Monday, February 28, 2011

Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?

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I was rearranging and cleaning out my sewing room last week.  (AKA the “playroom,” but let’s be honest—I’m the one playing up there the most!)  I found this handful of buttons, each in it’s tiny ziploc bag.  Do you recognize what they are? 



You’re right if you guessed that they’re from clothes I’ve bought over the last couple of years.  Clothes used to have a spare button or two sewn into them somewhere, often into the hem or the side seam.  Now they just come dangling in their little ziploc with the tags.  I dutifully take them off and set them aside for that moment when I need a new button…and as you can see, rarely use them.


So what do you do with yours?  Do you keep them and end up using them?  Throw them away??  Make button crafts???

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Something Has Changed

I spent a lot of time last year thinking a lot about my relationship with my Heavenly Father and wondering why I didn’t feel more love from Him.  Intellectually I knew that He loved me, but in my heart?  When I paid attention, I could tell that love from God wasn’t getting into my heart. 

During that year I worked a lot on my relationship with Him.  I prayed for help and used all of the little tools in my emotional arsenal to try to understand what was going on. 




Last summer I blogged (here and here) about an interesting experience and realization I’d had. 

That day,  (in the convertible, top down, at the intersection of Snow Hill & Mason…the moment is still crystal clear in my memory) as I finished telling Russ about how filled with an awareness of our blessings I had been,  I told him that all I could feel was fear.  I was afraid of what was going to come next.




When I had just turned 22, I thought my first child would die.  Before I turned 23 she had been in the hospital 5 times, several of those in critical condition. 

“Mrs. Ray, if she throws up one more time her heart might stop.”

Eventually there was a diagnosis, a treatment plan, and a prediction of life expectancy.  It was both a reprieve and a life sentence.


From the beginning I felt clearly that this was part of Heavenly Father’s plan for her life and for our life.  But that understanding did not make this easy for me—instead I was afraid; afraid of what she would experience, afraid of what I would need to do, afraid of the pain that would be ahead.


The fear started then and has continued throughout my adult life.  I have constantly been afraid that His plan for me (and mine) would demand too much of me and cause me more pain than I could bear.




That day at the intersection last summer was the light bulb moment.  As I put in the blog entry last summer,


if I am afraid of God

if I mistrust his plan for me

and am afraid it will hurt me

How can I feel His love?




As the summer wore on, and one thing after another broke and had to be paid for, I was aware of a constant peace.  No matter how much that debt mounted, I was certain that it would all be ok.  In the end we owed $17,000—a number that would have caused me a heart attack before.  But I just knew that it would work out ok.


And then one day I realized—




I have believed for a long time that most problems and issues in our lives don’t just fade away on their own, but need to be seen and identified to some degree first before we can deal with them.  I have believed that sometimes seeing an issue clearly and honestly, liberated from the hiding places in our mind and hearts, was enough to enable healing to begin.


But I was completely unprepared for this; my own mighty change of heart, facilitated by a warning and then a big and expensive trial.




I think it was a bargain.



Friday, February 25, 2011

Resolution Recap


You know I never wrote any of my resolutions down until I blogged about each one.  I’m kind of curious to write them down in a list and see how they look.  So here goes!


  • Be deliberate in my computer use.
  • Keep working on getting organized—get hot spots under control.
  • Be ready for bed at 9.
  • Eat more fruits & veggies.  Esp more veggies.  (I served brussel sprouts the other night.  They were not a hit, but I am going to keep trying!)
  • Use my driving time (esp calling related driving time) productively.
  • Keep track of what I read on Goodreads.


Wow—now that I’ve written them all down in a list it really doesn’t look like so much, does it.  And it makes me realize that there are 2 other things I’d like to add to my goals this year.


  1. Keep track of and act on inspiration that has to do with other people.  Rather often I’ll feel a little prompting to do something for someone—not usually a big grand gesture, but usually something small.  The problem is that I don’t do a good job of keeping track of these promptings, especially if I’m away from home when they happen.  So I’m going to do a better job by using my phone to text the prompting to my email.  I know that sounds like a crazy way to remember, but if it’s in my email later when I check, then I can follow through on whatever I feel I should do.
  2. Give baby gifts.  (LOL)  I love people’s babies.  I love it when people I know have babies.  But I never REMEMBER to give baby gifts—even when I already have something here in my house to give!  I haven’t thought of a strategy yet, but I’m going to figure this one out, so that the people I know will know that I’m excited about their babies!


