Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Rough Last Day of 2008!

We've just put the youngest three to bed, in the hopes the beginning of 2009 will turn out a bit easier than the end of 2008. With that being said, let's rewind a few days and enjoy some good memories :)

Christmas Day arrived (of course) with glee from all the children. Here are a few pictures of them opening presents. We decided to start a new tradition, where the youngest opens a present first, then the next youngest, and so on, so that we could all enjoy the gift opening (and Mom could get in a picture or two).

A, as you can rather tell, was barely awake at the time she was offered the first of her gifts. J, who loves gifts - whether or not they're for him, had to be told to "back off" a few times to allow the others to open their own gifts. Santa provided all with their one special gift, and Daddy and I gladly took credit for all other gifts :) At the bottom you'll see M who requested a picture with her boyfriend.

Later on that day we took a trip up to spend a portion of Christmas at Grandpa & Grandma R's house, with cousins to boot. The moment my niece walked into the living room my camera absolutely had to come out. She looked "utterly fah-bulous dah-ling." We managed to wrangle all the grandkids together for a picture before they were too tired out. We learned that the hard way last year. Grandma always starts us out with the tradition of a tiny cup of rice pudding for everyone. The lucky person with the almond in their pudding gets an extra special prize. I won! It was such a lovely time - always is when we're with my brother's family. There are so many laughs, and it's fun to watch the kids interact. We missed my older brother and his wife terribly, however.

Later in the day we visited my in-laws, who are two of the most adorable creatures on the earth. Over the next few days Daddy, M, J and I tried building an igloo. We had a fantastic beginning, a shaky middle, and had no idea how to put on a top. Two mornings in a row one side fell in, requiring some fancy patchwork, but it was all to no avail. When it fell in a third time we gave it up as a bad job. The next time we try it, I'll have to google "How to Build an Igloo in Nine Easy Steps." The last of the Christmas parties came a few days later with my hubby's side of the family. We always have such a grand time with them.

Unfortunately this is where things started to go wrong. J, looking so happy above, had a rather nasty accident. Someone had unknowingly placed the 'key' into his aunt's treadmill (which no one was allowed to touch, but we're talking boys here). Both my boys got on, B started playing with the knobs, and it started. B got off in time, but J was standing at the end of the treadmill. He fell right off and his cheek got a fairly significant burn from the running belt. We immediately applied aloe vera, then I took him home quick to put on some Neosporin with pain reliever. I know - not a good idea. But at the time we didn't really know what we were dealing with. Here's a picture of it that same night.

I bandaged him up as best I could. It looked really nasty the next day, and hurt like mad when daddy put on some Tea Tree Oil. We kept the bandage off after that, but the next day we decided to call the doctor, even if it would only keep our minds at ease. Looking at the next picture, you might understand why.

My poor little man. The doctor did say it looked pretty good considering, so maybe all the stuff we put on it wasn't such a bad thing. He also said it'll look even worse in about two weeks, but we'll begin to see improvement after that, though it'll take up to six months for the redness to go away. As if all this weren't enough, we took the kids sledding today, and J got the bonk of a lifetime. Things started out really well. We'd accidentally come across a new place to try sledding, and everyone seemed to have a great time the first few runs. Then J went down and began coasting to a stop while another grown man did the same. I watched it happen as though in slow motion. My stomach turned as I heard the gigantic crack as their two heads collided, and I was a good 20 feet away! His head hurt mightily, and it took such a long time for Daddy to convince him to try again, this time going down together.

They started off pretty well, but went straight for a giant snow jump where J went flying off, and Daddy rolled over him. It took another hour, a lot of crying, a trip to a nearby Walmart where we bought some Motrin, and a promise to go home right after before I could get him to try one last time with me. I just wanted him to have one last lovely ride down so it wouldn't seem like such a terrible experience. Luckily it turned out to be a successful venture and we all came home relatively happy.

We managed to end the year on a good note, however. Grandmas and Grandpas came over to eat some great food and watch Wall-E - which we all loved!!! M tried to stay up to midnight with me, but I convinced her to head off to bed about ten minutes ago. So here I am, ready to ring in the new year, and hoping it brings a few less accidents and many more blessings.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Inspirations December 28, 2008

I can hardly believe this will be the last post for Sunday Inspirations here in 2008. I can hardly believe I started this blog a mere 6 months ago!

