Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

I love Halloween!  Have I already said that more than you'd like to read it?  Sometimes my enthusiasm for this holiday becomes a little too much for the people in my home, too.  

I had leftover candy eyeballs from some Scout activity, and it turns out that Halloween is the perfect time to use those kinds of leftovers.  It's the one day that you can get away with adding eyeballs to just about anything and people love it!
I got more than one text from some happily surprised kiddos after lunch.  :)

It was slight chaos for a few hours after school.  Emma brought home two friends who were going to the football game with her.  McKay had a friend over for pre-trick-or-treat planning.  Our cute little neighbor who has recently adopted us (or we've adopted her, we're not sure which) came over.  We had pumpkins to carve (I know...last minute) and dinner to make and then eat.  And a couple of sister missionaries needed to drop by for some costume help.  

Megan helped with dinner...Mummy Dogs and Chili.  Traditional Halloween dinner for us every year.  No matter what.

Emma and her friends carved pumpkins with the little boys...
They carefully saved every single pumpkin seed because that's another tradition...roasted pumpkin seeds!  Unfortunately I put them in the oven on Sunday morning and then forgot them in there while we went to church.  (Four hours at 350 is way too long to cook pumpkin seeds...oops!)

The pumpkins turned out pretty cute considering they were slightly rushed.  

After a super fast dinner, McKay and one friend planned their trick-or-treating strategy on the front step while they waited for the third friend to come home from another Halloween party.  And that all planning went great except for the tiny meltdown that one little banana had about his hat not staying up straight.  
...but he got over that pretty quickly.  Friends came by.  The third friend came home.  And they were off on their quest for candy.

Here's a picture of Round 1...they stopped at our house for a quick drink and to unload their heavy bags of candy.  

Meanwhile, these two girls were having a great time at the football game even though it was really cold.  At least it was finally the perfect weather for a letter jacket.  

After trick-or-treating, three little boys traded candy for about 45 minutes, then fell asleep on my couch watching Shrek's Halloween special, until all the football fans came home.  It was a pretty great night for them.  And for all of us, really.  

...because I really love Halloween!  :)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween around the House

I think I may have mentioned before that I really love Halloween.  I'm a decorate-y kind of a girl (well, that's more of a desire than a skill) and after a long stretch of holiday-less months, I go a little crazy with the festive-ness around here.  

Here's what the house looks like this October...

I usually do this for birthdays, but I found a bunch of old Halloween pictures, so I decided to sprinkle them around the kitchen cabinets.  The kids love looking at their old costumes.  

The rest of the kitchen:

The entryway:

The dining room:  I totally copied this idea from someone on IG, and I kind of love it.  Here's hers...

...and here's mine...

The living room:  It's possible that giant spider is my favorite Halloween thing I own.  :)

Oh, that cute little Halloween bunting?  I made that one afternoon a couple of weeks ago.  

 Oh, I just love Halloween...and fall...and the color orange...  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Day in the Life

Everyone on IG did this Day in the Life thing last week and I thought it was such a great idea.  I hated to bog down everyone's IG with a post every hour, though, so I just decided to post my life here...which is where the majority of my life lives anyway, and I know you won't mind as much as those IG friends might have. 

The Alarms:  I know this looks like freakish overkill, but there's a purpose for my madness.  The 5:30 alarm just stirs me out of my sleep enough to listen for the pitter patter of big feet upstairs.  The 5:36 alarm goes off to remind me to start texting people up there if I haven't yet heard any feet.  The 5:43 alarm is to remind me to actually get out of bed.  And the 5:50 alarm is when people should be coming down the stairs to leave for Seminary.  From the time they leave until 6:30, I read scriptures, make breakfast and lunches, and then make lists for the day.  Sometimes I get distracted with things like blogs and IG, though, so the 6:30 alarm reminds me to finish breakfast, if it's not already done, and unlock the front door for the Seminary girls.  

7:00:  Scriptures and breakfast.  

7:30:  McKay and Emma leave for school, and my senior girl and I sit on the front step and watch everyone walk to the bus and/or school together.  And sometimes we talk about life out there in the mornings.  

7:55:  Savannah and Megan drive to the high school.  

8:30:  Morning walk with friends.  I think this might be the thing I look forward to most in the week now that the Temple is closed for a month.  I love Wednesday mornings and catching up with my friends.  The other days of the week I walk by myself which is great, too, but sometimes no amount of conference talks or music blasting in my ears can make up for an uplifting, in-person conversation.  

Mid morning:  This is my perch for the majority of the morning.  Sometimes I shower and get ready for the day and then come up here.  Sometimes I just come straight up here and procrastinate the shower as long as possible.  I update my blog, edit pictures, check emails, plan grocery lists or menus, do family history, write notes to people, work on DMCO music, and plan Sunday School lessons.   

