Monday, March 20, 2017

to the women

This Saturday will be the semi-annual Women's Conference of our church, where leaders (mostly women) speak specifically to girls and women. I look forward to it every six months. To get ready, I figured that I had better review what was said last time. As I reread the talks that were given last September, Bonnie L. Oscarson's talk, Rise Up in Strength, Sisters in Zion, really caught my attention.

Sister Oscarson talked about the challenges women face these days. To counteract the influence of the world around us, she said, "We need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation. We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms. We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity. We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve."

She continued, "It will take concerted effort to be converted and to keep our covenants. To do so, we need to be girls and women who study the essential doctrines of the gospel and have an unshakable testimony of their truthfulness."

She suggested three areas that she believes are foundational to strong testimonies: "First, we need to acknowledge the centrality of God our Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, to our faith and salvation. . . Second, we need to understand the need for the restoration of the doctrine, organization, and keys of authority in these latter days. . . And third, we need to study and understand temple ordinances and covenants."

These truths have buoyed me time and time again. Through prayer, scripture study, and consistent temple attendance, I have gained a testimony of them. But that doesn't mean I can stop there. Like Sister Oscarson said, it requires a "concerted effort", which means constant and focused.

Finally, Sister Oscarson shared some very applicable and common sense advice when it comes to teaching our children. She said, "I worry that we live in such an atmosphere of avoiding offense that we sometimes altogether avoid teaching correct principles. We fail to teach our young women that preparing to be a mother is of utmost importance because we don't want to offend those who aren't married or those who can't have children or to be seen as stifling future choices. On the other hand, we may also fail to emphasize the importance of education because we don't want to send the message that it is more important than marriage. We avoid declaring that our Heavenly Father defines marriage as being between a man and woman because we don't want to offend those who experience same-sex attraction. And we may find it uncomfortable to discuss gender issues or healthy sexuality.

"Certainly, sisters, we need to use sensitivity, but let us also use our common sense and our understanding of the plan of salvation to be bold and straightforward when it comes to teaching our children and youth the essential gospel principles they must understand to navigate the wold in which they live. If we don't teach our children and youth true doctrine--and teach it clearly--the world will teach them Satan's lies."

What a good push to try harder and be better! It was just what I needed to hear at the start of this new week.

Anyone can watch the Women's Conference, by the way. It will be broadcast live at on Saturday, March 25 at 6:00pm Mountain Daylight Time, but will be available to view anytime after that.

Friday, March 17, 2017

happy weekend

I've been giving wisteria updates on my instagram feed this week. Just when I don't think it can get any more beautiful, I wake up the next morning to more leaves and fuller flowers. When we drive away from our house, I make everyone stop and admire it with me. Oh, I love it! I look forward to it all year long.

This is our last day of spring break. We have had the best week. We have mostly stuck close to home, which suits us all so well. I had to run a few errands yesterday and nearly had to drag Stella and Elliot along. They would have been more than happy to stay in the basement, but they needed some sunlight on their skin. The mornings have been cool and the evenings just right for a jump on the trampoline or a walk around the block. This morning we took advantage of our last day off to go on another hike. Even Mike came along. Seeing my whole family together made my heart grow a few sizes. I'll be sad to send them back to school on Monday.

We keep putting off the yard work, but tomorrow we are going to have to buckle down and get it done. We have lemons to pick and new flowers to plant and the lawn to mow. I'm excited to use the new hose I bought yesterday (it's kink free and won't leak!). It's the little things. :)

I saw this quick little video on Facebook and wanted to share it here. It has such a happy message:

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

hiking the hieroglyphic trail

One of my goals for this spring break was to take my kids hiking. There are so many hikes nearby and this is the perfect time of year to try them. First on our list was the Hieroglyphic Trail in Gold Canyon, about 40 minutes away from us. It is a gentle sloping trail, about 3 miles long, there and back. It wasn't too difficult for Elliot, my six year old, but he was definitely worn out by the end of it. There were lots of pretty vistas and the whole area seemed so green (relatively speaking, of course). The best part is that at the top of the trail are ancient petroglyphs covering the rocks.

They were pretty amazing. There was also a small waterfall and a little trickling stream, with lots of large boulders to climb. It was really fun and the cool shade was really refreshing. My kids didn't want to leave.

Every once in a while (usually when I am standing next to a ginormous saguaro cactus like this one) I remember that we really live in the desert here. I am learning to appreciate it!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

my Mexico report

Last week, Mike and I were in San Jose del Cabo. To be honest, I didn't really know where we were going, but "Cabo" or Los Cabos is actually made up of five towns on the tip of the Baja peninsula. Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are two of them.

Our second day there was a Sunday, so we found the local congregation and walked 3 miles through some tough parts of town to get there. Mike and I don't speak Spanish, so we didn't understand the meeting, but it was wonderful just the same.

We split our time between two resorts. The first, Cabo Azul, was incredible.

We alternated between a beach cabana and the serenity pool, napping and reading. It was really nice. Food was not included at this resort, so we made a few trips to the grocery store for drinks and snacks and then Mike would search out delicious local restaurants for our meals. We spent a lot of time walking and riding the Urbano (old school buses repurposed), and ate some really good food. It was so much fun.

Our second resort wasn't quite as nice, but it was all inclusive, so we stuck to the resort more and ate at the restaurant there and drank lots of fun non-alcoholic drinks.

My favorite thing to do was to walk into town. San Jose del Cabo has a pretty, little, and very old downtown full of shops and restaurants. It was a lively place and lots of fun to explore.

All together, we were gone for almost 9 days! That's a long time to be away, and I sort of had a major homesickness breakdown on day 6, but we had a really nice trip. Being away for so long leaves lots of time to think and plan and consider changes that need to be made. I came home ready to get to work.

Friday, March 03, 2017

happy weekend/week

Every year Mike and I go away for a week together without our kids. It is stressful but it is also the best thing ever. Next week is that week! So I've been spending this week getting ready - freezing meals, cleaning house, bathing cats, etc. My mom is coming to take care of our kids and I am so grateful.

I love my life, but I am really looking forward to not thinking about five am wake up calls, carpools, and making dinner. I know Mike is really looking forward to not thinking about school and work. Instead, we'll be sitting on the beach, making plans and setting goals for this next year, and probably doing lots of thinking about nothing, too. I can't wait.

The best part is that I know we will come home refreshed and revived and ready to get back into the thick of it. Do you go away with your spouse without your children? It takes a lot of work, but I am really glad that Mike has made it a priority in our marriage.

Have a good weekend and a great next week!

Friday, February 24, 2017

happy weekend

There were lots of tears at our house this week, as Stella's sweet little gray kitten, Pedro, passed away. I think he'd been sick for a long time, and he just got weaker and weaker and was no longer eating. We buried him underneath our pretty lilac vine and now every year when it blooms, we'll remember him. It was hard watching my kids mourn, but I think it brought us all a little bit closer together, which was a happy blessing.

Mike and I didn't have any big plans for our anniversary yesterday. We lifted weights together and grabbed Cafe Rio for lunch before he went to class. But we're not big celebrators, anyway, so it felt just right. I got him a pretty brass tie bar with M + S engraved on it. He made me ring once, long before we were married (and even before his mission) that had our initials engraved on the inside like that. And then he did the same on my wedding ring, too.

Almost everything I made for dinner this week was a big flop. Some weeks are like that, aren't they? Mabel and I liked this Broccoli and Cheddar Gratin, but we were the only ones who did. Next week I'll save myself some grief and make fish sticks and pancakes every night instead. Ha!

I'm trying to muster up the energy to go for a run this morning. Wish me luck and have a happy weekend!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

sweet 16

Today is our 16th anniversary! I've been thinking about how crazy it is to make such a life-determining decision at a young age. Mike and I were only 21 when we married, and somehow we managed to make the very best decision. Well, I know how we did that actually. It was through prayer. I prayed to know if I should marry Mike and the Spirit confirmed to me that it would be a good choice. And boy was it ever! Mike still makes me laugh everyday. I am so proud of how hard he is working at school right now, and so thankful for the happy life he has created for our family for the past 16 years.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

blessings of worship

I read this talk by Bishop Dean M. Davies before church on Sunday, and it made the time I spent at church that day more meaningful. I've been meaning to share it here ever since, but you know, life.

Bishop Davies said, "Sometimes our attendance at meetings and our service in the kingdom may lack the holy element of worship. And without that, we are missing an incomparable spiritual encounter with the infinite--one we are entitled to as children of a loving Heavenly Father. Far from being an accidental, happy occurrence, worship is essential and central to our spiritual life. It is something we should yearn for, seek out, and strive to experience."

And this, "I learned that even if we are exceptional managers of our time, callings, and assignments--even if we check all the boxes on our list of the 'perfect' individual, family, or leader--if we fail to worship our merciful Deliverer, heavenly King, and glorious God, we are missing much of the hoy and peace of the gospel."

His words sank deep into my heart. Has my attendance at church become too normal--a habit that hardly takes my attention? If so, I am missing out some really wonderful feelings and it is time to be more deliberate about my worship.

Bishop Davies then gave some good ideas on how we can improve our worship. He said, "When we worship God, we acknowledge and receive Him with the same reverence as those ancient people of the Americas. We approach Him with incomprehensible feelings of wonder and awe. We marvel in gratitude at the goodness of God. And thus, we acquire hope. We ponder God's word, and that fills our souls with light and truth. We comprehend spiritual vistas that can be seen only through the light of the Holy Ghost. And thus, we acquire faith. As we worship, our souls are refined and we commit to walk in the footsteps of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ. And from this resolve, we acquire charity. When we worship, our hearts are drawn out in praise to our blessed God morning, noon, and night. When we worship, we open our hearts to the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Our lives become the token and expression of our worship."

And the kicker, "Spiritual experiences have less to do with what is happening around us and everything to do with what is happening within our hearts. It is my witness that true worship will transform ordinary Church meetings into extraordinary spiritual feasts. It will enrich our lives, broaden our understanding, and strengthen our testimonies."

I want that. I am going to try harder.

Friday, February 17, 2017

happy weekend

My friend and I took advantage of our terrific weather and hiked Camelback Mountain yesterday. I am not really a hiker, but I love hiking Camelback. It is steep and difficult and it just feels really good to climb those boulders all the way to the top. During Spring Break I want to try some of the hikes Kayla listed on her blog with my kids. I know there are a lot of beautiful things to see in this desert, and we're going to find them.

For dinner this week, we tried these Little Quinoa Patties and some really great pasta. I'll share the pasta recipe below. We ate the quinoa patties like hamburgers with a side of roasted sweet and regular potatoes.

My friend (and everyone's friend), Ellen, sent me this pasta recipe and I am totally going to add it to our favorites:

Farfalle Alle Erbe e Panna Rosa, from Lisa Ure
1 pound farfalle (bowtie) pasta
4 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons of fresh basil, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of fresh sage, finely chopped (I didn't have sage, so I skipped it.)
1/2 beef bouillon cube (I used a teaspoon of chicken Better Than Bouillon.)
2 pounds fresh ripe plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon of salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of heavy cream

Peel, seed, and cut the tomatoes into a 1/4 inch dice.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the herbs and bouillon and stir with a wooden spoon for one minute or until the bullion has dissolved completely. Don't let the butter burn. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 5-10 minutes or until the tomatoes have reduced and separated from the butter. Raise the heat to medium-high and pour in the cream. Cook, stirring frequently, until it has reduced by about half. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

While the sauce is cooking, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and cook your pasta al dente. Then drain it and toss it with the sauce.

This weekend Oliver will be off on a scout campout while the rest of us recover from this long, tiresome week. Hopefully there's some good food in there somewhere, too.

