Tuesday, March 31, 2009


We saw this short video clip at our RS Enrichment tonight. I just love President Uchtdorf and this condensed version of his great talk "Happiness Your Heritage" from the General Relief Society meeting last October. It's short, but powerful.

**What do you desire to create?
**What do you consider your greatest creations?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Power of Words

We just read a wonderful book for Book Club and had a great discussion to go along with it. The Book Thief gives an entirely different perspective on the Holocaust than I have ever read (the main characters are German, law-abiding, and Nazi-supporting--if only to prevent getting in trouble--yet still find it in their hearts to hide, shelter, and nourish a Jewish man who is in danger of being sent to the camps), It is told from an unlikely yet extremely pleasant narrator--Death--who offers perspective and insight as only Death could do. I loved the beautiful writing style and so many things about this book--themes of hope, resilience of the human spirit, sacrifice, love, service, selflessness, and so much more.

One of the themes that has stuck with me in the last few days is about the power of words. Liesel (the heroine of the story) discovers a book, and takes it, as her brother is buried and her mother leaves her with a foster family and is presumably taken away for being Communist. Her circumstances are far from ideal, but with the book she has stolen (from the snowy ground) she learns to read and opens up a love for words and learning. She develops an unbreakable bond with her foster parents and friends that helps her through the uncertainty of life in Germany during the war. During the tumultuous times of WWII she is educated about the power of words and is taught from her Jewish friend Max that is hiding in their home, that much of the horror that took place for the Jews and so many others happened because Hitler used words to twist ideas, thoughts, and prejudices to the point that as a country, Germany was willing to exterminate a people. I've heard people say they thought the book was depressing, but I thought it offered so much more than just a glum look at the Holocaust. I loved this book and recommend it highly.

The idea that words are so powerful (for good or evil) has been floating around in my head a lot lately. Today I taught Relief Society--it was the talk given by Neil L. Andersen of the Seventy Presidency last General Conference called "You Know Enough." In so many ways it was just what I needed to learn about. With the theme of words being powerful stuck in my mind, there were some phrases that I shared and that we discussed as a group. I won't give much in the way of explanation, but I wanted to post these words for you to think about.

First, I shared a list of the phrases he used to describe being in a spiritual funk. I know that each of us has found ourselves in that frame of mind at different times of our lives. Maybe we are now, or maybe someone we know is. I believe that everyone goes through cycles where they are strong and sure in their faith, and other times where things are hard and doubts creep in. Anyway, here are the "spiritual funk" phrases from his talk:

  • Challenges
  • Unbearable sorrow
  • Shattered hopes and dreams
  • [Feelings of being] inadequate and uprepared
  • Doubt
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty finding spiritual footing
Do any of those things sound familiar? Contrast that list with the gems of wisdom and strenth that peppered his talk:
  • Revelation
  • Spiritual power and confirmation
  • Foundation of faith
  • We treasure [gospel] principles and ordinances
  • Commitment to prayer
  • Priceless spiritual knowledge
  • Willingness to be obedient
  • Ongoing witness of the Book of Mormon
  • [Being] steady and patient
  • Spiritual balance
  • Simple, pure faith
  • Faith is not just a feeling, it is a decision
He spoke of taking our moments of spiritual power, inspiration, and revelation and sinking them deep into the chamber of our souls, preparing our spiritual home storage, and settling it in our hearts. The idea that there are times to build our spiritual reservoirs with patience and steadfastness and other times to draw on that which we have stored is comforting to me.

We discussed at length the gospel truth that God loves us, and that we can gain that knowledge through prayer. Sometimes we (or loved ones) aren't in a position that we (they) desire to pray for that confirmation, and we (they) may not even recognize that they lack the knowledge that God loves them. Sometimes we (or someone else) can share that knowledge, simply by saying, "God loves you."

I don't know everything, or even most things (contrary to what I've told my children), but I do know ENOUGH. I know that God loves me and loves each of you. With all of the other challenges and uncertainties that swirl around us, it is enough to know that.

**Have you read (or do you plan to read) The Book Thief?
**What do you believe about the power of words?
**How do you get yourself out of a spiritual funk?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Liv's Book Club

Olivia and her friend J.D. cooked up a plan to host a book club. They planned out a meeting for every month this year and picked a book series to focus on each month. Today was the first club meeting and we talked about the Magic Treehouse series--they discussed the plot, setting, moral lessons, and characters. Not bad for 2nd graders!

