Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 23 - Independence Day Victory was won in a Cardboard Boat

How will you celebrate your Independence this year on July 4th?  In the middle of a lake, sitting in a boat made out of cardboard and duct tape?  Somehow, coming out of Anna's mouth one summer night a few years back, this sounded like an excellent idea!

And so we spent the next week in the Richie garage constructing the best cardboard boat ever.  We were going for strength, speed, and sweet victory.  How many rolls of duct tape do you think that equals?  Well, at least one more was usually the answer.  Bill would even sneak an extra roll on late at night after everyone else had gone home, just to make sure this boat will float!  

Once the structure was final, it was time to decorate our fine vessel in none other than Illini Orange and Blue, complete with Chief Illiniwek.

Race Day, July 4th at the Sheedy Lake.  To claim the title, you had to race your boat across the lake and back not just once, but twice.  We needed to take first or second place in our heat, and still have something left that could do it all over again in the final round.  Analyzing the weights, strength and abilities of our team, we decided to put Bill and Ted on the oars and conquer this Excellent Adventure.  A fine job they did, boats were sinking to their left and to their right, but onward ho!  They claimed victory and we even took our boat back home that year rather than to the boat graveyard.

We missed the next year on account of a vacation on a non-cardboard boat.  But we came back strong in 2009 with an entirely new and not so original theme of a pirate ship.  Come on, who has never wanted to build and sail a Pirate Ship!  

It was a beautiful site, and we decided we were likely not in the running for first place this time around, so we loaded up the kids, along with Bill and Ted for an even more excellent adventure.  Dain snuck along some water balloon cannonballs and tried them out on during the race.  We did make it across the lake and back once, but the second time around it was more like a Fred and Barney Flintstone finish as their feet went thru the floorboards and they walked her to shore.  

One day we hope to be as cool as the Sheedy's and host our own cardboard boat race.  100% in the name of good fun.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Day 22 - Who makes the best cookies in the land?

How will we ever know...unless we have a competition?  

It was the summer of 2002, and I'd spent three years learning the ropes of how the locals do the Sangamon County Fair.  There were a few basic rules to know:

1. Friend a beer tent volunteer (probably your neighbor) = free beer 
2. Enter livestock = free weeklong parking pass inside the gates
3. Enter fair exhibits = free entry into the fair all week 
    (pass your exhibitor pass thru the fence = all your non-local friends and family get in free too)

On the evening before entries were due, we were trying to decide which category to enter.  A rivalry spawned as Ted felt confident his cookie making skills were superior to my own.  I wasn't about to let the moment pass and challenged him to an official cook-off.

Battle grounds: Sangamon County Fair 
Department: O-2 Senior Culinary
Class:  Cookies
Lot: 1 Peanut Butter 
Ted Mies vs. Julie Mies

The night before the fair came.  We each made our own separate batch of peanut butter cookies, picked the most perfectly round 3 cookies in our batch, placed them on a 6" white plate, bagged and tagged them and sent them off to the fair.  Anticipation mounted as we awaited the results from the judges.  We'd heard there were 45 entries in the category, so there was a very good chance neither of us would place.  Finally the doors opened on Wednesday morning while we were at the sheep show and we trotted over to the peanut butter cookie shelf to see how we did.  This is what we found....

What the heck!!!  How does that happen?  He used a potato masher to make the criss-cross in his cookies!  Mine were much prettier.  I was robbed!  Sad face.  That was the day Ted was awarded Head Chef of the Mies Household.  

Walking away in defeat, I knew I'd have to find a new route to go next year.  This cooking thing didn't work out as I planned.  If I can't beat this husband of mine, then I guess I'll join him.  And so evolved the Mies vs. Richie Fair Entry Face-Off.  

The first year we competed in the Duct Tape category.  Now mind you this was long before the days of colored and decorative duct tape and YouTube videos of anything you want to make with duct tape.  All we had to work with was gray tape, and our imagination.  Because Bill and Anna's anniversary was during the fair that year, we made Bill and Anna out of duct tape in their wedding attire.  The Richie's made an Illini Football helmet.  My memory is foggy, but I think the Mies's ranked higher the first year.  The 2nd year's category was refrigerator magnets, the winner would take front and center on Jean Ann's refrigerator and claim 'Mom's favorite' rights.  The Richie's won that year, but Ted's Kiss Lips Magnet still made it to Jean Ann's refrigerator front.  

