Thursday, December 5, 2013


Is it True that No Two Snowflakes Are Alike?


I woke up this morning and the house seemed just a little bit brighter.  When you live in Alaska, any amount of extra daylight is noticed.   As I rounded the corner of the living room, I let out a small gasp.    Last night, as we all silently slept, mother nature was busy pouring out a thick blanket of snow. 
It has only been two years since we lived in Arizona, so snow is still a very new and exciting thing.  I am guessing that after years of shoveling, de-icing walkways, and using a hair dyer to pry open frozen car doors, winter will lose some of its magical wonder.  But, today the sight of the landscape buried in deep snow takes my breath away and I just stare in wonder at how beautiful everything looks.  There are large ice sheets lining the banks of the river and the tree branches are bowing down slightly from the weight of the snow. The water is moving in irregular patterns because of the thin coating of ice in slow moving areas.  I tie my robe up a little tighter and slip on my fleece lined boots so I can step out on the deck and greet the morning with a full breath of crisp, clear, winter air…..and then take this picture to preserve the moment. 
We have a large pine tree that is nestled up against our deck and the snow covered branches are within reach, so I scoop up a handful of frigid bliss.  As I look at the snow in my hand, I peer down, ever so focused, trying to see the individual patterns and designs of the snowflakes.  Now that I am in my 40's, I have to hold my arm outstretched to bring everything into focus (my doctor says I have a condition known as "too many candles on the cake"). I hope to see the beauty of the snow crystals I know to be present, but all my eyes can view are the fluffy specs of snow. 
I began to wonder if any two snowflakes are alike…and what do I do when I wonder….well I google, of course.  My search lead me to discover Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley.  In1885 he perfected the art of catching snowflakes on black velvet which allowed him to photograph them before they melted.  This technique is still used today.  Wilson produced such amazing pictures that hardly anyone else bothered to photograph snowflakes for almost 100 years.  These pictures have been published in a book called Snow Crystals and is simply amazing.  Wilson described snowflakes as "tiny miracles of beauty" and as "ice flowers".  I can already feel our planned school day shifting to a frozen subject.  Now, what kids wouldn't want to learn more about snow?
As I sip my morning coffee, I am in awe at pictures others have taken of the seemingly simple, never seen by the naked eye, snowflake.  My kids are now joining me at the computer and our morning math plans quickly shifed to science as we began learning about how water droplets or snow crystals start virtually identical, but their journey makes them unique.  In essence, snowflakes are extremely sensitive.  The air and temperature around the crystal are constantly changing, and even small changes in these conditions lead to different growth patterns.  The snow crystal is affected by altitude, wind, humidity, and numerous other factors.  No two ice crystals have the same history, so they do not  grow in the same way.  The journey that the ice crystal encounters determines the shape and pattern.  Hmmmm…I think to myself … kinda like life!
Snowflakes for science turned into snowflakes for art and we began making paper snowflakes to hang in the windows.  Each creation was a complete surprise as it was opened up to display the patterns and shapes. This opened up the door for discussions on peer pressure and pressures of the world.  It seemed as though the lessons from snowflakes just kept going.
So, all day I have had snowflakes on the brain.  I have thought about the beauty and complexity of these white flakes.  Just as no two snowflakes are exactly alike, neither are two people or two families.  Each person and each family has its own strengths and challenges.  What may look perfect on the outside, displays complexities upon a closer look.  We all have struggles and are wonderfully different.  We all have a unique design and journey.    

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Big Move

Journal entry on 6/30/11: 
“I feel like something big is coming my way. It is like a giant ball of energy is traveling towards me. The time is almost here and I am very excited for the future. God has something great in store for us.”
Yes, something big did come our way. I could feel that a change was on the horizon, but I truly wasn’t prepared for what was to come. When I made the above journal entry life seemed calm and perfect. We had almost finished our home, Scott’s job was going well, and the kids were happy. Life seemed good. Almost too peaceful. But I sensed a change was coming.
A month after this journal entry my husband, Scott, lost his job when the company he worked for went out of business. We searched for employment for months, but every hope for a job ended with a closed door. Finally, we decided we needed to consider moving. We didn’t want to leave our home or our community where we were surrounded by family and friends, but a move seemed inevitable. When we finally accepted the fact that we would need to move, we decided that we should first select a place we wanted to live and then look for employment in that location.
After pondering, my first suggestion was Alaska. I remember Scott looking at me with a surprised look and saying, “Please don’t tease me if you not serious.” To show him that this offer was sincere, I opened the laptop and submitted a few online job applications while eating nachos and watching tv.