Back: Tyler , Olivia, Jane, Kennadi
Front: Anna, J.D. Aislyn, Coleman, Sarah, and Sophie

**Note to self, 90 minutes for a 2nd Grade Book Club is WAY too long.

It Continues

Apparently having a mom who struggled to get a date through high school and college hasn't had any ill effects on Olivia's potential for love. Tyler is adorable, sweet, kind, and sensitive.

**I know she's seven, but is it wrong to feel happy that Liv already seems to be lucky in love?

Walking Field Trip Fun

Budget cuts are aplenty, even in the field trip department of the public school system (I guess our bus budget is linked to trust lands, so with the market down-turn, there is no money to be had and all buses were canceled for the remainder of the year).

Olivia's second grade went on a walking field trip to a nearby elementary school to see a production of "The Little Mermaid" and I got to go along. There's nothing like herding a bunch of 7 and 8 year olds down eight city blocks. Our group members were such good listeners, despite the frequent stops to pick up pine cones, walnuts, various trash, and rocks.

Olivia gets so excited when I come into her school and help with field trips or other activities. I hear that all changes when they get older, but I love that she likes having me around and is excited to show me off to her friends.

The play was pretty good--amazing costumes, scenery, and several kids with great singing voices. My group especially liked the ship!

Thank goodness the sun was out--although it was chilly, it wasn't windy or wet. Relief!

**Would you go on a walking field trip?
**What is it with kids and picking up stuff where ever they might be?

March Madness

Most people think college basketball when we say March Madness, but I (an apathetic sports fan, at best, sorry Linn!) am referring to the crazy, snowy, cold weather patterns we've seen in Utah this last week. Case in point--Coleman's field trip to the nursery this week:

The icy wind and slushy ground en route from the planting house to the green house made for a chilly commute for our group of four and five year olds... and for the moms too.
I don't have much of a green thumb, but I loved seeing the plants in their various stages of growth. It made me yearn for warmer weather so I could actually plant something in dirt that isn't covered in ice or snow.

The kids were fascinated with the indoor water fountains--the nursery doubles as a reception center. It was actually quite lovely, not that I'm in the market for a reception center or anything, but if I were, I'd definitely consider Highland Gardens.

Our cute preschool teacher Sherri (the 2nd mom from the left in the back) is great with our kids. She loves them and they love her in return! She's also our friend and neighbor, so going on field trips is a little like an outing with girlfriends and their kids.

I love going on field trips with Coleman. Miss Sherri tells me all the time what a happy and positive kid he is. She said her favorite oft-repeated saying of his is, "This is the best day of my life!"

**How's your planting coming along?
**Could someone please transfer your gardening talents to me? I could really use them.

Futbol and Friends

Last Saturday we went to the free Exhibition game for Real Salt Lake Soccer. We dragged a few soccer friends along with us and had a marvelous time!

Caramel Popcorn Heaven

One of our favorite weekend snacks is caramel popcorn (my dentist loves that I love it so much... I am sure I owe at least two root canals to my caramel popcorn habits). I've shared the caramel recipe before because it's the same recipe I use for anything that calls for caramel: apples, ice cream topping, turtles, pretzels, etc. but why not share it again?

1 cup butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light corn syrup
2 cups brown sugar, packed

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Bring it to a boil and cook until it reaches the soft ball stage. Pour over popcorn, stirring to coat evenly. (The amount above is enough for 5 or 6 batches of air-popped corn, so I usually cut the amount in half.)

**Do you love caramel popcorn too?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Leprechauns Strike Again

St. Patrick's Day brings leprechauns to our house... the kids wanted to lure them with drawings of rainbows and pots of gold and four leaf clovers. They made sure to wear green jams so they wouldn't get pinched during the night. (Too bad for Coleman he fell into the toilet just before bed... we had to scrounge up some mis-matching pajamas, but at least we got the green on.)

They woke up to find that the leprechauns had turned their toilet water green and the milk in the fridge (copycats from last year!) and had spread the kitchen table with M&M goodness, plastic "Kiss Me I'm Irish" necklaces, some green shirts... and an iTunes gift card for Ry (those leprechauns are smart and know what we like!). The kids had even been kissed by the leprechauns and had a green mark on their noses.

We had toast made with green bread (I must have had extra time on my hands being home with sick kids) for breakfast...
...and green hot chocolate (Stephen's French Vanilla... it was tasty!).
Liv's green dot had mostly come off, but Coleman's is there is full force.

