Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Viva La Vida

Observations about the Coldplay concert (from someone who hasn't been to a rock concert in MANY years):

**We weren't the only ones who drove a minivan to the concert.
**Grandmas and Grandpas can rock out with the best of them.
**The level of beer consumed is directly related to the number of bathroom trips required by people who should have thought to get seats at the end of the row.
**I found myself screaming with the rest of the crowd for a band. A really, really good band.
**There was a point in my life where I was willing to pay an exorbitant fee for a concert t-shirt. Now, not so much.

Coldplay had a pretty spectacular opening--everyone was clapping along to the Nutcracker Suite to bring them on stage.

They had set up a different stage right down near the audience... it was right in front of us, so the band was maybe 50 feet away.

Chris Martin was all over the place--running and spinning all the while singing his melodious tunes. At one point in the concert the whole band ran off the stage, around the arena, and entered in another portal where they ran up the stairs and started singing on another stage that was set up in the back of the arena. Out of control!

During the song "Lovers in Japan" a whole lot of paper butterflies fluttered down from the ceiling. It was pretty amazing.

**Have you been to any good rock concerts lately?

Citius. Altius. Fortius.

I've had the opportunity to work with the Young Women in our church doing Personal Progress and we just had our Young Women in Excellence night. We used the Olympic theme of "Citius. Altius. Fortius." (Faster. Higher. Stronger.) Faster to live the Young Women Values--Aiming Higher in our goals--and growing Stronger in our Testimonies of the Gospel.

Each of the girls got an invitation that looked like a torch.

We ate Chinese food for dinner and modified the Olympic rings to use all of the colors for the seven YW values.

We made water bottle labels--complete with Nutrition Facts saying that the water had 100% of the Daily Value of Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice & Accountability, Good Works, and Integrity.

We had tablecloths in each of the value colors.

We gave the girls who finished all of their Personal Progress requirements this year a huge gold medal with ribbons in the colors of all the value colors. They each took a few minutes to tell us what it meant to them to finish their Personal Progress.

Each of the other girls received a gold medal too and spoke about one of the value experiences or projects they had worked on during the year. The leaders acted like news/sports interviewers and asked the girls questions while they stood on the podium (shown below with my two little Olympians).

I feel very blessed to work with so many great girls and leaders. It was such a fun celebration of the work that they have done this year!

The Amazing Race--Missionary Edition

Ryan has served with the Young Men in our church for many years... and for the last three he has put together some really fun "Amazing Race" activities. He loves the TV show and kept thinking it would be great to do for a Youth activity. The first two years were huge--each team had to drive to different locations and do several activities that included service, games (like Sudoku), and physical activities. This year he scaled it down a bit (kept it in the neighborhood) and made it into a missionary activity.

The teams had to memorize part of D&C 4 and plan a scripture to share with a family in the ward--each team was given an "area map" and had to knock doors. They had to make treats to share with a family and later eat food that was less than appetizing.

Our house was the button stop--each team member had to sew on a button before they could get their next clue/task.

Everyone had a great time--Amazing Race activities are a lot of work (and require a lot of creativity) but in the end worth it all. Way to go Ry!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Happy Birthday Chance!

Today would have been Chance's 6th birthday. It's hard to believe it's already been over 3 years since he passed away--sometimes it seems like a whole lifetime ago, yet the pain still seems so fresh and raw. Although we know we'll be with him again, it is still heartbreaking, especially for Megan who has endured so much in her life, and we mourn the many things that we never got to experience with him. This picture was taken at Lindsey's wedding in March 2005. Chance was as mischievous as ever that day and loved to play in the fountain at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. He was so vivacious and full of life--and I love this picture of Megan with him. She looks so content to be with her boy.

On his first birthday after he died we went up to the cemetary and let a bunch of balloons go. We have a lot of family members that don't live in the Salt Lake area, so we've tried to have everyone let balloons go on his birthday, where ever we might be.

We love you Mr. Chancey Pants!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Season To Be Thankful

I copied my friend Tiffany's "Thankful Wall" so we could have a place to write what we are thankful for. I don't know about the kids, but I'm pretty excited to write on the wall :).

Coleman made this cute handprint turkey in preschool.
He also made a dial-a-turkey to show what he's thankful for. This is his bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese (I'm pretty biased, but it IS really good).
For some reason blogger keeps flipping photos and I can't fix it. But the above picture is his home, because it protects us from the rain and snow.
Coleman is thankful for love.
And this is his self-portrait--he said he's thankful that Heavenly Father made us and gave us bodies.

The other day he was talking to his friend Jared and said, "I'm so glad I'm not a girl! Boys are so lucky!" so I asked what he meant... and he said "we don't have to have babies and stuff!"

Another day we were in the car and out of nowhere Coleman said, "So, I guess I'm going to have to learn to dance." I chucked and asked why and he said, "You know, for my wedding and stuff." What I wouldn't give to see how that kid's brain works.

Maybe our Thankful Wall will give us all a chance to reflect a little more on what we are thankful for. I know that I have a very long list!

**What are you thankful for?
**Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions?

Is this for real?

