Sunday, December 21, 2014

"angels round about you"

photo source
About a month ago, I got a phone call.  "Hello, Alison?  We would like to include [your foster kids] on our Angel Tree.  Can you email me their interests and clothes sizes?"

Last week, we received the gifts.

Tonight, we went through them to see what the kids got (all the gifts were wrapped, so we had no idea) and decide who would give them what.  (What's from Santa, what's from us, what can they give each other...)  

All I have to say is, I never knew I would one day be the recipient of Angel Tree gifts and had no idea what to expect, but I was completely blown away.  I almost cried several times tonight going through those gifts.  People are so generous and kind.  I felt the need to write them a letter but don't - won't - know who to give it to, so I'm giving it to you.  If you have ever donated money, participated in Angel Tree, or taken food to a canned food drive, this is for you.  If you haven't ever done anything like that, I encourage you to try it sometime.   

Dear angel who picked my angels off a tree,
I wish I could give you a hug.  You have no idea how much we think of you.  Going through the gifts you bought my children tonight, I was amazed by your kindness.  You didn't give the bare minimum or focus on needs.  You went above and beyond.  You bought her clothes, but not just any clothes.  You bought adorable clothes in her favorite color that she will l.o.v.e.  You read that he likes football and Nerf, so you got him a Nerf football.  Then when you saw that he also needed a long-sleeved shirt, you got him one with a gigantic football on it.  You saw that each loves stuffed animals (how did you happen to get both *our* kids?) and got the same one for each but with different hats.  Do your kids forget which toys are theirs, too?  YOU SHOP AT NORDSTROM and got them more than one outfit each. You gave him a Lego set he's going to die for, and it wasn't five dollars.  How did you know that her favorite thing to play is grocery shopping + cooking?  I didn't even think to write it on her tag.  You didn't pick something up at the dollar store or settle for a t-shirt.  You are so kind.  Maybe you knew what to get because you understand what it's like to need at Christmastime.  No matter who you are, you truly are an angel.  I will never forget you.  

Love, 
Our whole family


"...Not all angels are from the other side of the veil.  Some of them we walk with and talk with - here, now, every day.  Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind."  - Jeffrey R. Holland




___________________________________________

Stories give you a way to see things.  A way to understand the events of your life.
Even if you don’t realize it while you’re hearing the tale.
Icefall

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I am glad for many things,
many things,
many things.
I am glad for many things
that are mine today.

Thank you, thank you,
my heart sings,
my heart sings,
my heart sings.
Thank you for the many things
that are mine today.




"...live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you."

"If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving."

"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

Monday, November 24, 2014

I am glad for many things


Our foster kids love to paint, so today I'm thankful to Walmart for having this awesome 24-pack of paints on sale for $9.99.  Using them, dry spaghetti noodles + Elmer's glue, and white spray paint, we made these awesome turkey feathers to hang up for Thanksgiving.  :)

Try not to be distracted by how badly you wish you had our carpet!  I know it's hard. :)




___________________________________________

There was a scuffling and great thump: Someone else had clambered out of the tunnel, overbalanced slightly, and fallen.  He pulled himself up on the nearest chair, looked around through lopsided horn-rimmed glasses, and said, "Am I too late? Has it started? I only just found out, so I - I -" Percy spluttered into silence.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Friday, November 7, 2014

let's get real.

For those of you who don't know me in real life or otherwise don't know, Joel and I recently became foster parents.  There are hard parts, but overall we love it!  I have been thinking about some things lately, though, and ask as many of you as want to to chime in.  The invitation's extended to people who have young children, people who have had young children in the past, and people who were young children at one point and remember what their parents did.  And anyone else with something to offer. :)

I keep having questions come to mind that I want to ask other parents.  I need someone other than blogger moms to compare myself to.  Slash... I know I shouldn't be comparing myself at all, and it's really not that.  I really feel pretty good about my mothering and how I do it.  I guess I just read these articles and see pictures and want to know how REAL people really are.  


How much TV do you watch?  We watch about an hour a day - one episode of "Mister Rogers's Neighborhood" (a kids' TV show I love and don't get annoyed by like the shows our current kids like) and sometimes part of Dolphin Tale, which they love.  We would maybe watch more if they had a longer attention span... haha. :)  

What kinds of snacks do you eat?  Sorry, but we're mostly crackers.  I know we should be fruits and vegetables or string cheese or yogurt... but we're mostly crackers.  One ate a saltine cracker sandwich today for his snack.  I don't care if you judge; I feel fine about it.  I mean, we're not going to do that every day, but I feel fine about it doing it today.  