At the time I think it was more of a “wish” location. I am not sure we were really serious. It just sounded crazy and wonderful! We were both familiar with Alaska because we had been traveling up there for the past five years as vendors for the IDEA homeschool convention representing Accountable Kids. Each year we would travel throughout Alaska and dream of how wonderful it would be to live in such an amazing place.

We woke the next morning to the phone ringing. On the other end was someone asking for more information about one of the applications!!! Scott hung up the phone, and it hit us that maybe we should look at this more closely.

Scott went to work submitting serious applications for jobs in Alaska, and within two weeks we were both traveling up for two site visits for promising jobs. That phone call was the first domino that fell and started the momentum of change. After that, a string of tiles just kept falling into place. Within 30 days of that first declaration of living in Alaska Scott signed a contract for a job, and two weeks after that he was driving up to Seattle, Washington to travel the Alaska Marine Highway on a ferry to Juneau.

It is still amazing to me how quickly it all happened. It was like God was just waiting for us to come to the realization that we were to move, so he could then offer us the opportunity that was waiting for us.

During this time there were a lot of research, planning and prayers. We wondered how it would all come together. We received many great confirmations that this was right for our family. But, I have to say that there were times when I doubted. We still had a house, a business, a LIFE!!! I didn’t know how it was going to work out. The details seemed too much, and the work to get there seemed endless.

We had so much support throughout our move. Friends showed up when I was sure I could do no more. Family stepped in and helped without asking. Many lifted me up so I could continue on. There were times when, if I looked at things logically, it didn’t seem possible. There was too much to do and so much needed to bring it all together. One thing I kept hearing in my prayers was, “When you need it, I will provide.” Sometimes it happened at the last minute, but always God did provide.

It all came together like a beautiful jigsaw puzzle, and we have lived in Alaska for almost a year now. The girls have jumped right into life here, and we have had more adventures than I dreamed possible. We have hiked to incredible cabins on lakes, explored ice blue glaciers, fished for Salmon and Halibut while whales playfully danced around our boat, snowshoed into the wilderness, traversed ski slopes, and so much more. We have been fortunate to have family and friends visit us and hope to continue to explore this great state.

This move and the continuation of Accountable Kids would not have been possible without the assistance of some amazing people. We have an incredible office manager, Brigot, who works in the Arizona office and keeps everything running smoothly. She is my right hand, and she has stepped up to the challenge of many new responsibilities. Scott’s parents, Georgia and Darol Heaton, work tirelessly to engrave the Accountable Kids boards, package product, and help troubleshoot any problems with the business. We also have some incredible moms who travel to conventions and represent Accountable Kids. These women are simply amazing! They give awesome presentations, share Accountable Kids with enthusiasm, and are committed to stretching our dollars during travel. We have many others who work diligently to bring together the necessary parts of Accountable Kids and we appreciate their efforts! Living in Alaska has forced me to shift some of the hands-on work to others. This has not been easy for me, but it has come with some unexpected joys and growth.

Thank you to all who have helped and continue to assist Accountable Kids in this new journey. We look forward to sharing the next chapter in our exciting expedition.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

7 Things

My girls joined the swim team when we moved up to Juneau, AK (that story to follow shortly) so they could meet new friends and keep in shape.  They all love swimming and have improved so much over the past year.  Last week I was waiting for them to get done swimming and saw an article posted on the bulletin board titled 7 Things Successful Swimmers Do Differenty.  It was written by Olivier Poirier-Leroy who is a former national level swimmer in Canada.

