Saturday, June 30, 2012

Curious Creatures

A few days ago, I had a meeting to attend. I was given the wrong time, and so arrived quite early (when in fact, I thought I was 15 minutes late!). I wasn't sure if I was only 15 minutes early or if it in fact started at the top of the next hour, so I decided against going home to wait and then being wrong (and late) again. I went into the room we were to be meeting in and found a few chairs set up along the back wall. Not being in charge, I didn't know how the chairs were going to be set up for the meeting, so I just sat in one of the chairs already there.

As I sat there looking out at the empty room I noticed a dark spot on the carpet. Occasionally there are refreshments served at meetings and I figured that this spot was the remnants of something spilled. By the time I had determined that the meeting was in fact at the start of the next hour, I happened to look up just as this dark spot (which up until this point was quite stationary) began to run in a wide circle. It was, in fact a spider. I wasn't sure what made it suddenly run around, but after it made a few turns, it stopped, again looking like a small stain on the carpet. After about 5 more minutes, the spider ran around in a wide circle and stopped. This happened repeatedly. It would rest and then run. Not going anywhere in particular and not making any progress in any one direction.
I considered using my notebook to let it crawl on and putting it outside, or even smashing it. But I didn't. I just couldn't interrupt it's curious regimen. Run in a circle, stop and blend in. Repeat. So I just watched it.

Ten minutes to the next hour and the women hosting the meeting arrived, bringing in their supplies. I noted that the spider sat quietly in the middle of the floor as soon as the movement of people was detected. I got up and helped set up the chairs and saw that the spider remained motionless. We set up the chairs in a large circle, as the meeting was to be a discussion/sharing type, leaving the spider undisturbed. When they were set up, I sat in a chair a few feet from the spider, and wondered if it would go back to its curious movements once the meeting began. However, one of the women in charge walked across the circle to place the agenda on each of the chairs, right in the path of the spider. Noting the impending danger, the spider immediatly jumped up and made a straight line for the side of the room, disappearing behind the remaining chairs stacked along the wall.

Don't we all act this way some times? We run around in a seemingly mindless manner, but in fact doing what suits us for the moment. Then when there is a sense of urgency, we know just what to do to make things work out. Hopefully we have the sense to get out of the way when danger approaches and know when it is okay to be carefree, even if it appears as though we are only running about in circles. I had no real point to this story, but I thought it was just something interesting that I was the only witness to. Funny how a little spider can make you feel philosophical.

Monday, June 25, 2012

ThePianoGuys: Waterfall

From the PianoGuys website:
"Written when he was 17, "Waterfall" is like an old friend to Jon. It got him the cutest girl in his high school, made him the life of many parties, and has been a big hit with pianists and piano teachers alike. Jon says that in high school it was proof that chics dig even ugly guys with skills.
"This tune has significant meaning to Jon and all of us at ThePianoGuys because it played a pivotal role in convincing Jon to commit to a full-time career as a pianist."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Master in the House!

About a year and a half ago, my husband decided it was now time to return to college and earn his Master's Degree. He had about 5 years teaching under his belt, and that was the agreed upon time frame to move from Bachelor's to Master's. After all, isn't the fun of teaching, gettting to teach? So, having found himself comfortable in his school, it was time to add to his own education (and stress level!).

Today, it is official. He is finished. His grades are in and the degree has been awarded. Because his last class was during Summer Semester, the University encouraged all students who were finishing in the summer to participate in the Spring Graduation. We went to the hooding, and it was a really cool feeling to watch them put that strange piece of satin and polyester over his head. His final class actually ended a week early (last week) and today, which would have been his last day of class, his final grade was posted on his transcript. To celebrate, we called the student loan company, inquired upon his pay off amount and returned the money borrowed for his tuition.

That's right. Not only is he finished with his Master's, but we have already paid off his Student Loan. What's our secret? We didn't know how much we needed. So, we took the full loan amount they offered us. We then put it in our bank account and then only used it for tuition and books. My husband was also teaching a concurrent enrollment class in his school. The University giving credit for the concurrent class offered to pay for one class at the University for every semester they taught. He took advantage of this and didn't have to pay for all of his classes. Because of this, the bulk of the loan just sat there. Then, when we got our tax return this year, it happened to cover the amount we spent. We got our first statement and we just sent all the money back. Done and done!

