Friday, July 07, 2017

happy weekend

It turns out that the Fourth of July is a good day to drive home from Utah. The roads are mostly empty and there are really great fireworks displays dotting the sky as you descend into the valley. We pulled into our driveway just in time to light a few sparklers and send everyone to bed.

We were away for two weeks, which felt like a good long time, but we were ready to come home. We are homebodies through and through and even though Sundance, Utah is my favorite place in the world to visit, home is my favorite place to be. I spent the rest of the week getting back into the swing of things and reminding myself that I don't need to drink Dr Pepper everyday.

The kids missed our cats while we were gone. I surprised myself by really missing my bike! None of us missed the heat, but summer time in Arizona is what it is. And strangely enough, 100 degrees at midnight feels like home.

More photos of our trip to come. . . Have a great weekend!

Friday, June 16, 2017

happy weekend

I love summer. I love not having a schedule to keep. I love our slow mornings. I love not making dinner (cereal for dinner forever!). I love telling my kids when I tuck them in at night that they can read as late as they'd like.

On non-school nights, Elliot and Mabel switch beds so that she and Oliver can stay up late together talking. I hope they are always such good friends! It has tightened the bond between Stella and Elliot, too. This means that all summer long, Elliot is in Mabel's bed, and she is in his. Sometimes I wonder if they should just switch permanently, but I don't want to redecorate. :)

We are anxiously awaiting Mike's return for Father's Day this weekend. He has been away working as the cook for our ward's young men campout this week and we miss him (and Oliver, too). I loved this instagram about fathers from the LDS church that I saw this morning. My favorite part was when the dad said, "We fall short. We second-guess. We struggle. We hurt. We mess up. But, here's the real truth: We love. We cherish. We honor. We care. Not because we made ourselves that way, but because we have inherited our best traits and our greatest characteristics from the Father of us all."

Sometimes I think dads get a bad rap, but they are so important! And I know they try harder than we give them credit for.

I am feeling extra grateful for my own dad today--for his constant support and unconditional love. He has always wanted the best for his children and moved heaven and earth to get it for them. And I'm thankful for Mike, too, who takes his role as father so seriously. We'd be lost without his inspiration and direction and support.

Let's give our dads a big squeeze this weekend, if we can. Have a good one!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

the family computer

For years our computer has been in a spare bedroom that serves as an office/sewing room on our main floor. But lately I've been feeling like it needed to be more visible, so I moved it to the kitchen. There is no ideal place to put it in there. We have to stand in front of it now or pull a chair up to the cabinets and bump our knees, but I don't care. I think moving it to the kitchen will keep my family safer. We have some strict computer rules already (like, unless you are doing homework, you have to have a buddy, no computer when the parents aren't home, etc.), but I like having it out in the open, too.

Summer is a good time to take a break from the computer, anyway. My kids keep asking to use it and I keep saying no. And they complain for a minute and then they find something else (better) to do. Ha!

Monday, June 12, 2017

the best pie

Ok, this really is maybe the best pie ever. It's a chocolate chess pie and was totally worth saving up all of my sugar during the week for a slice. It poofs up like a soufflé in the oven, but then deflates as it cools. After chilling it in the fridge overnight, I served it with freshly whipped cream after Sunday dinner. It is rich and dense and so delicious.

Two notes: I halved the recipe and only made one pie. While I regret this, I am glad that I don't have a whole other pie to avoid as I am back to not eating sweets during the week. And I left out the coffee extract and I can't imagine that its omission lessened the deliciousness.

I don't think I am overstating things when I say that I might never make another kind of pie again.

Friday, June 09, 2017

happy weekend

We have reached the point in our summer vacation where I don't know what day it is anymore. All of our days pretty much look like this ^^^. Lots of swimming. Lots of reading. Lots of sleeping in. It has been wonderful.

We have some fun things planned for this weekend, like a neighborhood carnival to help support our friend, Jeff, who was just diagnosed with colon cancer! If you are local, please come on Saturday night. There will be carnival games, food trucks, a humongous silent auction, and more. Here is the Facebook page and the Instagram account for more information. It is going to be a great night for a really good cause.

This is the kind of neighborhood effort that makes me really grateful to live where we do.

