Thursday, December 18, 2014

Missionary Work

My mom and Mara came to visit over the past weekend, and it was a lot of fun. We went to breakfast with Santa with the kids on Saturday and then a Relief Society brunch. We then went to Walmart to get a few gifts for the kids and ornaments for the tree, which we had finally set up on Friday night. The kids were so excited!

Sunday, we had a big "Christmas" dinner since I won't be making one on Christmas day. We had turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, and apple pie with ice cream. It actually wasn't too back-breaking. I wish fancy dinners never had more than 3 things to put on the plate. It's a lot easier to enjoy the day when I'm not asleep or dealing with a stomachache.

Monday, we went to story time. The kids were a little cranky and didn't want to participate much. Monday night, James and I went to see a move while Mom and Mara watched the kids (and put them to bed!) I liked the move (Mockingjay) even though it was pretty depressing. Darn you, part ones. I would gladly stay 4 hours to see the whole story play out!

They left on Tuesday, so I put the house back in order. Mara officially left for Mexico on Wednesday morning. I can't believe it! I wonder if I would have served a mission if the age were 19 and not 21. It's weird to think she'll be gone for 1 1/2 years, but I don't see some of my family members for that long of a stretch anyway, so it might not seem as long as if I lived at home with her.

I don't feel like I've ever been a good missionary, but I can't measure it just by people I've been responsible for baptizing (0). I always helped my family with the yearly "Christmas Card" night - watching the Nativity movie with the neighbors and having lemonade and cookies. I did talk about the Gospel at school and work, but usually only when I was asked. I took a friend to Church for several months, but nothing ever came of that. One day, I'll know if any of it made a difference.

I love family history. I suppose you could say it's like missionary work for the dead. I found it interesting at age 12 when my grandma died and passed on her work to my dad and me. I soon took over and have since learned a lot about the ins and outs of online research. I'm amazed every day by how much it's changed over the years and how much easier it is than it was 15 years ago. Technology is absolutely amazing. I recently found more people on a line that I've been stuck on for almost 15 years. I've had too many spiritual experiences to count in my research. I don't always know what I'm doing, but more than once I've been able to follow a trail of breadcrumbs to find someone. I know they appreciate it too.

Maybe my missionary work for now isn't so much with the living. That's okay with me. It means I don't have to talk to anyone, right? :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thanksgiving

We had a great Thanksgiving break in Rexburg. Everything went as planned, which almost never happens. Unlike the last trip I had to pack for, this one was simple, and I finished by 10 a.m. the day before we left.

We waited to leave until Wed. to avoid any possibly icy roads. Everything was perfect. The kids slept and/or watched movies, I went to Winco for the first time in 6 months and stocked up on spices/bulk items, and we arrived by 4 p.m. I helped make a few pies - French silk and pumpkin - for the Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving day was very relaxing. My brothers went with us to Grandma and Grandpa's in Victor. The food was all amazing, but I had a terrible stomachache for the rest of the day, even though I didn't eat a ton. Katie was really grumpy because of croup, so we spent a lot of the day holding her.

I went Black Friday shopping the next day. I got a pair of boots for 20 bucks which would normally be 60. They are functional, cute, and warm, which is just what I wanted. It's hard not to own at least 3 pairs of boots in this climate: one for every day, one for deep snow, and one for Church. I still need some for Church since my others are about 3 years old now.

Saturday was okay. James went to a movie with his family, so I just sat around all day and played on my phone will the kids took turns napping. My brothers came over again, so we played some games after dinner. Cranium is definitely a favorite.

Sunday we delayed going home (and to a baby blessing first) because of Katie's croup. She didn't need medicine, but she had a really runny nose (and still does). She's been happy, though, so I can't complain. We had dinner with my brothers and played more games.

We drove home on Monday  (with one stop at Smith and Edwards) and got the house back in order, which included grocery shopping. I was up pretty late going through all the receipts from the trip.

I decorated our house for Christmas yesterday. Walmart didn't have any trees for some reason, so we're just using our small one, the artificial one-foot-tall one. As much as I love real trees, 35 dollars is a lot to pay for one, so we're not going to get one this year. I'm really close to considering a fake tree (bought on sale after Christmas) since we can't really cut our own and I keep talking myself out of real ones. I don't know. Either way, Christmas shopping is all done except for stocking stuffers. I've been listening to my Christmas list on Spotify, which is a pretty awesome mix, if I say so myself. :) I like having a good dose of MoTab along with traditional and pop songs. I can't begin to say how much I love using Spotify. The occasional ad is completely worth it, and it's saved me from buying a lot of songs over the past few years.

Well, that takes care of this week. I am feeling a lot happier about life than I was a week ago. Studying the scriptures for at least 20 minutes a day (which is a challenge) has really helped me focus on God's love for me. It's taken me all year, but I'm in Proverbs. I love the Old Testament, and I recommend it to everyone who has never read it all the way through.

Until next week!

And here are some sleeping beauties.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Winter

I really struggle with winter. Even thinking about it on the hottest summer day makes me cringe a little bit inside.

The cold always seems to arrive too fast, so I never feel ready for it. Most of my life has been spent in much warmer places, and I dream of living somewhere with only an extended fall and no snow to speak of. The more northern latitude also means shorter days (though longer days in summer, which I enjoy!). I don't think I suffer from the "real" S.A.D., at least not in a crippling way. I have my share of mornings where it's hard to get out of bed because I feel like the darkness is closing in - literally. Who ever wants to get out of a warm, comfortable bed anyway?

My neighbor and good friend recently put up her Christmas tree. I remember thinking it was a little crazy, but her reasoning for doing it stuck with me. She said that winter would be a little less depressing if people kept their Christmas lights on for a long time.

I can't deny it. I love the sight of the Christmas tree from her window. I love Christmas lights. I don't like the commercialism of it all and that stores encourage us to spend so much money on things that don't matter. Lights, I can appreciate. They're pretty and they make me happy. I do think it would be really cool if people put up their lights early. The sight of those lights at night might help me forget how cold it is outside.

