Friday, January 20, 2017
Happy weekend, indeed! My kids and I had a really fun trip to California this week, but we are happy to be back at home with Mike. We have nothing at all planned for the next few days except sushi with friends and a whole lot of laundry and homework catch-up. It sounds really nice, actually.
If you read anything on the internet today, I hope it is this: In Defense of the Ordinary. And then have your kids read it, too.
A few excerpts: "Why isn't it enough to just be a kind person? Why can't we spend our time doing service hours because we love the Savior, not because we are trying to achieve the perfect college essay? Why can't we choose an extra-curricular or a class because we want to try it, not because it's going to help us reach some high goal or prove our worth? Not everyone is going to be the best at everything. In fact, very VERY few of us will be the best at anything. And that's ok.
"We are special because we are HIS. We are worthy because we were born. That is all that matters. And yes, that may make us average, in the sense that everyone qualifies for such a designation, but since when was that not enough?
"We should all strive for greatness, but we should expand its meaning and do it for ourselves, not society's expectations. It's about who we want to become, not who we want people to think we are. And it should be rooted in God's desires for us."
YES! Yes! Yes. I love this and I want my children to know it. Being kind and being good at loving others are far superior to maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
It's supposed to be rainy here this weekend. I always feel like baking when it's rainy. I made these whole wheat carrot muffins yesterday for the kids' afternoon snack. We are trying to get back to some good habits after our vacation and they really hit the spot.
Have a good weekend!
posted by stephanie at 6:15 AM
Friday, January 13, 2017
We have the eleven o'clock time slot at church this year, which makes walking to church much more appealing than the eight thirty slot. Plus the weather has been really fantastic. I love January. I hope it never ends.
Here's something exciting: Dandee is back to blogging! I have loved her blog for years and I am so happy that she is writing there again. I know blogging isn't as popular as it once was, but I will love it forever and ever.
I keep thinking I am going to get back on my no added sugar routine, but I have had the hardest time since the new year started. But! Every day is a new day and a fresh start and maybe today is the day. (But it's probably not.)
I've been working on lots of sewing projects lately, which means I have been watching quite a few shows. I made it through all of the seasons of the Great British Sewing Bee, and now I'm half way through Victoria. Great Britain makes the best tv. That's all there is to it.
Something I'm looking forward to this weekend: My sister is flying in to town and then we're driving to California together to see our other sister who is visiting there for a few days. Hooray!
I hope you have a fun weekend!
posted by stephanie at 7:51 AM
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Right before Christmas, Stella started complaining that she couldn't see things far away very clearly. Funny thing: I had just bought her some little fake glasses to put in her stocking. But it turns out that she needed the real thing! After an eye exam, we ordered a home try on kit from Jonas Paul Eyewear (just like Warby Parker but for kids) and loved the Maddie. We placed our order, and just a few days later, her glasses were here! She was so excited to wear them to school, and to be able to see the chalkboard again.
Another funny thing: as excited as Stella was to get glasses, Mabel was just as excited to stop wearing hers. All she wanted for Christmas were contacts. :)
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
A couple of weeks ago, I realized that I had slipped back into the habit of looking at my phone right before I fell asleep at night and again as soon as I woke up the next morning. Instead of connecting with Mike or focusing on my prayers or thinking about the day ahead of me, I was scrolling through instagram. I didn't like the way that made me feel. So I picked up a little alarm clock at the store and I've started leaving my phone in the kitchen when I head to bed. It is a small thing, but it's made such a difference.
posted by stephanie at 10:16 AM
Friday, January 06, 2017
We spent last weekend in the mountains, just a couple of hours away, where there was a little bit of snow. It was so beautiful! We were severely underdressed, of course, but it sure was pretty. When I look out my window today at home, the sun is shining and warm, the grass is green, and the leaves are finally falling off all of the trees. Winter in Arizona is a little backwards, but it's my favorite.
I've been trying to think of small changes I can make, shifts in my habits, to help me accomplish my new year's resolution. I've been seeking inspiration in lots of places, and found some in this little video. My favorite part is when Josh talked about how any time spent with family can be quality time. Even if we are doing something mundane or small, we can do it together. Usually, I want to get my work done and move on to something else, but involving my kids can be a sweet experience. I need to remember that. And complimenting! Josh had lots of good advice on how to compliment our children. It is so important and sometimes it can feel a little awkward for me. I definitely need to work on that.
I like the idea of having one big, broad resolution for the year, but then finding small ways that I can accomplish it every day. This is new for me and it just feels right this year.
Today I have spent the morning puttering, and new year puttering is the best. I see my home with fresh eyes. Piles that have been languishing for months finally get put away. Furniture gets rearranged. Drawers get cleared. It feels really great.
