Thursday, June 11, 2015

Girls Camp 2015

Another year of Girls Camp has come and gone...thankfully, I did not have to go this year.  ...something about Texas heat and sleeping in tents and having limited access to bathroomsisn't all that appealing to me

But how very grateful I am for the wonderful YW leaders who sacrifice their comfortable beds, time with their families, and indoor plumbing to go camping for three days with my girls...and also remember to send me pictures!  I just love those women.  
I took this picture in the parking lot at 5:30am and then hopped back in my car and headed home before my body realized it was awake.  The girls were peppy and excited, though!

Apparently the first thing Emma did when she got to camp was put up her hammock and break out the uke...because why wait for a camp fire when you can just sing all day long? 

This amazing group of 4th years went off on a 7-mile canoe trip and overnight camp out on a completely different little island all by themselves for the first night.  Emma was tired and dehydrated and covered in mosquito and chigger bites when they got back to camp, but she LOVED it!  She and her cute companion totally bonded, too, which is always a great thing.  

And then there was the sister reunion back at camp on Wednesday...you'd think these girls had never been apart before...


The reunion at home was pretty snuggly, too.  We all missed their vivacious little personalities around the house, and we are SO happy to have them back where they belong tonight.  

I am so grateful for the countless hours of preparation and many, many hands that helped pull all of this together to ensure these girls had a great time.  Girls Camp is no small event!  Both Megan and Emma had only positive things to say about their experience and they are both so happy they went.  What a HUGE difference a few days (and a LOT of behind the scenes work) makes for these girls!    

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Peace

Oh, today has been a roller coaster of a day for me.  

And the crazy thing is, I think this is just the beginning of the ride...like the part where you're standing in line just looking at the roller coaster, not even on it yet, and starting to feel the butterflies in your stomach...only for me, those are always more like bats because I DO NOT LOVE roller coasters.  

Savannah's best friend and former roommate went to the MTC (Missionary Training Center) this afternoon for her two-week intensive training and preparation before heading off to Independence, Missouri to be an LDS missionary for 18 months.  

On Monday, when Mallory posted this on IG and I realized it was going to be her last post for the next year and a half, I started to fall apart.  

And then today, when she and Savannah said goodbye for the last time before Mallory left, the fear and doubt started to consume me.  What in the world are these girls going to be like after two whole years of not seeing each other?  How much are they going to change in the next two years?  How hard is this going to be for them?  And how in the world am I ever going to be able to let Savannah do this for 18 whole months??  I can't even imagine it.

I sat in the sadness for a couple of hours and then decided to get the heck out of the house.  A barn hunt is always a good cure for fears and doubts.  So, I grabbed McKay and off we went looking for something to take our minds off of Savannah and Mallory.  

We didn't find a single barn, but we did find a field full of beautiful new sunflowers...the first of the season.  And already, they are tall and straight and faithfully seeking the sun.  And as I looked at them in that field, I thought about how much more peaceful and calm I could be if I would just give up this worrying and look toward the Savior.  He already knows how Savannah and Mallory are going to turn out.  He already knows how a mission is going to bless not only these girls, and their families now, but also their future families and the generations of Savannahs and Mallorys that will come.  And all I need to do in all of this plan is be still, stand tall, and look for him...everyday, everyday, everyday.  He will help me figure out how to not be sad everyday.  He will help me to not be consumed thinking about all the potential challenges.  He will help these girls become stronger and amazing in their testimonies.  And He will help all of us to grow closer to Him.  


I'm so grateful for those beautiful, perfect examples in that sunflower field, and for the peace that flowed into the rest of my day after I found them.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

When 11 Year Old Boys are Bored

McKay has the unique opportunity of being an only child this week while his sisters are off at Girls Camp.  There are good things and bad things about that.  He enjoys having the complete and undivided attention of both of his parents.  He enjoys picking all of the places we go to eat and most of the activities we do.  But there are lots of hours in his days this week when he has been very bored, and his hearty sighs can be heard throughout the house.  "Oh, what can I do now?" and "When will the girls be home?" and my favorite, "It's SO quiet in the house without them."  

This morning during an early spell of boredom he decided to unload the dishwasher and reorganize my tupperware cabinet.  Hooray for me!  

A few hours later when I was up to my ears in packaging 25 lbs of raw chicken, he helped me wrap, tape and toss into the freezer, all 21 little packages.  Again...hooray for me!  And without him, we would have used plain old white tape instead of the more colorful and bold blue that he picked.  He's right.  It does pep up the freezer a little.  


