Monday, April 25, 2011

Rudolph Day - Pictures

One of our traditions on Christmas Day is to take a picture of the kids before they're allowed to open any presents. It's the one day of the year where little kids at least try to stay still and smile for Mom's camera!

And it's a lot of fun to go back and see the changes that have occurred over the years.

In 2006 we realized it was the last time for a long time that our family would be all together, so we had a friend come over and take a family picture during Christmas break. Taking an updated picture is in the plan for this year as well. Elder Jeff sent us his copy this week. As you can see, he needs a refresher course on what his family looks like!

We're glad he still has his unique sense of humor!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Week in Review

Hi Big Brothers! We wish you were here to help with all the celebrations and milestones. But since you're busy and happy leading your own eventful lives, here's just a taste of what we've been doing.Monday: National Chemistry Olympiad (qualifying test at Tampa University) followed by NHS Spirit Night at Beef O'Brady's.Wednesday: Steven missed his first day of school this year due to a miserable head cold. Sad.
Thursday: National Honor Society Induction Ceremony

Friday: Junior/Senior Prom with a finished dress.

Saturday: Chores, followed by a picnic at the park, followed by a wonderful Eagle Scout Court of HonorThanks to Grandpa for making the trip down to help us celebrate!
(More details on the Court of Honor will be coming later - after Spring Break.)

Happy Graduation!

Flashback Friday
Happy Graduation! It's been a while since I've done a "flashback" post, mainly because we've been working hard preparing for the future. However, while I was cleaning out a box yesterday I discovered this picture taken when my younger brother graduated from BYU twenty years ago. I thought it would make the perfect post for today, when one of those young boys is graduating himself. (And another one will be cheering on his wife who's graduating. Aren't you glad he outgrew the thumb-sucking!) Congratulations graduates! We wish we could be there.

However, stay tuned to see what eventful things have been happening over here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WFMW - Recycling Mistakes

I have a friend who is a master at making English toffee. One of the very sad things about moving away from them is that we were no longer the recipient of their wonderful Christmas gift. (Actually, one year she did mail us some. Isn't she a great friend!) So, last fall when I saw a no-fail recipe for English toffee, I had to give it a try. You can try it too - Almond Roca from Tasty Kitchen.

This first batch was a success! So I tried a couple more batches. Not so successful :( Practice makes perfect, so I tried a few more times. Some worked and some didn't. However, I couldn't just throw away the reject toffee; it was still good food - yummy butter and sugar and nuts and chocolate! I stuck it in the freezer until I could figure out what to do with it.A few weeks ago, I decided to add the toffee crumbs to our normal chocolate chip cookie recipe, in place of the chocolate chips. They actually turned out fine. The cookies were super sweet, but still edible. However, that day I overcooked one of the batches. Once again, I couldn't just throw the crispy, yet not black, cookies down the drain.So, I turned them into crumbs and made a pie crust out of them. This Peanut Butter Pie was delicious, and no one knew one of the ingredients was over-baked cookies. Trying to find different uses for kitchen catastrophes, so as to avoid wasting food, works for me! I'm linking this to Works for Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Family Home Evening at our House

Memorable Monday Moments

Heather at Women in the Scriptures is doing a series of posts on "FHE at MY house" and it's wonderful. It's been quite motivating reading about how other families do family night. Each family is unique, yet there are so many common experiences as well. I love the universality, yet individuality, of our church. I'd encourage you to do some blog-hopping. It will really get your own creative juices working.

Family home evening for us has definitely changed over the years (see Evolution of Family Night) yet the principles have remained the same. We gather together on Monday night and start with our regular daily family scripture study and opening hymn and prayer. Then we go through the upcoming week's schedule and share any announcements that need to be made. For several years we had a "talent" portion of our family night where one of the kids would share something, either sing a song, recite a poem, draw a picture, or show a model/creation:

Then comes the lesson, which usually doesn't last very long and includes any activities or games if that's on the schedule that week. Finally we sing another hymn, have family prayer, give each other hugs and kisses, and then eat refreshments. When we're using a "chore wheel" (see Assignment Wheels), our refreshments are much more exciting. There's something to be said for planning ahead.

For the most part our lessons are quite simple, although not always. I guess I try to work on the "I'm always preparing so I can pull something together at the last minute" theory, yet I'm frequently amazed at how much preparation our children put into their lessons when it's their turn. In addition to the scriptures, Duty to God, Personal Progress, For the Strength of Youth and Preach My Gospel have all furnished great ideas for lessons, particular those given by teenagers.

