Saturday, October 25, 2008

Talent Show

Usually when I think of talents things like musical abilities, art, cooking, playing sports, or crafting top the list. Anything that could be displayed on a table or performed in a talent show is easily recognized as such. I realize however that there are so many more talents that each of us possess, but we may have a hard time distinguishing them and an even harder time naming them. Maybe you are exceptionally good at making people feel welcome or maybe you have a knack for listening and really hearing what people are saying. Maybe your talent is being able to listen to the Spirit and follow promptings. Maybe you are very good at organizing or finding bargains or picking out the perfect gift. Maybe you have a skill for decorating and making your home feel welcoming to all who come. Maybe you are good at following through and you always do what you say you will do. Maybe you are able to say things that lift others and help them feel and be better. Maybe you have the talent of empathizing with others. Maybe you are a good teacher or maybe you are good at learning or contributing to a good discussion. Maybe you have an excellent memory or can remember names and faces, even with limited exposure. Maybe you are funny or clever or witty. Maybe you make friends easily and maybe you have a talent for maintaining friendships. Maybe you can diffuse tense situations or maybe you can avoid them all together. Obviously there are endless possibilities as to what our talents can be, and they are not limited to what can be displayed or performed.

Whatever our individual talents are--and I believe we all have them--we have a responsibility to recognize them so that we can use them to bless others. In addition, we have a duty to improve them (see the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30) and add to them rather than hide them away.

Children are often able to identify their talents more easily--perhaps because they haven't learned to be embarrassed about them or don't worry about seeming prideful. In Primary last Sunday Coleman had a chance to list his. It was funny to see what he considered himself good at. The last one especially made me laugh, since we dressed up as Egyptians for Halloween last year, but to my knowledge he has no other experience being an Egyptian.

**So, dear readers, think hard, don't be shy... and tell me what YOUR talents are.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Farewell to the widow...

The widow remained nameless and in captivity
Long enough for Ryan to act out his photo proclivity

A web she did spin, in her jar she did dwell
Her death sentence was sure, she'd go swiftly to ....

Alcohol was the weapon of choice
Finally, a calm did come to my voice

Her fight was gone, she lost all her vigor
Who knew that spiders got rigor?

Her legs were curled underneath her so tight
But she was dead through and through, so it was all right

The photos by Ryan were so clear
I couldn't resist an update on our dear

Our dear, dear spider that now is so dead
Her black body and hourglass that was very red

Goodbye to the widow who forced me to be brave
She rests now safely in her garbage can grave.

History Lesson at Camp Floyd

While I was in San Diego for my Dad's birthday celebration, Ryan took the kids to the Camp Floyd Civil War Reenactment. Although it was drizzly and wet, they had a great time.
There weren't too many people there, so they got to pick their activities.

They tried on some uniforms...

Tested out the sleeping quarters...

Learned a little about teamwork...

Held a rifle that was taller than they are...

...and picked up cannonballs. Olivia kept saying "I can do it, I can do it" and indeed, she did it.

Coleman tried picking one up and all he could say was "Heavy!" but was finally successful in lifting it. I love his facial expression in the middle picture.

**Any field trip suggestions (family activities) for more hands on history lessons?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Braver Than I Wanna Be

Although I don't like spiders (in any way, shape, or form) I have a bit of a morbid fascination with them, as long as I know they can't get me. When I was younger I'd spray them with hairspray (perhaps a bit mean-spirited?) or drown them in shampoo so that I wouldn't have to get close to them or try to squish them with a Kleenex. Over the years I've tried to be better and just suck it up and get them quickly, but I still shudder when I think about spiders and I avoid going after them whenever I can. Except for the time my friend Jill called me to come kill a gigantic scary one at her house so I faked being brave then too... and we ended up sucking it up with the vacuum so we didn't have to get anywhere near it. Anyway...

Today as I was working to clean out our garden I spotted a shiny black spider crawling on the garbage can. It's well known around here that I generally overreact when I see spiders, but I was pretty sure this was a black widow. My first instinct was to run away screaming with my hands in the air, but since my kids and two neighbor friends were very close by, I didn't think that was the wisest course of action. I didn't really want to try to kill it either, because it would likely drop into the grass and get away and then mate and then eat it's mate and then we'd have up to 900 black widow babies... or more likely than that it would jump at me and bite me and kill me and then go after the children... so instead I did something that went against every grain of common sense that I have and hold dear and told Olivia to run in the house and get a jar. I was SO brave (okay, I pretended to be so brave) and went right to it and captured it in the jar. It had some red marks on it's back as well as the very pronounced red hourglass shape on it's belly. I checked online and apparently juvenile black widows can have markings on their backs. Who knew?

