Friday, February 22, 2013

Valentine's Day

What do you think of Valentine's Day? Is it a made-up day to force people into buying flowers and chocolate? Is it a day for romance and amor? For me, it's a day to decorate with my favorite colors and show my family I think they're pretty cool. I like having a special day to celebrate the love of family and friends.

I don't do anything fancy but I do enjoy setting a festive table.

Woo! It's a heart attack!

I gave each kid a little pressie of candy and gum. Can you believe I got each of these things for 25 cents on clearance at Fresh and Easy?

I started off the morning teaching seminary. I say that I "taught" but we really had a party, planned by the class. I brought these treats for the kids. I exercised super-human restraint by passing up all FOUR doughnut boxes brought in. When you're trying to be healthy the world is out to get you.

Kettle corn.
I taught a short lesson on love, using my favorite visual for John 3:16. And then I got a surprise from my sweet student, Ashley--a Valentine card for me!

It was the teacher card!
 For breakfast I bought Toaster Strudel and made an egg, sausage, and potato casserole in the crock pot. I, of course, had a smoothie.


That night I made my piece de resistance, LUVSAGNA. I waited all month to spring that delightfully fitting-sounding menu item on my family.

Luv it.
For dinner I gave everyone a small box of chocolates (Ghiradelli squares for Bryce). I continued my tradition of giving each person a special card wherein I write three things I love about them.

I just realized I didn't take any pictures of the people I love, which is kind of ironic for someone who professes to be a fan of Valentine's Day. The twins brought cards to school (Star Wars for Harrison, The Avengers for Cam). They had fun class parties and ate a lot of sugar. Mary had a fairly normal junior high day. Tyce brought flowers and a chocolate bar for his valentine, a friend named Jessica. I picked him up that day for an appointment and nearly every kid I saw was carrying balloons or stufffed animals. I guess having a one-day valentine is a big thing at his school.

As for Bryce and me, we went out on Monday to lunch and a movie--spicy chicken salads at Pei Wei and then Les Miserables again. That was our celebration and it's a good thing we did it early because Bryce got the stomach virus the kids had suffered from and wasn't feeling his best for days after. We sure enjoyed being together though and there's no one I'd rather have be my valentine than Bryce.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sock Monkeys

Cameron has his beloved sock monkey, Bob, and a small sock monkey named Steve. Harrison had no interest in these creatures until Cam got his, and our friend Michele was nice enough to give Harrison a small one (a match for Steve!) on a visit to her house. He named him Steve as well (or Joey or Jimmy. It depends on the day). These boys are definitely in to their sock monkeys and play with them every day.

Tonight they decided to make costumes for their animals.

Cameron with Bob, outfitted with a mask, cape, and "arm and leg shields".
Harrison with Steve. He has a mask and a yellow cape.

The boys flew their monkeys off the ledge. That's where the capes came in.
Rough landings--good thing they had their shields.

They are very good to their sock monkeys.

It is very sweet to see how much they enjoy playing. Harrison is game for whatever's fun but Cameron really and truly loves his Bob. He sleeps with him every night, talks about him, asks me to take him to the store when Cam's at school (which I accidentally did once, when Cam shoved Bob in my purse), and calls him his best friend. I don't think I've ever seen him so attached to a lovey before.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Try, Try Again (aka A Most Embarrassing Moment and a Lesson Learned)

My very first week in Young Women as a frightened 12-year-old I volunteered to lead the music. This was something I knew I could do and in a small way I wanted to show off for the older girls. I stood by the piano and raised my arm. The hymn was "Come, Come Ye Saints"  and if you don't know, it switches from 4/4 time to 3/4 time several times within the verse. The song began just fine but didn't stay that way long. The time changes, coupled with my nervousness, resulted in very choppy, incorrect, and desperate conducting. I was disappointed I hadn't done better when I knew I could do it perfectly! But it appeared that no one really noticed because their heads were buried in their hymnbooks. My leaders gave me a "good job" smile as I sat back down. I breathed a sigh of relief.

I went on to lead music many more times without incident.

Then when I was about 14 I went to a Sunday-night devotional called a fireside. This was a stake event for all the youth in our area. I was asked to lead the music, to which I gladly agreed. When it was time for the opening hymn I stood up and opened my book. We were to sing "Carry On", a hymn I did not know well. As the piano played the introduction I looked out on the congregation, smiling. I waited for my cue to begin. I waited . . . and waited. The piano just kept playing. And then I was hit with a terrible panic: You missed your cue. You were supposed to start singing. Or maybe you're supposed to start singing now?

I was confused and too terrified to make eye contact with the pianist. I listened to the piano and thought that I'd bring the group in . . . now. That seemed right. With a swoop of my hand the people obediently followed me and began to sing, "Firm as the mountains around us, Stalwart and brave we stand --"


I heard the music end, the notes pricking my mind with uncomfortable clarity: I had a problem.

It was the longest piano introduction in the history of hymns, practically the entire song, and now it was time to start. For real.

The congregation train-wrecked the end of the stanza and then started over, at my direction, "Firm as the mountains around us--"

I was so mortified. Because I was a teenager, everything I felt was raw and personal and intense and it would have been a blessing for me to have shriveled up and died.

After the opening prayer, imagine my dismay when the stake president praised me for my perseverance.

"We can all learn something from young Sister Cook," he said. "She made a mistake and everyone followed her. She obviously had no idea what she was doing but she just pressed forward. I mean, she really, really screwed up! But she finally got it right in the end. It was pretty brutal but what a lesson we can all learn from her. Great job!"

(These were not his actual words but that's how they fell on my ears.)

Oh my goodness, I really did want to melt into the floor.

But I didn't, and I survived.

I thought of this story as I sat by the organ last week, ready to sub for our regular ward chorister. Here I was, a 38-year-old woman, in the same position I was when I was 14, ready to stand and lead a congregation in the singing of hymns. I began to feel grateful that I hadn't given up when things had gotten hard, or I was humiliated, or hadn't succeeded. I was grateful that people had let me try and fail, and let me try again. In fact, they lifted me and praised me in my most embarrassing hour. And that got me thinking about life in general.

I've been blessed with supportive family and friends who believe in me. When I fall they encourage me to get back up and try again. And we all have a Savior who watches us try and fail, but does He ever stop cheering us on? No--He never stops!

He knows that we won't be perfect, that we'll make mistakes, that we'll feel disappointed, discouraged, embarrassed, or afraid. But as many times as we pick ourselves up He is there to help brush off the dust. When we struggle with things we can pray and He will give us strength--sometimes that comes in the words of a scripture, a friend who does a kind deed, or a feeling of peace and conviction that helps set us on the right path. I have felt that strength many times, especially on the weightier matters of mortality I have yet to master. But He gives me chance after chance and each time I try, I get a little better.

He said: Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isaiah 41:10)

He is with us always, through trials and triumphs and everything else in between.

And that is music to my ears.