...and they all lived happily ever after...

...and they all lived happily ever after...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Speaking of heroes...

Ok, so I told you we did a family home evening about heroes on Monday.  Well, yesterday we had our own personal super hero swoop in to save the day right before our very eyes.

It snowed on Monday so when Bryce got home from school I dragged him with me to check on a couple of ladies in the neighborhood who cannot shovel their own driveways.  We did a bit of snow removal and then headed for home.  I went to grab the mail and asked him to get the shovels out of the back of the Suburban and put them away.  I took the mail inside while he was doing this.

Well, Bryce sort of forgot the part where you close the back hatch on the Suburban nice and tight after removing the shovels.  Simple mistake.

But when I went to start the car the next morning to take the elementary kids to school and then go see my favorite GI for an appointment I found that said Suburban would not start.  The battery was dead.  I quickly realized what had happened, shoveled the kids out into the cold to walk to school, called the doctor to cancel my visit and settled in for a quiet day at home. 

When Josh got home we towed the Suburban out of the driveway and then jumped it. 

Success!!  The car was running again.
It started fine. I ran it for a few minutes and came back out a bit later to make sure it still started, but I didn't run it long like I should have and I paid for that the next morning.

Because when I came out to take the kids to school, SURPRISE!  The Suburban battery was dead again.  So we stayed home.  Again.  Now we had two days worth of errands piling up around us and Logan had to miss pre-school.  Josh had to work that night so I called my dad to see if he could come help me after work (he's a seminary teacher so he has a schedule similar to school schedules). 

My super hero dad came over during nap time when he had a break.  He brought me is battery charger (that way I could keep in on hand for a while in case I needed it again).  We hooked it up and he headed off.  I set my timer so I would try the battery at regular intervals until I got it going.

Then I made cookies. 

Then there was a knock at my door.  It was my dad again.  I was surprised.  He had gone to the auto parts store and purchased a new battery for my car.  The currently lifeless battery was five years old and my dad decided it would be better to just replace the argumentative, uncooperative one with a flashy, new model. 

So there he stood, in his church clothes stumbling through our tool box to install a new battery.  I felt so incredibly grateful.  I feel awfully blessed to have a dad like that.  He is pretty amazing.  I told you he was a super hero.  Thanks, Dad, for saving my day.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Our local, family heroes

We had an awesome family home evening last night so I thought I would share.

We started by asking the kids who were some heroes they knew of.  We got the expected Iron Man, Captain America, Batman, Hulk responses.  So we asked what made those characters heroes.  The kids came up with all kinds of great answers about fighting for justice and strength and muscles and taking care of weaker earthlings.

We pointed out that those individuals are all pretend so we asked about who people today think of as heroes.  The kids talked about soldiers and political leaders (that surprised me a bit) and we brought up famous athletes and movie stars although (happy mother moment) my kids weren't too impressed with those people as heroes. 

We talked about what makes a real hero, someone we should look up to in our lives.  It was a wonderful little discussion.  Everyone took part and came up with good ideas, Ellie even raised her hand and said "prayer" five or six times which was great.

Then Gavin suggested that his best hero was Heavenly Father which was a perfect transition to where we wanted to lead the lesson.  We talked about spiritual heroes and who we should look up to as the hero for our spirit.  The kids threw out names of prophets and scripture stories and we talked about what made each of them a hero in their own way.

Finally, we asked the kids to think about people they actually know, people who are a part of their everyday lives who are their heroes.  You could see the wheels turning as they considered that heroes don't have to be epic characters with impressive feats under their belts.  I think this was a new idea to most of them.  One more time we talked about what makes a hero for us, every day, as part of our regular lives.  Then we asked the kids to choose one person who they personally know who is a hero to them, someone they can look up to and try to be like and we drew pictures captioned with reason that person is a hero.  They are posted on our living room closet and I think it is a fabulous little gallery.

Not every family home evening lesson really hits home for the kids, but this one did and it was a beautiful thing to see.  Here's a bit of our artwork.

G chose our bishop because he believes in
Heavenly Father.

Aubrey chose her friend Hannah because she is kind to
everyone and dresses modestly.

Logan chose stumpy, fat leg Mom as his hero so I hugged
him (that kid sure knows how to get me).

