"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." Albert Einstein

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

I am blessed with many family & friends that have served our country in the military. I am proud of my ancestors who have sacrificed for what they believed in and served with honor. As I have become friends with military wives, I've seen up close the sacrifices the families make and at times it has broken my heart. It has made me infinitely more grateful. 

My dad was a sailor stationed in Portland, OR when he met my mom. They were married just days before he shipped out and spent the first four years of their marriage apart more than they were together. My mom became determined to meet his ship anytime it was on the West Coast, which often meant working odd jobs, packing everything they owned into unreliable cars & traveling by herself, and living in navy housing. They carefully arranged for my dad to have 3 weeks R&R with my due date in the middle so that my dad could be there for the birth of their first child. I can only imagine the heartache that they must have felt when dad's ship sailed and I hadn't arrived. My mom waved goodbye and then went to live with my grandma so she would have someone to help her when I came. My dad heard that I had safely arrived via a telegram read over the ship's intercom while off the coast of the Philippines during the Vietnam war. He held me for the first time when I was 4 months old. My heart catches a little at some of the pictures of birthdays and Christmases that were obviously taken to send to my dad. I am awed by my mom's strength and sacrifice.

Pioneer Woman has been posting pictures sent in by reader's this week with the theme - "Coming Home". As I looked at each one, my heart is touched by the love, the devotion, the sacrifice. The ones where the father is obviously seeing his child for the first time especially touched me.

My cousin Annette sent me this:

It is the 
VETERAN
 not the preacher, 
 who has given us freedom of religion. 

It is 
the VETERAN
 not the reporter, 
  who has given us freedom of the press.

It is 
the VETERAN
 not the poet, 
who has given us freedom of speech.
   
It is 
the VETERAN
not the campus organizer, 
who has given us freedom to assemble. 

    
It is 
the VETERAN
 not the lawyer, 
who has given us the right to a fair trial. 


It is 
the VETERAN
 not the politician, 
Who has given us the right to vote. 

 
 
 It is 
the VETERAN who 
salutes the Flag, 

 
It is 
the VETERAN who 
serves under the Flag, 



A few months ago, I saw the movie "Taking Chance" - it is the true story of the experience the military escort had in escorting a fallen soldier home. It is deeply moving and I would highly recommend it.

Remember is a huge theme in the scriptures - something we struggle with constantly. Today is a day to remember and honor the soldiers who have served, the pain and sacrifice of their families and to pray for those currently serving. Today, I say ~ Thank you. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Road Trips & Travel Tips List

I love road trips. Growing up, road trips and camping were our family vacations. We would sing songs, talk, read, and listen to my dad. He is a wonderful storyteller, knows everyone (seriously - pick a truck stop anywhere and give him 10 mins. and he will find someone that he knows or that they both know in common. I am not exaggerating) and he has eagle eyes for spotting and pointing out wildlife, waterfalls, or interesting features along the road. 

Every family should have at least one really long road trip in their history. It becomes iconic - all other road trips pale in comparison. Ours was the summer I was 10 yrs. old. My dad's family all lived in Ohio and there was a family reunion. After much discussion, it was decided that we would drive from Oregon to Ohio with 5 kids ages 10 -2 (two yr. old was barely potty trained), and a pregnant mother in a Subaru hatchback. Yes, you read that right. My dad took out the back seat (pre-seatbelt laws) and laid down 3 opened sleeping bags. My mom sewed each of us our own small duffle bag that had all of our clothes, necessities and served as our pillows as well. We had a small cooler, and one small bag with some coloring books, etc (pre-technology.) We lived out of that car for the next month - we visited Mt. Rushmore, Custer's Last Stand, Ohio and all the relatives and Temple Square on the way home. Every rest stop we would shake out the sleeping bags and rotate the least dirty to the top. I remember Nebraska taking forever to drive through. I remember vowing to NEVER take cookies on a road trip and I developed a hatred for crumbs. When we would ask how many miles more, my dad would answer "Only 271 smiles more!" and we kids would start smiling and counting. I remember catching fireflies and walking on stilts at Grandpa's house. I remember playing at my Grandparents house and especially in the barns and cornfields. More than anything, I came away with a new level of independence that I didn't even know I had gained at the time. I actually like packing everything in the car and taking off. I love car conversations and being away from all of the distractions. I love the bonding experience of listening to great books together on cd, laughing at comedians, crying along with amazing talks, singing silly camp songs at the top of our lungs or sleeping to calm music as we roll down the road. I love all the games we invent and the rest stop stories that emerge. I love the sincerity of prayers said on a road trip. 

