Sunday, June 21, 2015
Not only does Mabel have to put up with these yahoos all of the time, but she has had to put up with having me and Mike as her parents for the past 13 years, too. Despite all of us, she is turning into the best young woman. She is bright and kind and creative. She is helpful and responsible and funny. I am excited about this next phase of teenager-hood because I can see who she is becoming and it makes my heart burst with love and pride. She's going to knock her teen years out of the park.
p.s. How not to ruin your relationship with your teenager.
posted by stephanie at 11:17 AM
Friday, June 19, 2015
Motherhood made my world flip upside down and inside out. Mike, on the other hand, entered fatherhood without breaking his stride. It came so naturally to him. One day it was just the two of us, and the next day there were three. I've always admired that about him. He is steady and kind and way more fun than I am. I am so grateful to be parenting by his side.
Every once in a while, Father's Day and Mabel's birthday fall on the same day. This year is one of those years. So, here is a photo of the two people who first made us a family. I love them both and wish them a happy Father's Day and happy birthday on Sunday, respectively.
Have a happy weekend!
posted by stephanie at 5:32 AM
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Well, we've officially reached the point where the heat is only bearable if you are wearing a wet bathing suit. I really really love living in Arizona, but man alive the sun was scorching yesterday. And so we went to the pool. And we got very wet. And we lived to fight another day.
T minus 8 days until the great summer escape of 2015 begins.
posted by stephanie at 6:33 AM
Monday, June 15, 2015
Nelson Mandela famously said, "I'm no saint--that is, unless you think a saint is someone who keeps on trying." What an encouraging statement! I am definitely not perfect, and yet I call myself a Latter-day Saint. This doesn't mean that I think I've reached some sort of exalted state. In fact, it is just the opposite. It means that I am very much mortal, but that I am hopefully seeking to become better.
Elder Renlund says, "Our theology [teaches us] that we may be perfected by repeatedly and iteratively 'relying wholly upon' the doctrine of Christ: exercising faith in Him, repenting, partaking of the sacrament to renew the covenants and blessings of baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost as a constant companion to a greater degree. As we do so, we become more like Christ and are able to endure to the end, with all that that entails. In less formal terms, God cares a lot more about who we are and who we are becoming than about who we once were. He cares that we keep on trying."
Because of Christ's Atonement and God's mercy, we can be changed. If we keep on trying, we can become better.
President Monson taught, "One of God's greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final." Elder Renlund continues, "Even if we've been a conscious, deliberate sinner or have repeatedly faced failure and disappointment, the moment we decide to try again, the Atonement of Christ can help us. And we need to remember that it is not the Holy Ghost that tells us we're so far gone that we might as well give up."
But this is the part that hit me: He says, "Just as God rejoices when we persevere, He is disappointed if we do not recognize that others are trying, too." As a South African sister said, "The Church is like a big hospital, and we are all sick in our own way. We come to church to be helped."
Elder Renlund continues, "We must not only be tolerant while others work on their individual illnesses; we must also be kind, patient, supportive, and understanding. As God encourages us to keep on trying, He expects us to allow others the space to do the same, at their own pace. The Atonement will come into our lives in even greater measure. We will then recognize that regardless of perceived differences, all of us are in need of the same infinite Atonement."
All this time I have been unfairly expecting the women I've been working with to be perfect, while assuming they will be understanding of my own imperfections. I haven't been allowing them the space they need to work on their own illnesses. Ah! What an epiphany! This is what I have learned: I need to be patient with other's efforts, and respectful of their place on their individual road to perfection. And hopefully they will be patient and respectful of mine, too. And oh, how this lesson can be applied to my relationship with my husband and children! Maybe this is the real lesson I need to learn from all of this. Am I expecting perfection when they are trying their best?
Let's all have a good week, ok? Let's give each other the benefit of the doubt, and a little more kindness than we think we deserve. We're all on this journey together, aren't we?
Read, watch, or listen to the entire talk here.
posted by stephanie at 7:21 AM
Friday, June 12, 2015
Have you ever listened to the series Gospel Solutions for Families on the Mormon Channel? There's some really great stuff there, but the best thing I've listened to lately has been Marriage Roles Part 1 and Part 2. They are about 30 minutes long, and go way beyond talking about marriage roles. Mostly, they are just full of logical, simple solutions to problems that all marriages face. I really suggest giving them a listen next time you have a load of laundry to fold.
Girl's Camp preparations are moving full speed ahead at our house today. But I promised my kids I'd take a break and take them swimming later this afternoon. We skipped the pool yesterday to give some sunburned cheeks a rest and we were all miserable because of it.
I just had to post this photo of my handsome little dude from last Sunday. He's been wanting a suit to wear to church for forever and we finally found one at Target. When he tried it on, he exclaimed, "Look how cute it is!" I couldn't not buy it. He was beaming (and moving very stiffly) in it all day. Little boys are the best.