Our gallery of heroes.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fairly Fairy

Sometimes at our house we dress like fairies.  Shhhhh, don't tell, but even the boys do it.
And then we get embarrassed and protest when the camera comes out.
Poor guy.  He has the meanest mom ever.  Too bad. 
He's such a cute little pixie!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Blast from the Past

For Christmas Josh's parents gave us a thumb drive full of family pictures.  These stretched from the time Josh was young until just the past couple of years.  It has been a lot of fun to wander through them and remember things and chuckle at our silliness and smile at our cuteness.
But possibly the best part has been enjoying the pictures of Josh as a youngster.  I wasn't there when he was growing up, so it is fun to peek in at some of those moments now.  Here is a glimpse of what I missed while he was growing into the man I love.
Josh is the little guy in the middle.

Josh with all four of his brothers, he is the cutie in yellow.

Yup, they look awesome (Josh is on the right).

What a cute bunch of boys (Josh is on the far right again).

To this day, he sometimes still gives me that ultra cheesy grin.  Also, how 'bout them socks!

No wonder he was popular with the ladies (Josh is in the middle).  Go ahead and be jealous snow bunnies.

And this is how we ended up.  Drowning in children and happy as clams.
I'm awfully glad you grew up to be mine Joshua Kerr DeMoux.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Balance This (science fair time again)

Bryce just finished participation in the school science fair this past week. 
Each member of his science class was required to put together a project, and Bryce was excited for the opportunity.  His presentation was chosen to move on from the class level to the school wide competition and we were thrilled about that. 
I am a pretty big believer that when it comes to projects like this my children should do the work on their own.  I am happy to support them and help them work through problems and give guidance and suggestions when they are needed, but I want my kids to lead the charge.  I am usually right there with them through the whole process, but I try to hold my tongue whenever possible and let my kids discover their own strengths and plunge into problem solving without waiting for me to save them.
That means that their posters are not always perfect, their conclusions are sometimes interesting and their ideas are sometimes a little bit off the wall.  However, it also means that they are immersed in the creative process and are the master of their own fate so when success comes their way they can revel in it knowing it is honestly theirs.
So, this year Bryce decided to do a project on balance.  He was dead set on this particular idea and would hear of no other suggestions, which was fine.  I love it when my kids stand up for what is important to them.  He decided to test how sounds and hearing affect balance.  Here's how it went.
1. We took a trip to the store and bought an eight foot long 2x4.  We brought that home and set it across some very sturdy bricks that were about three inches tall when laid on their sides.  This was our test area.  It was a tall enough balance beam to require a bit of effort to balance but not so tall that anyone would get hurt should they stumble a bit.
2. We procured a bunch of ear plugs and brought up an mp3 player with headphones.  These would be used to interfere with hearing as Bryce performed his tests.
3. We gathered our test subjects.  These included family, neighbors and friends.  Bryce had each subject walk back and forth across the narrow board for 30 seconds.  First they walked normally, then with ear plugs in and finally while listening to a peppy song on the mp3 player. 
4. Bryce measured how many times they fell or bobbled while walking during each test.  We found that boys bobbled more than girls which didn't seem to shocking.  Surprisingly to me, he discovered that there was much more falling and bobbling while the music was on than in either of the other tests. 
5. Finally, Bryce charted his results and put together his findings.
This is how his poster turned out.
Bryce typed up his hypothesis, his procedure and his findings. I proof read them and then he cut and pasted them onto his board.  He spiced it up with some old headphones and some pictures and voila, completed science project.
I really am proud of the work he did.  I think the idea was intriguing, the work was solid and his presentation was pretty darn good for a 12 year old.  I think he did really great.  He didn't win an award, but he came away feeling like he accomplished something and I have to agree with him.  He is growing and learning and becoming an incredible young man.  I'm glad I get to watch it all happen up close and personal.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A coupla good flicks

Over the holidays Josh and I got to indulge in a couple of movies.  We don't get to do this often so it was a wonderful treat.

We got together with my brothers and their wives (and my one remaining bachelor sibling) and wandered into the theater to see "Les Miserables." 

To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive about this show.  I have loved the music since I was introduced to it at 13 years old (more than 20 year ago...for real, how old does that make me feel?) and I have seen the stage version several times in several cities so I was worried that I would not be able to enjoy this production. 