Anna just picked this year's category, 
Department: Senior Hobbies and Handicraft
Class: Handicraft
Lot: 12-Fair Theme "The Sangamon County Fair is Out of this World"

If you happen to have experience in this category and have a clue of what we're supposed to make, MESSAGE me!  But don't message those Richies.

Looking forward to another fun Sangamon County Fair.  Get those entries in by May 31.  And if you cross paths with Ted, be sure to ask him about his famous sugar cookies.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Day 20 - Drive-In Movies anyone?

While digging thru piles of old college pictures the other night, I ran across one in particular that made me smile, perfect for sharing on this TBT.

This was a glimpse of the first social gathering Ted and I planned together.  It was Labor Day weekend Senior Year on campus.  New faces, no major studying underway yet, and a long weekend full of endless possibilities.   "Ok, so you round up as many Presby girls as you can find and I will grab all the FarmHouse guys and their trucks.  We'll pick you up at 5".  Time for a FarmHouse/Presby Impromptu Drive-In Movie Exchange in Gibson City.  Thanks to all of our friends who humored us back then and also to those who humor us today with our random impromptu social events.

And speaking of, I think it's time to plan another one.  Guys, grab your trucks, your wives and your kids.  Summer will be here soon and I don't know about you, but I'm ready to greet it with enthusiasm.  I'm thinking Memorial Day Weekend at the Springfield Route 66 Drive-In.  Like if you want me to tag you in on the details.

Day 21 - Adventure Is Out There - Live it

So last New Years Eve, my family gathered at Woodfield Mall for our extended family picture, smile pretty.  As soon as it was over, we ripped off our outer layer to reveal our neon bright yellow shirts reading "Adventure is out there - Live it 2013".  What were we up to, you might ask?  Only the best Mall Scavenger Hunt ever, planned by my one and only uber talented and creative sister, Susan Rasmus.  The 14 of us were divided up into 2 teams and off we went to conquer the Mall in a 1 hour fight for victory.  A picture of something Mickey Mouse, no problem, we are Meyers.  Hop on the elevator and sing non-stop at the top of our lungs until we get out...some of us are gifted singers.  Off to the Sunglass Hut to get sunglasses and the clerk to dance Ganghum Style with us.  We rock!

Oh no...are you serious?  Before we could get to number 4, we were busted by the mall cops!!!  They have mall cops on the look-out for Scavenger Hunt teams causing an uproar?!!?  Ok, maybe we were a little load and pushy in our pursuance for victory.  But still!  It's New Years Eve, we could be causing lots more trouble than this!  

So the moral of the story, should you plan to do an uber cool Scavenger Hunt in a mall setting this New Year's Eve, do not wear neon yellow matching shirts, dance Ganghum style at the Sunglass Hut, and yell loudly across the mall atrium at your competition.  Now we know for next year.  Watch out Idaho, 8 months and counting.

Day 19 - Big Brothers - Influential or Detrimental

If you happen to have a big brother...or maybe you are a big brother...I'd like you to take a moment with me to contemplate the effects a big brother can have on his younger sibling(s).  

Let me introduce you to my brother Steve.  You need a guy who can tell the greatest of all hunting stories, or make you gullible enough to believe any deaf-defying story he can dream up, he's the one. (I think he read way too many Calvin & Hobbes stories growing up).   He once walked me thru a patch of poison ivy, just to see if I was allergic to it, then told me afterwards.  Since I didn't break out, he decided I was immune to it.  I found out later in life there was a flaw in his hypothesis, I'm definitely allergic to it.  Then there would be the times we used to stalk thru our 10 acres of backyard timber pretending to be Indiana Jones and trusty pal Shortround.  I would follow that brother of mine anywhere, and do anything he told me to.  I think he discovered early on of the influence he had over me.  Mostly, he used it in good ways, but every once in awhile he'd test it for fun.  

