Thursday, November 12, 2015

Long Days, Long Years

  Tonight after feeling like it’s been a long day, it dawned on me that I’ve been feeling that way every single night for many years. :)

  Sometimes the years are long, too…and that’s okay.

  When I think about the amount of change I’ve been through over the past four years, I recognize God’s hand through it all - helping me, guiding me, comforting me.  

  Two months ago I joined our Stake Relief Society Christmas Choir.  We meet every Thursday morning for one hour, nursery provided.  It’s been a great opportunity thus far - I haven’t been in a choir for years!  It’s taken me back to my college days when I was in the BYU-I Women’s Chorus.  We had a glorious sound, I must say, and I’ve marveled not just at how that was nearly 15 years ago, but that once upon a time I had not only an hour to myself every day, but entire days to myself.  And as long as we’re being honest here - not just days, but YEARS!  It’s incredible to think this once was so.

  I know this sounds horrible, but I use to feel a little bad for people who had more than three kids and wondered, “How does this woman keep her sanity or give adequate time to each child?”...and truth be told, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t question my own sanity or have an, “I cannot do this” moment.  The whirlwind of my life is unique right now, and the burdens of responsibility are taking a toll.

  However, I read an analogy tonight that brought comfort…"barely lifting one foot from the mucky waters only to have it drop right back in again is where we discover the beauty of trust.”  Trust, I might add, in a Heavenly Father who knows I need Him, so that when I do have those moments of “I cannot do this,” I’ll trust that I can...but only with Him. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Halloween 2015

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 Halloween 2015
 
Woody the Cowboy, Sofia the First, Baby Bones, and a Vampire Princess

"I love sitting in a moment - like the one pictured above - and soaking it right up, thinking, 'This is life right here and right now,' but I would never want to stay in it forever...the journey is too fun!  Watching my children grow and discover who they are and what they are capable of is extremely rewarding.  Indeed, it's the best part of parenting.

 

The childhood years are quickly slipping away.  I thought I would mourn the loss, but on the contrary, I find myself simply grateful to witness it and ever so excited to see what the future holds.”

- Lisa Sorenson

Monday, November 2, 2015

school days/tonsillectomy/soccer

The school year is well underway, my goodness.  Miss AnnMarie is in 3rd grade now, and she continues to love books with her whole soul.  She’s definitely a star student, and our hearts beam with happiness for her continued success at school.  She bounces to the bus stop like Tigger every morning ready to take on the world.

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We had a minor setback about three weeks into the school year.  Her previous issues with tonsillitis resurfaced, and the specialist's recommendation to have a tonsillectomy went from borderline to high.  Although we went through this exact same thing with Carlie a few years back, it was still very difficult!  Having to watch AnnMarie come out of surgery was one of the hardest motherhood moments I’ve known.  I crawled into the bed with her and just held onto her for an hour as she tried to make sense of the pain and disorientation she was experiencing.  Glad that’s over. 

She has since made a full recovery.  

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  Carlie is in 1st grade, and she seems to be handling all day school really well.    

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I’ve enjoyed watching her mature into a beautiful young girl.  She absolutely loves her teacher, Mrs. Jacobs.  She’s keeping up with her reading minutes every day, but honestly, she’d rather be doing this:

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And boy, is she ever!  Jared is the soccer coach again for her team this year, The Black Widows.  Intense. :)

Luke is 10 1/2 months old now…(he looks even older to me than this picture portrays since I gave him a major haircut last week!  Oh, but I did; I couldn’t help myself.

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I’m a bit sad to say goodbye to October, but it’s been full, so we’re happy to welcome November.  AnnMarie’s dance experience has turned out to be more than we expected.  She’s a ballerina again at the Tri-Cities Academy of Ballet, and since getting the part of a mouse in the Mid-Columbia Ballet's annual production of 'The Nutcracker,’ it’s doubled the amount of time she spends at the studio.  We’re happy for her to have this opportunity, but honest to goodness, this taxi driving part of being a mom is not my favorite.  We’ve found ourselves in this really interesting part of parenting that I swore I’d never fall into - trying to strike that balance between healthy involvement and the simple life together at home.  I have very mixed feelings about it all.

