Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Traditions ...part two

Ok pardon the Christmas posts...after Christmas. Oh well.

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is driving around looking at all of the Christmas lights. We usually do this on several outings. We love to drive around town and the town next door "judging" which ones are best. Here are a couple of our favorite..

This house had displays in their windows and all sorts of light displays. Winner! We loved it!

Our FAVORITE place to go look is at "the music house" as my kids have named it. Each year they place tons of lights and then synch it to music that we listen to on the radio. Each year seems to be better then the last. What I love most about the music house is the sheer delight in my little ones. They really think its magical. Mark cries out "CHRISTMAS LIGHTS!!"repeatably and is just so excited about the lights. Ben still thinks it is magical as well. He will do just about anything to go and see the music house. The older two still enjoy the house, but they spend most of their time trying to figure out how it works and patterns with the lights. It amuses me. I still think the lights are magical. I look forward to my cup of hot chocolate and watching the twinkling lights in the dark sky.

Enjoy the lights...not just my kids arguing. :-) Mark is cute, when the bell rings, he declares "Ding! Ding!!" Ahh so cute!

I have always wanted to have my house lit up at Christmas time. However, I seem to find many more things to do. I am so grateful for those who put the lights on just for me and my kids to enjoy. Thanks!!!

At the temple..a poor picture but we had a great time.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Traditions...part one

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is decorating gingerbread/graham cracker houses. The kids love any excuse to play with their food AND have it be candy they are playing with. Who wouldn't love that?!

The kids LOVE finding different ways to creatively place THE MOST candy on their "house". They they throughly enjoy eating their houses in the following days/the next day. --I am not a candy police, if they want to eat all of their candy in one day so be it. Its their tummy.--The older ones have learned this lesson and are pretty good with not eating it all in one setting.

Mark loved this tradition. After giving him his bowl of melted chocolate (aka the glue) and his cup of candy, he promptly dumped all of his candy into his bowl and declared "DONE!...Now I eat it!"

Ben had the most stress. His house tumbled over twice. Thank goodness Luke has had experience in this area of repairing the graham crackers and was able to save the day!! This insured a happy Ben at the end of the evening.

James is a skilled candy stacker. No cracker is unable to hold his placement of carefully balanced candy. If the world ends and grahm cracker houses must be built to save the world, James will be there and see it through to the end. No cracker is to small nor any amout of candy to many to accomplish his task.

Luke enjoys this creative process and is starting to venture out into the more functional, decorative realm of cracker houses. He is adding doors, different levels, and even gumdrop people.

As for me and my house? Well..I skip the graham crackers and just stick with chocolate houses.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fall pictures

Recently I begged and pleaded for a couple of friends of mine to take some pictures of my growing boys. My super awesome friends have much better picture taking skills then I do on my little ipod. Thank you amazing ladies!!

I inherited a whole bunch of large frames from a neighbor, that I wanted to use for the pictures and we went and bought A LOT of pumpkins for it. The largest pumpkin weighed in at 43 pounds and it was a BUGGER to get around. That is why I have boys though, I haven't had to life anything that heavy in a long time.

I am trying to create a Christmas card that I will pretend to mail out. I have the last 2 years of Christmas cards in my drawer collecting dust. In all of the cleaning for selling the house, you would think that I would have tossed them out, but nope, I still have them. Maybe I'll mail all three this year and everyone can see them grow up all at once.

Mark was fussy unless I let him hold my cell phone. I should have known that it would have caused a few problems.

But anyway...

Here are a few of the cute moments caught during our photo shoot.

I wonder if mom will notice if I answer just this one call...

James kinda looks like he should be on a psycho thriller movie...scary!

What do you want us to do with these frames Mom? You're weird!

Maybe this pumpkin will keep me warm!

Just let me answer this last text!

I've GOT to tell Brynlee about that bug on Ben's nose that he's trying to get off with his mouth. Some people are so immature.

James! Don't touch my phone!

What? We're going the wrong way?

Muuah!! For the cute girl across the room. Yeah I'm talking to you!

It was so much fun to get their pictures taken! I am so greatful to those who have more picture taking skills who share them with me!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Retreat retreat!!

Last year my sister and I organized and created the Southern Utah Fall Mom retreat. This year I WAS NOT going to do it. I was NEVER going to do all of that work again. It was insane.

Never say never. I should know that by now.

In August several people emailed me and then I was even cornered in a meeting about the need to do another retreat. All in one day.

HA! Nothing was going to change my mind. I had already learned so much at the last retreat that I didn't think that I could possibly recreate such a wonderful experience.

I didn't want to dismiss those around me who pleaded with me to organize another retreat, so I told everyone that I would pray about it. (I knew God was in my corner on this one....I felt

HA! --ok that laugh was more of a thats-what-you-think-laugh.