For dinner we had beef stroganoff (I can't bring myself to make or serve beef brisket or corned beef and cabbage) and we dyed the noodles green (did I mention I had some extra time on my hands at home today?).

And finally we made some green Snickerdoodles to finish off the day. Green cookies with green milk is a great way to end a holiday, if you ask me.

We love Snickerdoodles... especially my Grandma's recipe.

Here it is if you feel inclined to make them:

Grandma W.'s Snickerdoodles

1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
2 3/4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 400 F. Cream together shortening, sugar, and eggs. Mix in dry ingredients. Dough should be dry and stiff. Roll dough into 1" balls (or use a cookie scoop) and roll in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes. Enjoy!

**Did you have any leprechaun visitors at your house this year?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Who Knew?

Last week Coleman said his bum was itchy.

At a family party he told his uncle "You should go easy on me, I have a rash you know."

I was sure it was a hygiene issue.

I did what every good mom would do--I helped him wipe, I bought Cottonelle flushable wipes, we even purchased Bordeaux Butt Paste which is guaranteed to soothe many a rash on tender backsides. It still itched. I gave him Benadryl when the itch woke him up at night. I tried cortisone cream when the butt paste didn't seem to make the itch or redness go away, and he seemed to be fine.

Last week Olivia complained of a sore throat.

She came home from school early one day, but seemed fine the rest of the week.

Last night, she felt warm and said that her throat REALLY hurt. We gave her a dose of ibuprofen and called it good.

This morning, it still really hurt. I debated about sending her to school anyway, but she looked pretty sick, so I called the doctor instead.

A throat swab and rapid strep test confirmed it--strep throat.

Our competent doctor asked if Coleman had any symptoms. I said he hadn't shown any symptoms.

I had read the large print sign instructing parents that each child needed their own appointment and that they couldn't fit in additional children... but I went ahead anyway, I just wanted to make sure cortisone was okay for little behinds.

I said, "I swore I'd never be one of those parents that tried to get a two-fer in an appointment, but Coleman's had a red, itchy bum and I've been putting cortisone on it, is that okay?"

Our doctor's eyes grew wide and she said, "That is classic strep. Sometimes it manifests itself there instead of in the throat."

She did a swab test to culture (oddly, it seemed less invasive to Coleman than the throat swab was to Liv) and it came back very positive.

We paid our co-pay for Coleman.

Both kids got leprechaun stickers (sadly for them they'll have to miss out on the St. Patrick's Day festivities at school).

We went home armed with two prescriptions for antibiotics and Polysporin cream for Coleman's itch.

I thought I had never heard of Bum Strep before, but remembering back to that less than pleasant swipe in late pregnancy to test for Strep... I have indeed heard of it... I have in fact had it. (Way too much information, no?)

Many apologies to any and all that we may have unknowingly infected--but in general we try to not let our kids sneeze on other people, lick them, or even share utensils or cups. If your children got infected from ours... my deepest sympathies.

I'm sure you understand why there are no pictures included with this post.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Leap of Faith

Ryan and I are going to celebrate our 10th anniversary this year.

We've wanted to take a fun trip to celebrate 10 years together.

Last week, in an incredible leap of faith that the economy will get better and that we'll still have a job in a few months--or in a ridiculously stupid and careless move--we booked a trip.

To Paris.

I was there in 2005 with my dad and sisters, for a trip of a lifetime. I told Ryan that I couldn't go again, I haven't even finished my scrapbook from the first time around.

He thought that was the most ridiculous reason to NOT go on a trip that he had ever heard.

He might be right.

I can't wait to share it with Ry.... I'm guaranteed to get way better photos this time anyway, which is good because I don't think we'll be buying many souvenirs.

We both decided that if Ryan doesn't have a job down the road, at least we'll have been to Paris.

Monday, March 9, 2009

32 Big Ones

In honor of Ryan's 32nd birthday, I thought I'd share 32 things about my man.

  1. He was born in Provo, Utah and is still a BYU fan (his mom says he could say "blue" at 6 months old--or some other ridiculously young age). He even played trumpet in the marching band for two years before his mission. He graduated from BYU with a degree from the Business School in Information Systems.
  2. He likes to go geocaching. Today he took the kids while I visited Megan--he and the kids found five caches, and they even found a travel bug in one of them.