Summer is here and road trips season has arrived. Because I am so scatterbrained, I scoured the net and some discussion boards a few years ago and added it to my 'after the trip' notes and compiled this travel list to help me pack for our road trips. Just thought I would share. (feel free to send me a comment with any suggestions) 

Julie


Travel (with Children) Tips

Entertainment:
Rest Stop toys: Nerf football, Frisbee, inflatable beach ball, squirt guns, small parachute/sheet, bubbles
Family Blanket for rest stops
Books on Tape (Jim Weiss, Bill Cosby, Andy Griffin & John Bytheway)
Music (Raffi & John McCutcheon, Cajun for Kids, Kids Party Music, & some calm)
BSA Cub Scout Song Book
Scripture Scouts (Desert Book)
Family Times Virtues CDs
Scripture Stories (LDS distribution)
Magnadoodle / Etch-a-sketch
Colored Pencils & color books (NO crayons!)
Travel Bingo (very fun – buy at Cracker Barrel)
Metal Cookie sheet & magnets
Magic Markers & books (the ones that only write on paper)
Maps (laminated) & highlighters (yellow marks route, blue road covered)
Mad libs, Word searches, kid magazines
Surprise Bags: treat, well wrapped toy, new book or game
Individual Snack Bags packed each day
Individual pillows
Favorite small blanket/fleece throw
Leap Frog/Leapster/DS/Gameboy
Portable CD player &/or DVD player w/ head phones

Bordom Games:
License Plates - keep track of how many states you see
Count how many types of cars you see (i.e. count all the vans)
ABC game – find the letters of the alphabet in order from things that you see
I Spy with my Little Eye –
Who Am I? Pick someone everyone knows and give yes or no answers until they guess who you are.
Scripture Chase (for littles – find the index, a footnote, the title page, etc.)
Letter boxing & Geo Caching (google them - they are awesome!)
Words that rhyme with________
Animal names that start with____

General:
Cooler: Bottled water, apples, oranges, grapes, baby carrots, bagels/English muffins, cream cheese/Laughing Cow Light Cheese, cheese sticks, Gogurts, Tuna pouches, Mayo packages
Snacks: Pretzels, Pringles, Trailmix, crackers, goldfish, licorice, smarties, nuts, raisins, dried fruit, seeds, crème savers, lollipops, starburst, Chex Stix, jerky, gum, certs, tic tacs, 
Camera
Wipes
Hand Sanitizer
Flashlight
Journal & a couple of pens
TP for rest stops
Walmart bags for trash/small trash can for car sickness
Car Timer
Zip locks
Sunscreen
Air freshener vent sticks
Double check for license, current insurance & registration and ER numbers
Cell phone & charger 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Interesting Question...

Last night Ryan asked, "What is the millennium?"

I explained - "A period of a thousand years when Christ will personally reign on earth."

And what was his first question?

"I wonder what kind of car Christ will be driving..."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

This Mother's Day has been filled with so many mixed emotions, many felt in the same moments. I have always been staunch in feeling that today wasn't about me and my mothering opportunities or abilities, but rather about my mother and grandmothers. I have heard of others who won't attend church on Mother's Day, their disappointed desires making it too difficult and I have never quite understood that. And in the past, I have found tender mercies on this day.  So, when earlier this week I began to analyze my mothering reality and compare it to my expectations, I was a bit unprepared for the sea of emotions that followed~

Humbled~ that would be the overriding emotion this past week. Humbled that I have this blessing. Humbled that the Lord thinks I am capable. Humbled by my inadequacies. Humbled by my blessings. Humbled by the promises of the future.

Gratitude~ that I have the opportunity to be a mother to many kids around me and that I can feel that blessing. I have been thinking much of the little girls that we fostered for so long and almost adopted. Missing them. Grieving for them. Tim asked for a divorce four weeks after they left and I am just now beginning to feel the heartache of their loss. But even though my heart aches, I am so grateful for those beautiful kids and I would do it all again in heartbeat. I often try to imagine how Shelby would look now. She is 6 years old now - almost 7 and in school. I wonder how long her hair is... Are her eyes still so clear blue?  Does she still love to smile and laugh? A friend ran into Shaye and Dasia the other day and called to tell me how cute they were. I miss them the most on Sunday afternoons when I would braid their hair for the week. I miss Shaye's gorgeous, shy smile and Dasia's mischievous laughing eyes.

