family who doesn't require a professional stylist!  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lessons Learned

I learned a really humbling lesson this week, and I'm counting on the fact that no one in close proximity to me actually reads this blog, as I dump out all of my personal flaws this morning.
"A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."  John 13:34
I have a neighbor who is moving.  Her family has lived near us for a couple of years and despite all of her efforts to get to know me, I have kept her at a distance.  She is quite a bit younger than I am and has lots of little kids.  I found her uncomfortably open when we first met and a little too willing to sit on my couch for long periods of time and reveal all the personal details of her life with me.  I have not been a good listener.   I have not been sincere.  And I definitely have not been a good friend.  

This week when her family has needed more help than usual in preparing for this move, I was openly resentful about being asked to bring a meal and help her pack.  I saw her plight as self inflicted and therefore relieved myself of any personal responsibility to help her.  I made the mistake of voicing my disdain out loud to my very understanding, very compassionate husband who did not for one second tolerate or encourage my complaining.  He calmly and quietly pointed out that what I could see was probably not all there was to see in the situation.  So, I held my tongue and made her dinner.  

Then on Monday evening, I received a text from this neighbor as I was on my way home from a very long round trip to drop the Scout Master off at the airport.  

"Do you have any dishwashing soap?  I'm exhausted from packing all day and the last thing I want to do is hand wash these dishes.  But I don't usually use the dishwasher."

Instantly I could hear the conflict in my head.  She doesn't use the dishwasher...really?? Should I text the kids and have one of them run some soap over to her?  Should I just go over there myself and wash her dishes?  Why could she not just ask one of her kids to wash the dishes and leave the rest of us out of the equation entirely?  (yep I know, totally shameful, huh?)  

Since I was sitting in traffic, I was forced to wait awhile on my response, and that was a good thing.  I had a few minutes to think about what she might really need and what I could really do to be helpful.  I decided to stop at the grocery store on the way home.  

I texted her back, "I'll be right over.  I'm at Kroger.  Do you need anything else?"

Her response, "No, but I just sent Child #2 to the store with some money we borrowed from his (5 year old) sister, so if you see him, will you bring him home?" 

At that moment, I realized that the Scout Master had been totally and completely right when he said there was more to this situation than I could see.  All my complaining went away and I was instantly filled with unrecognizable compassion for my neighbor and her family (and a truck load of guilt.)  I stopped at Kroger and picked up a bag of dishwasher packets and a few things for breakfast for their family the next morning.  It was a small effort, but done with much more kindness and sincerity than I had had when I made dinner for her on Sunday night.  I looked for her son in the store, but didn't see him, so I just drove straight to her house.  Her kids were thrilled about muffins and orange juice for breakfast the next day.  And my neighbor was so happy to have dishwasher packets.  

Instead of rushing out of her house like I usually do, I lingered for a little while and asked her about the days and weeks ahead and what would be waiting for them when they reached their destination.  Although they are hopeful, there are definitely challenges still ahead.  They have existing financial burdens that may or may not be relieved anytime soon, and they are moving into a less than ideal, semi-permanent living situation.  All of a sudden, I remembered with startling clarity the situation we had lived in not too many years ago, and my heart instantly ached for my neighbor.  She is moving to the very situation that we just came from.  Fortunately we always had enough to cover the essentials, but we had so little extra that things like Pop Tarts and fast food were luxuries that we didn't see very often.  The kids were involved in exactly ZERO extra curricular activities unless they were free or I could work out some kind of trade.  We had no health insurance so I crossed my fingers every time one of the kids would ride their bikes or jump on a trampoline.  It was a different kind of stress than I have ever known and one that I don't want  to relive anytime soon.  

But I also don't want to forget it.

I had not realized before that moment that my neighbor and I were a lot more alike than different.  She didn't WANT to ask anyone for help; she NEEDED to.  When I stopped long enough to actually HEAR what she was saying, I realized that I had the ability to connect with this woman.  Just for a second I saw myself in her.  In a 30 minute conversation, our relationship changed.  I went from being irritated by her to loving her and being genuinely concerned for her.  I spent the next few minutes giving her all of my handy "how to raise a family in Utah with next to no money" hints.  And then I hugged her for the first time in two years.  
"To love is to recognize yourself in another."  - Eckhart Tolle
As I drove home I thought about all the people who helped us while we were living in Utah and again when we finally realized it was time to move.  Thankfully, someone took the time to counsel my husband about a ten year plan for his life, even though he probably would have rather spent time with his own family.  Thankfully, all those men loaded a truck for us without worrying about how many times they might have helped us in the past.  And thankfully, someone was kind enough to drop an envelope on our doorstep one night with $300 in it, even though they didn't know whether our challenges were self inflicted or not.  