This afternoon, he thought of a plan for a make-ahead breakfast to save me time tomorrow morning.  "Can I use some tin foil?"  "And can I have some bread?"  "And I'm going to need the step ladder."  

Hmmm...???

That's a piece of "sun toast" suspended from the roof of my patio.  It's hanging so that the bugs can't get to it.  Pretty clever, huh?  I'll let you know how tastes after we eat it tomorrow morning.  He may have revolutionized the toast world.  Can you believe the Robotics Club turned down this creative genius?  Yeah...me neither.  

Finally, at 3:30 when he could stand it no longer and there was nothing left in the house that needed his attention, I offered to take him to the pool with a friend.
video

Oh, how I love this clever, busy, thoughtful 11-year-old who lives in my house!  And oh, how grateful I am for an opportunity to have him all to ourselves this week.  

Monday, June 8, 2015

Vision

This afternoon I went to a two hour, intense, comprehensive eye exam to determine whether I needed cornea transplants in both eyes.  If you want the long story, call me.  The short version is that I DO NOT have to have eye surgery.  Hallelujah.  I really was having a difficult time thinking about anything coming near my eyes, especially the kinds of things that remove corneas and glue new corneas onto my naked eyeballs???!!  #eek 

During my lengthy visit, the doctors put several drops of things in my eyes, including that stuff that dilates your pupils, which I had been forewarned about.  They reminded me several times before my visit to make sure I had a pair of sunglasses with me for the drive home.  And they even offered me a pair of their cute funky plastic ones when I checked out, in case I had forgotten mine.  But they neglected to tell me that even after 90 minutes, I still would not be able to see clearly, and a designated driver would have been a handy thing to bring along.  I totally should NOT have driven home by myself.  But I did.  And I'm writing this, so I obviously made it safely home, but honestly, it was a little sketchy.  It's a good thing I know the way and it was the middle of the day, because things like those big green signs and the dividing lines on the road were a little distorted.  

What I was able to see very clearly, though, was the beautiful blue sky and the puffy white clouds, which I had noticed on the drive down to the doctor's office earlier in the afternoon.  Holy cow, was it a gorgeous day today!  Between my very blurry vision and the distraction of the world around me, it's a wonder I even made it home.  

I exited the tollway on the less traveled road that leads to my house, pulled over into an empty parking lot, fished my phone out of my purse, got out of my car, tried to figure out how to turn on the camera without being able to actually SEE the screen in the brightness of the day, crawled underneath a tall, leggy, grassy plant, and shot this picture...  And then I got back in my car and drove home without knowing what, if anything, I had taken a picture of.  

When I got home, it was a little bit like watching a Polaroid picture come into focus and full color, only it was my eyes that I was waiting for.  And what a happy surprise to find this...


Overall, I'd say today was a pretty huge success.
  • Hooray for blind photography skills!
  • Hooray for making it safely home.  
  • Hooray for no cornea transplants!
  • ...and hooray for the spectacularly beautiful planet we live on and the ability to see it!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Summer Goals

A few weeks ago, when it was still raining and summer seemed a lot farther away, I made our SUMMER GOALS list in an effort to get myself into a sunnier disposition.  Something about cutting and pasting always makes me so happy.  



Well, here we are officially into summer.  Our list is smaller than it has been in past years.  
We have very few travel plans.  In fact, I am not traveling at all.  Craig is taking McKay to Scout Camp next week, and in July, the girls are going with him to Florida where he will be working while they attend EFY (Especially For Youth = church-sponsored, week-long, youth camp.)  He will also being going to Alaska in August with his dad and brothers, and then ending in Utah where he will pick up Savannah from BYU and drive her home.  I, however,  am happily staying home from all camps and other forms of travel, and looking forward to a lovely, balanced summer filled with trips to the pool, picture taking expeditions, some consistent blogging, and lots of watermelon consumption!     

I have a feeling that Fall, and all of it's upcoming chaos, will rapidly be upon us, so I will be basking in the uneventfulness of the next two months, and tanking up on some peace and quiet.  

Happy summer!  Hopefully your plans include lots of fun and relaxation and a few goals that you can check off.  

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Fifteen

Do you know that this is the 3rd FIFTEEN post I've written?  I've now officially had three 15-year-olds pass through this blog, and this house, and the Freshman Center.  How is it even possible that my THIRD child is FIFTEEN years old?  


