Saturday, January 28, 2017

Abe Turns 42

Abe began his birthday celebration last Sunday evening when our wonderful friends, the Chase family, came over to serenade him with a compilation of Osmond family hits, and gave him a CD of greatest hits.
Why not?
You see, Diana (on the left) is Abe's buddy in the tenor section in ward choir.  They do rather cause a ruckus, but they have a great time.  She found out that Abe's favorite Christmas music is the Osmond Family Christmas album, which also happens to be one of my least favorite!  Anyway, knowing of his love for the Osmonds, they worked up a little number and it was great fun.  We love the Chases.  It's not every friend that will sing the Osmonds for you!
On the evening of his actual birthday we got some dinner together and then spent the evening at a private rock concert!  The band sang him happy birthday and we partied just about as hard as we ever do!  Not saying too much, but it was something.  Actually, it was super fun.  Dave Young is our good friend on the drums.
I guess we partied so hard it set off the fire alarm in the City Creek building-- firetrucks and everything!  It wasn't too long before we could all head back in and all was well.  I don't know why Abe would be giving a thumbs up when a fire alarm is causing everyone to evacuate a building.  I guess he's just a positive kind of guy!
Heading down ten flights of stairs.  
My shame is that my legs were genuinely sore today after going down so many stairs.  Heaven forbid if my life depended on getting myself up that many.
This picture was taken last Sunday morning when the little kids came into our room for morning stories with Dad.  He tells them stories with their characters:  Faith is Fire-Girl, George is Laser Dragon, and Cannon is Dark Bot.  Altogether they are "The Fearsome Three". 
Peter wasn't there for this story telling, but his name since his infancy is Stink Bomb.  Stink Bomb, as it turns out, only makes occasional appearances, and yet he is somehow their mysterious boss-leader.
Little Greta looking pretty for church last Sunday.  That evening she came down with a fever and had a sad cold for most of the week.  She's on the mend now.  Even in her discomfort, she's been a doll!
Warning:  This is the first of many Greta pictures to be shared.  I can't help myself.  

As I wished Abe a happy birthday, I confessed that I hadn't gotten him a present.  Not an unusual occurrence in our marriage.  Mostly, we just like to have a date together for our birthdays.  As usual, he said he didn't want anything.  Then, like the wonderful father he is, he expressed his gratitude to be at this point in his life; that we are happily married, and have all our children here on earth, plus our angel baby Tessa.  That is his gift.
So here is my simple gift to Abe-- a few pictures of our kids as of late-- to look at and enjoy.
Cannon has discovered Harry Potter and he can't get enough.  I'm reading them aloud to the kids, but I can't keep up with Cannon's demand.  
George was excited that the house was actually picked up enough to get out the Snap Circuits-- so many little parts require a clean working space.
The teenage girls a a recent ice skating youth activity.  
Bethany working hard at Papa Murphy's Pizza.  
  Lots of love.
Elinor was so happy to have Abe hang her punching bag in the garage.
She is in heaven.
I realize I don't have a very recent picture of Clark because he's been gone so much with robotics, but this is the face Greta made when she was looking at Clark.  She quite likes him.  And it is so sweet to see how much he loves her.  I think it's rather caught him off guard just how much she has charmed him.
And seriously, what is not to love?!
Smiles for days.
Well... she doesn't smile at everyone.  Only about half of the population.  Besides Clark and Abe, she is something of a man-hater.  If they look at her or talk to her she cries.  I guess that's okay for a few more years.
We are smitten.
Check out her two little claw fingers on each side.  
  Is it enough pictures of Greta yet?  
Okay, I'll try to move on.  
Peter loves to have his picture taken, but he loves to make these faces.  I can't get him to smile normal yet.
Peter had a couple of rough days this week, but he's also had a few breakthrough moments that give me such hope.  Namely, at the aquarium today he was about impulsively run away to the next area... when he paused for a moment, looked back at me, ran back to me and said, "Me... mon" (interpreted means, come with me).  
He had some impulse control.  Somewhere in his mind he knew he shouldn't run away without me and he stopped himself and waited!  THAT'S HUGE!
No lack of personality here.
Here is Peter eating his favorite breakfast-- rice krispies, and holding his favorite toys--a stuffed lizard and his dump truck.
The boys at the aquarium.

Abraham, thank you for being you.  Thank you for spending your days and nights working hard to take care of this family.  We love you beyond measure and wish you a very happy 42nd birthday. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Back in August Clark came to me and said he wanted to coach a FIRST Lego League team.

I shuddered.

This would be a major undertaking and require a lot of time.  A friend and I had talked about coaching a team the following year, but not this year.  I wanted to savor this one and only year I had everyone at home, before my birdies started leaving the nest.  I didn't want to be stressed out with yet another time commitment.   I somewhat grudgingly agreed to be the official adult coach, but made sure Clark understood that he and his fellow youth mentors would be running the show entirely.  My friend and I helped organize the team, collect fees and get them registered, but then we would be coaches in name only.

I did end up being slightly more involved (but not much) than in name only.
I did have to rally the troops frequently to clean the house for our bi-weekly meetings.
We did have to sacrifice some living space for the huge table the challenge was set up on.
It did take well over 4 hours a week for almost five months.

