Sunday, November 30, 2014

Day 30 - Write it Down

Well 30 days turned into 395 days, but I did accomplish my goal of 30 total days of blogging.  Thanks again Holly for your 30 Day Blog Challenge.  It started off as a blog to promote agriculture and life on a farm, but quickly turned into a book of memories that I wanted to log for my kids, nieces and nephews, and to share with the friends and family who helped create them.  

Writing is an interesting beast for me.  I've always enjoyed writing, putting my thoughts down on paper.  So much so that here I sit at 12:50am typing away on my iPad, sleep-deprived and still driven to continue as long as the words keep flowing. From as long as I could remember, writing came best to me in the late evening hours.  

My earliest spiral notebook journals started in 7th grade, mostly written under my covers with a flashlight late at night.  I had some pretty deep thoughts back then, and they were incredibly entertaining to reread when I uncovered them while cleaning out closets over the summer.  My junior high journals included anything from the boys that my friends and I were dating, to the horrible treatment I received from my older siblings:), frustrations with my parents' rules, the number of points and fouls game by game of our basketball season, and even the race times of our 4x200 relay team.

High school thoughts got a little deeper, more serious boyfriends, bigger sports events, and decisions like college and my future outside of Paxton, Illinois.  Most enjoyable was a decent amount of documentation I kept in college on the phases of "Trying to get Ted Mies's Attention."  According to actual documentation from 7th grade on, I never worked so hard for something in my life as I did to try to get that boy to like me!

After I finally got his attention, I guess I put my pencil down.  It only took 17 years to find the inspiration to pick it up again.  I would also like to thank Loraine Pitman for the inspiration.  At age 90, she had the help of her daughter to write down several memories of her years on the farm, in college at the University of Illinois, etc.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the past generations of Mies Farms.    So very many things have changed in agriculture over the last 90 years.  But interestingly, we also learned that many of the challenges are still very much the same as those of the generations before us.  

Should time or inspiration allow for it, I hope that at least one person who has read my blog takes the time to start writing one of their own.  Writing has been my therapy over the years, and I'm excited to publish my Shutterfly book full of blogs and pictures for our coffee table viewing only.  And maybe one of these days I will bust out those 7th grade journals for my 7th grader to read.  Although, I had a few boyfriends back in 7th grade, maybe she doesn't need to know about that just yet.

1:17am,  blog complete.

Day 29 - Life is exactly what you make it

Day 29 - Life is Exactly What You Make It

I've been toying around with this particular topic for about 6 months now, trying to come up with the most effective way to put it out there as I feel like it sums up this blog.  I sometimes tend to lack sensitivity (I cringe when I try to imagine what my filter will be like when I am 80+), so I apologize in advance as I promise I'm not directing this blog in any way, just putting it out there so my kids can read it someday and at least contemplate my attempts at passing wisdom their way.

Disclaimer completed, now I want to take a moment to point out the obvious.  Life is exactly what you make it.  We often try to point our finger in one direction or another, blaming our problems on the weather, on others, on the day of the week.  You name it, we blame it.  At the end of the day, we have to circle back around and point that finger at ourselves.  What did I do today to make my day better?  How did I react to a situation I was in?  Did I make it better for myself and others, or worse?

We can choose to be leaders.  We can choose to be followers.  We an choose to do things all in the name of good fun.  Or we can choose to sit on the sidelines and avoid potential embarrassment.  We can choose to stay mad or we can choose to get over it and move on.  

As parents, we can look for ways to create memories for our children.  We get such a short period of time to influence their pathway in life.  I'm frankly a bit freaked out right now about the short window of opportunity I have left to influence my children.  If I figured correctly based on my own experience, I have 5 1/2 years with Samantha and 7 1/2 years with Amber.  I was the child who left for college, came back for holidays here and there, and spent just one summer at home after high school.  Besides that, gone.  I think I heard my parents call me "independent" more than once.  So I figure there's at least a 50% chance my children will follow in my footsteps. 

With that said, I feel it may be time to create a bucket list of memories, experiences, and values I need to purposely instill in my children before they leave the house.  Ok, yeah I need to do that, but not tonight.  Sleep is still a critical part of my day.

I will share a few quick thoughts on this "Life is Exactly What You Make It" topic from conversations I've been in over the years.

