Monday, May 28, 2012

“I Will Do My Duty…To My Country”

Since Ryan is now in Boy Scouts, he has the responsibility of putting up the flags in our neighborhood on holidays. So on Memorial Day (what used to be a rare chance to sleep in), we got up at 6:15! The flags are literally 10 feet tall, 1 foot of which goes into a post in the ground. The flags are also pretty heavy. So I grabbed about 3 flags at a time to carry, while he ran to me, grabbed one, ran and posted it; ran to me, grabbed one, ran and posted it; etc. Since this was the first time we did it, we had a hard time finding some of the posts. Next time should be a breeze! And I’ll take pictures next time.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tour of Utah, Swimming Pool Edition: CVM in Logan

Logan is one of our favorite places to go to for swim meets. We have some favorite stops that we always make while were there (more about these in a minute). I’m just not sure who decided to have the first meet of the long course season in Logan. OUTSIDE!

Last year, we all bundled up and still froze on Friday afternoon/evening. But then we were unprepared for the sun and heat on Saturday, and all of the kids got sunburned. So this year we went with both blankets AND sunblock!

Ryan also loves the long course (summer) swim season, because his older high school swim buddies swim with the team.

On Friday, Ryan swam the 50 butterfly (1st place in his heat; beat his own time). His best friend, James, was in the lane next to him.

And the 400 IM (2nd place in his age group; beat his own time). So few swimmers swam this event (Michael Phelps even says this is an event he doesn’t like to do), all of the swimmers were in one heat. So, Ryan was able to swim with two of his older buddies – Thomas S. (16) and Drew B. (14).

We went to our favorite “carb loading” spot for dinner – Pizza Pie CafĂ©. For $8 per person, it’s all you can eat salad bar, pizza (about 15 different kinds!), pasta (about 8 different types of pasta and 6 different sauces), and dessert pizza (about 10 different kinds!). We all love it, since some of us can have more salad than other things, and some of us can have as much cheese pizza as he wants. :)

On Saturday, Ryan swam the 50 breaststroke. Seven out of the 8 lanes in the final heat (the best swimmers) were Ryan’s best friends from the team. It was so much fun to see all of them lined up together in that final heat! I know they are so tiny in the picture, but I wanted the whole line-up. (L to R: Austin C., Ryan, James W., a kid from CUDA, Joshua B., Nathan S., Austin I., Jordan I.)

And the 50 backstroke. Five out of the 8 lanes in the final heat were Ryan’s best friends from the team, and an additional lane was his friend, Payson, from the Clearfield team. Again, it was so much fun to see all of our favorite 11 & 12 year old swimmers lined up together in that fastest heat! (This picture: Ryan, Jared K., Payson C.) Notice the people behind them all bundled up. BRRR!!!

We didn’t wait around for the preliminary results to post, so I’m not sure how he did. This pool does not have a board showing all of the placing and times, so we never know for sure until the results are posted on the USA Swimming website. (Here Ryan was double checking the posted results as we were leaving.)

After Ryan’s events, we went to another one of our favorite stops – the Gossner factory store. My favorite is the mango milk, Ryan’s favorite is the cookies & cream milk. We also always buy feta cheese and squeaky cheese, and see what else is there. How much we buy depends on when we’ll be there again. Since we’ll be back through in July, we actually had our lowest bill EVER!

After Gossner’s, we headed north to Richmond to the Pepperidge Farm factory store. After all, we needed crackers to go with our cheese and cookies to go with our milk! If you’ve never been, the entire store is about the size of our kitchen & living room, with about 50 people packed in! But they have every Pepperidge Farm item you can think of, as well as some you may never have seen before! Ryan stocked up on the ginormous Goldfish tubs (30 oz. for $4). I bought a couple of boxes of crackers that I have never seen before, along with Milano and Tahiti cookies (interestingly also representing two of my favorite places on earth – Italy and the South Pacific).

Each stop on our “Tour of Utah: Swimming Pool Edition,” we try to find local restaurants, too. In Richmond, we stopped at Big J’s for lunch. The owner was so nice and fun to talk with! He gave us the history of the restaurant, and even told us that the restaurant scenes from “Napoleon Dynamite” (one of our favorite shows) were filmed there! He directed us to one wall, full of memorabilia and pictures from the movie. So fun!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Solar Eclipse

Sunday, May 20, was the second cool astronomical event of the month! There was a solar eclipse, which was conveniently best viewed in Utah!

