It’s a New Year!

In less than a week I will have had this blog for 12 years. That’s kind of nuts. I can’t believe it’s 2018.

In just 6 weeks, I will have successfully grown a whole human when Ani turns 18. She sent in her voter registration last week. She’ll be able to vote in the primary in March.

This year Cameron will turn 17 and start 11th grade, Fritz will turn 12 and start 7th grade (and get the Priesthood at church), and Adrian will turn 10 and start 5th grade. Jamie and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.

We’re about halfway done with year 2 of Layers of Learning. In the fall we’ll move on to year 3, the age of exploration to the American Revolution. We’re really liking Layers of Learning.

So, welcome 2018. It should be awesome!


Sometimes You Have to Be a Little Flexible

On Monday in religion the little guys were learning about the part of Joseph’s story where he’s in jail and the baker and butler have dreams and he interprets them and then two years later the pharaoh has his dream and the butler finally remembers that Joseph can interpret dreams. We had paper puppets and went through one chapter acting it out and then started on the second chapter and I could see I was losing the boys.

So I went on YouTube and Wikipedia because you can find anything on those two sites. Using Wikipedia, I figured out which songs from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat cover those two chapters and we watched about 15 or 20 minutes of the movie. The boys agree that the 70s dance party at the end of “Go, Go, Go Joseph” was a little weird, but I bet they’ll remember that part of Genesis better than they ever would if I had just read it to them while they played with the puppets.

Back At It, Also We Had a Good Spring Break

Fritz, upon discovering today is the first day of spring, wondered just why we had spring break last week before spring started. Good question. Of course, living in south Texas the temperature has been quite spring-like since, well, January.

Last week was fun. Cameron went on Trek. This is a thing Mormon kids do to simulated being pioneers. They wore pioneer clothes (plus tennis shoes because we’re not that crazy). Slept outside. Cooked some of their meals on a fire. Were put in groups called families with a Ma and Pa. Pulled handcarts (and in the case of Cameron’s family, also pulled the chariot of their “sister” in a wheelchair). Got sunburned. Walked 26.6 miles over three days. Sang 99 Cartons of Milk on the Wall. Twice. And then sang 499 Cartons of Milk on the Wall. He absolutely loved it.

Back At It, Also We Had a Good Spring Break

Wednesday Ani saw her rheumatologist and got some diagnoses and a treatment plan that is already helping a little bit.

Friday I took the kids to see Beauty and the Beast. We loved it. It was absolutely perfect. We’ll definitely be buying it when it is released on DVD (or, rather, digitally from Amazon because that’s what we do).

Back At It, Also We Had a Good Spring Break

It’s been a year since we started redecorating Ani’s room. We’ve still got a few touch-ups left to do, but now we’re ready to move on to Cameron’s and the boys’ rooms. Saturday we went and got paint chips from Home Depot in pink (Cameron), blue (Cameron and Fritz), and yellow (Adrian) to choose from. Cameron and Fritz separately picked the exact same shade of blue.

Spring Break also included lots of reading (I’ve read 13 books so far in March), youtube videos, video game playing, and Cameron working at spring break camp at taekwondo after he returned from Trek.

Today we went back to school and everything went great. Everyone focused and worked hard and we even got all of our all together work done (rarely does that all get done in one day). Ten more weeks of school and then we’re off for the summer!

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Looks Can Be Deceiving

The other day I was cleaning and told Alexa (our Amazon Echo) to play songs by Sabrina Carpenter. A couple minutes later the volume went up. Ani’s been staying in the room that will be my parents’ when they move here so she can be near the rest of us but still stay in bed most of the time and not have to go up and down the stairs while she is still unsteady. Clearly, she approved of my choice in cleaning music. A few months ago Ani and I went to see Sabrina in concert. It was amazing. She is an amazing singer and performer.

And I learned something I never expected to learn at a 17-year-old’s show.

When we got there, just ahead of us in line was a man, probably in his early 20s. He had long dreadlocks, was generally scruffy, and wasn’t dressed nearly as nice as everyone else in line. He definitely didn’t look like someone you’d expect to see at a Disney star’s concert. Not who you’d expect to enjoy upbeat pop music.

And it was obvious the security people agreed with my split-second assessment. As everyone eyed him, judging him and whether he belonged there, the security spent two or three full minutes thoroughly wanding him. Everyone else got a cursory pass front and back and a quick peak in bags and purses and were sent on our way. Nothing alarmed when they wanded the guy so he was sent on into the venue.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

We found seats and I discovered I was right next to the scruffy guy. I wondered what in the world he was doing at a Sabrina Carpenter concert. Surely he wasn’t a fan. Her fans don’t “look” like him, do they?

And then the concert started.

I think that man may have been the biggest Sabrina fan in the room. He sang along every word and danced to every song. He openly cried several times. I talked to him a little bit. He hadn’t heard she was coming to San Antonio until it was too late (the tickets sold out in just a few minutes), but then the venue released a few tickets that had been held for season pass holders in the middle of the night before the concert. He stayed up half the night in order to snag one of those tickets. He was so happy to be there and it showed. He’s had some tough times and Sabrina’s music has helped him get through it.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the judgment from all of us in line and the security people contributed to his “tough times.”