  3. He loves soccer and he played in high school...
  4. ...until his leg was brutally broken during a game in his junior year. He kept the cast (and the rod that was in his leg) for a ridiculously long time. It might still be lurking somewhere around here.
  5. He used his "extra" time while his leg was healing to learn to play the piano.
  6. He still loves soccer and he has been coaching Olivia's team for a couple of years. He just started indoor soccer too.
  7. He loves playing games--all kinds.
  8. He usually wins, it doesn't matter what the game is. He doesn't believe in throwing a game just to build confidence in his kids (or in his wife, who sometimes throws hissy fits when she loses).
  9. He's a great dad and both of his kids LOVE to be around him.
  10. He loves to take pictures.
  11. He's pretty good at it (check this out).
  12. He likes to eat out (or maybe that's me?). Today we enjoyed his free bowl of noodles from Noodles & Company. We both think it's a lovely thing they do around birthday time to send a coupon for a free dish.

  13. He's a good cook--he is especially good at making frozen raspberry lemonades and cajun chicken pasta.
  14. He likes to plan fun and creative dates.
  15. He hates paying for babysitters.
  16. He likes good TV just as much as I do.
  17. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Vina Del Mar, Chile.
  18. He met his wife on his mission, and he really didn't like her at first.
  19. He hates to paint. His wife has been known to paint a wall or a room or two while he's out of town.
  20. He knows everything there is to know about computers and he has never-ending patience with his wife and others that aren't so savvy.
  21. He hasn't had to interview for a job in many, many years. (Let's hope this one stays true for many years to come!)
  22. He loves to tease and tickle his kids and his wife.
  23. He is a Scouting pro--he is an Eagle Scout and he finished his Wood Badge training. He's had almost every calling there is in the Scouting program and he currently serves as the Scout Committee Chair.
  24. He's really good at Rock Band and Guitar Hero. He can even play on "expert" level.
  25. He has gone to Bear Lake every year since he was a wee one with his extended family (except for his mission years). He is really good about resisting the urge to purchase and consume Bear Lake raspberry shakes on Fast Sundays, despite the social pressures all around him.
  26. He hearts his iPhone and all the apps that are on it.
  27. He really hates bumper stickers and cutesie vinyl things on cars.
  28. He hates getting clothes for gifts but he LOVES getting iTunes gift cards.

  29. He loves music and has a great singing voice. On his mission he carried a pitch pipe, which his future-wife thought was kinda nerdy. He just shared the GREAT news with his wife--he found his pitch pipe.
  30. He doesn't have a problem saying no, although his wife often commits him to things he probably would say no to. He's usually a good sport about it.
  31. He has a great sense of humor and he likes to play practical jokes.
  32. His favorite cake is German Chocolate, and he gets exactly one made from scratch for him per year, on his birthday. Unless it's 2009 and we didn't invite anyone to share the goodness with us. Then he gets German Chocolate Cake (from a Betty Crocker mix) muffins, still topped with the tasty (to him) homemade coconut-pecan frosting, minus the maraschino cherry on top.

Happy Birthday Ryan!!! We love you!!!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

To Be Like Her

For the last several months I've been working on an extended family newsletter. Several of my many cousins and I felt like it was an important way for us to stay in touch and also learn more about our heritage so we've joined efforts to collect information on our family members. For this edition, we focused on our great-grandmother Madeline (whom my mom is named after). A few weeks before my granddad passed away, I got to interview him about his mother so we could include his memories and recollections. It was so wonderful to learn about such an incredible, strong, and faithful woman.One of the main reasons I love learning about my ancestors is because I feel like it helps me sort out who I am and who I can become. I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting several weeks ago about the talk, "Come What May, and Love It" which included some information from our interview about Madeline.

I think that this was one of his best talks. It seems that in his later years, my granddad spoke form his heart and shared personal experiences and insights that touched many people.

As he did with so many of his talks, he referred to his mother and football in this talk. Football was one of the great loves of his life. Ryan and I chuckled during our interview with him before we were married, because he drew us a football type diagram of where we should park, how we should enter the temple, and even our placement in the sealing room. Football was a part of him, and that was in large part due to the support that his mother gave him. His father was a businessman and felt that the children should spend their time working in the family business. My granddad's mother made sure that he had time for football and other sports because she saw their value.