“…Begin thinking of extra-curricular activities–including your own–as secondary to the need to make time to work, play, talk, and pray together as a family.  If you actually gave yourself permission to prioritize your family life–as your Church asks you to–what else would there be time for?  Perhaps the answer is “not much.”  That’s OK.  Your family is the single most important activity you can do in the course of your week.  Start giving yourself permission to think of this as if it was. 

Perhaps the best way to create a “Culture of Encounter” that brings Christ to the world is to simply do what he says and finally make time to waste time with your children.” - Greg Camacho


Friday, October 9, 2015

The Keeper's Program

I wanted to share a program that we as a ward primary presidency have recently implemented into our primary.  
 
I heard of something similar to this being done in a youth group in another ward elsewhere.  I adapted it some to fit our situation, but the whole concept was just awesome to me, and I felt that the children in our ward would benefit from it considering the size of our primary (over 100 children).    
 
I put this letter together and sent it out to all of our primary teachers via e-mail.  There have been a few quirks to iron out here & there (each class has such different needs), but all in all, it seems to be having a positive reception. 

In an effort to more fully teach our primary children the pure love of Christ, we have felt impressed to introduce a new program into our primary.  Although we are not aware of any bullying happening among our primary children, it can often go unnoticed in less obvious forms, especially considering the size of our primary.  Most of us know someone who struggles to feel welcome or has a hard time making friends at church.  

The Keeper’s Program is our way of looking out for “the one” and teaching these children what it means to be their “brother’s keeper.”   

Similar to home and visiting teaching, the idea is to give each child the assignment to look after another member of the class.  We are asking that you as the teacher make and distribute these specific assignments to your class members.  Please take the class time you’ll need to introduce this program ASAP.

Through this program every boy or girl would have someone to watch over, yet in turn, would have someone watching over them.  What does it mean to watch over someone at this age? 

1) Say “HI” whenever they see that person, make sure he/she is included, look out for him/her!  Simply put, be a friend!    

2) If they see that person being bullied (at church or at school), help them and report mistreatment ASAP.  

Swapping who’s responsible for who on a regular basis will allow each child the opportunity to love and serve more members of their class.  In addition, we ask that you take the time to teach all active members different ways in which they can fellowship newcomers or less active members until everyone is fully integrated into the class.  

Brothers and Sisters, thank you so much for your diligent efforts as primary workers!  Please prayerfully consider the best way to approach this program in your class.  Consider notifying parents of their child's new assignment in order to help this program be successful.  Just teaching these kids to be nice is not sufficient in helping them truly understand what it means to love one another as Christ would have us do.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

that week in July when my entire family was here

I know summer is over, but I wanted to share a few more photos from that week in July when my whole family was here...grandparents and in-laws, too.  AnnMarie’s baptism was right in the middle of it, but there were many other things happening surrounding her big day. 

We had the annual Wolfley Family Reunion (which started about four years ago or so) since the majority of us would be here anyway!  My mother-in-law had these cute yellow shirts made for all the grandkids that said, “Happiness is a 2015 Wolfley Family Reunion.”   Jared and I put together a schedule of events (starting on a Friday evening thru the following Wednesday morning) comprising meal organization (to designate location and the couple in charge) and daily activities.  We were in charge of the Friday night barbecue that we held at our community park, and wow, let me just say that it turned out to be one of the windiest nights I’ve ever experienced!  I was a little disappointed about that, but it made for some good memories.  

My father-in-law was in charge of the main activities - boating, tubing, and water skiing - that we enjoyed on Monday and Tuesday.  We had a special Family Home Evening on Tuesday night which is where I took these pictures.  Once again, my mother-in-law knocked it out of the ballpark with the games she prepared.  She had marshmallow shooters made out of PVC pipe, Giant Jenga, and a ball toss using a tarp with holes and specified points just to name a few out of about 15 that we didn’t have time for!  She takes games very seriously.  Notice the megaphone, haha!

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We had a special lesson on happiness and the importance of laughing.  Here’s my mother & father-in-law showing us how to laugh!  