For this last post, and before we hit the new year, I wanted to blog on a word I have come to moan at the moment it is mentioned. I was doubly excited when the young women's president in the ward called to ask me to fill in for the regular teacher today, and asked me to put together a lesson on this very thing. What is this word?


For too many the idea of New Year's resolutions has become a joke: promises made and broken before the year is half gone. If your biggest resolution this year is to actually keep one of your resolutions, I would suggest changing just one word.

Instead of making resolutions, make goals.

(From here on out I'm putting in my I gave today.)

Goals demand to be written down, step-by-step. Goals will show just how far you’ve come, as well as what needs to happen next to accomplish it. Goals require self-discipline, just as resolutions, but offer hope and guidance when we’ve slipped along the way.

Why is setting goals is so important?

Elder M. Russell Ballard (an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - nicknamed the Mormon Church) spoke about the value of making goals to a group of young, single adults: “…You must cultivate a desire to develop the skill of setting personal worthy and realistic goals…If we don’t set goals in our life and learn how to master the technique of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principle of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life.”

The Church put out a pamphlet called “10 Ways to Teach Values in the Home.” One of the values mentioned is helping children to set goals. From the moment a child is baptized a member of this Church at eight years old they are encouraged to begin setting goals. It starts with the "Faith in God" program. From there we move on to the “Duty to God” program for the young men and "Personal Progress" for the young women. Even as adults we’re encouraged to set and accomplish goals through the "Pursuit of Excellence" program. Missionaries set daily goals. Even parents and leaders in this Church are encouraged to help their youth set and accomplish goals. Not just any goals, but goals that will challenge you.

Why do you think we are encouraged to begin learning the value of goal setting from such a young age? The earlier someone begins the learning process – for anything – the easier it will be to maintain later in life. Not only this, but once a person knows they can accomplish even the little things, trying to accomplish bigger things doesn’t feel so daunting.

So what’s the first step in setting goals? It might not be quite what you think. The first step is to decide on something to do, but to do so with prayer. One of the greatest and most overlooked aids in setting and accomplishing goals is to make sure the Lord is a part of it. Discuss with Him what your plans are for the future. What are your interests? Is there something in the coming school year you can look forward to and plan toward? Do you feel particularly impressed to learn something new, or replace a bad habit?

Keep in mind you need to set clear, specific, realistic goals. Don’t decide you’re going to run a marathon and then think you’ll be able to do it by summertime. Instead set the goal to get in better shape through running, and go from there.

Next step – Elder Ballard encourages you to write it down! As long as the resolution lives just in your head you will have set yourself up for failure before you’ve even begun. I would encourage you to write it down more than once. In fact, write it down many times and put it in strategic places to help give you daily reminders of what you are trying to accomplish. Keep a copy in your scriptures, in your locker (if at school), on the wall of your room, etc., wherever you might frequently find it.

Think of substitutions you can put in place if it will help you reach your goal. If you’ve set a goal to get rid of a bad habit think of ways to replace the habit. Instead of watching television for a billion hours in a week put that time toward learning something new, like how to play the guitar. If you have a problem with saying bad words, one of your first steps can be thinking of a simple or silly word to replace it. Substitution is a fantastic way of helping you meet those types of goals.

Set mini-goals along the way. These will not only help keep you on course, but will help you see how far you’ve come! They’re easy to accomplish and make the big picture seem much more overwhelming.

For example. Anyone who has been to my house knows the room at the very back belongs to my boys, and that it’s typically in a state of extreme chaos. How can two little boys who excel at making the mess possibly restore order? With mini-goals. Josh is first placed in charge of looking for all the dirty clothes and putting them in their laundry hamper. While he’s doing this Brian is in charge of looking for all their books and placing them back on the bookcase. When Josh is done he might be put in charge of putting pillows and blankets back where they belong, as well as looking for toys under the bed, while Brian starts putting the toys away. Mini-goals.