I have been in a few places recently where parents of teenagers have warned about the sassiness that comes at 15, and the awkwardness and insecurity, and the overall general feeling of disgust and embarrassment they have in the presence of their parents at this age.  People have said that this is the age where your kids think they know everything and you know nothing.  Groups of parents have commiserated with each other and longed for those baby and toddler years when their kids were so much more snuggly and wanted only to be close to their moms.  

Well, I have to tell you, that has not been my experience with my teenagers.  They are definitely NOT perfect...nor am I.  But I have found that as they dive deeper into their teenage years, I like them more and more.  I love the way they think, and the conversations they want to have.  I love their sense of humor and natural wit that seems to blossom during this age.  I love that at 15 they start to really identify and embrace their talents and strengths.  There is no way I would trade my 15 year olds to have those toddler years back...ever.  I'm so much better at raising teenagers than I ever was at raising toddlers.

This cute girl is our third 15 year old, and although completely different than her two older sisters, she is equally delightful and such a joy to have around.  This year has been a good one for Emma.  With Savannah away at BYU, it's been so amazing to watch Emma come out of her shell and take up a little of the void that has been left in our family without Savannah's presence around.  She is such a natural leader, and now has an opportunity to do some leading.  She's funny.  She has a blazing, but very private testimony.  She makes great decisions.  She is focused and determined, and fearlessly walks toward the goals she sets for herself.  She is driven and confident.  She takes boxing classes and is on the law enforcement track at school, destined to become a police officer, or an FBI agent...or something really cool and powerful like that.  She sings ALL the time, everywhere.  And she's getting SO good.  I love to hear that deep, rich voice coming from behind her closed bedroom door every night.  She wakes up early and gets to things ON TIME.  This year, she has traded out most of her girly friends for some really awesome boy friends...not BOYFRIENDS, just boys who are her friends...and the few girl friends she's kept are the ones who are even tempered and fun and adventurous like she is.  

She got straight A's this year in 9th grade (well, there may have been one B in there last semester) and earned an iPhone.  There's a story there, and if other parties involved wouldn't be horribly mortified by it, I would tell it.  Let's just say, it's a little early in the typical Thunell game plan for a smartphone, but Emma definitely earned this privilege and we're confident she can handle it.  

   
But even with all the growing and changing and emerging she's done this year, Emma still asked for the same pasta dish for her birthday dinner that she's requested since she was 8, and the same ice cream cake she's loved since we moved here.  Because even though these 15 year olds grow up and look different and mature and change, inside there's still a lot of snuggly toddler in there.  



Friday, June 5, 2015

The Last Week of School

I have a love/hate relationship with the last week of school.  It's SO busy and there is SO much going on for everyone, but it's also filled with so many of my favorite traditions.  

6th Grade Graduation
After five years of living here, and two prior 6th grade graduations, it was a little hard to watch my last graduate walk across that stage.  But oh, is he ready for 7th grade and all that middle school will bring.  

Top Golf
After graduation, a bunch of moms took a huge group of boys to play golf.  I've never been there before and I think I loved it more than the boys did and I didn't even play golf.  Such a fun place!  Craig and I are definitely going back there for a date night sometime soon!


The Last Day of School

For the last 4 years, my friend Amy and I have taken our older kids (the ones who have finals and get out of school at 12:30) to In-N-Out for lunch on the last day of school.  Our group has expanded this year and required a wider angle shot, but how fun to have all those kids together to officially kick off the summer.




End of the Year Party
Megan and Emma wanted to have a party this year to celebrate the beginning of summer, so they invited a few friends over.  Since the girls are only a grade apart in school, they share a lot of friends in common, which makes these parties so much more fun.  I love having a house filled with teenagers, and look forward to a lot of them trickling back over here all summer long.  

Graduation
I'm considering writing a whole post about this because it sort of deserves one, but for now, let's just acknowledge that Allen HS graduation was happening at the same time as the girls' party.  Our dear sweet friends, who have their own senior who graduated this year, and their own boatload of stuff this week, caught this cute picture of Savannah as it scrolled on the big screen at the football stadium.  

I am grateful everyday for this amazing place where we currently live and for the people who surround us.  Our kids have been greatly blessed not only with wonderful, supportive, uplifting friends, but also with great opportunities that they would not have had anywhere else.  It's been another great school year filled with plenty of life lessons, and now we're looking forward to a few months off before the next memory-filled year begins.  

Happy End of the School Year!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Marigolds


I spent the past weekend in Utah and just got back last night.  I had great plans and expectations for this trip, but as often is the case with plans and expectations, things didn't go quite as I had hoped.  