I just bought a new curling iron and this warning was included in the packaging. Have people really put a curling iron so close to their eyes that they've gotten burned?

**What other funny warnings have you seen?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Happy 60th Birthday Mom!

We had another 60th birthday in our family today... and on Sunday we got to go to her house to celebrate with her!

Here I am with my 60 years young mom. Isn't she beautiful? If she looks familiar, it may be because she sings in the Tabernacle Choir and is shown on the opening credits every week for "Music and the Spoken Word." I don't think she looks 60 years old, and she certainly doesn't act it. She is an energizer bunny if there ever was one.

We compiled a book from all 12 children (and grandchildren) with photos and letters to my mom. It was a great way for us to show her the ways in which she has impacted our lives. She said that she really didn't "feel it" as the day was approaching, but as it got closer she said that she started to wonder what she had really accomplished in her life--it is 2/3 of the way over, you know. She was grateful to have (in writing) so many things that we see that she has done. She is an amazing person, inside and out. It was so fun to read the letters and see what lessons she has taught, mostly through the way that she lives her life. I don't think she's ever given anyone a reason not to like her, and she has certainly given many reasons to love her. She's an angel on earth and she has shaped and formed each one of us.

I loved this quote by Abraham Lincoln: "And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." My mom has always experienced life to the fullest and is still the most active, energetic person I know. I thought the quote was perfect to recognize 60 years of life, and many more great years to come, so it was on the opening page.

Here is my page...

...and we had each of the grandkids put a page together with a drawing or handprint. Liv and Coleman wrote how they loved her pool and her cooking and going on hikes with her. Coleman even drew a picture of the pool and drew a slide on it, with a little side note asking her to please put in a slide. She makes each one of them feel special and is so fun to be around. Her grandkids sure love her!

We also gave her a framed photo that Ryan took on our family reunion this summer at Jackson Hole. Despite all the craziness there, we had a great time! My mom has always loved family trips (just ask her about the Grand Canyon--her face will light up and she'll look like she just won the lottery--and if you want a real treat, go with her to one of her favorite places... it will be the trip of a lifetime) and Jackson was no exception.

My mom didn't want any candles, but she finally gave in and accepted that she should blow out at least one :).

Olivia and Abi insisted on sitting next to the birthday girl.

Coleman and Evan waited patiently for their ice cream to be served.

Ry's such a good cake and ice cream server :). I made pumpkin bundt cake and Steph made a white cake with strawberry filling. Yum.

My sister Erin with Olivia, Coleman, and David's cute wife Katty.

The best gift that we could ever give to my mom is to be more like her, and I think in our own ways, we are all working on it. I'm not sure if I'll ever measure up, but I will certainly try. I am grateful to have a mother who loves me and teaches me and helps me be better and sacrifices for me in so many ways. She is a great example and an all-around wonderful person. Happy birthday Mom!


Today I was thrilled for the opportunity to help out at our school's Mock Election (thanks to our awesome PTA president!). It was so exciting to be with the kids who were full of enthusiasm to have a chance to cast their ballot. I chatted with a teacher who got to vote for the first time today (she just became a US citizen) and felt overwhelmed with gratitude that in our day, every citizen can vote, regardless of race, gender, or social status. I don't think most of the children have learned yet what people in years past have sacrificed and suffered so that voting rights could be given to all people--even as adults we tend to overlook all that has taken place so that we can enjoy this privilege.

I overheard a few things that made me sad and incredulous (one student said they would not vote for Obama because he's black and their family doesn't like black people, another couldn't remember who to vote for and asked, "Which one has the same color skin as me?"). It is heartbreaking that there are still people who are so racist and that adults are sharing their racial bias with their impressionable children. If you don't like his ideas and policies, fine, but don't let skin color be the reason you vote for or against someone. Although McCain won by many votes at our school and will certainly win the majority of votes in our fair state, I am thrilled at the likelihood that we will have a first-family of African-American heritage.

To lighten the mood a bit, we enjoyed the write-in candidates: several for Mitt Romney, one for Archuleta, and two for "Mom."

Later in the day I was giddy at the thought that I got to cast my own ballot and have my say.

I hope you took the opportunity to vote!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween 2008

My dad found us some cool t-shirts for our Halloween costumes while he was at Universal Studios in Orlando--the Things 1, 2, 3, and 4 from Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat.

I went to Olivia's class to help with the Halloween Party--thank goodness for online party game ideas! My sister in Idaho and my friend in California said that their kids don't get to celebrate Halloween at school... so I guess we should feel lucky that our kiddos got to dress up and have a party in their classes :).

A few years ago I started making trick-or-treat bags to match the kids' costumes... this year we had some fun Dr. Seuss flair.

We all painted our nails black (not sure if we were going for some kind of goth effect for our Things?).

We made a Bloody Cider Punch (recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray) with apple juice, blood (pomegranate juice), chunks of rotting flesh (frozen cubes of orange juice), frozen eyeballs, and some sparkly (Sprite). It was tasty!