I think that one other thing I want to do is schedule a resolution check every month.  I’m going to put it on my calendar right now, in fact I’m going to schedule it for a Wednesday night each month because that’s a time I’m likely to be alone.  I think that this will help me stay motivated to keep working on these things, and also give me a chance to tweak goals as needed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Year’s Resolution #61 (the final frontier, I promise!)

I’ve been working for several months now on putting this final resolution into practice, which, ironically, is why it’s taken so long to blog about it.

My final resolution for this year is…(you’re thinking a drum roll for me in your head, aren’t you?)

laptop cartoon 

…to be more DELIBERATE with my computer time.


Whenever I’m asked about television watching I say that I don’t watch much tv.  We’ve been cable/satellite free for many years now and it’s more of an effort to keep track of what’s on since we only have 1 tv with a digital conversion box.  But I always follow up with the comment that even though I don’t watch tv I have other poisons.

I know that I am capable of spending way too much of my life on the computer.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—there are really good and valuable things I want and need to do on the computer.  For example:

  • pay bills
  • work on the budget
  • correspondence/email
  • work with pictures I’ve taken
  • scrapbook
  • blog!
  • make slideshows
  • make a new blog book

And I’m sure that’s just a short list.


On the other hand I have a house full of responsibilities that need (even demand) my time and attention.  A couple of weeks ago Russ, Josh & I watched a CES broadcast by Elder Bednar from 2009.  At the end of his talk he asked the following two questions.

1. Does the use of various technologies and media invite or impede the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost in your life?
2. Does the time you spend using various technologies and media enlarge or restrict your capacity to live, to love, and to serve in meaningful ways?

Those questions made me stop and think for a while.  Sure, I may not be immersed in a virtual world killing as many aliens as possible.  I may not be (like the example in his talk) creating a virtual life with a stranger and ignoring my real family.  But I know that it is possible for me to blog about my family so much that I ignore and become irritated by my family.  The same could be said about anything else I do on the computer—instead of being a tool to serve my family, it can become something that prevents me from loving them and interacting with them like I should.


I had/have no desire to give up my computer completely.  It’s a valuable tool and it enriches my life daily.  Right now the computer is enhancing our meals because I’m addicted to food blogs and so we’re having lots of new food.  It holds zillions of pictures and helps me interact quickly with people everywhere. 


I decided that what I wanted to focus in on was the “checked-out-on-the-computer” times.  Random surfing in any form.  I want to stay off of the computer at the wrong times (times when I should be doing something else) and be careful & deliberate about my computer use at other times.  I know for me being tired makes it much more likely to aimlessly sit at my computer reading who knows what, and I want to decrease that too.


So far it’s going pretty well.  I’m doing better being careful in my computer use.  Sometimes that means I blog less, or it takes me longer to get to something, but so be it.   My real world needs to be my priority—both in word and action. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Today's Weather Report

Just in case anyone (in addition to Marlowe) felt a little envious as I described the weather yesterday, let me tell you about today. 

(I almost took a picture when I left home earlier just to be able to show the contrast between yesterday and today.  Unfortunately I didn't, and I didn't get back home until after dark.  But it was some contrast!)

Yesterday's high: 76 beautiful degrees.

Today's high: 65 degrees.

You may ask why I'm complaining about that.  After all, a temperature difference of 11 degrees isn't anything to write home about.

Unless, I would reply, the day's HIGH temperature occurred at 3 AM!  Yep, you read that right.  It was all downhill from 3AM, and the average temperature for most of the day was in the upper 30's. 

Just in case you weren't sufficiently impressed by that, let me rephrase.  It was 40 degrees warmer yesterday than today!

And that is why I'm glad I didn't take that extra blanket off the bed yet.  And why I'm never leaving home again without my coat. 

Until June, anyway...

