Saturday, October 31, 2009

Memorable Movies: Racing Stripes

Boy did we have a movie night last night. I'm not sure that I've ever watched 3 movies in one night before, but we did last night! Perhaps not our smartest move since Russ & I were up until 1AM, but we enjoyed it. (We were waiting for the boys to get home from the Halloween dance, so we just kept watching.)

First on our movie agenda was a movie for the kids called Racing Stripes. After watching this movie I can now see why Netflix has labeled our movie watching preferences:
Sentimental Underdog Movies for Family and Children.
Yep, that's us. We are sentimental and we like underdogs. And Racing Stripes fit that description to a T. When I'd seen previews long ago for this movie I was a little uncertain about how I would like a movie with talking animals. It didn't look as cheesy as I'd feared, and some of the animals were quite entertaining.

Racing Stripes is the story of a father & daughter who raise a zebra who 1)doesn't know he's not a horse, and 2)wants to race. The father is overprotective because his wife died in a racing accident, and the other horses are angry that a zebra wants to race with them. It was easy to watch and ended happily ever after, which is of course our favorite ending. I think the little kids loved seeing all of the animals talk. I loved watching the horses racing. Although I must say that a running zebra just doesn't have the same beauty--those long legs do make a difference!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Book Review: Home to Holly Springs


At the library a few weeks ago I saw this book on the shelf and picked it up. I don't keep track of new novels, so I don't really know where Jan Karon has been lately with her Mitford novels. I was in the mood to read though, so I checked it out and took it home with me. By the time it made it up to the top of my stack, I was no longer in the mood to read it. (To be fair, "Catching Fire" is a hard act to follow!)

But then I had to find something to read while waiting at the dentists office and so I picked it up and gave it a try.

It took a few minutes to get into, but very soon I was remembering just what it is I love about the Mitford books. I love the people. I love the people who are so real you think that might have even met them before. I love the people who are so real that you begin to care about their stories — not just out of curiosity, but because you genuinely care about what happens to them.

I thoroughly & completely enjoyed traveling with Father Tim back to his home town. The stories from his early life added to what we already know of his personality, and the resolutions were very satisfying. There were several surprises that I never would have expected and Karon wrapped everything up neatly.

Another of my favorite things about the Father Tim novels is the theology. Karon sprinkles quotes from theologians and philosophers throughout her book, and they are always very thought provoking.

My favorite quote from this book, though, is from a conversation between 5 year old Father Tim and his preacher.
Preacher: Can you fill us in on the concept of prayer? What is that all about, anyway?

Young Tim: Prayer is getting into relationship with God.

Preacher: Isn't it about asking for things we want, and let God know what's what?

Tim:No, sir. He already knows what we want and what we need. Prayer is about getting to know him, and worshiping him and trusting him, and thanking him.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Whole Lotta Happy?


After our unsuccessful attempt to go to the fair last Monday, I decided that the little kids and I would go during the school day on Thursday.

The NC State Fair theme for 2009 was "A Whole Lotta Happy." I'm still not sure I buy it, but here are some pictures of our (very long) day.

It was close enough to lunchtime when we got there that we persuaded Russ to join us for lunch. We started with one of our favorite fair foods, roasted ears of corn. Those are always terrific, and this year my braces are off so I could eat them!



After we got "real" food we indulged in a some fried dough covered in powdered sugar. That was really yummy.



Jared got sugar on his face and was going to wipe it off with some of the bread so that he didn't lose any of the sugar! (I nixed that idea.)



He really was serious about getting every last bit of sugar.



We decided to take pictures of the really bizarre food offerings we saw. Here they are, in order from least offensive to most repulsive. (Although the last two are really pretty close.




(that is my "I can't believe any person alive would actually eat this stuff" face,
in case you couldn't tell...)


After the food we went to see the BMX show. Russ was still with us, so I was able to sneak off to a better seat and get some great pictures of the bikers in action. It was the first of many times that day that I wondered "what on earth would possess someone to do this for a living???"