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Here’s our reaction:

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LOL!  Just kidding.  Those two pictures back-to-back gave me a good laugh.

After the Saturday baptism we took some much needed down time and headed off to the Hermiston Aquatic Center.  I took this picture of my mom and her dad (Grandpa Rex).  I love this picture for so many reasons: the Diet Coke, the churro, the hat (one of my dad’s), Luke chewing on a napkin.      

Since my dad’s passing, Grandpa has become even more of a hero in my eyes.  I imagine it’s very difficult for any father to see his daughter become a widow.  Often times my mom will discover him outside in her yard, trimming trees on a high ladder or pruning bushes in the early morning hours. 

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His wife, my Grandma Elaine, brought me this beautiful flower chain quilt that she’s been working on for the past three years…complete with pillows and shams.  She has been doing this for all of her granddaughters and granddaughters-in-law over the past ten years!  What a treasure.  She's truly a pro in my eyes...and she started quilting when she was 70!  A few weeks later I boxed it up and mailed it back to her in order for her to enter it in the quilt contest at the Eastern Idaho State Fair, and no kidding - she ended up winning 1st Place in the large quilt category!  I cried a few happy tears on the phone when she told me.  The bottom hem is quilted to represent music notes.   

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My dear friend, Stacey, calligraphed and framed this statement for me as a gift and sent it to me around the year mark of my dad’s passing.  Stacey has lifted me to higher ground with her consistent outreach.  We have been friends for over 25 years, and her character continues to shine through.  Our enduring friendship, along with that of her twin sister, Michelle, means a great deal to me!  The feeling they give me (as do many of you) that we are all in this together has been Heaven’s gentle reminder that “Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands” (D&C 121:9).  

Thank you, all of you, for believing in me and supporting me and just being here.  

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

summer photos/life skills boot camp/baptism

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Dear Summer 2015…where did you go?!  Oh, how we enjoyed you, but I’m not exactly sure we survived you with flying colors!  We did our best.  

Four kids at home 24/7 was an eye opener for me.  I was frustrated a lot in the beginning, but I learned to simplify…and then simplify some more.  I learned to be completely okay with fruit and toast for dinner…again.  I learned that opening up our home to unexpected guests is more important than a clean house.  I learned that my little girls get along way better when they have a kitty to love.  

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June is a blur to me right now, but we spent the majority of our days "completing our tallies.”  I put together a chart of 18 things the girls needed to do each day (all jobs were marked off with a tally to show completion, that’s where “completing our tallies” came from).  

I called it our “Life Skills Boot Camp.”  Pay day (for the number of tallies completed) was always on Saturday, but the stipulation was - that after following the 10/20/70 rule (10% tithing, 20% savings, 70% spending) - all spending money was to be used for school clothes at the end of summer.  Since they had the opportunity to earn up to $1 p/day, we felt like their money needed to be used towards a need rather than a want.  I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture of that neon orange "Life Skills Boot Camp” chart I put together!  That thing was our baby around here!  It pretty much guided our efforts every day.  

The 18 things were (in no particular order) -

personal prayer, brush teeth, comb hair, exercise (20 minutes), 1 family job, 1 weekly job, Rosetta Stone (20 minutes), laundry job (unload dryer or fold towels), scripture study, family prayer, mormon message, piano practice, make bed, pet care, ear care (both girls got their ears pierced this summer), set table for dinner,  read (20 minutes), secret service

I just want to say that the idea of providing monetary compensation for spiritual affairs  (like prayer, scripture study, & service) is not our intention, but we also felt like it was okay to have a system of accountability in learning basic spiritual survival.  We tried to avoid any false notions by emphasizing that payment was figured on the amount of total tallies come pay day. 

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Much of July was spent outside in the sun, but the highlight was how very fortunate we were to have both my family (including all four grandparents) & Jared’s family join us for AnnMarie’s baptism on July 11th.

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It was such a special occasion, one I will never forget.  AnnMarie made the decision to be baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints long ago!  She has been learning about Jesus Christ and asking questions about her baptism for years.  I am proud of her; she is striving to develop many Christ-like qualities - compassion, forgiveness, and obedience to the commandments of God.  I am grateful for this special daughter of mine.

