January 31, 2013

"This Little Light of Mine"

Recently, the second grade students at Art City Elementary had a musical presentation celebrating the civil rights movement and historic figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Jackie Robinson. Spencer had the privilege of being involved in the program. Jason and I had the privilege of witnessing it.

Now, I've been to many school programs, and I'm of the opinion that the second grade program is the most poignant.  It was touching, really, to see images projected on the screen of individuals who met extreme challenges with extraordinary courage.  Children recited inspiring quotes and sang songs containing messages about the legacy of the actions of these brave individuals and the values they represented. I am pleased that these important messages are being shared with the students, and I hope Spencer will carry away from this experience a desire to be true to who he is and not be afraid to "let his light shine" as the messages in the songs he sang taught.

As for me, I will carry away from the experience fond memories of the performance where I watched my son sing his little heart out.  He did his Mama proud!
Some songs were joyous...
...some moments were serious....

....some notes were a little harder to reach than others...

 ...some notes were simply hummed...

 ...some songs required choreography...

...and some songs required special effects...

 ...but for me, the most "special effect" was when Spencer sang 
the performance culminating solo.  He was amazing!

 After the performance, Spencer wanted to make sure I took a picture of him 
with his teacher, Miss Winkel. Isn't she adorable?  Someone was finally wise 
enough to turn her into a Mrs.  She is engaged to be married this summer.  
Spencer might be a little disappointed, since he recently admitted 
to Jason and I that he possibly has a little crush on her.  Too cute!

 The students provided the decorations for the gym in the form of 
hand drawn portraits of the featured historical figures.  Spencer drew a 
bright and smiling image of Rosa Parks (in a thunderstorm).

 Spencer got to stand next to his best friend, Gabe.  The two boys were 
so entertaining to watch because they committed whole-heartedly to 
every aspect of the performance.  We could actually hear their pitch-perfect 
little voices carrying all the way from their spot on the back row.

Of course, after a fantastic performance like that, the family 
had to all go out and celebrate with a little ice-cream treat.

This post authored by Amber

January 28, 2013

Time Out

I went on a little weekend getaway--solo.

Both Jason's family and mine had special extended family events that took place on the same weekend, but in different locations.  His brother and sister-in-law were scheduled to have their adopted baby girl sealed to their family in the Provo temple.  My brother and sister each had their oldest daughters going through the St. George temple for the first time in preparation for upcoming mission departures.  Both events were of significant importance to us and we wanted to be sure to support our families for each occasion.  Jason and I decided to "divide and conquer."  The only question that remained was what to do with the children.  We discussed several scenarios, explored every possible option, and the decision that seemed to fit best for our family was to have me travel to St. George with my younger brother and his family and to leave the children in Jason's care for the weekend.  So that is what we did.

I haven't spent a night away from Jason and the children in nearly five years, with the exception of hospital stays when babies were born.  While a getaway experience is not necessarily something I seek out for myself, I will admit, I began to look forward to the excursion as the trip drew near. It was going to be a welcomed change to visit with family without worrying over the needs of my children. (Road trips are quite pleasant when you are not the designated snack-hander-outer.)

I thoroughly enjoyed riding and visiting with Clark and Lisa. They picked me up after dinner and drove all the way to St. George through slight, sporadic snowstorms and fog.  We arrived at Lance and Sharley's not long after 11:00 p.m.  My sweet niece, Morgan, offered her room and bed to me for that night, and I slept, without interruption, until the next morning.

Saturday I met with family in the temple and enjoyed participating in an endowment session where the room was filled with familiar faces.  It was so lovely.  I was happy to be there in support of my two beautiful nieces whom I think the world of.  I imagined Jason, hours away in another temple in a sealing room filled with familiar faces.  I'm certain it was just as lovely.  I'm glad that he was there in support of his brother's family whom I think the world of.

After the session, we went to Golden Corral for lunch.  I returned to Lance and Sharley's home to pack up my things and we began to head north.  This time I hitched a ride with my father and step-mother who flew in from Texas to be a part of the weekend's events.

We stopped in Cedar City where my sister, Cheryl, had prepared a dinner for all of the visitors who were in town to watch her perform in her community theater's production of Annie.  Cheryl secured the lead role of Miss Hannigan in the play, and she was fantastic!  I enjoyed the musical immensely.  It has been nearly 25 years since I, myself, had the lead role of Annie in our community theater in Del Rio, Texas.  Watching the show again brought back many fond memories.

Following the show, Clark, Cheryl and her good friend, and I stayed up late, reminiscing and laughing about old memories, all the while creating new ones.  We finally went to bed, exhausted but happy.  The next  morning we readied ourselves for church, had some delicious pancakes (courtesy of Cheryl), then attended sacrament meeting.  After the meeting it was time to head back home in hopes of keeping ahead of the next storm that was forecasted for northern Utah.

I arrived home feeling refreshed and giddy after having spent a wonderful weekend with my family.  It was fabulous!