To my surprise, I really loved it.  The intensity in the faces of the actors was beautiful (mostly) and it drew me in in a way that a stage play cannot do.  Anne Hathaway in particular was incredible to me.  I have NEVER been as immersed in Fantine as I was with her.  I was very pretty impressed with Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, his vocal skills were not quite as impressive as Ms. Hathaway's, but the raw heart and intensity that he brought to the role made up for anything missing for me.

Marius, Eponine, Gavroche, the Thenardiers...they were each spectacular to me.  I could not have asked for better.

Then we get to Javert -- one of my favorite characters, and maybe that is the problem.  Watching this "righteous" officer of the law torn back and forth by what is right and what is just is beautifully tragic to me and a great reminder to listen to your heart, not just your mind.  But none of that came through to me in the movie. Seriously, Russell Crowe was so flat for me I could barely stand it.  His voice struggled, but he isn't a singer so maybe I could have gotten past that if only he had brought some depth to the character, but he didn't.  He just staunchly and blankly wandered from place to place exuding...nothing...and I found myself resenting him instead of falling into Javert's heartache. 

Also, whoever threw that ridiculous butterfly into the garden scene with Marius and Cosette should be severely scolded at the very least.  It made me laugh out loud, but I don't think that's what the scene was going for.

My poor single brother didn't really know anything about the plot before stumbling into his seat and when the show was over he leaned over to me semi-appalled and said, "So nothing good really happens to any of them?"  I just smiled and reminded him of the title.  There is a lot of pain and sadness, but this is a show about redemption and overcoming struggles and trials and facing challenges head on and conquering by heart when nothing is in your favor.

There were things I sorely missed from the stage production (the movie version of "A Little Fall of Rain" for starters was tepid and almost stale for me when the moment is supposed to be agonizing and poignant), but overall it was a really great show.

Moving on, Josh and I also got to see "The Hobbit."  Again, I had low expectations because I loved the first three Lord of the Rings movies and was not sure something new could live up to that standard.

See what I mean about Jim Henson.

Yeah, the first 1/3 of the movie was so cheerfully cute to me I wondered how this show could be linked to the bitter torment of soul found in the other three movies.  The show seemed almost Jim Hensonesque instead of something from the mind of Peter Jackson.

However, that said, once the group managed to leave the Shire and started to run into the nastiness of hidden evils and the aid of powerful friends it did get better.  The cave scenes near the end were particularly enthralling.  I found myself liking many of the characters, even if I wasn't quite seeing the world through their eyes like I did in the LOTR trilogy.  It was a decent movie, I enjoyed it eventually.

I should also mention that Josh thoroughly enjoyed both these movies.  He is much less picky about movies than I am (pulling a movie apart was a favorite pass time of my family growing up -- except my mom who either slept through or just plain liked almost everything -- my brothers and dad and I really enjoy picking a film to pieces).

Anyway, it was fun to see some popular movies before they made their way to Red Box.  It was a very entertaining chunk of our holiday experience.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Starting the New Year off right...

You may remember this baby from last January (or maybe not as it is our new years box and not yours)
Every year in January we have a family home evening activity where we pull out this box and remove the treasures inside.  Within her cardboard vault we find a set of papers covered with the kids hand (and sometimes foot) tracings from the year before, a list of their favorite things in a bunch of categories and a note with our family goals from the last year.
This is what those papers looked like when we yanked them from their hiding place the other day.
The hand prints let us measure how much everyone has grown since the last year.  The "favorites" are always fun to read through and generally result in shouts of "no way, I'm too old to like that!" in one form or another.  It's pretty entertaining.

