Wednesday, August 09, 2017

a new school year and a new theme

School starts today! I sent everyone off this morning and now the house is quiet. I wasn't quite ready for summer to end, so I feel a little bit glum here all alone. My kids get along well together and I think they are so fun to be around, so I'll miss having them home. Our house was an especially happy one this summer.

Stella and Oliver are off to 4th and 7th grades. They attend the same school, a sort of magnet school in our district with a more rigorous curriculum. Mabel is a sophomore in high school, in the International Baccalaureate program. Her schedule looks so hard this year, but she is a bright girl and I know she'll do all right! And then sweet Elliot is in 2nd grade at our neighborhood elementary.

I like to pick a theme each school year. It gives us something to think about as we start a new year. With Mabel's intense load, and Oliver starting junior high, and Stella at a new, more difficult school, I was afraid we would get loaded down with work. I want to make sure that we always put God first, so I chose a scripture from Matthew that says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

My hope is that our family will put prayer, scripture study, service, and family time ahead of school and homework and anything else. I have seen that in my own life, when I have put a greater priority on my spiritual wellbeing, everything else falls into place.

Here's to a new year!

Monday, August 07, 2017

charity vs pride

I was studying for my lesson yesterday and came across a talk by President Uchtdorf called "In Praise of Those Who Save." He is referring to those who work to save their marriages and families. I am grateful to have a strong marriage with Mike and a happy family life with our children, but I still found lots of things in his talk that were very helpful.

First, President Uchtdorf says that "strong marriage and family relationships ... require constant, intentional work. The doctrine of eternal families must inspire us to dedicate our best efforts to saving and enriching our marriages and families."

And "no matter how flat your relationship may be at the present, if you keep adding pebbles of kindness, compassion, listening, sacrifice, understanding, and selflessness, eventually a mighty pyramid will begin to grow."

So there is always hope! But adding those pebbles is not easy. It requires us to seek charity. President Uchtdorf says. "Whatever problems your family is facing, whatever you must do to solve them, the beginning and the end of the solution is charity, the pure love of Christ. Without this love, even seemingly perfect families struggle. With it, even families with great challenges succeed."

But sometimes charity is really hard to summon, right? Especially when we are in the middle of an argument. Because "the great enemy of charity is pride. Pride is one of the biggest reasons marriages and families struggle. Pride is short-tempered, unkind, and envious. Pride exaggerates its own strength and ignores the virtues of others. Pride is selfish and easily provoked. Pride assumes evil intent where there is none and hides its own weaknesses behind clever excuses. Pride is cynical, pessimistic, angry, and impatient. Indeed, if charity is the pure love of Christ, then pride is the defining characteristic of Satan. Pride my be a common human failing. But it is not part of our spiritual heritage."

When I read that last paragraph, I realized that when Mike and I have a hard day together, it is almost always because of pride. When we are able to overcome a difficulty together, it is because one of us offered the other charity. So here's to charity! And to offering the people who mean the most to us the best of us.

Have a good week! My kids are scrubbing the basement clean of the filth of summer today. :) I'm not particularly looking forward to the start of the school year, but I am looking forward to having a clean house again.

Friday, August 04, 2017

happy weekend

Yesterday we had a whopper of a monsoon. It is so amazing to have the temperature drop 30 degrees in a few minutes as the rain (and hail) start pouring out of the sky. It's just about the only time you see kids playing in the street in the summer. It is a welcome change, even with the humidity it brings.

I told myself this week that I didn't have to do anything. That I was just going to enjoy our last week of summer and relax. I did do a lot of that, but I also got busy cleaning out cupboards and junk drawers and my entire sewing room. I'm not sure what came over me. It was the most energy I've had all summer. Maybe because I gave myself permission to relax? Who knows, but I sure love walking by my sewing room and seeing it spic and span.

I'm teaching the Young Women on Sunday. The lesson is on why family is important. I don't usually look forward to my turn to teach, but I am excited to get into this topic with them. This whole month is full of really great lesson topics, actually. I am grateful to belong to a church that believes in and teaches these things to our youth.