Thursday Jamie and I went to Chipotle to get lunch while Ani was sleeping in her hospital room. We ate outside since it was a nice day. A man came up to us and apologized profusely for bothering us, but wondered if we had any change we could spare so he could get something to eat. He didn’t look like a typical homeless person. He was dressed relatively okay. Immediately I wondered if he was scamming us.

But then I remembered that young man at the concert. Just because this man didn’t look like what I think of as a homeless or hungry person, it doesn’t mean he isn’t. I gave him a couple dollars. I can spare it and if he is hungry at least I didn’t turn him away and if he was lying, well, that’s on him.

Yesterday we had family home evening (we do it Sunday because Monday night half the family isn’t home). We did some things for the little boys’ Cub Scouts electives. We talked about hidden disabilities. Their own sister has one. She’s sick, but she can push herself and put on make-up so she looks okay to everyone else. Their older brother has one, too. As long as he doesn’t have to read something out loud, you’d never know just meeting Cameron that he has dyslexia.

You never know just looking at someone what is going on underneath. We all are constantly judging people and that’s okay. That judgment could save our lives. But when we are clearly in a safe place and we still judge that this person doesn’t belong at a 17-year-old performer’s concert or that person doesn’t look homeless and is just scamming asking for money for food or this other person looks healthy and so couldn’t possibly be spending 3/4 of her life in bed, then it’s a problem. That’s when we lose compassion. And now more than ever in this world what we really need is compassion.

I’m really thankful I got to get the whole story of that guy at the Sabrina Carpenter concert. I’m glad it didn’t just end with seeing him head into the venue wondering what in the world he was even doing there. I’m grateful for what he taught me.

Ani’s Escape Room

Ani's Escape Room

For the Laurel class mid-week activity last night, Ani put together an escape room. The story was Russia had just launched their nukes and the girls had one hour to solve all the puzzles and find the abort code and save the world.

Ani's Escape Room

We got to the church a few minutes early and got things set up. We put things the girls would need on the walls.

Ani's Escape Room

We spread the boxes to unlock as puzzles were solved around the room.

Ani's Escape Room

We set up the computer on a table in the corner. The language was set to Russian (one girl knows a little Russian and it actually came in handy) with a nice picture of Russia as the background. The girls needed to find the code to get into the computer and another code to get into a file on the computer.

Ani's Escape Room

We spread the keys around the room. Since we didn’t have physical locks and keys to use, Ani wrapped toothpicks in washi tape and tapes the boxes shut using matching washi tape.

Ani's Escape Room

Once the room was ready, they went in the room and the clock was started.

Ani's Escape Room

To get into the Russian theme, the password to the computer was 10071952 (Putin’s birthdate), the code they figured out using the English Book of Mormon was St. Petersburg, the code they figured out using the French Book of Mormon was Vladimirovich (Putin’s middle name), the password for the file on the computer was 862 (year of the beginning of the traditional history of Russia), and the abort code was 05072012 (the date Putin became president of Russia).

Ani's Escape Room

The key taped under the chalkboard gave them a box with puzzle pieces. The puzzle pieces, when put together, revealed the password to the computer. The key taped onto the back of the laptop opened the box with the English and French Books of Mormon. The Post-It notes on the wall (which led to a pigphen cipher), when solved, gave the girls the password to the file on the computer (this puzzle took them the most time to solve).

Ani's Escape Room

The Books of Mormon code was solved by going to page number-verse-letter number. They had to figure out what the code meant, but knew which book they had to use to get the answers. That code gave them access to a box with popsicle sticks wrapped in pipe cleaners. They had to unwrap the pipe cleaners and all but one stick said “try again.” The one with the key ended up being one of the last they opened. That key opened the box with an envelope with the abort code.

Ani's Escape Room

The girls solved all the puzzles and got to the abort code envelope within the hour time limit and so they saved the world from destruction! They really had fun solving the room and Ani had a lot of fun putting it together.

Back to School Again

We had a wonderful 3 1/2 week Christmas break, but we were back at it today. I was a bit discombobulated, though, because I had to get up at 4:45 to take my brother to the airport and then I had a nearly two hour long young women presidency meeting at 9:30. As a consequence, school went late, but we got it done with minimal issues. It’s good to be back.

The Corn Became an Elephant

Several months ago Ani’s friend Steven asked if Cameron liked corn. And then he showed up at our house with this slightly scary and totally bizarre giant ear of corn.

The Corn Became an Elephant

He had seen it on the side of the road put out with the trash, stopped, took it home, fix a tear it had, and then, for some reason that I still don’t actually know, gave it to us.

The Corn Became an Elephant

The corn amused us for a long time. We left it in my parents’ room when they came to visit and didn’t mention it to them just to see how long it would take for them to say something. It was also in that room when Tony and Roo came to visit because it seemed like something that should be there to greet them. It hung out by the piano for a while, too.

The Corn Became an Elephant

But, with a white elephant gift exchange planned for the last Wednesday night activity before Christmas, we decided it was time to let the corn go to a new home.

The Corn Became an Elephant

The girl who got it was delighted. She laughed and laughed. Her younger sister loved it so much, she said she wanted it for Christmas. And then she laid on it like it was a huge pillow for the rest of the evening.

The Corn Became an Elephant

As silly and slightly scary as that corn is, we did get quite a bit of enjoyment from it and now even more people are enjoying it. I guess it’s really true what they say about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure.