Sunday, February 18, 2018

Find the Missing Peace {New Beginnings}

About an hour before my January Young Women's leader meeting, I was reminded I needed to be thinking of ideas for our upcoming New Beginnings. In a panic, I paced around the house trying to muster some kind of useful thought to present as a valiant effort towards the cause. I wanted it to be fun, fresh, unique, lively, and captivating. 

I desperately searched online and found few cute ideas to go with the mutual theme of the year, "Peace in Christ." I continued to pace, muttering words to myself like a maniac, trying to muster up something clever to make the theme "Peace in Christ" memorable. 

Holding Jonah while speed lapping around the house, I kept trying to pull from fun things I had done recently to see if I could turn any of them into an idea. I kept going back to escape rooms and our recent experience with Lockbox Mysteries. I love the interaction and thrill of everyone working together towards a common goal, plus they're really trendy right now, so I was confident the girls would be interested in something like that. But no matter how I spun it, I couldn't figure out how to tie it into the theme Peace in Christ! I paced some more. 

Literally minutes before I was due at my meeting, I yelled, "MISSING PEACE! FIND THE MISSING PEACE!" With my arms still full of Jonah, I ran over to Jeff and demanded that he write down the phrase I had just screamed before I had time to forget it. 

And so the idea was born. 
I instantly loved it and had such a fun time playing pseudo-criminal as I crafted clues and evidence to track my path. It had to have been slightly unsettling for Jeff to watch his wife begin to collect hoards of letter clippings out of magazines, but he faithfully stayed by my side. 
Allow me to take you through the night. It began with each girl picking up her badge at a table outside the door to the gym. The badges included a space for the girls to write down a code name just for fun, and a value they are "specialized in," in other words, a value they feel best represents what they focused on over the last year. These proved to be perfect icebreakers as the girls peeked at each other's code names and asked about them. 
We did the opening song, prayer, theme, and introduction of the new beehivees without any interruption of clues or a criminal chase. I got up to introduce camp, and with that, I jumped into the theme. I acted like we were at an agent meeting and needed to solve the case of the missing peace. I updated them on important certification dates (girls camp), and brought the new girls up to give them "evidence bags." These were just brown paper bags that said Evidence on them. Inside were their Personal Progress books, and all the pamphlets and manuals for youth. I explained that these were their tools to help them find the peace we were looking for. 

This is where we went full force into the hunt. After I explained everything in the evidence bags, I said, "There might be a clue in there too if you look very carefully." Inside each bag, I had a picture of a folding chair. We had 3 new girls, so there were 3 folding chairs. 

This led everyone to start looking under their chairs. Before long, 3 people had found envelopes under their chairs. They came up with their envelope which each held 1/3rd of a paper reading "Maybe you should check the box with many keys but zero locks." 
This led them to the piano. Get it? Many keys. Zero locks? Behind the piano there was a little suitcase I got from Amazon:
Secret Agent Spy Party Supplies - Empty Favor Boxes (4)

In the suitcase, there was a key. The girls immediately ran over to the lock that was connecting the two doors of the partition...only to discover that lock did not accept a key. We asked the audience if anyone saw something that required a key to open it. A few observant audience members pointed to a small safe hidden in the corner under the refreshments table.

The key opened the safe. In the safe, we found a list of the girls' names that explained, "The agents' names are listed here. To get the next clue they must share, Something that they did last year. Follow the order the names appear."

The girls each got up for 1-2 minutes to share something they worked on in Personal Progress over the last year. As each girl finished her speaking part, I handed her an envelope that read, "Do not open until the last girl has spoken."

The last girl got her envelope and sat down. Everybody looked at me, but I stayed in my seat. One of the girls said, "What do we do now?" I replied, "Has the last girl spoken?" I got a few nods. "Then you may open."

The girls ripped open their envelopes. Inside, each girl had a little magnifying glass, some with a letter written on it, and some blank ones. They went up to the front table to see what happened when they put all the magnifying glasses together. They soon realized they needed to unscramble a word, but the spaces were throwing them off.

I put blank ones in so each girl would get a magnifying glass, but they thought the blank ones were spaces. I had to hint to them the blank ones were throwaways, and then they were able to unscramble the word: Mini 2" Magnifying Glasses Plastic Pocket Children Detective Explorer Crafts Colorful Party Favors (72 Pack)
At first they were looking around the room for scriptures and then I asked them if it said "scriptures" or "scripture?" That was just the prompt they needed to look to the mutual theme scripture of the year. In a beautiful, unplanned moment, one of the girls read the scripture in front of the audience: Doctrine & Coventants 19:23 - “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me”

After a little pondering, they realized the scripture provided them four numbers and they needed four numbers to unlock the lock on the partition. Light bulbs went off and they began plugging 1-9-2-3 into the lock. All the girls were huddled around the lock, and I heard one of them say, "Well that didn't work."