The first comes from a level-headed friend describing philosophies on managing people.... I often tend to find myself in the middle of disputes where a person is on one extreme end of the spectrum and the opposing party is on the opposite end of the spectrum.  Most of the time the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  How true is that!  When you can actually take a moment to remove yourself from a situation, look at it from both sides, and find the truth somewhere in the middle.  Life changer if you take this one to heart.

The next comment comes from a friend looking for ways to find peace in a divorce....  I don't judge people anymore.  If I cross paths with someone during my day who is incredibly rude to me for no particular reason, I now think to myself, what is this person going thru in their life right now to make them feel and act this way?  Instead of reacting to their rude or insensitive attitude, I take pity on them.  Wow!  This comment came out several years ago and still sticks in my head as one I don't want to forget.

The third comment I will mention comes from a friend who themed her Caringbridge site around this quote, after she was diagnosed with a terminal illness.  When life gives you lemons, make lemonade vodka.  She passed away over 10 years ago, I still silently toast her when I have a lemonade vodka in hand.  (I'm proof-reading this and might need to add another disclaimer -  I'm not suggesting to drink vodka every time I get a lemon, more so that if things go south, don't just turn your situation around, add some fun into the equation too.)

Can the weather make a farmers day, or break a farmer's day?  Oh yeah.

Can Backorders and shipping errors at you company warehouse make for a cranky sales person?  Yep.

Maybe your basketball team didn't play so hot tonight?  Or your sister gave you the stink eye today and it put you in a bad mood?  What are you going to do about it?  It's your call.

At the end of the day, when you're staring at a bowl full of lemons, what are you going to do with them.

Our God is a good God.  He lets us choose.  He lays out the setting and we decide how to move forward.  We cannot erase what happened yesterday, we can learn from it though.  Then take that knowledge and apply it as best we can, before the next rain hits.

Hopefully, in the name of good fun.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Day 28 - How to Help Your Child Discover Her Inner Speed

So we successfully survived 6th grade sports.  If you’re a parent and you’ve been thru this, you know what I’m talking about.  It’s not easy being a 6th grade athlete.  Whether its loads of bench time until you earn your spot in the game, or you’ve earned your spot on the floor over an upperclassman and it’s just stressful to be put in that position, the first go around at school sports is tough.  And the parents, well, we’re just never happy no matter how the situation goes down.  We are passionately yelling to our kids and the coaches of exactly how the game should be played, but nobody seems to be listening to us.  We played these sports, we know what we're talking about!  (Stick with me coaches).

Samantha played in all four sports that were offered to her last year and enjoyed being a part in all of them, even though 6th grade offered its fair share of ups and downs.  We actually had to twist her arm to join track.  She didn’t really want to run, but our sales pitch was that track is not about the running.  You do have to do run, but track is really about the social aspect.  You run your event, then you hang out with your friends on the sidelines and have a good time the rest of the meet.  “Do it, you’ll like it.  Either that, or you can start riding the bus home and we’ll have a list of chores for you when you get home from school.”  Tough love, I know.

Track season started and there was a little complaining about the excessive amounts of running required, but she was surviving pretty well.  Coach had a meeting before the first meet to talk about the usual parents stuff.  Afterwards I asked him about what kind of shoes Samantha needed to have (because I’d already purchased 3 sports of shoes this year and was hoping to get away with regular tennis shoes for track season).  When he said “Sam needs spikes,” I actually questioned him to make sure I understood that she REALLY needed them.  “Yep, she’ll be sprinting.”  Well, ok, I guess now I have to buy them because the coach says so.

I’ll never forget the first meet, it was freezing cold for the Pawnee Relays, and I was taking great pity on the shivering kids who had to strip out of their sweats to run.  Samantha was the 2nd leg of the 4x100 relay and I even got the race on video for Ted, who couldn’t make it that day.  I was in udder shock and awe as I watched that 100 meters of the race.  She not only held her own, but actually passed up several of the other girls on the track to put them in first place.  I know it wasn’t just me because several other parents turned and said, “where did that come from?!?”  Combining the talents of some awesome teammates, they won that 4x100 relay, and also the 4x200 relay that day.  Track quickly became my favorite sport of 6th grade and I hustled to get to every meet so I could watch Sam develop and continue to find her inner speed.