As we looked over last years goals we find we did pretty well.  Our goals included learning a new hymn every month.  We had to adjust our original idea and only learn two versus instead of the usual four per song because four was just too tough for some of the younger kids.  We also missed one month and only learned 11 hymns over the course of the year (August got pretty wild so we did double duty on our July song). 
We did do really well on our goal of trying at least 6 new dinner ideas over the year without complaining about trying new foods.  We actually tried lots more than 6, although we did do some whining about some of them (but, seriously, if I didn't expect a bit of that I was out of my mind).
Then it was time to choose stuff for 2013.  Our new goals are:
1. Have one family home evening per month based on a value from the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet.
2. Spend more one on one time with Mom and Dad (each kid will be allowed two months of the year as theirs and will get to do something fun with a parent during that month).
3. Do some sort of family service project each month for someone we know.
Should be fun.
Each year we also choose a family cheer which we shout together after family prayer morning and night.  We always let the kids help to choose the cheer although adults get the final say because some of the kids ideas are...uh...interesting to put it mildly.
Last year our cheer was (clap clap) "Courage" (clap clap) "Love" (clap clap) "Family."
This year we decided on something different.  The person leading the cheer (at our house our kids each have an assigned "day" where they run the errands, they get to do special things, they say family prayer, etc) says the first parts and then everyone shouts the one word supplement part with a clap (we almost always include clapping or stomping or fist pumping in our cheers).
Anyway, our cheer goes "We have **Freedom** We choose **Faith** We love **Family.**"
Should be a fabulous year (at least that's the plan).  I hope your New Year is shaping up beautifully too.  Do you have wonderful traditions with your family to start things off together.  I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

'Snow' lie, I have the greatest guy!

How you know you have the most wonderful husband on the planet:
It's simple.
Just walk out into your front yard at 7:00 am and glance at your driveway which was covered in snow less than an hour before.  Even though said husband must leave for school in the six o'clock hour and hasn't been feeling particularly good lately he still takes the time to shovel new snow in the pre-dawn darkness just so his wife won't have to worry about it.
Yup, he's pretty amazing.  I think I'll keep him.  I feel intensely blessed to have that guy in my life.  I'm not sure what I did to deserve this modern day Prince Charming (well, does Prince Charming snore his pants off sometimes?) but I'm forever grateful that he landed in my life.  I can't imagine my world without him, and I'm glad I don't have to.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Let's play!

So we've been playing some games lately that have been a lot of fun and I thought I would tell you about them.  We love games at our house and these two have quickly become favorites.
First of all, we've been playing round after round of Cranium Hullabaloo.  We first found this game five or six years ago but after someone threw the voice box in the full bathtub it sort of put a damper on our play (it's hard to follow garbled instructions).  Well, lucky me, I found the game at a local second hand store this past fall and knew my youngest kids would love it for Christmas so I snatched it up.
Not only do my youngest sweethearts love the game (which involves dancing, crawling, leaping to pads with different colors and pictures and then naming a winner based on who is standing on the winning pad when time is up) but my oldest sweethearts are also quick to jump into a game as well.  It's pretty fun to watch my entire crew jaunt around the room laughing and playing together.
(Honestly, I've never been disappointed with a Cranium game that I've purchased for my family.  Most of them have come from DI -- make sure you check that pieces are all there -- but from Cadoo to Cariboo {don't pay $159 for it like this site lists, that would be ridiculous} we have loved them all.)
This holiday also taught us about another new game which has quickly become a favorite.  I'd never played Reverse Charades before but now I love it.  It does take a group to play, but since I have a ready made group living right under my own roof that hasn't been a problem.
In this game the entire team acts things out for the one designated guesser and tries to get that person to guess as many cards as possible in the allotted time limit.  It gets pretty crazy, and pretty hilarious.  You may want to have your video camera readily available because it is fun to watch these antics later (some lighthearted teasing may result).
My brother and sister in law unknowingly each bought this game for the other for Christmas (guess they really do know each other well) and they very kindly donated their bonus set to us after they finished laughing. However, there is no box set required to do this. My extended family played Reverse Charades by just writing things on papers and pulling them out of a box the other night.  It was pretty awesome to see my adult brothers suddenly fall to the floor and jiggle wildly while pretending to be bacon.  Good times.
Anyway, we love games and these are a couple of our favorites at the moment.  Do you have a fabulous game we should try?  I'd love to hear about it. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Come on in, sit by me

As you probably already know, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  I am grateful for that fact, I feel very blessed to have the gospel in my life and have been blessed beyond measure by my Heavenly Father (which I believe comes to people who are trying to do good whether they are members of this church or not...after all, most churches preach goodness and Christlike-ness (??) in different degrees and living righteously cannot help but bring blessings into your life although the fullness of the restored gospel can only be found in this one, true church).

I got a new calling in my ward this week (that's a sort of job or set of responsibilities for all you non-LDS types out there) and have had the chance to spend some time in the homes of some people who are members of our ward but aren't really participating in church much at all.  It has been nice to get to know these people and try to help them feel God's love for them as I work to dribble my love on them as well.

