Thursday, February 26, 2009

Classic Skating

Back in my glory days of the early teen years my sister Lauren and our friends used to go roller skating all the time. We loved getting dropped off at the 49th Street Galleria and spending the day cruising. Our prowess at rollerskating began even earlier, when we had awesome strap-on-to-your-shoes metal skates that we'd roam our neighborhood in, while listening to cassette tapes on our boom box (or 8-tracks if our friend Michelle was involved) of Rick Springfield, Michael Jackson, or the Police. We rocked it.

Olivia's school won a party at Classic Skating, so we went as a family, and I have to say, I'm not so good anymore. Coleman and Olivia were so excited and I didn't have the heart to remind them of the last time we tried roller skating (not a pretty sight for their bums or my shins!). But, in an effort to support the school and give the kids a fun experience, we went anyway. We all survived without broken bones and most of our dignity intact. I am proud to say that I stayed upright the entire night (even though upright might need to be defined a little more loosely for my benefit).

Ryan helped both kids around the rink several times--he has a lot more patience for teaching than I do. He first tried taking them with his skates on--that didn't work too well, so he switched to his shoes.

Olivia wanted so badly to learn to skate--and she did pretty well, despite the fact that she flopped around like a noodle most of the night.

Ryan and I even managed to even hold hands a couple of times while going around the rink during the couples skate. It brought me back to the days of a seminary activity in 10th grade when the boy I liked held my hand at the skating rink. How sweet.

Too bad we didn't have a couples skating outfit, right?

Coleman and I hung out on the bench while we waited for Ryan to come around for Coleman's turn.

Coleman's self-portrait. I asked him if skating was fun, and he said, "No! It's just HARD!"

Our last time around the rink Liv and I tried to do it without holding onto each other. When we told her it was time to go she cried... and we don't know if it's because her backside hurt so much or because she didn't want to leave (probably some of both).

**Where did you roller skate in your glory days?
**Have you roller skated lately?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fire Department Fun

Today we got to go the fire department with Coleman's preschool class. The firefighters/paramedics were so great with the kids.

Coleman was full of knowledge ("You should crawl on the floor, kind of like a snake, so that the smoke doesn't get on you and burn you" and "If you feel the door and it's hot, go out the window!") until they discussed "Stop, Drop, and Roll." Apparently we missed the boat on that one when discussing our fire safety plan. Oh, and we need to find a meeting place for our family too--the mailbox sounds like a good option--which Coleman approved of by looking at me from across the room and raising his eyebrows and nodding.

They let the kids climb in the trucks and investigate. Notice Coleman's hands? Yep, they are in his pocket, a fascination of his of late.

Then they let them try on their fire safety clothes. They were so big and heavy and the kids loved it. My favorite thing about this photo is that Coleman spontaneously put his arm around cute Natalie (he's made it known that he has "feelings" for Natalie that go beyond friendship--for her Valentine he wanted to make sure the message had "love" in it). If they end up together, I am SO mailing this photo out with their wedding announcement.

After the tour was over Coleman asked one of the EMT's how fast he could get dressed. He said he could get in all of his gear in just under a minute. The other paramedic said she could too--and we thought a little competition was in order. It was fun for the kids to watch these super-speedy community heroes get into their super hero suits.

What a good looking group! The tour was fabulous.

At the end they even gave each of the kids their own fire hat and coloring book. They really know how to entertain!

As we were leaving we thanked them and I told them I hoped I never saw them again. (I don't want any emergencies or fires or accidents or anything that would require their presence!)

**Do five year old romances ever really work out?
**Does your family have a fire safety plan and a meeting place?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Draper Temple

We took the kids to the Draper Temple Open House tonight. It was a beautiful building, but the best thing about it was introducing Olivia and Coleman to a place that provides our family with so many blessings. The Open House runs through the middle of March--you can still request tickets here.

We started out by waiting in the cultural hall of a nearby LDS church and stayed there for almost an hour (thank goodness for games on the iPhone).

Then we moved into the Relief Society room and waited, and waited, and waited, then watched a brief movie about the temple. Then we waited some more.

Then we boarded a bus and rode for a few minutes until we got to the temple, where we walked through and enjoyed every minute of it (although Coleman had a hard time staying on the plastic flooring... and he wanted to touch everything he could get his hands on).