After Russ left we spent some time watching the crafts people. I always love seeing all of the beautiful things that people make, and now the kids are old enough to be impressed too. One of my favorite things is to see the potter throwing pots, although he kind of gives a moral sermon while he's working that's a bit over the top. His products are really beautiful, though. The kids also got a chance to work a loom, which was neat to see. And we bought a very expensive cup of ice cream made by old fashioned churns powered by John Deere engines.



We had decided that since last year all we did at the fair was eat and ride rides, this year we would do no rides so that we would have time to see the shows and the animals. One of the shows I really wanted to see was called Circle C Pig Racing. I didn't know exactly what it involved, but I figured pig racing was not something to be missed.

Apparently all of the fair-goers had the same idea, because when we got to the small grandstand area a few minutes before the races were to start it was completely mobbed without even any standing room. We decided that we would come early to the next pig races on our program.

And then we got a brownie and a strawberry smoothie to soothe our disappointment.



We ended up going 40 minutes early for the next round of pig racing, and waiting in the hot sun to make sure we had a seat.

The kids enjoyed their cotton candy; I was pretty cranky and tired by this point and was grateful that I could text Cindy Lynn on my phone for entertainment.



One lady who was sitting beside us during our long hot wait on the bleachers told me that she had come from Florida specifically to see the pig races.

All I can say is there must not be a lot going on in Florida.



When the announcer came out he was pretty funny. First of all he told the crowd "If you haven't seen pig racing before, you've lead a sheltered life." And then later he said "this is the redneck way to make a living."

We got to see pigs, pygmy goats, and ducks race. I thought the ducks were the most fun to watch.



The crowd around the pig races was really crazy. There were people who crawled (in the mud and straw) under the bleachers to try to see, people who stood on the top of the electric boxes, and people who just held their small children up in the air.


After the pig races we passed a climbing wall, and they all immediately decided they wanted to trade in their $4 pony ride for a $5 trip up the climbing wall. I agreed, though if I'd known that that was the end of my money (I actually didn't even have $15 left--only $14, but they were already up on the wall by the time I discovered that and then what could they do but take my $14??) I probably wouldn't have let them, but I did. And so that was the end of eating fair food, darn it. I had wanted to try a few more fun things before we were done.


They all loved the climbing wall, although Rachel had some trepidation about getting down after she was all the way at the top. But after she got the hang of it she thought it was great.



Another show we went to see was this one:

In the end I decided that the poodle show was kind of sad. What a strange life--to travel around the country with your poodles getting them to jump through hoops. As you can tell, this poodle wasn't too thrilled with it either...

After the poodles we went to see the "real" animals. Our first stop was the cow barn, where it was obviously milking time. Ouch--it made me cringe to see all of those full udders! It was fun to watch the milking, but I didn't get any good pictures because they were all behind glass. The kids were really fascinated by the milking, right until several of the cows urinated as they were being milked. Then they were just grossed out at all of that urine on the floor!

They liked walking around and looking at all of the different breeds & colors of cows. I forget what huge animals some of these cows are. They were also SO bony. I wasn't expecting that at all. Don't you always think of a cow as a pleasantly rounded animal? Well these certainly weren't, at least not the milk cows.

The kids were having a great time watching all of the cows until one walked by us and started pooping. The owner just grabbed a shovel and held it behind the cow to catch all of the poop. I had to snap a picture of the kids horror at the sight. (It was a lot of poop!)

As we were walking out of the cow barn some older gentlemen offered the kids a wristband. The condition on the wristband was that they would need to explain what the different colors meant. As I looked past the men to the sign behind them I realized that we were being witnessed to; the group was something like christianfarmers.com. The kids wanted the wristband and so we sat and they listened to the man talk to them. The only problem I had was when he said that one of the colors was to remind us that we are born sinful. I (gently) interrupted him and explained that we actually believe that babies are born innocent, and he said he guessed that was ok.

When it was over and we walked away Rachel looked at me and said,

"Well, that was awkward!"