Is it snowy and cold where you are? Or sunny and bright? Whatever the weather, I hope you have a happy weekend.
posted by stephanie at 12:02 PM
Wednesday, January 04, 2017
This is one of my favorite quotes from Jane Austen, and is excellent advice when contemplating a New Year's resolution, I've decided. This past week found me laid up with a cold, meaning I had lots of time to listen to the guide inside of myself as I thought about what I needed to work on this year. I believe we all have that guide, a conscience, or what my church refers to as "the Light of Christ," or if we have been baptized, "the Holy Ghost" inside of us. If we pay attention, it will tell us what is right or wrong or what we need to improve upon.
All of this reminds me of a great general conference talk, "What Lack I yet?" A perfect read as we begin this fresh, new year, it teaches that small changes in our attitude or habits can help us become more like our Heavenly Father. And really, all it takes are small, manageable changes, a little at a time. In his talk, Elder Lawrence said, "The Holy Ghost doesn't tell us to improve everything at once. If He did, we would become discouraged and give up. The Spirit works with us at our own speed, one step at a time, or as the Lord has taught, 'line upon line, precept upon precept. . .'"
I'm not going to share my resolution here, at least not just yet. I am still mulling it over, thinking and listening hard as I figure out how to proceed.
Have you determined your goals? Do you have a plan? Have you listened to your guide and felt impressed to improve in one area or another? I hope so and I wish you lots of luck!
posted by stephanie at 2:56 PM
Friday, December 23, 2016
"As the Christmas season envelops us with all its glory, may we, as did the Wise Men, seek a bright, particular star to guide us to our Christmas opportunity in service to our fellowman.
"May we all make the journey to Bethlehem in spirit, taking with us a tender, caring heart as our gift to the Savior."
Thomas S. Monson
Merry Christmas, friends! We have gingerbread to bake and white elephant gifts to wrap and the nativity play to script and then we will be ready. I hope your home is filled with the peace that only He can bring this Christmas weekend.
More on the Wise Men here.
posted by stephanie at 12:57 PM
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
I shared some of this last year, but I love it so much, I think it needs to be shared again.
From Elder Christofferson:
"When we talk about the birth of Jesus Christ, we appropriately reflect on what was to follow. His birth was infinitely significant because of the things He would experience and suffer so that He might better succor us--all culminating in His Crucifixion and Resurrection. But His mission also included the beauty of His service, the miracles of His ministry, the relief He brought to the suffering, and the joy He offered--and still offers--to the mourning.
"With all of that to come, though, I think it's appropriate this time of year to just think about that baby in the manger. Don't be too overwhelmed or occupied with what is to come; just think about that little baby. Take a quiet, peaceful moment to ponder the beginning of His life--the culmination of heavenly prophecy but the earthly beginning for Him.
"Take time to relax, be at peace, and see this little child in your mind. Do not be too concerned or overwhelmed with what is coming in His life or in yours. Instead, take a peaceful moment to contemplate perhaps the most serene moment in the history of the world--when all of heaven rejoiced with the message 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"
I'm about to leave for a run, and while I am running, I am going to try hard to think about that little baby. There are a million things I can be doing today--cleaning my house, last minute errands, working on a sewing job, etc. But I am going to set those things aside, at least for a little while, and focus on that quiet and small moment in the history of the world, when a little babe was born in an insignificant town, long, long ago.
As Elder Christofferson recommends, I am going to "sit (or in my case, run) for a few quiet moments and let the Savior's Spirit warm you and reassure you of the worthiness of your service, of your offering, of your life. Sit quietly with that little baby and come away spiritually strengthened and better prepared for all that is going to come later. Let that moment be one of rest and refreshing and reassurance and renewal."
Happy Wednesday, friends.
My favorite painting, a gift, of course from the talented Beth Allen.
posted by stephanie at 9:40 AM
Monday, December 19, 2016
more from Elder Holland:
"Mary, this most favored mortal woman in the history of the world, who as a mere child received an angel who uttered to her those words that would change the course not only of her own life but also that of all human history: 'Hail, thou virgin, who art highly favoured of the Lord. The Lord is with thee; for thou art chosen and blessed among women.' The nature of her spirit and the depth of her preparation were revealed in a response that shows both innocence and maturity: 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.'
"It is here I stumble, here that I grasp for the feelings a mother has when she knows she has conceived a living soul, feels life quicken and grow within her womb, and carries a child to delivery. At such times fathers stand aside and watch, but mothers feel and never forget. Again, I've though of Luke's careful phrasing about that holy night in Bethlehem:
'The days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
'And she brought forth her firstborn son, and [she] wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and [she] laid him in a manger.' Those brief pronouns trumpet in our ears that, second only to the child himself, Mary is the chiefest figure, the regal queen, mother of mothers--holding center stage in this grandest of all dramatic moments. And those same pronouns also trumpet that, save for her beloved husband, she was very much alone.
"I have wondered if this young woman, something of a child herself, here bearing her first baby, might have wished her mother, or an aunt, or her sister, or a friend, to be near her through the labor. Surely the birth of such a son as this should command the aid and attention of every midwife in Judea! We all might wish that someone could have held her hand, cooled her brow, and when the ordeal was over, given her rest in crisp, cool linen.
"But it was not to be so. With only Joseph's inexperienced assistance, she herself brought forth her firstborn son, wrapped him in the little clothes she had knowingly brought on her journey, and perhaps laid him on a pillow of hay.
"Then on both sides of the veil a heavenly host broke into song. 'Glory to God in the highest,' they sang, 'and on earth, peace among men of good will.' But except for heavenly witnesses, these three were alone: Joseph, Mary, and the baby to be named Jesus."
Mary's birth experience was far different than mine, but it is not so different from that of many, many women all over the world even today. Consider donating to Healing Hands of Joy, a charity that helps to make motherhood safer for women in Ethiopia. Let's calm the storm like Jesus did and continue to Light the World.
beautiful print of a painting by Beth Allen
posted by stephanie at 8:23 AM
Friday, December 16, 2016
Hooray for the weekend! No more packing lunches or waking up when it's still pitch black outside to get kids ready for school. . . at least for a couple of days. We are counting down until Christmas break at our house. After today, only 2.5 school days left. And then Christmas!
Our presents are mostly wrapped and under the tree. Our neighbor treat plates have been delivered. Our stockings are ready to be stuffed. And because we just barely got our tree, it is not even close to being dead yet. :) We are in a good spot and I am so glad. Instead of frantically finishing up last minute shopping, we can just enjoy the build-up to the big day. And probably eat too many cookies, too.
My three older kids had their piano recital last Sunday. Afterwards, Mike made them grab the kittens for the picture I was taking to commemorate the night. Those kittens! We all have ringworm and they have terrible gas, but my family loves them anyway. Our older cat, Inez, is finally coming around to them, I think. She looks at us like we're crazy, but she has a point and also, she's always done that.
This afternoon is the first grade Winter Musical, which I am sure will be a good time. With a trip to the temple and a viewing of the new Star Wars, our weekend is rounding out to be pretty great. I hope yours is, too.
Oh, and don't forget today's Light the World challenge! We can show compassion like Jesus did by leaving only kind messages on social media or babysitting for a single parent so they can finish their Christmas shopping or giving up our seat on the train. There are lots of small ways to show compassion, but my heart is breaking for Aleppo. If you are looking to do something a little more major, consider donating to the David Nott Foundation. They are a British charity that is doing good work there and wherever else there is conflict. Another good spot to donate would be the White Helmets.
posted by stephanie at 6:43 AM
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Have you been following along with the 25 ways in 25 days initiative? Last night, we rounded up some clothes to donate to help clothe the naked. Today, we are listening to Christmas hymns. These lines are some of my favorites and seem especially appropriate this year.
I've been listening to Christmas music for weeks now, but I think narrowing my listening to hymns today will help bring the spirit of Christmas into my home even more strongly.
Pretty, free downloadable pdf from Jeanne Oliver Designs here.
posted by stephanie at 7:07 AM
Monday, December 12, 2016
I found these words from Elder Holland and loved them very much:
"As a father I have recently begun to think more often of Joseph, that strong, silent, almost unknown man who must have been more worthy than any other mortal man to be the guiding foster father of the living Son of God. It was Joseph selected from among all men who would teach Jesus to work. It was Joseph who taught him the books of the law. It was Joseph who, in the seclusion of the shop, helped him begin to understand who he was and ultimately what he was to become.
"I was a student at BYU just finishing my first year of graduate work when our first child, a son, was born. We were very poor, though not so poor as Joseph and Mary. My wife and I were both going to school, both holding jobs, and in addition worked as head residents in an off-campus apartment complex to help defray our rent. We drove a little Volkswagen which had a half-dead battery because we couldn't afford a new one (Volkswagen or battery).
"Nevertheless, when I realized that our own night of nights was coming, I believe I would have done any honorable thing in this world, and mortgaged any future I had, to make sure my wife had the clean sheets, the sterile utensils, the attentive nurses, and the skilled doctors who brought forth our firstborn son. If she or that child had needed special care at the Mayo Clinic, I believe I would have ransomed my very life to get it.
