Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Not To Be Judgemental, But I Think I've Been Outsmarted

Ryan has been begging me for a new backpack. I've been trying to hold him off until the start of next school year since we only have a couple more months in this one. Over the past couple of years, I've been slowly replacing the kids backpacks with new ones from a certain mail order company based in Maine (I'm trying to avoid any more blatant product endorsements!) as they've needed them. They are really nice ones and have a lifetime guarantee. If anything (anything at all) goes wrong with them or breaks, they will replace it for free. Even if you were to fill with rocks and drag it behind your car while you went on vacation. I am having visions of never buying backpacks again! (Except that time Erica thought hers had been stolen out of her locker. They won't replace it if stolen.) Thing is, they aren't exactly cheap and Ryan isn't exactly Mr. Take Care of Things. He is much better now than he was at the beginning of the year, I must admit.

Two weeks ago, Ryan lost his backpack. He has (he said) looked and looked for it at school, but it has never been found. (In all fairness, I must admit that I never went down to look in lost and found myself.) At the end of last week, I finally broke down and ordered him a back pack. His old one really was getting beat up. It arrived yesterday. Other than its' being black when he swears he asked for green, Ryan is very excited. You see, he's been carrying his papers and lunch in his hands for two weeks. His fingers get kind of cold a cramped by the time we reach school everyday. I looked at it as a natural consequence for losing his back pack and is not wanting to use a grocery bag. I told him he also needed to earn the $1 to cover the cost of a new school folder, as I was told the folders were required and he needed $1 to pay for it. He finally informed me yesterday that he doesn't really have to have one, just a back pack. Of course. I should know better. Fast forward to today. Lo and behold, miracle of miracles, after taking his new backpack to school for the first time, Ryan found his old backpack at school. In the lost and found. With his school folder inside. I think I've been had. At least I will never have to buy another back pack. I might even get a little extra work out of a certain little boy to help cover the cost of the new one!

Miracle in a Meeting

Being a YW President is probably one of the hardest things I have ever done, and not one of those things I have felt my past experience has "trained" me to do. I was not a "normal" giggly YW- always more comfortable with adults than teens. Not much has changed in my life. I've spent a good portion of my adulthood in Relief Society, and a couple of stints in Primary off and on. Until last year, I'd only served in the YW for about 10 months as an advisor with a short spell as a camp leader or sports coach- and each of those were in different wards. There hasn't been a lot of continuous YW experience for me.

The past year in Mesa I got to serve with a wonderful group of girls and leaders, but was happy to be moving when I learned the YW President was being released. I was not off the hook. 7 short weeks after moving here, I was called to be the YW President to a group of girls who, other than my daughter, I couldn't have distinguished from Eve (sometimes not even each other!). Not only that, I needed to pick counselors and a secretary from ladies I had barely even met. In fact, I'd never even seen one of my counselors until two weeks after we were called. I was more than a bit overwhelmed, but very grateful I'd at least been able to get my feet wet a little before being unceremoniously dropped in the pool. At least I was familiar with the YW theme again!

Now, I can say with absolute certainty that the Lord is at the head of this work. He guided me to a Presidency that has been terrific. No, none of us is perfect, but we work so well together and in general things have gone smoothly. I struggled with the girls at first. My personality has not changed in a lot of ways. Adults are definitely more my thing than teenage girls, but I have really grown to love them. I even leaned over to Greg on Sunday and told him that something must be going right because I hope I have this calling for a long time. I think I am finally beginning to gain a testimony of what a good youth program can do, rather than just being swamped by everything there is to do. I still feel overwhelmed a lot of the time, but little things come along to help point me in the right direction and I can definitely feel the direction of the Spirit.

Sunday was one of those "pointer" days I had needed. One of my counselors emailed and asked if we wanted to try to go up to Salt Lake for the training the General YW Presidency holds right before conference. I had always wanted to go, but completely forgotten about it. Both my counselors and I were able to go this morning and all I can say is, "Wow!" It was the fastest 2-1/2 hours of my life and I filled buckets I didn't even realize were empty. Instead of looking at a calendar and wondering how we're ever going to fill it with activities, I'm looking at it wondering how we're ever going to have enough time to do everything that we need to do. I can't wait to get out there and spend more time with those girls. Do I expect life to be perfect? No. Do I have a much better outlook on how things can go? Yes. Is that going to make a difference? You bet! I keep telling myself that as long as I'm trying, I can't mess up the Lord's plan. He'll guide us where we need to go. Today, it finally sunk in and I really believe it. What a miracle.