Earlier in the week we tried to make Rachael Ray's "Bloody Ears" recipe... Coleman didn't want the blood (raspberry jam) so we tried to make "Muddy Ears" with caramel sauce and chocolate chips. Unfortunately, I bought phyllo dough instead of puff pastry, and they are not interchangeable (who knew?). They tasted okay when they were warm, but when they cooled off they were hard as a rock. The kids thought they looked cool, so that's all that matters, right?

Our Muddy Ears--not too appetizing...

On Halloween Day we made the Bloody Ears again--this time with puff pastry. These turned out much better even though they weren't as beautiful as Rachael's.
All of the Things are ready to go! Thing 2 took Thing 3 and Thing 4 trick-or-treating while I (Thing 1) handed out candy and prizes. I was expecting big crowds since the weather was nice and because it was a Friday night, but we had a pretty slow night. All the more candy for Thing 1---hooray!

**What were you for Halloween?
**Did you make any spooky treats?

Good Behavior Fairy

At Olivia's school the student council goes around awarding playground tickets to recognize good behavior. The kids get to turn their tickets in for a prize. Don't you wish there were a good behavior fairy for adults too?

**You made dinner for a neighbor, here's a coupon for a massage!
**You snuggled your kids and read to them, even though you really wanted to keep reading your own book, have a chocolate bar!
**You smiled at the bad driver instead of flipping him off, have a Slurpee!
**You returned your library books on time, and you even got them all read, go buy a new book from the real bookstore, on us!

Of course, the real joys of serving and doing what's right are not tied to any tangible reward or recognition, but still... some days it might be nice!

**What have you done today that's deserving of recognition?

Say BOO to Drugs and Violence!

This year I somehow got roped into being the Health Commissioner for our school PTA (read: Enthusiastically Volunteered For...). We celebrated Red Ribbon Week the last week of October and it was crazy busy. Our school combines the anti-drug message with the anti-violence message (denial that there is a problem with either in our quaint community?). I can say with all honesty that I am relieved and happy it is over. I think it went well--we had a lot of great ideas that were hard to implement with over a thousand students, but we did our best.

While I was gathering ideas, I read that fun activities for kids don't really make that big of a difference when it comes to choosing whether or not to do drugs. There was also some history about how they've tried to educate kids about drugs--they started off teaching about individual drugs, their effects, what overdoses were like, etc. This didn't deter kids. So they moved on to scare tactics--"This is your brain on drugs" type things or pictures of someone with a rotted out nasal cavity from cocaine and that didn't work well either. Another way was to have motivational speakers do assemblies and talk about the horrible things drugs do, how hard it was to get clean, and how kids should never, ever try drugs. Apparently, it took the opposite effect and kids thought, "Hey, if they can overcome it, I could too!" I remember all of those tactics--and although I've never tried drugs, I'm not sure any of those messages was the reason that kept me from doing them. More than the messages from school, it was a deeper moral conviction and a desire to keep control of myself that kept me from seeking out drugs. Aside from that, I had a pretty sheltered childhood and adolescence, and don't recall ever being somewhere that drugs were being used in close proximity (the stoner hall at school and some concerts aside). I was a good-girl through and through, which isn't a bad thing.

So, in preparing for Red Ribbon Week, I was pretty discouraged about what we could do to help kids so they wouldn't want to experiment with drugs. Finally, I found some scientific research that said that informing parents and giving them tools to talk to their kids would improve the chances that kids would actually say no to drugs. So, we provided parents with some solid information and then did the "fluff" with the kids during the week. We are trying to avoid giving treats at every turn (we are meeting with some opposition, from the kids especially) because I don't believe kids need or should get something every time they do something, especially if it's candy. I love candy and junk food, but I provide enough of that at home for my family, they don't need to get it at school too! We had to get creative, but it all turned out well.

Here are some of the highlights:

On Monday we had the kids sign a banner, pledging that they would say no to drugs and violence. They kept asking, "What do we get for signing?" and my response was always the same: "You got to sign the banner!" Each student got a red plastic bracelet in their classes (thanks to a donation from our school district) and we encouraged them to wear them all week.

"Tie One On" Tuesday--we put the message in the fence with cups and the kiddos tied red ribbons all over and they wore crazy ties.

I felt a little ghetto pushing the cups in, but it was very legible and the kids thought it was great. Unfortunately after 36 hours someone pushed every single cup through. So much for a strong anti-violence message (is vandalism VIOLENT or just really disrespectful?). In any case, I was bugged, and spent some time picking up 400 cups off of the ground.

On Wednesday the kids turned in a pledge they had signed saying that they would respect themselves and others--and say no to drugs and violence. They did get a prize that day (a Red Ribbon Week pencil!) and they were happy.

Thursday was "Inside Out Day" (because drugs and violence turn you inside out). Olivia wore her jeans inside out, but wanted to wear her Halloween t-shirt right side out so she'd match the lunch ladies.

Friday was Halloween and we encouraged the kids to wear their costumes. We had Halloween stamps for their hands and had put up a little surprise in the lunchroom. Each student decorated a ghost and we hung them all over the walls.

I am amazed at how much work goes into PTA activities. We had so much help from other moms, teachers, and administrators--and being with the kids made it all worthwhile. PTA moms become celebrities when they show up with trinkets and activities during recess!

**What anti-drug messages do you remember?