After the tour, we went into another LDS church (which was decorated so nicely) and had a lovely cookie and drink of water. Leave it to the Mormons to provide cookies :). They had comment cards to fill out and Liv wanted to make her mark. This is what the kids shared:

Olivia: "This was my first time in a temple and I really liked it. I felt the Holy Ghost."

Coleman: "I really liked all of the sparkly thingies."

I have to say, aside from the sweet spirit I always feel in the temple, I loved all of the upholstery, art, and decor, and I loved the sparkly thingies too.

**Have you been to the Open House?
**Do you plan to go?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bread, Glorious Bread

It's a well known fact that I would not be a good on a gluten-free diet. I love all things carbohydrate, particularly those made with wheat.

In an effort to be more self-sufficient, I have started making bread with the wheat we have in our food storage.

Despite the fact that my mom makes homemade rolls all the time and that she is a pro at making bread, baking bread has always scared me a little bit (will I kill the yeast? will it rise? will it taste good? do I really have ALL DAY to spend making bread?) but I was determined to find a way to do it. I got a great recipe from a Relief Society activity, but it made too much (My Kitchen-Aid will only mix so much and I don't have 5 loaf pans).

I was so excited when my sister-in-law Kristen gave me a fabulous book of her best recipes for Christmas which included her bread recipe, aptly titled "Best Bread Ever." We've made it several times, and we've always had success. The thing I love best is that it's super simple and it takes just over 2 hours, start to finish. We have LOVED having fresh bread with our dinners and for toast in the morning. With her permission, I'll share the recipe with you (because I never have "extra" bread to share, unless you trade me cookies or something).

Best Bread Ever1 1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp oil
2 cups water
3/4 cup milk
6 to 8 cups flour (You can use all white flour, all wheat flour, or a blend of white and wheat. I have loved it with about 2 cups of white flour and 5 cups of wheat flour, freshly ground.)

Put all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl (I put the dry ingredients in my Kitchen-Aid). Put liquid ingredients into a microwave safe bowl and heat in the microwave until it's very hot to the touch. Pour liquids into the dry ingredients. Knead with hands or mix in mixer for 10-12 minutes. If dough is sticky, add flour sparingly. Let rise for 45 minutes. Punch dough to flatten. Remove from bowl and divide in half. Shape two loaves and put into greased bread pans. Let rise for 40-45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

And just because I love bread, I wanted to share another great recipe from my friend Elaine. I love pumpkin things, especially during the fall and holiday months. The other day though I had a hankering for this yummy bread and thought, what the heck, who cares if it's February, I can make it again.

Pumpkin Bread

Preheat oven to 350 F.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Cream together butter, sugar, and eggs. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Alternate mixing in dry ingredients and pumpkin until it's thoroughly mixed. Stir in chocolate chips. Spray pans with Pam and bake two large loaves for 60 to 65 minutes (5 small loaves for 50-55 minutes or muffins for 20-25 minutes).

I love making this bread in small loaf pans so I can use a few for our family and take a few others to friends.

**Do you make your own bread?
**Do you have season-specific foods?
**Is your mouth watering?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine's Day 2009

We spread our Valentine's celebrations out over the weekend and had lots of lovey dovey goodness which included:

Helping in the kids' class parties. In Olivia's class we made pictures for the kids' parents, just like the ones of our kids below. In Coleman's class we didn't take photos--but we had a great time throwing bean bags into heart buckets and the kids shot off pink balloons at a heart shaped bulls-eye.
Cute Valentine Kids! Liv got her cute sweater from her cousin McKenzie (we love hand-me-downs) and Coleman's awesome heart pirate shirt was saved from last year (although it might be time to retire it--if he lifts his hands up to high we get some serious belly views).

I love flowers--even though Ryan knows I don't expect them, they are always such a nice surprise.

Ryan got a paint can full of memories and coupons and candy. I loved the idea when I saw it on Good Things Utah. You can buy clear, empty paint cans at Roberts (or other scrapbook stores) and with a little scrapbook paper, ribbon, and chipboard it makes a great gift for your sweetie.

The kids got their own little boxes full of treats, a Valentine's book, and a bunch of chipboard notes telling what we love about them.

It was fun to come up with some of the many reasons we love our kiddos.

We ate our heart-shaped pizzas with sparkling cider in fancy red goblets (have I mentioned that I love the Target clearance rack?).

