Friday, April 24, 2015

happy weekend

I realized yesterday that the days of having just Elliot at home with me are quickly coming to an end. Summer vacation will be here before we know it. And then he'll be off to kindergarten after that. I'm not a terribly sentimental person, but I think because he's my last, these milestones are more difficult than they used to be. Happily, he'll be attending half day kindergarten, so I'll still have lots of mornings to sit and watch him color. Or eat. I love watching him eat. It is so satisfying. I don't remember thinking that about any of my other kids.

By some strange stroke of luck, it is the end of April and it's still nice outside. I was prepared to shut myself in the house and start complaining to Mike about the heat already, but I won't do that just yet. So let's dig a big hole to bury our trampoline this weekend! Or go running! Or at the very least, sit on the front porch and feel the cool breeze on our faces - before it's so hot that our eyeballs want to shrivel up. I'm not exaggerating. It really does get that hot here. I remember when Oliver was just a toddler, we'd step outside in the summer and he would put his hands up to his eyes and yell, "HOT!" in the saddest, most discouraged little voice. Oh Arizona, you are so difficult to love sometimes. But not today. Today the loving comes easy.

Happy weekend friends!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

on screen time

Screen time isn't a big deal at our house. My kids don't earn it. We don't keep track of it. We don't strictly limit it. Of course they participate in it. They are children of the 21st century, after all. In fact, Elliot is watching Woody Wood Pecker on the iPad as I type this post. After spending the morning reading books on the couch with Stella and running errands with me, he has a few minutes before he leaves for preschool, so he watches a cartoon. No big deal.

My children watch shows, they play games, they decompress after a long day at school on the computer or the iPad. And when I feel like they've spent enough time with a screen, we do something else. Rather than keeping to a schedule, or a chart or a system, I rely on my intuition, or the spirit. I pause for a second before I give my answer. Sometimes the answer is no, and they will fuss for a few minutes, but they always, always find something else to do and are happily engaged soon after. Sometimes the answer is yes, and that's ok.

I read some interesting articles recently that really resonated with me on why limiting screen time doesn't necessarily work. The author suggest that it is all about scarcity and abundance, and how making screen time feel like a treat makes everything else you want your kids doing (like reading or playing outside) seem like broccoli. She says it so much better than I ever could.

How to Stop Fighting about Screen Time

Why I Don't Worry about My Kids' Screen Time, part 1

Have you read those articles? What did you think? I'd love to hear what works at your house.

Monday, April 20, 2015

I choose to believe.

This week's Conference report comes from Elder L. Whitney Clayton. He teaches us that belief is a choice and it requires action. He says, "The decision to believe is the most important choice we ever make. It shapes all our other decisions."

But I am getting ahead of myself. First, Elder Clayton starts with the story of a young girl, Sailor, who was traveling with her family in a small plane. The plane crashed and she was left alone, the only survivor. It was a cold and rainy night and she was ill prepared. Wearing only a t-shirt, shorts, and one sock, and with injuries sustained in the crash, she left the scene of the accident to find help. As she made her way through the rough countryside, she came to the top of a small hill and saw a light in the distance. She went toward that light and eventually came to a house and the help she so desperately needed.

Elder Clayton says, "Sailor survived because she saw a light in the distance and fought her way to it-- notwithstanding the wild countryside, the depth of the tragedy she faced, and the injuries she sustained. It is hard to imagine how Sailor managed to do what she did that night. But what we do know is that she recognized in the light of that distant house a chance for rescue. There was hope. She took courage in the fact that no matter how bad things were, her rescue would be found in that light."

He continues, "Few of us will ever endure an experience as harrowing as Sailor's. But all of us will, at some time or another, have to traverse our own spiritual wilderness and undertake our own rugged emotional journeys. In those moments, however dark or seemingly hopeless they may be, if we search for it, there will always be a spiritual light that beckons to us, giving us the hope of rescue and relief. That light shines form the Savior of all mankind, who is the Light of the World."

The light is there, waiting for us, always. But we have to choose to see it. Elder Clayton asks this question: "Every day each of us faces a test. It is the test of our lifetimes: will we choose to believe in Him and allow the light of His gospel to grow within us, or will we refuse to believe and insist on traveling alone in the dark?"