So now we have it captured in the jar with the lid screwed on very tightly so it can't get out and it is sitting on the kitchen counter. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I am still afraid to try to kill it... and I'm still a little fascinated by it. In a twisted way I like knowing that a dangerous spider (and not just dangerous in my mind, but really dangerous) is helpless and trapped and at my mercy, instead of the other way around.
It's obvious that I'm not the photographer in the family (check out the cool new sidebar link to Ryan's photography blog) but in this photo the red hourglass is very visible. She seems to have found a comfortable resting spot mid-air. I wonder how long she'll survive without food in there. Maybe we should name her so that our kids can stop saying we won't let them have any pets.

**Are you afraid of spiders too?
**What do you think I should do with it (name suggestions welcome)?

One Space or Two?

After reading a thought provoking and informative post by my clever and intelligent cousin (in-law) Cheri about grammatical errors and pet peeves with word/phrase usage, I have been informed that my lifelong habit of typing TWO spaces at the end of a sentence is no longer "industry standard." This article told me how continuing to use two spaces will provide rivers of white space that are distracting and dangerous to the overall look and feel of documents and web information. I feel like my world has been turned upside down.

**Did you know the new rule?
**What pet peeves do you have (e.g. the incorrect usage of "your" and "you're") when it comes to grammar and punctuation?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Space Monkey Prayer

Last night just after Ryan began saying the closing prayer at the end of Family Home Evening we heard this:

- -

Ryan's iPhone has a mind of it's own... and decided to play that little intro bit from a game he just downloaded called "Space Monkey." I really, really tried to hold it together, but the giggles got the best of me. At least Ryan didn't succumb and was able to finish the prayer with some semblance of reverence.

In case you wonder what Space Monkey is like, here's a little preview:

So funny.

**Do you ever have sound effects or background music when you pray?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Caramel Apple Love

One of my favorite fall traditions is making caramel apples for the people I love. My sweet Grandma Wirthlin used to make them for everyone in the family--her children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. I am sure she was making over a hundred in her later years. She would put the apples in a cupcake paper and inevitably the caramel would stick to the paper. That wouldn't deter us from licking the papers until every bit of goodness was gone and we'd have sticky caramel all over our chins and noses.

This is me with my Grandma and Mom at a Relief Society Enrichment activity in 2001.

My grandma passed away a little over two years ago and we miss her so much. She was an amazing woman--I don't think I ever heard her say an unkind thing about anyone. When she met someone new she'd always say, "I'm glad to know you" and she meant it. She had class and grace and style and her testimony of the gospel was unshakable. She stayed active all of her life, walking and playing tennis. She was inspired often and always acted on her inspiration, blessing the lives of everyone around her. She just seemed to know when people needed something. I remember her telling me when I was home from my mission and didn't have any marriage prospects (or dates for that matter!) that she had put my name on the temple roll in the Philippines because the people there had the most faith of anyone in the world. She was sure someone would come into my life, and she was right. Shortly after, Ryan and I met again. When she died I didn't know how the world could possibly keep functioning without Grandma Wirthlin--but I feel like when I make caramel apples I am close to her again and I can bring back some of the warm feelings of love that she shared with so many.
This year I got to teach the Beehives (the 12 and 13 year old young women from our church) how to make caramel apples. It was such a fun activity and I loved sharing with these cute girls something that brings so many warm memories for me.

The recipe I use for caramel apples is my standard caramel recipe (for caramels at Christmas time, caramel popcorn, caramel and chocolate dipped pretzels, turtles, etc.). Here it is:

Caramel Apples

1/2 cup butter (1 cube)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light corn syrup
2 cups brown sugar
12-15 large or 24 small apples--washed and dried, with wooden sticks in the center

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add sweetened condensed milk and corn syrup and stir. Stir in brown sugar and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium-low. Boil until caramel reaches a soft ball stage (holds its shape when drizzled into a half-cup of cold water). Remove from heat and let cool for one to two minutes, then dip apples one by one in the caramel, using a spoon to make sure apples are covered. Let the extra drip back into the pan. Place on a cookie sheet or in a foil cupcake tin, sprayed with Pam. Let cool thoroughly before eating or putting in a cellophane bag.