Unusual Juxtaposition

This morning I did my yoga



while watching the worldwide leadership broadcast.



Multi-tasking at it’s best!

Monday, February 21, 2011

President’s Day Perfection

I started my day making breakfast for my cute kids and my dad & Ramona.  (My dad has come to Durham every Sunday for the last 4 weeks to have an experimental allergy treatment on Monday morning.  It’s been such fun for us to see them!)

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Then after I spent a little time with my favorite youtube yoga gal, I went to hang out with these awesome women who are some of my favorite people.

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We spent hours sitting in the sun on the steps and (of course) talking, talking, talking.  (Picture taken by cooperative but less-than-coordinated 3 year old!)


When I came home Russ had gotten wood to build a new raised garden.  He worked on that

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while I got things cleaned up on the deck so that I can plant some greens tomorrow.

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It was a beautiful day and such fun to spend so much of the day outside with wonderful people!



PS—Jared has the flu, poor boy.  I don’t think his day was nearly as good as mine.  But it did have this interesting moment!

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Should This Worry Me?

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(overheard in the kitchen earlier…)

Jenna:  And then you hold on to the tail, and you pull the skin right off the body.  Then you can cook it.

Jared:  You mean if we shoot a squirrel we have to EAT it???

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentines Fun

I read a comment on a random blog the other day that said that Valentine’s Day is a one shot deal.  Either it happens on the 14th of February or it doesn’t happen at all.


My life is SO not that way.


We started our valentine’s fun last week when I baked and froze a bunch of cookies.  Sunday evening I pulled them out and made a new kind of frosting called Glace Icing.  I made the glace icing so we could decorate our cookies.  I thought they were so beautiful, and they turned out to be lots of fun to make.  It was even more fun because my dad & Ramona were here to decorate with us.

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On Valentine’s morning I got up early and made heart-shaped pancakes.  They were a big hit.  Then the little kids and I drove to Greensboro where we saw the play “Freedom Train,” and had our homeschool valentine’s party at Steak & Shake.  By the time we got home I was exhausted and that was the end of any festivities on Monday.

Tuesday I awoke refreshed and invigorated.  I planned a fun Valentines dinner and our annual Conversation Heart activity afterwards.  For dinner we had:

Heart shaped individual pizzas (made by the awesome Russ)

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and heart shaped stained glass jello.

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The kids loved the pizza and the jello, though they didn’t like the white part as much.  I want to make them again (with different colors of jello) for Easter, so I’m going to experiment to see if I can find something they like the taste of better for the white part.  (It was unflavored gelatin + sweetened condensed milk.)

After dinner came the real fun.  Plate sized heart shaped sugar cookies covered in pink frosting, and a table full of conversation hearts.  We passed the cookies around the table and took turns making messages for each person.

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I’m not very good at doing traditions, so when I stumble onto something that isn’t too much work, is yummy, and all the kids like to do, I try to remember it!  In the end everyone was happy with their cookies

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and we had fun reading all of our messages to each other.  (See the “M” at the top?  That was my identification—for “mom.”)

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And eating the cookies!

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Directions for glace icing here, and for making the cool cookies here.  You can find the jello directions here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Year’s Resolution # 87

Don’t you just love that it’s the middle of February and I’m still talking about my resolutions?  I thought so!

It’s actually been really good for me to think about these over a couple of months.  And let’s be very real here, it’s very unlikely that I will EVER spend the month of December thinking about anything other than December!  (Between my birthday and Christmas, how would I think about anything else?)

So here’s the next resolution.

Get organized.

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Now this may sound extreme and perhaps even a little over-reaching, but I’ve been working on this goal for almost 6 months ago, and it’s really happening.  I’ve read several organization-for-Dummies type books and gotten ideas that help my naturally unorganized brain.  I’ve given away lots of stuff and I am thrilled with the way my house is feeling.  But there are a couple of hot spots that just seem to gather chaos faster than I (naturally unorganized brain, remember?) can figure out how to deal with it.  (See picture of desk above.)