Just like Sailor, who could have chosen to stay by the airplane, alone and afraid, we can choose to face the difficult parts of our lives by ourselves. We can succumb to the darkness, hopeless. Sometimes that might seem easier. But I know there is a better way! We can choose to seek the light. We can be like Sailor and travel towards it, even when it requires maneuvering through difficult terrain. Or we can be like the wise men in the photo above and follow the star, even when following requires moving over great distances and spaces of time.

As Sailor made her way toward the light, it grew brighter. But there must have been times during her journey where she could not see it. Maybe it was behind a tree, or over a ridge, but she pressed on. Elder Clayton says, "Whenever she could see the light, Sailor had evidence that she was on the right path. She did not yet know precisely what that light was, but she kept walking toward it based on what she knew, trusting and hoping that she would see it again if she kept moving in the right direction." He says that our lives can be like that, too. I know that mine has. There have been times when I felt lost and I wasn't sure where to go. But like Sailor, I pressed on, doing the things I had been taught all my life would bring me closer to the light, and eventually it appeared again on the horizon.

God does not force us to believe. He invites us to believe. He sends prophets to teach us. He sends His spirit to beckon us. But we must choose for ourselves whether or not we will listen and follow. I loved when he said, "We will not accidentally come to believe in the Savior and His gospel any more than we will accidentally pray or pay tithing. We actively choose to believe, just like we choose to keep other commandments."

So once we have decided to believe, we have to put that belief into action, meaning we pray and read the scriptures. We fast and pay our tithing. We keep the Sabbath day holy and attend the temple. We repent and seek forgiveness. In short, we will find that saving light only when we do those things that we know we should be doing, and when we do them with the correct attitude. Elder Clayton admits that sometimes this is difficult. He says, "Sometimes progress in spiritual things can seem slow or intermittent. Sometimes we may feel that we have lost ground, that we have made mistakes, or that our best efforts to find the Savior are not working. If you feel this way, please do not give up-- ever. Go right on believing in Him and in His gospel and His Church. Align your actions with that belief. In those moments when the light of your faith has dimmed, let your hope for the Savior's love and grace, found in His gospel and His Church, overcome your doubt."

Read, listen to, or watch the full talk here.

Friday, April 17, 2015

happy weekend

Oliver retired from baseball this season, but luckily Elliot is old enough to play. Even though Elliot says he wishes he was playing "real baseball" (t-ball doesn't count, apparently), he still loves smashing that ball off the tee and he has a smile on his face almost the entire game.

After a two week hiatus from running because of my lousy cold/sinus infection, I am looking forward to a nice longish (and very slow) run with Mike tomorrow morning. But first, I hope he takes me to dinner tonight. Taking me out to eat food that I didn't have to prepare will always be the way to my heart. I look forward to it every weekend.

Do you have any plans? Our weather has been fantastic this week, so I am going to try to get outside and enjoy it while it lasts.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Our parquet floor is at least 35 years old, but I think it has some life in it yet. I love the scrapes and gaps it has acquired over the years. It tells a history of this little house. Plus it feels good under my feet and doesn't shatter dropped dishes. I've been tempted many times to change it to something new, especially after we had a water leak and had to replace part of it, but sometimes having a tight budget is a blessing. I am glad I have kept it. I don't think our house would feel the same without it!

After stripping the paint and sanding off most of the original finish, I whitewashed and sealed it. Yesterday, I finished repainting the baseboards and touching up the kitchen cabinets and now this monster project is done. Phew.

I used a 2 part water, 1 part satin swiss coffee latex paint mixture. At first, I brushed on the watered down paint and immediately wiped most of it off with a damp rag. Some parts of the floor required heavier coats, and after some trial and error, I found that brushing on a couple of thin layers with a foam brush (on each individual square) without wiping any of it off was the most effective method. I put two thin coats of "clear" polyurethane over the top to seal it. I say "clear" because it is actually sort of amber colored and changes the final color of the floor. I knew this ahead of time, so I erred on the side of "too white" while I was whitewashing.