How will I make it through winter? By looking forward. Right now, I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then a new year. Winter is for snuggling under blankets, hot chocolate, and holidays. As long as I do that, take my vitamin D, and stay away from crazy drivers in snow, I should be just fine.

Still, I can't wait for spring!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Testimony

A testimony is a bit of an enigma. I say I know something that I cannot actually prove. My knowledge comes from the Spirit, who testifies of all truth, but I can't prove that the Spirit is real either.

Someone I knew a long time ago had a crisis of faith and wrote about it. One thing that struck me is her belief that there is no absolute truth. That belief is fundamentally flawed, because to say there is no absolute truth - EVER - is an absolute statement. Saying that only relative truth exists sounds like an excuse not to believe in anything or to constantly change one's belief.

She criticized the Church for changing with the times. She claims that "the doctrine" is not absolute. I know she isn't the only one to make such a criticism. I've heard many of the reasons trying to prove that the Church is false.

It's a common misunderstanding that doctrine changes. It doesn't. Doctrine never changes because it is eternal. It is revealed from God and not up to interpretation from man. God has revealed many doctrines to us through time that have stayed absolutely the same.

The best summary of LDS doctrine can be found in the Articles of Faith.

I would add a few things to these articles that are eternal truths important to the LDS faith.

God's work is to help us become like him. The Plan of Salvation is how he helps us achieve that. The Plan of Salvation includes our premortal life, the creation of the earth, the fall of Adam and Eve, the atonement of Jesus Christ, mortal life, post-mortal life, resurrection, final judgment, and degrees of glory.

Families are also essential to God's plan. I know that my family can be together forever.

None of these doctrines has changed. The principles related to them have not changed either. A criticism of something like dietary laws or dress code changing over time makes no sense. The doctrine is not in the dress length or whether or not to eat pork. The doctrine is that God created our bodies and expects us to be good stewards over them. A change in application does not necessarily correlate to a change in doctrine. I can think of no change in application that actually has changed a doctrine.

A criticism of the Ordain Women movement is that women not holding the priesthood is a tradition, not a doctrine. Technically, they are right about that. The doctrine of the priesthood is that it's God's power, delegated to men (people) on earth. It would not change that doctrine if women did hold the priesthood. It would still be God's power. What would change is the application. Prophets and apostles don't always reveal new doctrine because we have all we need, but they do guide us with the application of said doctrines. It's not up to any one person or group to try to bully God into changing his mind about the application. The prophet represents God to the people, not the people to God. Those misguided women were going about it backwards. If God never gives the priesthood to women, I don't care. If he does, he doesn't cease to be God either. He knows what policy changes are best for each time period, and he will reveal them to his prophet completely independent of societal pressures.

Faith and religion are complicated matters, but they become much more clear with the help of the Spirit. No amount of logic alone would ever convince an atheist to believe in God. That isn't how it works.

I know that God is ever mindful of me. He's not a fairy tale or false tradition of my fathers. He is real. It can be so hard sometimes to remember every second of why I do what I do, but I know this life is worth living. I don't know everything, but I know enough.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Happy Birthday, Katie!

I can't believe my little girl is one already! She has brought so much joy (and sass!) to our family. We love her to death. She's really grown up over the past year.


Birthday happenings: preschool, devouring a big chocolate cake.

Presents: two pretty dresses and a stuffed owl (Grandma Head), 2 pairs of PJ's and lots of candy (Grandma Phenix), a couple of new shirts (Grandma Lee's $).

Katie isn't close to walking yet (no surprise there!) but pulls herself to standing. She uses a sippy cup and has strong opinions about everything. She lets us know by shrieking when she wants something. (My eardrums!) I'm working on getting her down to one nap. She fell asleep on the floor in my room about 20 minutes before naptime, so I think we're getting there. It will be nice to have her and Kenny asleep at the same time.

Mama's girl loves chocolate cake!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fall Break

James's fall break technically started Thursday, but he took Wednesday off so we could get to SLC earlier. We stayed with his parents at the Kimball, a really cool hotel where they always stay when they're in SLC. We always have a room with a kitchen, which is awesome! This time, we even had a laundry room. Since we've stayed at the Kimball several times now, it almost feels like a home away from home. I like being being able to cook a real meals instead of having to rely on cold cereal or fast food for every meal.

James's dad needed an assistant for each day we stayed in SLC (Wed.-Sat.), so I helped Wed. and Fri. and James did Thurs. and Sat. It is a pretty relaxing job. I had a pretty horrible day getting ready for the trip (like not finishing prep until 9 p.m., which is a lot later than normal!), so it was awesome to sit and read for a good chunk of the day. I never read anymore because I always have something to do, and I've been working on too many big projects that I can't just leave gathering dust, so I put off reading. I really shouldn't, because it relaxes me.

Wed., everyone went to the museum while I was working. James and I took a little walk through City Creek and got some ice cream. It was a gorgeous day! The kids all had fun in the hot tub after dinner, and they went to bed without a fuss. James and I watched a little TV before crashing.

Thurs., we had a fun day with Grandma. We went the Witchfest and visited a few stores (Kid to Kid, a toy store). I got some adorable ties for the boys for Christmas for 2 bucks each, and Katie got a few early birthday presents from Grandma: two pretty dresses and a fluffy, stuffed owl. Katie adores fluffy and sparkly things. Is she a girl, or what?

Friday, I worked again while James and everyone went to the This is the Place park. I've never been, but they got some pictures! I made dinner for everyone when we got back to the hotel and we hung out and played Boggle. I lost, as always.

James worked Saturday while I went to visit Cindy! I had a great time catching up and seeing her little girl again.

We drove back to Vernal that afternoon and made it in time for Stake Conference. I went to the adult session, and we all went on Sunday. We camped out in the Primary room and let the kids play while we listened. James even got Katie to take a nap! That hasn't happened at Church in ages.