Well, Oliver will be happy to know that because of the rain yesterday, the grass was too soggy to mow this morning. He had no idea I was going to wake him up early to work on it. We'll have to do that tomorrow, I guess. :) We need to get back in to the habit of waking up early, anyway. 5:00 wake up calls are coming soon!

Have a happy weekend.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

the last days of summer

It's our last week of summer break. Sometimes at the end of summer, I am really anxious for school to start. Not this time. I'm not quite ready to get back into that busy routine, even though I know it will be good for us. Plus, our time with Mabel is running out! She only has two more summers at home, and it'd be nice if time would slow down just a little bit.

I've sort of let everything go this week. We are watching tv and playing the wii and looking at the iPad. And eating lots of ice cream, too. #longlivesummer

Monday, July 31, 2017

back into the swing of things

School starts next week. Ah! I guess it's time to get back into the swing of things. I will miss this summer. It has been my favorite to date. We took a couple of really fun trips and then spent the rest of the time at home relaxing in a major way--staying up late, sleeping in, swimming, playing, reading. Oh, it has been so great! We work really hard during the school year, so it feels really good to take a break from reality for a little while.

But that can't last forever. My goal this week is to get the kids to bed at a reasonable hour. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 07, 2017

happy weekend

It turns out that the Fourth of July is a good day to drive home from Utah. The roads are mostly empty and there are really great fireworks displays dotting the sky as you descend into the valley. We pulled into our driveway just in time to light a few sparklers and send everyone to bed.

We were away for two weeks, which felt like a good long time, but we were ready to come home. We are homebodies through and through and even though Sundance, Utah is my favorite place in the world to visit, home is my favorite place to be. I spent the rest of the week getting back into the swing of things and reminding myself that I don't need to drink Dr Pepper everyday.

The kids missed our cats while we were gone. I surprised myself by really missing my bike! None of us missed the heat, but summer time in Arizona is what it is. And strangely enough, 100 degrees at midnight feels like home.

More photos of our trip to come. . . Have a great weekend!

Friday, June 16, 2017

happy weekend

I love summer. I love not having a schedule to keep. I love our slow mornings. I love not making dinner (cereal for dinner forever!). I love telling my kids when I tuck them in at night that they can read as late as they'd like.

On non-school nights, Elliot and Mabel switch beds so that she and Oliver can stay up late together talking. I hope they are always such good friends! It has tightened the bond between Stella and Elliot, too. This means that all summer long, Elliot is in Mabel's bed, and she is in his. Sometimes I wonder if they should just switch permanently, but I don't want to redecorate. :)

We are anxiously awaiting Mike's return for Father's Day this weekend. He has been away working as the cook for our ward's young men campout this week and we miss him (and Oliver, too). I loved this instagram about fathers from the LDS church that I saw this morning. My favorite part was when the dad said, "We fall short. We second-guess. We struggle. We hurt. We mess up. But, here's the real truth: We love. We cherish. We honor. We care. Not because we made ourselves that way, but because we have inherited our best traits and our greatest characteristics from the Father of us all."

Sometimes I think dads get a bad rap, but they are so important! And I know they try harder than we give them credit for.

I am feeling extra grateful for my own dad today--for his constant support and unconditional love. He has always wanted the best for his children and moved heaven and earth to get it for them. And I'm thankful for Mike, too, who takes his role as father so seriously. We'd be lost without his inspiration and direction and support.

Let's give our dads a big squeeze this weekend, if we can. Have a good one!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

the family computer

For years our computer has been in a spare bedroom that serves as an office/sewing room on our main floor. But lately I've been feeling like it needed to be more visible, so I moved it to the kitchen. There is no ideal place to put it in there. We have to stand in front of it now or pull a chair up to the cabinets and bump our knees, but I don't care. I think moving it to the kitchen will keep my family safer. We have some strict computer rules already (like, unless you are doing homework, you have to have a buddy, no computer when the parents aren't home, etc.), but I like having it out in the open, too.

Summer is a good time to take a break from the computer, anyway. My kids keep asking to use it and I keep saying no. And they complain for a minute and then they find something else (better) to do. Ha!