As I prayed, the prompting came to me that there were experiences that need to occur for some moms, and I had the skills and knowledge that would bring this about. I learned that it wouldn't be the overwhelming growing experience for me, but that it was something that would be incredibly fulfilling as I serve moms who need this.

So...we did it!

Katy and I then plunged forward in rushing a plan for it. We sent out registration and began brainstorming a fantastic weekend. The theme that we planned around was LiberMom:Mother's Who Know.

But when the time came for the retreat, Katy had some family things come up and we both knew that she needed to stay home.

I was heartbroken!! A big motivator for me to organize the retreat was so that I could hang out with my cool sister. I knew it was the right thing for her to do, but it was still difficult for me.

Chicken Caesar salad...yumm yumm!!

The retreat was spectacular. It is always so refreshing to go up to the mountains and just BE. The speakers were guided by the spirit and spoke what was needed.

Heather giving her presentation.

It was not the life defining like last year, but I felt so fulfilled as I watched the other moms learn and grow. It gave me more of a desire to plan one for next year then I have ever felt. I am already thinking of ways to make next years retreat even more empowering to these amazing mothers. So I guess it was defining for me...just in a different way.

Funny, although it was geared for "homeschool" moms...homeschooling never really came up. It was mostly about having the relationships that you need to have with your children so that they will trust you enough to teach them. I think that is a universal principle. If you have a great relationship with your children, you can guide them to be strong sons and daughters of God.

Emily Clawson was our evening speaker. She was fantastic in following the spirit. It was funny how we were in sync so much. We had both planned to cover certain topics in our talks, it was great!! She took us on a vision walk, I am still processing what I learned. The big thing I learned was that I have a tendency to focus on my negative aspects and it is a distraction from the path that God has for me. It is keeping me from reaching my potential.

Shauna Bird Dunn..she has an AMAZING signature! It is a work of art. A very creative person. She is so creative in her presentations, and yet it still speaks right to your heart. Some truths are right in front of you and yet we seem to not see them. My strengths will help me overcome my weaknesses.

It was so delightful to meet so many wonderful women! There are some seriously awesome homeschooling moms out there! They are a serious inspiration to me!!

Heather Poll...what an amazing, genuine person. I am so blessed to know her. When she talks to you, she looks into your soul. She spills love right out of her eyes for everyone. This was taken about a half hour before we left, we had been cleaning up and I look a little well.

She taught some wonderful things about being a great wife. How a "natural wife" is an enemy to God and how not to be a "natural wife." What kind of attitudes are not helping my marriage and some of the differences between men and women. It really brought a fresh perspective to me that I really needed. I really feel my marriage will be blessed.

We were up WAY to late. I think this was about 2:30 in the morning....we took a brief nap and were up and going at 6:30 to get breakfast ready. Crazy fun!!

The fantastic ladies that sweat right along side of me. LOVE these gals!

I am very grateful for this opportunity to have to do this. What a blessing it has been. Next year will be even better. We had a great pow-wow on the way home to make it even better.

If Katy will be there it will be better. That's all I need. Love you Katy!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What can happen in a week...

A lot has happened this past week.

Almost 2 weeks ago I was helping clean out a house. The widower had finally passed away after living a rich, full life. A bittersweet reunion for the family as they clean out his house and go through his things. A project that must have been difficult on many levels.

As I helped sort books and gather picture frames that they were letting me have, it came up that they would be selling the house. I didn't think anything of it because it was a nice house that I had assumed that it was out of my price range. But, it turns out that it was indeed in our price range.

In the next few days we pondered and prayed and met with a realtor. In order to be able to purchase that house we had to sell this house.

Then we scurried to clean out the house to make it more sellable.

If you live somewhere for 10 collects a lot of STUFF. And believe it or not, thankfully during the summer we did a huge purge.

Honestly, I was AMAZED at how quickly the stuff became just that....STUFF that really didn't mean anything.

Everyone had to help.

I think there is a little excitement with the prospect of living is a larger house. This little 1000 feet feels a little cramped...or rather..cozy at times.

I don't know if we will be able to purchase the house. Seriously, we feel that it is completely in the Lord's hands whether or not we get it. To sell our house before anyone buys that house is a stretch since it is an amazing house. If it happens...great! If not, then there will be something else out there for our family.

But for now the house is looking pretty nice!!

P.S. my blog...I can do a p.s. if I want.

I was going stop the blog post..but it really seamed superfluous.

I know a lot can change in a week. For us, this is a really simple change. I have a friend, who's brother in law tragically passed away this last week. He left behind a tiny brand new baby and sweet wife. Last Sunday my friend and I were joking together about the prospect of the house we had our eye on. And then this week I pondered how she was doing. Yesterday was his funeral, this week will be a different change for them. Their life will never be the same. My thoughts are with them. Hug your family. Tell them you love them. Life is always to short.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

RAINN day 2011

RAINN day was last week.

