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 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."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Day 16 - Best Night Ever

I gave Ted a high five as he hopped into the car.  We sat for a moment admiring our handiwork and then proclaimed in unison, "best night ever!"

Rewind 4 hours...Anna Richie stopped by to drop off a few items for Amber's 4th Grade Spooky SoirĂ©e Halloween Party and to check out the decorations.  I gave her the rundown on how her Zombie Family was going to be responsible for this year's murder mystery.  When the truck and hayrack drove up behind the shed, they were to act out a scene pulling Amber off of the rack and drag her away as their next victim.  I'm a horrible liar, so when Anna bought into my story and headed home to get into costume, I was giddy with retaliation adrenaline.  The guests began to arrive, key parents were given privileged information, and the party began.  Everyone embraced our "mystery game" and enjoyed the party festivities.  It was somewhat of a duplicate of Samantha's party with a few fun additions.  

And then it was time to load the kids onto the hayrack to "hunt down our murderer."  My older zombie niece Calyssa Richie was determined to ride in the back of the truck to scare the party guests along the way, so I had to take some extra time explaining the importance of her role behind the shed.  We got out of the driveway leaving the zombies behind and headed down the road to the farm.  On our first stop at the old town hall, several parents were parked and waiting for us.  I revealed to the kids that the murder mystery was a cover up story and the night was about to get really good.  We were taking them all to seek revenge against the evil Zombie family by teepeeing their yard.  30 fourth graders and some parents enthusiastically piled into cars and drove 2 miles down the road to the Zombie/Richie yard to even up the scorecard.  We sent the hayrack driver on with an empty rack.

Once we pulled into the Richie's 10 acre yard, we parked our cars with headlights facing the entire yard, gathered the kids in for quick instructions, and passed out 60 rolls of Cottonelle toilet paper (always get the good stuff, it flies better).  As I myself ran thru the yard throwing toilet paper high into the sky, I heard several young voices yelling things like, "I've never done this before", "this is the BEST PARTY EVER", "is this legal?", and "Mrs. _______ is really good at this". 

5 minutes was all it took to decorate the Richies yard, thanks to the highly energized 4th grade class. We rounded everyone back into cars and gave them instructions not to talk to the zombies, if they were questioned, just answer that they fell off of the hayrack and the parents had to drive them home.  Excellent actors and actresses we have in the Waverly 4th Grade!  They played their parts with perfection.

As Ted and I were getting back into the car, we found a few untouched rolls of toilet paper on the ground and Ted couldn't resist letting them serve their intended purpose.  Later I learned that one of the kids was observing him and commented to her mother, "Ted sure looks happy."

Back at our house, the Zombies were playing up their part with true Richie acting skills.  They crept up in the cornfield as the hayrack came closer, and closer, and closer...to realize there were no kids!  They demanded answers from the driver, who gave them nothing.  By the time our carloads arrived back at the house, they were confused, upset, and in frustration had even stolen the 2 roles of toilet paper from  our house and attempted to teepee our front yard again (the rest of our stock was well hidden, we learned our lesson).  We gave them our "story" about falling off the hayrack and they left disappointed and still confused. 

Wait for it...ding, there's the text.  The Richies are home:).  The score is tied, for now.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Day 14 - Oh My Dog!

These were my exact words this morning when daylight revealed what my dog had been up to while we were gone this weekend.  I found it odd that there was no mail in my mailbox last night.  Somehow my dog, who's shock collar does not reach the mailbox, was able to spread at least 10 pieces of mail across our yard over the weekend.  I'm sorry if you've mailed us something and we never respond.  The dog ate it.  

More disheartening than the mail was the Christmas package that I've been waiting for over the past 2 weeks that was not tracked to arrive until Monday.  Thanks Fed Ex for delivering on Saturday....  Luckily the box was much more entertaining than the present, which is still salvageable.

I couldn't write this blog without dedicating one day to my dog.  She has so much fun I think she was the inspiration for the word.  And now for our top 10 Bella stories....

Bella's Top 10 - All in the Name of Good Fun

#10 - She learned how to jump on top of her dog house like snoopy.  Now every time there is a chance that someone might walk by it, she jumps on top in case that person might like to pet her at eye level as they pass.

#9 - She is highly competitive and will win every tug of war contest.  Usually she drags us across the yard before we give in to her.

#8 - Bella loves to fetch, especially in water.  We took her to Scheels during the weekend of the Dog Jumping contest to test out the waters during free time.  She started a show of her own and enticed a small crowd just to watch her jump.  She was pretty sure she established celebrity status by the end of the day. 

#7 - Bella found Ted's iPhone on the floor of the shop.  Her first and only kind gesture with regards to objects that don't belong to her, she delivered the iPhone to our back doorstep without a scratch.

#6 - She loves the Fed Ex drivers. They give her a bone AND leave her a present.  It's always a race to beat Bella to the box.  She seems to be dominating the playing field these days.  

#5 - Bella's hind legs are solid muscle.  She runs with such enthusiasm she has a hard time stopping herself.  We had several stalks of corn missing this summer from our end rows by the house.  Bella would mow them over chasing cats into the corn.

#4 - Bella's favorite spot in the whole wide world is the backseat of our jeep.  She knows that the jeep will take her fun places and it's very difficult to get her out once she's there.  I've driven into the garage to find her sitting in the backseat by herself, just hanging out.  She sat there for the entire afternoon of the water party not wanting to miss out on a ride back to the pasture.

#3- She stole a farm employee's gloves when he wasn't looking and had him chasing her around the yard for a good 5 minutes before he coaxed them out of her mouth.

#2 - She found a pink highlighter and managed to color her own toenails.

#1 - Bella goes to great lengths to avoid being contained.  As a pup she dug under the sheep pen to escape.  She also dug thru the rock in the machine shed to get out.  We went through 2 insufficient wireless shock collars that didn't slow her down on the highest level.  After Ted called the manufacturer for the third time, they sent the highest powered underground containment system they offered.  Conveniently, Bella was waiting by the door when the Fed Ex man showed up to deliver it.  She managed to chew thru the box and 1/2 of the wire before we got home to find it.  Unfortunately for her, it ultimately made her containment area smaller and did finally do it's job.

They say dogs resemble their owners.  So which one of us does she resemble most?  I know my vote.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Day 15 - The Prequel to our Best Night Ever

There may be some controversy out there, or even unnecessary sympathy for the Richies.  I just wanted to clear that all up by shedding some light on events leading up to our best night ever.

You see, a few years back we decided to host Samantha's entire grade for a Halloween Party at our house.  After hours of planning and help from friends and family, we were ready to host a memorable night for the 4th graders.  We had Fiona the Fortune Teller, a haunted zombie cemetery, Dr. Guts and the gross body parts, the mystery of the missing combine, apple bobbing and other games, and Ted even built a pumpkin catapult.  During the pumpkin launching, my lovely little niece Eva came up and asked me for some toilet paper.  I thought she might be referring to the toilet paper for the mummy wrap game and didn't think any further about it.  I did have 30 fourth graders in my backyard and was somewhat pre-occupied at that moment.  Little did I know what that five-year-old and her zombie family members were up to.

On went the party.  We had a mystery to solve, so we loaded all of the kids onto a hayrack and headed to the farm to find our combine thief.  As we pulled back into our front yard, I realized we'd been teepeed by the Zombie/Richie Family!...while we were in our backyard!...with our own toilet paper!  Clever.  A job well done, and I commended them for their efforts.

We took our time working out our retaliation strategy.