Summer is now officially here, and I couldn't be more proud of my husband and his accomplishments. He has worked really hard to keep his grades up (3.95 GPA!) and make sure his students weren't neglected. And now, he actually has time to read what he wants! Free time? Is this a new thing?

Congratulations, husband! We are so proud of you.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Girl's Camp & Nature People

Camping and summer are two things that seem to go hand in hand. Some people are not very enthusiastic about camping. Some people head out as soon as the weather hints at warmer temperatures. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we understand that there is something special about getting out into nature and away from our regular lives. It can be a time for reflection. It is a time to appreciate and enjoy the beauty that our Father in Heaven has created for us.

Because of this belief, every summer, the Young Women (girls, ages 12-17) and their adult leaders (whether or not they actually like camping) pack their stuff and spend a few days camping. I am a Counselor in our Young Women Presidency, and so, I had the opportunity to go camping this week with our girls. Our ward (congregation) was joined by the Young Women from the 5 other wards in our stake (neighborhood), and while we had time with just our girls, we also combined for a few things with the entire group.

It's funny, as a youth you don't realize the amount of time and stress and sometimes frustration that actually goes into preparing for this camping trip. How hard could it be? You sing annoying/pointless songs, you eat, you sleep in tents on air mattresses that don't stay fully inflated, you make crafts, you wear serious amounts of sunblock and bug spray; add in a hike, a Snipe Hunt, and a few Spiritual moments around the camp fire, and you are good, right?

Sun Jar
Ha, ha. Sounds so easy. But there is so much work and craziness that it just isn't terribly simple. The sweet girls who come don't have any idea the weeks and weeks of preparation that goes into it. Then you are running behind on your schedule, this craft has to move to a different day, you may have to put the "Thought of the Day" on the back burner for a while, and hopefully the food is cooked all the way (don't worry--it was). The time seems to fly by (where did our block of free time go?), the sun jars (which are beautiful despite their flaws) won't cooperate, clean up takes longer than anticipated, and it seems as though an entire day has disappeared completely. And then, before you know it, camp is over.

Our ward's Camp Director and I looked back over the last few days to give out "Camp Awards." We gave out things like "Extra Miler," "Camp Cheerleader," and "Compassionate Camper." As we were looking at what each girl should receive, we realized that despite all of the stress and frustrations, it was all worth it. The girls in our ward got along so well together. There were no petty fights or bickering between any of our girls. Looking back at my experiences camping as a Young Woman, the fights and tears were ALWAYS part of Girl's Camp. It seemed we could never have a camp without it. But these girls are stellar! We had a relatively small group of girls and one really huge tent, so they shared it. Sounds like asking for fighting, right? But there wasn't any. We, as leaders, slept in a smaller tent together, and we let the girls bond. But it spread from our girls to the rest of the camp. They befriended girls from many of the other wards, and left secret notes of encouragement in the mail boxes of several girls who were not their assigned "Secret Sister." They tried to include as many girls as possible in anything we were doing. And really, we had a marvelous time.

One thing that I enjoyed was a little craft we did on the last day. We made little "Nature People" out of stuff we found while hiking and in our camp ground. I first thought it was kind of a silly idea, but decided my boys might enjoy them. So I made two. They turned out so cute and ugly, and my boys played with them all day today. They are sitting proudly on their dressers now. I am glad I chose to make some and bring them home as a token of camp. I now have one Girl's Camp under my belt as an adult leader, and I think I'm a bit better prepared for next year. And it's going to be a blast.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Book of Lost Things

While I was away, I've had a lovely time, reading several new things. On the top of my list and one I'd like to share is a book by John Connolly called The Book of Lost Things. The red book cover is what my copy looks like, although according to Connolly's site, that cover is the paperback edition for the UK. I bought it in a US bookstore. Weird. But this way you can be looking for either cover if you happen to choose to read it. And if you do, please stop by and leave me your comments!

The Book of Lost Things is the tale of a young boy named David. He loves his books, particularly his fairy tales and myths. Old stories like those of the Brothers' Grimm and the like. When his world is turned upside down, by a death and a marriage, David finds himself in a new house. The bedroom he is given is filled with books. Among them he finds more tales that he's never read. Finding comfort only from his books, David begins to hear the books whispering in the quiet moments.