After we were married, Ted and I went out to visit my brother at the Lutheran Camp he worked at in northern Idaho.  Once again I found myself stalking thru the woods following my brother's instructions, not realizing we were getting a subliminal marriage seminar along the way.  The camp has some fantastic challenge courses, many of which I had run my own campers thru years before when I was a counselor.  Since then they had added several high ropes challenges and Steve thought Ted and I would enjoy trying them out.  Remember my brother who likes to test my boundaries?  Well, this was great fun for him.  Ok Julie and Ted, now you need to climb up this tree to that platform 30 feet in the air and jump 5ft to the platform on the next tree over.  What!?!  Are your serious.  Oh wait, the next one is swinging tires, and then comes the flying trapeze, all 30ft in the air.  He was in all his glory that day, standing on the ground coaching us thru these elements.  I did survive and we were probably a better couple for it, though I've checked it off my list of things I don't need to do again when I visit Idaho.

Two years ago I brought Samantha out to Idaho so she too could experience Camp Lutherhaven.  While she was at camp with her cousins, Steve decided to take my nephew and I on a 4-wheeling experience, Idaho style.  I was all game since I typically love 4-wheeling.  Little did I know how far my brother was going to test my boundaries on this adventure.  We took off up the side of the mountain, the views were beautiful, the road was wide, and the dusty trail behind me was all good.  Then the road started getting narrower and the cliff to my right started getting steeper.  The higher we went, the less pressure I applied to the throttle with my white knuckled thumb.  Steve and my nephew had to stop and wait several times because they'd get so far ahead of me.  As I was driving along, I kept thinking to myself how easy it would be for me to drive right off the side of this mountain and they would likely never find me amongst the trees down below, I quit looking, it was too far down.  Eventually I found myself 95% of the way to the top of the mountain, refused to drive any further, got off the 4-wheeler and walked the rest of the way up.  We enjoyed a lovely hotdog lunch over a make-shift fire and an absolutely incredible view of the mountain tops.  Then it came time to go back down the mountain.  I was sure missing my flat plains of Illinois at this point.  I made it, and I'm probably a better person for it.  Thanks Steve, for always testing my limits, no matter how old we are.  All in the name of good fun, for him anyway.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Day 18 - Julie Mies Reigning Queen

How could you not love March Madness?  I had our entire family in a trash-talking texting uproar last weekend at the whimsical mention of an upset, or two, or three.  Mercer was my favorite of the tournament, I love watching Duke and Mike Krzyzewski lose.  Those poor announcers thought for sure their precious Duke would pull thru and not be embarrassed by 14th ranked Mercer.  

So this post isn't really just about Duke losing, it's more about how to make the most of March Madness and then use it to your advantage for the next 365 days.  As you saw in my title, I am Julie Mies, Reigning Queen of the 2013 NCAA Family March Madness Pool.  There are a few family members that don't like to recognize the authority of my title.  It's ok, I will remind them as often as possible while I still can.

While deep down, I do believe 2013 was a fluke and I just got lucky in our round by round family pool, it was so enjoyable to taunt everyone that I decided to get them fired up again this year.  Not that he wasn't already, but apparently my nephew Dain became obsessed with studying and changing his picks to come up with the perfect bracket. The wrong upsets last weekend were making him crazy.  Nephew Darin has been most concerned with topping the dog (Bella has proven to be a contender again this year, tied for #2, she can't be over-looked).  What he shouldn't have over-looked was his baby sister passing him by and taking her seat at the top.  Then there's the tall skinny girl who happens to be a good trash talker, not to be outdone by the giggling girls in my living room after the ND State upset.

I'm pretty sure there has to be a value in teaching our kids about healthy competition.  Well, maybe not in every single aspect of their lives (sorry girls, I'll try to tone it down one of these days).  I have to mention I'm very proud of Samantha for taking the initiative to start her own pool this year with her friends.  I'll brag a little by noting that she is winning the pool, most importantly the one boy in the pool is getting beat by five girls:)
Dain Richie
"Hey Julie who did you have winning again?....... Oh that's right Witchita St.!".  

Thanks for keeping me in my place, Dain.  I'm still the reigning queen.  All in the name of good fun. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Day 17 - How to convince 192 kids to run 32 flights of stairs

His name was Levi Brown and he had a dream, or so it stated on his mom's Facebook page one evening last January.  You see, Levi has this absolutely adorable baby brother named Tucker who was born with congenital heart defects.  Since the day he was born, Tucker has been fighting for his life, some days fighting for each breath.  The ironic part is that when you see him, you would never know it.  He looks like a normal little guy, just happy to be here.  After the long struggle to bring Tucker home, and then helping him thru his first 8 months of life, his family decided to celebrate their journey by creating Team Tucker and participating in the Fight For Air Climb at the Hilton Springfield.  The climb consists of 32 consecutive flights of stairs and is a fundraiser for the American Lung Association.  Levi's mom created a fundraising goal of $1200 and went to work recruiting fellow runners with the simple theme, "Climb, because you can."  In the early recruiting stages, Levi commented one night that it would be REALLY cool if all of his buddies could run along side him up those 32 flights of stairs.  