Summer came and went and it was discovered during softball season that Sam could use her newfound speed stealing bases.  In the last game of the season, she even stole home on a sneaky little play (next year we are going to work on sliding).

And here we are in basketball season.  I cannot lie, this has always been my favorite sport.  I suppressed my feelings last year and tried to remain unbiased.  But Wednesday night’s double overtime victory resurfaced all my love of the game.  I’m so very happy the girls had the chance to experience the thrill of a close game, the noise of the crowd, the pressure of making the right plays, and the excitement of bringing home the win at the last buzzer.  Fighting to the bittersweet end and accomplishing the final goal, but also figuring out how to work together as a team to get to that goal.  It's a life experience that infuses a winning attitude into your system.  Stop me!  I’m going sentimental, I’d better move on.

Back to speed, so Sam comes home from basketball practice one day last week and mentions that she “has” to run fast now.  Hmm, I asked for further information.  “Well, now I’m kinda expected to be fast when we run lines.”  So you have to work harder then, I summed up for her.  “Yep.”  Beautiful!  That right there makes it all worth it.  Every 4 hour bleacher butt, running around from practice to game to concession stand worker and gatekeeper.  All worth it for the young lady who is realizing her potential and that she now WANTS to live up to it.  

So how did she discover her inner speed.  Let me rewind, it was some of those first track practices last spring when the coach was probably trying to figure out what to do with all of these sixth graders.  I asked Sam how she figured out she was fast.  Her reply, “well I didn’t really know I was fast, but I was afraid I was going to have to run the long races.  I ran as fast as I could in hopes that I wouldn’t have to.”  There you have it friends, the reason to run fast is so that you don’t have to run far.  She’s a smart kid.  I actually saved her track photo on my phone recently so that I see her running every time I open my phone.  She’s my new inspiration to work smarter, so I don’t have to work longer.

And in closing, I need to pay special recognition to each of the coaches that have helped Samantha bring out her inner speed.  Thanks for yelling at her and demanding more out of her.  Your job is a thankless one, so today I’d like to take a moment to thank each of you.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Day 27 - We Own This Day

There are many ways to watch an Illini Football Game at Memorial Stadium.  Here are a few of my favorites:

1. As a baritone player in the Marching Illini.  "Oskee Wow Wow from the Hold!"
2. From the top of the Press Box as an Illini Pride Ambassador.  You may just be on top of world up there.
3. Homecoming Day, Listening to the cheers...from the parking lot, as you finish another beer with old friends.
4. 8 months pregnant sitting with your parents 10 rows up from the field because dad knows exactly where every seat is when he scalps tickets.
5. The very first time you teach your daughters the I-L-L I-N-I cheer, the wave, Oskee Wow Wow, and Alma Mater, sitting in the end zone, because the seats are cheap and now you need more of them.
6. And during your very first RV roadtrip...
It was 5:45am in Loami, IL.  Why were we awake you ask?  This is not normal for Mies's to get up before sunrise.  Today, we had commandeered the Larry Richie totally rad 1970's RV and were cruising cross-country (ok, just a few hours east) to Champaign, IL for an Illini Football Tailgate.  Who cares about the game, it's all about the pre-game. Previous to our Best Night Ever, this may have been logged as our Best Day Ever.  

We rolled into town with plenty of time for Mimosa's, Bloody Mary's, hamburgers, and a parking lot football with random strangers, who all admired our far-out ride.  (Even though their RV's were 30 years newer than our ride).  Let's get busy making new friends in this section of Illini Nation.

This happened to be Halloween weekend, and in true Richie fashion, Anna had to dress for the occasion.  To the stadium she marched in her full-blown tigger costume, accessorized with a Juice Williams #1 football jersey.  All the small children were asking for photos and autographs.  We had to split up walking in as our tickets were spread out thru the stadium.  Once inside we began to hunt eachother down and find nine empty seats together.  Amber and I caught first glance of the electronic scoreboard and who should we see but Tigger on the screen!  Well, it looks like our seats are in the south end zone!  Thanks Tigger!  Eventually the tigger costume got warm and it was time to find a relief tiger.  Anna turned around and asked the crowd if anyone was interested.  A funny little man 3 rows back eagerly jumped up and begged for the opportunity to borrow the costume. Off went tigger the random stranger bouncing around Memorial Stadium for a solid hour, popping in and out of entrances, reappearing on the big screen, and having a grand time.  He returned the costume late in the 4th quarter, hot and extremely stinky.  

