Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sweethearts 2016

Sweethearts is kind of a funny dance. Up until a few years ago, it was called Novelty....a themed boys choice dance. But strangely enough it was rare that boys actually asked a date. Most people went stag with a big group of friends. Recently the dance was renamed Sweethearts. Possibly because it was held in February near Valentines Day. Likely because if the dance was named Sweethearts, it might spur the boys to actually take a date rather than go stag. But the dance was still casual and still themed.

This year the theme was superheroes. Julianne was asked to the dance by Drew, a boy who served on Seminary Council with her. It actually took her awhile to unscramble the letters of his name to figure out who had asked her...partially because she wouldn't have guessed this boy would ask her out, but mostly because she was misspelling his last name. She was pretty excited when she realized it really was Drew. And then giggled as she realized what a funny couple they would make in terms of height difference...Julianne being 5", and Drew being 6' 4".

For the day activity the main event was finger painting a copy of a famous art piece. Drew told Julianne to be thinking about paintings they could copy and Julianne being in AP art history, excitedly came up with a bunch of ideas. I'm not entirely sure what famous painting this is meant to be...but you know, anything is made better with a storm trooper in it, yes?


Drew and Julianne wore matching Flash t-shirts to the actual dance. Which seemed highly appropriate seeing as we are big fans of The Flash TV series. Julianne said the dance was loads of fun. She was even able to try out the mosh pit for the first time. Being so short, moshing is a bit hazardous. But with a 6' 4" date to protect you, apparently it works well! Drew was fun and considerate and just a great date all the way around and Julianne came home beaming about her wonderful night.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

I Feel My Savior's Love

I went to the funeral today for Sister Sadie Wells, a young woman from our stake serving in the Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Mission. Last week she died when a school bus ran a stop sign and hit the car she was traveling in.

When a missionary dies, the whole church mourns the death. I'm not sure if it has to do with so many members feeling close to the situation because they themselves have served a mission or have children on missions...or if it's the idea of this young person giving up more than just two years, but their whole life in service.

The whole situation hit really close to home for me. Sadie Wells was a friend of Rebekah's. They weren't close, but when I told Rebekah in an email of what had happened, she was heartbroken. She said she had memories of spending time with Sadie at stake girl's camps and youth conferences, she saw her every day at school. They were in the MTC at the same time and Rebekah said they frequently sought each other out because they were both from the same home town. But even more...I have a daughter on a mission. And though accidents like this are few and far between when you consider how many missionaries there are coming and going throughout the world, what if this had been Rebekah? I think something like this hits hard for any missionary mom, whether they know the actual missionary or not.

The funeral was beautiful. Truly one of the sweetest, most spirit-filled services I have ever attended. As you can imagine, the building was completely packed. Elder David A. Bednar was presiding at the service, with three other members of the Quorum of the Seventies also in attendance. The opening song was "Called to Serve," clearly in reference to Sadie having been on a mission when she passed. There were lighthearted moments with her best friend and siblings sharing funny stories and memories of Sadie. Her parents both spoke. I'm not sure I could do that if it had been my daughter. But their feelings, experiences and testimonies shared touched my heart deeply. One of the musical numbers was Sadie's siblings and cousins singing the primary song, "He Sent His Son." This was Sadie's favorite song. And apparently she ended each email home from her mission with the lyrics of that song:
"Have faith, have hope, live like His Son, help others on their way."
It was her motto, her creed, her mantra.

Elder Bednar was the final speaker after the Bishop. He read a letter to the family from President Monson and the First Presidency of the church. The things he said were wonderful and perfect and heartfelt. He directed his remarks mostly to Sadie's three siblings. To them he emotionally admitted that he did not know why Sadie was taken from them while serving the Lord. But he did know that Heavenly Father knows why. And that can bring great comfort if we love and trust in the Lord and His timetable and plan. Among his other many comments, he pointed out that what they are seeing in the way their parents are handling this loss is what he called "spiritual reflexes." That after a lifetime of faithfulness, they are now almost without even consciously thinking about the whys of it...praying, going to the temple, comforting others in their grief who are mourning Sadie's loss, forgiving the driver of the bus that hit her, etc. He said that these actions that have come so naturally to them in the midst of their own grief are a real part of who they are...not something that can be faked or learned from a manual. He said it was as if it was part of their spiritual DNA. Elder Bednar gave them an apostolic blessing directly from the pulpit. He shared strong testimony as an apostle of Jesus Christ of the truthfulness of this gospel.

The closing song began immediately after Elder Bednar sat down. It was the primary song, "I Feel My Savior's Love." And as we started singing the first verse and made our way into the chorus, I saw Elder Bednar stand up again. At first I thought he was leaving...maybe to avoid the crush of people after the meeting ended. But instead, he walked down the little stairs from the podium to Sadie's mother, father, older brother and two younger sisters on the front row of the congregation. And he hugged them. Each one of them. Big, heartfelt bear hugs. And suddenly as I sang those words about our Savior's love, I didn't see Elder Bednar hugging Sadie's family. I saw an apostle of our Savior, standing in our Savior's stead, acting as our Savior as he shared the Savior's love and comfort. This scene and the thoughts running through my mind were so real and sweet and touching to me that I couldn't stop the tears from flowing. And as I told each of my children about it later and then Bryan, I again cried each time. I am thankful for the opportunity I had to feel of the spirit at that funeral, and especially to witness that particular moment. I will never forget it.
I feel my Savior's love
In all the world around me.
His spirit warms my soul
Through everything I see.