Sometimes goals we really want to accomplish feels like attempting to jump across the Grand Canyon – impossible. But if we take those big, giant goals, and break it up into smaller goals, the end result doesn’t feel quite so impossible any more.

The great thing about goals is they’re flexible. You might reach a mini-goal far sooner than you’d expected. If that’s the case you can easily move on. On the other hand you might find one of those mini-goals is taking longer than you’d expected. That’s okay too. Allow yourself wiggle room. Have the self-discipline necessary to push past any bumps in the road, and don’t forget to continually pray for guidance, endurance, and support along the way.

So let’s take a moment and plot out a goal someone might set for his/herself in this next year. I mentioned learning to play the guitar. Let’s keep the goal realistic and remember we won’t be playing like a rock star in just one year. Let’s say we’ve made the decision, we’ve prayed about it, and we’ve written the goal down. What’s next on the plan?


1. Research how much a new or used guitar would cost. Do you want to play acoustic or electric? Do you have the abilities to teach yourself or do you need a teacher? How much would lessons be? What books might be helpful?

2. Figure out a way to earn the money necessary. Do you have a job, or can you find ways to earn a few dollars here and there? Have you saved up enough money for the necessary books or for lessons? Or do you know someone who could give you lessons for free or in trade?

3. Once you have your guitar, and your books, and if needed your teacher, plan out the necessary practice time – and keep in mind developing a new talent takes a lot of practice.

4. Go at your own pace. Some people pick things up quickly, others need more time. Don’t ever be discouraged by the time it takes to learn something new, or change something in your life. Be patient.

5. Stretch yourself. Don’t become complacent with staying in one place. Say you’ve learned some cool songs, you’ve got the basic chords down, and you’re pretty happy with where you are. That’s when it’s time to push yourself a little harder. You never know how great you could become unless you first try.

Your goals can be spiritually grounded: would you like to learn more about other religions, or more about the history surrounding the Bible and/or Book of Mormon, or more about your Patriarchal Blessing and/or the tribes you belong to. Your goals can be geared away from gospel matters: would you like to learn to draw, to write, to try your hand at photography, attempt to break into the world of computers, or graphic design? The ideas are only as limited as your imagination.

Now don’t forget as you look through all these mini-goals that you have the entire year to accomplish them all – not only this, but you don’t have to accomplish them all this year. Life will happen. Things will come up. Perhaps the money you’d been saving for the guitar suddenly needed to be used to help pay for an emergency. Just remember – that’s okay. Don’t allow yourself to get too discouraged. Discouragement is one of Satan’s greatest tools. If you find yourself bombarded with setbacks, take it to the Lord, trust in Him, and try, try again.

As Elder Ballard tells us: “If your goals are righteous, of God-given perspective, eternal in their nature, then go for them. Pray for the inner strength to have the discipline to do those things that will guarantee through your activity and your life that you will reach your goals. Then, I think, perhaps as important as anything, we have to have faith. We have to have faith in God. We have to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And oh, how desperately we have to have faith in ourselves.”

We start making goals when we are young. We continue setting goals even as we get older. When we prove to ourselves we can accomplish the simpler things, we will gain more and more faith in our abilities to accomplish the big things – like finding the courage and means to go on a mission, to hold out against the world and maintaining our purity, by finding someone who is worthy to be sealed to us in the temple for all eternity.

As you think about setting goals for this new year, take the matter to the Lord. Ask what course He would have to take, and then trust in Him to help you along the way.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cookies for Everyone!

I keep thinking I'll take it easy during the Christmas holidays and not push myself to do too much. Every year I blow it. Really, honestly, truly I had such great intentions, but with my darling hubby as a bishop in his first year I began to worry about inadvertently offending ward members.

Does it seem like a silly thing? Let me invite you to visit the inner workings of my brain for a few minutes.

Say we decide to take a few cookies to Brother and Sister Allan (no such members in our ward, this is all for illustration purposes), because he works as the financial clerk and she works as a counselor with the Young Women. Right across the street we have Brother Watkins (again, fictitional member only) who is a teacher in the Elder's Quorum. Might he feel a little put out if the bishop and his wife didn't make him a little plate of something to show appreciation for his hard work?