It was just Halloween.  What do you do about candy?  Ours probably eat like... five pieces a day.  Not always, but often I let them have one after a snack or meal.  It depends on how well they ate their real food.  I don't feel bad about it - candy stashes don't last forever and it's only been a week.  

I know this is a hard question to answer, but how much do you actively play with your children?  I've heard some people say it should be all the time; I've heard others say if you do half an hour dedicated playtime in a day, that's great.  I, personally, am a huge proponent of individual (and with other children) playtime.  I play with them a lot, but I also do a lot of sitting back and watching - or not watching.  I consider it a victory if they'll play in the backyard without me being outside.  I try to make sure they know I'm paying attention to them, and if I'm on the computer, I typically only do productive stuff (not checking Facebook, blogging, or reading blogs), but I think it's important to not always play with them.  They tend to use their imaginations better when I'm not actively participating and they learn about conflict resolution, and I like that.  When I play with them, we're dancing, reading, playing at the playground, or drawing on white paper usually.  We're not doing elaborate crafts, practicing writing in sand, or taking tours of cool factories.  

What about fruits and vegetables?  I give them one at lunch and one at dinner.  So... two-ish servings a day.  (How big is a serving of fruit / vegetable for a person who only eats half a cup of food?)  Sometimes we have apple or watermelon for a snack.  I should be better about that, but the excuse I'm giving myself is that they weren't raised with me, so I'm allowed to transition them into fruits and vegetables.  (The real reason is probably that I don't always think of it or feel like fighting when I think crackers are decently healthy.)  Also, we eat cereal for breakfast every day and a sandwich almost every day for lunch, usually with meat and/or cheese OR peanut butter.  

People talk about how parenting is so tiring and moms never take time for themselves.  It is tiring, I often have to get up a few times during the night with a crying child, and I'm worn out at the end of the day, but I also take a nap - or at least a close-eyed rest - every day.  Quiet time is about an hour every day after lunch.  Hopefully you didn't break anything while I was having mine and you were ignoring yours.  Oh, and when it's time for me to take a shower, want to watch the Disney channel?
EDIT: I don't say bring that up to say that people who say parenting is tiring are wrong or to say I do things better than anyone.  Parenting is DEFINITELY tiring and what works for me doesn't work for everyone.  It's just, when I wrote that paragraph, I had just barely read an article about a mother who was always putting herself on the back burner and wanted to say that doesn't need to be the case.  You're important, too!  (I didn't have any negative comments on this part, but it's just been sticking in my mind and rubbing me wrong, so I wanted to explain.:)

Oh, and we basically have no toys.  We have a lot of Legos, a lot of books, some plastic food, and a slide in our basement.  That's about it.  I love not having the clutter or needing to find places to put toys, and they really haven't seemed to need more than that.  Also, we hardly ever have to clean up.

So.  What is your parenting life like?




___________________________________________

“I was a fool!” Percy roared.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Thursday, November 6, 2014

review: Sleep Number SleepIQ bed

As I've mentioned before, I'm a member of a website that gives me samples in return for reviews. (If you're interested in learning more about the website I use, here's a link: http://h5.sml360.com/-/ge2y)   I'm not a huge fan of putting random reviews of stuff on my blog - I prefer to review stuff that I find in my regular life and love :) - but I agreed to review this! (and I'm getting a free pillow for it, which I'm super excited about) so here we go...

We tried out the new Sleep Number SleepIQ bed recently, and it was cool! It has sensors in the air of the mattress (the part that firms or softens depending on your Sleep Number) that tracks breathing and heart rates during the night.  In the morning, it send the information to an app on your phone / ipad / etc. and tells you how you slept the night before.  It tells you when you were most restful, when you were moving around, and when you were out of bed, and then gives you a score out of 100 on your overall sleep.  Then you can use that information to improve your sleep the next night.  (For example, if you think your  sleep number is 35 but you only score 65%, change your number tomorrow and see if your score goes up.)