Lunch:  Since Savannah gets out of school everyday at 12:30, she and I have a standing lunch date on Wednesdays.  Today we went to Pei Wei.  Love that place!  This is the Thai Sesame Shrimp.  It's spicy and noodle-y and my favorite thing to eat there.

2:30:  Savannah and I pick up Megan from the high school.  Almost always we get here early enough to sit and talk for awhile before the bell rings and Megan comes out with the rest of the herd.  

Target:  Groceries and errands happened here today after school because we were looking for specific things for Megan's birthday party...more on that after we get through it this weekend...for now, think 18 teenagers, food, clues, and a murder mystery (Megan made sure to include a little disclaimer in her invitations that NO actual murders will be committed...phew!)  

Happy Surprises:  This little happy patch of tiny flowers was waiting outside my car this afternoon when we got home from running errands.  

After School:  Homework.  Only my awesome neighbor could get these boys to do their homework together.  All they do when they're at my house is play.  :)

6:00:  Baseball practice.  On Wednesdays, I drive McKay to practice across town, and when Craig travels, I drive back home to have dinner with the girls, drive them to their YW activity and then drive back to the practice field to pick up McKay.  Craig is home this week, so the boys ate dinner early and I didn't have to do all the in-between driving.  Hallelujah!

7:00:  YM/YW activity.  Tonight, these cute Mia Maids wore their jammies to a Book Club activity at someone's home.  Savannah and Megan (who are BOTH Laurels now...eek!) talked to a lovely sister in our ward who just came home from the Billings, Montana mission.  

9:00  Girls home.  Homework finished (mostly.)  Family prayer.  Bedtime (for the kids.)  This whole process usually stretches to 9:30 or 9:45 if you include all the chatting the kids want to do about their days.  Why do they not want to chat at 3:45?  or 6:45?  

10:00 or whenever they finally go upstairs:  Hulu or Netflix or something on Craig's iPad until I can't keep my eyes open anymore.

10:30 Asleep.  (ok, sometimes it's closer to 11:00...)

That's it...Mostly mundane and ordinary, but happy.  Occasionally sprinkled with some kind of drama.  Never as predictable as I would like.  But at the end of most days, I'm gratefully content with the way my days look and the way our little family lives.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tips for a Successful Barn Hunt/Photography Expedition

1.  Be Impulsive.  Just go.  Even if you only have an hour.  Just throw your camera in the car and go.  Even if I don't find any great barns, the drive, the music and the hunt are always worth it.  And I always find something to take a picture of.  

2.  Take the Back Roads.  If you're driving down a road with a line painted on it, you're going to miss the good stuff.  And even if you do see something great, there's no possible way you can pull over fast enough to get the shot.  

3.  Sometimes You Have to Get Out of the Car.  I'm a little hesitant to wander outside of my car for various grasshoppers.  And I've taken some pretty good shots from the comfort of the passenger seat.  But every now and then it's just a better idea to get out, climb a fence or two, and wander through an abandoned building.   Beware of NO TRESPASSING signs and angry women who are inclined to chase you off their property in their white suburbans.  

4.  Take the Shot.  How many times have I seen something worthy of pulling over for and thought, "Oh, I'll catch it on the way back."  And you know what...I never make it back.  Rarely do those backroads snake around into a circle.  They just lead to another interesting dirt road and another and another until I'm back home.  

5.  Sometimes the Best Shot is Right Under Your Nose.  I often get frustrated that I can't find those big beautiful Cache Valley barns here in Texas.  And there really are no great landscape shots in this non-mountainous area.  But there are lots of wildflowers.  And cows.   And fences.  And what might look like a weed from a distance actually turns out to be a beautiful flower when you get up close to it.  

6.  Use Your Phone.  I don't always have my camera with me when there's something amazing to capture.  But...I do ALWAYS have my phone with me. The thing lives in my hand!  The picture below is my all time favorite.  EVER.  It might be the absolute best shot I've ever gotten.  And I took it with my phone.  From the passenger seat of the car.  

7.  Even the Gloomiest Days Have Something Sunny in Them.  In Texas, I hunt less for barns, and more for beautiful things that make me happy I live on this planet.  And no matter how grey the day or how dark my mood, there's always, always something that makes me glad I made the effort.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Our Relief Society lesson today was on The Joy of Ministering from a General Conference talk given in April 2013.  

"To minister means to love and care for others.  It means to attend to their physical and spiritual needs.  Put simply, it means to do what the Savior would do if He were here."
The teacher talked about the ministering we as women do in our homes and families, and I thought about two things (that I didn't get to say in class, so I'm writing them here instead...)