Monday, June 12, 2017

the best pie

Ok, this really is maybe the best pie ever. It's a chocolate chess pie and was totally worth saving up all of my sugar during the week for a slice. It poofs up like a soufflé in the oven, but then deflates as it cools. After chilling it in the fridge overnight, I served it with freshly whipped cream after Sunday dinner. It is rich and dense and so delicious.

Two notes: I halved the recipe and only made one pie. While I regret this, I am glad that I don't have a whole other pie to avoid as I am back to not eating sweets during the week. And I left out the coffee extract and I can't imagine that its omission lessened the deliciousness.

I don't think I am overstating things when I say that I might never make another kind of pie again.

Friday, June 09, 2017

happy weekend

We have reached the point in our summer vacation where I don't know what day it is anymore. All of our days pretty much look like this ^^^. Lots of swimming. Lots of reading. Lots of sleeping in. It has been wonderful.

We have some fun things planned for this weekend, like a neighborhood carnival to help support our friend, Jeff, who was just diagnosed with colon cancer! If you are local, please come on Saturday night. There will be carnival games, food trucks, a humongous silent auction, and more. Here is the Facebook page and the Instagram account for more information. It is going to be a great night for a really good cause.

This is the kind of neighborhood effort that makes me really grateful to live where we do.

I felt so good last summer/fall when I was limiting my sugar, so I am trying to do it again, but it is so hard. And this pie has been calling my name. I think I'll make it for Sunday dinner. If I can get back to having one treat a week at Sunday dinner, I think I'll feel better. I've been feeling sluggish lately and it's time to make a change. More sleep and less sugar. That's the plan.

Stay cool out there and have a happy weekend!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

a habit shift

We spent yesterday cleaning out our garage and shed. Why we chose to do that when it was 107 degrees outside, I don't know. But when the urge to purge hits, you have to follow through. That's what I've learned, anyway.

Our goal was to make room in the garage for our bikes. Because all of a sudden it feels like we have a million bikes!

Another thing I love about Mike is that when he decides to do something, HE DOES IT. An example: We have decided that if possible, we will ride our bikes instead of driving our car. Luckily we live where it is very flat (it's not called Mesa for nothing), and most of our life happens within a very small radius of our home. This is something I happily support. But Mike didn't stop there. No, he went above and beyond, like he always does, and found us electric bikes!

Oh man, they are a major game changer. Once you start pedaling, the little electric motor kicks in to assist. Every bike ride becomes a leisurely bike ride, even though you are zooming down the road. (Since our children don't have electric bikes, we kept our old bikes for family bike rides. Thus, the million bikes now crowding our garage.) The electric bikes make his commute to work and school, date night, and trips to the store so much more fun.

Sometimes it is hard to shift our habits. It takes effort to think about jumping on my bike to run an errand instead of jumping in the car. It takes some planning, too. That quick trip to the store might not happen, but maybe that's ok? Maybe it can wait. And sometimes habit shifts require going against the norm a little bit. My gut tells me that this shift is a good one, odd as it may seem to others. I've noticed that when I get home from a trip on my bike, I am happy. There is something light and peaceful and quiet about it. I am glad that Mike pushed it, and that it fits into our life easily.

(We got Juiced bikes and love them.)

Monday, June 05, 2017

biking to the store

Something I love about Mike is that he always has a new idea. He is constantly trying to improve how we do things around here. He'll research all the things, weigh the options, and then move forward. I am more apt to keep things the same, even if they aren't working terribly well. For instance: I've been riding my bike to the grocery store every week, but I could only fit so much in that teeny basket. I would have kept dangling grocery bags off my handlebars til the end of time, but he ordered a bike trailer. And now I can fit all the groceries! Hooray!

Friday, May 26, 2017

happy weekend

It's our first week of summer vacation. Hooray! We have big plans to clean out backpacks, get doughnuts, and load up on books at the library. And then go swimming. Because summer in Arizona equals swimming.