Jesus wants us to love everyone.  That's a Primary lesson, for heaven's sake!  I've taught that for a million years, but apparently didn't learn it until just this week.  It's a hard thing to admit that I'm not as compassionate as I would like to be.   I definitely have regrets about the things I missed in this relationship, but I hope I won't make the mistake of missing them in the next.  We're really all more the same than we are different.  There is opportunity to connect everywhere, not just with the relationships that appear effortless.  Especially with the less obvious relationships, I think we have an obligation to find ways to love them and to look hard enough to recognize ourselves in them.   It's there. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

19 Years

I thought about writing a long, fluffy romantic post about how the Scout Master and I met, and our wedding day, and the last 19 years of marriage, but instead I saw the irony in our text conversation today and thought I'd post that instead.

Here's where we were on February 19, 1994...
Del Mar, CA

And here's where we are today...
Scout Master (Tampa, FL);  Me (just dropped Flowering Buttercup off at Seminary)

And here's a guest post from the Scout Master that I borrowed from an email he sent me last night.  I have not yet cleared this with him because he's in meetings all day, but I'm pretty sure he won't mind that I'm sharing it. (I've blacked out all the incriminating details of his meetings just in case those are supposed to be secrets.)

I flew into Tampa tonight and have a meeting with Bankers Ins in St Pete tomorrow to discuss partnering with them for Homeowners ins on the direct side. I ate a good dinner at Dallas Love Field, but when I landed I felt like getting a Gelato or ice cream. I checked into my hotel and asked about any ice cream store around the area and was told the closest one that was any good would be near the beach about 12 miles away. I decided to try it and so I entered everything into my GPS and took off toward the beach. 3 miles from the gelato place, I realized my route was going to take me across a toll bridge and I didn't have any money. The last time I was in Tampa I thought I would take the Skyway toll bridge, only to discover my rental car didn't have a Sun Pass for the toll and I had no money then either. The attendant took down my DL # and filled out an IOU for me for $1.50 and said the Great State of FL would lend me the money and I could mail in a check when I got home (which I did and they kindly cashed it). I did not want to do that again, so I flipped around and looked for anything on this side of the waterway. I found a Cold Stone about 3 miles back that was open till 11:30(or so it said on my app). It was only 10:15 so I figured I was good and drove to it. When I got there the street and store were deserted, not a soul around. I remembered that I had passed a Publix supermarket near my hotel and figured I would just go there for some ice cream instead. 11 miles back to the hotel and I turned the wrong direction, had to pull a U turn, pulled into the wrong Publix entrance and had to pull another U turn. Finally I arrived in the store parking lot only to find they closed at 10:30 (it was 10:39). Taking it as a sign to just give up and go to bed, I headed for the hotel again, but then remembered seeing a CVS pharmacy when I turned the wrong way a minute ago and figured they would certainly be open till midnight or so. I began to drive there and as I was getting close, I went to move over into the left turn lane and was cut off by a rude FL driver who wouldn't let me get over. I passed the CVS and had to make the same U turn I had made earlier, got back to the CVS as the lights were being turned off and the store locked up (it was now 11:00 pm). Again swearing under my breath I headed for the hotel. Being flustered and unfamiliar with the area and refusing to use my GPS since I had passed the hotel now multiple times, I missed the left hand turn to the hotel. At the next light was a Shell gas station and seeing that it was open I decided to get some cheap ice cream there.  I finally found some, checked out and headed back to the hotel. As I passed through the lobby, I noticed they had the exact same ice cream in the hotel market snack section...just my luck! Now I am sitting in my room at 11:30 at night looking at the ice cream and not really wanting it at all!!! Too bad this room doesn't have a fridge...I could just save it for breakfast.

There are some really important things about the Scout Master's personality that I feel I need to point out from this little journal entry that he forwarded to me.  

1.  He has a great sense of humor.
2.  Ice cream is an important part of his life.
3.  He loves an adventure.
4.  Even when it looks like there's NO WAY, he finds a way.  
5.  When weaker people would give up and go to bed, he is focused and relentless.
6.  He doesn't actually swear...under his breath or anywhere else.

If you combine those six things with all of the Scout Master's other great qualities and add four amazing children, it all adds up to 19 pretty awesome years!  Happy Anniversary!!  <3

Monday, February 18, 2013


For the last 6 Saturdays, Spell Girl has been taking a sight-reading class with Colin County Youth Orchestra.  She LOVES the challenge, and her sight-reading has drastically improved in the short time they've been practicing.  

I've been thinking a lot about practice this week.  Last Monday when I started singing (for real) again for the first time in a really long time, I thought about all the practice it would take to learn the music, to keep up with all the people who had been in this group so much longer than me, and to retain this spot that was so generously gifted to me.  

I brought this book home last Monday night and played every song in it.  I sang and sang and sang all those songs until my voice was tired and hoarse....for seven days straight.  My hope was to learn every song perfectly so that by the next rehearsal I'd be able to hand back that giant book of music and say with confidence that I had memorized every song in it.  That might have been slightly unrealistic...can you SEE how big that book is??  I kept hearing that little saying in my head, "practice makes perfect," so I kept practicing and waiting to achieve perfection.  Apparently perfection takes longer than a week of practice.  