Not good enough? Let me try again.

Sister Michaels lives amid a group of active members. Her neighbors to the right and left both hold positions in the ward who work closely with my husband. Hence, they all get cookies. Her neighbor across the street is an old and dear friend of ours - she gets a special plate of cookies. The homes to the right and left of the woman across the street get cookies for really good reasons you'll have to think up all on your own (it's almost ten at night and my thought processes shut down a while ago). How does Sister Michaels feel, being the only one who doesn't get a little plate of cookies from the bishop?

Of course I realize there are those who simply don't care. Maybe they don't like cookies, are diabetic, or don't pay attention to who gets what. I also realize for every person like this there are others who constantly have their eyes glued to the front window to see who's going where and doing what (I know this because, um, I'm one of them). A large part of their identity within the ward hangs on a very precarious ledge of who shows them the appreciation they undoubtedly deserve. To be the only person overlooked in their circle of friends/neighbors would either feel like a deliberate snub, or (perhaps even worse) that they've simply been forgotten and don't really matter.

Can you imagine the depths of chaos that reign in my mind? It's exhausting living in this head of mine.

In order to assuage any possible means of inadvertant guilt I came up with a plan - I made cookies for everyone! Not just cookies, I melted and molded chocolate. I put together chocolate covered caramels and my absolute favorite fudge. I found cute little bags to put it all in and even began plotting the most strategic routes in the neighborhoods in which to deliver my little gifts of love. Then I frantically came back home to figure out how I could possibly have forgotten so many people!

I'm exhausted! I still need to make one more pan of fudge to help restock my dwindling supply. We've run out of the cute baggies and I'm forced to use plates. Why forced? I hate using plastic wrap. It never sticks to paper plates. But beyond that I'm done. No more cookies. No more baking. I can hardly stand to look at the goodies others have brought to us. Tonight I was so tired of it all I almost cried when my darling hubby took over dinner preparations and washed the dishes. He's totally my hero.

Next year? Next year I pile hubby's office high with Hershey Kisses and tell the ward members to have at it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday Inspirations December 21, 2008

It's time to be brave, bold.

I had a whole other post going before I realized my message today needs to be no more complicated than those three words: be bold, brave.

As we come to a close in this year my thoughts have turned repeatedly to a man by the name of Moroni. Those who are familiar with the Book of Mormon know of whom I speak. For those who are not familiar, he was the last of the Nephites (those belonging to Christ's Church here in the Americas about 2,000 years ago). Those who had not previously fallen into wickedness had succombed to the evils of the Lamanites (those against the Lord's Church), and willingly denied Jesus Christ as their Savior in order to save their lives.

Moroni spent the last years of his life in hiding, protecting the gold plates entrusted to him not only by his father, but by the Lord. He was hunted, he was alone. Perhaps more alone than many of us can imagine. Yet he is a man to be honored, because rather than deny Jesus Christ, he chose that life.

What would we do for the Lord? Would we, in the face of ultimate evil, be willing to lay down our lives, and perhaps even the lives of our families, all for the sake of remaining true? Of course this is not likely to happen, but we find ourselves being given daily opportunities to stand as a witness of Him.

We may be called upon to bear our testimonies at odd or unusual times. We might be asked to impart of our tiny means to someone who has even less. There may be those who are in need of a friend, and we are the only ones around. We might need to make amends when a trespass has been committed.

It is time to be bold, but bold in what? In allowing the Lord to work through us to do mighty things, even if those mighty things come in little packages. In replacing fear with faith. In recognizing our own weaknesses and mortality, and allowing the Lord to rework our weaknesses into strengths.

It is time to be brave, but how? In never fearing to bear your testimony of what the Lord has done for you, even when those who don't know better may ridicule. In standing up for what is right at a time when everyone else is telling you you're wrong. In following every little seemingly insiginifant inspiration that whispers to your heart, even when it makes no sense.

Never forget to always temper this with love and with thoughts of how the Lord would act in your place.

Now is the time to be bold. Now is the time to be brave. Trust in the Lord, and help make miracles happen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Time to Catch Up...with Pictures!