Working in a low income school, I have the opportunity to be a stand in mother for some of my students.  I have gone to games, helped with homework, cheered, advocated, and cried with and for so many of my students. I tell them almost everyday that I love their guts and I really do. They are amazing. I am so grateful to feel love for them. They are not just a job and I am not just a teacher. They are my students. They are part of my heart.

Aching~ for the missing kiddos. For the feel of a sleeping babe in my arms. For the bowls of cereal dumped in their hair and the dimpling smile and twinkling eyes peeking out from under the bowl. For the squeals of delights as they run as I chase them. For the mad little pouts when they don't get their way and the full blown tantrums in the store. For the hugs and snuggles and slobbery kisses. For the funny things they say and the guileless honesty.

Blessed~ There are some things I know I've done right for me and I cherish those blessings & memories. When I was pregnant with Ryan, someone made a comment to the effect that you never hear grandparents say they regret holding their children so much. It struck me and so I was a holder (still am.)  I rocked Ryan and all the girls for years, every night, many times all  three on my lap at a time. And I do not regret a single millisecond.

Another blessing has been bedtime. Since Ryan was born, I have sung a specific song to him that I learned on my mission. As each of the foster kids came, each of them had their own song that would come to me and I would sing it to them, often a few times each night as they drifted off to sleep. A miracle happens every night and still surprises me every time. While I have spent a good portion of my life around many musically talented people, I am not naturally musical. I don't sing well. I don't know how to read music or stay on pitch. Yet every night when I sing to my kids, I can sing. I can sing well. I can sing parts and play with the melodies. I can stay on pitch. And each night I feel again the miracle of the blessing.

Every night as I tuck my kiddo(s) in bed, I have always had two questions - What was the best part of the day? and What was the worse part of the day? Over the last year I have added the question, Who did you help today? These conversations have been amazing, such a blessing. I have loved seeing the day through the eyes of a child.


There are other things that I am grateful that I was prompted to do as a parent. Books we have read, traditions we have created, discussions we have had. I love my son. I am so grateful for his choices that brought him to my life.  I started writing this post thinking of the many shortcomings I feel as a mother yet all I can think of now are the blessings. I guess that is how it should be.

Lastly, I want to record this Mother's Day-
Saturday, our friend Blayne brought over his lawn mower and worked with Ryan and his two sons and mowed our lawn. I love, love, love a nice lawn and this was such a gift. Then they all went to the Allsups and Ryan helped mow their lawn. Blayne took all the boys fishing where they caught Mother's Day dinner - 5 large Walleye for after church the next day. (It was delish! I love fish!)  And Kim sent him home with a gift bag - a gift she helped him with. My gift was perfect~ a silhouette of Ryan. Absolutely perfect.

Sunday, Ryan nervously prepared his first talk in Sacrament meeting. He did great! He made me smile and tear up. He wrote the talk by himself and I am so proud of him for accepting such a daunting invitation. I am grateful that our faith gives twelve year olds the opportunity to speak in front of 200 people for 3-5 mins.  I was so grateful to see Alisa's mother at church. When my mom knew that her illnesses were terminal, she gave each of us four daughters matching Black Hills Gold lockets. I wear mine when I am missing her or thinking of her or for many family occasions. As I was sitting in church, I realized that I had forgotten my locket and the tears welled up. As I saw Angela sitting by Alisa, I felt like I could feel my mom close by and her love washed over me. I respect Angela so much and for a tiny moment, she was my stand in mom.

I am so grateful for the priceless blessing of friends. I am so grateful to be a woman, to be a "mother of all living" each and every day. It was a perfect day at sea.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Choir of Angels

Sunday, May 1
One of Ry's electives this year has been choir. He is still surprised that his teacher thinks that he has a great voice and can sing. Yesterday, they performed in a choir competition and won first place out of a ton (over 100) schools. They won a 4' trophy and received a score of 99. One of the judges said to the kids, "I don't know what the choirs of angels will sound like in heaven, but I think it will sound just like you."

Mrs. Adams has been Ry's choir teacher for the last two years. He had to go to a mandatory audition in 5th grade for honors chorus and was shocked when he made it. This year, we was invited to join the Circle the State choir and has been invited to join Show Choir for next year. Each time, he is surprised that he has made it. Over the last two years, I've slowly watched him lean toward music. He sings much of the time (to his dismay) bits of songs stuck in his head. He sings more in church. He talks to me about pitch, parts, and his breathing. I don't know if he will do Show Choir or not next year. Either way, I am so appreciative of Mrs. Adams for seeing music in him and revealing it to him.