Although the article was written using swimming as the example, this article is applicable to all of us.   There are some people who seem to reach the top of the podium in life, and it may be due to the way they approach their sport, their job, or their relationships.  Here are 7 ways that successful swimmers are doing it differently.  It is interesting to ponder our strengths and shortcomings through the eyes of a swimmer.

1. Ownership -I used to compete against a swimmer who loved playing the “blame game.” If his results weren’t as good as they should or could have been, we would all be barraged upon with a litany of excuses. Whether it was goggles filling up with water, a bad night’s rest, or he was racing with a workout suit, he’d pawn off his lousy competition performance on outside influences and bad luck so that he wouldn’t have to own up to them. Pawning off failures by making excuses for them removes accountability. Successful swimmers own their awesome performances and their not so good ones too.

2. Use Failure as Fuel - Failure may as well be another 4-letter word. You can see it in the pained faces of swimmers who come up just short at the end of a race. Successful swimmers, once the initial sting of defeat has receded, are able to see past failure. Instead of having it demoralize them, they use it as the catalyst for massive positive change. Those moments of disappointment provide important — albeit sometimes painful — lessons that will help pave the way to achievement. Remember, failure only becomes fatal when you give up and do not heed the lessons it provides.

3. Surround Themselves with Like-Minded Athletes - The expression “you are a product of your environment” is just as relevant when applied to the swimmers and people you associate yourself with. As much as we like to believe that other people have no influence on our lives, in the words of esteemed John Donne, “No man is an island entire of itself.” The actions and behaviors of the people you surround yourself will rub off on you, whether you immediately realize it or not. Good news, however, is that this goes both ways — negative people will bring you down just as well as positive people will bring you up.

4. Plan - Successful swimmers know exactly where they are going. They have a concrete, visceral goal in the horizon, and they aren’t afraid to put together a plan to make it happen. This means breaking it down step-by-step, and setting out what directly relates to achieving their goal. Faster start? Check. Shave ? second off the turns? Noted. Improving ankle flexibility? Put it on the to-do list. Don’t be afraid to take your goal, break it apart to its smallest pieces and then slowly put it back together.

5. Execution - Of course, having a plan and all of the motivation in the world does nothing without the follow-through. Top echelon swimmers don’t wait for the perfect moment, they don’t wait until they “feel like it” and they don’t wait until the beginning of next season to start hauling ass towards their goals. Start today, start now.

6. Cross the Line Between Excellence & Perfection - Whenever a swimmer tells me that they are “perfectionists” my first thought is, “you never complete anything, ever.” Perfectionists are great at making plans, of concocting great and earth-shattering goals, but incredibly terrible at completing them. Why? Because they’ve set impossible standards, they are dooming themselves to failure from the outset. Their high expectations will never be met because “perfect” is an illusion. There will never be a perfect time. You will never feel perfect. The only “perfect” time to act is this one, right now. Success doesn’t come to perfectionists — it comes to the swimmers who show up and get things done.

7. Embrace Hard Work - In an era where instant gratification is expected from everything we do, it can be very easy to dismiss the idea of hard work. Whenever a really tough set gets scrawled up on the chalkboard, the elite swimmer won’t groan and moan. Their steely eyes will narrow and they will be the first in the pool to tackle it. Why is that? Are they gluttons for punishment? Not at all. They welcome those hard sets because they know that is what will separate them from the athlete in the lane next to them. While others are bowing out or not giving their best effort, the successful swimmer smiles gleefully as he or she powers through the sets that no one else is willing to do.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

What is the Vew From Your Child's Eyes?

Yesterday my 13 year old daughter , Aly came to me and asked me if she could write something for the blog. I said, "sure" and about a 1/2 hour later she handed me a one page paper titled In the eyes of an Accountable Kid. It was interesting for me to see my teens outlook on chores and responsibility because some days I am wondering where my happy, sweet child went. She has hit the age where I am no longer "cool". How did that happen? She now rolls her eyes at me and when I tell her something she says, "I know mom" and finishes off with an exasperated look. I often wonder if anything I am saying or doing is touching her heart. Now don't get me wrong, Aly is a great kid and she has a heart of gold, but some days her hormones are overriding her brain.

