Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Star-Spangled Banner

Thanks to the kindness of my friend Camilla (for watching my girls) I had the opportunity to accompany Guy at field day at school on Friday.

During "opening ceremonies" they played the Star-Spangled Banner as they do every Monday morning in school.  We were standing together as teams made up of a mix of ages when the song began.  As it played, I noticed only a few sweet voices ringing out in unison...and they were mostly the younger voices.  I searched for Guy in the crowd and sure enough, he was singing the words to the national anthem along with another little boy from his class.

I was so proud of him.  Among a sea of adults and older kids, it was the youngest children who made the sweetest contribution that morning and knew enough to do so.  

I made my way over to him, knelt by his side and started singing too.

Once again, I was so grateful that Guy got the teacher that he did for Kindergarten this year, because I know that she's the one that taught Guy to sing the National Anthem.

FHE was an all-weekend thing...bike rides to the park, kickball games, cookouts, s'mores, swimming...we had a blast together!  But I think teaching our children to sing the national anthem or to say the pledge of allegiance or to stand when the flag passes by or to thank a serviceman would make for a great FHE activity.  You can check out The Smithsonian website for some educational activities to help kids learn about the Star-Spangled Banner.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

480 Months of Marriage

My parents are celebrating 480 months of marriage today...which to the rest of us translates as 40 years.  My parents celebrate their marriage anniversary on a monthly basis, which was always very confusing for us growing up!  But there has never been any confusion in our minds about how they feel about each other...it's true love!  The forever kind.

I was so fortunate to be raised by two people who love each other 
and who honor each other with complete fidelity!

Thanks, Mom and Dad!


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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Seriously Summer

It's the unofficial start of summer!  Woohoo!

I really appreciate that so many of you shared your summer plans with me.  You gave me a few ideas and got me all fired up for fun this summer.

Since you shared your summer ideas with me, I thought I'd give you a little peek into what we'll most likely spend a lot of time doing this summer:

Playing some serious kickball in the neighborhood.

As you can see, we've also got ourselves a serious cheerleading squad...

...and a seriously cute mascot.

And now Steve has a serious new fire pit to roast marshmallows in. 
(An early Father's Day gift!)

Ok, maybe it's not that serious around here...but our summer is off to a great start!

Hope yours is too!  Have a safe and fun Memorial Day Weekend!

We are off to a baptism for a friend and then to the pool!

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Friday, May 25, 2012

The Gift of Giving Life: Take 2

The Gift of Giving Life

This review is a stop on the Virtual Book Tour for The Gift of Giving Life by authors Felice Austin, Lani Axman, Heather Farrell, Robyn Allgood, and Sheridan Ripley.

In my original review of this book that I shared a few weeks ago I named this book my "Book of the Year for 2012."  After reading just one essay, I just knew...It was that GOOD!  Now that I've partaken of the offering in its entirety, I want you to know that I stand by that declaration.  

I have given birth to three beautiful children (each 18 months apart)...and I am now in the fourth month of my fourth pregnancy.  Needless to say, I had my first three kids at a break-neck pace.  Probably so fast that I didn't take time (or have time) to consider fully the many rich spiritual lessons that childbirth provides.  

I have had to wait longer than I'd hoped to welcome baby #4 into our lives.  In that time, I have been "seasoned" by actual years of "in-the-trenches" Motherhood, and I now approach childbirth with a new, enriched understanding of all that this step entails--and it's true significance in the grand scheme of things.

When you hold your first newborn in your arms, it's amazing and intimidating, empowering, and yet revealing about how little you actually know about anything!  Now that I've been stripped of what I thought I knew going into motherhood, about the plan that I thought was best I am now ready to really learn the lessons that the Lord wants me to learn through this amazing process of giving life.

Strangely enough, holding "The Gift of Giving Life" in my hands for the first time was not unlike holding a new baby.  As I read each of 20-some essays, I was able to experience what each mother experienced.  I held their babies in my arms and walked in their shoes, and I feel wiser for it.  

Covering topics such as pain, fear, patience, loss, faith, preparation, scriptural history of infertility, the importance of giving birth, the symbolism of Christ's atonement in giving birth, the equality of men and women's roles in this process, trust in God's will for us--this book has really helped me to see many of the lessons that are "built-in" to the process of "giving life."  

In just the first few essays, the book showed me how little I understood about the power that I held and then worked quickly to fill in the gaps and help me connect the spiritual dots.

Amazingly the lessons extend beyond giving birth and into the very way that we experience life.