I have been delaying posting about it. On purpose.

RAINN stands for Rape, Assault, Incest, National Network. It is a national support group for those who have been raped etc. The website for more information is here.

To tell you the truth, RAINN day was a very difficult day for me. I am still processing the feelings that came up. Forgive me if I am too honest for you on this post. If you can't handle this topic...well...that's probably part of the problem.

Cory talking to the local media. See the report here.

Its been 16 years since I was sexually assaulted back in college.
The first three years I told one person and made that person swear not to tell anyone. I then, believe it or not, convinced myself that it didn't happen. Its hard for me to believe that I actually felt I had "forgotten" it. Looking back there were so many signs and signals that I was giving off.
This is me a couple of months later..I changed everything about me. My hair. How I dressed. Everything. Because I had convinced myself that it didn't happen, I repressed it, I didn't know why I felt so driven to change myself. Now I understand.

Last year I left RAINN day feeling empowered. I felt my burden had been lifted. I felt as if I was on the right track doing the right things.

On the lawn was a percentage of the students at Dixie College that, according to National Statisitcs, have been or will be raped or assaulted in their lifetime.

This year I felt trapped inside my own anxiety. I couldn't speak. At all. I couldn't talk to the students, I opted out of speaking to the press, and I couldn't even say a word as we passed out ribbons. Nothing. Nada. Silent. Just like "he" would have preferred. He threatened me if I ever spoke out about it. This year I felt like I let him win.


I found myself contemplating my feelings as we walked around and handed out ribbons. Why was I feeling this much anxiety? Why couldn't I get the stress under control? Why couldn't I release it like I have so many times?

Was I doing something wrong?

Was I not suppose to do this anymore?

I had never questioned myself on whether or not I should be a voice for sexual assault victims. I always knew that it was part of my path in life. That it was something I needed to do. Did I not need to do it anymore? Life is SO much easier when I don't have it on my mind. Or when I am not surrounded by people who are telling their stories of survival. Or when I don't have to dwell on the fact that in Utah 1 in 4 girls will be sexually assaulted or raped.

I don't have this much anxiety all of the time. Recently is has only been when certain things have triggered it. Like RAINN day. It is all encompassing. It is a real feeling, not something that I pretend or imagine. The only way I can describe the anxiety on these bad days would be to imagine a loved one and then think of how you would feel if you thought something was wrong. That their safely was in danger but you didn't know. That is almost how I feel. It makes me sick to my stomach, my heart beats really fast, my body freezes up, its hard to think, and I could puke. (lovely thought I know!)

I am so grateful that I don't have that many bad days anymore. There was a time that I would feel this way for days and days. I would stay on my bed frozen. Afraid. Distressed that "he" would find out that I had told someone. Discouraged that I would always feel that way. Panicked that I couldn't get the images out of my head. The smell of his cologne. That cold knife. I hate that knife.

Looking back on RAINN day I can see how I was allowing myself to slip in an unempowered state. I didn't allow myself to speak my story, which strangely enough really helps me. I didn't prepare my mind by running in my head the things that I would be saying. I had been having a lot of really good days and I didn't think I would be affected. I assumed that I wouldn't have any problems. Which, of course, was absurd.

It took me days to get over the RAINN day funk. I am still processing the questions that came up. I've never considered it a choice I needed to make. I don't have to do this. I don't have to speak out for raped victims. It doesn't have to be my voice.

The day after RAINN day I attended a constitutional rally of sorts. It was held at our local commonwealth that Luke attends. Funny thought, the only things I was hearing all evening was "The hard things can be the great things..."the hard things are worth it".."if we don't do the difficult things then who will?" and all sorts of other inspiring words. It didn't give me comfort. It was as if the Lord was sending me all of these little tender mercies to help my confused heart but it just made me want to cry instead.

My saga continues. In my heart I know I need to be an active voice in the fight against sexuall assault. I have so many things I want to say. Things that I can hear myself saying to the youth about it.

I can't have fear in the way anymore. I have no room for fear with what my Heavenly Father wants me to accomplish in my life.

Find the courage.

Find my voice.

>deep breath<

Don't be afraid.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Frugal Smiles

Everybody knows that I am "creative in my frugality." (Thank you Janine Bolon I will be forever in your debt for that phrase...LOVE IT!)

Ever since the boys traveled up to Idaho and spent a week with their Grandpa (who is a REAL cowboy according to James...even though Grandpa no longer has cows or rides matter) James has desired a REAL cowboy hat. Like Grandpas. Whenever we would go to IFA to purchase chicken feed, James would just about purr over the hats. He would pet them, try them on, and linger at the hat rack for FAR to long. Knowing that the prices of the hats were well above our range of available funds, he knew that it would be a while before he was able to have "His hat."