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Afterwards we had a light luncheon there in the Relief Society room.  We served pinwheel sandwiches, watermelon, veggies, and this beautiful cupcake dress.  Isn’t it darling?  

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Not to kill the ambiance of this wonderful memory, but tomorrow she’ll be getting her tonsils out.  Hooray for no more tonsillitis!  My mom is driving here now in order to help with the other kiddos during the surgery.  I’m excited to spend some time with her, it’s been a while.  With that, I’m going to call it a wrap and look forward to catching up again soon. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Practice Expectations

Okay, so I’m excited to talk about practice expectations.  Here’s what I have in my policy:

PRACTICE:

“For most of you, practice will not be a problem. However, a practice record will be given to each student to monitor and ensure progress. I expect each student to practice at least four times each week.  This commitment will prove to your benefit and satisfaction. Parents, please make sure the student has a quality, tuned piano/keyboard to practice on, and a regular, uninterrupted time (or times) to practice. Learn to value practicing!”

Most of this speaks for itself.  I think 15-20 minutes each session is more reasonable for the young beginner, but a 30 minute session can (and should) be expected from an older student, beginning or experienced, and by older I’m thinking 8 years & up.

(I’m in the process of making some fun practice records that I’ll share with you soon).

I choose to reward those students who go the extra mile and exceed expectations.  A young student who practices more than what is expected automatically earns a prize out of the treasure box.

My older students can also earn a prize out of the treasure box, but they also have multiple goals (including the practice expectations) that if successfully accomplished throughout the year will earn them a composer statue at the end of a school year.

And YES, I have in fact terminated piano lessons before due to a student who failed to meet limited expectations.  It’s obviously important to me though, too, that I ensure progress when parents are paying for the successful music education of their child.

My Theory Pick

Short Answer: Just the Facts II by MusicBag Press.  (Don’t be confused by the II – it refers to the second version of the series.)  I love everything about this approach to theory: clean, straightforward, consistent, repetitive.  A clear description of each book is provided on their website so you’ll know exactly where to start your student (from Beginner A all the way up to Level 9).  The original Just the Facts is awesome, but it’s geared more towards the Texas State theory test.

AND it’s so nice for your student to have a different book intermingled in with all those similar-looking method books.

Long Answer: Back in my Texas days when I taught piano full-time alongside my part-time jobs to support my husband through his PhD, I learned a bucket load of tricks from the (here we go) - ‘No. 1 State for Music Teachers’ Associations Nationwide.’

Even music associations are bigger & better in Texas, too, I guess!

I joined the county association as quickly as possible, and let me tell you, I have never been a part of such an organized, serious, qualified, professional group of music teachers!  They knew their stuff, & I was proud to be a member.  Don’t worry though – not all great music associations reside in Texas…I’m pretty sure about that. ;)

* In Texas, preparation for the annual Texas State theory test is an integral part of every studio I encountered.  This annual test is deemed crucial in the music education of your student.  As a member of the local association, I had the opportunity to administer this test once to a group of Level 1 students & twice to a group of Level 3 students.  I was so impressed with the process of administration (completely non-intimidating), but even more impressed with the students’ knowledge & preparation!  I often wished I had the knowledge they portrayed when I was their age – it was amazing.  My theory instruction didn’t come until much later in my life…much later than I’d like to admit. *

Anyway, a team of teachers back in the mid-90s created a book specifically geared towards this test.  That’s when Just the Facts came along, & boy oh boy, I’m glad it did.  These books are full of treasure, and I’ve never had a student that didn’t enjoy their theory homework.  

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post – only a shout out on a product I have used & found successful.

Introducing Piano to your Pre-K Child/Student

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how important it is to expose littles to music.  With my first child, it wasn’t even a question – she sat through every piano lesson I ever taught from the time she was in my womb!  I was eager to present her with every music lesson I’d ever learned asap!