For instance, on the topic of fear/pain, I was blown away by this excerpt:

"...The Buddhists say that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a painful feeling about pain.  Pain is simply a sensation, but suffering comes from thinking that what is shouldn't be.  I saw that no matter what happened to me in this life, I could trust that God had me in mind and that life happens for me, not to me.  It's all for my good."

"I envisioned myself looking at the possibilities for my earth life, accepting all the risks, and saying, "I am willing, send me.  I am willing to be the one who is betrayed.  I am willing to be physically uncomfortable.  I am willing to lose a child.  I am willing to be...lost, confused, hurt, offended, upset, in pain, maimed.  I am willing, send me.  I want to feel what it is to be alive, to love, to forgive.  I am willing to face pain so that I might know true joy."

"...I had always said, '"I want to be like Jesus,'"...Was I truly willing?...He was willing."
Can I also say, "Here am I, send me?

That is just one incredible and courageous observation taken from one of the dozens of essays that you will find in this beautiful book.  (This one was called "Goddess in Embryo" by Rebecca Overson, p. 252.)

I would go on and share each insight from the book that rocked my world, but I found it so deeply personal that it's difficult to articulate.  Each woman, whether you've given birth or not, will take something (many things) extremely personal and faith-building away from the essays in this book.

Also note: the book is written for an LDS audience and assumes a basic understanding of what we know about God's plan for his children.  Even so, I think many of the concepts presented in the book might just ring true to your experience, and will be an extremely enriching, thought-provoking read, whether you're Mormon or not.

Would you like to know more about The Gift of Giving Life?

Visit The Gift of Giving Life site to sign up for their newsletter and to receive a free Meditation MP3 as well as tips to help increase spirituality in your pregnancy and birth.  

For my readers I have a coupon code for 10% off a copy of The Gift of Giving Life.   Click here and after you add the book to your cart use this coupon code.  GWFWXR3F  This code is good until Father’s Day 2012.

PS - The winner of yesterday's book giveaway was comment #36 "Heather"...Please email me, Heather!
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

All Over the World (comment to win)

I received this book from Deseret Book a while back...It's called "I Believe in Jesus Too" by Mark S. Nielsen.  It shows how children all over the world go to church, take the sacrament, get baptized, participate in family home evening, and ultimately believe in Jesus.

I'd like to send you my copy of this book...so if you'd like to win it, please tell me what you'll be doing with your children this summer...It can be vacation plans, family traditions, summer camps, chores, chilling out, or even a course of study.  Just let me know in a comment on this post and you'll be entered to win.

I'll announce the winner (chosen randomly) tomorrow morning.

Please remember to leave your email address and/or blog address when you comment.

Have a great day!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Graduate

She's graduated!

Diploma and all...so, look-out world!

I can't believe two years have passed since that fateful day when Scarlett begged me to let her go to school along with her big brother.  I didn't want to send her.  I wanted to keep her home with me for one more year.  I couldn't bear to "lose" two in one year!

Looking back now, I can see how that first year was most formative for her and how she blossomed in this school's faith-filled environment.  Our home has been blessed with a never-ending stream of lyrics coming from our sweet songbird.  That has been my favorite part...Scarlett singing her little heart out!  That is the part that I will hold onto forever. 

Now guess who's eager for her turn!

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Anniversary FHE

Today, we  are celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary!

So last night, we decided to pull out our wedding photos and our anniversary book (which we received as a wedding gift) to show the kids during family home evening.

(If at this point, you are beginning to think, "Geez, these people will make an FHE lesson out of anything," well, you'd be right.  And so can you!  It's your family time...do what you want!)
Anyway, the kids were thrilled.

They are of the age that they think Mommy looks beautiful in her wedding dress and in just about any dress for that matter...and that Daddy is actually a prince.  I would love for that to always be the case.

We looked at pictures and talked about what it means to be married and sealed in the temple and what "anniversary" means.  We also filled out "year 8" in our anniversary book which is like a baby book for your marriage.  We each took turns saying something memorable about our year.  I think the kids enjoyed adding to the book and watching our family grow from page to page/year to year.

This year, we'll be adding another member to our family, and we are all excited about that.
What else will the year hold...I wonder?

PS - Be sure to sneak a peek at That Good Part's FHE experience!
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Monday, May 21, 2012

The Man Who Knew the Tooth Fairy

So, I was standing in line at the grocery store with my kids today after school when Guy announced the his first tooth was going to fall out!

I was excited for him, but I was also thinking, oh great, how was this not on my radar?  There is no way that the Tooth Fairy is going to be able to make it to the bank to get a $1 coin at 4:15pm.  Please don't fall out tonight.

