Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Smart Conference

A few months after my birthday I redeemed my "big" present from Lee.  He bought tickets for us to attend the Smart Conference in Orlando, the middle of April.  Thankfully we had been saving vacation money for the summer anyway, and it worked out that we had the funds already to pay for our trip to Orlando too.  Lois watched our kids that weekend as we spend two days in Florida.  I must say, it's so nice that the BWI airport is practically 15 minutes from her house.  Even during rush hour.  The perks of living in a city! 

This is where we parted paths with Lois.  As soon as we arrived at her house we shooed the kids out of the van, and Lois hopped in.  I didn't want to miss our flight.  We timed things just right.
April 15 2016

We had an uneventful trip down which was great.  I didn't realize that the car rental place wasn't at the airport.  We had to wait for a shuttle.  At first I was annoyed that I hadn't looked into that further.  But after we got our car (they let us use a Nissan Rogue which was pretty fun!) we realized our hotel was just about 4 blocks away.  That was great!  We stopped at Taco Bell for a second dinner and headed to the hotel. 
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The Smart Conference started at 8:30 and went till almost 6:00pm.  I thought if we left at 7:30 we would have a half hour to park and get to our seats.  Lee missed his exit and we decided to take the very next one.  That was a bad idea.  That exit led directly to the church for the event.  I think everyone at the exit was going to the church that morning for the conference.  We parked about 8:15 or so and ran inside.  We made it to our seats, whew!  The church seats 6000 people, so it was huge.  We were on the second row down front and center.  Pretty awesome.  The music was super loud though, but it was worth having the terrific seating. Ramsey Solutions put on a fantastic event that day.  There was a band, some giveaways, and we found out about Rachel Cruze's new book.  I knew she was writing one, but wasn't allowed to reveal the title yet. This conference was her big reveal.  I was excited to find out what the book would be about when Rachel spoke.  Funny thing though, if I would have flipped through the booklet they gave us, I would have seen the book advertisement right in there!
April 16 2016 Smart Conference Orlando FL

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To give you perspective of where we sat.
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Big church, right?!
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Rachel spoke about contentment, which was really good.
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There were a few breaks that day.  The first one we walked around to use the bathroom.  This church has some separate buildings.  We finally exited the main building of the church and found the youth center.  I didn't have to wait in line at all for the facilities.  When I came back out others had the same idea and there were about 20 ladies already inline!  Weird story, I know. But there are always lines for the ladies' restroom and it was nice avoiding that!

Lee and some guy played a quick game.  Too bad they didn't have ping pong. 
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There were 10 speakers that day for the conference.  They talked about almost every aspect of life: parenting, finances, marriage, relational boundaries, living life intentionally, life balance, personal development, contentment, and retirement. This guy here, Chris Hogan, spoke on retirement.  Loved what he had to say.  He gave a powerful "speech" at the end about the importance of being prepared for retirement so that we can live our dreams, serve, and be there for our family.  It was great.  The first speaker of the conference was Les Parrot.  He talked about marriage and was hilarious.  It would be really fun to go to one of his own conferences.  Henry Cloud spoke on having healthy boundaries and told some funny stories too.  I love hearing personal experiences.
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With the backstage experience we had lunch, and then a Q&A with the speakers.  They asked the people that would be attending the lunch what questions they had. We each received a free book too, The Total Money Makeover.  I have a copy already, but it actually worked out to get two more.  I give them away as wedding presents and I actually had just run out.  Nice timing!
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I was holding up my phone to take a picture of the panel group and Chris Hogan tapped the screen for me, which was funny.  The photo was really blurry. 
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Here is the line-up of speakers.  They asked one of my questions!  It was basically how can I teach my kids to find a good spouse.  Henry Cloud, second in from the right answered it.  After Dr. Cloud gave his answer (one thing he said was make sure your kid is independent...can't remember what else!) Dave was confused about the question.  He thought it was for me to find a good spouse.  I said something about already having one, and we have five kids, and Lee raised his hand showing that he was the spouse.  Anyway, it was kind of funny. The banter between the panel was fun too. 
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Meg Meeker spoke on fatherhood and how crucial our fathers are to our society.  There are so many problems in the world today, and so many ineffective government/school solutions to the symptoms of the problems.  What would fix many societal "problems" that we have is if parents had a good strong marriage, and taught their kids to be a good citizen, choose the right, and help others. She didn't say that specifically, those are my thoughts, but she did touch on that.  Problems of society are reflections of problems in the home....or no home at all.
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After the conference we exited the side door and I saw Dave Ramsey coming out.  I asked if I could get a picture with him and the guy leading him out said walk and talk.  Lee snapped a quick photo.  It was nice of Dave to oblige since he obviously didn't want to stop and chat.  He was on a mission to leave.  It was really windy.
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In all, it was a fabulous conference.  It would be so fun to go again in a few years with family and friends.  I've read one of Dr. Cloud's books, two of Dr. Meg Meeker's, of course Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze and am almost done with Chris Hogan's "Retired Inspired" book.  I listen to Chris Brown's radio show occasionally too.  Anyway, it was fun seeing these people in person and hearing them speak.