Friday, March 27, 2009

While We're on the Subject of Science...

...I have an interesting situation. Hopefully someone can explain why. For the past several months, the reception on my clock radio gets clearer when I sit up out of bed- really, it does. I figure it has something to do with the antenna. This morning I discovered that if I just stuck my arm in the air the radio goes from totally static to perfectly clear. Too bad it only works if my whole arm is straight up- doesn't work with a bent elbow or just a finger. Otherwise I could sleep a little longer. The static is too annoying. I don't understand why this works. My clock radio and I are in opposite corners of the room, so it's not like I bump it or anything when I move. I can't even fix the reception to begin with because when I stand up and move over to the clock the reception is perfect. Any physics or electrical wizzes (I don't know how to spell this for sure and the spell check wants to change it to "wheezes"!) out there that know why this happens? I'm sure I learned this at one point but my brain didn't hold on to the information very well. Thanks!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Hot" and "Cool" Bits of Trivia

We had an awesome (to me) Young Men/Young Women combined activity last night. One of the advisors is a Chemistry professor at the good ol' "Y" and he gave us a great display of chemistry experiments. You know, color changes, explosions, colored fire, etc. The most amazing of those was using thermite to create iron. He also used a bell jar and vacuum to "inflate" a balloon and a marshmallow and showed us that you can boil water at room temperature if you remove enough of the air pressure.

Thermite is a combination of good old rust (iron and oxygen) and aluminum powder. I didn't know this, but aluminum "rusts" but its' "rust" is clear- infact, that's what sapphires are- aluminum rust. Aluminum happens to like oxygen even more than iron and when, the mixture is ignited, will "steal" the oxygen from rust and leave a blob of iron. The only thing is, it's occurs at a temperature of something like 2500 degrees F and there's no way to stop it until the reaction is complete. It burns so hot that they used to use it to weld train tracks together when building the railroads because it was easier to carry rust and aluminum powder out to the middle of nowhere than an acetylene torch. He showed us a small reaction (mix the two and then light it on fire)in the lab that resulted in a white hot blob of iron the size of my thumb in about 5 seconds. Then he showed us a video where two guys mixed a bunch together in a flower pot on a car hood. It burned through the pot and into the engine and a few seconds later the entire engine melted out the bottom of the car. It was amazing! They did it again over the fuel tank and the whole car exploded. That was the YM favorite part!

And now for the "cool" part. What I didn't know (or remember, anyway) is that you can actually boil water until it freezes solid. (This video is a bit on the dry side, but it was short and sweet. The other were too long.) Crazy! If you remove enough of the air pressure, the water boils. But, it still takes energy to change the water from a liquid to a gas state. In the closed system of the bell jar, the only energy available is the heat inside the jar. So, the longer the water boils, the colder it gets until it finally freezes. He said that's actually the reason astronauts have to wear space suits and not just warm clothes and an air mask out in space. It's not just that it's cold and they'd freeze or suffocate without air, it's that their bodies would start to "boil" first in the vacuum of space and then freeze if they didn't have a suit to keep their bodies pressurized. Hope that's not too graphic, I just thought it was a very interesting fact.

Science is SO cool! (Sorry, no pun intended!)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cemetery Service

Joseph finished up his Citizenship in the Community merit badge over the weekend. Part of the requirements is a community service project. We had a hard time finding one for some one his age until United Way sent him (us!) over to the city cemetery to rake pine cones. He was trying to be done by Saturday, so we spent most of his afternoons there last week trying to get his 8 hours in. Joseph was pretty sick and tired of pine cones by Friday afternoon, but he stuck it out and did a great job.

We pretty much only saw one part of the cemetery, but it had some neat headstones. One was for President Hinckley's grandparents (Ira and Adelaide Hinckley),

another for Dan Jones (a body guard of Joseph Smith in Nauvoo and Carthage)

and my great, great grandparents, John Joseph and Mary Frances Mosely Woffinden, their son, John W. Woffinden, as well as Mary's father, Thomas Mosely.

