Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter 2011

Happy Easter to everyone!

We snapped some pics before and after church (before with just the kids-John has those early meetings), then after with the whole fam. We weren't super matchy this year, but I am counting John's tie as the piece of fabric that ties us all together! ;)


It was quite rainy today, but we had the Mann Clan over which brought the sunshine. We locked the kids in my bedroom to watch a cartoon while the adults hid over 200 plastic eggs in our house. :) I got a real kick out of seeing the kids hunt. I am just loving our kids and the ages they are right now. Today was one of those days when I just want to freeze time. We ate a ton and enjoyed being together. A perfect Easter afternoon.
I am grateful for the miracle of the Empty Tomb that gives meaning to all of our relationships.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Campout-Hole in the Rock

John took Gabe and Jackson on a campout this weekend to an area near Blanding. There were lots of ancient cliff dwellings to see, as well as some important Mormon history. They saw the end of the Hole in the Rock trail, where some early Mormon settlers traversed this rugged canyonland. At the end of the trail when they finally made it out, the pioneers carved the words "We thank thee O God." You have to look kinda close to see it above the boys heads in this first pic. Pretty dang cool.


It was cool to see all the cliff dwellings they explored. I am not sure what those early writings on the wall were trying to say, but maybe they thanked God too for the beauty of their surroundings.








This was an Jackson's first campout. Typically, on a scout campout, no one under 11 or 12 goes, but because this was not an 'official' campout, John got to take Jackson along. He was THRILLED! I am so glad they got to go and it sounds like they had a really great time. With some of the stories (a suicidal burning pack rat, stuck trucks, sandy hikes, and scorpions) I think it is wisdom that these men camp without us women now and then.

I am very grateful that our boys got to learn some of the pioneer history of the area. It is amazing what early members of the church accomplished-knowing there had to be a way because they had been sent to do it. I love that!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Eat and Run

Today I had the pleasure of joining Jackson at school for lunch. Parents of the 2nd grade class were invited to attend, although why we were, I am still a little foggy on. Whatever the reason, I loved going to have lunch with him. He was very excited to see me and Jebb got to join us as well. Sunnyside is a great little school and I like going out there. Lunch was excellent as was the company!

I really liked how kids could volunteer to help clean up the cafeteria. There were 2 kids sweeping up the floors, another helping collect and clean silverware, and Jacks and Jebb got cloths to wipe down tables. I thought it was and outstanding idea to have kids involved that way.



This afternoon I got to enjoy seeing two more of my kiddos. Gabe and Seth were in another track meet. I got pics of Seth running a relay. Seth also ran the 800. When I asked him about his day I was incredibly proud of his attitude about his race. He said, "I did a fantastic job on the 800. I finished better this time than I did last time. I beat (the name of a kid) this time when he beat me last time. I also beat 3 kids that beat me last time from the other school." Now, Seth is not a fast runner of the 800. I was super glad that he didn't get bummed out that he wasn't the fastest, but was happy that he had improved since his last meet. It was a pleasant and refreshing response from him! :)

I enjoy seeing our kids being active and involved in good things!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Track

Today was a lovely day for a track meet. There was a meet at the middle school with Us, Miller, Bayfield, Cortez, and Pagosa all in attendance. It was fun to see the boys race. Darn it all, I think they got my genetics. I am slow, but springy. ;)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Elise's Orchestra Concert

Tonight I got to attend a lovely orchestra concert. Elise, our 5th grader, performed with a group made up from all the Elementary Schools in the district. They practice at their individual schools for weeks, then come together for one practice before performing for their families that night. They did really, really well! There are few things I enjoy more than watching one of my kids play in a concert!

Elise loved seeing her dear friend Afton. Since we switched to Sunnyside this year, she hasn't seen her near enough.

She also saw her friend Natalie from church. All three of these girls will be in Middle School together next year, and they are looking forward to being with one another.

Elise seemed overly concerned about her appearance while getting ready for this concert. "Mom, can you help me with my hair?" "Mom, should I wear this skirt?" "Mom, what color flower should I put into my hair?" I don't want to say that Elise is a mess, but I have to admit that in the past I have had times when it is difficult getting her to shower or brush her hair...
So I was kinda surprised at her new attention to her personal grooming. When we got to the concert, I noticed she was sitting next to a boy--hmmm-maybe that had something to do with it?? :)

Well, whatever the reason, she looked beautiful. And as usual, I loved watching her play!


I think there is a good chance she will stick with the violin at least through Middle School! Man, I hope so! :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Couches

Wow. It would seem that I am really scraping the bottom of the blogging barrel the day I write about my new couches. But if you know me and my issues with furniture, this post will make you proud. ;)

For about 4-5 years I have been working on getting new couches. At one point I got very serious about the whole thing. My sister Kim spent days with me in Salt Lake going from store to store looking for the right ones. That was 3 years ago. I found a sectional I liked on our hunt, sort of. I wanted it a little darker and when they told me the price for a custom order, I changed my mind and decided to wait a little longer.

I would look now and then, thinking I just needed to buy something, anything. But I would never commit. The old brown leather couches we had were over 12 years old and they were starting to fall apart. The leather was faded funny colors and the arms were not well attached. After gluing the arm of the loveseat on night, John told me it was time to get serious and find us a couch, or he would. That was over a year ago.

On one of our trips to AZ, a friend of mine told me about this store called Cortate Furniture. Everything was special order, but the prices were fantastic! They make just a little bit on each piece, and they don't have any couches sitting around waiting for a buyer, and they were located in a ratty old warehouse. They make their money with volume and to find what you want, you walk in and look at catalogs and fabric swatches. I found the whole thing to be somewhat overwhelming, yet the cheapskate in me knew that I had found the furniture store I had been searching for all these years.

I really, really wanted to order some couches, but my non-committal self started small.

I ordered a chair.

It was a fabric chair. Not just any fabric chair though, it was a chair with some beef to it. It was a scale well suited to our great room. It had a lifetime warranty on the frame and down filled cushions. Having done a little shopping for furniture all these years, I was completely blown away at the price. It was about 1/3 the price I was expecting and a fraction of the made-to-order boutique type chairs I had seen. Here's the chair (notice it came with not 1, but 2 down pillows as well-what a deal!):

It fit in really well with our house, as it was the same color as the cow fur we accessorize in. Yes, cow fur. I know, I know, but I live in the Wild West, remember?

The chair sat in our great room with our tired old brown leather couches. The scale of the chair made the couches seem even worse and I continued to feel the pressure to replace them.

I had the opportunity to go to Arizona for a couple of days with Elise back in February, and I decided this was it. I had to make it happen. I shopped at the Potato Barn which is another furniture store in Gilbert that I highly recommend. A slightly different business model, they have load of couches you can see and sit on, but they too keep their prices low and focus on volume. There I found a couch that I thought I liked. I sat on it. I walked around it. I looked at the details. I sat on it again. Ya, I was liking it.

So I went over to Cortate and asked to look at the catalogs. I found the frame similar to the one I liked, then I was referred to the fabric swatches. Oh crud. Do you know how hard it is to pick out a couch from a little fabric swatch? OK, now times that by a factor of 2583 and that is how hard it is for ME to pick out a fabric.

I decided to go the chicken route and picked the same fabric I had picked for our chair. Strangely, the combination was really similar to that couch 3 years ago that Kim had helped me find. But there was one thing different...the price! It was FANTASTIC!!! I was able to order 2 couches with down cushions and 4 additional down filled cushions for each. Once I knew the price, picking fabric swatches for the pillows was much easier. I knew that if it turned out poorly, I could just sell them and get something different.

So here they are!
See how the color of the cushions matches the cow fur? Yahoo! I really like the curvy arms and the big metal things.

I also like how they are large scale-it works better for this room. I was a little worried at how dark the leather was when compared to our dark floors, but I like it. In fact, I like it a lot! Yipee! I finally committed and I am so glad!

Here's one more pic from the loft looking down.
I know my sisters are especially glad because they don't have to waste any more of their lives hearing me fret about buying couches (not to mention the time they spent searching around with me!)