The game ended in an Illini victory over Purdue and we headed back to our sweet ride in the parking lot.  This time Calyssa fitted herself into the Tigger costume and enjoyed the extra attention and fan support with the help of her bodyguards, Samantha and Amber.

It's been a few years now since we've managed to travel east for a good tailgate party.  Somehow our priorities have shifted to accommodate new schedules.  Maybe one of these years we will get back into the tailgate routine.  There is a lot of orange and blue blood in our families, surely some of that blood will find its way back to Champaign so that we have an excuse to shift our schedules into tailgate mode again.  For today, I guess I will have to yell my I-L-L really loud from 14810 Maxwell Hall Road.  Am I loud enough to get a chant started?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Day 26 - Yellow House at 10000 Waverly Road

An Ode to 10000 Waverly Road...

In December of 1999,
It was time 
To move into the u-shaped yellow house.
Maplewood Place was the name it bore,
Established in 1917.

And so was tradition 
Of each family member
To measure their height on the door.

You may paint the walls or tear down the wallpaper,
Pull out the bushes and more.
Just please, no matter what you do,
Please don't paint that door.

A home you see, isn't built of wood
It's more about the people living in it.
Traditions and memories and stories rich in history
Come from that yellow house.

As we wave goodbye and start a new chapter
We will hold a place in our hearts, 
for the yellow house 
With the red barn behind it
that kept us safe from disaster.

Our last request, little yellow house 
we ask you do the same
For those who follow behind us.
We love them a lot and wish them the best
In their time at 10000 Waverly Road.

Amber's fessed up one night that her biggest fear of moving was leaving behind all those great memories we made in that yellow house.  My sweet child, I explained, nobody gets to take away the memories when we move, we pack them up and take them with us.  And the best part, we get to start over with a clean slate and a big big playground full of possibilities.   Quietly I decided I'd better jot down a few of those memories, my brain only has so much storage space before it starts dumping off excess information. 

Here are a few of my favorite Yellow House Memories that I haven't already included in my blog.

- Picnics on a blanket in the front yard which included every stuffed animal in the house
- Memorial Day Water Balloon fights
- The day Samantha set Willy free and nearly convinced her dad to keep a market lamb as a pet.
- Many a nights of Capture the Trophy 
- The Farm Progress parade every fall.  Ted could sit at the kitchen counter and identify the farmer passing by, without even looking out the window.  I wasn't that talented, but did develop an ear for Mies Farms Machinery over time. 
- The rocking chair in Samantha's nursery, in the middle of the night, for her first nine months of life.
- Amber's serenades from the bay window, and the fireplace
- The Tennessee Roadhouse - Head Chef Samantha Mies and Entertainer/Waitress Amber Mies
- The hunting stand turned cat perch in the white shed
- 5 baby skunks and their short-lived stay with us
- Ted chasing Bella's boyfriend off with a paintball gun 
- A redneck water slide
- The best tire swing ever.  If another storm ever passes thru, strap yourself to the swing set!
- Growing marigolds and zinnias in the windowsill 
- Foosball tournaments
- Stop the combine!  You're about to take out my fence!
- Wine and puzzles at the dining room table
- The upstairs guest room filled with harvest helpers

Raise your hand if you've ever used our house as a land marker to give directions.  Explaining our address was never really a challenge, "yellow house, red shed, 10000 Waverly Road"

From this point forward, our new directions will be as follows
- coming from the north, if you see the yellow house, you've gone too far
- coming from the south, turn at the road after the yellow house

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Day 25 - Volleyball Monday

Here's a shout out to all the beauties (and boys) who spent a Monday night or two in our yard this summer!  I used to dread Mondays, until the creation of Volleyball Monday.

We did a trade off this summer, we were summer league softball dropouts in exchange for backyard volleyball. 

