Monday, March 30, 2015

Has This Been Here All Along?

I read an article recently where the author suggested we ought not use the word "busy" to describe our lives.  Rather we should use the word "full".  I like that.  Busy suggests that what we're spending our time on isn't that important-- just busy work.  Or perhaps it implies that we aren't choosing how to spend our time, rather just reacting to what comes our way.     "Full" is more descriptive-- It is how we fill our time.  Hopefully our days are full of things that fulfill and satisfy us.

While I have my share of things I am reacting to, most of the things that fill up the hours of my day are immensely satisfying.  Lately, I feel like life has been so full of good things, that there has hardly been time or room enough to enjoy them all.  Unfortunately, my stress level has been pretty high as I've scrambled to try to keep up with the fullness of life!

This evening I am enjoying a moment of calm that I've been looking forward to for several weeks.  I write from a hotel room in Moab, UT.  You see, my people and I are making our way down to Phoenix, AZ for another FIRST Robotics Competition regional with Clark's Prototype X team.  I've looked forward to this trip for many reasons, but specifically, life has been so FULL that I have not had time to blog about all the satisfying happenings in our family.  And I love writing on my blog.  Very cathartic for me.  I feel like I have been running absolute full steam for about three weeks straight.  No bueno.  Not healthy for me.  Not so nice for my family.  All the activities that have been keeping us busy so fulfilled were amazing and we're chock full of cherished family memories, but enough already!!!  It's time to chillax.  It's time to blog. 

I have successfully put baby Peter to bed in a crib right next to me with his blessed white noise machine blaring the sound of a gentle rain storm.  Now then, where to begin?  I think I'll begin with today and then back track a bit.
And today was a very good day.  I am ashamed to admit that I have lived in Utah for almost twenty years straight and this is the first time I have ever visited the Moab, UT area.  That's right.  I mean, I've seen our state license plate with the Delicate Arch.  On some level I knew these AMAZING vistas and formations existed, but had I really known what was here, I think I would have come much sooner and more often.  WOW!  Northern Utah is beautiful, but Southern Utah is unbelievable.
Here is the family picture at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park.
Can I even count all the things I love about this picture?  Abe and Bethany holding hands.  Peter's delicious chunky baby legs.  Abe carrying Peter in the same backpack he carried Clark in.  The fox purse Bethany received as a gift from her cousin Julia two or three Christmases ago and she still loves it.  Bethany's hat.  Exercising together as a family in the great outdoors.  I could go on.  LOVE.
 Cannon and Faith wearing the Junior Ranger backpacks they checked out at Canyonlands and will turn in at Arches National Park tomorrow.  They contain a magnifying glass, binoculars, activities, thermometer, etc.  They are in heaven.  I need not mention these two never run out of energy.
 Team Little Kids.  Why, yes, I am wearing my glasses.  How good of you to notice.  I woke up with a bit of pink eye and it has been itching like crazy today.  But even that could not detract from the fabulousness of the day.
We went on a couple of short hikes that were just right.  Actually, they weren't quite enough and they've left us excited for more adventures tomorrow.  George, in the background, looks precariously perched.  Don't worry, he was by Bethany and they were not as close to the edge as he looks.  That being said, if you have any kind of fear of heights, which Abe may or may not have, this Island in the Sky area of the park can be nerve racking.  Not just nervousness for yourself, but constant concern for little kids.  We don't have any real dare devils, but even still, there was a lot of, "That's close enough!", "Stop, don't go any further!", "Come over here by me!", "Hold my hand!"
Glad to have everyone safely in the other hotel room watching Animal Planet.
Peter did fairly well.  He's not much of a scheduled sleeper at home anyway, so I don't know that it's that big of a deal for him to be toted around the great outdoors.  The temperatures were warm, with a slight breeze, so it was quite lovely.  Abe said he was hiking along and suddenly felt dead weight on his neck.  Peter was out.
George loved the hiking and had no trouble keeping up with the big kids. 
Clark was the lizard whisperer and Abe was his trusty assistant.  Clark caught two, but saw several more.  He said these Southern Utah lizards are FAST!  Thankfully, we will not be bringing those lizards home with us.
This little beauty is biting Clark's finger.
Well now, I think she was just trying to shock her father.  I hear teenagers try to do things like that.
I'm going to take a moment to brag.
Holy smokes!  That's one good looking young man!
And now he's mad at me for saying that, but I'm sorry, it's true. I only speak the truth.
It's pretty easy to take great pictures with such vibrant colors all around. 
The day had been a grand success and then we saw THIS!  A huge sand hill with ant-like children and adults climbing up and then run/rolling/falling down as fast as they could. 
Perfect way to finish off the day's adventures.
They look so small, but the five kids on the rocks are Bethany, Elinor, Faith, Cannon, and George.
Here's the close up view.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Clark was hunting reptiles.
We had dinner at the Denny's right across from our hotel.  It was very fun and funny.  I, like my mother before me, got a case of the giggles over something and couldn't stop laughing.  This is problematic when uncontrollable laughter is not appropriate-- Oh, say, when your family is singing together at a Christmas church function.  This did not happen to me, but it did to my mother.  Or when the extended family is gathered for a family picture and your face is all red from laughing and crying.  Once again, my mother.  Now, Denny's is a perfectly acceptable place to start laughing/crying/laughing.  But, I fear I am getting worse as I get older.  The laughter commences more easily and less predictably.  It's only a matter of time. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