So maybe a post about my furniture is bottom of the barrel, but I am considering it the start of a new era. I finally turned the page and bought some new couches. I am ready to begin a whole new chapter in my sitting-around-the-house life. Did I mention how comfy those cushions are? I should have done this years ago!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Something for Sunday-Fasting

Today is what we call 'Fast Sunday.' It usually falls on the first Sunday of each month, but when we have General Conference, it gets bumped to the second. Contrary to what the name might suggest, we still meet for the entire 3 hour block (I laughed when Jebb recently asked me if this was a 'slow' Sunday or a 'fast' Sunday?) But as a congregation, and as a worldwide church, we meet together in a spirit of prayer and fasting (aka abstaining from food or drink for a prescribed length of time). By fasting, we are putting off our bodily appetites and making them submit to our spiritual nature. We believe that this helps us not only learn self control, but also show God that we are willing to tame our physical selves and yield to our higher selves in order to better commune with Him. This is a Sunday when we are encouraged to pray and ponder about specific things we'd like to improve or possibly petition the Lord for special blessings.

Prayer is an important component to any fast. We are encourage to fast 'with a purpose.' By having a purpose, our prayers and our fast become more meaningful. We can unite with others in our families and congregations to petition the Lord for blessings. It is a very unifying experience to fast with others for a common cause. In my life experience though, I am typically fasting for something I have chosen personally.

And while I have had many good experiences with fasting, too often I find that I am just...hungry. I want to eat. I get a headache. I look at the clock a lot wondering when I will be able to satisfy those hunger pangs. I often have a greatly diminished capacity for patience and loving kindness (ie I can get grumpy). Yes, while I like to fancy myself as being one who is mindful of her Spiritual Nature, often, I find that my Physical Nature can be quite assertive.

But I fast.

And I have done this consistently my whole life.

When I was younger I would sometimes forget. I would walk out to the kitchen in the morning only to find that my dad had remembered. He would string a piece of masking tape across the kitchen door upon which he would write the words 'Fast Sunday' in magic marker. Shoot. I hated it when I couldn't 'forget.' ;)

So yes, fasting has always been a part of my life. I skip breakfast and lunch each Sunday and when dinner comes, it tastes oh so good to finally eat!

This Fast Sunday I thought it would be appropriate to share a faith building experience that I have had so it could be entered into our family record. So here it is!

In 1998, Jack Gilleland (John's dad) decided he would take his posterity on a cruise. Yippee! Imagine how excited I was to have married one of his offspring! :) He selected a cruise that took us from Florida to Roatan, Belize, Cancun, and home again.
At this time we only had 2 kids, Gabe and Seth. They were pretty young and I hadn't really left them much. John decided that this would be a great opportunity for he and I to take a day together and he convinced his mom to agree to watch our kids.

When John and I were first married I had learned to scuba dive. We did several dives on our honeymoon in Hawaii, but then I started having babies, and hadn't dove since then. I still really considered myself a beginner so when John suggested we go diving, I was feeling a little nervous. I don't think it would have been so bad if John had wanted to do a casual, fun, recreational dive, but if you know my husband, you can guess what dive he wanted to do.

John wanted us to dive the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize. It is a giant circular sink hole that is 1000ft wide and 400 ft deep. It is quite an anomaly and is a famous dive spot. Around 120 feet down in the blue hole, there are, around the edges, a bunch of stalagmites and stalactites. Until you get to this depth, there is really nothing to see except for the walls of the hole. So when you do this dive, you don't add any air to your vest so that you will drop straight down to this depth. Because you are so deep, your dive time is greatly shortened. A tank of air that would normally last 30-40 minutes only lasts 10-12. Therefore, you are encouraged to drop down as fast as you can, then slowly make your way back up, keeping an eye on your depth and your air, as you don't want to ascend too fast (causing damage to your body) or too slow (causing you to run out of air).