You should all know because we have dial-up the process of putting pictures up on my blog takes a veeeeeery looooooong tiiiiiiiime! So appreciate the effort - and by effort I mean all the time I spent sitting here waiting for the pictures to load while I lazily read a book.
This last week was spent celebrating birthdays. M and B both turned a year older as did my daddy. Here are pictures from all three parties.

M decided she wanted a pumpkin cheesecake instead of a regular birthday cake, and invited her brothers to join her in blowing out all those candles!

B chose a Wall-E cake (though he has yet to see the movie) and after paying twenty bucks for it he promptly gave the toys on top to his friend...still not sure how I feel about that. Now let's turn to Grandpa's birthday...

Here are pics of all the grandkids with Grandpa. Holy cow what a bunch.

I just had to include this one. Cousin S was chasing B (and B's new sleeping bag) around the house. Later they had a mega good time wrestling in the hallway. Had us all laughing.

And now, for the final pictures. Tonight was the kids' karate graduation. I was prepared to see all the kids graduate a few degrees in orange belt. So imagine my surprise when all three graduated to purple belt!!!

We're taking a few months off of karate. This tends to be our sick season and I don't want to see anyone struggle with learning everything just because they've been sick. I think we need to concentrate more on school for the next few months. Okay so mostly I just don't want to drive in the yucky snow and cold!

In any case, I think that wraps it up! Hope you enjoyed the pictures, and now I'm going to go finish my book :)

Monday, December 15, 2008


Saturday night was our church's Christmas Party. I'd signed up to warm up a ham, but when only one other person had signed up as well I ended up with three hams. No problem, right? After all, it's not like I'm cooking them. I'm just warming them up.

The bagged hams were promptly delivered two nights before, and I immediately put them into the refrigerator. Too bad I didn't think to check and see if they were frozen. Too bad I didn't find out until late in the morning they still had the bone in them. Too bad I didn't think I might need a bigger crock pot and giant pan in order to make them all fit and cooked in time. Grrr.

Because my husband is a chef I've been trained to be very persnickety about what temp meat is cooked to. I didn't think a balmy 60 degrees would cut it, even if the meat had been cooked. The time went by irritatingly fast, and the middle of the ham simply wasn't warming up. In fact, an hour before the party they still had a nice layer of ice through the middle three inches.

Now if you like iced ham, I'm certain it would have been quite a treat. Somehow I didn't think this was what our church members had in mind.

What does one do when three giant hams won't defrost in the middle? Thaaaaat's right, I turned to my trusty friend, my dependable kitchen appliance, the microwave. I defrosted. I cooked. I cut out bones. I cried. I wiped ham guts off my fingers. I cooked a little more. Three times I went through the process until finally, finally I was able to say the hams warmed up to a balmy 98 degrees.

Hot for summer temperatures, not so great in a ham. I had succeeded, however, in ridding the hams of their icy inner layers, and it was very simply time to go. I piled all three into a pan, wrapped them tightly in foil, chucked 'em in the car and drove off to the church building where I promptly shoved the pan into my poor husband's arms, found a room where no one might find me, and sobbed for a good twenty minutes.

Now, before you all start to wonder why my darling husband wasn't there to help me out of this seriously disturbing situation, the moment I saw him was the same moment he arrived at the party after having worked all day long. Poor guy. After ensuring the kitchen had everything under control he walked the building trying to find me. By then I'd calmed down enough to enjoy the party, and blamed my flushed face on skin allergies.

But never, never, nevernevernevernevernever again will I sign up to do ham! In fact, it might be a good six months before I can even look at, smell, or think about it again.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Inspirations December 14, 2008

"If I hear, I forget. If I see I remember. If I do, I learn."

This felt like the overwhelming message of today's lessons. We have been placed on this earth to learn, through making choices and enduring well to the end in all things the Father asks. Unlike those who value power, gold, wealth, and glory - none of which can be taken into the hereafter - those who are looking for an eternal reward know that the greatest blessings we can gain in this life have to do with the vast stores of knowledge one can gain in this lifetime.