Despite being in the "express lane," we were all standing there stalled by the man in front of us who was having trouble with the check-out.  I am pretty sure it was the grocery store's machines that were malfunctioning, but nevertheless, it was irritating.

And so we waited.

And while we waited, Guy continued to wiggle, and wiggle, and wiggle his little tooth.

He also intermittently announced his loose tooth status to everyone around us.

(So proud!)

I just accepted that his tooth was going to come out and it was going to throw a wrench in my day's plan.  Sigh.

The grocery store clerk finally managed to get the problem fixed and as the man in front of us (who was actually the cause of the bottleneck) was checking out he asked Guy over his shoulder, "Did I hear that you are losing a tooth?"  Guy said, "Yes!" and demonstrated his tooth wiggling abilities.

Then the man did something that won him hero-status in my book:  He reached out his hand to Guy and gave him a $1 coin.  He said, "The Tooth Fairy wanted me to give this to you...now you'll still need to put it under your pillow when it comes out and she'll swing by and pick it up."

I had already pulled my phone out to snap a photo of Guy before his tooth fell out, so I made sure to get one of my new hero as well.

PEOPLE:  There is a God in Heaven...and He is intimately involved in the details of our lives.

And he cares about little children and their first loose tooth and about Mommies who care about those little boys.

And there are saints and angels and heroes walking around among us.

Sometimes we don't recognize them, because they wear LA Dodgers caps and ride around in electronic wheelchairs, but they are definitely there.  And they are listening to the promptings of the spirit, ready to step in and perform small miracles at a moment's notice.

May we always recognize these tender mercies and give credit to the true source!

I couldn't think of a better ending to the life of that first little tooth! :)

And I am thankful tonight for a Heavenly Father who is always just a wish away and who is always willing to prove it!

PS - The tooth came out about five minutes after we returned home from the grocery store. And the kids each have their own theory about how that man knows the Tooth Fairy!
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Friday, May 18, 2012

Art Gallery Birthday Party

Do you see Scarlett?  (left-side of this photo?)

She's been beaming like that for weeks now in anticipation of her 5th birthday.

Well, the day has finally arrived, and we are living it up.

Previously, we've done an Art Party and a Paper Bag Princess party...but this year, she wanted to have a family birthday party, so we are throwing her an Art Gallery Party.  It's a very exclusive showing of her artwork and creations.  ;)

Very low-key, but I think she's going to LOVE it.

(If I were feeling more ambitious, I'd probably invite friends and serve hors d'oeuvres...you get the idea.  But this is more our speed right now.  She has requested McDonald's for dinner and we are getting an ice cream cake to enjoy together at home as a family...surrounded by the imaginations of her creative little mind!)

I have to run now and collect more of her drawings to add to our "collection."  Actually, they are kind of rare to find in the house, because she often gives her drawings away to teachers and friends who need cheering up!

That's our girl!  We love you, Scarlett!  Happy Birthday!

PS - If you are looking for some more inspiration, I've got a post up on the Friend website this week about teaching our children to "stand in holy places" online.

Have a good one!
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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What You Do With Your Name

Autumn excited about becoming a BIG sister!
We followed lesson #13 in the FHERB at FHE last night.

It was all about taking Christ's name upon ourselves at baptism and honoring that name by the things that we do.  The lesson suggested hiding strips of paper with our names on them throughout the house and sending the kids on a hunt to find both their first and last name.

After they found their names, we discussed how and why each name was chosen.  Then we talked about what our last name means and things we can do to honor our family name.  The kids all know how lucky we are to have the word "Christ" as part of our last name.  It is a constant reminder to each of us to follow in his footsteps.

But at baptism, we take Christ's name upon us by covenant, which is a much more serious and deliberate commitment.  Through baptism, we promise to bring honor to the name of Christ as we serve others, forgive, share, be kind, etc.

After the lesson was over, we brainstormed some possible names for the baby who is coming to our family.  It got pretty silly there near the end!  Then we went out for ice cream, because it just felt like the antidote to a sopping wet day!

Hope you guys had a great time at FHE last night and be sure to check out That Good Part!

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Half the Battle

Scarlett - Caught red-handed getting into my make-up before church yesterday!
Most days, Scarlett is a nearly-never-ending stream of stories and songs and commentary, which is quite the turn-around from her 2nd birthday where she barely said a word and was almost too shy to open her gifts.

This week, Scarlett is turning five years old and she just told me that she knows what she wants to be when she grows up.