We found a cute little sandwich shop and ate dinner there. We drove around and found the night-life party place of Orlando (well this one anyway) while trying to find an ice cream place.  The one we wanted to go to was in Universal Studios.  On the way back to the hotel we saw a Walmart and stopped to get food for Sunday and our trip home, plus some Ben & Jerry's for ice cream.  We should have found a regular grocery store.  No joke, we were waiting inline for at least 15 minutes.  Probably 20 or more.  It was so busy.
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We attended a nearby church for Sunday services.  Apparently the church building had undergone a renovation and the members had been in the church building only about 4 weeks since completion.  What started out as a small renovation, turned into a three year fix when they found extensive termite damage!  We chatted with the Bishop after Sunday School.  We told him were were there for a conference put on by Dave Ramsey and he said he loved Dave's principles and taught them to the members that sought out food or financial help from the church.  When he became Bishop (like a pastor) over his congregation, $150,000 was being giving out in funds to help the members a year.  He worked with those seeking assistance and whittled that number down to $10,000 a year by teaching them to live the money principles that Dave teaches.  So cool!

After lunch at the hotel we found the Orlando temple.  We spent time there walking around, talking to family on the phone, and read our scriptures.  We hoped to go to the Orlando temple that weekend, but our schedule didn't line up.

A friend of mine from our ward taught a lesson a few weeks back in our women's group--Relief Society.  She told a story of how when the Orlando temple was built there was a lot of opposition from the community.  And even after it was completed there were vandalism problems.  When she was Stake Relief Society President down in Orland she attended the temple one morning and wondered why the front glass doors were covered up.  She saw her counselor in the temple and asked her what happened.  The counselor said that someone had come by and shot the front doors with a machine gun.  But the church just fixed the problem and kept moving forward.  There wasn't any hoopla about this particular event.  The work of God will keep going onward and forward! When I served a mission in LA there were certain things we would recite together as missionaries.  One of them was the end of the Wentworth Letter Joseph Smith wrote to an editor at a Chicago Newspaper...click on this to read.  Here is the end of the letter that we would recite: "the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear; till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done."
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April 17 2016 Orlando FL

I also worked on my blogs that day and we talked again with more family.  We left early Monday morning (security was CRAZY at the Orlando airport!) and arrived back safely in Baltimore.

Cal had a field trip that day to the National Aquarium, so Lee and Cal went to the aquarium for a couple of hours.  He even saw his class for a little bit. After that we drove to Pittsburgh, then home.

Thanks Lois and Jeff for watching our kids!  Seemed that like weekend went okay.  Another selfie of Elden.....
April 18 2016

While we were away....the kids set up tents in the backyard Friday night and hung out there.
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They played with some other kids at the library for a Lego time.
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They enjoyed some reading time after a library trip.
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It was a great weekend.  Thanks for the birthday present Lee!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Scout Stuff All Around

I won't lie, I've been having Clark work on a lot of scout stuff lately. He's finished two merit badges already (his first ones--go Clark!) and has about four more that will be done in just a couple of weeks. He does a lot of stuff with Lee and some with me.  When I talk to Clark about all the scout stuff he is doing, he seems on board for the plan to hit it hard for a year and a half, and then the rest of scouts he can enjoy the activities and helping the younger scouts with their Eagle.  We'll see how it pans out, but right now he is doing a great job.

So it won't surprise you that Clark has been busy with some merit badge projects, along with Cal too.  First off, Cal.  He is almost done with Webelos and will be an 11-year old scout in just a couple months!