This blog entry she wrote reminded me that deep down she has learned valuable lessons about life, family, and character. There will be days, maybe years, where she may hide beneath the "teen facade" but a foundation has been established for her build her future. Our family isn't perfect. My kids whine, complain, and leave their dishes on the counter waiting for the maid (like we have one) to clean up after them. But, Accountable Kids has given us some consistency amongst the chaos. Aly's letter reminded me that she is paying attention to what we have been teaching her and she is seeing the good in the organizational system in our home.

The other thing that Aly's blog brought to mind is the power of sitting down and writing out your thoughts. So often our kids send text messages or quick e-mails. They are not encouraged to ponder and map out their thoughts and then write them down for all to see. It made me realize the power of concentrated thought and expression. Have you ever asked your kids what they thought of Accountable Kids? What is the value of all of this to them. Are they learning anything that will help them in the future. What is the view from your child's eyes?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In the Eyes of an Accountable Kid

When you read Happy kids, Proud parents, Strong families, do you ever wonder or doubt.  “How can my kids like doing chores or even do them with a happy heart.” I am an accountable kid and have been using the Accountable Kids program for about nine years and I know that I do like to do my chores now because they’re not chores they are responsibilities that we get entrusted with. Lots of kids now are lazy.  Typically we don’t want to do any chores because we don’t think they benefit us in any way, but after using Accountable Kids for so long I know different.  I can see now when our chores are done it does benefit us.  It makes life easier for our parents because when the house is clean they tend to be a little less stressed and don’t nag us.  It makes life easier for us because we have a positive attitude when our parents aren’t stressed or nagging us.  It gives us more time to spend as a family because we aren’t cleaning all the time because when we do our chores the house stays cleaner and we aren’t angry with each. We all get more done on a daily basis.  Our pets are happier when we have more time to spend with them.  We also get key tools that we need to be able to live on our own and work jobs. Kids grow up and use many of the same parenting tools that their parents used especially if they were good parents.  We get our foundation for life from our parents.  We learn in our years at home many things that affect our character traits. I know that now, and later I will be able to cherish and grow from my experience from living with my parents.  I know that now, and later I will be thanking them with my words, thoughts, actions and one day hopefully my children.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Moms 12 Days of Christmas Wish List

One clean house,

Two well-mannered children,

Three home cooked meals,

Four paws wiped before coming inside the house,

Five minutes to myself,

Six cups of coffee,

Seven loads of laundry washed, dried, and folded,

Eight bags of groceries delivered to my door,

Nine dozen Christmas cards addressed, stamped, and mailed for me,

Ten dozen cookies baked for teacher gifts, cookie swaps, and parties,

Eleven presents purchased that the recipients won’t want to return,

And last but certainly not least, twelve hours of sleep!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Great Movie for the Family

Every so often a movie or a book comes around that is just too good not to share. Temple Grandin is a phenomenal story about an amazing woman with autism. This true story is interesting, heartfelt, and thought provoking. The movie creates an immediate springboard for in depth discussions on autism, perseverance, bullying, and love.

As a side note my husband was walking by the living room as we started the movie. I encouraged him to watch it with us and he said he was too busy. After standing in the hall for 45 minutes, he finally sat down and watched the ending and said, "Wow, that was a really good movie." My 8, 10 and 13 year olds even made me pause the movie for a bathroom break so they wouldn't miss anything.

At the end of the movie my daughter turned to me and said, "Mom, I bet there are other kids out there like Temple who look different and don't seem smart at first, but they are gifted and have a purpose from God." I think I will have to buy this movie so we can watch it again.

Today my daughter asked if she could do something different for science. She wanted to make an Ames optical illusion room box like in the movie Temple Grandin. We spent hours learning about optical illusions and learning how to make this room. It was a great science day where we all learned something new!

Do you have a favorite movie? We would love to hear from you.