I feel my Savior's love;
It's gentleness enfolds me,
And when I kneel to pray,
My heart is filled with peace.

I feel my Savior's love
And know that he will bless me.
I offer him my heart;
My shepherd he will be.

I'll share my Savior's love 
By serving others freely.
In serving I am blessed.
In giving I receive.

Chorus:
He knows I will follow him,
Give all my life to him.
I feel my Savior's love,
The love he freely gives me.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Another adult in the family

Julianne turned 18. We have another adult in the family. For those who are counting, this newest birthday leaves us with the adults squarely in the majority....only two children left. At least as far as the law is concerned. Our family is growing up. My feelings are rather complex on the issue and have lots of emotions wrapped around them...so lets not go there right now. (Mostly because I'm still living in the land of denial and prefer to stay there for at least a few more months until Julianne moves away to college...)

While Julianne was at school I decorated her room...this year with heart streamers that I made. Her birthday being just four days before Valentines Day and it being her favorite holiday because of that, hearts always tend to be the theme of the day, pretty much every year. Deciding that the "giving tree" that we put together for Rebekah's 18th birthday should be tradition, I filled the branches with various gift cards and $ bills and put it on her dresser in the middle of all the decor. And then so that when Julianne came home I could be assured she'd make her way down there, I strung string all around the entry way, living room and kitchen and down the stairs, through the basement family room and then finally down the hall to her bedroom....kind of spider web style. Along the way I clipped pictures of Julianne when she was younger, in a kind of this-is-your-life sort of celebration. She thought it was great, all of it. And then she settled in to do some homework. Because birthday or no, there were still assignments due the next day.




She invited her boyfriend Bryson and her best friend (soon to be college roomie) Elle over to share dessert later that evening. When querying about what kind of cake she wanted, Julianne said she was kind of in the mood for donuts. We joked about the difficulty of fitting 18 candles around a donut, and how lighting them would look like a ring of fire. But miracle of miracles, I actually found a larger than normal sized donut at the bakery! So we lit our ring of fire. And than rather than the birthday song, Bryson and Elle did a huka-style chant and then we played Adam Lambert's cover of The Ring of Fire (originally by Johnny Cash) on youtube. Bryson and Elle had never seen it before...and were impressed by its weird appropriateness. Here, you should watch it for yourself:

(Thanks heavens for Rebekah who sent a video from London with the missionaries in the Hyde Park Chapel Visitor's Centre singing the Happy Birthday song to her sister...because it's the only traditional version she got! I wish I could post it here...but I can't seem to get it off my phone. Hmph.)
































(According to the calendar of holidays, February 10th is National Umbrella Day. And Julianne and Bryson do like to celebrate as many of those holidays as possible. So the gifting of a new umbrella was appropriate...)

It was a good day. Julianne seemed pleased with how we said goodbye to her childhood and ushered in her adult years. Because after all, what says adulting more than following string webs, huka chants, rings of fire and umbrellas? I mean really??

Sibling birthday snuggles before bed. We miss Rebekah.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Stanford

The new year at our house also means gymnastics meet season. And meet season always means travel. Our first meet out of state this year was held at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. I was excited about the prospect of warmer weather. Because though I do love me a good Utah winter, sometimes it's nice in the middle of January to have a quick shot of warmth, you know? But though it was indeed warmer in California, we got there right in time for a rain storm. Hmph. Granted, it's hard to begrudge California any rain seeing as they have been plagued by drought....but, still.
(Did I mention the tiny little prop plane we flew to California? Yeah...that was a bit of bumpy, nauseous fun.)

Regardless, we had a lovely time. Brandon says that as much as he loves hanging out with his Dad on gymnastics trips and having all sorts of manly bonding time, he really enjoys the way I like to adventure while out and about. So though we were only in Palo Alto for 48 hours, we took an evening walk through town to find some great seafood (Bay Area after all, am I right?) and Starbucks for some hot cocoa as the day got chillier. We wandered through the very charming downtown area, finding one of the neatest little used book stores I'd ever seen...seriously, even Brandon thought it was awesome.


And we also headed out to Half Moon Bay for some beach time with the rest of Brandon's teammates. It was only 55 degrees or so, but when you live in a landlocked state apparently you strip down and play in waves regardless. Well, the boys did. We parents mostly just stood on the sand and watched the boys play in the waves. I did take off my shoes and socks so I could feel the sand between my toes. Because, well...how often do I get to the beach?







And the meet that we were there for? Well that went well also. The Stanford Open is always one of my favorite meets to attend as a spectator and I think it's one of Brandon's favs to compete in as well. Pommel was a bit of a nemesis but other than that, I think Brandon felt pretty good about his routines.





This cool display is in a courtyard on campus in front of one of the buildings in the Graduate School of Business area right next door to the Burnham Pavillon where we were competing. The display is a bunch of colored cards that flip and make neat colored designs. It's actually rather fascinating to watch. A few years ago when we were attending the Stanford Open, we took some pictures in front of it....and decided that this year we needed to do another one. We didn't have our whole level 9 team with us, and some of the faces from a few years ago aren't with us anymore. But it was fun to do the same picture again.

2016:


2013: