Wednesday, October 23, 2013

the fast and the feline

Before I leave for Utah tomorrow, I wanted to post the pictures of this year's costumes for our kids.  I realized that we're getting back the day before Halloween, and by then it will basically be over :( So yesterday afternoon I took the kiddos outside to take a few pictures (not my best work, but it will do.. ).

I had very little motivation to get really creative on costumes this year...and I was all ready to go by Costco and buy some, when Talmage told me that he LOVED Incredibles so much and that he was just like Dash. It was perfect timing because I had no idea what he would be for Halloween and I was tired of thinking up ideas...I remembered that he had some red pj's with a reindeer on front, which could easily be covered up. All I needed was some felt, which happened to be on sale. Easy costume. No stress. Talmage thought I was awesome. Check, check, and check :)

In truth he doesn't like wearing the eye mask. He says its itchy (probably because its wool felt) and most of the time it slides up his face, covering his eyes. Haha. What can I say...I tried my best! Good thing he doesn't have to wear it for long! (Or maybe not at all if he gets his way..)

I love these last two. They show his personality so well :)

Little Talmage truly is *incredible*. I love him so much!

With Charlotte, I had a particular costume in mind for weeks- but when it came down to it, I didn't want to put the money or time required into it. Since she loves cats and walks around saying "MOW" (meow?) all the time, a kitty costume seemed like the best solution! And since its a pretty common and popular costume idea, I glammed her up a bit with stuff you wouldn't typically see a kitty cat wearing ;)

It turned out simple, classic, and oh so darling. She makes one adorable feline :)

 Playing with her ball of yarn like a little kitty should :)

...But of course, the leaves are way more interesting!

Licking her wee, I mean paws.

I stumbled upon the poofy polka-dot tutu and knew it would be perfect. It really is incredibly poofy, though its hard to tell in the picture. Its pretty hilarious to see her walk around in it. Since it was so big and dramatic, I decided to fore-go a tail. Hopefully it's still pretty obvious that she's a cat...the ears and whiskers should give it away, at least :)

Happy {somewhat early} Halloween!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

thoughts from Conference

Like most General Conferences, the subject that weighed most heavily on my mind while listening to the talks and to the Spirit was how I can be a better mother. And not just a mother but a better individual.

These are a few messages from Conference that stood out to me the most.

First was the talk from Elder Ulisses Soares on meekness. Let me just say that I have struggled for a while with the role of motherhood...not because I don't absolutely love it. Being a mom is the greatest blessing I could ask for. It is also my greatest challenge. I was never a patient person; my stubbornness has gotten me into lots of dark situations throughout my life. Of course everyone knows that patience is one of the most important attributes in parenting, and so it's something that I have to come back to again and again. You could say that I've "been thrown back into the refiner's fire" repeatedly. It's not an easy process changing the natural man's inherent desires.

"Meekness is the quality of those who are 'Godfearing, righteous, humble, teachable, and patient under suffering.' Those who possess this attribute are willing to follow Jesus Christ, and their temperament is calm, docile, tolerant, and submissive...

Meekness is vital for us to become more Christlike. Without it we won’t be able to develop other important virtues. Being meek does not mean weakness, but it does mean behaving with goodness and kindness, showing strength, serenity, healthy self-worth, and self-control...

...we must learn to control our temper and convey our feelings with patience and gentle persuasion. This is most important within our homes and within our relationships with our eternal companions."

The next talk was by Elder D. Todd Christofferson on the moral influence of women. I loved this talk. It pretty much summed up how I've been feeling for.. well, a very long time. So often I feel like being a stay-at-home-mom isn't enough. I love my job of being a mommy more than anything and there's nowhere else I'd rather be. Still there's this little voice that creeps in sometimes and tells me that I took the easy way out of college, that I had children way too young before I could travel or have vacations, that because I didn't major in a specific degree that I have no worth, that I'm not as sharp or intelligent as my friends who have successful careers. I've wondered if maybe it was Spirit prompting me to explore furthering my education or working from home, but as I listened to this talk I realized something huge. The Spirit would not demean the sacred role of motherhood by telling me that I'm not good enough. This is all Satan's work, and I need not listen anymore. What I'm doing and who I am IS good enough for Heavenly Father. I belong with my children and they belong with me.

"A pernicious philosophy that undermines women’s moral influence is the devaluation of marriage and of motherhood and homemaking as a career. Some view homemaking with outright contempt, arguing it demeans women and that the relentless demands of raising children are a form of exploitation. They ridicule what they call “the mommy track” as a career. This is not fair or right. We do not diminish the value of what women or men achieve in any worthy endeavor or career—we all benefit from those achievements—but we still recognize there is not a higher good than motherhood and fatherhood in marriage. There is no superior career, and no amount of money, authority, or public acclaim can exceed the ultimate rewards of family. Whatever else a woman may accomplish, her moral influence is no more optimally employed than here...