This week has been pretty normal so far. My garden is officially dead, so I harvested all the tomatoes and put all the dead plants in the compost pile. I have about 20 lbs. of tomatoes, but I think 2/3 of them should ripen inside. The others are immature, so I plan on trying a green tomato relish. Once the rest ripen, I should get another few quarts of salsa, which will mean we pretty much have a year supply of tomato products. Yeah! That was my goal in planting 10 plants.

Weaning Katie is going all right. We're down to one feeding a day. She likes her sippy cup and seems to be adjusting really well. I still have mixed feelings about it, but I think it's a lot harder for me to let go than for her. It was that way with my other kids too.

Now, pictures.

Witchfest

just being Kenny

Her hair is always messy!

Silly boys at This is the Place.



Thursday, October 9, 2014

Doubt

My goal to "get something" from every chapter in all the scriptures is going pretty well. I used to pay less attention to the lessons in the Old Testament because it seemed that there wasn't as much to find. Though there is more stuff to wade through, there are some beautiful lessons to be found - great treasures, if you're willing to look.

The book of Job is such an example. The other times I read it, it was just the story of a guy who complained a lot and had bad friends. This time, not so much. It struck me in a very different way because of the state of the world. I never knew anyone who'd flat out left the Church until very recently. Gone inactive, yes, but not actual apostasy. This has shaken me up a bit and made me think a little deeper about how and why I believe what I do.

Job is not only a book about trials and suffering. It's a book about doubt and all the lies that the world tells us over and over again that almost seem true, logically, but are really twisted perceptions of the real truth. Job's friends, in an attempt to "comfort" him, present a few truths and many lies to try to get Job down on himself when he's done nothing wrong.

Job's friends don't succeed in cheering him up (very much), and in response, he gives his testimony, correcting their mistakes along the way. They don't believe him and keep on trying to persuade him to repent of things he hasn't done.

False                                                                   True
Man is nothing.
Man is nothing, but he is everything to God.
God will only be with us when we’re perfect.
God is with us always.
Trials do not happen to the righteous.
Trials happen to everyone.
Trials only happen when God wants to punish us.
Trials are a refining fire. They make us better people.
We deserve the trials we get.
God does not enjoy watching his children suffer, but it is a necessary part of the plan. We don't necessarily "deserve" them, but we need them.
Trials only happen when we sin.
God will correct us when necessary, but not necessarily through trials. Some trials are caused by sin, but many happen due to the agency of others and a fallen world.
God enjoys exacting vengeance on those who are wicked.
God is just, merciful, and loving. He does not get pleasure from seeing suffering, no matter the cause.
Wickedness always leads to pain, and the wicked never prosper.
Sometimes the wicked prosper, and not all wickedness is punished right away.
Wickedness is always struck down.
Wickedness will receive judgment in due time.
What does this have to do with doubt?

Job has a conversation with God at the very end of the book, and it turns out that he really doesn't understand everything about how God works. If he being such a great man doesn't understand the greatness of God, then how can I?

A person who observes the world from the natural man's eyes only sees the left column. It's what Satan would have us believe, and it's dangerous. To believe in such an uncaring, angry God makes religion seem pointless. It also doesn't consider agency, because a world where punishment instantly follows sin, who would ever do it? Why bother doing any good if it won't necessarily be rewarded? Why deny the natural man if it's so thrilling to give in? And in world of instant gratification, why wait for the blessings in the next life when you can't be so sure that it really exists? To the secular world, faith is a building on a foundation made of Jell-o. On paper, it doesn't stand up to "science" and never will. 

So many small moments throughout my life have defied logic and helped me know that God is real. I first read the Book of Mormon when I was 7. A seven-year-old is too young to be caught up in whether faith or science is more important. I still remember the feeling I got from reading the Book of Mormon, and I wasn't even old enough to understand every word. Since then, the doctrines of God  have distilled upon my soul like the dews from heaven. I can't explain how that works, but I don't need to. I am a firm believer in science too, but that doesn't discount faith in any way. I resent the random comments around the Internet I've read that suggest that faith can only be a legitimate channel for learning if the person is ignorant in worldly knowledge, and vice versa. I'm a woman of faith, and I'm also not an idiot, thank you very much, you Internet trolls.

I don't doubt science even though I can't possibly understand everything about it. If I want to know more, then I learn it. The same goes for spiritual things. I certainly don't understand everything about God, but I'm getting there one step at a time.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

40 lbs.

I bought a giant box of apples from Bountiful Baskets because they were a steal! (24 bucks!) There is no orchard anywhere near here, so 62 cents a pound is the best deal I've got. When I received the box, I felt that I'd been a little too ambitious. However, those apples are all but gone now. I got a lot of yummy stuff from them.

9 pints of apple butter
15 trays of dried slices
10 c. chopped and frozen for later use
5 c. apple sauce (mostly eaten by the kids)
4 apple pies, which I delivered to my visiting teaching sisters

I don't want to look at apples for a while now! :)

It's been a little crazy since salsa season and apple season ran together. My garden is finally producing a ton of tomatoes (go figure) now that it's October. Utah, your crazy growing season is going to drive me nuts for a few years. Thankfully, the frost we had a few weeks ago did not kill my tomato plants. All the rain is mind-boggling, though. It's like a NC winter.

Speaking of 40 lbs., at this time last year, I was very pregnant with Katie and weighed 40 lbs. more than I do now (at my due date, which was Oct. 20th of last year.)  Time sure flies! I've been contemplating weaning Katie, but she is terrible at using both bottle and cup, so I haven't really tried yet. I'd love to lose the last 5-10 lbs. and be able to find my bra size. She doesn't do well with dairy either. It seems to stop her up a lot more than it did to the boys, even if she just has a little cheese. I can't just give her water, because she's a growing girl. I'm not anticipating another baby any time soon, so I don't feel like I'm in a big rush to quit. She's going to be my "baby" for a while yet. I never thought I would nurse past a year for any of my kids, but I feel like I should keep going this time. After almost 3 years, what's another few months?

And on a completely unrelated note, my ward just split and my closest Vernalite friend moved away. I lost my VT companion and 2 of my 3 ladies to the new ward. I'm really bummed about that, so I've been dealing with it all by working myself hard and trying to stay busy. I know that friends always move away, but it's still depressing when it happens. I'm grateful that there are numerous ways to stay in touch, but I'm not very good at them. I guess that will be my goal - once again - to stay connected with those I care about.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Old-Fashioned

A recent episode of Downton Abbey got me thinking, and not in happy way. Yes, I gave in to temptation and watched Season 5 Ep. 1. Someone put the link right in front of my face, pretty much, so I clicked and watched it.

The episode left me with a bad feeling about the world we live in. Though D.A. has never been known for its virtuousness, morality was at least looked on with the same kind of standards I hold. Early seasons made it quite clear that fornication is wrong and something to regret. Same for adultery and homosexuality. However, things are starting to change. Fornication is perhaps not so bad. No one really calls it that anymore in our day, perhaps because it sounds so ugly - which it is. Our society sugarcoats things to make them sound better or justifies sin by making it legal. It's only 1924 in the most recent season of D.A., but those attitudes are already creeping in. I hate it. Some things did need to change because they weren't right: the classist system, women's rights, etc. Standards of morality are defined by God, so they shouldn't be changed by man.

This obviously isn't the only show to do this - to get a lot worse over time. I've lost count of how many shows I've stopped watching because of their moral decline. Compared to when I was a teen, my standards for entertainment have gotten a lot higher, but I don't think they've been high enough. One day not too far away, my kids are going to stay up later and watch some of these things with me. Aside from something being too difficult to understand, I really shouldn't be watching anything that I wouldn't feel comfortable watching with my kids sitting next to me.

I resent the fact that members of the Church (no one I know closely, but still) have taken the time to write blog articles about how movies of certain ratings are okay as long as they teach something good. I say baloney. Ratings aren't everything, and they aren't always accurate, but I'm never going to set foot in the territory where I need a blog post to justify watching a movie of a certain rating. If society (which is already messed up) gives it the worst rating possible, there's no way that any good message is going to come through. I'm pretty sure the bad stuff will be stuck in my mind forever, clouding any good message I could have gotten from it.

I'm not sure what shows I currently watch will soon be dropped from my list in the future, but I guess I should quit being so bummed about it. The best thing I can do is drop the show as soon as I can, then forget it ever happened. And there are always books! Because really, most TV/movies are garbage.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Generous

I'm pretty sure I have the most generous family on the earth. My brothers came to visit last Friday. We came home from shopping (they had beaten us here) to see two cars in the driveway. One of those cars is ours now! It's a 2000 Corolla. My family had nicknamed it the Bondo, so we renamed it the James Bondo. James drives it to work, so I can use the 1997 Corolla however I please. My brothers not only drove that car cross-country for us; they gave us a new computer! It's a beast, especially when compared to the laptop that's 5 years old and falling apart. Because of those two purchases, there is a very good chance that we can be debt-free by next year. That makes me feel really good.

I finished scanning in ALL of my family's photos! Total count: 2,800. If you include all the photos I've taken digitally: 4,444. That's after deleting all the ones that weren't good and not scanning every single photo either. If I'd done that, those numbers would be double! I finished Brinson's wedding gift (a photo book), so now all I have to do is wait for a few last-minute photos from my Dad so I can finish a giant scrapbook for my family. Whew! I don't mind waiting on the mail, because I've been working a little too hard on this project (like 4 hours a day), so I could definitely use a break for a few days.

My schedule has opened up quite a bit, I guess you could say. My friend Chelsie used to come over every Monday, but she's moving. I've been over to help her a few times, but she is going to be gone by the end of the month. Perhaps I will start taking the kids to the library, even though it's Katie's morning nap. She is progressing toward an afternoon nap only. I actually attended playgroup today (for maybe the second time in a year) and had a great time. I need to get out more. I have no more excuses!

With most of the photo stuff behind me, I hope to put a little more energy into cooking, especially with vegan recipes. I really enjoy cooking vegan foods. Not all are complicated, but I do like adapting my old recipes sometimes. I like a challenge. Today's recipe that I made up is for white enchiladas, so we'll see how they turn out. I hope to eventually have a vegan version of most of the "fancy" recipes I used to make. So far, so good.

Aside from a good friend moving, I'd say life is pretty good right now. I'm grateful to have such generous parents and in-laws. If it weren't for them, we would probably have an additional 10-15K in debt, but we don't! Hallelujah!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My 10 Books

It's been a crazy week with my big picture project, which is progressing nicely, and the start of preschool today. It's going to be at my house every week since Katie tends to nap at 10, which is right when it starts. I'm happy that I won't have to pack the kids up to go to anyone else's house! I have the most kids at home during preschool, so I feel it's fair.

Without further ado, here are my favorite books of all time. They are mostly childhood books that I've read many times.

(No particular order either.)

Aristotle's Children: This was my favorite book from college that really changed how I think about religion and science. Because of it, I've never felt that there has to be division between the two. (I am one of those people who believes in evolution while still believing in God. :))

To Kill a Mockingbird: The messages in this book really speak to me. As a native Southerner, I also love the descriptions of day-to-day life.

The Book of Mormon: I've loved it since the first time I read it almost 20 years ago. It has a special place in this list since I have read it more than any of the other books.

Anne of Green Gables (series): I really related to Anne the first time I read about her. My middle name is Anne, and though I'm not a redhead, I do have a strong personality that gets me into trouble sometimes.

A Wrinkle in Time (series): The science fiction/religious and mysterious quality of L'engle's books really appealed to me as a 10-11-year-old. I read everything the library had of hers.