Over the years we've also enjoyed doing a series of lessons - like focusing one on of the ten commandments for ten weeks in a row, or doing the same with the 13 Articles of Faith. This year we went through the Teacher Development Course and that was a great experience. Next we plan on adapting our lessons from the Temple Preparation Seminar. Often our stake president or bishop will issue a challenge and we use family night to accomplish that goal. Of course, the official "Family Home Evening Resource Book" is invaluable.
Some of our favorite lessons include everyone finding a scripture from the Topical Guide (usually on the same subject) and then sharing them with each other (see Vacation Planning), doing the same thing with a game like Boggle (see Letters and More Letters), writing "I Love You Because . . ." notes to each other (usually around Valentine's Day, see I Love You), family service projects (see Service with a Smile), and even attending Monday night school events as a family (see Rewarding Family Nights). Many years ago I participated in a FHE group (see the explanation here) which was a wonderful experience and helped me develop a file of ideas to make the weekly preparation time easier. I'd also collect ideas as I read the scriptures, listened to conference, and paid attention in church. Many times sharing time and seminary lessons were recycled as family night lessons. Often the most difficult part of family night is coming up with an idea. That's why I appreciate the wealth of possibilities that are available. As I flip through books or files or websites, the Spirit can whisper to me what our family needs and how I can adapt it. Go to A Year of Family Nights to see some of what we've tried. (You could also click on the FHE label below.) Early on my husband and I decided that we wanted Primary and Sunday School and seminary lessons to be review classes for our children, that we wanted to be their main teachers. Family Home Evening helped us achieve this goal. We love FHE and know it's an inspired program. Try it, you'll like it!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sharing Saturday

It's been a while since I've done one of these posts, so I figured it was about time to give you a glimpse of our daily life, at least the Saturday version. The older boys are all getting together to help one of them move. We wish we lived closer so we could be a part of that. However, we did decide to keep them company by being productive ourselves. The day started with a ward service project - part of the Great American Clean-Up combined with the Regional Day of Service. This picture is actually from last year, but we did the same thing - raking leaves at the local park. (For those of you unfamiliar with the Florida climate, the leaves fall in February/March, not September/October. And technically, the day started even before that with a quick trip to get the car's oil changed, but I didn't take a picture of that either.)
Then it was time to do some chores at home - mow the lawn, wash the cars, laundry, etc.
We took a break to have a barbecue at Lowry Park. It was a gorgeous day!
And the plan now is to do some grocery shopping, finish Princess' dress (can you tell what part that is above?), and relax by making progress on the project of moving our VHS tapes to DVDs. It will be the perfect Saturday! We hope yours is wonderful too :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

WFMW - Napkins and Noodles

It's time for the Junior/Senior Prom, so last weekend we went shopping. Here are a few of the dresses Princess liked. See a problem? You're right - no sleeves. We knew we weren't going to find a modest dress in the mall, so the last stop was the fabric store, and today's project was to turn this pile of "sparkly" fabric into a beautiful creation.I'm not a fairy godmother, so it's going to take more than one day! But I can still share the story of the napkins and the noodles.

It's been years since I've sewn a rolled hem on my serger, but armed with a new spool of wooly nylon (although now it's called bulky nylon) and my long-unused instruction manual, I made the attempt. After the frustration of several broken threads, which meant re-threading the serger multiple times (another thing I haven't done in years), I decided the hemmed tulle would pass Princess' inspection. However, I wanted to be sure I had enough practice, and I happened to notice some pretty Easter fabric in the closet, so it was time to add another project to the day's list - oversized napkins. They were quick and easy - just go around each of the four sides with the rolled hem settings, trim the threads at the corner and dab with some fray check. Now we have something to make our Easter meal festive, and I got enough practice so I shouldn't ruin the dress. When I'm busy in the sewing room, I don't have much time to spend in the kitchen. So, today we pulled out an old standby - Chunky Spaghetti. It took less than 30 minutes to put on the table, and in between stirring I was even able to do a couple little steps on the dress.So, making progress on projects while reviewing long forgotten skills Works for Me. And keeping a list of easy-to-fix dinners is a good idea too!
The all-important sleeves are done!