And yet,  the whole experience was so much more rewarding than I ever anticipated.  In fact, being a part of the team, working together with most of the family, ended up being the means of accomplishing the very goal I hoped for the this most precious year of our lives.
Our regional FLL tournament was this past Saturday.  We gathered at 6:40 AM to finish accessorizing our look and loading up the vehicles. 
Our team name was "Infinity Squared".  Thanks to a talented mom (not this talented mom), the girls all had matching green hair bows and black and green gel nails for the occasion.  
The two people-mover vehicles were decorated and spirits were high!
Abe snapped this pic as we made our way to a middle school in Sandy where the competition was.  Abe had to work during the day, but he was able to be there for the opening and closing ceremonies.
There can only be 10 members on a team, and it would appear we have way more than that.  However, we have four youth mentors-- Clark, Corrine, Ben, and Bethany.  Plus we have younger siblings who are not team members, but are tagging along to cheer the team on.
Darn it, it's kind of blurry.  Oh well.  There was a terrific energy with this group.  There were four sets of siblings and two singles.  The kids responded so well to the teenage youth mentors-- who were fun and inspirational and knew their stuff.  
The team's age range was 9 to 13-- which is the youngest and oldest allowed on an FLL team.
There's a lot of downtime at competition, and our team spent much of it dancing.  
I won't bore you with the details of everything that goes on at competition, but there are four main categories you are judged on-- Project, Robot Design, Core Values, and Robot Competition.  Our kids were very well prepared in all of them.
The mentors keeping their cool while the team was in with the Core Values judges.
As you can imagine, Peter was a bundle of energy all day.  In hind sight, paying a babysitter might have been worth it.
Our project poster and our Core Values poster, along with four team members.
Elinor and Faith were on the team, Clark and Bethany were mentors.
Team Infinity Squared-- plus Pete.
The back of the shirt.
See that tall girl in the green shirt?  Yeah, she's awesome!  Elinor was so amazing!  She worked so hard programming the robot-- which robot was capable of completing some pretty incredible tasks.  At the actual competition it didn't perform quite as well as we'd hoped.  You'd think a robot would be more dependable, but alas-- it is made of Legos.  Nonetheless, it did good enough and that was enough for us!
Notice the guy in the brown shirt and sombrero?  He was on Clark's Lego League team when they were little guys and is currently on Clark's FIRST Robotics Competition team.  It was comforting having Tanner there as a volunteer helping to reset the tables. 
She and I spent a considerable amount of time together  in the week leading up to competition as she programmed and I helped reset the table.  To this day I still have no idea how to actually do the programming.
Sitting in the stands.
Dancing in the stands.
How did we do at competition?  I'd say pretty darn well.
We won the Core Values award (One of the five biggies) and we were one of 6 teams out of 20 that got an invite to the State Tournament in February.  It was more than just a little exciting and very rewarding.  But the season had already been a success in my estimation.  
It was a success because we got to work together as a family, along with other friends and families.  We were focused on a project.  We had thrilling moments when a program worked and the robot did just what we wanted it to.  We had lower points when frustrations ran high and feelings were hurt.  We got excited about ideas, we played games together, we worked together as a team.  The very thing I thought would take away from "my year with my family" ended up being the very vehicle that made it just what I hoped it would be.
To my Clark, I thank you.  You are a force to be reckoned with.  You have vision and leadership abilities that never cease to amaze me.  Thank you for making team Infinity Squared happen.  I love you and will look forward to writing you on your mission to let you know how Team Infinity Squared does next year!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Frog and Toad

I'm pleased to introduce you to our long time reading mascots-- Frog and Toad.  Abe's wonderful mother gave them to us years ago and they have occupied a place of honor on the bookshelves for roughly fifteen years.  I love Frog and Toad.  I feel very protective of them.  It is a near unforgivable crime in this house to remove Frog or Toad's clothing.  Ask my children and thy will tell you-- Mom freaks out if someone removes their clothing!

A few days ago I saw an article in the Arts section of the newspaper that a local theater was putting on A Year With Frog and Toad-- a musical based on the children's books by Arnold Loebel.  I completely adore these book and have loved reading them with all my beginning readers.

My first encounter with Frog and Toad was at Abe's parent's house, shortly after we were married. The first story in the original Frog and Toad book is entitled "The List".  Toad makes a list of everything he's going to do that day, but when it blows away in the wind, he is distraught and cannot move on because he doesn't know what is next on his list.
This was so funny to me, because at the time, and still somewhat now, Abe was a hard-core list maker.  So I bought him the book for Christmas and I've loved all the books ever since.
Recently, George has discovered these books and has requested they be his books I read aloud to him.  I was more than happy to oblige.  So when I saw the play was being produced locally, I knew I HAD to go on a date with George.  I would have loved to take all the kids, since they all loved Frog and Toad, but the budget suggested a single date with George would be more feasible.  He was the perfect age at the perfect time for a perfect evening.
Here is George at the end with Frog and Toad live and in action!  The show was completely delightful!  Because George was so familiar with the stories, he got quite a kick out of recognizing everything.  He laughed through the whole thing. The music was catchy and it was a high quality production.
Two of the things I enjoy so much about the Frog and Toad characters are their friendship and their joy in the simple things in life.   I want to be more like Frog and Toad.
George was tuckered out by the time we got home.  This was a magical evening with this sweet six year old boy and I was so thankful to get to have such a fun outing with him.