Stay cool friends!
posted by stephanie at 6:35 AM
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
We've had lots of "digging dates" and "digging family home evenings" in the past couple of months. But mostly, Mike has been outside by himself, digging a very large, very deep hole in our backyard. We want our trampoline buried in the ground, and rather than rent a bobcat to get the job done in an afternoon like normal people, Mike decided to dig it himself with a shovel. Slowly, but surely, he made progress, and finally last weekend, we got the base secured in the ground. You might think he's crazy for doing it this way. But, actually, as he explains in his new blog, it makes a lot of sense. And really, I'm so proud of him for making it happen.
Also, why we keep our thermostat set to 84 in the summer.
posted by stephanie at 8:24 AM
Monday, June 08, 2015
I chose this week's conference report for lots of reasons. The first was that it was Elder L. Tom Perry's final public address before he passed away a couple of weeks ago. Another was because sometimes marriage is hard, and it's nice to remind myself why it is important. And finally, Why Marriage and Family Matter--Everywhere in the World contains one of my most favorite quotes. I'll be sure to share it below.
Elder Perry was a giant of a man. I will miss hearing his enthusiastic talks during General Conference. He was always one of my favorite apostles to listen to. He starts this talk by relating his experience at the Vatican last year. He was there along with leaders from churches all around the world for a colloquium on marriage and family.
Pope Francis opened the conference by saying, "We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. . . It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis."
He continues by saying that it is important that those in the rising generation "do not give themselves over to the poisonous [mentality] of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern."
Elder Perry said that three days of presentation and discussion followed this opening statement on the subject of marriage and family. The widest variety of religious leaders possible were involved, and all agreed on the importance of this traditional institution. Elder Perry said that there was commonality between them and powerful unity. He said, "During the colloquium, I observed that when various faiths and denominations and religions are united on marriage and family, they are also united on the values and loyalty and commitment which are naturally associated with family units. It was remarkable for me to see how marriage and family-centered priorities cut across and superseded any political, economic, or religious differences. When it comes to love of spouse and hopes, worries, and dreams for children, we are all the same."
But what makes members of the LDS church different? It is our belief in the eternal nature of families. He said, "The entire theology of our restored gospel centers on families and on the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe in a premortal life where we all lived as literal spirit children of God our Heavenly Father. We believe that we were, and still are, members of His family.
We believe that marriage and family ties can continue beyond the grave--that marriages performed by those who have the proper authority in His temples will continue to be valid in the world to come. Our marriage ceremonies eliminate the words 'till death do us part' and instead say, 'for time and for all eternity.'
We also believe that strong traditional families are not only the basic units of a stable society, a stable economy, and a stable culture of values--but that they are also the basic units of eternity and of the kingdom and government of God."
Because I have grown up in the LDS faith, I assumed that everyone believed these things. If you belong to a different faith, how does this line up with your beliefs?
And does this idea from New York Times columnist David Brooks ring as true to you as it does to me?: "People are not better off when they are given maximum personal freedom to do what they want. They're better off when they are enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice--commitments to family, God, craft, and country."
Marriage and family matter. They are still the ideal to the vast majority of people in this world. We are not alone in this belief. Really, it can all be summed up in my favorite quote. Elder Perry said, "Let me close by bearing witness (and my nine decades on this earth fully qualify me to say this) that the older I get, the more I realize that family is the center of life and is the key to eternal happiness."
So I'm going to love my husband and our children a little more. I'm going to be more forgiving of their faults and appreciative of their efforts. This family unit that Mike and I have created is the most important thing we have, and it deserves all of my best energy.
Read, listen to, or watch the full talk here. (I recommend listening to this one. Elder Perry's voice can't be beat.)
posted by stephanie at 5:45 AM
Friday, June 05, 2015
There's nothing like having serious deadlines on the horizon to make me decide to paint my family room instead. That's what happened to my week. I painted the family room and I don't love the color, but I guess I'll live with it for a little while. Because maybe it will grow on me and also, I REALLY SHOULDN'T BE PAINTING MY FAMILY ROOM RIGHT NOW! And you know how it goes. You change the wall color and all of a sudden your throw pillows look dated. And so you head to Ikea to look around and you come home with new beds for your girls that you don't really need and that take 14 hours each to assemble. Oh man, I've made a lot of spur of the moment decisions this week (so completely unlike me) and I am sort of wishing I could start from Monday all over again.