**What are your favorite fall traditions?

Thursday, October 2, 2008


My dad turned 60 on September 29th. As I was talking to my sister Heather (who lives with him in San Diego) several months ago we threw out the idea of having all of the siblings go there to surprise him for his birthday. It seemed an impossible feat--we are spread across the country and all have families and jobs and school, but as it came closer it seemed like it actually might work. Heather and my dad's partner Ruff made all the plans on the San Diego end and the rest of us made arrangements to get there. Megan is still stick and is in a long-term care facility, so she couldn't come with us :(.

Early Friday morning, David and his wife Katty, Lindsey and her baby Jonah, and I set off on our one day drive to San Diego. We took David's fun new car (a Mazda 3) which was actually quite roomy, even with the five of us. That's not to say we had extra space (especially in the trunk!) but it was comfortable!We met up with our (step)brother Clint who lives in Vegas for lunch at In-N-Out.

Jonah loved entertaining us (and being entertained) in the car. He was so good for the whole trip! We got to San Diego in the early evening and met Heather who told my dad she was "going out with friends" for dinner at Panera Bread (yummy!!!) and then we crashed in a cheap hotel for the night since we weren't going to meet up with the others until Saturday.

In the morning we went to the swap meet (a favorite thing to do when we were younger--we'd save all of our money to spend it there when we'd go to visit my Dad during the summer). While we were at the swap meet my dad called me... I was trying to play it cool and ask normal questions... and be very vague about what I was doing so I didn't have to blatantly lie...saying things like "Oh, the kids have soccer games today" or "there's a wedding reception tonight" and I even asked how the weather was in San Diego and then had to make up the weather in Utah when he asked me about it. I almost gave it away a few times (I don't think I'm a very good liar), but I don't think he had any idea I was actually IN San Diego.

We spent a few hours in the afternoon at an outlet mall close to the border. Everyone (but me because I'm picky) ate at a mongolian grill place for lunch.

Katty and David, so happy together!

Then we went off to Ocean Beach (Matt thought he was funny with the seaweed) where we devised plans of how we were going to surprise my dad. Matt wanted to jump off a building on the pier as my dad was walking or scream "BOO" really loud at him. We thought that might set off his defibrillator, and we really didn't want to find out if it works for his birthday surprise. Lindsey wanted to line up and sing barbershop quartet style to him... does she think we are the von Trapp family singers? All good ideas, but we decided to play it cool and just sing "Happy Birthday."
Self-portrait (Katty and David are especially good at taking these kinds of photos!).

It wasn't a super-warm day (very cloudy at the beach) but Jonah loved being in the sand and by the water.
We amazingly enough all gathered at the appointed time... but as usual we were running a little late. Lauren and Erin saw my dad and tried to hide, but he didn't see them. Ruff saw them and was worried that my dad would see them, so he faked having something in his shoe and made my dad help him with it while everyone gathered below the pier. They were waiting on the pier and were looking out over the water so we tried to be in stealth mode as we walked down the pier (insert bathroom break) and came up behind him singing "Happy Birthday". As he turned around and realized that his children were all standing there he was a little bit dumb-struck--he was so shocked that all of us were there, and then asked, "What are you all doing here?" as if it were for some other reason than to be with him for his birthday. There were lots of happy tears and he expressed that earlier in the day he had been thinking about how wonderful it would be to be all together.

For several minutes he still couldn't believe we were all there! On the right is Heather with Lauren's baby Grace.
We ate at a Mexican restaurant where mole is the specialty... I'm not such a big fan, but lots of people loved it. I was very happy with my boring cheese enchiladas :).

This neat old bicycle was chained outside the restaurant (someone had ridden it there!) so we all took it as a good photo op.
After we got back from dinner he got to sit in the birthday chair to accept his gifts. The biggest gift of course was US being there, but we wanted to give him a few small things too.