I felt so good last summer/fall when I was limiting my sugar, so I am trying to do it again, but it is so hard. And this pie has been calling my name. I think I'll make it for Sunday dinner. If I can get back to having one treat a week at Sunday dinner, I think I'll feel better. I've been feeling sluggish lately and it's time to make a change. More sleep and less sugar. That's the plan.

Stay cool out there and have a happy weekend!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

a habit shift

We spent yesterday cleaning out our garage and shed. Why we chose to do that when it was 107 degrees outside, I don't know. But when the urge to purge hits, you have to follow through. That's what I've learned, anyway.

Our goal was to make room in the garage for our bikes. Because all of a sudden it feels like we have a million bikes!

Another thing I love about Mike is that when he decides to do something, HE DOES IT. An example: We have decided that if possible, we will ride our bikes instead of driving our car. Luckily we live where it is very flat (it's not called Mesa for nothing), and most of our life happens within a very small radius of our home. This is something I happily support. But Mike didn't stop there. No, he went above and beyond, like he always does, and found us electric bikes!

Oh man, they are a major game changer. Once you start pedaling, the little electric motor kicks in to assist. Every bike ride becomes a leisurely bike ride, even though you are zooming down the road. (Since our children don't have electric bikes, we kept our old bikes for family bike rides. Thus, the million bikes now crowding our garage.) The electric bikes make his commute to work and school, date night, and trips to the store so much more fun.

Sometimes it is hard to shift our habits. It takes effort to think about jumping on my bike to run an errand instead of jumping in the car. It takes some planning, too. That quick trip to the store might not happen, but maybe that's ok? Maybe it can wait. And sometimes habit shifts require going against the norm a little bit. My gut tells me that this shift is a good one, odd as it may seem to others. I've noticed that when I get home from a trip on my bike, I am happy. There is something light and peaceful and quiet about it. I am glad that Mike pushed it, and that it fits into our life easily.

(We got Juiced bikes and love them.)

Monday, June 05, 2017

biking to the store

Something I love about Mike is that he always has a new idea. He is constantly trying to improve how we do things around here. He'll research all the things, weigh the options, and then move forward. I am more apt to keep things the same, even if they aren't working terribly well. For instance: I've been riding my bike to the grocery store every week, but I could only fit so much in that teeny basket. I would have kept dangling grocery bags off my handlebars til the end of time, but he ordered a bike trailer. And now I can fit all the groceries! Hooray!

Friday, May 26, 2017

happy weekend

It's our first week of summer vacation. Hooray! We have big plans to clean out backpacks, get doughnuts, and load up on books at the library. And then go swimming. Because summer in Arizona equals swimming.

Also, it's 7:45 am and Elliot has already told me that there's nothing to do. Ha! Guess what, Elliot? Summer is about being bored, so get used to it. :)

Mike got the kids involved in planning our summer trip. They had lots of fun looking at all of the options together and then voting for Family Home Evening. Still not sure what we'll end up doing, but I am looking forward to it all the same!

Here's a quick neat video about my surfboard shaper brother, Matt.

And here's a little longer video made from one of my favorite General Conference talks about hearing the music of the gospel.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

mother's day

I think this was the first time in five years of taking our Mother's Day picture that Mike was home to take it for us. Usually we use a self timer. I think that explains the real smiles on my kids' faces. I am sure Mike said something really funny to make us laugh.

I shared this quote on my instagram, and I know I've shared it on my blog before, but that doesn't mean I can't do it again:

"Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough of greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity."

-Margaret D. Nadauld

Mother's Day was weeks ago I know, but I am grateful to share my thoughts about it here, late as they may be. I love Mother's Day because it focuses on the goodness of women everywhere, whether they have borne children or not. Sister Julie B. Beck said, "Righteous women have changed the course of history and will continue to do so, and their influence will spread and grow exponentially." I believe that women run this world, and without our efforts, everything would crumble, or in the very least, everyone would run out of toilet paper. (Did you read that funny article making the rounds on Facebook?)

I love that Mother's Day gives me the opportunity to check myself, to see how I am doing, to ask myself if I am becoming the kind of woman that Sister Naduald described. Inevitably, the Spirit whispers to me that I am doing ok, but that maybe I could do a little better in this area or that. I am thankful for those promptings because my children deserve my best.

And I love that it makes me reflect on my own mother. She teaches me how to be a woman of God through her actions everyday.

I hope your Mother's Day was a happy one, full of contentment and love and hopefully not too much mess and at least a little bit of chocolate.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

doctrine vs application

I teach the 14-16 year old girls in my congregation (Mabel included). Just the other day, I sat down to plan our Sunday lessons for the summer and we will be learning about some potentially difficult things-- things like the importance of keeping the law of chastity, temple marriage, and preparing for motherhood. While the world is screaming to these girls that these things are not important, it is my job to tell them otherwise. Sometimes that feels difficult.

I was really glad when my sister steered me toward an article on that talked about doctrine versus application. The gist is, if we want our children to learn truth - eternal truth, we must teach them doctrine, not application. For example, if we want our children to keep the law of chastity (a principle), we need to teach them that their body is a temple because it houses their spirit (the doctrine). They need to know the "why" behind the principle, not just how to apply it in their life (in this example, an application could be wearing modest clothing or not watching suggestive media).

The author, Rochelle Tallmadge, says this about doctrine: "Doctrine is truth. But not just any truth. Eternal Truth. Doctrine is things as they WERE, things as they ARE, and things as they really will BE. It doesn't change. Some things are true on this earth, but they aren't TRUTH. ... Doctrine doesn't tell you what to do. It just IS."

About principles, she says, "A principle is the category that falls under doctrine. Many principles peel off of the same doctrine. There aren't that many doctrines, actually. But there are more principles. Like, Keep the Sabbath Day Holy, Pray, Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity. Those tell us what to do, generally. Those can change. For instance, the Word of Wisdom looked very different for the children of Israel than it does for you and me. Even the Law of Chastity might look different, given the time."

And then, applications. Rochelle says, "After principles come applications. These are the specific ways you live the gospel and practice principles. You may wear a dress that covers your knee, whereas I might have a skirt that stops just above it. You may watch tv on Sunday night, but your best friend does not. Applications are very, very personal. It's up to us to follow the Spirit and make our own choices. And we get in trouble in the church when we try to teach the applications instead of doctrines. That's how the Pharisees and the Sadducees missed the fact that The Messiah was standing right in front of them. They were focused on the applications (and misapplications) of the Law of Moses, not the whole purpose of it: Jesus Christ."

Oh, it's so good. The article is not very long, and I encourage you to read it for yourself. And then talk about it with your children. :) I am grateful for this little refresher course on how to teach children and youth. I want my children to stay true to the doctrine of Jesus Christ more than anything, so I better make sure that they know it, and not just the application of it.

Monday, May 22, 2017

a summer pie

It is our last week of school, so we are just about in summer mode over here. Hooray! I made this very summer-y pie last night to celebrate and thought the recipe was worthy of a share.

Raspberry, Lime, and Coconut Pie

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
6 tablespoons, plus 1/2 cup butter
1 sleeve (or 9 rectangles) graham crackers
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
a pinch of kosher salt
2 teaspoons of lime zest, divided
3 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup lime juice
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 1/2 cups raspberries

While your oven is heating up to 375 degrees, toast the coconut on a baking sheet until golden brown (3-7 minutes). Grease a 9 inch pie plate and set aside. Put 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top to soften; set aside. Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter.

Set aside 2 tablespoons of the toasted coconut, then pulse the remaining in a food processor with the graham crackers, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and salt. Once fine crumbs have formed, drizzle in the melted butter until combined. Pour it into the pie plate, using a flat bottomed measuring cup to compact it evenly on the bottom and up the sides.

Bake the crust for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool completely.

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the 1 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of the lime zest, the eggs and yolk, and the gelatin until well blended. Then whisk in the lime juice. Set the bowl over a saucepan with an inch of simmering water in it. You don't want the bottom of the bowl to touch the water. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture very thickly coats a metal spoon or until it reaches 190 degrees. This should take 8-16 minutes. Don't let it boil. If it's not thickening up, reduce the temperature and continue to cook, whisking, for a few more minutes. (Mine thickened up after about 10 minutes.)

Once it's thick, remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of butter, one tablespoon at a time until melted and well blended. Set the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water until cold, stirring occasionally (10-20 minutes).

Spread the lime curd in the crust and chill uncovered for about two hours. Then whip your cream and spread over the curd. Top with the raspberries and the remaining toasted coconut and lime zest.

What I wish I'd done differently: I wish I had packed the graham cracker crust better. Mine ended up feeling dry and crumbly and overwhelmed the filling. Also, the recipe doesn't call for sweetening the whipping cream, but I wish I had added just a tablespoon or so of sugar as I was whipping it. I would totally make this again, though. The lime curd is so bright and creamy and delicious.

Are you counting down the days until summer vacation, too? We're at 4!

Friday, May 12, 2017

happy weekend

Elliot turned seven last week, and ever since then, he's been gelling his hair before school and looking way too grown up. Ah! I don't know if I can take it. Elliot is full of personality, a good playmate, and a great baseball player. He is always getting his siblings outside to jump on the trampoline or ride vehicles, and likes to be in the middle of the action. He'd eat oatmeal every morning if he could and still likes a good snuggle first thing when he wakes up. And also, he looks exactly like his dad. :)

Two things we tried this week for dinner (and most of us liked): Spicy Instant Pot Carrot Soup (not too spicy and served over rice) and Breakfast Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce (assembled in the morning, kept in the fridge, and then popped in the oven at dinner time--I love when I can do that!).

What I'm making myself for Mother's Day: The Best Yellow Cake. I haven't been eating sugar all week, saving it up for Mother's Day, so I am really looking forward to eating this cake. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting will always be one of my most favorite desserts, but I've never made a successful homemade version. I am excited to try this recipe!

I hope you have a happy weekend, especially on Sunday.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

because it's almost Mother's Day

Every Mother's Day for the past four years, I have taken a photo with my children on our living room step. This is the first time I've seen them all together, and oh, I love them! It is one of my favorite traditions. Look how teeny Elliot was in that first one!

Mother's Day can be tricky. I have found that what works best for me is to do everything that I normally do, while trying really hard to have gratitude in my heart for the opportunity. I have been blessed with some really wonderful kids to mother, and that is reason to celebrate! And if I get flowers or chocolate or a card on top of that, then it should be a really great day.

But here's the thing. Lately, I have been feeling under appreciated. I don't want to go into Mother's Day feeling that way. I don't ever want to feel that way. It doesn't lead to any sort of happiness, but sometimes that feeling is hard to shake. But when Sister Eubank read this quote from Eliza R. Snow in her Women's Conference address, I got the shaking I was looking for:

Sister Snow said, "We want to be ladies in very deed, not according to the term of the word as the world judges, but fit companions of the Gods and Holy Ones. In an organized capacity we can assist each other in not only doing good but in refining ourselves. ... Women should be women and not babies that need petting and correction all the time. I know we like to be appreciated but if we do not get all the appreciation which we think is our due, what matters? We know the Lord has laid high responsibility upon us, and there is not a wish or desire that the Lord has implanted in our hearts in righteousness but will be realized, and the greatest good we can do to ourselves and each other is to refine and cultivate ourselves in everything that is good and ennobling to qualify us for those responsibilities."

Oh man, she just laid it all out there, didn't she? Sister Snow was a wise and strong lady, and I admire her greatly. And so I am going to do what she says and stop seeking appreciation. I have a work to do and it is really important, so I best get on with it and stop feeling sorry for myself.

And also, grow my hair back out. I need to do that, too. :)

Monday, May 08, 2017

the main thing

I must not have learned this lesson yet, because I keep coming across things that remind me to focus on what is most important in my life and to not worry so much about the rest. I seem to go through waves of feeling like I can handle my load and feeling like it's going to swallow me up. Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed and swallowed. In the quiet hours of my Sunday morning yesterday, I sought comfort and inspiration from the keynote address at last week's Women's Conference at BYU. The keynote speech, by Sister Sharon Eubank, was wonderful. But it was in the brief message by President Kevin J. Worthen, President of BYU, given before Sister Eubank spoke that I found what I needed to hear.

He said, "I know life well enough to know that for all of you sooner or later and for most of us multiple times, there are struggles in life. We live in some very challenging times. There is turmoil, lack of civility, our values are under attack and then you add to that the complexities of our own individual lives. And we can feel that we are at war because in one sense, we are at war. In such times I am reminded of advice that was received by Major General Robert Scales . . . in Vietnam . . . his platoon sergeant said, 'Men, in combat, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Otherwise you die.' We can get ourselves caught up in lots of different causes and worries and concerns and in those situations, when everything seems to be swirling around us, what we need to keep in mind is the main thing. What is that main thing? Alma 7:7 records it this way: 'For Behold, I say unto you there be many things to come; and behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all--for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people.'