It's SUPER comfortable, but that's really just any Sleep Number bed.  I'd never tried one before and was amazed at how uncomfortable it made my bed at home (that I love) seem!  Haha :)

I really love the idea of this bed. I like that it tracks how well I'm sleeping and gives me feedback to help improve my sleep. I think, in that way, it's very unique. It's the only bed I've ever heard of that does that. I also like that the app allows you to keep track of what you do during the day that may affect your sleep - what you ate, whether you exercised, etc. I wish that it tracked more than heart and breathing rate, though. What would really put this bed over the top (in my opinion) is if it tracked REM cycles, too. Also, it's pretty pricey. I've never spent several thousand dollars on a bed before, and to be honest, if I wanted to get the kind of technology that the SleepIQ bed offers, I would probably just buy a FitBit or something for $100.

But you don't have to take my word for it! Here's a link with some more information about the Sleep Number SleepIQ bed if you're interested in trying one out for yourself: http://h5.sml360.com/-/hrph




___________________________________________

This story, my dear young folks, seems to be false, but it really is true, for my grandfather, from whom I have it, used always, when relating it, to say complacently, “It must be true, my son, or else no one could tell it to you.”
“The Hare and the Hedgehog”

Friday, October 3, 2014

Humidity feels like a "welcome home" blanket.

I spent some time in Oklahoma this summer and carried a notepad with me, writing down all the little things I saw that make it feel like home. :)

cowbell hanging off a truck's front bumper
neon orange and camo shirts
the cook was wearing work jeans and poop shoes [shoes that look like they're meant for walking around in poop]
family-owned and -run restaurant
TREES
green green green
right after "Welcome to Oklahoma" was "Now Entering Cherokee Nation"
wife beaters (the shirt, not the person)
Humidity feels like a welcome home blanket.
windy roads
big fields of nothing all over the place
regular houses with huge front yards
hills make the road look like an S
non-privacy fences in not-shady areas [aka, the trees aren't the privacy fence], if a fence at all
people are so nice.
homey





___________________________________________

“Hogwarts is threatened!” shouted Professor McGonagall.  “Man the boundaries, protect us, do your duty to our school!”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

busy living

Sometimes life is too busy and also too good to take pictures.

Sometimes I wish I had a photographer shadow who could take pictures of those moments for me
because, let's be honest,
there'd have been some gems from the last couple weeks.




___________________________________________

"Thing was, they bit off a bit more than they could chew with Gran.  Little old witch living alone, they probably thought they didn’t need to send anyone particularly powerful.  Anyway, Dawlish is still in St. Mungo’s and Gran’s on the run.  She sent me a letter,” he clapped a hand to the breast pocket of his robes, “telling me she was proud of me, that I’m my parents’ son, and to keep it up."
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Friday, September 12, 2014

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it...

I did this.


It was freezing!

which is why I made a fun video.

I figured, if I had to do the uncomfortable part, I might as well get to do a fun part afterwards. :)

P.S. For those of you thinking, "Freezing? There was hardly any ice in there," it's true.  There was hardly any ice in there. because we only own two ice trays.  So the pot sat in the fridge for a long time, and let's be honest - fridges can get water pretttttty cold.





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Out of it, his hair overgrown, his face cut, his robes ripped, clambered the real Neville Longbottom, who gave a roar of delight, leapt down from the mantelpiece, and yelled, "I knew you’d come!  I knew it, Harry!
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

AUGUST

August's goal check-up time!
My goals in August were to brush my teeth at night (I know, I know, you're all disgusted that that wasn't a habit before) and to floss once a day.



Here's my question:

Do you know how hard it is to reach a goal about improving your oral hygiene when you spent the first day of the month at the dentist and he told you not to change a thing about your oral hygiene because your teeth and gums are AWESOME?!

It's really really really hard.

Soooooo.....

Flossing - Yeah, I was horrible at that.
Brushing at night - Probably 50/50.  

And yet, the dentist's (and hygienist's) words are still echoing in my head, so I don't feel bad about it...




___________________________________________

…[T]he goblin rarely left Harry, Ron, and Hermione alone together for more than five minutes at a time: "He could give my mother lessons," growled Ron, as the goblin’s long fingers kept appearing around the edges of doors.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Monday, September 1, 2014

things I'm loving today


flats of raspberries (12 6-oz packs) for only $10!!