Ever run across a Facebook post you just can't get out of your mind?  Well, this one triggered myself and a few other mothers in our school PAWS group to start kicking around some ideas.  The cost of participating in the climb was $125.00 per person, not necessarily a feasible fundraising figure for every single one of Levi's buddies, and we wanted all of them to be there to fulfill this dream.  So, we decided to go another route.  This was when the beauty of a small school in a small community began to reveal itself in a heartwarming way.

Our first stop was to the superintendent's office for plan approval.  We received an enthusiastic yes, and headed to the gym to get the PE teacher on board.  He too embraced our idea with open arms.  

Here's the logistics on how it all went down.  We decided to create a dual purpose for this event, 1. promote healthy exercise and fitness to our Waverly students and their families, and 2. create a community service event by donating all funds raised to Team Tucker and the Fight for Air Climb.  By registering, students would pay just $2.00 and sign up for a 25-day Boot Camp where they would do a mixture of daily Crossfit exercises and stair climbing.  Thanks to the help of Brian Chandler at Capital City Crossfit, we were able to introduce the students to a variety of new exercises to help get them into shape for their Climb.  The PE teacher did the exercises with the students each day, and families could participate at home thanks to Facebook, Instagram and YouTube videos.  Then, on February 14, we would host our very own Waverly Fight For Air Climb at the grade school gym.  For the 32 flights of stairs, we set up 8 stations around the gym using bleacher and locker room steps.  Every up and down was counted as 1 flight, and the kids were challenged to do 32 flights, to match the number of stairs at the Hilton Fight for Air Climb.

For a K-12 school population of roughly 375 students, we were pretty happy to have 92 participants sign up in advance.  Boot camp went well, and all students regardless of whether they registered or not, got to do the daily exercises in PE class:).  We even had a plank contest and discovered 2 very competive 2nd graders who held their planks for over 24 minutes!!! I can barely get to one minute!

On the day of the climb, we had a great group of volunteers show up to help out.  Students did their climb during PE class, and we started with the 7th grade, who only had 4 participants signed up.  We had them run while the rest of the class cheered them on.  When they finished, I looked around the room and randomly asked if anyone else would be interested in giving it a try.  Almost every single hand in the room shot up!  Holy cow, I about fell over!  So, by the end of that period about 90% of the class had participated.  The rest of the day copied first period.  So much interest, apparently kids like to run, you just have to give them a reason to.  The tv crew showed up to film when Levi's class did their climb, and when 25% of the high schooler's walked in the gym to run, I about fell over.  (many of them came so they could get out of health class...rather ironic, don't you think?).  Around 1pm, Levi's mom Letitia was called over to the high school, and came back with a $400 check that the high school students decided to donate to Team Tucker, it was unmarked fundraising money they had raised and decided on their own to give to a worthy cause.  I should also mention a few high school boys asked for permission to run some extra flights.  Really?  Knock yourselves out!  A few stopped at 250, and one made it all the way to 400 flights!!! That, I wasn't expecting.

The Kindergarteners were perhaps the most overwhelming and enthusiastic group.  They have a lot of energy, luckily we had a way for them to burn it that day.   Great kids, and so excited to receive their certificates in our awards ceremony at the end of class.  

By the end of the day Levi could say that he and his 192 buddies all climbed at least 32 flights of stairs together.  It was a good day.  Several of those kids went on to climb with Levi at the Hilton that weekend.  And Team Tucker, they raised a little more than $1200, it was more like $11,000.

Fast forward to today, we are preparing for our 2nd Annual PAWS Fight For Air Climb on Thursday, February 13.  Boot Camp has started and we have over 100 registrations in already.  I guess I have Levi Brown to thank for his simple dream, he's given a whole lot of kids a huge goal they never knew they could accomplish, and now they want to do it again.

Let me know if you'd like to volunteer some of your time on February 13 to help cheer on our Waverly climbers.  For someone like me who really doesn't enjoy running, this day is about making running "All in the name of good fun."