As more littles came along, I finally ‘got’ what it meant to focus my efforts on exposing young children to music (oh yeah - like I’d learned about in that one child education course) rather than formally educating them with structured lessons.  Sounds obvious & realistic enough, but I’m barely keeping up with basic needs here…so how do we do it…and do it right??

Turning on some music – all kinds - is a great start.  (I need to do better with variety – my 3 yr. old is obsessed with a few said songs).   Clap, tap, or stomp the beat - get your groove on.

Now if you want to specify exposure a teensy bit and introduce the piano, here’s an idea that works.

After my oldest daughter turned 3 (she’s almost 6 now), I purchased the music book called My First Piano Adventure: Writing Book A Pre-Reading by Faber & Faber (The Faber Piano Adventures).   We worked through it over a 2 year period.  That’s right - 2 years.   The authors intended to gear this book towards 5-6 year olds, but from my experience, certain activities were age appropriate for my 3-4 year old since it’s more of a hands-on activity book.  I never had a rigid schedule for working on it with her (although I would have liked to at times), but after navigating through the entire book now, I feel strongly that at that age, it’s absolutely best to follow a child’s lead AND let him or her initiate an interest in working on it.  It doesn’t have to take a lot of time – 5 minutes per day.  My second daughter & I (she’s almost 4) just started working on her own copy of the book.

And the best part?  You don’t have to have a degree in music to work through this book with your child!  The instructions for each activity are very clear.  Little fingers (3-6 year olds) typically don’t have the finger dexterity to play weighted keys.  This book has a few ‘piano playing’ activities, but it basically focuses on introducing your child to simple concepts like finger numbers, low/high sounds, black-key groups, louds & softs, or the music alphabet, and it’s a fun fun tool for doing so.

My First Piano Adventure series consists of three levels (A, B, & C).  Each Writing Book has a Lesson Book companion.  I explored the Lesson Book on my own, but felt it was too advanced for my then 3 year old.  It’s more for 5-6 year olds like the authors suggest.

Faber & Faber (The Faber Piano Adventures) is one of my two favorite methods for teaching beginning piano students.  You’ll find that I lovetheir publications and refer to them often.  Their on-line music library is organized, updated, and applicable to every age and level.

You can find this book at your local music store (99% guaranteed), but if you’d like to order it on-line (like I do with a lot of my books),  click HERE.  When ordering on-line, it’s usually always cheaper to order directly from the author and/or publisher.

Why it’s possible to teach your child piano

Many of you are just beginning the piano lesson journey as the parent teacher figure.  Welcome, welcome.  I promise you - it can be done, especially in the early years.  You’re in for a great experience.

On the flip-side, I got a degree in music for a reason, and I believe that piano students need qualified accredited teachers.  However, with the right guidance…and with some music background…committed parents with a can-do attitude CAN give their child a strong start or a necessary intervention.

There are lots of good reasons why it might be right for you to be your child’s piano teacher for a time – affordability, logistics, schedule conflicts, bad teachers, etc.  To be completely honest, we’ve all known an accredited bad teacher that does everything but foster learning to help a student succeed, and it’s no secret that piano lessons aren’t $5 a pop anymore – (if they are, I’d be leery of the teacher).

For our family, it’s the way to go right now.  The experience alone affords time together in an extra-curricular overload world, and despite popular belief, teaching your child piano can actually improve relationships.  There are resources, and there are teachers (like me!) who want to help you.

Something I have discovered though is that commitment is everything - so if you want to take the plunge, think one word...COMMIT.  Commit to making piano lessons a priority.  Commit to a consistent schedule.  Commit to setting goals & achieving them.  Commit to NOT throwing a fit because your parent-self demands perfection.  Commit to having fun and learning right along with your child.

Basics for the Parent Teacher

The following questions & answers are geared towards the pre-reader beginner and the young beginner.

* In my opinion, a young beginner is typically 6-7 years old and is classified as one who has successfully completed at least 2 books (not necessarily 2 levels) in a pre-reader series.  As I’ve mentioned before, my pre-reader series pick is My First Piano Adventure by Nancy & Randall Faber.

Are lessons once a week? 