After the cow barn we went into another barn. One of the first things we saw was a mother pig with a littler of piglets. They were so cute, all laying on each other & asleep. I'm always amazed that animals handle having a lot of babies so much better than I did!



Maybe this little video shows why she handles it better. I can't imagine being able to sleep through this kind of pummeling!

video

Our last stop was the sheep tent. I really got a kick out of seeing the sheep. Probably because I've never seen sheep with such great hair-do's before!



And I'm not sure what was going on with this guy, but he got his own special blanket.



That was the end of our fair experience. We had hoped to visit the petting zoo as well, but as hard as I tried I couldn't find it. By then my feet were so tired and all I could think was that we'd better go or we'd never be able to leave and have to spend the rest of our lives there, running the poodle show or something sad like that.

So--was there a whole lotta happy? I'm not really sure. There was a whole lotta eating, and a whole lotta whining for cheap toys for sale all over, or to have their weight or birthday guessed so they could win some other cheap gimmicky toy. There was a whole lotta walking and a whole lotta borderline heatstroke. And there was some fun as well — watching the bike tricks and the pig races and even the sad poodle show. But boy was it a long and exhausting day, and I'm not in a hurry to do it again any time soon!

Bring It On!

Last year you may remember that I blogged here about turning the thermostat down in our house during the winter to try to save money, and the misery of climbing into a freezing cold bed at night.

Not being one to dwell on unpleasant memories, I promptly forgot about the cold bed once things warmed up in the spring.

Last week when we had a string of cold nights I remembered again.

Brrrrr!

Thank goodness for Kohls & their sales.

Bring it on!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rooms With a View

I spend a fair amount of time disliking my windows. I mean they're picturesque and all, if you're into colonial style windows. (Tall & narrow) But they are definitely old and my life would just be so much better if we could afford to replace them.

But every now and then I remember to focus out of the windows instead of spending my time just focusing on the windows.

Much better....

PS — You know I was kidding about new windows changing my life, right? Here's a funny story for you. Josh got a cell phone for his birthday this summer. He was obsessed with getting it and insisted that Russ take him to pick it out the very first moment possible. A few weeks ago I was looking at his cell phone and asked if he likes having it as much as he expected. He looked at me, and then said, "Well, I really thought texting was going to change my life..."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Waiting on the Lord

I've been having a hard time. Not a hard time in some obvious concrete sort of way, like breaking a limb or contracting H1N1. More of a building sadness inside of me with a sudden awareness a few days ago that I am deeply unhappy about something in my life.

I spent much of the weekend in a major, full sized temper tantrum. The combination of total exhaustion (from the fair, which I will tell about later) and unhappiness propelled me towards my bed, where I spent most of Friday afternoon and all of Saturday.

After I had sorted through my feelings I told Russ why I was so upset. ("Told" is such a calm word, really. What happened was much more like ranting and raving combined with a whole lot of crying. Yes, he is a saint.) All of my feelings and sadness and worry came spilling out.

But then something strange happened.

Right in the middle of my total temper tantrum, while I was still wiping tears from my red eyes and blowing my stuffy nose, I had a moment of clarity.

I suddenly remembered that for the last month or two I have been praying — fervently and earnestly praying — for a better understanding of a gospel principle that I am realizing that I understand in my mind but not in my heart. I have had some trepidation as I have prayed for this understanding — I am quite aware that learning is not always comfortable. But I can also see what a difference this change would make in my life.

As I sat there on Saturday, wiping and blowing and crying, I could suddenly see that this situation in my life that makes me so sad also creates what could be the perfect space for Heavenly Father to help me learn what he wants me to know.

I was startled.

These thoughts stayed in the back of my mind for the rest of the day, as I slept and laid on my bed and watched the rain and slept some more. Could it really be that Heavenly Father was actively working towards what I have been pleading for him to show me? Is it possible that this unhappiness in my life is not just a random juxtaposition of events, but instead a carefully crafted classroom?