This is a question that the teachers ask all the kids at my children's preschool at the end of their final year.  During their "graduation ceremony" the teacher reads their answers as they cross the stage.  It's all quite dramatic.  (You might remember that Guy said he wanted to be a soldier when he graduated from preschool last year, which also took me by surprise.)

So, I asked Scarlett to tell me what she told her teachers she wants to be when she grows up.  She said it as if I should already know the answer:  "A Mother!"  And then she turned and ran out to play in the rain with the other kids.

Sweet satisfaction...and she'll be an amazing one for sure!

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Earth to Mom

Before leaving for school this morning, Guy looked at his picture in the frame on our wall and said, "Mom, can we switch out the pictures for all the kids?"

I looked at the photo, which is a few years old and reluctantly agreed that we could.

I have been keeping the photos the way that they are because they are just my favorite photos of my kids ever.  They are all the perfect age, perfect expressions on their faces.  They are just so "them."

As I swapped out the old photo for the new one taken in Kindergarten this year, I realized that the photo that I thought was from two years ago was taken when Guy was three.  The other one that I found behind it was taken when he was just two.

Earth to Me..."Your kids are growing up!"

I am so proud of them....so happy for them.  Guy is reading.  Scarlett is heading to Kindergarten, and Autumn has begged me to let her attend preschool this year, and I have given in to her wishes!

As I take down these old photos of my children and compare them to each other...I can see their growth and it makes time seem to pass much faster.  

After the Primary children sang in Sacrament meeting yesterday, a brother in our ward leaned over to me and said, "I sure hope you are video taping your beautiful children every day, because when you are my age there isn't anything you wouldn't give to be with them at this age again for just five minutes!"  

Anyway, I am reminded of the frames my Mom gave us when we started school.  They were shaped like apples and had slots for us to keep a school photo of ourselves taken each school year.  I need to get some of those now...for myself!  (Anyone know where I can find one?)  

Because of Bro. Robertson's comment, I am thinking about doing a daily video diary with my kids this summer!  Earth-life:  You pass too quickly, but I am glad for reminders to enjoy each day.

PS - I hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day yesterday!  I sure did!
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Friday, May 11, 2012

Priesthood Power

Tonight, I sent the boys off to the Fathers and Sons Camp-out/Priesthood commemoration.  But before I sent them off, I baked them a couple dozen chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, and at the last minute, I pleaded for a blessing.  

I felt a little silly asking for one, because it seems sort of trivial.  I've been stuffed up for two days now and nothing has alleviated it.  This means I can't sleep, and it's difficult to eat or read stories to the girls...because I have to breathe out of my mouth.  Sounds small, but it was interrupting things and knowing Steve would be gone this weekend at the camp-out, I didn't want to risk feeling this way without any help.

So I asked.  (Mama always said, "You don't ask, you don't get.") And I got.

What I got was a blessing of healing, but also a blessing of guidance, a blessing for wisdom about what it means to bear a child in this world, a blessing for increased revelation for all of our children.

After that beautiful blessing, we had a family hug.  Scarlett asked me if I had felt the Spirit, and I said yes.  Guy asked, "Then why aren't you crying?"  We laughed and explained that you don't always cry when you feel the spirit.  :)

We waved to the boys and I ran out and gave Guy one of these bracelets that I made for him to wear over the weekend.  He tried it on and then had second thoughts about it, I think because wearing bracelets seemed like a "girl-thing."  But then Steve took one and showed Guy that real men can wear a gift from their Mama and not feel ashamed! :)  After seeing Steve put his on, Guy took his back again. :)

I walked back into the house and suddenly noticed that I was breathing freely again through my nose...no more suffocating stuffiness!  And THEN I started to cry.

I cried knowing already that I had received a powerful blessing, delivered by a man who worthily bears the Priesthood of the Lord.  I bear God's children.  Steve bears the power to bless those children (and me).  Together, we do the work of the Lord in our little family.

It it truly a blessing to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints....which makes the fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ and his priesthood available to each one of us.

Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Gift of Giving Life

I read a ton of books for my kids, but I am pretty selective about what I read for myself.  I have wasted plenty of time reading books that the world deems worthy of obsessing over, and I gave those up long ago...out of frustration and lack of time.  

Since that time, I've noticed an interesting thing occurring:  The truly remarkable, life-changing, and best books for me...have found a way to find Me...not the other way around.

Last year, it was "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom.  This year, it is "The Gift of Giving Life," by Heather Farrell, et al.

It arrived in the mail yesterday, and my first thought was, hmmm, looks thick...but it was quiet in the house so I flipped open to an essay about midway through the book.