Parquet probably isn't the best candidate for a whitewash. Because it is made up of so many different pieces of wood, it ends up looking sort of splotchy. But anything is better than the original yellow finish, and the solid color paint I applied a couple of years ago, too. I am happy with it.

The whole space feels brighter and cleaner now. And because there is some variation in the color, it will hide crumbs and foot prints better than the solid gray paint did. It definitely isn't perfect, but it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. Or finished. :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mabel and Oliver go to Dallas

We live near lots of Mike's family here in Arizona, but there are no cousins Mabel and Oliver's age. Their best cousins live states away, and they don't get to see each other very often. A few weeks ago, we came across some air fares that we couldn't pass up, so we booked them a weekend in Dallas with my sister and her family.

Mabel and Oliver have flown many times, but never by themselves. They were nervous, but I was able to take them to their gate and watch them board the plane. When they got to Texas, Leslie was waiting at the security point to pick them up. She is the best host and they had tons of fun.

Thanks for having them, Les!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Can you hear the music?

We have the afternoon slot at church this year, which gives me lots of time to study and think in the morning. I spent most of yesterday listening to the conference address "The Music of the Gospel" by Elder Wilford W. Anderson. I hope you don't mind, but I'd like to write my thoughts about it here. And fair warning, I might do this with a different talk every Monday for a bit.

For the past year or so, I've felt like our family needed to form some better gospel habits. We needed to be more consistent with Family Home Evening, and better at our scripture study. We needed to improve our prayers. I felt like this was the time to cement these things in our family culture so that when hard times or trials come, we will be on solid ground. So when I heard this talk by Elder Anderson on teaching children the gospel, I took lots of notes.

He starts with a story of a young doctor and an old Native American man. When the old man comes to the hospital where the doctor is working, he is asked if he needs help. After some prodding, the old man asks the doctor, "Do you dance?" It took the young doctor a minute to realize that he was most likely a tribal medicine man who sought healing for his patients through song and dance. The doctor answered truthfully and said, "No, I don't dance. Do you dance?" When the old man nodded, the doctor asked, "Could you teach me to dance?" The medicine man responded, "I can teach you to dance, but you have to hear the music."

Oh! That went straight to my heart. I can teach my children the dance steps of the gospel - I can read the scriptures with them and go through the motions of family home evening, and call them for family prayer, etc, but am I teaching them to hear the music of the spirit while we do those things?

Elder Anderson says, "If our children learn the dance steps without learning to hear and to feel the beautiful music of the gospel, they will over time become uncomfortable with the dance." Isn't that true? It's embarrassing to dance without music. It is awkward and unfulfilling. I never want my children to feel that way. He continues, "Our children's happiness depends on their ability to hear and love the beautiful music of the gospel."

So how do we do it? How do we teach our children to hear the music? Elder Anderson gives us two important ways. First, as parents, we need to keep our own lives in tune. This means that I need to be solid in my own gospel habits. I need to be doing those things that invite the spirit into my own life. And then, when I feel the spirit, or when I can hear the music, Elder Anderson says I must try my best to perform it in my home for my children. That means that I need to invite them to participate with me in those activities. Maybe we can start our morning scripture study with a prayer. Maybe when I feel the spirit, I can be better at telling them about it. But none of this can be accomplished by force. Only through "persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned and by kindness." (D&C 121:41-42)

This is something that takes time. It takes practice, and Elder Anderson admonishes us to keep practicing! He says, "If early efforts at making music seem dissonant and discordant, remember that dissonance cannot be corrected by criticism. Dissonance in the home is like darkness in a room. It does little to scold the darkness. We must displace the darkness by introducing light. . . So be patient. Keep practicing. With God's help, the day will come when the music of the gospel will fill your home with unspeakable joy."

Read, watch, or listen to the entire talk here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

happy weekend

Did you have a good week? We had houseguests - my parents plus my little sister and her baby from Germany. We did important things like introduce Ben to tacos and give him his first official haircut. It was fun, but I ended up with a sinus infection, so I probably wasn't the best host. I'm feeling better now, and there is a lot I want to share here next week. We have to talk about Conference! And other exciting things, too! I'm sure about it.

See you soon, but first, have a great weekend.