I am feeling very discombobulated. But I have promised myself that tomorrow I will get right on those deadlines. And on Monday I will not be crazy, but I will be my normal, non-spur of the moment decision making self. The self that sticks to her cleaning schedule. The self that spends time on the couch with a good book. The self that is content with her 10 year old paint choices.
p.s. Day one of our summer vacation looked like this ^^. Aack!
posted by stephanie at 5:23 AM
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
Summer is in full swing over here. While I don't like having commitments during the summer, I do like having a routine. We've fallen into quite a nice one, and it goes something like this:
Mornings are for sleeping in, then errands or jobs or play. Lunch is our main meal, as it is better to use the stove and oven before the heat of the afternoon sets in. After lunch comes my favorite part of the day - quiet time. Everyone finds a book to read while Elliot takes a little nap. Once he's up, we head to the pool. We're usually worn out by the time we get home, so dinner is something light, like a smoothie or cereal or popcorn. I've been letting everyone stay up later than usual. I tell them they can read in their beds for as long as they'd like. Reading in bed late at night is one of my favorite memories from my childhood, and I love that our lazy mornings make this a possibility. We've made sure to stock up on lots of books from the library.
Here's to a low-key, easy summer!
posted by stephanie at 1:12 PM
Monday, June 01, 2015
This past weekend, Mike and I dressed up like pioneers and pushed a handcart through the mountains with a group of teenagers we had never met before. We were asked to be their "ma" and "pa" for the trip. I can't believe I am saying this, but it really was incredible. It was so difficult, but so rewarding, too.
My parents both converted to the LDS church as teenagers, so I don't come from the traditional pioneer stock (those early members of the church who sought refuge from persecution and a place to practice their religion peacefully by traveling 1300 miles on foot through extreme hardship), but I quickly learned that it doesn't matter whether we descend from those pioneers or not. Their experience is something we can all claim and something from which we can all gain.
Because of our experience this weekend, I have chosen President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's address, All is Well for this week's conference address. It is what our stake's pioneer trek was based on, and is full of so many good things we can draw from the pioneers' lives to help us today.
This photo is a little deceiving, because the road we traveled was definitely not all smooth. We climbed mountains with our handcart - rocky, rough, and steep mountains. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But not one of those kids complained about the difficulty of the task. They put their heads down and pulled with all of their might. And with the help of the strong boys in our "family" and a few "angels" along the way, we made it to the top. Like the real pioneers, we worked hard.
President Uchtdorf said, "Today we sometimes struggle in the morning to get out of our soft beds and into the bathroom for a hot shower. We eat a nutritious breakfast and drive in comfortable cars to air conditioned offices. We can learn something from the pioneers. They woke up each morning with clearly defined purposes and goals that everyone understood--to serve God and fellowmen and to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley. Every day those purposes and goals were clear to them; they knew what they needed to do and that each day's progress mattered."
He continues, "In spite of feeling overwhelmed, in spite of many good reasons to become discouraged and disheartened, they did not give up. They could not give up. No matter how difficult, no matter how much they wanted to do something else, they kept their eyes on their goal and on their purpose."
Here is the blessing of hard work: "But the pioneers did not work only because they had to. In the process, their labors enlarged their character and broadened their understanding. Work diminished their natural tendencies toward self-love and magnified their understanding of their divine nature. It heightened their compassion for others. In the labors of each day they discovered and solidified an inner strength and profound spiritual depth. They learned that doing hard things--even applying themselves to the tasks they really did not want to do--deepened and strengthened body, mind, and spirit."
In the midst of these rough roads and hard times, I would look up and see smiles on the kids' faces. I felt myself smiling, too. We were happy. We hardly knew each other, and yet we became a family who worked together and found joy in our journey.
About happiness, President Uchtdorf says this: "It is one of the great ironies of our age that we are blessed with so much and yet we can be so unhappy. The wonders of prosperity and technology overwhelm us and shower us with security, entertainment, instant gratification, and convenience. And yet all around us we see so much unhappiness. . . Those pioneers understood something about happiness. They understood that happiness doesn't come as a result of luck or accident. It most certainly doesn't come from having all of our wishes come true. Happiness doesn't come from external circumstance. It comes from the inside- regardless of what is happening around us."
I know that the pioneers had their trials and we have ours. But acting like a pioneer, just for a minute, helped me to see that I can be strong like they were. I can have the same resolve, and the same goals- to serve God and my fellowmen, and to live so that I can return to Him someday.
Read the whole talk here.
posted by stephanie at 7:00 AM
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
I am our ward's girls' camp director. That means that I have to come up with a slogan and a skit and cheers and make decorations and cook breakfast and gather all of the supplies our girls' will need at camp this summer. (Luckily I have lots of talented women to help me do these things.) One of the major things we need is a t-shirt. I really want the shirt to be something that the girls will wear again. After lots of tossing and turning over it, I was inspired with a simple idea and took it to fiverr.com.