FIRST Robotics Competition Utah Regional

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (March 12-14) was the Utah Regional competition for Clark's robotics team.  After the excitement at last year's competition, we were all really excited to go watch.  The biggest day of competition is Saturday, but the rest of the family had dress rehearsals for our play, so we made Friday our big day of watching competition.
We brought a couple of the team coach's children along with us because a sibling of theirs was sick.  Very sad for their mom who was so excited to come cheer on Prototype X.
With Andrea-- we've spent many, many hours watching robots together over the years.
Getting ready for one of our first qualification matches.
Qualification matches are played with an alliance of three teams versus another alliance of three teams. These alliance constantly getting switched up throughout the day.
I'll save you the suspense of waiting through the whole post.  After 12 qualification matches over Friday and Saturday, the team ended up in fifth place by noon on Saturday.
In the alliance selections, Prototype X was the first team selected by the third ranked team and we joined up with team 2122, the Tator Bots from Idaho.  The third team to be picked for that alliance was from Spanish Fork.
In the end, the finals were between the alliance containing the top two ranked teams and our alliance.  We didn't win it all, but our team did very well and they were pleased with their performance.  
They will be competing again in Phoenix, AZ  in a couple of weeks.  According to their scouting efforts, they believe the competition will not be quite as fierce as it was in Utah.  For the record, we were the top team in Utah. 
Wandering the pits is the highlight of the event for the little kids.  They love seeing the robots and collecting the swag from all the teams.  Out of our younger children, George particularly treasures his collections. 
Safety first in the pits.  Everybody has to wear safety goggles--even cute little Peter.  He kept them on a little longer than I expected.

So the team doesn't have a ticket as of yet to the World's Competition in St. Louis at the end of April.  Hopefully, they'll earn a spot in Phoenix.  But either way, at least they have a safe pit:)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The World is So Full of A Number of Things

This little guy didn't have a great week.  He had tummy troubles and was very sad.  Today was his first day in about five days that he didn't throw up.  So hopefully, he is on the mend.  Unfortunately, Bethany and Faith were down today with the gunk.  Clark just texted me that he's not feeling very well this evening.  Hmmm.  This doesn't bode well for Wizard of Oz week.
The cast is so talented.  It has been a real pleasure rehearsing with them.
We are right in the middle of the busiest few weeks I can ever remember for our family.  Of course play rehearsals are keeping us out almost every evening.  When all three girls wanted to sign up for softball this year and I thought we would be clear to not overlap with the play. 

I was wrong.  All three girls have started softball practice this past weekend as well.  Yikes! 
They've had a great time enjoying the nice weather and practicing catching in the back yard.
And as if that weren't enough-- this was a BIG weekend for Clark's robotics team.  Aye yai yai!
There will be a whole post about the Utah Regional competition, but it was exciting and the team did great.  

My favorite little poem is very short.  It is by Robert Louis Stevenson.
The world is so full of a number of things
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.

We are busy, busy, busy.  Too busy.  Several activities, plus sickness, have converged in the same few weeks.  When I get feeling overwhelmed I repeat this rhyme to myself.
I say to the kids, "Aren't we so blessed to have so many wonderful opportunities that we don't even have time to fit them all in!"

And speaking of things we didn't have time to fit in-- Bethany's birthday.  Actually, we could have celebrated it this evening after church, but she is sick.  She's been throwing up and was so sad to stay home from church today and miss her first week in Mia Maids.  We decided to postpone her birthday dinner and cake until tomorrow-- assuming she's feeling better. 
 So although we don't have any pictures of a great celebration, happy birthday to you, my dear.  We love you so much and appreciate your patience while we run around crazy at your birthday time.  We are so grateful for your nurturing spirit, your kindness, talents, and creativity.  You are a joy to Dad and I and a blessing to our family.