___________________________________________

“Harry Potter,” he squeaked in the tiniest quiver of a voice, “Dobby has come to rescue you.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Thursday, August 28, 2014

funnies

Kelli, in a Russellville, AK, rest stop: "I hate this whole place."

Mom: "I'm as cool as a coupon!"

Grandma: "People are going all hotsie potsie on me!"
Me: "What does that mean?"
Grandma: "It means no one wants to have ice cream."

Rachel: "Why does water stay logged in your ears?"
Dad: "Capillary action, I presume."

Kelli: "What famous person would you be?  You can keep the good parts and get rid of the bad parts."
Rachel: "Helen Keller.  Minus all the bad parts."

Grandma: "I've got more gloves than Peter has Paul."

Grandma: "What are you doing with all those pictures?"
Mom (joking): "Throwing them out."
Grandma: "Oh yeah, you are... like the bird in the bush."





___________________________________________

[The tent] was now packed inside the beaded bag, which, Harry was impressed to learn, Hermione had protected from the Snatchers by the simple expedient of stuffing it down her sock.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Monday, August 25, 2014

If I could talk to my younger self,

these are the appearance-related things I would tell me:

1. If you stop brushing your hair back into a ponytail (the key word here being brushing, not ponytail), you won't get those flyaways by your ears.

2. Your teeth after braces rock as much you think they will!

3. Your weight is appropriate.

4. Yes, there is a way to have a higher success rate with wearing your hair curly.  Once you figure out the trick, it's faster, less stressful, more consistent, looks better on the second day, and looks more flattering on you - all of those things compared to both how you're doing it now and straight hair.  Maybe that's why you were born with it. :)

5. What Alyssa Priest told you about blush is true.

6. I'm glad it didn't bother you when that person told you to get those above-your-eye bumps removed.  You were right - people don't really notice them, and they don't bother you when you do your makeup or start dating like that person warned they might.

7. Slip shorts are not just a dream!  They're real! and pretty inexpensive!!  Buy some.  They will make skirt-wearing much more comfortable (especially with heels), just like you imagined they could.

8. People you don't even know will tell you you can pull off red lipstick.  Use that information however you want.

9. Hair stylists will tell you that bangs flatter your face.  That's true, but also be aware that you usually hate having them in your face.  Don't cut them so short you can't pin them back.

10. It sounds cheesy, but you will learn a lot from watching "What Not to Wear."

11. Don't waste time on cheap eyeliner pencils.  Go straight to Maybelline Define-A-Line (which is also pretty cheap).





___________________________________________

"Are you planning to follow a career in Magical Law, Miss Granger?" asked Scrimgeour.
"No, I'm not," retorted Hermione.  "I'm hoping to do some good in the world!"
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Friday, August 22, 2014

I must be in California.

("West Coast Friendship," by Owl City)

We went to California!  It was my first time ever being there and was so fun!  We went with some friends who had a conference going on and were only there for a couple days, but Joel and I both loved it and want to go back sometime.  

The first day there was a hiccup with the rental car, so we hung out around the hotel.  Going for walks, swimming in the hotel, taking naps, eating microwave burritos, finding out my Smiths card worked in California... it was awesome. :)

Day 2 featured Olvera Street, the California Science Center, and deeeelicious tacos with jamaica (horchata for Joel).




And the star of Day 3 was the beach!  We only got to be there for a couple hours, but we loved it.  I did some research as to which beach in the Los Angeles area would be clean and not too busy, and Seal Beach was everything people online promised.  California beaches are also different from the ones I'm used to, so that was interesting.  I'd never seen a lifeguard hut on a beach before. :)




See you later, LA!  We'd like to come back and visit again sometime. :)





___________________________________________

"I'm nearly done, I'm just waiting for the rest of your underpants to come out of the wash, Ron -"
Ron's splutter was interrupted by the opening of a door on the first-floor landing.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

birthday pie


I love pie.
This year for my birthday, I had a chocolate chip pie.  It's kind of like a giant deep-dish chocolate chip cookie, easy to make, and also amazing.  
People ask me for this recipe ALL THE TIME (not realizing that it's on Nestle's website), so I thought I'd share it.  Try this!  If you like chocolate, pie, and cookies, you will loooove it.