By the time night came, I had decided that I was going to give it a chance. Instead of scurrying around and figuring out how to "fix" my little sadness with chocolate and other natural woman solutions, I am going to do my best to wait on the Lord. I am going to keep praying for understanding and trust that he can manage this situation better than I can. I am going to trust that he cares about the sorrow in my heart and that he will not only teach me but lead me to something better in the end.


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A big thanks to Russ & my awesome kids for taking care of things so that I could check out for a while. Yes, I know that I am really blessed.

And to my sweet little girls, who left me this note:

Consecrated

I have long found comfort in the midst of adversity (my own or others') in several scriptures. When thing are especially difficult I remind myself often,
We know that all things work together for good to them that love God...
Romans 8: 28
or I think of the words given to Joseph in Liberty Jail:
...know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
D&C 122: 7

I've thought of these scriptures a lot in the last few years. Cindy Lynn has had such difficult and ongoing health issues that I sometimes feel frustration and despair at the problems that seem never-ending. I have had to consciously remind myself of these promises from the Lord to be able to have peace in my heart.

As I was reading in 2nd Nephi recently something caught my eye. At first it seemed to be a verse that said the same thing as these other verses that have given me hope and peace. But as I looked at it, I realized that it was slightly different. Lehi, speaking to his son Jacob, said:
Nevertheless, Jacob, my first-born in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.
2 Nephi 2:2

The difference, I realized, was the word consecrate. Lehi was saying that not only would these experiences benefit him, but that they would be consecrated. I tried to figure out exactly what that would mean, and finally looked up consecrate in one of my reference books.
Consecrate: To do something "with sacredness," to dedicate, devote, and focus oneself toward the realization of a sacred end. In addition, it is to set apart and designate for sacred purposes...
This touched my heart deeply; the idea that our trials and tribulations can be set apart and designated for a sacred pupose — the sacred purpose of helping us learn and grow and become more like our Father in Heaven. As I thought about this verse over the next several days, I started to see that in this context our trials might actually be seen as sacred and holy experiences.

This idea is a stretch for me, and it's a far cry from the "I think life should be a beach vacation" mantra that I've lived by for so much of my life. I am hoping that as I keep these thoughts in my mind and heart, I can be more open to this understanding and eventually truly feel the truth of Lehi's words...
he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain...

Oh Well....

Russ was quite surprised to see that one of the articles in the Ensign this month was on blogging; "Finding and Sharing the Gospel Online."

I was feeling pretty good about my blogging until I read this suggestion, under the heading Be a Blogging Missionary:
When you write a post, keep it relatively short.

Yeah, right!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Memorable Movies: Disney's Earth


I've been thinking for a while about adding some movie reviews to my blog. When Cindy Lynn started college and we got real poor, we had to get rid of Dish Network. (And a bunch of other things, including food and electricity. :) ) When things eased up again we considered adding Dish back into our lives, but just never could bring ourselves to do it. Eventually we tried Netflix for a month and decided that it was a better deal for our money. Since then we've had a steady stream of movies come in the mail, but we've also sampled a lot of the movies that are available to watch online. Russ is good at finding obscure movies that we end up really enjoying, and I thought we would pass those finds on to you.

Tonight's movie was the documentary Earth by Disney. What a gargantuan undertaking this movie was. It took 5 years to film, used 40 film teams, and over 2000 days in filming. It is unbelievably beautiful. The score is also beautiful and the fact that James Earl Jones narrates doesn't hurt either. (Though I did see one reviewer say they felt like Darth Vadar was telling him about the earth!)

This isn't an easy movie to watch, though, and I'm not sure it's for young kids. It follows the year long journey of three animal groups; a mother polar bear and her cubs, a herd of elephants, and a humpback whale and her calf. (You know I loved that part!) The film shows that the circle of life often means that for one animal to eat, another has to die, and that when an animal can't find something to eat it will die. Even though it was filmed and narrated gently it was really heartbreaking to watch at times. It might also scare young children to see the great white shark jump 32 feet out of the water! But we thought that part was cool.

I'm going to go watch it again, and then I'm going to watch the bonus "making of" feature. I think this movie is a great tribute to the amazing world that was created for us.