I've always loved eating pretzels dipped in caramel and chocolate. I thought I'd try making them myself instead of spending a fortune for just a few--they turned out so pretty and so delicious! I had grand visions of delivering them to friends, but only a few lucky people got them (we liked eating them a lot).

After a fun lunch and movie date with Ryan (we finally saw Twilight--meh!) we took the kids to see "Coraline" in 3-D. We were all amazed with the effects (it's shot in stop-motion photography) but both of the kids thought it was a little scary. Truth be told, I thought it was a little scary too, but I was so enthralled with the imagery that I got over it.

We heart Valentine's Day!

**Did you have any Valentine's surprises?
**What are your Valentine traditions?
**Do you love hand-me downs?
**Do you love Target's clearance rack (or another store)?
**Have you seen (or will you see) "Coraline" in 3-D?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Second graders make really good teachers

As I was helping in Olivia's class for her Valentine's Party, I was taught a valuable lesson.

There is a student in her class who has some form of degenerative disorder that has weakened her muscles to the point that she is wheelchair bound and needs help with everything she does. Despite numerous tests, doctors haven't been able to figure out what is happening or how they can stop it.

Her classmates and schoolmates have always rallied around her--in the fall her neighbors sponsored a carnival to raise money for her and just last month the school held a "Penny War" to raise money to buy her a special computer.

Tiffany comes to school when she is able, but has a weak immune response, so she's been absent for most of the winter to protect her from getting sick.

She wasn't at school the day of the party, and Liv's teacher said she wasn't sure she would be able to come. About half way through the party, as the kids were having fun decorating cookies, playing games, and doing crafts, Tiffany and her mom entered the room.

It didn't take more than a couple of seconds for the kids to realize that she had come in and they all jumped up from their seats and rushed to her, yelling her name and saying sweet things like "Oh, we are so happy you are here!" and "It's so good to see you again!"

The next thing that happened brought me to tears. All of the children burst into a cheer that was obviously well-practiced... and repeated it several times. It is short, but moving:

These children show unconditional love to someone who is their peer, yet is just a little different than they are.

I have been thinking for the past few days that I wish we could respond to each other in the same way--that we could rush to each others' sides and give a cheer for each other, even just a little inward hooray, hoping with all sincerity the best for each person around us.

Second graders make really good teachers.

Update: Thanks to Beckie for pointing out that there is a website for Tiffany: Visit if you'd like to know more about Tiffany!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My vacuum really sucks.

I don't pretend to be a master housekeeper.

If you don't believe me, drop by unannounced on any given day.

Despite that, I do vacuum regularly and believe that our house isn't really dirty, it's just cluttered (it helps me sleep at night).

A few years ago we invested in a Dyson vacuum. It has been wonderful and has functioned without fail, unlike the three other vacuums we burned through within a period of 5 or 6 years.

In the last little while it has started to lose it's suction power... wait, doesn't Dyson claim to NEVER lose suction?

In the spirit of believing all advertising that comes before me (which is why I never watch infomercials), I called the customer service number listed right on the vacuum (how's that for convenience?).

The helpful agent taught me how to clean the filter (I knew this already, just needed to apply it).

Then he told me about a little U-shaped piece that just might be clogged. There is a handy button that pops it off--and this is what I found inside:


I'm happy to report that my Dyson is functioning at full suction capacity.

If only it could sort and organize my piles.

Check this out (Alternate title: Call me Linda).

Several months ago I ordered some new checks at my bank's local branch. Let me be clear, I love my bank and I love the people that work there, but somehow the young teller that helped me out missed a few important details. Keep in mind, I was there, in person, by myself, ordering the checks. Ryan and I have a shared checking account, so both of our names are on the account and have been for many years. The checks arrived within a week or two, but I didn't bother opening them until I ran out of checks last week.

Imagine my surprise to find that my name wasn't on the checks, in any form! The numbering was off too. I wasn't in a very good mood about all of this (I needed to write a check!) so I called the branch and got some checks re-ordered. They were very nice and apologetic and helpful. I got my new checks the other day, and being in a better mood than I was when my first set of checks arrived, I burst out laughing when I opened them today.

I guess I could start going by Linda.

Wanna Talk?