We all gave him a little "gifty" (as he calls them) of something that reminded us of him--Lauren gave him Whoppers because she remembered him going to buy a box of Whoppers for a house guest who was celebrating a birthday and she learned that special days are important to celebrate. Many of our gifts were food-related (Oreos for the "real" snacks he always has around, Snickers for the wrappers Lindsey found all around his room when he mysteriously gained a lot of weight, cheese and crackers because he always likes to serve good appetizers, and honey roasted peanuts because had those around a lot too and would let David "sneak" them whenever he wanted).
Erin found him a great little statue of Buddha. He has an amazing back yard with all different kinds of plants, bird feeders, and Buddha statues--he says they are a good reminder of peace and light.
Megan and I remembered stamping t-shirts with seashells on one of our summer trips to his house. We all wore them to the zoo or Wild Animal Park together. I stamped an apron with seashells (and stamps) for him. On the left is a big magnet board of our once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris with my dad, Ruff, Lauren, Heather, Erin, and me in July of 2005. I used photos from the trip to make magnets (using clear rocks). I didn't get a great photo of it, but it turned out so cute and it was so fun to relive some of those crazy memories.

As my dad was trying to come to terms with turning 60, he asked each of us to just give him a card or a letter telling about a memory we had of him. We decided to compile it into a book so that it would be a nice gift and easy to keep track of.
I found this great quote by Virginia Wolf for the front page of the book.

We each included a picture with our letters that told of our favorite memories of him. The book turned out great!

That night, David was really sick. He wasn't sure what hit him, but he had it coming out both ends. Poor David. He felt a bit better in the morning.
Sunday after a few of us went to church, we did round two of presents. Olivia drew a picture and wrote her favorite memory with my dad--getting up before everyone else and playing checkers with him. Lauren's kids sent some funny cards mocking his new "old age."

My aunts Dianne and Channa sent him a neat compilation of CS Lewis' works.

My sweet Grandma Cole put together a booklet of pictures from the time my dad was born and all through his life. She included snippets from newspapers when he was a sterling scholar at West High School and and letters from him to her mom (Grandma Crook) and mission and graduation pictures. It was such a thoughtful gift, and I think we kids enjoyed it as much as he did. More happy tears.

Then we went to Balboa Park for a picnic. Balboa Park was another of our favorite outings. His favorite cake is Red Velvet cake (yummy!) and luckily we didn't have to actually light 60 candles!!!
Our whole gang at the park: (back row) Jonah, Lindsey, me, Matt, Erin, my dad, and Ruff; (front row: Katty, David, Heather, Lauren, Grace.

When we were little we loved to jump in the fountain at Balboa Park. Erin (with Jonah), Lindsey, and David thought it would be fun to get in again.

We decided to see the movie "Forever Strong" together (even though most of us don't usually go to movies on Sundays) since we were all leaving starting that evening. We really wanted to support the movie during opening weekend and make sure our family saw it. Running late (as usual) we missed the opening 10 minutes, then Katty got up a few minutes later because she was feeling sick. Close to the end of the movie, David came to get us saying that Katty couldn't stop vomiting and he was going to take her to the hospital. We decided to try Pepto and an anti-nausea medication first so we headed home... and when that didn't work David got worried that she would get dehydrated... so they tried going to an urgent care place that took their insurance but they couldn't help them and so they went to the hospital... where she finally stopped throwing up and got some rest in the ER. Matt flew home Sunday night. My dad, David, and Katty got home at 3 am Monday morning (welcome to your birthday Dad!). Heather got sick that night too. Our car was supposed to go home Monday, and Lindsey and I needed to get back, but Katty still wasn't feeling good. Matt called to tell us he'd been really sick all morning too. Lindsey and I started feeling sick. We debated about what to do and at the last minute grabbed a flight home (yay for JetBlue!). We aren't sure if it was food poisoning (mongolian grill?) or some horrible virus, but whatever it was, it was nasty. Thankfully, we are all better (except for Lauren's family, who caught it even though they weren't there, Lauren must have brought it home!).

It seems that every family trip has a crisis (which is worthy of an entire blog post sometime) and this time around, we didn't even make it more than 12 hours all together before someone got sick.... However, aside from the horrible ending, it was a great surprise for my dad. Even as he said goodbye he was so emotional that we had taken the time and effort to spend his birthday with him. Sixty isn't so bad, right?

**Have you ever been a part of such a grand, elaborate surprise?