Rachel said at the end of the movie,
I'm glad I saw this movie, so that now I know what nature is really like. I had to learn sometime!
Next year (Earth Day 2010) they're coming out with a movie entirely about oceans. I think I'll have to see that one in the theater!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Book Review: The Giver

I am fascinated by dystopian novels; novels which present someone's idea a perfect society, and then show just how and why that idea won't work. I think that no one has written a better dystopian novel than Lois Lowry in The Giver.

What is particularly chilling about Lowry's novel is that her society really does seem utopian at first. Everyone is polite. No one wants anyone else to feel uncomfortable. Jobs are carefully matched to individuals after years of observation, and marriages are arranged in the same careful way. Everything is neat and orderly. (Thanks Katie for pointing this out!)

And what's not to like about that?

Gradually, even as Lowry seduces you with her pleasant community, she begins to insert vague suspicions that everything is not as wonderful as it seems on the surface. Beginning with a discussion of the good things that might be lost as a side effect of inconvenient things being eliminated, and culminating in the observation of a matter-of-fact use of euthanasia, the weaknesses and hidden secrets of the society are revealed.

In the end we see that without choice and opposition, life would lose the depth, meaning, connection, and joy we experience now.

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PS--One of my other favorite dystopian novels is called The Alliance and is an early book by Gerald Lund. If anyone is interested in reading it, just let me know. (And no, it's not nearly as long as the Work & the Glory books!)

PPS--Last night at book club we looked to see what year The Giver was published. It was in 1993, in case you're wondering. Most of the women in our book club were still in kindergarten then. I myself was married with two children by that point. But no, I didn't feel old or anything...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Playing Chicken on the way to the Fair

You know how I posted on Monday that we were going to spend the day at the NC State Fair?

Well.

Let me tell you about that.

One of my children (who shall remain nameless, but looks a lot like this)
was in a mood.

I was tired of the mood and the mean and ugly voice that went along with it.

And so in the car on Monday I broke one of the cardinal rules of parenting.
Rule #13: Never make a promise that you are not willing to keep.
(This is why I never threaten to kill my kids. Bodily harm, yes--I am relatively sure I can keep that promise. But all the way dead, probably not.)

I picked up my cell phone, called Russ, and said very loudly into the phone,
I've changed my mind. I'm tired of this child's bad attitude and ugly behavior and we're going to go back home.
And then I turned the van around and started driving north.

Now I wanted to go to the fair. Really bad. I just didn't want to have a nasty child in the car with me for the hour long drive, or spend the day with his nasty attitude. I was counting on him wanting to go to the fair bad enough to be willing to apologize and change his voice & behavior.

So much for that fantasy.

He didn't say a word as we drove back home, then he went straight upstairs and locked himself in his room.

(For various other reasons I couldn't drop him off at home and go to the fair without him.)

I was pretty mad.


Eventually I got over it (and myself) and calmed down enough to talk to him about his behavior. He actually started behaving like a reasonable human being again and was pleasant to be around all afternoon and the next day as well.

Tonight we drove over to the fairgrounds after church just to watch the fireworks. (More on that in a minute.) Tomorrow morning I am going to take the little kids to the fair for a couple of hours. But he will not be going.

I hope this actually sinks in. I hope he will remember that he missed out on a great family experience because of his behavior.

I hope I survive this. Raising teenagers is one of the hardest things I've ever done.

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The fireworks show tonight was great. It only lasts about 15 minutes, it never stops the whole time.
video

There was something unexpected about the fireworks show. We did not expect to have debris raining down on us the entire time. We sat in about the same place last year and didn't notice it at all. Tonight it was everywhere. Including in our hair.

Here is a short video clip that shows the debris falling.

video

And here are some pictures. The last one doesn't show the full situation, because of the camera flash. The fuse was actually still burning when it landed in between our windshield and the hood of the van. A woman passing by donated the rest of her Mountain Dew to put out the little fire!

pieces that fell, the top of the van after, and the still burning fuse