1 unbaked 9" pie crust (I always use a frozen store-bought one)
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I'm a slave to milk chocolate.)
optional: 1 cup chopped nuts (mmmmmm, pecans)

Preheat oven to 325.  Beat eggs in large bowl on high speed until foamy.  Beat in flour and sugars.  Beat in butter.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.  Pour into shell and bake 55-60 minutes (or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean).  Cool at least a little before eating, and then try not to devour the whole pie in one sitting.  





___________________________________________

"This isn't your average book," said Ron.  "It's pure gold: Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches.  If only I'd had this last year I'd have known exactly how to get rid of Lavender and I would've known how to get going with... Well, Fred and George gave me a copy, and I've learned a lot."
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Thursday, August 14, 2014

the seventh goal in the seventh month...

Ok, most of the previous months had more than one goal, so it's not actually the seventh one.  Oh well. :)

July goals!
1. Go on dates with Joel (not just stay-home dates)
2. Learn to love (and hopefully be good at) my new calling - being Primary chorister

Go on dates with Joel (not just stay-home dates)
Joel and I have a great marriage.  We like staying home, and most of the time, splitting a cake-in-a-mug and watching a movie are a good-enough date for both of us.  I like to leave home, too, though! and sometimes I get bored of staying home with the same routine.  In the past, we've had a budget for eating out and a budget for other dates, but we almost never used the "other dates" budget.  This month, I combined and lowered the budgets to be more realistic and we set a rule - we had to use all the date money!  It was fun!  We still used a lot of it for eating out, but we ate at more fun + new places.  I picked Joel up from work one day for a middle-of-the-week lunch date at a new place.  We went to a Young Entrepreneur fair and loved spending $3 for (fill in the blank) because it came from our date fund and was for that!  I want to keep this up, moving away from eating out with most of the money.  There are a lot of fun things to do around here!  Having a date budget keeps me from feeling guilty about spending money on things that logically feel "frivolous" things but are fun, like eating at a restaurant nicer than Wendy's or going bowling. :)

Learn to love (and hopefully be good at) being Primary chorister
When I got this calling at the end of June, I didn't want it.  I didn't want to leave my old calling, and I didn't believe I had time for something new.  If I had to have something new, I didn't want this - it just seemed so hard with a lot of planning.  Being positive about it seemed like a good goal, all things considered.  Thankfully, I had a pretty great resource to call!  My mom's been her ward's Primary chorister forEVER, and she loves it.  So I called her immediately in hopes of getting pumped up.  She gave me a lot of great ideas, but I was still ner. vous!  When my first Sunday rolled around, I prayed that it would go perfectly.  "I know it won't always be perfect.  I know there will be some really hard days, just like with teaching.  But please let the first day be perfect so I won't feel so nervous from now on."  And it *was* perfect.  Heavenly Father is merciful.

I've only had a couple other weeks since then, and there have definitely been times (and days) when I felt overwhelmed with this calling.  It's not a ton of hard work, but it's work I'm not used to.  For most of the month, I never felt caught up.  It felt like people were always asking me to get things done sooner, be more ahead, give more people your early-made lesson plans.  But I think I'm finally starting to come out on top with the planning.  As far as the presentation goes, well, that's always fun. :)  I'll get closer to this goal as I start to feel more comfortable with the expectations, but it sure made my first month go better!  Attitude makes a big difference!




___________________________________________

“Are you threatening me, sir?” he said, so loudly that passersby actually turned to stare.
“Yes, I am,” said Mad-Eye, who seemed rather pleased that Uncle Vernon had grasped this fact so quickly.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Monday, August 11, 2014

goals: fifth and sixth editions

I know what you all are thinking.  "Alison hasn't posted anything about her resolution since she was complaining about having too many goals in May... She must have given up like the rest of the world."  Wrong!  Guess again!  I've been just as diligent as ever (just less diligent about writing about my diligence).  Here we go!

May
As some of you may recall, my initial goal in May was to try doing all the goals from the previous months.  I wanted to make them more firm habits.  Well, I was over my head, what with school ending, so I decided my new goal for May was to finish the school year with grace.  Good news there!  Things were crazy and hard, and I didn't get much done outside of school, but everything I wanted to accomplish *in* school, I did, and I'm really happy with how it went.  Did I tell you about the ten kids who spontaneously showed up in my classroom to help me clean it an hour before my checkout appointment with the janitor?  They were wonderfully amazing, I love them, and Heavenly Father is merciful.  And thus ended Month 5.