Ryan and I made an eclipse viewer with aluminum foil and a cereal box. We were pretty excited about how well it worked! We were at Rara & Papa’s for dinner, so we went outside there to use our eclipse viewer. Their next-door neighbors were outside (including their two college student kids), with the eclipse viewers from Clark Planetarium. We had a lot of fun passing around our different ways to view the eclipse.

It was so cool! Here is an article about it from National Geographic, and here is one from

Here are a couple of cool pictures from these websites:

As we went back into Rara & Papa’s house, the eclipse was obvious as the sunlight came through the front windows. It created several crescents in the beveled glass. It was beautiful!

Priesthood Leadership Session of Stake Conference

As I mentioned in this post, Ryan had a big day on Sunday, May 6. He passed the sacrament and collected fast offerings for the first time. After dinner with Rara & Papa, we were back home winding down and relaxing a little bit. Ryan had just started his bedtime routine when our phone rang, and Ryan answered. It was one of the counselors in our stake presidency. He talked with Ryan for a minute, and asked him about his first day passing the sacrament and doing fast offerings. Then Ryan handed the phone to me.

President Farnes expressed his love and admiration for Ryan and me, and passed along the same expressions from the rest of the stake presidency. Then he asked if Ryan and I would speak in the Priesthood Leadership Session of our stake conference. He asked us to speak on Ryan being the priesthood holder in our home, how I as a single mother have prepared Ryan for the priesthood, and how other men in our family and ward have stepped in to mentor Ryan and help him prepare for the priesthood. After I told him we would, he asked Ryan, who also agreed.

I have to admit, we hung up and both cried. Although we knew it was an honor for a woman (especially a single mom) and a new deacon to speak in Priesthood Leadership meeting, we were overwhelmed. As we said our prayers that evening, we asked for help in knowing what we should share. The next couple of days, our talks came together quickly and easily as we knew what we should share with the leaders in that session.

It was a wonderful experience for both of us. I wore my brightest outfit, knowing I’d probably be the only female in the room. :) The stake Relief Society president was there before the meeting putting flowers up on the stand. She said, “I was trying to add a little beauty to the chapel with the flowers. You look MORE beautiful than the flowers in your bright colors!”

We shared some very personal (and some sacred) experiences that we’ve had together the past 10 years. Because of that, I am not going to share our talks here.

After the meeting, about half of those in attendance came up to the stand to speak with us. We knew many of them, but some we were meeting for the first time. They were so cute to Ryan, and said wonderful things like, “It is an honor to be in the company of such an amazing young man.” Ryan absolutely beamed!

Later, I was jokingly told that men usually try to leave meetings as quickly as possible. :) The fact that so many stuck around to talk with us confirmed that we touched many individuals with what we shared. We literally stood on the stand for about 15 minutes as people came up to talk with us, and then it took us another 15 minutes to make our way out of the chapel and the building, as more stopped us to talk. Many sweet words were shared with many dear friends.

The whole experience was so uplifting – both spiritually and emotionally. Through the week I received some incredible notes in the mail, and several emails expressing gratitude for what we shared and the examples we are to others, even amid our own unique challenges. It was an amazing week!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fathers & Sons and Boondocks

Our stake Fathers & Sons outing was at Willard Bay on May 18-May 19. Papa took Ryan up for the evening. They enjoyed talking and playing games with good friends there. Our bishop and his family have a side business making incredible Dutch oven meals. They did the dinner Friday night, which sounds like it was amazing.

We always have several families offer to have Ryan stay overnight with them. We had planned for him to stay with one friend, his dad, and his two brothers. But then Ryan’s student council ended up having their end-of-year party Saturday morning, so Ryan and Papa both came home Friday night.

Saturday morning Ryan went to Boondocks with the student council (8 girls, 1 other boy), their teacher/advisor, and the assistant principal. Ryan loves those two adults, and they have been so great to give him so many leadership opportunities this year. They had a great time together celebrating their accomplishments and friendships the past year.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Flower Cake Pops (Mother’s Day, Teacher Appreciation, etc.)

These particular cake pops were a four-day process (but not all day every day). Thursday evening, I put together the flowers. On the bigger flowers, I used Jordan almonds for the petals and the little pastel mint chips for the centers. On the smaller flowers, I used the candy-coated licorice bits for the petals and the same pastel mint chips for the centers. I put the flowers together with melted white chocolate, and set them out on wax paper to set.