One of the biggest disappointments was not being able to drive to Logan yesterday morning.  I was so looking forward to breakfast with my in-laws and then a couple of hours driving around Cache Valley by myself taking barn pictures before my flight left in the afternoon.  It feels like it's been forever since I've been in Utah and had the time and the opportunity to just drive around and take pictures.  That place breathes life into me.  

I came home discouraged and disappointed and not at all excited about returning to Dallas.  That's kind of exactly how I started my prayer this morning, too.  Frustrated that despite my best efforts, I couldn't connect with people the way I wanted to.  Frustrated that I had to catch up on all the things that had piled up here while I was gone.  Frustrated to be back in Dallas where everything looks flat and uninteresting to me most days and there isn't a mountain or a red barn within 100 miles.  

And then, this afternoon, as I was driving around running all of my mundane errands, there was this strip of unexpectedly brilliant orange right in the middle of the median...two of them actually.   And a bright blue sky filled with puffy, white clouds.  And I instantly knew that Heavenly Father was reminding me that there are beautiful things everywhere...not just in Utah.  

So I stopped right in the middle of Watters Road and took a quick picture, and then said a little prayer of gratitude and a silent apology for being frustrated this morning. And the disappointment turned into hope and joy.  

I'm so grateful for a Heavenly Father who wants to turn our disappointments into joys, and who sprinkles the medians with marigolds and the sky with puffy, white clouds.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Flying Home

Saturday was an eventful day for all of us.  

Savannah crammed a week's worth of stuff into 48 hours so that she could hurry and catch a flight home from SLC late Saturday afternoon.  She packed and cleaned her dorm room, said goodbye to her best friend and roommate, wrote a 6-page American Heritage paper and a14-page Anthropology paper, took three finals, moved all of her stuff into a friend's apartment for a week until she gets back and moves it all into a new dorm room for the spring/summer, and then took a bus to a train to her cousin's car to get to the airport two hours before her flight.  

In January, we didn't have an exact date when Savannah's finals would be over for the semester, so we got a stand-by ticket from Craig's brother.  Savannah has never flown non-rev before.  It's an ordeal for me when I've tried it in the past, and as grateful as we always are to fly for free, I almost never make it through a stand-by day in the airport without shedding a few tears of frustration.  It's an adventure to fly without a definite plan, so I tried to prepare Savannah to be flexible, patient, and willing to sleep in an airport.   

Savannah had two route options Saturday afternoon.  One from SLC to PHX to DAL.  One from SLC to DEN to DAL.  Both SLC flights left at close to the same time, but there were very few seats available on either flight and lots of wait-listed passengers.  Things weren't looking very hopeful.  She didn't make the DEN flight, but was able to get on the PHX flight.  And fortunately a cute couple from our ward was traveling back home from SLC on that same flight, so we all relaxed a little knowing that she was in good company, and said a quick prayer for tiny tender mercies.  While Savannah flew to PHX, Craig scrambled around on the SW website and tried to find another option in case the PHX to DAL flight didn't work out.  He found a flight from PHX to AUS that was wide open, but leaving very close to the time her SLC flight would arrive.  It would be really close, and Craig would have to drive 3 1/2 hours to AUS to get there in time to meet her flight, but the chances of getting on that one looked so much better than the PHX to DAL flight.  

Craig gathered a few necessities and left to drive to AUS while I stayed home and watched the website to track Savannah's PHX flight so that I could call her as soon as she landed and redirect her to the AUS flight.  An hour later, her flight landed, Savannah texted, and I gave her the details.  I told her to go to the first available and occupied SW counter, and tell the gate attendant what she was trying to do, and have them get her on whichever of the two flights she could make.  We stopped texting while she deplaned and I waited to hear from her.  

Nothing.

For 15 mintues.  

And I watched the website as the PHX to AUS flight went from "ON TIME" to "IN FLIGHT" status.  I said another prayer that she had gotten on that flight because the thought of my 18-yr old sleeping in the PHX airport was making me nauseous.  

And then a text finally came:




Craig was only about an hour south of Dallas so he turned around and drove straight to the airport, where he waited through a torrential thunder/lightning/hail storm for Savannah's flight to arrive.  The rain continued and Savannah's flight (along with all the others that flew into Love Field that night) had to fly around and wait to land until the clouds parted and the rain stopped.  Twenty minutes late, but who even cared at that point, her flight landed, people got off, and wet bags came down the carousel.  Craig was waiting at Baggage Claim to meet her.  
I don't think there's ever been a happier little Mouse or a more relieved Dad that things all worked out better than we hoped.  We thanked the cute couple from our ward who happened to be sitting just across the aisle from her on the second flight to DAL.  Craig drove straight to In-n-Out for a hamburger for a very hungry little traveler, and then drove home!  