This is my challenge for 2011.  Conquer those areas, but even more importantly, figure out what strategies enable me to keep up with the piles.  I can tell already that one strategy is dealing with as much stuff in the moment as possible.  The mail pile—if added to the already existing pile it becomes overwhelming, so I just need to deal with it in the moment that it is in my hand.  I’m also working on having some fluid/temporary file folders in my filing drawer that can hold things until I need them. 

I used to have 2 sets of book ends on my desk, and I “grounded” myself from them a couple of months ago since I figured they were just adding to the clutter.  I think I have to put one of them back, because this is the logical place for my library books to live—I just need to make sure other books don’t land there since they do tend to breed.

And interestingly enough, I’ve learned that I’m much better off if I fold all of the clothes right out of the dryer (except for the whites) and put them away—then they don’t just stack up in the “laundry hall of shame.”  (Now I should tell you that I don’t do my kid’s laundry—they do their own.  So I’m only talking about household laundry & mine & Russ’s.  Before you get too impressed.)


I’ve been really helped in my efforts to organize my house by reading two books that have been teaching me how to do a better job of making change really happen.  The first one I’ve already mentioned, called “This Year I Will,” and the second is called “Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals.”  Good stuff!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Where We are Wishing We Were Today

If you’d like to know, go to

Put in Ahihi, Maui, HI into the search box.

Ahhh…doesn’t that look nice?


Just kidding.


Zoom in one click.

See how there’s a tiny “nose” of water poking out right below where it says “Makena Road” just below and to the right of the place marker?  (Which is right on top of the Ahihi Bay label.) Click on that nose of water until you are all the way zoomed in.  Then change to satellite view.


Now grab the google man icon.


Drag him over and drop him right where it says “Makena Road.”  Wait a minute.


Now you can sigh with me…you are looking at one of the best snorkeling spots on Maui.  It’s been two years since I was there, and will probably be two more years before I’m there again.  But I think about it all the time!


There are little arrows at the bottom of your map screen.  If you click to the right 4-5 times you will see that yes, some lucky human lives right beside A’hihi Cove.  (And on the far side as well.)  I hope they snorkel every day—I would love that. LOVE IT.


Sigh…so that’s what I’m going to be daydreaming about today!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Note to Self

Next fall, before the cold comes to stay, deal with the plants.  All of them. 

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Because the truth of the matter is, once it’s cold outside, nothing else is happening.  NOTHING!

And you’ll be really tired of looking at those dead plants before spring comes again…

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy in the Sun

Each time I drive past the ponds I look over here.

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Hoping to see this.

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But if I’m lucky, on a really sunny day I might see this.

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They are just like me—happy to be getting some sun!  (And they are very sensitive to the slightest noise, and will plop right off into the water.)

Then, when I turn around to go home I might see this.

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Can you believe I was ever dumb enough to wonder who on earth would live out here??

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Mourning with the Amish


One of the things that really stuck with me when I read this book was the description of how the Amish mourn.

I can still remember the sense of unreality after my mother died.  A day or two before the funeral we had to go into town for something.  I felt almost dazed; shocked that there was so much traffic, that so many people were going on with their lives despite the fact that my mother had died. 

It was also evident that for everyone outside of our immediate family life pretty much returned to normal as soon as the funeral was done.  Not that people weren’t kind—they were very kind.  But life does go on.  I’ve felt the same thing when my friends’ parents have died—I feel grief for them, I mourn with them, but then I have to fold some more laundry and feed my family.  Having experienced a significant loss myself I always feel guilty that I am so easily able to slip back into my life knowing that my friend still mourns.


In the book Amish Grace the author described something that was fascinating to me.  Amish traditions provide much more structure, space, and time for grief than typical American traditions do. 

The first ritual of mourning is visiting.  In one settlement, grieving families have visitors every evening for the first 2-3 weeks, followed by a year’s worth of Sunday afternoon visits.

The second ritual that facilitates the Amish grieving process is dress.  Women wear black in public or at social gatherings when they’re in mourning.  The length of time they wear the black is dictated by their relationship to the deceased; from six weeks for the death of a cousin to an entire year for a child, sibling, or spouse.  This ritual reminds others in the community of the death so that they can respond with appropraite care for the bereaved.