Gaining this knowledge is a lifelong process. There is always something new to be learned. Even the Lord knows we must be given truth line upon line and precept upon precept. You have to start at the beginning and work your way up. Can you imagine a child being given a book on macro-economics and being expected to understand every concept contained therein? The same is expected when learning of gospel-oriented things.

Joseph Smith, prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in this last dispensation, described the process of learning.

"When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave" (History of the Church, 6:306–7; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Apr. 7, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff, Willard Richards, Thomas Bullock, and William Clayton; see also appendix, page 562, item 3).

For many of us the process of learning is a joyful experience. We relish in the opportunity to discover new things. For other the process feels more like torture. It's difficult to watch one person grow and expand in areas we struggle with. We may become discouraged, might even choose to give up.

I've always been able to do math problems in my head. Nothing complex. In elementary school my teacher used to give us time addition/subtraction tests. I distinctly recall one student who was to correct my paper raising her hand to catch the teacher's attention. The girl thought I'd cheated, because she couldn't see any signs of work. Just answers. I actually had to show both her and my teacher that I'd simply done them in my head. What came so easily to me could not be (immediately) comprehended by someone who struggled with it a little more.

Because I was able to pick up quickly on those math problems, I was able to continue on with the next level, or rung on the ladder. Though the girl in my class didn't catch on quite as fast, she still continued on and learned just the same things. Over the years I've come to realize the ability and desire to learn things comes with a responsibility: to be there for those who are still climbing behind.

I can't help thinking of the nights I spend trying to help my oldest with her math homework. We see two different things when we look at a paper full of fractions needing to be reduced. She sees a whole lot of time spent on frustrating problems too difficult to grasp. I look at it and see a few problems to be done in ten minutes tops. And that is why I'm there for my daughter. I long ago learned the new and frustrating concept of fractions in the hopes of being there to assist those who are at the bottom of the ladder.

Knowledge is truly a treasure, but it is not enough. To know how to fish, or how to cook, or why the sun rises and where it sets doesn't do anyone any good if it is not acted upon. Think back on the quote given at the beginning of this post. When we hear something, no matter how beautiful or profound, over time it will be forgotten. If we see something with our eyes, one of the most powerful senses we posses, it can be easily recalled. But we don't learn, we don't recognize the truth in all the things we've read about, unless we put the knowledge into action.

The first thing that comes to my mind whenever I ponder on this idea is the Savior. There are many people, men and women alike, who have studied the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. They have written tomes on His works, His words, and the social structure around the time He lived. I respect them for this effort, and for the knowledge they not only earned but willingly shared with others.

Yet to honestly, truly know the Savior one must take this knowledge a step further. We cannot know Christ unless we have walked in His shoes, lived as He lived, and put the principles He taught into action in these modern days. To love your neighbor need not apply only to the times of Christ. It is a concept applicable to everyone, everywhere, at every time.

If we hear, we forget. If we see, we remember. But only when we act upon the things we've seen, the ideals we've studied, the knowledge we've gained, can we finally learn.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hypocritical Cupcakes

This is perhaps the busiest week birthday-wise in our family, with three to celebrate. Two of those birthdays happen to be two of my own kiddies, and with happy hearts they both took cupcakes to share with their school classes yesterday.

Both of them came out of class positively grouchy. In fact, B said, "You know the green monster on Sesame Street?"

"You mean Oscar the Grouch?"

"Yeah. I think I was really grouchy today."


After a bit of prodding, he finally told me he wasn't too happy with his classmates that day. Apparently he noticed kids who normally don't pay much attention to him were trying to play and talk with him at recess. He said they yelled if they didn't get the ring (decoration on the cupcakes) they wanted, and after a while they were just giving him a headache.

Things didn't seem to go much better for M. She came out of school, the corners of her lips turned downward.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

She handed me the bag which contained the was empty. There should have been about nine left, and that's if every one of the kids showed up at class that day.

M's supposed friend had grabbed the bag the moment they got out of class and yelled out to the kids, "Who wants another cupcake?" They were gone in moments, and M didn't even get to give a sweet little girl who wasn't in her class a cupcake. She was so upset. Frankly, so was I. A part of me wanted to go find this "friend" and have a good talk with her, then make her pay me for all the cupcakes she essentially stole from us.