June
I was out of town for almost the whole month spending time with my family, so my goal was a little different in June.  Habits I develop on vacation don't tend to stick around when the vacation ends - life is so different, the goals don't carry over very well.  I flew home and then drove with my family to my grandma's house to help her clean some stuff out and have the world's biggest garage sale. :)  

I had two goals for June:
1. Enjoy every minute with my family as much as possible (and not spend my mental energy missing Joel, who was a peach to let me be gone so long).
2. Strengthen my relationships with them, especially focusing on my younger sisters.  They were who I'd be spending the most time with + one was leaving on an 18-month mission soon + the other is starting college soon + they've always been who I've had to watch my tone around the most, so it made sense to try to make the most of our time together!

Basically, I wanted to avoid arguments, judging, and Facebook (ie, not being present), and be helpful.  :)

Man!  Focusing on thinking before speaking makes a difference!  There were many instances where thinking first came in extremely handy, and a couple where I was almost physically biting my tongue to keep negative comments inside.  It worked!  Peace and harmony abounded.  :)  It was an AWESOME trip, and I am extremely happy with how both of my goals turned out.  

Stay tuned for July!




___________________________________________

“He somehow could not find words to tell them what it meant to him,
to see them all ranged there, on his side.”
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Thursday, August 7, 2014

five years


This happened five years ago today!
I'm so happy to be married to this guy!  He's really great.

Here's a taste of what we've done over the last five years...
gotten season passes to a water park
survived each others' studies abroad / business trips
learned about blending two families and establishing traditions
participated in the world's biggest (at the time) water balloon fight
made some really great friends
graduated college (both of us)
attended our first rodeo
bought a sweet piano
gotten grown-up jobs
shaved Joel's head
bought a house
learned how to maintain a house
increased our Lego collection
started a garden
planted four trees
seen two siblings get married and three have babies
sent one sibling on a mission
gone camping
finished a basement
lost one set of wisdom teeth
given many surprises
hosted many guests
read Harry Potter together (and other books)
become proficient bocce players and curlers

Here's to infinity more years of fun!




___________________________________________

“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…. Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives….The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies….”
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Monday, August 4, 2014

but what do I DO?

When I was 15, I was in an accident on a church youth trip.  I miraculously escaped practically unscathed, with just a few bruises and needing a few stitches in my elbow. After the accident, I was given a priesthood blessing  in which I was told that, were it not for the intervention of angels, I would have died in that accident.

In the year or so that followed, I often wondered why I had been saved.  Did I have a special purpose in life waiting for me?  What would I do that would be worth saving me for?  What was I doing now to show I was thankful for the gift of being alive?  It's been ten years since that day, and I still think about it often.  Whenever I make new friends, start something new, finish something, or give advice, I think about it.  I think about things I learn from those people and experiences, but mostly I think about the influence I have on those around me and try to make sure it's a positive one.  

I think a little about milestones I've reached, but I prefer focusing on people.  I don't think my life was spared so I could graduate from college; I think I'm here to establish good relationships with people.  When my students tell me how much they love me, I ask myself, "What would their Spanish education be like if I hadn't been here?"  I know they would've been fine, but I'm thankful for what I've been able to teach them.  I think of my husband, to whom I'm so happy to be married.  I think about my family and fun things we've done together in the last ten years.  I often think, "Maybe he / she / they / that experience was why I'm here."

I strongly believe this is something we all should do - often.  Think about why you're here.  Think about those you're interacting with.  What are you doing with your life?  Who are you supporting, teaching, loving?  Is your overall influence positive?  What are you doing - every single day - to show you're thankful for the gift of being alive?  

I like when that question pops into my head as I'm stuck in a time-wasting rut - whether with television, the Internet, or something else.  It reorients me.  

Are you stuck in a time-wasting rut?  How will you change your life so it means more?  What are you going to DO?

Focus on doing good.  Then when you look for positive influences you're having on the world, you will find them.