Friday, April 03, 2015

happy weekend

It's the weekend. Hurrah! And Easter weekend. And General Conference weekend, too! Plus, my parents are coming into town today. Our only plans are to stay cozy at home and eat ham. It's going to be fantastic.

Except that we sent Mabel and Oliver off to Texas yesterday to visit cousins for a few days and we already miss them like crazy. But I know that they will have so much fun with my sister's family. They've never been to Texas before, and they had never flown alone, either, so yesterday was a big day.

I love General Conference. It happens every six months, and without exception, I find answers to questions that I have, or counsel that directly relates to my life. If you have a bit of time this weekend, I invite you to watch. Let's meet back here next week and talk about what we heard. Find out how to watch it here.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

We do not have to be alone.

I think I post this video every year at Easter, but it is my most favorite. I've spent a lot of time on my hands and knees this week, painting and sanding and sealing my floors. It has been hard work, but I am grateful for the time it has given me to think. I know that because Jesus walked His path alone, we do not have to. When we are sad or lonely or in despair, He can be with us, to buoy us up and help us along. I have felt this in my life and I know it to be true.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

to hope

One of the greatest blessings of Jesus Christ's atonement for me, is hope. Hope for a brighter tomorrow. Hope for the end of tribulation. Hope for an eternity spent with my family. Hope that someday I can overcome my shortcomings and be the woman I am meant to be. This hope brings me peace and the assurance that in the end, all will be well. I hope you feel that, too.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

on being a good mother

I've had some thoughts about motherhood swirling in my head lately, and this seems like a good place to set them down.

I want to be a good mom. I think you probably do, too. It is easy for me to get caught up in the day to day responsibilities required of a mother, and to think that because I am doing these things, then I am fulfilling my role. I clean, I cook, I get kids ready for school. I do a lot of laundry. I drive to piano lessons, I cheer at t-ball games. I make sure homework is finished. These things are important, of course, but maybe they aren't the most important.

If I want to be a good mother, instead of focusing so much of my energy on the physical aspects of my job, I think I need to focus more on the spiritual. Specifically my spiritual well being. Am I reading my scriptures? Am I being diligent in my prayers? Am I keeping my covenants? Am I looking for opportunities to serve? Am I following Jesus Christ?

I am beginning to see that if these are my priorities, then I will have more of those easy, peaceful days. Days where I am better able to be loving and patient. Days where things go smoothly, and even when they don't, I can still be happy and kind.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Easter week

This is the beginning of one of my favorite weeks of the year, Easter week.

This week I will take more time to think about my Savior and His atonement and resurrection. I will be better at remembering that because of Him, every day can be a fresh start. That because He lives, I can live again, that my family can live again, and that we can live together forever. This week I will be better at reaching out to those around me, just like the Savior would have done. And hopefully, once this week is over, I will continue to do these things, because of my love for Him.

If you have a few minutes, this short video touched me and I hope it touches you, too.

Have a good week!

Friday, March 27, 2015

happy weekend

I decided to strip the paint off of my floors. For lots of reasons, but the main one being that we had a water leak and had to replace part of it. So rather than match the paint on the new section (probably a 2 hour job), I decided to strip it all off and do something different (feels like a 200 hour job). I hope it's worth it. I finished up the stripping and sanding this week. I'm not sure my hands and wrists (and knees) will ever be the same, but I am excited to try a white wash.

In other news, Oliver's car, the Blur, placed third in the Pinewood Derby. Always a fun time, that derby.

And Mabel is competing in state Geography Bee this morning. Eek! I'm so nervous for her.

This weekend is going to be a busy one, unfortunately, but I am hoping for a nap anyway.

Have fun!

Monday, March 23, 2015

spring break

Sometimes I think it would be nice to take a trip during spring break. We could go somewhere beachy or snowy. We could have an adventure! But then I remember that we are home bodies. And it would be such a shame to miss the perfect (and so very fleeting) beautiful spring weather here in the desert if we left. And Mike has to work anyway. And so instead we go to the library and load up on books. And we stay up as late as we want, reading in bed. And when we wake up in the morning we pick our books right back up again and read until we absolutely have to eat a bowl of cereal or we will perish from hunger. And maybe we go to the movies. Or the park. And really, that's all you need for one fantastic spring break. At least at our house.