The Woffinden's were Joseph's favorite because they are not buried near any trees at all, much less pine trees! The saddest for all of us were the children, especially those just a day or two old. There were far too many of those. It was sobering for our children to realize just how unusual it is for most babies to survive into adulthood like they do now. Our medical system isn't perfect, but compared to life in the not-too-distant past, we're doing ok.

It was a crazy week and I'm not sure Ryan actually got his homework done everyday, but I really loved that project. I may go back myself sometime just to help out. There was such a quiet peace while we were there. It felt good to be doing something nice for these people who came and went before.


The trend, I've noticed, on birthdays is for a sentimental, tender expression of love and/or history for said birthday-er. Today was Joseph's big day, but he'd hate sappy, so I will refrain and settle for a couple of quick sentences.

He had a party on Friday with some friends. (One ducked right at the last minute!)

They ate pizza, played video games, had cake/ice cream, and behaved themselves. It was great.

Today we did the family presents, donuts and juice.

I also broke down and let them watch TV. (I am getting weak as that's happening all too often on "special days off". It's amazing how many of those can come up!) His mean mother then forced everyone out of the house for a quick trip (I mean it, less than 40 minutes including travel time) to the BYU Museum of Art to see the Walter Wick exhibit. He's the guy who does the "I Spy" and "Do You See What I See?" books. It was great and they loved it for the 17.2 minutes that we were there (5 minutes of which was in the restroom!). I forgot the camera until half way there and knew I have a mutiny on my hands if we went back to get it. We wrapped up the day with Family Home Evening and ice cream (vanilla, cookies and cream, and orange sherbet) with hot fudge (yes, even the orange sherbet. Bleh!). Joseph didn't want a second cake. No problem. Hot Fudge sauce is WAY faster to make! He still wasn't big on pictures, but after holding his ice cream hostage, I got one.

Then off to bed at a MUCH more reasonable time than last night.

Happy Birthday, Joseph!
(Thanks for the picture, Erica!)

Post Pre-Birthday Camp Out

This is what I found last night when I went to check on everyone:
(Sorry, but I can't figure out how to turn of the underlining. This must be REALLY important stuff!)

What an amazing amount of rest is going on!

This is the result this morning:

The only thing that got any one out of bed today was the promise of Joseph's presents and donuts and juice. Good thing there was no school today. I thought they'd crash at some point, but they made it all the way through. Bed time was pretty welcome, though!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pre-Birthday Camp Out

9:00-ish-Tomorrow is Joseph's 12th birthday and the school district was nice enough to give him the day off for a Teacher Quality Day. It also might snow for the first time in several weeks, so we can pretend it's a snow day, too. So, to prolong the birthday excitement as long as possible, Joseph asked if he could sleep on the bean bag tonight. I don't know why that is such a treat as I would take my bed any day over the bean bag, but it is. Well, one thing led to another and right now all 5 kids are in Spencer and Joseph's room for a pre-birthday "camp out". I won't say "sleep-over" because judging by the sounds floating up from the basement there is no sleep going on at this point. I'm not bothered, though. They are very happy, friendly voices and no one is bothering any one else (minor miracle, but not one of the "everyday" variety, unfortunately!). They are talking and laughing and having a great time. It's a smiling heart moment for me.

10:55- They are still talking and laughing and having a great time, though it has slowed down considerably. The suggestion to make this a birthday tradition has been tossed around. I am all for spending quality time with the siblings and making some fun memories. Memories at 11:00 p.m. are the #1 reason we don't do these things on a school night, so a huge line will be drawn there! For now, the rest of the lights are going out and the boring grown-ups are going to sleep.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy Day, Happy Spring

Yea, our camera is fixed! It became somewhat finicky last fall, but we were working with it. A couple of weeks ago it stopped taking pictures all together. I was afraid we'd end up buying a new one. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I'm a creature of habit and I know how this camera works- and it usually does a pretty good job. I called the repair number in the owners manual. We were going to have to mail the camera, insured, to Elk Grove Village, IL and pay a minimum of $111 to have it looked at. What?! That's half way or more to a fairly decent replacement camera without adding extra for parts. So, we started looking for another camera. Just out of curiosity I checked the phone book and found one camera repair shop in the entire valley- and they happened to not be too far from our house. I called and they said they'd be willing to take a look. If it wasn't fixable, they wouldn't charge me a penny. If it was fixable, they estimated it would be $80, maybe less. They were very nice, even bumping me up to a rush status- meaning it would be done by Friday- when they learned Joseph's birthday was on Monday. Otherwise, they were booked out three weeks. They called today. The camera was finished and only cost $48 to fix. Yea! We now have a camera that works every time we turn it on and I don't have to learn to use a new one. Happy Day!