This caused me to panic for a minute, because it was supposed to open the lock. They realized they entered the code wrong. *Whew!* And then we heard excited shrieks as they discovered they had cracked the code. The girls swung the doors open to reveal our "Peace in Christ" room.

The girls stood around in awe for a minute clearly pleased and reflective upon how our chase had led us to Christ. Then one of the girls said, "That was like an escape room!" Which was just what I was going for, so that was the moment I considered the activity a success. Then another girl said, "How did you get the numbers on the lock?" Then I turned to the parents and said, "The real mystery of the evening."

Then the Young Women President got up to introduce the theme "Peace in Christ." She explained how sometimes we find ourselves searching all over, trying to find peace, when the only true source of peace can be found through Christ. It was a beautiful message and it tied everything together perfectly.

We ended right at the hour mark which was my second indicator of a successful evening. We all enjoyed strolling along the back wall to get to know the girls better as we checked out their displays while scarfing down a slice of cheesecake.
I had such a fun time putting this together, and I think it was enjoyed by both the young women and the parents! It was fun to make the evening interactive and to play along with the theme. I love it when a plan comes together!

All Aboard!

Carson has developed an adorable obsession. 
Whenever he finds a box large enough to plop a baby, a baby he does plop. And then said baby experiences an afternoon of high adventure while Carson seems to just genuinely appreciate giving Jonah a thrill.

As this was first becoming a thing, I expressed a lot of concern to Carson. I explained that Jonah was going to get scared, or warned the weight distribution in the box presented a high risk of tipping, or cautioned that Jonah could accidentally get pushed down the stairs. Carson persisted despite my warnings, and I have been proven wrong time and time again. Carson takes such good care of his little brother on their joy rides and it's become their thing.

Jonah contently participates as passenger while Carson cautiously slides him here, there and everywhere.  About once a week I find them using various boxed items as a vehicle, and now I think I love it as much as they do!
A favorite was when they finally put the toy kitchen Lincoln got for Christmas to good use by turning it into a "rocket ship." 

The rides often involve tours around the house to stop and inspect various views together. 
Often Carson will throw in some pillows or toys to keep Jonah comfortable during his travels. 
Carson is always so sweet and caring with his *youngest* little brother. It's a joy to watch their relationship and love for each other grow. Fingers crossed that they keep this contention-less bond between them forever.

Jonah 9 + 10 Months

This little face scruncher keeps getting older. 
His 9th month of life was largely spent learning how to theatrically smile for various audiences. Here's what else the last two months have brought the little guy:
  • Crawled right at the 9-month mark.
  • Says "dada," "uh-oh" and a noise that roughly resembles "all done." Still no "mama."
  • Is currently mastering the stairs. He's a pro going up, and a thrill seeker going down -- meaning he purposely falls all the way down the stairs, giggling with each tumble. (We are always there to spot his falls, but we do let him experience assisted falls to try to teach him what not to do. So far our teaching methods have backfired.)
  • He's already trying to switch to one nap a day by regularly boycotting his afternoon naps.
  • He is still unbelievably happy and smiley.
  • We had him sleeping through the night for about two weeks and then he got sick and regressed.
  • He's getting his two top teeth.
  • He loves meat, crackers, applesauce, yogurt bites, broccoli, and tortellini noodles. 
  • If he's fed and rested, he happily roams the house fairly independently.
  • He loves keeping up with his brothers and laughing at all the silly things they do for him. 

We love our Joney Jones!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

30 + 3 = Lincoln and Me!

I tell you every time our birthdays roll around that I love to go and do fun things on our birthdays. We are generally major homebodies who refuse to pay for any kind of activity, so the one time I'm willing to splurge is to celebrate our annual aging milestone. 

The day before my birthday, I decided we needed to go to The Ice Castles for my birthday. As birthday luck would have it, our Bess friends were free and willing to make the trip with us...until we realized halfway through the drive we would be caught in a treacherous blizzard. I don't know if they remained as willing (because we certainly changed our minds), but we powered through and made it to our location where the weather was ideal and the birthday celebrations could commence. 

I had wanted to go here for the last 2-3 years so you could say it was a dream come true!

My favorite part was the ice slides. And the time I went down one wearing Jonah in a baby carrier and as I unsteadily slipped/sat down at the top, at least three people behind me said, "Woah!" With an undertone of, "Lady, are you sure you should be going down this ice slide with a baby strapped to you?" Yes. It's my BIRTHDAY so BACK OFF!
It was such a fun birthday outing and another thing off the bucket list.
I am 30, people. T-H-I-R-T-Y. After experiencing my first day of being 30 without a single mid-life crisis, I assessed that I mourn Jeff's old age rather than my own. Ha! Jeff is 5 years older than me, and I remember being really freaked out when he turned 30. Now he's practically FORTY (35 is almost 40 if you ask me), so with each birthday I celebrate, I feel younger and younger. Ya hear that, single ladies? Marry the old ones. It's like the fountain of youth.
Our next excursion was to celebrate Linker Lou turning 3! 
We went to a bounce house with our Bess friends again because, well, we all have a built-in Bess friend to hang out with when we're together, so it's the Bess(t)! Okay, I took that one too far.