"I compare those feelings (which I have had with each succeeding child) with what Joseph must have felt as he moved through the streets of a city not his own, with not a friend or kinsman in sight, nor anyone willing to extend a helping hand. In these very last and most painful hours of her 'confinement,' Mary had ridden or walked approximately 100 miles from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea. Surely Joseph must have wept at her silent courage. Now, alone and unnoticed, they had to descend from human company to a stable, a grotto full of animals, there to bring forth the Son of God.
"I wonder what emotions Joseph might have had as he cleared away the dung and debris. I wonder if he felt the sting of tears as he hurriedly tried to find the cleanest straw and hold the animals back. I wonder if he wondered: 'Could there be a more unhealthy, a more disease-ridden, a more despicable circumstance in which a child could be born? Is this a place fit for a king? Should the mother of the Son of God be asked to enter the valley of the shadow of death in such a foul and unfamiliar place as this? It is wrong to wish her some comfort? Is it right He should be born here?'
"But I am certain Joseph did not mutter and Mary did not wail. They knew a great deal and did the best they could."
posted by stephanie at 7:21 AM
Friday, December 09, 2016
See that chair behind Stella? That's where our Christmas tree is supposed to be, but we haven't had time to pick one up yet! Crossing my fingers it happens tomorrow. I think this is the latest we've ever gotten a tree and I am totally missing it. The pine scent I have in my wax melter thingy just isn't cutting it.
For the first time in a long time I didn't worry about cleaning my house this week. I mean, I picked up and tidied and cleaned the kitchen every night, but I didn't dust or do the bathrooms and it was sort of liberating. I just had other stuff to do, you know? Things like hiking Camelback with a friend or going to the temple or watching the Great British Sewing Bee. Important stuff!
If you are in town, don't miss the Mesa Temple Lights. We're hoping to be there tonight with hot chocolate and doughnuts.
Today's Light the World is: Jesus Visited the Lonely and So Can You. My favorite, totally easy and do-able idea: Send a friendly text to someone who could use a boost. No one come to mind? Pray and ask God for someone that needs an uplifting text. Another idea is to write a letter to someone who is living away from home. My kids and I are going to write letters to the missionaries serving from our ward after school today. Have I mentioned how much I love this Christmas advent?! I love it.
Have a merry weekend!
posted by stephanie at 6:12 AM
Tuesday, December 06, 2016
From Come, Let Us Adore Him, by Elder Patrick Kearon:
"In the well-known verses from Luke 2, we learn significant facts about those first witnesses of Christ's birth, the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem. When 'the angel of the Lord came upon them, ... they were sore afraid' (verse 9). But they heard 'good tidings of great joy' that the long-foretold Savior, the Messiah, the Christ, had been born (verse 10). They listened to know the sign by which they could recognize the Savior, that He would be 'wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger' (verse 12). When the heavenly host had concluded their joyful proclamation, the shepherds responded immediately, saying, 'Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass' (verse 15). They came 'with haste' and found the Christ child just as the angel had said, and then they 'returned, glorifying and praising God' (verse 20). Wanting to share the glorious news of the Savior's birth, 'they made [it] known abroad' (verse 17).
"Like the shepherds, we must respond immediately, with haste, whenever the Spirit speaks to us. In the words of President Thomas S. Monson, we must 'never, never, never postpone following a prompting.' Sometimes after heeding a prompting, we cannot clearly see why we have been guided by the Spirit to act in a certain way. But often, like the shepherds, we see miracles occur, and our faithful response to a prompting is confirmed. We can then take opportunities to share our joy and our witness with others. Doing so can strengthen others' faith and hope, further confirming our own testimonies and bringing us closer to the Savior and His ways."
The shepherds at Jesus's birth hold a special place in my heart. They listened and obeyed. They were so full of faith, never doubting the things they had seen and heard. I love to think about these humble men, the first to bear witness of the birth of the Savior.
painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch.
posted by stephanie at 8:55 AM
Friday, December 02, 2016
Kittens, kittens everywhere! You can't sit down at our house without a kitten climbing onto our lap (or back). This is perhaps my favorite picture of Mike ever. You can't really tell, but he is totally in his element. Ha!
We have a happy day planned today. First, Elliot is getting his stitches out and will hopefully be out of his knee brace. Then we'll pick up my parents from the airport. And tonight we are attending Mabel's MCO concert, Good Will Toward Men. These concerts are always the highlight of the Christmas season for me. They are so powerful. I am really looking forward to it.
Have you put up your Christmas tree? We haven't gotten ours yet, but maybe we can swing by the tree lot (I mean Home Depot) tomorrow.
I love the ideas for today's 25 days of service. I think "Tell your parents they were right. Be specific!" is my favorite. Good thing my parents are coming into town today. It is a small but good way to #LIGHTtheWORLD.
Have a happy weekend!