"That is the main thing. The gospel of Jesus Christ--the good news that as a result of Christ, we can have hope no matter what the situation, we can have help even when we think we are helpless. There is no problem He cannot help us solve as a result of His great sacrifice for us. . . In those moments when life seems to be completely complex and out of control and we have no hope at all, if we will think about Jesus, we will be blessed."

So this week I am going to try to keep the main thing the main thing. I am going to try to let the less important things slide away out of my vision, and keep my eyes fixed on Jesus Christ. I will repeat to myself the words "faith and family" when I am feeling overwhelmed. Because my faith and my family are what keep me anchored. When they are my focus, the rest doesn't feel quite so overwhelming or important.

photo from Mabel's incredible Millennial Choir and Orchestra concert last weekend

Monday, May 01, 2017

small and simple ways

A few years ago I felt like I needed to improve my everyday practices of faith--things like reading my scriptures, saying my prayers, and attending the temple. I felt like I needed to obtain good habits in those areas so that I would be prepared for more challenging days ahead. It was a prompting that I couldn't shake, and so I started reading my scriptures everyday. I started reading them with my children. I made a better effort at my prayers, and I attended the temple much more regularly.

Because of this prompting, when Elder L. Whitney Clayton said the following in his talk during General Conference, my spirit recognized it as truth: "When we decide to do 'whatsoever [God] saith unto' us, we earnestly commit to align our everyday behavior with God's will. Such simple acts of faith as studying the scriptures daily, fasting regularly, and praying with real intent deepen our well of spiritual capacity to meet the demands of mortality. Over time, simple habits of belief lead to miraculous results. They transform our faith from a seedling into a dynamic power for good in our lives. Then, when challenges come our way, our rootedness in Christ provides steadfastness for our souls. God shores up our weaknesses, increases our joys, and causes 'all things [to] work together for [our] good.'"

I loved Elder Clayton's talk, Whatsoever He Saith unto You, Do It, and wanted to share my favorite bits here for this week's conference report.

In speaking about simple, daily acts of faith, Elder Clayton said, "I have observed that those who are deliberate about doing the 'small and simple things'--obeying in seemingly little ways--are blessed with faith and strength that go far beyond the actual acts of obedience themselves and, in fact, may seem totally unrelated to them. It may seem hard to draw a connection between the basic daily acts of obedience and solutions to the big, complicated problems we face. But they are related. In my experience, getting the little daily habits of faith right is the single best way to fortify ourselves against the troubles of life, whatever they may be. Small acts of faith, even when they seem insignificant or entirely disconnected from the specific problems that vex us, bless us in all we do."

It reminds me of some of my favorite counsel from the Book of Mormon. The book of Alma, chapter 37 tells of the compass, or Liahona, that was given to the prophet Lehi and his people. This compass showed them the way to go as they traveled through the wilderness, but it only worked if they were living righteously and had faith in God. Verse 40 says, "And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day."

It continues, "Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey; Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions. For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land."

And then my favorite part: "And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise."

I know that it is through those small, simple acts that miracles can occur in my own life. I don't want to be lost in the wilderness, hungry and thirsty for direction. I want to find that land of promise, and I believe that I can if I read my scriptures and say my prayers and do all of the other little things that are asked of me.

Elder Clayton said, "Every day, consciously or otherwise, we all choose 'whom [we] will serve.' We demonstrate our determination to serve the Lord by faithfully engaging in daily acts of devotion. The Lord promises to direct our paths, but for Him to do that, we have to walk, trusting that He knows the way because He is 'the way.'"

We have to walk. I want to walk. And I know that when I do--when I engage in those daily acts of devotion--I am showing Him that I am willing to follow Him.

I think I'll always be grateful for that prompting I received a few years ago to be more solid in my gospel habits. I have been through some challenging days since then, but my faith has been strong and my challenges not as daunting as they otherwise might have been. I am not perfect in my devotion. Some days I don't feel like reading my scriptures or saying my prayers. Some days feel too busy to fit these things in, but when I put them first and do them anyway, it's like my days are lengthened and I have time to accomplish all that is required of me. I can see that when my effort is stronger, my life is happier.

You can listen to, watch, or read all of Elder Clayton's talk here.