Meanwhile at the bounce house, Lincoln and Holland were in full party mode? 
Awwww. I love them.
I made Lincoln a Lightning McQueen cake that was actually supposed to be a Mater cake but Amazon never delivered the Mater I ordered. The one time Amazon has failed me. Huff.
We ate meatballs several months ago for dinner and Lincoln devoured them. When he said his bedtime prayers that night, this was his prayer:
"Dear Heavenly Father, meatballs, meatballs, meatballs, meatballs, meatballs, meatballs, Amen."

That's how we came to determine meatballs was his favorite meal and would be served at his birthday dinner. He also LOVES broccoli (woot, woot) so some of that too.

A few days before his birthday, I was explaining to him that he was about to turn 3. His reaction to this news was to turn around in circles until he fell to the floor while saying, "I'm turning 3!" Here he was "turning" 3 on his birthday.

Lincoln! He's spunky, he's smart, he's loyal, he's sweet, he's a cuddle bug, he's sassy, he's easy going, he's fun loving, he's everything we need him to be! We love you, Lincoln!

Surgery + January Funnies

You know, I haven't said much about this on the blog because I try to think about my boys as teenagers reading the blog and the level of embarrassment they would feel with the things I share about their lives on the internet, and this is one of those touchy areas. 

I will say no more than Jonah was birthed with a minor defect called hypospadias. Google if you dare. It's not gross per se, but it does involve the nether regions. It is 100% treatable with surgery, so to surgery we did go. 

Here is Jonah tired, starving, about to be sliced open, and still an absolute angel. He's a dream. 
When we went back to see Jonah after surgery, he had 3 nurses (who weren't even his nurses) swooning over him and his adorable, groggy sweetness.
He was a champ!
The evening of his surgery was a little rough, but the day after surgery Jonah hardly even acted uncomfortable. He just went about his life like it was nothing. However, 48 hours after surgery, we had to remove his bandages and that was a sad day. One crummy day was really the worst of it though. He quickly bounced right back to his happy self!
Enough about the nether regions, let's move on to laughing together about the silly things my kids have done.

Eli brought home this spelling test:
I don't have the whole story, but my guess is the teacher told the class to spell "tie," Eli thought, "I don't know how to spell tie," so he went with the closest thing he did know how to spell, "rope."

Carson and Lincoln spent an afternoon mining.
I had been pestering the boys to get their thank you notes written for their Christmas gifts. Eli has been working on his typing in school, so he asked if he could type his thank you notes. Just desperate for him to get any kind of appreciation out to his gifters, I agreed. This is what Eli wrote:

Thanks for the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
To: Grandma and Grandpa
From: Eli

He got it all typed up and printed, and then I reminded him he needed to send a thank you to his other grandparents. He lit up and said, "I can just print the same thing again!"
When his practically identical notes were printed, he noticed a lot of white space on the page, leaving his conscious feeling a touch guilty. He pulled out some of my craft supplies, but just ended up cutting even more corners in his thank you note project. (This time literally.)
Carson and I went on a mommy date to the burger joint I used to work at in high school. Never has he thought I was cooler than in that moment. He then proclaimed he wanted to work at the same place when he grew up.
They won't all fit in the bath for much longer!
My boys have recently discovered "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." One afternoon they were talking about it and I dropped the bombshell that I had diaries just like Greg Heffley. They looked at me with as much longing disbelief as if I had told them I turned into a ninja after they went to bed. They refused to believe I was cool enough to have a real version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I had them on the hook, so I went and grabbed all of my elementary school journals.

When I wrote those journals all those years ago, I envisioned my kids one day reading them. As life brought me boy after boy, I slowly lost hope that they'd ever express any interest in my preteen written ramblings. It was a sweet moment to have my boys enthralled in that part of my life that I had wrongly assumed would be lost on the boy-ness of my kids.
Carson built an impressive fort all by himself for Lincoln and Jonah one morning. 
I was given a crown at the end of a Young Women's lesson one Sunday. I laughed as I accepted it and tried to predict which boy would be bold enough to own the crown. Carson had the most interest, but the overwhelming pink curved his urges to try it on. Lincoln, however, had no reservations.
I came downstairs one morning to find Carson sitting on the kitchen island, waiting to announce, "It looks like a stocking, right, Mom?!?"
Jonah learned how to stand up in his crib. Which means 1) We need to lower his crib, and 2) I've spent most of nap time repeatedly (and gently) knocking him over.
 He's slow to settle down after he gleefully waves at me each time I enter the room to reposition him. Makes it hard to be mad at his persistence. He also insists on throwing his binky over the edge each time he stands up. Cute little stinker!