Friday afternoon/evening, Ryan and I made the cake portion of the cake pops, and Saturday afternoon/evening, Ryan and I put the cake pops together…

Sunday after church, Ryan and I put the cake pops into vases and baskets…

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother’s Day

Ryan and I had a lot of fun preparing for Mother’s Day this year. Of course, we ordered our leis from Hawaii, and Rara & I enjoyed wearing those all day. (Frances & Marc & Alice & Claire are on their cruise.)

Ryan and I also made cake pops for the occasion. Of course! After church we took vases of cake pops to our next door neighbor, Darlene, and to two close friends in our neighborhood.

This year, we have the early church block (9:00-12:00) and Rara & Papa have the latest block (1:00-4:00). So Ryan & I did the Mother’s Day dinner. We had chicken kiev and whole grain pasta with home-made pesto. We also gave Rara her cake pops and a cute planter with different kinds of basil. (Yes, those are Orange Leaf spoons as markers.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Court of Honor

Ryan is doing so well in scouting! On Wednesday, May 9, Ryan was awarded his First Class rank. He has a detailed plan of everything he will complete and when, in order to receive his Eagle when he is 13.

He also participated in the flag ceremony, carrying the American flag.

Alice & Claire were with us, as Marc & Frances prepared for their cruise.

I was wearing my ribbon with all of my “mother’s pins” from Ryan’s cub scout and scouting awards. Claire always loves my necklaces, so she was studying my ribbon and pins intently as she sat on my lap. After she had touched all of them sufficiently, she said, “Where can I get a necklace like this?”

I am so proud of Ryan! He loves the scouting program, and is so motivated to excel in scouting!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Elementary School Volunteer Time

With this being Ryan’s last year of elementary school, I spent about twice as much time volunteering. Every Wednesday, I was a tutor in Ryan’s math class. I spent about an hour with about five students who struggled the most with math. Who would have thought that I would be a math tutor one day? True, only sixth grade math, but still!

Every Friday morning for about an hour, I did general classroom help for Ryan’s home room teacher. She is also Ryan’s student council advisor. We all got to be very close friends through the year. Her husband was deployed to Kuwait right before Christmas, so it was nice to spend that time with her, doing what I could to help lighten her load.

I was also asked by the music teacher to oversee Ryan’s class party on May 8. I called some of my favorite moms, and we made ice cream sundaes with the kids. The music teacher had some classic music videos that she wanted to show the kids, so they watched those as they ate their ice cream. It was a lot of fun to spend that one last chunk of time with the kids in Ryan’s class.

I’m going to miss my volunteer time next year!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Passing the Sacrament & Collecting Fast Offerings

On Sunday, May 6, Ryan passed the sacrament for the first time. Ryan is a stickler for being on time – usually early – to things. He also likes to have sufficient time to plan out what he needs to do. We arrived at the church 30 minutes before church started so he could find out what he needed to do. We were there so early that Ryan helped the bishop set up chairs in the overflow. When the deacon’s quorum president arrived, he walked through everything with Ryan. Of course, Ryan executed the responsibilities of his assignment perfectly.

After church, Ryan was able to collect fast offerings for the first time. Our awesome home teacher, Jeff Novak, drove Ryan on his route and watched as Ryan went house to house. As he finished with the house across the street from us, I grabbed my camera and took a quick (stealth) shot. Look at that smile! He is SO excited to be a deacon!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Super Moon

The moon on Saturday, May 5, 2012 was dubbed a “super moon,” the closest and therefore the biggest and brightest full moon of the year. At 11:34 p.m., the moon will be about 221,802 miles from Earth. That's about 15,300 miles closer than average (from this article). Of course, we had to go check it out!

It was a beautiful view from our house, but we decided to drive the few minutes to the Bountiful Temple to take pictures there. So did half of Bountiful. We found our spot in a vacant lot just west of the temple, chatted with others there, and took some pictures.

Most of the other people were there for the night. They all said that they wanted to wait until the moon lined up with the Angel Moroni. Since my new deacon was passing the sacrament (and collecting fast offerings) for the first time the next day – at 9:00 am – we decided to take a few pictures and then call it a night.

Here are some AMAZING professional photos of the “super moon” from famous landmarks around the world (from this article). Obviously I do not have the same camera lens.