Another grieving ritual involves writing memorial poetry to express their gratitude for the person’s life and to express their sorrow at their death.  The poems may be published in Amish papers and also printed on card stock and distributed to family and friends as well. 

The last ritual of grieving involves “circle letters.”  Amish people from different states who share a common experience (having multipes, open heart surgery, death, etc) contribute to a letter that is mailed from family to family.  The writers in the circle often keep in contact for many years.  (This reminded me of my triplet support group on the internet, which was invaluable for many years!)


It kind of makes me wish that we hadn’t gotten rid of so many of the traditions of mourning in the United States.  When you’re going through such a stressful experience those acts of kindness from other people mean such a lot.  I envy the Amish customs that help them support each other better through these times…

Sunday, February 6, 2011

To Err is Human; to Forgive, Divine


I often find myself reading a book without any clear recollection of where on earth the recommendation came from to read this particular book.  This is definitely the case with the book “Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy.”

I thought the whole book would be about the shooting of the Amish schoolchildren, but it wasn’t.  The first part was about the Amish response to the tragedy, and the second part explored what in their lives/culture/history/doctrine would have prepared them to respond to this event with forgiveness.  The third part of the book was about forgiveness in general--what it means to all of us.  This part of the book was fascinating to me.  Forgiveness is something we talk a lot about without ever really defining anything, and I loved what this book said and the greater understanding it gave me.


When the Amish people were asked how they could have forgiven the man who killed their children, they all answered that their understanding was that if they wanted God to forgive them, they must first forgive others.  It was clear that this was not a one time belief, but a way that they all try to live their lives.  It was so interesting to realize that while we believe that we are supposed to forgive in order to be forgiven, we aren’t nearly this careful in an ongoing way to be forgiving. 


Forgiveness, the authors said, is a concept that everyone understands—until they’re asked to define it.  One author defines forgiveness this way:

When unjustly hurt by another, we forgive when we overcome the resentment toward the offender, not by denying our right to resentment, but instead by trying to offer the wrongdoer compassion, benevolence, and love.

He goes on to explain that in order for forgiveness to occur the offense must be taken seriously, the victims have a right to moral anger, and that in order for forgiveness to take place victims must be willing to “give up” their right to anger and resentment.  He finishes by saying that forgiveness is a gift to the offender, who may not necessarily deserve it.

I also found it interesting to read about what forgiveness does not mean: it is not forgetting what happened, condoning it or excusing it.  Forgiveness means admitting what was done wrong and should not be repeated.  Forgiveness is also not reconciliation, or the restoring of a relationship.  Reconciliation requires a renewal of trust, and sometimes that is not possible. 

There are different motivations for forgiveness: both theological and psychological reasons.  The theological motivation to forgive stems from the Christian belief that people should forgive others because God forgave them, and so that God will continue forgiving them.  The pychological motivations for forgiveness include a desire for emotional healing.  Research shows that when a person forgives it reduces anger, depression, anxiety and fear. 


I’m hoping that I can take these ideas to heart.  I certainly have a better understanding of what forgiveness really is than what I did before, and what both the spiritual and psychological reasons for forgiving are.  Which is much more than I anticipated when I started reading the book!


PS—Do you know why the Amish don’t drive cars, or have electricity or telephones in their homes?  It’s all about what would change their lives and take them away from their families.  So cars would make it too easy for them to spend time away from their families.  And when they do have telephones, the phones live in a small shack outside of their house, or in the barn.  So that it won’t interrupt family time.

Just thought that was interesting…

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ahh…the Irony!

For as long as it has mattered I’ve had ambivalent feelings about the Pinewood Derby.  For some parents the derby is an exciting time, a time of creation and anticipation and excitement. 

For me it’s just stress.

The stress of worrying that my son won’t win enough—I don’t want him to be disappointed. 

But at the same time,

The stress of worrying that he might win too much—I don’t want to have to go to the district Pinewood Derby!


I worried about this when Jason was in cub scouts.  On year his car didn’t win any races at all.  He was such a trooper, and my heart broke for him.  After that I read tips online about how to make faster cars and passed them along to Russ.  The most important of these was to sand the wheels and axels carefully so that there would be less friction.