I had never heard of fiverr, but Mike steered me there when I was searching for a font that would give a hand-lettered look to our slogan. Fiverr is a marketplace where you can hire a "gig" for $5. It seems like you can find just about anything (things like logo design, translation and writing, even jingles and sound effects!). After a quick search for hand-drawn brush pen lettering, I found Kim. Five days and five dollars later, I had the perfect hand brushed design for our shirts. Sometimes the internet is the best.
And these shirts are making me super excited about camp, which is something I am surprised to hear myself say.
posted by stephanie at 12:13 PM
Monday, May 25, 2015
As part of our trek preparation, we were asked to study The Spirit of Optimism, by Gordon B. Hinckley.
In it, President Hinckley said this:
"I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we 'accentuate the positive'. I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course.
What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another's virtues more than we speak of one another's faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and was prone to speak critically, my father would say: 'Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve.'"
Read the whole talk (it's really just a compilation of optimistic things President Hinckley said over the years) here.
posted by stephanie at 5:06 AM
Friday, May 22, 2015
But first Mike and I need to get ready for the pioneer trek. Then, then I can relax. Just kidding! Then I have to get ready for girls' camp. Blerg. Actually, I have some really fun things to make for girls' camp, so don't feel too sorry for me. But come mid-June, I will for sure be ready to not do a single thing.
Any big plans this weekend? Mike finished digging the humongous hole to bury our trampoline, so we'll spend his day off trying to get it in the ground. And we should probably start collecting tents and tie downs and everything else we need to outfit our handcart for the trek. It will be a regular party over here, I think. Hopefully we'll at least eat some ice cream while we're at it.
I hope you have a good weekend!
posted by stephanie at 6:11 AM
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
On Saturday morning I joined a group of friends to hike Camelback Mountain. We hiked the Echo Canyon trail.
We started just as dawn was spreading over the valley. It had rained quite a bit the night before, so the air felt clean and new. To have such a chilly morning in May was incredible. Being on Camelback was the best place to be on a morning like that!
I was surprised by how green everything was. This is the desert, right? Every view of the valley below was green and lush. It was so beautiful and of course pictures don't do it justice.
This is what the "trail" looks like - just a sea of large boulders that you climb over and up. At some points it is so steep that there are metal hand rails to hoist yourself up with. It was a good challenge - both physically and mentally. But I made it! It felt really great to be on the top.
My favorite thing about the hike was the appreciation I gained for Arizona. I love living here, but I've never thought it was a very pretty place. Boy was I wrong! All of these years I was just looking at it from the wrong angle. :) From high up on the side of a mountain, it is stunning.
I can't wait to hike it again. . . next winter. We totally lucked out with the perfect weather this weekend.
posted by stephanie at 5:52 AM
Monday, May 18, 2015
Mike and I were in the temple last week and I heard something that I wanted to understand better. In seeking more knowledge, I read Elder Michael T. Ringwood's talk from conference entitled, "Truly Good and Without Guile." I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
Elder Ringwood teaches that true disciples of Jesus Christ are motivated to serve and do right for right's sake. He says, "In a world where praise, position, power, accolades, and authority are sought on every side, I honor those wonderful and blessed souls who are truly good and without guile, those who are motivated by a love of God and their neighbors."
What is guile? It is "deceitful cunning". So to be without guile, I think, is to have the right motivations. It is to be pure in our intent and righteous in our actions. People who are truly good and without guile find ways to consistently lift and serve, not to earn title or authority, but because they love God and Jesus Christ.
Elder Ringwood told a great story from his time as a missionary in Korea many years ago. He was transferred to a new area with a new companion. This new companion had a poor reputation in the mission. He had never been in a leadership position, and despite having been in the country for some time, his knowledge of the Korean language was not very good. But as Elder Ringwood began to serve with him, he noticed that this missionary was extremely obedient. He followed every mission rule with exactness. He studied his Korean diligently every day, even though it was particularly difficult for him. Elder Ringwood began to see that this young missionary's reputation was not earned and he wanted to right this wrong. When he spoke to his mission president about it, his president wisely said, "Heavenly Father knows this young man is a successful missionary, and so do I. And now you know too, so who else really matters?"
Elder Ringwood says, "Today there are some who would have us believe our search for relevance can be satisfied only by obtaining position and power. Yet, thankfully, there are many who are uninfluenced by this perspective. They find relevance in seeking to be truly good and without guile. I have found them in all walks of life and in many faith traditions."
I think the video above illustrates this all so well. In the beginning, not all of the men who were asked to serve were able to do it with the right attitude. But as Elder Ringwood encouraged in his talk, "The desires of our hearts can be transformed and our motives can be educated and refined." We can become more like those truly good servants of Jesus Christ. We can seek to serve because of our love for Him. Our hearts can be changed just like the men who helped lift their neighbor.
Read, watch, or listen to the full talk here.
posted by stephanie at 6:02 AM