When I took my certification classes we learned that the recreational dive limit for depth was 60 feet. To go any deeper, you required additional deep water classes and certification. The maximum depth any diver should ever go was 130 feet. Any deeper and you should have special mixed gas or you can have problems with your body decompressing without injury.

So ya, this was a dive that was WAY out of my comfort zone. I felt extremely apprehensive about it. John's complete lack of concern though persuaded me to go. I reread my dive manual about 5 times so I would remember all of the things i had learned in my certification courses. I kept coming back to a few paragraphs about Nitrogen Narcosis. I will put the Wikipedia definition here:

Narcosis while diving (also known as nitrogen narcosis, inert gas narcosis, raptures of the deep, Martini effect), is a reversible alteration in consciousness that occurs while scuba diving at depth. The Greek word ναρκωσις (narcosis) is derived from narke, "temporary decline or loss of senses and movement, numbness", a term used by Homer and Hippocrates.[2] Narcosis produces a state similar to alcohol intoxication or nitrous oxide inhalation, and can occur during shallow dives, but usually does not become noticeable until greater depths, beyond 30 meters (100 ft).

The condition is completely reversed by ascending to a shallower depth with no long-term effects. For this reason, narcosis while diving in open water rarely develops into a serious problem as long as the divers are aware of its symptoms and ascend to manage it. Diving beyond 40 m (130 ft) is considered outside the scope of recreational diving: as narcosis and oxygen toxicity become critical factors, specialist training is required in the use of various gas mixtures such as trimix or heliox.


My dive handbook warned that divers have been known to do crazy things like take off their masks to give them to the fish. Most commonly though it can cause euphoria and a loss of judgement (they compare it to being very drunk). Obviously, it is not a good thing to have at depth. But it is immediately reversed by simply ascending.

So we prepared to dive. John was my 'dive buddy' or the person you keep with during your dive. You always stay with your buddy and check with them occasionally to make sure everything is all right. You can do this using simple sign language. John asked me if I was all right and I assured him I was fine, although I was super nervous. I figured once I got in the water I would remember everything about diving like a fish riding a bike.

We got in the ocean and began our rapid descent. You have to equalize the pressure in your head as you go down so your eardrums are happy. John was having a little trouble, so we were descending slower than everyone else in our group. I was very aware of our timing and my anxiety was growing. 70 feet, 80 feet. It starts to get a little dark at this depth, and being in a giant shaft didn't help. 90 feet, 100 feet. Getting darker. 110, 120.

It was fairly dark and hard to see much at this depth. I noticed though that I didn't feel as anxious. I felt pretty darn good. I stopped my descent and added a touch of air to my vest so I would maintain my depth. I looked around at the walls and saw the stalagmites and stalactites. Yeah baby. I was liking this.

John descended right after me and pointed at a rock formation. I smiled. I waved.

He came over to me and flashed me the OK sign. I flashed back.

I felt OK. Really OK. But I was feeling very confined all of the sudden.

I had an almost overwhelming desire to take off my mask and remove my respirator.

I had a very surreal moment. It was almost like my consciousness was split in two. There was part of me that was feeling funky and NEEDED to get rid of all this gear, and a part of me that was almost looking on, realizing that was CRAZY!!!! An internal battle immediately began to rage. My hand came up to my respirator and physically started pulling it out of my mouth. My teeth clamped down hard on the mouthpiece, preventing my hand from pulling it out. I was literally engaged in a tug-of-war with myself 120 feet under water.

John later said my eyes got enormous and he wondered what was wrong. He again flashed me the OK sign.

This time I shook my head 'NO!' and circled my ear with my finger making the sign for 'CRAZY!'

John looked confused. I started to panic. I really, really, really felt an almost overwhelming NEED to remove all of my scuba gear. And by almost overwhelming, I felt like in another minute I would not be able to stop myself from shedding all of it. I knew it didn't make sense, but I didn't care. I had to get it off!

I took a deep breathe and said the world's fastest, deepest, underwater prayer.

I instantly knew I had Nitrogen Narcosis and I remembered that it is immediately cured by simply ascending.