I worried about this again when Josh was in cub scouts.  Fortunately he always won enough races, but never too many.

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This was our last Pinewood Derby.  Jared’s third year.  With Jared each year I’ve had the same worries, but so far he’s won enough and not too much. 


A couple of weeks ago was our ward derby.  It was a good night.  Jared won plenty of races and he and the girls were excited.  I had a meeting at the same time as the derby, so I left as soon as the races were over.


I got home late so it was the next day before I heard Jared’s “good” news.  He placed 2nd in the derby and got to go to the district finals! 


I was laughing with Russ about it later.  Here we were, at our 9th derby.  We’d escaped the district finals 8 times before.  And now, the last time, we had to go to the finals.  Not even we, because Russ would be in Utah on the day of the district finals. It would be just me, getting to spend hours with a mob of cub scouts at the mall on a Saturday.  Not one of my favorite scenarios.


And then Russ delivered the kicker.  He said that he was surprised that Jared’s car had done so well…  Want to know why?  He forgot to sand the axels!


Ah well…I suppose it was just a cruel twist of fate.  ;) 


So today was the big day.  Jared and I got to the mall at 11:45—the very last possible moment to sign in.  He was a little traumatized that his car was longer than regulation and they had to sand down the nose of it about 1/4 inch.  Then we had an hour and a half to wait before the races started, so we ran some errands.  I got a new pair of scissors (everyone denies it, but someone has done something BAD with my good scissors.) and a new freezer.  (Thanks Katie for the tip that appliances go on sale in February—you were right!)  And then it was time for the bit moment.  Jared was pretty excited.

(I hope you appreciate the fact that I was able to get the semi-pornographic ad poster from Macy’s in the shot too.  This one won’t be in my blog book.)

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Each scout’s car raced four times—once on each lane.  Jared had a great showing—he came in 2nd three times and 1st once.  Pretty good for the car with the unpolished axels!  He would have loved one of the huge trophies they were giving out, but I think he was still pretty happy.

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By the time the racing was done I thought my back was going to break from standing on the hard floor for so long.  I finally just sat down on the ground while they gave out the awards.  Fortunately my car was well stocked with ibuprofen and by the time we got home I was tired but ok.  And happy that my boy was happy.  And not particularly sad that this was our last Pinewood Derby!



Here are some of the other amazing cars that won as most original in their packs.

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the blades on the “pocket knife” car (beside the flag) actually opened!

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And this one was my fave.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

With Russ Gone

When Russ told me that he needed to go on a business trip to California this week I was sad.  I knew that I’d miss him, that the kids would miss him, and that I would miss his help around our home.  But in a little corner of my mind I thought,

“With Russ gone for the week I’ll get so much done!  I’ll be able to blog and sew as much as I want without feeling guilty!”

The reality of the week could not be more different.  With Russ gone I got up at 5:15 every morning to take Josh 10 minutes down the road to catch a ride to seminary.  With Russ gone I couldn’t check out on the children as soon as dinner was over—someone needed to pay enough attention to them to be sure they got to bed.  With Russ gone I did all of the shopping, took the boys to scouts, and stayed way too late at my presidency meeting.  (Still getting up at 5:15, mind you!) 

With Russ gone my brain has turned into jello earlier and earlier every night.  Creative blogging?  Not a possibility!  Sewing?  I think not.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll blog.  But with Russ gone, I get to spend hours at the mall with Jared.  (More about that later, I promise.)


It’s a good thing he’ll be home soon.  Because with Russ gone, my life just isn’t as good!

Russ and Cindy

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Morning Visitors

It really is no wonder that these are our state birds, is it!

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I love them all of the time, but in the winter that flash of color is so much more beautiful!

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On the Wing

This morning I noticed that it was rush hour at the bird feeder.

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There were so many take-offs and landings that I grabbed the camera to see if I could get any interesting pictures.

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Here was something I did not expect to see.

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Our friend the woodpecker.  Notice the apprehension of the other birds?  Fortunately for them he looked much less impressive once he had folded his wings.

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After he left I thought nothing else interesting would happen.  And then I happened to get a shot of these goldfinches.

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Kind of amazing!

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