Friday, April 8, 2011

We only THOUGHT we were done!

Oh, the excitement of the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby! Time for creativity and competition and parent/son bonding and just plain fun!5 boys x 3 years in Cub Scouts = 15 pinewood derby cars. See, we're all mathematicians! And while it was an enjoyable activity, it wasn't without stress and I'll admit we were fine when the 15th race was over and all we had left were memories. However, it turns out it really wasn't our last one! The Mutual decided that a pinewood derby race would be a great combined activity, and it was. The youth were put in groups of two or three, given the box, and told to be creative. One week they designed and cut out their cars. The next week they painted them. And the third week they raced them.
The kids must have learned something over the years. because they each helped produce a winning car. Congratulations!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

WFMW - Favorite Cleaning Tips

It's always easier for me to think of something to post when I'm given a subject, and today's is favorite cleaning tips. So, here are some of my favorites:

1) Keep a paper towel in the bottom of the produce drawers of the fridge. This makes cleaning up after squishy fruit much easier. (Of course, you could always eat the fruit before it becomes squishy, but that's not a cleaning tip.)

2) Clean the microwave immediately after the spaghetti sauce spatters. Don't wait for days. A couple of seconds now saves minutes of scrubbing later. (Once again, you could remember to cover your spaghetti and prevent the problem in the first place.)

3) Store cleaning supplies in multiple places. This prevents the "Oh, I would scrub the sink right now if only I had a sponge handy" procrastination. Two vacuums in a two-story house is a wise investment.

4) Make things easier to put away than to get out. For example, our kids had shoe baskets, not shoe shelves. Although it took a couple of minutes to find a matching pair in the morning, they could just toss them in at night instead of having to place them neatly on a shelf. That way they were less likely to leave them in the middle of the room.

5) Put a coat of car wax on the shower door and then wipe it down after each use. You'll remember from this post a couple of years ago that keeping them sparkling is something I struggle with. Your advice was great, and I tried all of it. However, I'm not very good at remembering to scrub every week. When we replaced a faucet under warranty (and the customer service rep saw a picture of my non-shiny, spotted faucet), she suggested that I keep a coat of wax on the new one and it would stay shiny. She was right! And it works on shower doors as well. So, once you've scrubbed and gotten it clean, keep it that way by drying it off daily. (I just keep a spare hand towel next to my bath towel. The kids' shower door still gets spotted because I don't go in there every day to dry it off and I haven't taught them to make it a habit!) So, this is another tip that shows that taking a few seconds now saves hours later.

What are your favorite spring cleaning tips? There are some good ones over at Works for Me Wednesday. For example, try here and here and here. Oh, and here's one of mine from a while ago.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Today . . .

was county math competition day - the favorite day of the year, at least for someone - and it wasn't a disappointment.First place would have been nice, but second is still the best he's ever done, and they both helped the school take second place as well. Yeah for math! Now what will he do with all his free time after school?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Happy April Fool's Day!

We don't usually make a big deal out of April Fool's Day. In fact, I'm not a fan of people playing tricks on each other. I just don't think it's nice. And I'm definitely not a fan if it involves property damage or hurt feelings. However, I also realize that I have family members who are very clever and enjoy trying to "get" people. And I've learned to appreciate and even enjoy their antics. Cleverness is okay; destruction is not.

And in that spirit, I bring you a tiny recollection of April 1, 2003 - our most memorable April Fool's Day. This is what greeted me when I started to set the table for breakfast. (Normally the glasses are in this cupboard, but they got moved to the plate shelf.)When Dad went out to the garage to leave for work, his normal mode of transportation was missing, and this was in its place. (Because lawn tractors aren't good for commuting, it stayed here and he hunted until he found his truck out in the driveway.)

I didn't get pictures of anything else, but the trunk of my car was filled with blown-up balloons. It's a good thing I thought to check before leaving for grocery shopping, but now that I think about it, it would have served them right if there wasn't room for groceries and they starved for a day! There were a few more surprises that popped up during the day, all of which brought a smile, and none of which took too long to set right. It was a perfect April's Fool Day. (I should note that I'm perfectly fine with just remembering; it doesn't need to happen again!)

While trying to fool just one person can be fun, some people like to fool lots of people. You can read about some of the more successful antics here - Top April Fool's Day Tricks. I particularly liked #8 - the Left-Handed Whopper.