Savannah had lots of great stories to tell about people at the desk who were waiting for her flight to land so she could hop on that PHX to DAL flight, and the flight attendant who said, "Oh, you must be Savannah!," and the cute grandpa sitting in the 2nd row of the plane who had been saving the seat next to him for someone wearing a BYU T-shirt, and how they talked the whole way to DAL and he had a carry-on full of PHX oranges that he shared with her.  How grateful I am for kind people who are available when I am not.  Because lately there are a lot of times when I'm not anymore.  

Even writing about this a few days later, the whole experience still feels pretty miraculous.  And once again, we are all amazed the charmed life this girl leads.  We are so grateful for a Heavenly Father who loves all of us, and who pours out blessings in unexpectedly large and small ways.  And we're SUPER grateful that Savannah is home for a whole week!   


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Scripture Power

My amazing friend, Jeanette taught Relief Society today on the Power of the Word.

I had no idea until she finished teaching, how much I needed this lesson.  I've been trying for weeks to have consistent confidence with a challenging new calling, to have a plan and a preparation process that works, and to be able to deliver an articulate and meaningful lesson reflective of the work that has gone into it.  So far, in the last four months of teaching, I have felt that way about only TWO of my lessons.  There are definitely good things about them each week, but I can't ever manage to get everything right.  There always seems to be something lacking every week.  Maybe that's just because I'm a perfectionist, or because I'm impossibly critical of myself, or because my knowledge of the scriptures is pretty inadequate...or maybe I'm exactly right about my evaluation of my teaching and there's something else I can do. 

I came home from Church today and instead of dissecting another one of my hopelessly flawed lessons, I decided to re-read the RS lesson Jeanette taught.  

Here's what I read...
The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life.” 
SCRIPTURES = POWER
SCRIPTURES = JOY
"Immerse yourselves in the scriptures.  Search them diligently.  Feast upon the words of Christ.  Learn the doctrine.  Master the principles that are found therein.  There are few other efforts that will bring greater dividends to your calling." 
SCRIPTURES = INSPIRATION IN CALLINGS
"When individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently, these other areas of activity will automatically come. Testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow.
SCRIPTURES = INCREASED TESTIMONIES
SCRIPTURES = FORTIFIED FAMILIES
SCRIPTURES = FLOWING PERSONAL REVELATION
"...but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." - Joshua 1:8 
SCRIPTURES = PROSPERING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS
And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived.”  - Matt 1:37
"Feast upon the words of Christ, for the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” - Nephi 32:3
SCRIPTURES = DIRECTION AND GUIDANCE

Do I need a stronger testimony? a fortified family? greater understanding of the Savior? to know my purpose each day? free flowing personal revelation? better discernment? more confidence in my calling? more surety in the whisperings that I hear? greater joy in my life?  

Yep.  I totally do.  

My personal scripture study has been inconsistent lately and mostly revolves around preparing for a lesson every other Sunday.  I have felt for awhile that I've needed to get back into a regular, more purposeful habit of reading and studying the scriptures on my own, and not just with my family in the mornings.  And it turns out, there are tons of blessings that I'm totally missing out on because I've become casual with this critical piece of the puzzle.  So, after Jeanette's wonderful lesson and after reading a few other great words about the power of personal scripture study, I've decided to make a more intentional effort and make my personal relationship with the scriptures as big a priority as prayer and temple attendance have become for me.

This quote is from an amazing blog post I read recently...
"I realized I can’t afford to neglect my time in the scriptures. I can’t risk being a voice to my children, my friends, or the Relief Society sisters I teach, if I am not partaking regularly of God’s word. Time with the word of the Lord is its own system of checks and balances for me. It’s how the Lord rights me, keeps me on course."
Scripture study sort of takes on a whole new meaning after reading those wise and wonderful words.  If we think of the scriptures as a gift from Heavenly Father, a guidebook, a manual for mortality, how can we even consider venturing outside of our homes and responsibly interacting with the world, or attempting to reflect a little light, without first arming ourselves with the power of the scriptures?  

I'm so grateful for Jeanette's inspired lesson, for President Ezra Taft Benson's inspiring words, and for  a Sunday that has turned into a feast instead of a snack.