That's So Ninja

Sometimes my children use the word ninja as an adjective, rather than a noun.  For example:  "That's so ninja!"  I believe it has a similar meaning to "cool" or "awesome".  Elinor is the most likely to describe something as "ninja"
But in our house, Cannon is the most likely to dress as a ninja.
The recent arrival of the Lego Magazine contained instructions for making a ninja head wrap.  And lest you worry that dressing as a ninja would distract from his daily responsibilities... boy can still practice the piano.
And he can do his math.  Perhaps being a ninja helps him increase his focusing abilities.
As part of our involvement with community theater and The Wizard of Oz, we are "encouraged" to volunteer and help out in lots of different ways.  Since I really don't sew and have zippo woodworking skills, when the call came to spray paint a few hats, I quickly volunteered.  I mean, how hard can it be to spray paint?  Without boring you with details, it was much more labor and time intensive than I anticipated.  They started out green hats, and just did not wish to become white hats.  It went way beyond spray paint, requiring several coats of white paint.  The hats, which are meant for the City Fathers in Munchkin Land, ended up quite heavy and uncomfortable for their little heads.  But they look good and Cannon gets to wear one.
It is hard for kids to resist open paint cans.  I did have to inform him that this wasn't washable kid's paint.  He quickly went and rubbed his skin red trying to wash it off.
Here's a little sneak preview of Faith and her friend Lois as Munchkins at our first dress rehearsal yesterday.  Tomorrow begins play week.  We've got dress rehearsals Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, then Thursday is opening night.  
I asked Bethany the other day how Abe and I were doing as Uncle Henry and Aunt Em.  Her response, and I quote, "You don't really suck that bad... your just not as good as everyone else."

If that doesn't make you want to come see us, I don't know what will!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Small Victories

Every year Bethany's orchestra group performs with many other student groups at Abravanel Hall.  It warms my mommy heart to see and hear her play in such a venue.
Her group sounded beautiful and it is an accomplishment to practice so hard and play so well.  It is also an accomplishment to get all of my family dressed and downtown by 9 AM.  I'd like to take this moment to congratulate myself on that accomplishment.

I have found myself needing to congratulate myself on any small (or not so small) victories I have of late.  I've dropped several balls and disappointed some loved ones lately.  I don't think berating myself will help.  One night I made a list of my fails.  But when I compared it to my list of successes, they were both equally impressive.  I figure I'll be happier if I focus on all the good things I did.  Can you believe I actually cleaned my living room blinds.  Whoa!  Where did that come from.  I understand that some people do that on a regular basis and thus only need to lightly dust their blinds to clean them.  Um, yeah, I do that every three years or so, so there is water and scrubbing involved.  Go me!
 "Necessity is the mother of invention"-- so said Louisa May Alcott and I concur.  Clark needed a new reptile terrarium so he made one out of old broken furniture.
 I read this article in the paper recently that talked about adventure playgrounds in which "free play" is the order of the day.  Not a lot of structured play, rather a lot of junky raw materials and the kids are free to have at it to build or create whatever they fancy.  I love it.  Our garage is kind of like that.  If you can find it and think of something cool to do with it, then go for it.  Note the danger of knives left lying around the floor.  Does that make you feel better about sending your child over to our house to play?
Kind of a cool picture of Faith practicing her gymnastics.  Hmm, speaking of mom fails-- I recently forgot to send Faith in her costume with her hair nicely done for her team gymnastics picture.  So she had to sit out while the rest of the team was in the picture.  Admittedly, not my finest parenting moment. 
Oh, there were tears.  I mean, I did save $15, but it wasn't really worth it.
Peter has been sick again the last couple of days.  He's not eating well and he's throwing up most of what he eats.  He may shrink back down to a normal size baby.  For the last couple of weeks he has been eating a lot and chunking up nicely!
Announcement!  Announcement!  Last night Peter slept completely through the night.  We're talking 8:30 pm to 6:45 am.  Glory Be!
And just because they are too young to protest too loudly, here's a boys in the tub picture.  They are happy now, but I understand that in a few short years my name will be cursed for this picture.  Even so, I cannot help myself.  History... it's family history.  And it's adorable. 
Last week Abe, Elinor, Clark, and I were able to go to the Jordan River temple with Elinor for the first time.  It was so wonderful.  I had planned to stay home with Peter and have Bethany go instead of me, but at the last minute she couldn't find her recommend and so we switched places.  I was so happy to get to be there with Elinor.

Girl Power

Yesterday Elinor and her underwater robotics team competed in the SeaPerch competition at Weber State.  Here is an article that explains a little more about it.  Elinor's team was the lead picture.

I did learn a little something about Elinor from a quote she gave to the reporter.  Here is a bit from the photo gallery: 
 "Rebekah Preston, 11, Elinor Fox, 12, and McKinley Thygerson, 11, of Team Tau does their special secret handshake before competing in the SeaPerch Northern Utah Underwater Competition at Weber State University. Their robot, named Beaver, was built by the team of homeschooled girls who all love science and engineering. Though most of the teams were boys, the girls said it was important for girls to compete in engineering competitions to show that "girls have great ideas too." "We're aren't just going to let the future go into the men's hands." Elinor said.

I had no idea I was raising such a feminist!  Good for her!
They had a great time, although they didn't score particularly well.  Elinor loves her teammates.
The little brothers of the robot gals.  I see some future robot programmers here as well.
 Here is their team poster and robot.
Here is Elinor's bio:  "I really like mechanical and electrical engineering.  I like to design and create.  I want to be able to build things that help others with challenges."
You go, girls!