If you build it, they will come was the theory, and it worked.  We rigged up a net in our yard, mowed the grass super short, and spray-painted lines to make a regulation size court.  Every Monday we would invite as many players as we could text for some informal backyard volleyball.  We made up the rules as we went, divided up into teams with not much rhyme or reason, Ted tried to protect his cornfield, Bella was pleased by all the extra friends in her yard, and the Richies even showed up to boost the competition level.  

I had a theory in the back of my head when we started the summer....the girls liked volleyball so I wanted to give them a fun atmosphere to play in.  I also wanted to help them develop their skills and enjoy the sport on a fun, but competitive level.  So we invited friends, family and teammates over and called it Volleyball Monday.  

Without even realizing it, VBM turned into therapy for me, a weekly reminder to have hope that my beautiful niece was going to be ok regardless of what the doctors said.  You see, each week Calyssa would show up and somehow maneuver her team's rotation so that she played her middle front position at least 90% of the time her team was on the court.  She would get a few spikes or block one of mine, place a wicked serve from ten feet behind the back line, and I'd tease her about being on steroids.  Love you tall skinny girl!

Volleyball Monday also allowed for the opportunity to invite new players to the court that were previously unfamiliar with the game.  Everyone needs to know how to play volleyball.  It's a social thing, like foosball, cards, or golf.  We loved it when baseball season paused and made room for the boys to join us.  The 7th grade girls squad especially enjoyed beating them. 

Sore moms, trash talk, new cheers, finding the ball in 4ft corn, finding the ball in 12ft corn, socializing, being with friends when we need eachother for a 90 minute break from realities of life.  All things good at Monday night volleyball.

Ok, so there was a little in it for me too.  It felt really good every once in awhile to pull off a spike or a good serve like the glory days of high school.  And to beat Bill Richie's team, that was good too.  My favorite quote on the court came from Bill to the beginners on his team, "ok boys, you need to take this a little more seriously, I don't like to lose."

Fall softball season began and it's been harder to squeeze in Volleyball Monday's.  Luckily Labor Day provided us with one last opportunity to close up the summer season in style.  VBM moved to its new improved location, sporting a bigger yard, tree lines for sun and wind protection, a swimming pool cool down station, and an old fashioned potluck picnic atmosphere.  Mies Farms will be the permanent location for all future volleyball events.  Love, love, love it! 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Day 24 - Happy 8th Anniversary Baby!

We were sitting around with a group of adults chatting one evening when the topic of anniversaries came up.  We were asked how long we'd been married, and I couldn't recall at that exact moment so I threw out the number 8.  The group seemed to go along with it until someone started doing some math and realized Samantha was 9 at that time.  Not that it's not possible, but they brought the topic back our way and started questioning us again.

Since then, Ted and I have decided we like celebrating 8 years of marriage, for many reasons.  First, if we always make it our 8th Anniversary, then neither of us ever has to worry about getting the number wrong.  Second, when we celebrated 8 years of marriage the first time, we were 31.  That is SO young!  I can keep believing I'm 31, and you don't have to remind me that I'm not.  And 3rd, when we signed up for this agreement, the terms were for life, so the only anniversary number I really need to worry about at this point is 50.  We made a deal with the Richies that we'd all go back to Hawaii for our 50th Anniversaries.  I'm looking forward to that trip.  Imagine the possibilities!

Since it's our 8th anniversary today, I feel obliged to pass on some noteworthy wisdom we were given by our Pastor during pre-marriage classes.  "You may not always like eachother, but you still have to love eachother."  Ain't that the truth!  I could probably recall one or two instances in the past 8 years when I didn't like my husband very much.  I'm a smart woman though so I'm not going to offer up any of those instances, I know it goes both ways.  

As a newlywed, I had the ambitious idea that instead of saying "I love you", I would say "I love you today."  This way I would have to make sure to say it again tomorrow, and the next day, and so on because it's effect would wear off at the end of the day.  Young brides have big ideas.  I must confess that after 8 years have passed, I've probably missed a few days.  I did program the automatic text into my phone so that all I have to type is ilut and all the words pop up.  I've had this phone for about 2 years and just remembered this feature earlier this week.  I tried it out again on my husband who was outside working.  Low and behold, it still works!  Not less than 10 seconds later, he appeared in the doorway with a smile on his face. 

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."