Yes, lessons should be held once a week.  As the parent teacher, aim for consistency as much as possible – same day, same time, week in, week out.  This will help YOU keep piano lessons a priority.  Schedule around lesson time.

How long should our piano lessons be? 

First of all, it’s important to remember that each child is different – we all know that.  Your young beginner does not have to fit into that perfect standard 30 minute lesson time slot.  Work towards it, but strive for 15-20 minutes each lesson starting out.

How long should they practice each day?

Different children have different limits, but without fail, I’ve always found that for the young beginner, a reasonable expectation is 4 times p/week, 10-15 minutes each time.  Break up the minutes throughout the day if necessary.  Sometimes parents are surprised that I don’t expect daily practice, but for the most part, it allows for flexibility, and the extra days can be used as incentive for ‘bonus practice’ which I’ll talk more about later.  It gives them the opportunity to do more than what is required and go the extra mile.

For the pre-reader beginner (typically ages 3-5), I recommend a bit of a different approach since every practice session will be somewhat of a mini lesson.  They’ll need you by their side throughout each little assignment.  Like I’ve mentioned before, I feel strongly that at that age, it’s absolutely best to follow a child’s lead AND let him or her initiate an interest in working on the piano.  It doesn’t have to take a lot of time – 5 minutes each session is reasonable.  Aim for an average of 2 sessions p/week for the 3-4 year old.  Focus on the fact that he/she is being exposed to musical concepts.

5 year-olds can be tricky.  Depending on their personality, some could be ready for structured weekly lessons – others need the flexibility of mini lessons (short practice sessions) throughout the week.  You know what’s best for your child.

How far or how many pages do you think I should do in a lesson?

For the young beginner, don’t think in pages, think in songs.  2-3 songs p/week is a good goal.  1-2 songs p/week is more common.  If your child is flying through their assigned songs in the first practice session, the songs are way too easy, and by flying I mean playing all the notes correctly from beginning to end with the correct tempo - paying careful attention to any musical markings :) – it’s pretty straightforward at this level, but still…

Songs are only one part of their assigned lesson.  I’ll introduce other aspects soon.  This way, when you hear, “But I know it now (the song)…or I’ve played it already…or not again,” you can respond with a great big, “YES!…but what about your theory worksheet…or your simple scales…or (some other awesome practice tool)?”

At the next lesson, do they play what they have practiced all week long?

Yes – at this age, “play back” should take up half of the lesson at most.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Pie on the Fourth of July

Last week I invited Ethel Ferger, a lady from my ward (local congregation), over to my house to teach me how to make her delicious strawberry pie, crust and all.  

Over the years I haven’t always been blessed to be surrounded by family, but the good women of the Relief Society have come to my rescue and strengthened me time and again.  They've taken care of me when I've had my babies - bringing meals in, throwing baby showers, tending older children.  They’ve called on me to share my talents - allowing me to feel useful and appreciated.  And more recently, they’ve looked after me since my dad passed away - assuring me that I am not alone.  

I am grateful for this organized sisterhood that continues to buoy me up and teach me new skills…so that I can enjoy simple pleasures like a fresh pie on the 4th of July!

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Ethel’s Strawberry Glaze Pie:

  • 1 qt. strawberries
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • Few drops red food coloring
  • 1 baked 9” pie shell (this was the main reason right here that I had Ethel come over.  One day I’ll have to put together a tutorial on her hands-free pie crust recipe.  Amazing.)
  • whipped cream

Crush 1 cup red ripe strawberries, add water and bring to boil.  Simmer 3 minutes.  Strain.  Add water if necessary to make 1 cup liquid.  Combine cornstarch, sugar, and salt and add to liquid.  Stir until smooth.  Bring to a boil and stir constantly until mixture thickens.  Cool and add red food coloring.  Place remaining whole strawberries in baked pie shell.  Pour the glaze over the berries.  Top the pie with whipped cream.