Also, it's 7:45 am and Elliot has already told me that there's nothing to do. Ha! Guess what, Elliot? Summer is about being bored, so get used to it. :)

Mike got the kids involved in planning our summer trip. They had lots of fun looking at all of the options together and then voting for Family Home Evening. Still not sure what we'll end up doing, but I am looking forward to it all the same!

Here's a quick neat video about my surfboard shaper brother, Matt.

And here's a little longer video made from one of my favorite General Conference talks about hearing the music of the gospel.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

mother's day

I think this was the first time in five years of taking our Mother's Day picture that Mike was home to take it for us. Usually we use a self timer. I think that explains the real smiles on my kids' faces. I am sure Mike said something really funny to make us laugh.

I shared this quote on my instagram, and I know I've shared it on my blog before, but that doesn't mean I can't do it again:

"Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough of greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity."

-Margaret D. Nadauld

Mother's Day was weeks ago I know, but I am grateful to share my thoughts about it here, late as they may be. I love Mother's Day because it focuses on the goodness of women everywhere, whether they have borne children or not. Sister Julie B. Beck said, "Righteous women have changed the course of history and will continue to do so, and their influence will spread and grow exponentially." I believe that women run this world, and without our efforts, everything would crumble, or in the very least, everyone would run out of toilet paper. (Did you read that funny article making the rounds on Facebook?)

I love that Mother's Day gives me the opportunity to check myself, to see how I am doing, to ask myself if I am becoming the kind of woman that Sister Naduald described. Inevitably, the Spirit whispers to me that I am doing ok, but that maybe I could do a little better in this area or that. I am thankful for those promptings because my children deserve my best.

And I love that it makes me reflect on my own mother. She teaches me how to be a woman of God through her actions everyday.

I hope your Mother's Day was a happy one, full of contentment and love and hopefully not too much mess and at least a little bit of chocolate.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

doctrine vs application

I teach the 14-16 year old girls in my congregation (Mabel included). Just the other day, I sat down to plan our Sunday lessons for the summer and we will be learning about some potentially difficult things-- things like the importance of keeping the law of chastity, temple marriage, and preparing for motherhood. While the world is screaming to these girls that these things are not important, it is my job to tell them otherwise. Sometimes that feels difficult.

I was really glad when my sister steered me toward an article on that talked about doctrine versus application. The gist is, if we want our children to learn truth - eternal truth, we must teach them doctrine, not application. For example, if we want our children to keep the law of chastity (a principle), we need to teach them that their body is a temple because it houses their spirit (the doctrine). They need to know the "why" behind the principle, not just how to apply it in their life (in this example, an application could be wearing modest clothing or not watching suggestive media).

The author, Rochelle Tallmadge, says this about doctrine: "Doctrine is truth. But not just any truth. Eternal Truth. Doctrine is things as they WERE, things as they ARE, and things as they really will BE. It doesn't change. Some things are true on this earth, but they aren't TRUTH. ... Doctrine doesn't tell you what to do. It just IS."

About principles, she says, "A principle is the category that falls under doctrine. Many principles peel off of the same doctrine. There aren't that many doctrines, actually. But there are more principles. Like, Keep the Sabbath Day Holy, Pray, Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity. Those tell us what to do, generally. Those can change. For instance, the Word of Wisdom looked very different for the children of Israel than it does for you and me. Even the Law of Chastity might look different, given the time."

And then, applications. Rochelle says, "After principles come applications. These are the specific ways you live the gospel and practice principles. You may wear a dress that covers your knee, whereas I might have a skirt that stops just above it. You may watch tv on Sunday night, but your best friend does not. Applications are very, very personal. It's up to us to follow the Spirit and make our own choices. And we get in trouble in the church when we try to teach the applications instead of doctrines. That's how the Pharisees and the Sadducees missed the fact that The Messiah was standing right in front of them. They were focused on the applications (and misapplications) of the Law of Moses, not the whole purpose of it: Jesus Christ."

Oh, it's so good. The article is not very long, and I encourage you to read it for yourself. And then talk about it with your children. :) I am grateful for this little refresher course on how to teach children and youth. I want my children to stay true to the doctrine of Jesus Christ more than anything, so I better make sure that they know it, and not just the application of it.