As you can see, I was not a happy camper. M is talking about never doing cupcakes on her birthday again, and I'm not sure B will want to as well. Yet, there were lessons to be learned. B now knows there are people out there who will pretend to be your friend when it looks like they can get something from you (he honestly came up with that on his own). M is in the process of learning she needs to stand up for herself with her friends. Sometimes she allows their opinions and actions to overrule what she knows to be right and fair.

Never easy lessons, but both necessary. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see if we still do cupcakes for either one next year.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Michael Phipps - Artist Extraordinaire

My hubby and I were recently talking about all the amazingly talented people we know. One of those people finally seems to be getting a start of the recognition he deserves. Though I may only reach a few people with my humble little blog, I want to help in the effort to get his name (and his beautiful work) out there.

I first met Michael when we both worked as night custodians, and was immediately charmed by his quick wit and sense of humor. If you get the chance to read his blog, The Art of Michael Phipps, you'll see what I mean.

Michael was recently commission to paint a scene from the life of Jesus Christ. It revolves around the moment Christ reveals himself to be the Savior to the woman at the well, and is titled "I That Speaketh Unto Thee Am He." This work was entirely out of his comfort zone (his words), but I'm a firm believer that sometimes we have to be stretched to see what miracles can be made.

While this is one of the biggest works he's done, he's certainly not new to the business. According to his profile Michael has painted "book covers, album artwork, playbill covers, posters and more," many of which can be seen on his official website: The Art and Illustration of Michael Phipps.

Michael recently branched into the world of screen printed T-shirts, all personally designed and made in his own home. He was even featured, with a few others, about this side business in a recent article in Deseret News on the popular website ("Etsy Does It..."), where he sells the T-shirts along with many of his other works of art (Screen Printed T-Shirts and Art by Michael Phipps).

Take a look at the links provided. I promise you won't be disappointed. Please feel free to pass the links on to others you feel might be just as inspired by his incredible talent. If nothing else, drop him a line to let him know what you think. Every artist loves to hear their work is appreciated.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Inspirations December 7, 2008

There was a quote given this morning, by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the Mormon Church). This beloved man passed away last week, leaving within our hearts a very profound loss.

At the passing of his wife, Elder Wirthlin left a message meant specifically for his children. This message was repeated at his own funeral, one which he recorded in a talk given in 2006. The message is so beautiful, so hopeful, and so inspirational in these times of darkness I wanted to let him speak for my inspirations post today.

I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross.

On that terrible Friday the earth shook and grew dark. Frightful storms lashed at the earth. Those evil men who sought His life rejoiced. Now that Jesus was no more, surely those who followed Him would disperse. On that day they stood triumphant.

On that day the veil of the temple was rent in twain.

Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were both overcome with grief and despair. The superb man they had loved and honored hung lifeless upon the cross.

On that Friday the Apostles were devastated. Jesus, their Savior—the man who had walked on water and raised the dead—was Himself at the mercy of wicked men. They watched helplessly as He was overcome by His enemies.

On that Friday the Savior of mankind was humiliated and bruised, abused and reviled.

It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God.

I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world’s history, that Friday was the darkest.

But the doom of that day did not endure.

The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. He ascended from the grave and appeared gloriously triumphant as the Savior of all mankind.

And in an instant the eyes that had been filled with ever-flowing tears dried. The lips that had whispered prayers of distress and grief now filled the air with wondrous praise, for Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, stood before them as the firstfruits of the Resurrection, the proof that death is merely the beginning of a new and wondrous existence.

Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.

But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.

No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come.

Perhaps our "Friday" has lasted for seems like too long: a week, several months, years, or even decades. We all have "Fridays" to endure, yet they are necessary. For it is only through enduring those dark and gloomy days that we can appreciate the glorious dawn of "Sunday" in ways never before conceivable.

The Savior was resurrected, of this I testify. Because of this there is always hope that in our most horrific hours, hope is always glow eternal. Sunday will come.