The Chronicles of Narnia (series) and other C.S. Lewis adult books: I love that C.S. Lewis wrote the children's series to teach about Christianity. Ever since reading the first book in 5th grade, I devoured the rest. I still love the stories because of their beautiful symbolism. And, they're just fun! His adult books that I've read are really thought-provoking.

The Little House series: I still find these books fascinating because of how they teach self reliance. It's an art that it slowly dying but one I'm trying to keep alive in my house. I love the idea of living off the land and making the best of everything even when resources are limited.

Harry Potter series: I know that many people love these, and I am no exception. I love the symbols of Christianity in the series, the magical world, and the characters. Really, there isn't much to dislike.

Matilda (and other Roald Dahl): I love Dahl's style of writing. His books are goofy, while still teaching good lessons. Matilda spoke to me because it told me that being smart is more than okay. I am still a nerd, but I'm not as embarrassed by it now. (Another favorite: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

The Secret Garden: I've always loved reading historical novels. My grandma gave me this book was I was 7 or 8. My first time reading it was magical. The mystery of the creepy house and uncle was just awesome.

I probably forgot some. A top 50 would probably cover it a little better, and that would be without giving each book in the series its own spot. Oh well. Bookworm woes.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Life with 3

It's been a while since I wrote about our day-to-day happenings. Every day is a little different, but now that Katie has a schedule for napping, we do similar things at similar times.

6:30 - 45 Kids wake up. Breakfast. Dad leaves for work around 7.

7:30 Finish eating, clean up the kitchen, prep for dinner. This is when I do all the chopping, making sauces, etc. Kids are always grumpy during normal dinner time!

8:00 Dress kids. Cleaning chores. I have 1-2 things I do each day, so I only spend 30 minutes on cleaning outside of the kitchen, which always needs cleaning. ;)

8:30 Work out. Nothing intense here, because I am simply too lazy. I use DVD's and do half an hour.

9:00 Practice piano. Read to the kids. Usually, someone is crying by the end of one of these...

9:45 - 10:00ish Katie goes down for a nap, so I shower and put a movie on for the kids. I also read my scriptures then.

10:30 - 12:00 Work on other chore for the day. This is something not related to cleaning, such as doing the finances, catching up on scrapbooking, blogging, or sewing. I have a big project I've been doing lately, so it takes up a lot of this time. If Katie's awake, then things shift to accommodate her. She doesn't play well with her brothers yet.

12:00 Lunch

12:30 - 1:00 Kenny goes down for a nap.

2:00 - 3:00 Katie goes down for a nap.

4:00 Kids wake up. During nap time, Joseph has quiet time with puzzles, library books, etc. I work on projects or relax with a book.

4:00-6:00 Dad comes home. Family goes out. Our favorite places are D.I., the library, and the park. If anyone has a doctor's appointment, it's usually at 4:00.

5:00-6:00 Dinner.

6:30 Clean up while Dad plays with the kids or reads book.

7:30-8:00 Kids go to bed after protests and demands for drinks of water.

8:00 - 10:30 Down time!

10:30 Tired Mom and Dad go to bed.

The big project is going well. I've scanned in photos for 4 of us so far and organized everything by year. So far, I think I've spent about 50 hours on it with many hours to go. It's a lot of fun to see old pictures of everyone, though, and I can't wait to start making photo books.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Week

James and Joseph began their epic journey from NC last Monday. It went okay and ended okay, but to make a long story short, the car didn't make it and went to the junkyard. The pictures show how much fun they had despite car trouble.

St. Louis arch



a park of statues to play in/on

LegoLand in KS City


war museum

I had a pretty good week by myself. Morale declined a lot by Saturday, especially because James was supposed to be home by then and wasn't. The kids and I played outside, went to the library, went grocery shopping, and went to D.I. on different days to kill time. It worked! I also watched TV and started organizing family photos from Facebook. It was great to have everyone home in time for Church. I drove Christian and Myles to SLC on Monday night (and then came back - yuck!) for their flight since they missed the one in Denver. No fun! We aren't the only ones who spent lots of money on the trip. Dad did too. The death of the van just makes me laugh, though. We will have other opportunities to buy a van. It just won't be until next year, because I really don't want to do payments.

I've started organizing my family's photos from the house. I have all of them that aren't digital, so the idea is to scan them all in, then create a CD for each family member. Since my family is so darn big, I've organized 4 people's photos so far and spent probably 10 hours on it just this week. It will be great to have them all digital, but it's going to take forever. It already is! I'm glad to be working on a project that isn't going to cost me any money. The yard is going to have to wait till spring, unfortunately, but that's okay. We're all safe and sound, and I have all of my stuff from NC. I'm really enjoying looking through it all.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Empty

Sorry for two posts in one day. The other is about my vacation, but this one is kind of heavy.

The recent death of Robin Williams has really struck a chord with me. All deaths are sad, but not all are personal to me as his is.

I've never contemplated suicide, but I have dealt with depression in my life. Though it's never been formally diagnosed, I know I've felt it. I never knew I was in such darkness until I made it through to the light at the end of the tunnel.

The first (and by far the worst) of these times was during high school. I moved to a new town right before I started 10th grade. This new town was bigger, richer, and more technologically advanced. I never felt like I fit in at my high school - not even close - and felt like the poorest kid there living in an old house, wearing hand-me-downs even though I'm the oldest child, and not having an iPod or cell phone until I was a senior. Most of all, I never felt that I had a best friend who felt I was her best friend. My best friend from Florida quit writing to me, eventually, but I never "replaced" her, not really. The kids at church were all members of the band, and I wasn't, so I felt like an oddball. I'm not blaming them or anyone else for how I felt then. I've never been good at reaching out to others and making friends. Moving to a new state didn't change anything. I let others determine how I felt about myself. That damaging attitude led me to pair off with a guy who wasn't good for me (nor I for him) for almost two years. I didn't get enough sleep. I overworked myself. I had no social life. I didn't better myself or grow spiritually. I practiced my faith out of habit because I felt like I was barely hanging on and God didn't really want to listen to my complaints. Some days, all I wanted to do was curl up and sleep and not wake up until the pain was all gone. I do mean sleep, not death. Through the worst of times, I never once considered death. I ignored God's words to me through the Spirit, but he never gave up on me. In my darkest hour, I still knew that God loved me.