In honor of the newly reacquired ability to post pictures, I thought I'd share some tonight. There is a bit of background info first, though.

We moved to New Hampshire in the month of June. When we got there, I found this big, thick, grassy looking stuff growing beside our mud room doors. I waited several weeks, maybe even months, and it didn't do anything but sit there. So, in my efforts to have a pretty flower bed the following spring, I went through and sprayed it all with Round Up and cleared the space with the intention to plant something pretty and colorful in the spring. The following spring I had one little plant come up and I discovered that I had killed several purple iris plants that bloomed in early spring, then did nothing for the rest of the summer. Needless to say, I felt pretty stupid. So, I now have a rule that when I am in a new home I am not allowed to kill anything new or unidentified by me until I've been there a whole year.

I like to hope that I've learned something from past experiences. This year we have several plants coming up that I didn't even know we had, as they were long gone by the time we moved in last June. At first, I wasn't sure if it was weeds sprouting or not, but as they grew I was glad I didn't go out and pull them up. I can say that I had learned to tell the difference between weeds and flowers. This week we were blessed with some pretty color in the front yard. And have the promise of a bunch more on the way. Happy Spring!

I'm excited to see what other types or colors are pushing their way up through the soil still. I don't know enough to identify the flowers by their leaves. I just know they aren't weeds. It will be a little surprise every time one of them opens. There are a few plants that I am fairly confident I can identify as weeds and they don't get to enjoy our hospitality.

So, I really have no excuse for not being outside weeding. Sometime soon, maybe even this weekend, I'll have to get out there and get busy. It's also almost time to be planting a vegetable garden. I better hurry up and Round Up what's starting to grow in the back yard. At least right now I know there's nothing that I'll eventually want growing this summer. Unlike weeds, tomatoes don't just sprout on their own. Drat!

Monday, March 16, 2009

This One's For Greg

I'm supposed to be vacuuming, but I decided to catch up on my emails and blogs instead. I really am heading out to vacuum as soon as this is done.

Greg mentioned a while ago that he missed the light house background. He wasn't complaining, just stating a preference. I told him it made me feel cold in the winter. Well, the day has come when it's warm enough again to be dreaming of beaches and sunshine. I realize that upper 50's doesn't cut it for most, but the sun is out, the grass is turning green, we're planning a garden, and Joseph wore shorts and a t-shirt (no jacket) to school this morning. Besides, this weekend it will be Spring. So, here's to the seasons and the changes they bring.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Not That You Care...

Several years ago, Spencer had to do an oral report on a famous person while dressed as said person. He chose Julius Caesar. I don't know why. Maybe he liked the idea of a toga and a leafy headband. Whatever the reason, we both learned several things during that report. One was that a red sheet from Wal-Mart was WAY less expensive than enough red fabric for a toga- and can be used again! The other was that Julius Caesar was killed on the Ides of March, (the 15th) which happens to be Sunday. I am pretty good with useless, trivial information so I tend to think about dumb little things like that as they roll around. This time, I thought I'd share the info so others could benefit from this "talent". So, happy Ides of March and stay away from any "friends" named Brutus, especially if you happen to be in the Roman Senate anytime on Sunday!

Friday, March 13, 2009

I Never Thought The Day Would Come When...

...the kids would have a campout and I wouldn't do anything for it but run to the grocery store and then drive them to the meeting spot. It came today. For two children, Spencer and Joseph, no less. Part of it is the fact that Spencer has had enough camp outs that I know he knows what's what. The other part is that I am old (and tired) enough to let them really experience the natural consequences of packing (or not) for themselves. One night will not kill them. Of course, the real reason could be that I've already passed this milestone with Spencer or Erica and just can't remember. (A mind is such a terrible thing to waste!) My subconscious mind, for instance, might be telling me everything went fine before and not to worry. If that's the case, I get to double dip in life's Bowl of Satisfaction and am enjoying it very much the second time around. The boys asked for my help packing last night and I politely declined ( partly so I could keep playing Wii tennis- how's that for being a caring parent!). Today afterschool they packed their food into a cooler, fit the big stuff into garbage bags, and even loaded everything in the car. Funny how liberating that is. Next stop on this road is the driving up, unloading the child(ren) and belongings at said meeting point and driving away. Haven't quite gotten there, yet. Maybe next time. I guess there are still milestones/ stumbling blocks to be encountered on the raising child path that always seem huge deals with your first children but almost disappear for later children. I hope by the time Ryan is going on these little adventures that I at least remember the fact that he's going. Maybe by then the trip to the grocery store and the dropping off will be icing rather than resposibilties for mom. Who knows!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