A few of my friends came over, too, which was so much fun; it was like a baking class right in my very own kitchen!  And boy, was it awesome to watch Ethel whip up the ingredients like nobody’s business without exact measurements.  She was teasing me about being so precise.  Luckily, I had my new measuring spoons that I purchased for this very occasion labeled pinch, smidgen, dash, tad, etc. just so I could keep up with her...like I knew exactly what she was talking about, haha!  We had a great time and I really hope to have Ethel over again soon.  I think everyone could use a little more Ethel in their life. :)  

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Family ties & a doberman named Odin

Last month we received some special visitors on their way to Northern Idaho.  My little brother & his wife stopped in for a few days with their doberman pinscher, Odin.  

Contrary to popular belief, dobermans are actually very good with children.  Their strength can be intimidating, but their protective qualities are incredible.  I know my kiddos were delighted to see Nate & Emmy, but I think they were particularly endeared to Odin.

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Hmmm…who’s walking who?  It’s hard to tell.

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We had a nice picnic at the park.  I love our beautiful park; it’s a definite plus in our subdivision.

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Check out the haunted mansion in the background.  (The original land owner of all the lots in our subdivision unexpectedly passed away a few years ago in the process of building his house.  It’s changed hands, but progress is slow - kind of an eye sore, but it makes for some tall tales.)

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In our troubled world, I couldn’t be more grateful for the knowledge I have that families are forever!  There’s been a lot of fuss lately surrounding the family unit.  How blessed I feel to have God’s unchanging laws!  A good friend of mine recently shared this thought on social media, and I couldn’t agree more: 

"Life is wonderful people.  Hug someone you love.  Hug someone you don't like.  Smile.  Sing and dance around your house!  Serve your neighbor.  No legislator or supreme court is going to determine my ultimate happiness or misery.” - B. Hammond

While the world continues to worry about redefining marriage, I’m going to keep loving my family and embracing the future.  Yes…life is wonderful people.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Early Mornings

Something I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I seem to function much better - emotionally, spiritually, physically - when I manage to start the day early.  Luke has been waking up earlier than usual the past few weeks, so instead of fighting it and trying to put him back to sleep, I’ve been going on a nice walk through the neighborhood.  As I look back over the past 8 years of having babies, nursing, meeting the demands of young children day in & day out, I find that I'd usually need sleep more than a walk (I’d consider myself lucky if I got either of those, ha!), but I’m glad to be getting into the groove of starting my day earlier.

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Luke is my serious little soul.  He listens to me talk and pray as we enjoy the serenity of those morning hours.  I think our spirits understand each other. :)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cambodia

Recently my mom has been exploring the world through Discovery Expeditions & Adventures.  
 
The way in which these opportunities have come about is quite a story in and of itself, but regardless, I’ve been wanting to document a few bits and pieces of her travels.  My children are intrigued with her adventures, and it’s been neat for all of us to see more of the world through her experiences.  
 
Her first trip encompassed about two weeks in March, and the countries she explored included Vietnam, Cambodia, Loas, Myanmar, and Thailand.  I’ll start with Cambodia because I know it was her favorite country on this trip.
 
In her own words she said, 

"Cambodia is located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula of Southeast Asia.  We explored magnificent ancient temples in the jungles of Cambodia.  There are more than 1,000 ancient temples in this country.  Lots of hiking and climbing ancient stairs.  

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Here we visited one of the World's Seven Wonders, The Temple of Angkor Wat.  We watched the sunrise come up over this spectacular temple. 

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We also Visited Phnom Penh City.  I was touched by another tragic event in history,  The Killing Fields, where more than a million people were killed and buried by the Communist Khmer Rouge Regime from 1975-1979, my high school years.

The poverty here was overwhelming at times.  The people were so humble and kind.  I met a beautiful girl that insisted on massaging my tired feet after a day of hiking in the jungle.  She made $70.00 a month.  I gave her a $20.00 tip that made her sob. 

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The rice farming was fascinating...

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along with the water buffalo on the side of the roads.

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I loved watching them make palm sugar in the villages."

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Here are a few more of her favorites.  I personally love the one of her with the two little Cambodian girls.  

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I’m pleased to know that not all taxi cab drivers are as intense as the ones in NYC.  The thrill of riding a taxi around Manhattan is probably pretty comparable to riding this rig around Cambodia though, haha!

Looks thrilled, doesn’t he?