___________________________________________

“It would be nice if you stopped jumping down Ron’s and my throats, Harry,
because if you haven’t noticed, we’re on your side.”
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Thursday, July 31, 2014

celebrating with Ricky Martin and other good company


Well, it's not today, but close enough. :)

Joel and his family surprised me with a newly painted sewing room
and a bright green front door with white trim.
AMAZING.  Both projects look perfect!  Exactly as I'd imagined.
When I can, I'll post a couple pictures. :)

Also, happy birthday! to Harry Potter (today), J.K. Rowling (today), 
Neville Longbottom (yesterday), and my sister's baby (soon).




___________________________________________

Sibyll’s prophecy could have applied to two wizard boys, both born at the end of July that year, both of whom had parents in the Order of the Phoenix, both sets of parents having narrowly escaped Voldemort three times.  One, of course, was you.  The other was Neville Longbottom.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

shout-out to Kelli!

Shout-out to my sister, who's leaving this week to serve a mission for our church!  GOOD LUCK, KELLI BELLY JELLY SMELLY DELI!  Have fun!  I love you!




___________________________________________

“Please,” she said, “you’re so beautiful.  You may eat me if you like.
I’d sooner be eaten by you then fed by anyone else.”
(Hwin to Aslan)
The Horse and His Boy

Thursday, July 24, 2014

the finish line!

The night I finish a project, you can tell by looking at me.  My eyes are droopy.  Well, really, my whole face is droopy.  My head cocks to the side when I sit still, and all I want to do is eat a treat and watch TV in bed.  I don't talk or feel like smiling - too worn out.  The kitchen is dirty and my clothes are usually covered in tiny pieces of thread I tried to get off but missed.  Sometimes I'm not even wearing all my clothes, if I've been trying on a skirt over and over and finally got it right and pushed through to the finish line...without stopping to put the originals back on.


Things look interesting on the outside,
but on the inside, I feel awesome.


because check out this sweet bag I just finished making for my sister!
Complete with zipper pocket invisible from the outside (other than by the zipper),


recessed zipper and gusset,


lining, and other goodies!


Try not to be toooooooo impressed. :)





___________________________________________

“It’s far worse for me than for you.  You aren’t going to be educated… 
Education and all sorts of horrible things are going to happen to me.”
The Horse and His Boy

Thursday, July 17, 2014

enemies


Being so surrounded by other people's ideas that, when it's time to think of your own, theirs are all that come to mind.

I think we're seeing this more and more with people (not just kids) who spend all their time with technology or toys that only do one thing, and no time outside or with a pencil.  

It's like with Legos.  There's nothing wrong with doing what the instructions say, but what happens if you lose the instructions?  Are you incapacitated, or can you still make something?

Also,
lack of practice (whether by choice or necessity).





___________________________________________

“And as for who’s going to look after Ron and Ginny if you and Arthur died,” said Lupin, smiling slightly, “what do you think we’d do, let them starve?”
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Monday, July 14, 2014

shopping


I read this question two ways:
1) What will you never buy because you'd never use it or don't believe in it?
and
2) What will you never buy because it's not worth the money or you'd always make it instead of buy it?

Thus, I'll answer it both ways.
(I'm sticking with answers that could potentially be probable.  I could make up a ton of stuff I'd never buy, like a lifetime supply of charcoal briquettes or a season pass to a bowling alley in Spearfish, North Dakota, but we're going to stick with things that could actually happen.)

What will you never buy because you'd never use it or don't believe in it?
Cigarettes.
I also don't drink alcohol, but I can't rule that out totally from my purchasing future.  I'd never buy it to drink, but I'm leaving my options open in case I acquire a recipe for food or bug killer that uses it.
But I would never. buy cigarettes.  I can't think of any purpose you could accomplish with them other than smoking, and since smoking's out of the question, so are cigarettes.

What will you never buy because it's not worth the money or you'd always make it instead?
I can't think of anything that I make so easily I'd never buy it, besides garbage.
...which leaves something I don't ever think is worth the money...
Ahh.
An extended warranty.




___________________________________________

“I don’t believe it!  I don’t believe it!  Oh, Ron, how wonderful!  A prefect!  That’s everyone in the family!”
“What are Fred and I, next-door neighbors?” said George indignantly…”
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Thursday, July 10, 2014

my great-grandma knew how to fiesta!