Former Young Women general president Margaret D. Nadauld taught: '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 greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.' In blurring feminine and masculine differences, we lose the distinct, complementary gifts of women and men that together produce a greater whole."

The last talk I want to share hits on a slightly different note. When I listened to this talk I didn't realize how much it would apply to me...until something tragic happened a few weeks later. On Sunday- two days ago- my grandma passed away. It was unexpected and (still is) so devastating. My heart has not stopped aching. I keep wondering how my life will ever be the same, as it feels like there's a giant hole in my future. I was very close to her...and it took some time for us to become as close as we were, but once we got there she was a fundamental part of who I am. My mother was her only child by blood (she had other step children from her sweetheart), and I her oldest grand-daughter. Our two children were her only great-grandchildren by blood and she loved them so dearly. I know that all of her other children and grand-children are mourning her loss just as heavily as I am, but she and I had such a unique connection to one another. 

I haven't been able to shake the devastation, but as I read this talk this morning I felt a little more comfort than I've had all week.

"Many of the challenges we face in life can be solved and overcome; however, others may be difficult to understand and impossible to overcome and will be with us until we pass on to the next life. As we temporarily endure the challenges we can solve and as we continue to endure the challenges we cannot solve, it is important to remember that the spiritual strength we develop will help us successfully endure all the challenges we face in life...

When we face adversity in life and our desire is to emulate the attributes of Jesus Christ, it is essential to be spiritually prepared. Being spiritually prepared means we have developed spiritual stamina or strength—we will be in good shape spiritually. We will be in such good shape spiritually that we will consistently choose the right. We will become immovable in our desire and ability to live the gospel. As an anonymous author once said, 'You must become the rock the river cannot wash away' "

-The Strength To Endure by Elder Richard J. Maynes

My grandma was certainly that "rock the river cannot wash away". She was immovable in her testimony of the gospel and was never afraid to proclaim her faith to others. She lived her life helping others, being a missionary, being a friend to everyone she met, doing geneaology work, and making time for her family. She was always spiritually prepared and I am a better woman for having her in my life. I never want to lose the part of me that came from her--it is my strongest, most determined part. It is the part of me that faces tribulation head on with courage and welcomes adversity. It is the part of me that loves my family endlessly and would put my life before theirs. It's the part of me that completely unravels when I sing certain hymns and bear my testimony in church and hug my children after a long day. She will always be alive in that part of my soul.

I will be headed to Utah for her funeral soon, so I may be absent from my blog for a while. But I wanted to share these feelings and say that I know that these Conference talks can offer comfort and personal revelation even in the hardest of times. I know that Heavenly Father is aware of me and knows my sorrows. I believe with all heart that I will be with my grandma again and that we will embrace one another with tears of joy. This gospel is more than a source of hope- it is a source of knowledge.

Until the next time...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

blessings from Conference and husbands

A few weeks ago, I cuddled up on the couch next to my hunny and we watched General Conference together. Our kids ran wild around us, and we strained our ears to hear the inspiring words from our prophet and his apostles. There were only a few talks out of the many that I could actually tune into above the noise of our children screaming and throwing toys around, but little did I realize how much those talks would change my heart.

A few days later, after Conference was over, we went about with our lives just as we had before. The messes didn't stop, nor did the temper tantrums or long nap-less afternoons. My attitude towards my children didn't seem to be softened at all...I could not push my anger heart was heavy with frustration and grief. 'It's not supposed to be like this', I thought. 'I'm supposed to feel humbled and more grateful...what is wrong with me?'

And then last night our home teachers came over. To be honest, I didn't want them had been one of those days where I felt that the world was against me. Anything that could go wrong did go thing right after another. I'm sure all of us have had these days....and at 8 pm all I wanted to do was curl up in bed and sleep. But I told Jonathan it was fine and I hoped they wouldn't be able to detect how grumpy I was.

Now, despite my crankiness, I have said it before and I will say it again. We have THE best home teachers in the world. One of them is so wise and relate-able. He doesn't sugar coat things...he has many children- some young and some older- and he understands the ups and downs of being a parent. The other one is a recent convert to the church and has the most genuine testimony. He is the most humbled of persons and it's almost like he radiates the Spirit.

After they gave us a message, we talked a little bit about Conference.
"Were there any talks that stood out to you?" one of them asked.

Surprisingly, once I started thinking about it, there were MANY things I heard during Conference that touched me. In that moment I realized that if I just let myself think about it, the messages would come to me. I had been struggling with my anger for weeks and I wasn't letting the Spirit in. I was shutting the door to my own personal revelation because I was comfortable being selfish in my feelings. We discussed the Conference messages and suddenly my heart filled with compassion. I knew that I loved nothing more than this gospel and my family.