I didn't start coming out of my depression until I went to college, which I know was an inspired decision. I removed myself from a bad situation and stayed away. I held on to the good and got rid of the bad memories as well as I could. The clouds parted to reveal the sunshine. I don't really know how they went away. It almost happened without my realizing it.

Smaller episodes have happened to me during/after my pregnancies. It takes time for me to cope with the addition of a new baby. I struggle to see how it's all worth it. I know that my children are gifts from God, but it takes me a few months to really feel all right again after they're born.

The memories of those days still stay with me, but they're not as sharp as they used to be. Hindsight is 20/20, they say. I don't know if my vision will ever really be 20/20. The thoughts I developed about myself during those high school years still stick with me every time I fail. There are times that I laugh off my little mistakes, but there are others when I just can't. I'm a perfectionist because I was born that way, but I often let my failures bring me down instead of teaching me to be better.

What part of all this is my fault? Or other people's? Or the fate of God? Or biology? I have no idea. I'm the same person I was in high school, but I'm not. I do not condemn Robin Williams. I know that he is a son of God. Yes, his family is in pain right now. I can't imagine what he felt as he decided to take his life. I know that death is not the end, just as the darkness of depression is not the end. Life is made of both bitter and sweet. Those who deal with depression go through some of the most bitter experiences that life has to offer. I can only hope that this life will offer experiences to them that are just as sweet as those that are bitter. If not this life, then the next surely will.

I will never be able to get rid of my bitter memories. They are there to teach me, and I appreciate them now for how they've helped me grow. I'm making progress to be a stronger person. The closer I come to God, the easier it is to deal with depression, but it doesn't make it go away completely. If depression is like being in darkness, having religion is like wearing a pair of night-vision goggles.

I'm in the sunlight right now, and I have enjoyed it for many months now. I know that there will be times that I must trod through darkness. There is no shame in that. I'm going to make sure my night-vision goggles are ready to go when I need them again.

*Please don't worry about me. I've never come close to feeling how I did in high school, and that was by far the worst part of my life. I can recognize low points much more easily now, and getting through them is much more manageable than it was before.*

I know this was kind of personal. I'm sorry. It happens sometimes.

NC Trip

We left last Monday for NC, stopping by Cindy's house and Bridal Veil Falls on the way. The flight from SLC is direct now, thank goodness. We left a little late and got to RDU at 11:15ish. As with other trips, I decided to keep my kids on Mountain Time instead of trying to make the switch to Eastern. It worked! Since my family goes to bed so late anyway, it was a good decision on my part to have the kids go to bed at 10 and wake up 9, rather than go to bed at 8 and wake up at 7. 9 still felt early some days since my teen siblings weren't yet awake.

It was a busy week!

Tues: pool and family history. Dad scanned more old photos for me to put on familysearch.org. 

Wed: beach trip with a stop to Bojangles on the way home.

Thurs: train ride (Joseph, James, and Dad) and I packed all my stuff to take home with me and cleaned out the van that is currently bringing it home. I'll finally have all my old journals, dolls, and scrapbooks, plus family photos that I'm going to digitize.

Fri: Lunch date with James to Waffle House/Cookout, temple and pizza with the family. Mara doesn't have a call yet, but it should be there any day now! I'm pretty excited for her. She will be a great missionary.

Sat: lunch with Brinson's wife Ceci's parents. We had chicken w/mole and rice. Yum! The boys worked on siding for the familia Martinez. We celebrated Nash's birthday with Mountain Momma Mudslide.

Sun: Church at 2 wards, catching up with my old roommate Emily over dinner (which I made). Cooking for the Phenix clan is like making enough food for a whole army. It's amazing how fast a couple of stock pots full can disappear.

Mon: Came home. That wasn't fun, but we lived and even got groceries. I'm still trying to convince my body that it's okay to sleep alone. No luck so far. I miss James a lot and feel quite lonely. The STUPID CAT keeps meowing in the middle of the night and keeping me awake. She hides all day until I try to sleep and then wants to play. Argh! I'm tempted to make her an outside cat.

It's been a relaxing day. James, Joseph, Christian, and Myles are currently fixing a small thing in the van (a hose) before continuing on. They did D.C. yesterday and are headed to Uncle Claude's in Kentucky. They will do St. Louis tomorrow and then make their way to Denver by Friday. Saturday, I will see James and Joseph again! It will be an added bonus to have some more clothes. I only brought a backpack with me on the plane yesterday. 

Though it's been a relaxing day overall, I still feel stressed about James not being here. I don't know how women with military husbands gone for a year can do it. That's unimaginably hard. I'm a wimp and can't do one week without feeling crazy. Oh well. It's good to be home. It will just be better when the rest of the family is here!


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pioneer Day Week

This week has been a very full one, so here's another list.

1. Sick kids. After a hike last week Saturday, Kenny was a little sick. I have no idea with what, except that he ran a fever for a few days and threw up once. Since it wasn't a consistent fever (or very high), we didn't take him to the doctor. He slept a lot and is now okay. Joseph has whatever it was now, so he's sleeping a lot and really grumpy. Sick kids are tough.

2. Temple. We were assigned to do sealings on Tuesday. I got my family names printed in the nick of time, so we got them all done. I forgot how good it feels to do names I recognize.

3. Work. It was shorter this week, so that was nice.

4. Yard work. We have 2/3 of the rocks cleared and are about an hour away from completing the side yard! I'm so excited, because it looks awesome!

5. Pioneer Day. We went to the Scout breakfast, then the parade. The kids are napping now, and we're going to hit the fair after dinner.