This post authored by Amber

January 21, 2013

"Every Artist Was First an Amateur"

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

This little beauty just turned two. Two!  She's anything but terrible, I'd like to add.  She is polite, sensitive, nurturing, inquisitive, confident, observant, and cheerful.  Sometimes she's spunky, independent, too fearless for her own good, and a little strong-willed, but not terrible.  The only terrible thing about her is she's growing up too quickly.  I will miss how sweet and clear her little voice sounds when she says things like "please," "thank you," "bless you," and "I love you, Mom."  I will miss watching her imitate her older brothers' every move or recite words and songs from favorite movies.  I try not to worry too much when we leave the house on days when she was insistent about choosing what shoes she wanted to wear. I know the day will come soon enough when she will pick the ones that fit or those that coordinate with her clothes. I don't want to forget how tiny her feet look in my high heels or how well she can maneuver around the house in them.  I don't want to forget how her hair spills halfway down her back when she's in the tub, but when it's dry you'd never know it was so long for all her tight, lovely curls.  I may not like that she will consistently refuse to hold my hand when I need her to, but at least, for now, she still allows me to rock her to sleep. I hope I don't forget how she gets tense when I put her on her back on her changing table.  Despite my assurances that she is safe, she clings to me as if her life depends on it.   She still clings to me, in a lot of ways, because her life depends on it, but that won't always be the case-- so for now, I will enjoy every minute of Ella being two.  Before I know it, that won't be the case anymore.

Ella's Birthday Breakfast

For breakfast, the family decided on Ella's behalf that pancakes would be a great idea.  Ella seemed to enjoy them  so I think we made a good choice.  She would have probably also been content with cold cereal or a bagel with cream cheese, but you can't really shape those into a number two or drizzle them in sugary syrup.

 Paint Themed Birthday Party

The landscape for January is often gray and white, just like a canvas in dire need of a splash of colorThe dreary weather proved to be inspiration (or motivation) to pick a theme that was bright, cheery, and colorful.  I found some wonderful ideas online for rainbow themed parties, but I absolutely fell in love with almost every detail from one particular website that took the theme one step further to incorporate an art concept.  Here is the link with all of the amazing photos and detailsThe following photos demonstrate how I interpreted the theme:

I really enjoyed making Ella's cake.  I used instructions from Betty Crocker's website, but I used my own cake batter recipe and I made the cake with 10-inch pans as opposed to 8.  I did follow the suggested frosting recipe from the website, and I highly recommend it.  It was so smooth and easy to spread.  I just added a little almond flavor in addition to the vanilla.

The guests arrived at 6:00 p.m. and we began by having Ella open gifts.  After gifts, we watched her year-in-review video.  We wrapped it all up with treats, cake, and ice cream, and we all watched as Ella worked tirelessly to blow out her two candles.  It was such a fabulous party!

Ella's Birthday Dinner

Ella's birthday fell on a Sunday this year, so we waited until Monday to take her out for her birthday dinner.  As with breakfast, we chose for her.  We thought we'd try Denny's here in Springville.  We were plesantly surprised to see that after 4:00 p.m., the restaurant offered free meals for children.  Ella threw a tantrum when we tried to put her in the high chair.  She preferred to be on the bench with her older brothers.  I guess she did just turn two, huh? 

Happy Birthday, Ella!

This post authored by Amber

January 11, 2013

Breakfast of Champions

January marks the official Cub Scout calendar month for the Pinewood Derby.  Our Pack held the event relatively early in the month, so it came up pretty quick after the holidays.  This was the first year for Spencer to participate and the last for Brevin, which meant one thing--our household would be responsible for creating two cars.

As is customary at our home, the boys began with talks of plans to create fast cars, envisioning the grand moment when theirs would cross the finish line before all the rest.  And just as in times past, their hopes to be the fastest were soon replaced (with much encouragement from Mom and Dad) with the giddy excitement about having the most creative design .

What caused them to change their minds? you might ask.  I'll tell you.  It was an old, reliable internet search on Google.  We looked for images of pinewood derby cars and spotted one made to look like two sunny-side up eggs.  I joked that it would be funny to have a piece of bacon to go alongside it.  At that moment, Jason and I both felt we had a glimmer of creative inspiration.  We refined our internet search and even found an example of a slice of bacon pinewood derby car.  Wouldn't it be fun to have the boys do something themed together?  They loved the idea, so we moved ahead with it.  

Let the car building commence!

First, they each sketched the design on the block of wood:

Second, they assisted Dad as he cut the wood by blowing sawdust away from the blade:

Next, they each got a turn to use the power sander:

They had to continue sanding by hand:

Finally, weights, wheels, paint, and accessories were added:

With a touch of graphite, the cars were ready to roll.  They even looked good enough to eat:

 Well, they looked fantastic.  We only needed to see how they'd race.

It turns out that pigs can fly.  The bacon design car was really fast, won several races, and even made it to the final four where it competed in the winners round.  The eggs fared well enough, too.  They won some races, and by my figuring placed somewhere in the middle of the pack.  No matter how well the cars finished, they were triumphantly cheered on by an excited younger brother and his company.

Grandpa Park came to watch the boys race.  At one point, he and Jason convinced Spencer to set his car on the track backwards with the weight in the front to test a theory of weight placement and see how much it really affected the outcome of the race.  It turns out that the weight placement was significant, and Spencer's car lost in that heat...badly.  I was able to capture his expression as he looked over and seemed to ask his Dad and Grandpa, Why the heck did you tell me to do that!

As final race results were being calculated, the track was opened for free race time.  We put all cars that our children had made in past years on the track to see how they would compete with each other.  The bacon won.

Awards were presented and Brevin was honored with the title of "Most Delicious"  and Spencer was awarded "Most Protein." Their cars now sit on shelves in their rooms as reminders of the fun experience we had as a family. Who knew making bacon and eggs could be so fun!

This post authored by Amber