$.99 Strawberries in March

Sunflower Market has $.99/lb. strawberries. The second week in March. That seems early to me, but I'm not one to complain about such things. They are beautiful, huge, and oh so juicy. (I would have taken a picture for your enjoyment, but the only way the camera is currently functioning is for Erica to press hard on the front edges of the lens with her fingers while pushing the button. We currently have lots of pictures of Erica's fingers and not much else.) I bought 5 tubs today. We ate one after school and the other 4 have been made into jam and are sitting in my freezer, except for a little in the fridge- some of which will probably not live to see tomorrow morning as I will eat a piece of toast before bed. I don't know who thought of having a sale on large, gorgeous, yummy strawberries in March, but today they are my hero. And probably tomorrow and the day after, and Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday as well. Maybe if I offer to keep them at hero status, we'll have them again next week as well.

PS- The suggestion given last fall about how to get the cents sign didn't work for me. I'm going to have to get a custom keyboard for days like today.

PPS- If your strawberries are cheaper, I'm glad for you. Eat many and feel good.

PPPS- Sunflower also had London Broil steaks for $1.97/lb., but they were out. They were selling sirloin steaks at the same price instead until their shipment came in. It was a happy grocery day. Glad it kind of fell apart yesterday (the regular day).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Erica Report

I told Erica I would make sure to give a report. After 3+ months, she and I both drug up enough courage to let her drive on the freeway. She did great! It was dark, which made it hard to see but reduced the amount of traffic. It was a good trade off. I didn't even get nervous. I think she did, but she handled it really well.

We were headed over to the store to get her a pair of running shoes. She called from school last week to ask if she could be on the track team. That was the last request I expected to hear, but what do you say when your child wants to get a little more exercise?! So, she's had one day of practice (her legs are still wondering what the heck happened!) and we've done the physical thing, bought shorts and now running shoes. Right now her plan is to run in the 100 and 400 meters and compete in the high jump. We'll see how it goes. The first track meet is tomorrow, but she's bowing out. Having only had one running day since soccer in 4th grade does not prepared one make. (That sounds like Yoda. Must be time for bed!) I'm excited for her and this new adventure. Thanks to whatever genetic mutation that skipped me but has shown up in most of my siblings. It has somehow rubbed off on her.

There, I've done my part. I'm sure she'll have lots to say on the subject as time goes on. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 2, 2009

It's Contagious

Funny how life goes and comes around. Just over a week ago I had the fun little burned bean experience. Today, my friend had a similar experience- only with a pot of potpourri on her stove instead of black beans. I feel for her in a huge way. She is a fabulous woman, so at least I am in good company on this one! I hadn't planned on saying any more about our smoke fun, but after talking to my friend I realized I needed to record for posterity the one other thing that I think really made a difference in clearing the air- literally. Like the Advanage last month, this a a blatant endorsement for a product only because it has saved my nose. 3M makes the Filterete 700 for furnaces. It happens to filter smoke. It does a wonderful job. I found it at Walmart for $8.88 plus tax. Worth every penny. I didn't find it until 3 or 4 days after our little incident so it could just be a coincidence that it made such a huge difference for us. All I know is that the day after I put it in and ran the heat, there was a very noticable difference in our air quality, not to mention the indoor temperature since I could now close all the doors and windows during the day. (My poor visiting teachers froze when they were here last week.) In fact, yesterday I didn't even think about the smell of smoke until after dinner. That was a very nice change. I hope you never need this information. However, since it appears that what ever "burn-something-on-the-stove" bug that is going around is "catchy", especially to people that know me, I throw out my 2 cents in the hopes it helps someone else. You may also want to think twice before having much contact with our family for a little while. I don't know how long we'll be contagious.