Cal had to do a three mile hike for one of his requirements.  We picked possibly one of the worst Saturdays to go on a hike...weather wise anyway.  It was windy and in the low 40s.  Shanna wasn't feeling super hot, but it was just me and the kids so she needed to come.  Found out a couple days later she had strep.  Sorry Shanna! We hike 1.5 miles in on the Kaylors Knob trail near here, then turned around.  Our pictures look great with happy kids.  There were some not-so-happy kids later on in the hike though.  It was sweet because Shanna asked, what do they say in Cinderella again?  And I love the phrase: "Have courage and be kind".  She seemed to be the happiest on the whole hike.  I think she was trying her best to follow that mantra.
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Now on to Clark's scout stuff.  One merit badge he is working on is Citizenship in the Community.  All of the require special work, and this one kept him busy.  He had to attend a town council (or like meeting) interview a government official about an issue our town is concerned about, volunteer 8 hours at a local charity, make a presentation about our town (he did a power point), among other things.  Lee has been so gracious and kind spending lots of volunteer hours with Clark. A few weeks ago they spent 6 hours helping with an Eagle project for service hours needed for Star Scout.  The same day the kids and I were on the hike, Clark and Lee were at the county fairgrounds helping with a "barn yard sale".  All the proceeds went to our local charity here in town, which was awesome!  They spent five hours there working the register.  They were pretty cold all morning.  Then afterwards, they went on a 2 mile mountain bike ride for the cycling merit badge. (They actually rode just over 3 miles.)
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In between that scout stuff, more random pictures for you! Shanna geared herself up to do jobs one weekend.  I think she might have been trying to waste time in the process...
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Cal posing so the kids could save the picture on my phone and color on top of it. Too funny.
April 10 2016

Although not a scout hike, I was able to go on a hike with Clark.  Opportunities to chaperone are few in middle school and it was great I could go on a field trip to Shenandoah National Park with them.  They did different things, one of which was hiking to Dark Hallow Falls.  I'm glad Clark still likes me to come along on things like this!
April 11 2016 Clark Field Trip

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The many faces of Elden....
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April 13 2016

We've been test driving different vehicles lately. 
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One more scout thing.  To finish off his hours for citizenship in the community Clark and I volunteered at the food bank a local charity runs (the same charity that Clark volunteered for manning the cash register at the sale).  There are many needs in our community, but I'm glad that our community in turn is also to help with those needs.  I think I want to make some repeat trips with other kids.
April 15 2016 Food Bank

There will be an end in sight someday with scouts....AFTER my two other boys go through, ha ha.  It has been great though that Clark can be involved in this great program.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Side Table Makeover

I did a little project around here.  It's been awhile!  When Lee bought the optometry "practice" from Dr. Downey, Lee also purchased some furniture.  The first three months that Lee's practice was open was at Dr. Downey's old office building.  Lee switched locations and when he did, he left some of the things he purchased at Dr. Downey's office building.  Recently we met up with Dr. Downey at his building to get our things out of his building.  One of these items was this table. 

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Lee has it in the back of his van and brought it into the house one day.  I wanted a side table in between our sitting chairs.  I found an expensive one online that I was going to buy, but it was sold out. When I saw this table I got an idea of what to do with it.

April 5 2016
My idea came from Jen over at iHeart Organizing when she made some lazy Susan's for her corner cabinets. Click here to see.  We bought a common round at Home Depot.  With tax, this piece of wood was just over $6.  Sweet! I thought a circle top would work best for a side table as the space between the chairs is narrow.  Also, it would mimic the circle patterns in our rug. 

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It was easy enough for Lee to unscrew and remove the old top, then mark and screw on the new one. I should have stained it off of the base, but I thought it would be easier to stain the round if it was on something, so I wouldn't have to hold it.

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Shanna loves jumping in and helping with projects.

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I have three different colors of stain.  The first coat we put was Walnut.  I think there is a tad of red in this stain, which I didn't want, so the second stain color I put on was Jacobean.  Both Minwax colors. Maybe too matchy matchy, but Jacobean is the stain color on our floor too.

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I then put on four coats of polycrylic. I love how it turned out! I love the base too.  So unique.

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I found this cute candle holder in the Target dollar area ($3).  I thought it would work great to set a pint jar inside, then fill with flowers.

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So to do a little reveal of this space, I tried to find a picture of our old couch that we got rid of last November. It was hard finding a decent picture!  But here is a general idea.  Just an old couch, no rug.  Plus in the meantime, Lee re-hung the curtain rods so they are even higher.  (I then had to add extra fabric to the curtains too.) This is Christmas of 2014.

And....ta-da!  Our new sitting area!  Well, it's been in the works for the past few months.

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The candle holder worked great for flowers!

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I loved how it turned out!

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Also, a little change I made was to some vent covers in our family room.  This one looked horrible.  You can't really tell, but it's dented and a bit rusted. I found one on Amazon and loved it. Look below.

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Ahhh, so much better right?  I went online and bought one more that same day because I forgot that the family room had two vents.

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I haven't replaced the ones on the wood floor yet, but figured I would go ahead and see if I liked the look.

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Oh yes. Love it.  I am going to order four more next month to replace the old ones.  I think I will keep the old vent covers on the tile though, because the colors go together really well.

April 8 2016
So many more things to do to our house, but little updates can add a lot!  Oh, and isn't this picture so cute?  Haley drew this for Rhett.  And if you look under the BYU packing tape, she did spell his name correctly.  Rhett and Haley have a special bond.  So cute.

April 7 2016