I again started tugging at my respirator, while my teeth bit down hard to stop me from removing it. It was the most bizarre feeling to be physically fighting with myself and my will. My other hand reached down and pushed the button that inflated my dive vest, causing me to be more buoyant. I started to ascend. Slowly. I started feeling more freaked out as I got my senses back. As I ascended to 100ft, then 90, 80, 70, the realization of what almost just happened began to sink in. I also realized that I needed to slow my ascent and let my body adjust. I stopped at 50 feet and just paused for a minute.

I wanted to scream, to cry, to wig out like I would on land. But I was still underwater and I felt a calming come over me. I knew just what to do. I paused a little longer, then continued ascending. I got to 10 feet and paused again to adjust, before coming to the surface.

I was the first one up and the captain of our boat was surprised I was there already. He helped me out of the water and asked me if I was all right. I nodded. I sat down on the boat bench and breathed deep, slow breathes of air. I felt so relieved to be above water. I took off my gear and stowed it away then sat back down again. I sat alone to wait for the other divers to break the surface.

In that moment I had a distinct and strong, though completely unexpected impression come to my mind. The Spirit whispered to me that I had been able to maintain enough control over my body because I had observed the Law of the Fast all my life. And because of this, I had lived. It wasn't so much in words that I heard it, but it was more like I just completely understood that idea. It was a connection I would have never logically made in that moment (fasting and Scuba Diving???), but I knew it to be true.

Absolutely true.

I had lived through that experience because I had observed the Law of the Fast and because of that I had an increased measure of control over my body. And frankly, I don't think that's the type of experience I would have lived through otherwise. My physical self submitted to my spiritual self.

CRAZY!!

I stayed on the boat during the second dive over the reef. I rocked on the waves feeling grateful and reverent. I savored the color of the water and the feeling of the warm sun on my skin. I smelled the ocean and watched the seagulls. I felt gratitude for the ability I had to continue experiencing the beauty of the earth with my body. I was happy to be alive and well! :)

And I was grateful for the power of prayer. I was glad to know that God can hear us even when we are underwater! I was also grateful for the things we can learn and understand outside of our 5 physical senses. And I was grateful for the Law of the Fast. Who knew it would be so important in the middle of the ocean 120 feet down?!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Family Pictures in Page

While in Page for Rex's baptism, we decided it would be a good opportunity to take some family pictures. Right down the road from the Martin's house is the golf course overlooking beautiful cliffs and canyons. Gorgeous for family pictures. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side...
Crazy! It was cold, windy, and even snowy! We were not deterred! I took a practice pic of John, then set up the tripod.

I couldn't quite figure out the timer, and everyone was getting chilly fast.

Luckily, I got it set, and we got our first few pics.
We tried the spread out shot. Too Cold.

So we tried the hugging shot.
Because the wind was blowing, we tried rotating the camera a little bit. I still hadn't perfected the timer technique.
We tried a crouching parent, freezing children shot.

Did I mention how chilly that wind was?
So we took one more before I let the kids run to the nearby car.

Elise and Gabe took a few pics of John and I. That crazy wind.

That crazy husband!

We decided to call it good.

I asked the kids if they would be willing to have their individual shots taken. They were all game for it. They would jump out of the car one at a time and I took some awesome shots of them. Elise went first.

Then Seth.
Then it was Gabe's turn. John was cracking us up.

After Gabe we took some adorable pics of Jackson and Jebb. I was so pleased at how cooperative everyone was. When we finally packed it in and went back to Nicole's warm house. I downloaded my pictures and found a bunch that looked similar to this:

Apparently my memory card was fried. I was SO sad!! It is not everyday that I get the whole family to indulge me in a photo shoot. I gave it a few hours for the kids to warm up, then begged them to let me take a few pictures in Nicole's yard where the wind was fairly blocked.

Jackson

Jebb

Then a few more of Seth. He even struck a 'serious' pose


I wish I was a great photographer so I could capture these kids in a way that shows just how darn cute they all are! I also wish I could capture some of the beauty of the desert around Page. It is my all time favorite scenery. When I look at these pictures I feel blessed and grateful for the diverse earth and for my groovy family!!