I was blown away by what I read.  Here is an excerpt:

"...The Buddhists say that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a painful feeling about pain.  Pain is simply a sensation, but suffering comes from thinking that what is shouldn't be.  I saw that no matter what happened to me in this life, I could trust that God had me in mind and that life happens for me, not to me.  It's all for my good."

"I envisioned myself looking at the possibilities for my earth life, accepting all the risks, and saying, "I am willing, send me.  I am willing to be the one who is betrayed.  I am willing to be physically uncomfortable.  I am willing to lose a child.  I am willing to be...lost, confused, hurt, offended, upset, in pain, maimed.  I am willing, send me.  I want to feel what it is to be alive, to love, to forgive.  I am willing to face pain so that I might know true joy."

"...I had always said, '"I want to be like Jesus,'"...Was I truly willing?...He was willing."
Can I also say, "Here am I, send me?

That is just one incredible and courageous observation taken from one of the dozens of essays that you will find in this beautiful book.  (This one was called "Goddess in Embryo" by Rebecca Overson, p. 252.)

I'll admit that when I heard about this book on my friend Heather's blog, I wondered if it was going to be very granola...and TMI.  I wondered if it was going to push certain ways to be a Mother.  I wasn't sure I'd fit into their recommended "way".  

But from the taste that I received yesterday, I realized that this is going to be the adventure of a lifetime (times 22 women's lifetimes)...as that is what giving the gift of life to another person is:  the adventure of a lifetime.

Although I've only just begun the journey through this book, I am able to say with confidence that this book is one of those life-changing books that "found me."

This is my book of the year!  It is more than a book on Motherhood or giving birth.  It is a book about placing your hand squarely in the Lord's and saying, "Here am I, send me!"

You can read more about this book at http://thegiftofgivinglife.com/

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Thanks Be to God!

Today has been a Plan B type of day...you know one where Plan A seems to not want to work out quite right.  We missed the bus.  I forgot to buy Scarlett a white t-shirt that she needed for preschool today.  I had to make an unnecessary trip to Walmart upping my voyages to that side of town to three for the day.  And all of our clean laundry sits on my bedroom floor for the fifth (?) day in a row.  These things are really nothing to complain about, but some days, you know, they just wear on a girl.  (Especially when that third unnecessary trip takes place in the middle of nap time!)

Sometimes, I figure I just ought to cry more.  It could prove to be a very productive form of stress relief, I think.  But I don't.  I usually  just suck it up and keep moving.  Sometimes I don't know I need to cry until I get on the phone with my Mama, or I stop to recall the events of the day.

For instance, while the three kids and I waited fruitlessly at the bus-stop this morning, we noticed a mini-van full of adults with varying forms of disabilities.  They stopped at the intersection and turned left in front of us.  One woman was slumped over in the front passenger seat.  One person, seated midway back was wearing extensive head-gear.  The third fellow was seated in front of a folded-up wheelchair.  

Scarlett noticed immediately and curiously asked, "Why is that girl just sitting there like this?" and not knowing how to describe what she saw, she imitated the expression on the woman's face.  

I explained, "Scarlett, some people's brain and body don't work together right, so they can't make their bodies do what they want them to.  (Like the girl we saw in a wheelchair at the park last week?  Yes.)  I bet the woman saw you just now and thought, "Look at that cute little girl, I want to wave to her."  But her body wouldn't listen to what her mind wanted her to do, so all she could do was sit and watch you as she passed."

I told Scarlett that this is probably a source of sadness or frustration for people like the woman she saw...and this is why she must wave first and let people know that she sees them too.

I was retelling this story to my Mom on the phone just now as I lamented having to make these tiresome trips knowing that meant that the laundry would sit on the floor for yet another night.  And as I retold it, I cried, and realized, once again, how important perspective is to our enjoying happiness in this life.

It makes me hearken back to the talk given by Russell M. Nelson in General Conference called  "Thanks Be to God."  In it, he reminds us of many physical and spiritual gifts that we have to be thankful for:  our bodies, the ability to age, our body's ability to heal itself and to reproduce.  But he adds, "Be we reminded that a perfect body is not required to achieve one's divine destiny."  

What is required is our daily effort to access "the power of the Atonement so that we can truly change, become more Christlike, and qualify for the gift of exaltation and live eternally with God, Jesus Christ, and our families.33 For these powers, privileges, and gospel gifts, thanks be to God!"

I am thankful for modern prophets (and modern mamas!) whose teachings help me to realize that "Thanks Be to God" is really the only perspective that is needed to see life clearly.
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