First, I thought about Sister Neill F. Marriott's talk Sharing Your Light in the General Women's Broadcast in September.  She talked about the divine responsibility that women have to bring light to the dark corners of the world.  
"You carry a circle of influence with you wherever you go.  It is felt by the people around you - from your family to the contacts in your cell phone and from your friends on social media to those seated next to you tonight.  You are vibrant and enthusiastic beacons in an ever-darkening world as you show, through the way you live your lives, that the gospel is a joyful message."
And second, I thought about an experience I had years ago as a primary pianist.  (That's my all time favorite calling in the whole ward, by the way...well, besides the one I currently have.)  For the first few months in that calling, I felt mostly invisible and meaningless back there behind the piano.  I wasn't sure those primary kids even knew there was a pianist, and they certainly wouldn't have recognized me outside of the primary room.  I just played the songs while the chorister stood in front of them and did all the hard work.  One morning, though, as I was playing my usual reverent prelude music, I had a great idea to liven things up a little, and I played Once There Was A Snowman (clearly, this was long before I had my own kids.)  All of a sudden, all those children who had been walking into the room so reverently, started dancing and hopping and making snowmen in the air.  It was slightly chaotic.  And no amount of reverent music I played after could put all those hoppy snowmen back in their seats.  It dawned on me in that moment that I had a lot more influence sitting back there behind that piano than I had ever realized.  That was the last time I played peppy songs during transition times.  

That's the way our influence is in our homes, too.  Our ministering is quiet, sometimes unnoticed and often under appreciated.  If you asked them, I'm pretty sure my kids would credit the comforts of their home to some other outside source.  Little do they know that very few things are left to chance around here.  Meals are planned.  Calendars are coordinated.  Screen time and extracurricular activities are limited.  Prayers, family home evenings, church attendance and scripture study are painstakingly carved into their little schedules.  I make sure to wake up before they do, so I can read scriptures and say my own prayers and so that my attitude isn't determined by whatever I might find first thing in the imploding fruit.  If they could only see that little invisible pianist back there in the corner, intentionally and deliberately choosing just the right music to guide their transitions into and out of their home...  It's no small job to quietly direct this show.  But the rewards are immense.  
"My days were full of forgettable things like folding laundry, reading children's books, and putting casseroles together for dinner.  Sometimes in the harbor of our homes, we can't see that by the simple, consistent acts...great things are brought to pass.  But I testify that these very acts carry eternal significance.  Great joy comes when those little boats...grow into mighty seafaring vessels filled with gospel light and ready to 'embark in the service of God.'  Our small acts of faith and service are how most of us can continue in God and eventually bring eternal light and glory to our family, our friends, and our associates.  You truly carry a circle of influence with you!" - Neill F. Marriott

Saturday, October 25, 2014


I try really hard not to compare my kids to one another.  But for the purpose of this blog post, it's kind of necessary.  I marvel all the time how four little people who came from the same parents and virtually the same life experiences can be so vastly different, especially the girls.  
Have I mentioned that Savannah and Emma hate each other?  Well they do.  At least at this stage of their lives.  They are extremely competitive, highly volatile and emotionally turbulent.  They are a lot of great things, too, as you already know because I write about them all the time, but when they're together, they bring out the worst in each other.  

I'm sure I should have done something earlier in their little lives to build a bridge where there was none, but unfortunately my "only-childhood-ness" has left me woefully unprepared for this particular parenting challenge.  The best thing I accidentally ever did for them was to give birth to their sister, Megan.  She is a vast ocean of white standing between those two blazing red personalities, and she loves them equally and unconditionally.  She is best friends with both of them.  Neither one knows for sure which is the favorite sister.  

And that is the miraculous contribution Megan brings to our family.  She is the peacemaker, the caretaker, the nurturer, the positive reinforcement, and the translator of everyone's intentions.  She looks for the good in everyone, and she finds it.  

I am so grateful for Megan's quiet confidence and her ability to be what we all need.  She doesn't have much of her own drama, so she just absorbs all of ours. She's Savannah's first choice to help her dissect a baffling text conversation with a boy.  She's Emma's first choice to take on an adventure or have a party.  And she's McKay's first choice to help him with homework. (Seriously, he would pick Megan over me!)  And while Savannah or Emma might be my first choice to take on a shopping spree, Megan would be my first choice for a barn hunting companion any day of the week!

It's so exciting to watch her little world open up and now include things like dating and...driving!  She happily embarks on every single adventure and opportunity with enthusiasm.  And I can't wait to see what the next two years with her will bring.  What a privilege it is to be her mom!