6. Reunion. We leave tomorrow for the Belcher Bash. I'm excited. James had a big part in planning it this year, and I look forward to meeting more of his relatives. I don't look forward to camping. I'm not a big fan. We'll see how that goes! And yes, I need some pictures once in a while. Oh well.

7. Harvest. I got my first zucchini from the garden! I am more than pleased. Lots of tomatoes will be coming soon, as well as a lot more squash and some peas and peppers. I guess that Vernal dirt isn't so bad after all.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Busy Week

It's been a crazy week so far.

1. Yard work. We've made lots of progress, and it's really starting to look good (though half done in the part we're moving the rocks from).

2. Projects. I have a whole list of things inside the house that I've neglected, but now that Katie sleeps predictably and goes to bed at a decent hour, no more excuses!

3. Temple. I did baptisms for 7 family names. One is an aunt who died last year. (Well, great-aunt, and she was 95!) I and one other girl were the only ones there. It was pretty nice to get VIP treatment.

4. Fun date. I picked up some really random things that I've never eaten so James and I could try them. We played a game where we had to guess their names and country of origin. It was tough! I had bought a few lychees, a beet, some chili paste (sambal oelek), a chayote squash, a kohlrabi, and a parsnip. We enjoyed the lychees (those spiky ball things, which taste somewhat like grapes) and the parsnip, which has a very unique taste. I can't wait to try the rest! They're waiting in my fridge. There are still a few things at the grocery store I have yet to try. I like pretty much any produce, so bring it on.

5. Work. By work, I mean me helping out my visiting teacher. She has a second job cleaning trailers (she's a single mom and works super hard!), so I'm helping her out for 2-2.5 hours once a week for the summer. It's a tough, disgusting job, but I do get paid a little bit. It's the first time I've earned anything since 2009, but I'm not doing it for the money, since I won't earn much more then $100. I tolerate it. It makes my house look really clean in comparison.

6. Babysitting. Tomorrow, I will have 4 additional kids from 12-5. It should be an adventure. Their family is going to babysit our kids when we have a sealing assignment at the temple next week.

7. Library. We've been doing the summer reading program, and there is an activity every Thursday. The boys love it, so we're going tomorrow.

8. Katniss is used to our house. She is a very low-maintenance cat - my favorite kind of pet! Occasionally she meows outside our door when we're trying to sleep, but her previous owner let her sleep on the bed. Not happening in this house!

9. I have a tan!

10. I reached my 2nd weight loss goal! I have 8.7 lbs. left to get to my last goal.

11. And shopping. That's nothing new, but it does take a chunk out of my day! I've been trying to spend one-on-one time with Joseph, so taking him with me has really helped. I loved going to the grocery store with my mom when I was little, so I'm glad he is the same way. He provides hilarious commentary.

Thank goodness that's it! :)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Eating an Elephant

They say that to eat an elephant, one must do it one bite at a time.

Two projects of elephant (or perhaps dinosaur) size are going on right now. One involves yardwork, and the other is family history.

First, the yard. It's half grass, half river rock (the giant ones, much bigger than gravel) in the backyard. We own a slice from the back corner of our grass to the front - a triangle shape - that was just desert/dirt when we moved in. The goal: move all the river rock to fill in that side yard, then plant grass. So far, it's slow going, but it's good to see progress. We've spent many hours of July outside, so we are all getting nice tans. Once the grass is planted (seed, since it's 1/10th the cost of sod), James is going to build a dry river bed. It will look SO COOL! Next summer...and then, I will take pictures of it. for now, the half-done-ness bothers me a bit. I like to get things done, and quickly, but some of those rocks are 8 lbs. apiece. One rock at a time...

As for family history, I've been lax over the past few years. I have repented and found many new people who need their work done already. I can't say enough about familysearch.org. It has come a long way over the past 3 years, and it in no way resembles what it looked like in 2000 when I started using it. I just can't believe it's been that long! I hung up my big pedigree chart as motivation to keep going. When I die, I am going to fill out that front page (9 generations) or die trying! :)

I feel like all I've eaten so far is the elephant's little toe, but hey, it's better than nothing.

Friday, July 4, 2014

5 Years

James and I celebrated our 5th anniversary yesterday by going to Salt Lake City for FantasyCon. It was so much fun! I can't believe it's been 5 already, but I look forward to many more to come. The boys stayed with their grandma while we took Katie. (Next year, no pregnancy or nursing baby is my goal! Haha.) But she was an angel.

Pictures are worth 1,000 words, so here are some.


















Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mama Bear

I have a hard time taking time for myself. It's not that I never have the opportunity. I just feel guilty about leaving all the kids with James, which is crazy, because he's their dad!

This morning, I was feeling grumpy, so James offered to take the kids to the library for the summer reading activity. I agreed that it would be a good idea. Lucky me, because Katie's been asleep since 9:30 (almost 2 hours), so I've had some time to write out my frustrations (though not on this blog!).

I feel much better. I've come to realize that I worry too much about my role of mother, that it will completely consume me and take away the "Sacha" that I am. This, of course, is a silly thought. Motherhood does consume me, but that's who I am meant to be. It's the identity I longed to have for years before I ever had a baby, and it's the most important title I will ever hold. Everything I do comes back to my family in some way. My little family is what gives my life purpose, and to try to pull away from that would create a schism in me that I don't want.

"Sacha" and "mom" used to be two separate parts of my soul, but they are now forever intertwined. I will never again look at a recipe without thinking of my family first - if they'll like it, if it's healthy, and if it's cheap. When I read books, I often find myself perusing parenting tips instead of fiction. Any crafty thing I've ever made ends up having a practical purpose...and is usually for one of my kids. I can't walk past a rack of tiny dresses without at least thinking of buying one for Katie.

It's from being a mom that I've found myself. The hardest part is remembering that my identity as "Sacha" hasn't been lost at all, just repurposed into something better. That's something I can not only appreciate, but embrace.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Truth

Recent happenings in Church news have me troubled. A few nights I have struggled for sleep as I've pondered the implications of a few news articles I've read.The only word that keeps running through my mind is why?