And then one of our home-teachers said something that was completely unexpected. It was the recently converted one. He said:
"Can I just feels so good in your home. The Spirit is very strong here....(and after a few moments of silence)...I just love your home."

I tried to say thank you but instead tears rolled down my cheeks. I told him that his words meant so much to me. That I was grateful for the Spirit's presence because I didn't deserve it. I spilled my emotions out to them...and even though I hadn't planned on it nor did I want to...I told them how I had been feeling around my children. That was hard. And even after all that, our home teachers did not look at me disapprovingly. One of them looked me right in the eye and said, "You are a great mother. What you feel is understandable. The Lord understands. And you have the hardest job anyone could have. Mothers like you are remarkable. "

Well, I did not feel remarkable but I did feel the love of my Heavenly Father so strongly.  It has been a long long time since I received a priesthood blessing (its so hard to ask sometimes) but I knew it was what I needed. I asked Jonathan to give it, and he along with one our teachers placed their hands on my head.

The thing that astounded me the most about this blessing...Jonathan and I have talked about this subject a million times. We've stayed up many nights discussing ways to discipline our kids differently or changing their routine in hopes of improving their behavior and therefore my own patience. The counsel that he gave in this blessing was completely new and inspired. I knew that the Lord was speaking through him. And I now know what I have to do to change. I feel so renewed in the power of priesthood blessings.

Later this week I'll share some of my favorite bits of Conference. More specifically, the messages that really seemed to apply to being a young mother in this world. I know that there are probably quite a few of you that can relate :)



Monday, October 14, 2013

apples and pumpkins

I just love the weather here. Seriously, it can be rainy and dreary all morning- and then the sun comes out and dries it all up! Saturday was one of those rainy days- in fact according to the weather report it was supposed to rain ALL day. I was kinda bummed about it because Saturdays are our only day to go to the pumpkin patch. And I've just been itching to go!

That morning it rained and rained. We went to T's soccer practice and poor guy had to run around in that cold rain for an hour...(he didn't seem to mind too much though!) while Charlotte and I huddled in our tent shade and watched. It was actually kind of miserable for us girls ;) We don't like being cold and wet!

We came home and put the kiddos down for naps, and while they were sleeping something amazing happened. The sun burst out through the clouds and all those gorgeous fall colors were vivid once again! Our apartment was flooded with yellow sunshine, so I said to Jonathan "We are so going to the pumpkin patch when they wake up!"

Before we got our pumpkin patch on we headed south to pick up our apple order. There's a family that lives in a big yellow house on a hill out in the country, and they have animals and a garden and a food storage shed and all that. My dream life, basically. But what this family is famous for is their homemade apple cider. Every year they order a ton (literally, a ton in weight) of apples- and what they get is over 20 different varieties. They throw them all together into their antique cider press from the 1700's and out comes the most delicious, most pure cider you've ever tasted. They have a handful of people that buy apples from them at a steal of a deal, and I was so grateful that she let us in on that. I'm so excited to make applesauce with my 40 lbs. of fresh apples! We also bought a few gallons of that delicious cider. Sooooo good.

The best part was when Jonathan turned the press by himself. It was very cool to see how actual cider is made. The quartered apples get thrown in, core and all, into the press then mulched up  into a bucket. That bucket is then placed under the presses thingy and it squeezes all the juice out!

Talmage immediately initiated himself into their clan of children. It was so cute how they filled up the buckets of apples for us. Granted, a lot of them had worm holes and bruises but oh well :) Nothing says organic better than wormy apples, right?

The pumpkin patch was so much fun, too. I loved that it was out in the country and that there were soooo many pumpkins. Plus, it was free! Every pumpkin cost a dollar regardless of size, so we kinda went crazy. I have no idea what I'm gonna do with all these pumpkins we brought home. Anyway, the kids loved it!

^^^So I took this picture with my SLR, but Jonathan- standing behind me- took one of his own with his phone. Um, his is clearly better. Haha.

See? Phone: 1. Camera: 53 or so...

There were also duck races and a tiny corn maze for kids, along with a hayride and other fun things! We definitely want to go to another one soon. There are so many in this area its hard to choose!

 Unfortunately, I had $15 cash in my back pocket, and it must have fallen out while we were taking pictures. I hate when that happens! I always seem to lose things in the dumbest ways...finding green cash in a massive pumpkin patch of green and orange...yeah, pretty much impossible! Just like that time when I lost my brand new white iphone in the white sand on a long stretch of beach (it was truly a miracle when we found it). Anyway. Whoever found it eventually had a lucky day at the pumpkin patch! They can just consider it our generous donation to the patch for having such a good time ;)