**If you'd like to read Elder Wirthlin's talk in full go to Sunday Will Come.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Setting Christmas Spending Limits

Two days after Thanksgiving my hubbs and I had taken our boys to look around Toys R Us. I know. Not the smartest move, but they wanted special time out with Mom and Dad and it's one of their favorite stores.

One of the first things we noticed was the amount of toys being piled in the carts, and these were not cheap toys. My husband and I looked at one another, both thinking the same thing: money problems abound yet parents are spending like there's no tomorrow.

This morning on my favorite local morning radio show they had a guest on, Dr. Matt Sellers (totally guessing on how to spell his last name). The good doc is a psychiatrist and one of his biggest points was on how not to disappoint your kids this Christmas if it looks as though you honestly need to cut back.

Point 1 - Be honest with your kids. Let them know money's a little tight this year, and that even Santa's had to cut back. Believe it or not, they'll understand. How do I know? Because we did this very thing with our kids about a month ago. We've never been able to give our kids tons, but we had to let them know that because we don't have daddy's second job anymore, beyond Santa's gift they'd be getting just one present from us (and their stockings). I was incredibly relieved, and utterly pleased, when they all said, "It's okay."

Let your children know everyone hits hard times. Everyone! Just because things are tight this year doesn't mean they'll be the same next year.

If things are bad enough you can't afford presents, talk to your kids about how there may be other families who are having very difficult times, or children who are in hospitals and won't even get to be home for Christmas, and then give them the option to be generous. Tell them Santa might appreciate being able to make sure these children/families get presents, because otherwise they might not get anything at all.

Point 2 - Make Christmas about so much more than presents. We frequently hear people complaining that this holiday is too much about the commercialism and not about the true meaning. Perhaps we've muttered the words a time or two ourselves. Now can be the year you put the idea of making Christmas about Christ into action. Now is the time to bring that peaceful spirit into the lives of your family. Look to making new and more meaningful traditions.

Bake cookies or bread and take them to neighbors in need. Go caroling. Look for free concerts. Check out all the houses decorated with lights. One tradition I hope to begin this year will be reading "The Forgotten Carols" with my kids (if you haven't heard of it, look soon for a review on Mel's Book List ;D). Read through the story of the birth of Christ. Try acting the story out. There are so many possibilities.

Point 3 - Be mindful of what you're spending. The good doctor said when we're feeling strapped, down and depressed, too many of us try to deny it and spend, spend, spend. Then come January when all the bills come due we fall into deeper depressions.

I have lived in denial when it comes to money. It's too easy to do. The thing we all have to come to realize is eventually denial is trumped by reality. It is so important to bite the bullet and deal with the harshness when it comes. Times are hard right now. That doesn't mean they won't be better by this time next year, or in two years. If we learn to be honest enough with ourselves, to recognize the need to cut back for now, we will be happier in the long run.

In other words, deal with the fact that spending less now will leave you more after the holidays. Sit down, look over what you have to spend, and stay within those limits! It really is just that easy (No Errin. Not even if it's on mega-sale).

Quick review: be honest with your kids, look to making new traditions to make Christmas more meaningful, and watch what you spend. Good luck!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I Dropped the Ball

Do you ever feel like you utterly let someone down, without realizing you were doing it in the process?

I did that tonight with my kids. Oh, they won't tell you I dropped the ball. They probably have no idea I'd done them wrong. But I did.

Tonight was their first night of karate testing on the orange belt level. I knew they'd be sparring (like boxing...kinda), but I didn't realize their teacher might go further than that with them. So during the last week, a week wherein we had time to spare and nothing planned, I didn't practice their moves, their escapes, nor their kata (a series of moves against imaginary attackers put together that they have to memorize).

Imagine my distress when I look into the room after my oldest has sparred, only to see her being tested on her kata...and she's not doing well. Imagine my further distress when I see the sensei trying to get all the kids to do the one and only escape maneuver they were to learn...and not one of them knows it!!!

Mortification and embarrassment galore.

My poor children. I knew we needed to practice. I'd even intended to practice. But life always seems to get in the way (like M's math homework going for almost 2 hours last night), and I got too lazy.

Needless to say, we will be doing some heavy duty preparing over the next week in anticipation of night 2 of testing!