I once gave a lesson on the priesthood during Relief Society. It can be easy to get caught up in some of the terms, so I used the analogy of driving a car. Recent events have helped me extend this analogy a little further. It's not perfect, but it's how I think of things.

Let's pretend that our Father in Heaven loaned us a car for our family. He told us that the car came with a few conditions. The car, essentially, can represent the priesthood as whole.

1. The car is on loan to us, so we don't set the conditions on how to use it. Its owner does.

2. The car is not powered by the person driving. It has power because of its creator.

3. Proper authority must be used to drive the car. This authority is given by a series of tests to prove one's worthiness.

4. The driver directs the car where to go.

5. If improperly used, the car will not work as efficiently, or perhaps not at all.

6. To start the car, one must have keys. The driver doesn't own the car, so he also doesn't own the keys.

7. The purpose of the car is to transport us from one point to another.

8. Passengers receive the same benefits as the driver: reaching a destination safely.

I have a driver's license, but Heavenly Father requested that my husband drive the car. Does that mean I don't have the capability to drive? No, because I have already proven my worthiness. The license I hold in my hand is no less valid when I take the passenger seat. On life's long journey in the car, I provide a very important role: taking care of the children in the car so we can make the journey safely. It wouldn't make sense for two people to try to drive at once or to ignore the children in the back seat. The journey would become unsafe and jeopardize the lives of everyone in the car.

I'm grateful to have a husband who is willing to drive the car (figuratively speaking) for our family. He is leading our family through righteous use of the priesthood back to our Heavenly Father.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

3 Weeks

I am a terrible blogger! I remember when I used to post 3 times a week, and now it's been 3 whole weeks since I said anything. I hope I remember what the heck's been going on. It's been busy!

1. As of May 23rd, school's out for the summer! James will be taking some classes to get his geography endorsement.

2. Trip to Rexburg. We left on the 29th and stayed for a week. This was a typical, fun trip: family dinners, a little D.I. shopping, and a date for James and me. We hung out with my siblings as well since there are 3 of them in Rexburg right now.

3. Joseph's birthday. This happened on the 30th, so my little boy is now 4! How can that be? He received some books, paper, a bag of tools for helping Daddy, and superhero cape that I made. We had chocolate pound cake and went to Great-Grandma and Grandpa Lee's house to celebrate.

4. Family reunion. This was the annual Head reunion in Albion, ID. We had a great time...except for Katie's first ear infection. That made it really tough for me. She was very cranky, and I got very little sleep. Thankfully, she is back to her normal, happy self. One of my favorite parts of the reunion was the auction. My jean quilt sold for 26 bucks. That made me pretty happy. I came home with some earrings, a bath set, and a giant puzzle for Joseph.

5. AC. We received a furnace/AC from my dad's friend in NC and were waiting to get it installed. It finally happened this week! We now have central air and a brand new, more efficient furnace. I'm so excited. Nothing compares to having AC on a hot day. We even got a new thermostat. :)

6. Sleep training. I thought it would be terrible, but it was the easiest yet. Katie cried for 10 minutes while going down for a nap. That was it. She now happily goes to bed around 8 like her brothers, wakes up one time in the middle of the night, and gets up the next morning around 7. I LOVE IT. I think she's been ready for a while, but I didn't realize it. Silly me.

7. Library. We love our library! I'm actually participating in some of the programs this summer with the boys. They loved the craft today since it also involved free popsicles. We went to the splash park afterward, and they had a great time. Tomorrow, we're planning a special day with the kids to see how many reading activities we can do in one day. It's going to be great!

Now, pictures.

Grandma loves giving baths.

My little superhero.

At the Lees'.

At the zoo! (I forgot to mention.)

At the reunion making bubbles.

Hanging out on the couch with my sickie.

Monday, May 26, 2014

How to Make a Jean Quilt (My Way)

I don't know that there's a tutorial exactly like this one, but this is the method I used to make my jean quilts. If you can sew straight lines on a machine, this is the quilt for you! It takes some time...quite a bit for a big quilt, but the result is totally worth it!

1. Cut jeans/pants into squares. I prefer 7" X 7" because they end up about 6" X 6", which makes for really easy measuring. I use some of the pockets, but they are harder to sew because of the thick seams. I cut squares so a seam falls in the middle. I like how it looks. You get about 16 squares from an adult's pair of pants.

2. Design your quilt.

How big will it be? Twin: 12 X 14-15 squares, Crib: 8 X 10 squares, Queen: 15 X 16-17 squares, King: 18 X 16-17 squares (I looked up standard blanket sizes and divided by 6 inches to get the number of squares I needed.)
Colors? Vary the colors of jeans. If you have tan and black (or other colors), you can draw out a design on a piece of paper first. Or, use Excel! Here's an example for a twin quilt:

3. Arrange squares into rows and tie/rubber band them together. The more complicated your design is, the more important this is.

4. Sew rows by holding two squares right sides together. Open up. Repeat until you reach the end of the row. Repeat with all rows.

5. Pin one row on top of another, right sides together. Sew, unfold, and repeat until all rows are sewn together.

6. Lay out the quilt and trim around the edges to make an even rectangle. The rows won't match up perfectly since no squares you cut will be perfect, but that's okay. Make them even now!

7. Lay a sheet or other back right side to the floor/table. Lay the quilt on top. Trim a border, leaving a couple of inches on each side. I leave 4 so I can have the wide border shown here. You need two sheet sizes up to have one big enough, and use a flat sheet, not fitted. (For a twin, use a queen flat sheet, etc.) There will be extra fabric, so save it.

8. Tie the quilt. I do every other square. Grosgrain ribbon won't fray.

9. Fold the back of the quilt (sheet) over the front twice, pin, and sew around all edges.

10. Trim off any crazy threads, and you're done!