This morning when I woke up I felt dread, fear, worry, doubt and frustration that I hadn't yet accomplished my goal of learning all of those songs.  I let it creep into my entire day.  Finally at 7:00 tonight, I sat down at the piano and tried to remember all the parts I had crammed into my head all week long.  Only about 25% of them even sounded familiar.  After a frustrating hour, I gave up, and fell into a discouraged heap on the floor of my closet and started praying for help.  At first I prayed for help to know all the parts and all the words.  And then somewhere in the middle of my pleading, I realized that I have practiced A LOT this week...not just a lot, but ENOUGH.  So I stopped praying for a photographic memory and perfect pitch, and instead prayed that Heavenly Father would make up the difference between what I HAD and what I NEEDED tonight.  And then I dragged myself to choir.  It was a long, miserable drive.  

But, miracles happened...I learned more music.  I met more people.  I knew more than I thought I did.  And I didn't get kicked out.  It was a really great night. 

And most importantly, I realized that practice might not make us perfect as quickly as we would like, but it definitely makes us better.  I was better tonight than I was last week.  And I was good enough both weeks.  Practicing makes me happy because I love the music, but when I let myself get carried away with ridiculously high goals, sometimes practice makes me crazy.  This week, I'm going to relax a little more and just enjoy the practice.  I'm going to look forward to going to choir again next week, and I'm going to look forward to being a little bit better than I was tonight.  

I'm grateful for that gentle little shove I needed to get in my car and drive to choir tonight.  I'm grateful for a kind Heavenly Father who puts all the right people in my path, who changes my perspective, and who makes up the difference when I need Him to.  I love this music so much.  I'm so grateful to have the time and the desire to spend my days practicing it.      

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Photography Class Day 5

Well, I'm down to the next to the last class and I'm getting pretty comfortable with this photography thing.  I ventured outside for my homework this week...

Depth of Field and Metering

Vernetta LOVED this one...

...but hated this one...she said it was too blue and the blurry was distracting.  I keep looking at it to try to decide if I like it or not.  I kinda do.  

This was the alternative tree limb shot that I didn't use...what do you think?

This one was by far the class favorite...and apparently by taking this shot, I volunteered myself to make these for the whole class next week.   See what happens when you try to be amazing??

Friday, February 15, 2013

High Five for Friday

1.  Best Spontaneous Decision of the Week...
impromptu/much Needed lunch with Jeanette after Institute on Monday.

2.  My New Favorite Thing...
where has this machine been all my life?  I love it!!

3.  Favorite Quote of the Week...
"I wish you could be in our class everyday, not just for parties."  - from a cute little girl in Mack's 4th grade class after the Valentine's Day party (makes it all worth it)

4.  Best Surprise of the Week...
I know I already posted these, but I love them and it's not often that I get flowers so that makes me love them even more.  

5.  Song Soundtrack of the Week...
Do you know what's coming to Dallas in the spring?  I'm so excited I can barely stand it.  I've been playing this music nonstop for the entire week.  Only 2 more months to memorize all of it and read the book again before it gets here.  I can't wait!

Happy Friday!  Hope you have a great weekend.  <3

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day 2013

Last night I started baking cookies for Mack's class party at school.  And since I was already baking, I thought I'd try those cute fortune cookies again.

Here's the break down on those.  They're SO easy...really.  

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
2 large egg whites
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp of cornstarch
1/4 tsp of salt
3 tsp of water

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2) Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
3) Spoon a tablespoon of batter onto a cookie sheet and spread it out in a 4" circle.
4) Bake 5 minutes or until edges are golden brown around the edges.
5) Quickly remove from cookie sheet, place fortune inside and fold in half and then bend cookie over the edge of a cup or a mug to get it curvy.  Place in a muffin tin until cooled so that it retains its shape.
I dipped these in pink candy melt and added some little chocolate sprinkles just to make them festive, but they're pretty cute just plain, too.
 And then I put one in each of the kids lunches.  Cute, huh?
I made enough to spread some fortune cookie love around the neighborhood, and put them into cute little Chinese take out boxes.
I would totally make these again.  It took me an hour to make 17, and except for the part where I burned my fingers every time I tried to fold one, it was really easy.
Then Mack and I made heart shaped sugar cookies for his class and he finished up his Valentines.  We found these cute fishbowl printables on Etsy and just added a few Swedish fish.  

4th graders are so easy to please.  Mack's teacher and I decided a few weeks ago that simple would be the best plan for this party.  

So, I bought white bags for them to decorate...

 ...then they passed out all their Valentines...

and we played a few stacking conversation hearts.  Pretty fun!  

I love Valentine's Day.  I love any excuse to pop in and deliver little gifts to my friends and neighbors.  And I love any excuse to make sugar cookies.  I think Mack had a great time at his class party and even though it wasn't huge and elaborate, I don't think one person noticed.  I'm so glad that this party came together so well, and that all those 4th graders are so wonderful and polite.  There won't be very many years to be the Class Party Mom, so I'm soaking in every minute of this experience while I can.  

Oh, and here's the best part...when I got home there were steaks marinating and THESE on my counter...

Hope your Valentine's Day has been great and that lots of love has been floating around your space!  <3