We started looking at other options. When we would go to yard sales and to the Deseret Industries he would look for a hat. Usually they would still be to expensive or to small.

Insert James's sad face that is so hard for mom to see.

Well, after a few months of searching, while I was pursuing the used books at the DI, I noticed a cowboy hat in the baseball caps-not where they are usually kept. After close inspection, I knew James would love the hat.

And he did!!! The smiles lasted for days as he wore his hat whenever he was awake. Granted its only been a couple of weeks since we purchased it, but he still wears it all the time.

The best part? Well besides James' huge grin, it was the price of $1.50.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chicken Whisperer part 2

As I mentioned in the previous post, my little Ben loves the chickens. He has daily conversations with the chickens and just adores them.

Recently Ben came home from church excited to tell me about what he had learned that day. We had two chickens that had sadly died tragically in the weeks before. Ben was greatly affected by the death of these two birds. When we were sitting on the swing in the yard that Sunday evening, he said "Mom, those two chickens are up with Jesus. Jesus is taking care of them now. That is what my teacher told me." Ah how sweet. I don't know the situation with the souls of our chickens, but if that is how Ben feels, then maybe it is. Ben was very content and happy with the thought.

About four days later Ben comes running into the house. He was so excited to show me a frog that he had found. It was a large frog that I encouraged him to keep outside so that it could eat lots of bugs and be a happy frog. I warned Ben to not let it loose near the chickens since the chickens would peck it and it would die. Ben said he would be careful and guard the little frog from the chickens.

A few hours later he comes running in the house in full tears and a complete panic.

"MOM!!! The chickens ate my frog! The chickens ate my frog!!!"

Oh my. What do you say to a little boy who loves his chickens and loves his frog that is now gone.
While I comforted Ben, I sent the older boys outside and they discovered that there was no evidence of the frog being in the chicken coop. And trust me, there would have been evidence of a frog attack. But there was not a trace of any fowl activity. (sorry bad joke...couldn't help myself...Cory would be proud.)

"Ben" I started "I think the frog hopped away and is hiding. I think he will be ok"

"No. He's gone." His face was so forlorn. So solemn. "Mom, I need to talk to Jesus about this. Right now!" And before I could encourage him to go and kneel by his bed, he had dropped to his knees in fervent prayer. So I quietly left the room and left him to his prayer.

After a long moment later he came into my room. He was once again full of peace and he had a small smile on his face.

"Mom, Jesus will send me another frog to play with. It will be ok." I was so relieved that he was once again my happy Ben.

"Oh how nice Ben! I bet a frog will come out this evening when it cools down outside."
"Yeah probably."
"And your frog is probably with Jesus just like your teacher said. "

It was at that instant that a huge panic came over his face.


It was all I could do to not laugh. Thankfully I convinced him that Jesus probably had a pocket to keep his frog safe and that it really would be ok.

That evening a frog arrived for Ben to play looked a lot like the last frog he had. Ben still loves the chickens. And I am so thankful that my little boy's prayers are important enough that the guy upstairs will answer them and bring my little Ben the peace he needs.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Chicken Whisperer

Meet the newest inhabitants to our little plot of land... YES it CHICKENS!!

Or as Mark calls them "Chee-eeens!!"

Some friends of Cory were unable to have their chickens any more, and so we happily adopted them. We also purchased a few from a friend who had raised them from egg.

It was quite a challenge to get the chickens here, and their coop, but it has been very worth it. The boys have had some great learning experiences with them. It took us about a month to get the chicken coop (yes that is my old garden!! glad its getting some use!) how we wanted it to be. First the sides weren't to high and the chickens kept flying over it....which is NOT helpful in keeping the neighborhood dogs OUT of our yard. So we made the walls higher and then added a wire roof. The boys are also in charge of cleaning the coop. It could be their new favorite job!!..ok maybe not.

The boys LOVE getting the eggs. Its like an Easter Egg hunt every day!! The nine chickens are producing about 7 eggs a day, and the kids are loving them! We have been known to have scrambled eggs for breakfast AND dinner--ok that only happened when the older boys went backpacking but it was GREAT! Mark and Ben were in egg heaven!

Ben has discovered a special gift with the chickens. He has become their Chicken Whisperer. When he comes out to the coop, he calls the chickens "Come'ere my little chickens!" and then he tells them stories, tells them what good chickens they are, and tells them to lay eggs like a good chicken. He hasn't always been this way, at first he terrified the chickens....and was partially responsible for the death of one chicken. But, alas, he has changed his ways and has started to love the chickens. When ever a dog comes into the yard he is the protector and runs out to tell the dog to "Leave now!"

The chickens love him in return. They follow him around the coop as if he has a special treat for them. Which he does many times of course.

Who knew chickens could bring out Ben's soft side! Yeah Ben!