A few weeks before my granddad passed away, I had the chance to interview him about his mother. She was a remarkable woman. In his words she was: "perfect, genuine, aggressive, positive, Mrs. Republican. She had a lot of zip in life, she was always busy, and she was just not a mediocre person, she was an achiever. She was the most organized person I know." I asked him if they had any family traditions while he was growing up. He said, "Yes! WORK!" He said his mother was a model housekeeper and kept her gardens manicured to perfection. She was a state champion runner when she was young in the 100 yard dash and always lovedx sports. She insisted on good language and would correct them if they made mistakes. As I talked with him more, I realized that she was a person I would love to know and be like. He said she belonged to to women's groups and a "contemporary readers' club" which her husband called the "Contemptable Women's Club." At this point, Ryan thought that maybe I already was a little like her.

She encouraged prayer, 100% attendance at meetings, and didn't accept any excuses from anyone. She told her children often that she didn't want any "scrubs." I asked my granddad if there was anything his mother had done to help her children become the extraordinary people that they are. He responded, "I don't know that we're all that great, but she never let us sit down much and rest. She always had a page of assignments to perform." When he was seven, she spoke with him about his older cousin Gordon. She said, "Now you watch Gordon. He'll amount to something." She was right about that and she was right about so many other things.

I love the advice that she gave to her son after a hard and disappointing day at football. She said, "Joseph, come what may, and love it."

"She taught her children to trust in themselves and each other, not blame others for their misfortunes, and give their best efforts in everything. When [they] felt down, she expected [them] to pick themselves up and get going again... I think she may have meant that every life has peaks and shadows and times when it seems that the birds don't sing and bells don't ring, yet in spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger wiser, and happier as a result." ("Come What May, and Love It," Ensign, November 2008).

I have a lot of growing and progressing to do (gardening, housekeeping, always having my hair perfect, organization, general perfection--just a few small things to work on, right?), but I hope I can be like her.

**Have you caught the family history bug?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Young Love

Remember a few months ago I shared a funny little angst-filled break-up note that a boy had given to Olivia? (See this post if you don't remember it or if you just want a good laugh again.)

So I spent the better part of today going through piles and papers and lots of stuff. I found this gem amongst the stacks and had to share. It was given to Olivia a month or so before the big break-up, I suppose at the height of cute Ethan's love for my sweet Liv.

The kid knows how to write a love letter--I mean he compliments her eyes, her hair, her shoes, says she's the prettiest girl in the whole world AND that he can't stop looking at her. What more can a girl ask for? After reading this, I'm a little bit more sad that he's going to be too busy making light sabers and stuff to love her when he's older.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I'll Follow in Faith

We've just started attending baptismal services for Olivia's friends that are turning 8. Last weekend sweet Lauren was baptized, and I loved something that her mom (my good friend Shirlene, whom I have admired and adored since I met) had us do while we waited for her to get dressed. She passed around notecards and pens and asked us all to write a quick note to Lauren on her special day. (I love that she and my other friends do things before my turn comes, so I can get great ideas!)

I looked over Olivia's shoulder and I was impressed by what I read.

I had the Spirit watching you get baptized. You gave me faith to get baptized. I am glad that I got to come to your baptism. You are a great friend.

I was reminded of the Primary song and the pledge that was on Lauren's invitation to follow Him in faith. I am so grateful that Olivia has had friends follow the Savior, that she is recognizing the Spirit when she feels it, and that she too has a desire to follow Him in faith.

The next day was Fast Sunday--as I was getting cereal out for the kids, Olivia told me she was going to fast, all day long. I was a little surprised (we've talked about fasting a lot and she's seen Ryan and I do it--she's even given it a good attempt a couple of times, but she's never really been excited about doing it all day) but I was impressed with her conviction. We knelt down together for our family prayer in the morning and talked about the things we were fasting for and prayed together that Heavenly Father would bless us and the people we care about. Olivia didn't complain once during the day, and she fasted until we ate dinner later that night.

Before church, both kids got down their piggy banks and said they wanted to pay something once we got to church. They didn't owe money for tithing, so we talked a little about the other funds they could contribute to--humanitarian aid, the missionary fund, the temple fund, etc. Coleman said, "All of them, Mom, I want to give money to all of them" and Olivia also wanted to spread her money around. They each took several dollars and a handful of change from their SPEND fund and donated it to the Church in several different categories. There was no feeling of obligation, no pressure to donate, just a pure desire to do good and share their "wealth."

When people ask if I "work" I often joke that I do work, but I don't get a paycheck. I love experiences like this with my children, that far outweigh any monetary compensation I could receive for the work I do. More than that, I am grateful to have been blessed with such a strong spirited daughter and son who are sensitive to the promptings they receive and who have no qualms about exercising their faith.

They give me strength to follow in faith too.