We've had my nephew Jonah with us for a couple of days while his mom and dad are off basking in some sunshine. He is 1 1/2 and full of energy and curiosity. He slept really well last night... until about 4:00 am when he figured it would be a lot more fun to lay on me, jump on our bed, and tell stories for a couple of restless hours. This morning Olivia said, "So, I guess you don't want a baby anymore, right mom? You wouldn't get any sleep!" I assured her that the lack of sleep is worth it, and that even as a baby she didn't sleep very well and SHE is obviously worth it. (At this point we'd take a baby monkey if it were sent to us, and I'm not even an animal person.)

Coleman and Liv have had a great time playing with him, saving him from imminent dangers, and feeding him (he eats way better when one of them is on the other end of the spoon).

He is starting to say a few words, and when the phone is for him he yells out "Talk!" He gets so excited to hear his parents' voices.

You'll notice his fat lip--he seems to have fallen several times while he's been here and this morning his teeth met up with his lip while he was playing the piano. There was blood (enough to cause a moment of panic that I'd have to run him in for a stitch or two) but it stopped quickly and he seemed to forget all about it within minutes. Of course it would happen while WE are watching him. Maybe it will heal before his mom and dad pick him up?

80 Years Young

Today Ryan's Grandpa Harper turned 80 years old! He's such a great example to all of us and raised wonderful children with his wife Lucille. We loved celebrating with him last weekend!

Four generations of handsome Harper men: Ryan, Coleman, Denver, and Bruce.

Lately I've been loving big 12x12 cards so there is room enough for lots of loved ones to sign.

Happy Birthday Grandpa!

Monday, February 9, 2009

We Have a Winner!

It must be morning somewhere in the world, right? So much for being on top of things. Regardless of the fact that I'm announcing this several hours later than I had wanted to, I am very happy to announce the winner of the Happiness Giveaway--She was chosen at random and is lucky commenter #5:

Kim who said:

What a great thing to do with the school! One thing that makes me happy is that it is 8 pm, all 3 children are asleep and hubby is making me roasted chickpeas. Yep, that makes me real happy :)

Thanks to all for sharing the things that make you happy! You know that some of the things that make me happy are good mail, crafts, and giving gifts, so I'm thrilled to send this Valentine block off to Kim!

Kim is a friend that I met through the Breastfeeding Cafe a few years ago. She is so fun to be around and makes everyone around her feel happy. I was so sad when I learned she'd be moving away from the area, but thank goodness for blogs (hers is a great one) and other ways of staying in touch! Congratulations Kim!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Happiness Giveaway

Our PTA has felt that there is much in the world that drags us down. We wanted to help our kids focus on good things, so we dubbed February

"Happy Month"

at our school (props to our president for a great idea). One of the ways we are helping kids to focus on being happy is with our happy wall--they can write on a piece of paper what makes them happy and then it gets posted. I have to admit, I didn't expect the kids to get as excited about this as I was--and we did get a few older grade kids who rolled their eyes--but for the most part the kids couldn't wait to write down what makes them happy. The photo above is after only two days!

I want to find out what makes YOU happy, and for an incentive to participate, a comment will enter you in a drawing for a darling Valentine's home decor piece (still in the works, but it will be so cute!). Leave a comment by 11:59 pm on Sunday, February 8th to enter--you must include in your comment what makes you happy. I'll announce the winner in a Monday morning post and get it sent off or delivered in time for the winner to enjoy for Valentine's Day.

**What makes you happy?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Going to the Post Office

Coleman's preschool took a trip to the post office last week. It was a good reminder of something I want to do more of: send good mail! It's so easy to shoot off an email, but there is nothing like going to the mail box, expecting only bills or junk mail, to find an unexpected card, note, or package from a friend or loved one. I hope I can do more of the sending this year. Watch out, good mail just might be coming your way.

All the kids got to mail a letter to someone or have one sent to them. Coleman was so excited to get his very own mail the next day.

They showed us around the post office and then took us outside so we could see the mail trucks. The sun was so bright!

Coleman and his class with our tour guide. He was great!

Not that this qualifies as "good mail" but at least it made me laugh. Apparently ordering the flagging tape that we used for Red Ribbon Week gets you on all sorts of fun mailing lists, like this handy catalog for janitorial supplies. I know my house cleaning skills need much improvement, but do I really need THAT much help?

**Do you like to send good mail?
**Have you gotten any good mail lately?
**What's the funniest thing you've gotten in the mail?