I bet none of you have pictures of your great-grandma hitting a piñata.  Try not to be toooo jealous.  :)





___________________________________________

"...also a heavy locket that none of them could open;"
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Monday, July 7, 2014

wannabe

Remember how I said my grandparents were models?

I also had an uncle who wished he were.  :)

on the right.  Check out that pose!  Work those hips!
I like to call this pose "Smooooth Stefan."
Okay, okay, I guess he was pretty cute.


And this picture of him does look like it should be in a magazine.


Let's just say, I come from a family of good-lookin' folks.


 I guess my good looks had to come from somewhere!

(not pictured: my dad's family, from which I also inherited half of my good looks.
We just didn't happen to be cleaning out boxes of his old things this summer.)

(Sorry, Stef, I couldn't resist! :)
If any other uncles or aunts would also like to be teased with old pictures of themselves,
feel free to comment!)




___________________________________________

"Ah," said Fudge, who looked thoroughly disconcerted.  "Dumbledore.  Yes.  You - er - got our - er - message that the time and - er - place of the hearing had been changed, then?"
"I must have missed it," said Dumbledore cheerfully.  "However, due to a lucky mistake I arrived at the Ministry three hours early, so no harm done."
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Also, my grandparents were models.

Can all of my daughters look exactly like her please?



This picture was sent to my grandpa. Love.


Gramps's turn!

I mean, come on.

He was 19.




And together!



This is actually one of my favorite pictures in the whole world.
Everyone just looks so genuinely happy!  I love it.
I've looked at it about 100 times today.




___________________________________________

“Severus, please fetch me the strongest Truth Potion you possess, and then go down to the kitchens and bring up the house-elf called Winky.  Minerva, kindly go down to Hagrid’s house, where you will find a large black dog sitting in the pumpkin patch.  Take the dog up to my office, tell him I will be with him shortly, then come back here.”
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Johnson-style Nanaimo Bars

Yesterday was Canada Day, so Joel and I celebrated like we always do - poutine for dinner, Nanaimo Bars for dessert, and watching a show that teases about the differences between Canadians and Americans.  To my dismay, however, I learned that most of my friends had never tried a Nanaimo Bar and / or didn't know what they were!  So here, friends, is the recipe I use.  I've never tried an authentic Nanaimo Bar, but I've made so many substitutions, I'm sure they no longer taste authentic.  :)  They do taste delicious, though.  

This is a refrigerated no-bake bar-style cookie... kind of.  The actual prep time for each layer is very short, but there's about an hour and a half of setting time.  The tiny parenthetical asides are my personal notes, learned in the process of making these. :)

Start with a pan (I use 9" round) lined with foil or plastic wrap.  It's much easier to cut and serve these if you can remove the whole thing from the pan.

Please don't judge me.  I am NOT a food photographer.
Bottom layer:
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature (Salted butter works, too.  Also, since you're melting it, it doesn't need to be room temp.)
1/4 c. sugar
5 T cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 10 crackers or most of a store-bought graham cracker crust:) (For gluten-free, I'd sub in quick oats. This ingredient is mostly for texture anyway.)
1/2 c. finely chopped almonds (If your almonds have freezer burn, finely chopped pecans are also delicious.)
1 c. coconut (We don't like coconut, so we use quick oats instead.)

Melt butter, sugar, and cocoa powder together.  Slowly add to beaten egg.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients.  (I do that step with a spatula in the pan I'm going to use.)  Press firmly into ungreased pan.  (Eat a forkful.)  Refrigerate.  

Hm.  It looks like I snuck some Heath bars into the bottom layer last year.  Yum!
Middle layer:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (Again, salted is fine.)
3 T whipping cream (I couldn't tell any difference when I used milk.)
2 T custard powder (or vanilla pudding powder)
2 c. powdered sugar

Cream all ingredients together and spread onto the bottom layer.  Refrigerate 30-60 minutes (so it stays separate from the top layer.)


I cover it with plastic wrap during setting time so it doesn't absorb any funky fridge odors.
Top layer:
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (2/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips) (REALLY USE SEMI-SWEET, even if you're a slave to milk chocolate when baking.)
2 T unsalted butter (Salted is good.)

Melt together.  When cool but still liquid, pour over other two layers.  Refrigerate at least one hour.



Enjoy!  Really - I think it's impossible not to.

(I told you I made a lot of substitutions:)