At one home I met an extended family living together and struggling to get by. I told this sweet family that we missed them in our ward and I invited them to come to church on Sunday.  I know from experience that the more you do to show your faith and trust in Heavenly Father the more He can then bless you and they could use some blessings (well really, who couldn't?).

The wife looked concerned and told me that they did come one time and sat in the very back of the chapel.  A few rows ahead of them someone leaned over and said something to their neighbor during the meeting and this woman was sure that they were talking about her because her clothes were not perfect and she doesn't live in the nicest house and she doesn't come to church often and whatever else.  She felt so hurt and unwanted that she hasn't been back since.

This is a rough spot because while I don't doubt her feelings I also am not entirely convinced that people in this meeting were whispering about her.  After all, people do talk during church and they often do it in whispers.  She didn't hear what was said, she just felt unwelcome.

I tried to sympathize and let her know I understand how it feels to be unwanted (yeah, been there), but I also tried to let her know that as a ward we DO want her and her family there.  I told her I hoped that whoever she had seen whispering was talking about something else and we laughed together when I said that it was easy to avoid that problem -- just sit on the front row next time so she couldn't see people whispering.  If not that, I told her she was welcome to sit with me and my family.  We can be pretty loud and we get plenty of stares of our own due to our exciting weekly antics so maybe she'll feel like she fits in with us.

The whole idea made me think of a favorite story that I read years ago.  You can find it in the middle of this talk. 

I came home from that visit thinking how sad it is that so many people miss out on the blessings of the gospel because they feel superfluous or like they don't fit in.  Let's be honest, none of us really fit in.  We are all weird in one way or another.  We are all awkward or uncertain or tentative about something. We each have some quirk or foible that leaves people rolling their eyes about us.  That's just part of being human.

But on the other side, does it make us horrible when we notice someone is different?  No.  It makes us normal.  What we do from that point on is what matters.  Do we ridicule and condemn those difference or do we embrace them and look forward to extending our love and understanding. 

What if the people whispering that day were talking about how they'd like to go meet that lady that they didn't know?  What if they were commenting on how they were so grateful she came to church and how they would like to invite her over sometime. 

Now, realistically, probably not.  Probably the wife was reminding the husband that they needed to put gas in the car tomorrow or he was mentioning that he liked the bishop's tie that day or who knows what.  But here's the point.  When we let our opinion about the actions of others drive us away from goodness the person it hurts most is us.  We are then the ones to miss out on blessings.  We are the ones who end up secluded and alone because our perception (which may be right or may be un-right) keeps us from attending meetings or being with people or just doing things that will bring us joy. 

Mostly, I guess what is on my mind is that we are all children of God.  We are also all sinners and imperfect beings and that's just how we are.  Most of us are working on that, trying to become better (whether we are church-goers or not), but every single one of us has a long way to go.  It's a rough road.  There are lots of bumps and sharp corners and slick patches.  I hope we won't miss out on blessings and help that are available to us because someone else doesn't welcome us the way we would like. 

And then, I hope we all remember what it is like to be neglected and unloved (because we've all been there at times) and we do all we can to pull others in and let them feel wanted and needed...because they are.  Anyway, it's something for us to work on.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wood comes home

This is my oldest younger brother, Josh.
These are my two oldest boys.

Last month these three came together to make my Christmas a little more perfect.
My brother happens to be really good with wood working.  He is self taught and has done some absolutely incredible things.  This winter he did what to me is the most absolutely incredible thing of all.  He volunteered to mentor my two sons and help them create Christmas gifts for their parents.
These are the finished products.

Broncos clock for their football fevered father.  This clock is now stationed in my husband's classroom where it is alternately
loved/hated by students who follow football depending on their team preference.

Picture frame for their mother who loves to show off her family, it now hangs in the entry way
of our home.  Come see it in person some time.
To say I was amazed with their creations would be a gigantic understatement.  I was even more impressed when I learned that Josh had the boys create their own designs and do almost all of the measuring and cutting themselves.  They used several different kinds of saws and sanders and learned all sorts of methods for putting things together.  They had to think through problems and work around tough bits.  When I look at these projects I see boys who learned and grew at the side of their amazing uncle who was willing to take time for them when it was not easy.  He does, after all, have a life and family of his own.  Pretty incredible, at least to me.  I told you I had the most amazing brothers on the planet.
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