David himself is lost in this world, with the war going on out in the world, and no one to turn to but the books within his world. He finds himself in a new world, one with a Crooked Man who may not be one to trust, wolves and things worse than wolves, and characters that seem like his fairy tales, but different. His goal is to find the king who rules this land and has a book that contains all of his secrets... The Book of Lost Things.

This book is full of fantasy and imagination. It is one that keeps you guessing, and even if you do guess what may be happening, there is still enough of a twist to keep you on your toes. I thourougly enjoyed reading it. To my delight, at the end, the author included the full version of all the Fairy Tales and Myths that he borrowed from, and a little background on why he used them and how they work in the story. I found a whole extra day of reading just in the background stuff he pulled for his work. That was fabulous!

While David is 12 years old, John Connolly doesn't reccommend it for young readers. He says that adults and children would read it differently, and he wrote it more for an adult audience. My perspective on this idea is that as an adult, you can reflect on the inner struggles you had as a youth, and perhaps find some identification with David, as well as the wisdom of having come through to the other side of the struggle. A child may still be in the throws of their own struggle and not necessarily understand the ending results because they have not yet come to their conclusion. Certainly, a high school student would have a better time of reading it than a child in late elementary or middle school.

Overall, I found it very fascinating, and read it easily within a few days. I highly reccommend it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Summer Clean-up

I don't know about the rest of you, but when I've got the house to myself, getting ambitious and busy with cleaning is much easier than when there are people all over the house. I stay home with my kids, and I am of the opinion that because I am home, the household chores need to be kept up by me. I have no problem with that. But when summer hits, I just want to play all day, like a kid, and leave the chores to the wind. Summer vacation means that the kids will be home all day, every day. But for me, that also means that my husband will be home, too. Being a teacher, his summers are spent at home (at least until we find the necessity for him to get a summer job). So, it seems like it's that much harder to keep things in order in my house during the summer. Not that my hubby doesn't help out. He does. But there seems to be no routine anymore. I sleep in. I read all morning, and stuff just doesn't seem to happen on a regular basis. I want to be able to jump at the chance for a family outing on a moment's notice. And somehow, doing the cleaning clouds the idea that that will be possible.

I am definitely a "color inside the lines" kind of a girl. I like schedules and routines. Oh, sure, I'd like to think that I can "laze" about all day, doing nothing without regard to any kind of schedule. But then I'm frustrated because my carpets flinch when I run the vacuum because they don't know what the ruckus is all about, and the floors can't remember when the last time a mop was applied. Not to mention the bathroom mirrors that distort your reflection because of the fingerprints and toothpaste splatter and the piles of laundry that have been sitting so long they can't remember when they were last in the closet.

SO, as the end of school approached, I decided that I needed to do something to combat that. The boys have had "mini" chores to do each day. One simple task to keep them involved, and something to base their meager allowance on. But I decided that since I've got a household full of people every day, I had better utilize them. I created a new schedule for the week. Each day has a room that is to be cleaned. But it's not just a basic "Monday clean the Front Room" kind of chore chart. I needed specifics, and ways to be sure all the bases were covered. This chart has two columns. One labeled "Mom's Chores" and one labeled "Boy's Chores." Under each heading are all the responsibilities that for the assigned room. For example, in the Front Room, my responsibilities are to: dust the piano and book shelves, remove and put away anything that doesn't belong in that room, and vacuum. The boys need to: take all story books back to their bedroom bookshelf, put away any toys left in the room, and take out the garbage (I have a small waste basket for tissues and dryer sheets).

Each day has a room and each room has specific assignments. There are between 3 and 5 things that need taken care of in each room. And like magic, my house is perpetually clean and the boys are involved. We have successfully made it through one week of cleaning together every day after breakfast and I have heard several times from my boys, "I like doing chores together." If I can keep this up, my house will be lovely all summer, and after a while my kids may start keeping things neat and orderly without a reminder (we can all hope, right?).

And because everything is always better with music, here is thePianoGuys' latest video. Here's to a clean house and a summer with a routine!