Have a happy weekend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

a story about a dress

Mabel had a school dance last weekend. It was a "Blast from the Past" theme or something like that, so we pulled this vintage stunner out of the closet. I found this amazing, handmade and very old dress at a thrift store in Salt Lake City, Utah when I was 18 years old. I almost didn't buy it because I don't usually buy things, but my friend convinced me to get it and I am so glad. It fit me like a glove and I wore it to a dance with Mike my first winter at BYU. Funny thing, Mike had moved home after the fall semester, and I thought I was going to the dance with a blind date. But it turned out to be Mike! He had driven all night to surprise me. 

And now, 19 years later, our daughter is wearing the same dress. Life is good like that. She finished her makeup at a friend's house before the dance and had such a good time! And now the dress is back safe and sound in the closet til next time.

Friday, February 10, 2017

happy weekend

It seems like most of the country is being blanketed by snow right now, but here in Arizona it is 85 degrees! My kids came home from school yesterday with pink, sunburned noses. Ah! I'm not ready for the heat, but I sure love an Arizona spring. Our lilac vine is about to go crazy with blossoms and I can't wait.

I never wanted to be the mom who was constantly in the car, shuttling kids to a million different places, but I was totally that mom this week. Man alive, I'm exhausted! It was my week to drive the carpool to high school plus it seems like I was going back and forth to Oliver's school (about 15 minutes away) a million times. Add in the usual piano lessons and choir practice and mutual and scouts and I'll tell you what, I am ready for the weekend.

Mabel joined the tennis team at school, so our big plans this weekend include buying active wear (please tell me you've seen this video!) and looking at tennis rackets.

Recipes I tried this week: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos (Loved these! I added chicken and avocado.), Turkey and Swiss Sloppy Joes (a surprise hit), and Brazilian Style Black Beans and Rice (My first time successfully cooking dried beans! I used our instant pot. Not as good as my favorite beans from Tucanos, but pretty all right.)

Are your kids passing out valentines? Stella doesn't want to, but Elliot does. Maybe these heart pom pom bookmarks will change Stella's mind?

Have a happy weekend!

Monday, February 06, 2017

on a monday

I'm putting my house back together one room at a time today. I got an early start on the kitchen. While I was steaming the floor, I listened to the third chapter of Teachings of Presidents of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley. I had to share this quote:

"There is a terrible ailment of pessimism in the land. It's almost endemic. We're constantly fed a steady and sour diet of character assassination, faultfinding, evil speaking of one another. ...

"I come with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I'm suggesting that we accentuate the positive. I'm asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort.

"I am not asking that all criticism be silent. Growth comes with correction. Strength comes with repentance. Wise is the man or woman who, committing mistakes pointed out by others, changes his or her course. I am not suggesting that our conversation be all honey. Clever expression that is sincere and honest is a skill to be sought and cultivated. What I am suggesting and asking is that we turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good in the land and times in which we live, that we speak of one another's virtues more than we speak of one another's faults, that optimism replace pessimism. Let our faith replace our fears.

"We have every reason to be optimistic in this world. Tragedy is around, yes. Problems everywhere, yes. But ... you can't, you don't, build out of pessimism or cynicism. You look with optimism, work with faith, and things happen.

"Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the sunlight through the clouds. Opportunities will eventually open to you. Do not let the prophets of gloom endanger your possibilities."

What a great way to start a new week! I hope your Monday is a happy one.

Friday, February 03, 2017

happy weekend

It's the time of year when the citrus is ready to be picked and juiced. Yesterday I juiced a few bags of oranges and my house smelled so fresh for the rest of the day. We got so many lemons this year! I used to freeze the juice to make lemonade all year long, but do you know what's in lemonade? Lots and lots of sugar, so I don't make it as often anymore, and now our main use of the lemons is to squeeze them on top of our Sunday morning german pancakes. Must research how to use more lemons (outside of my favorite lemon deserts: warm lemon pudding cake, lemon cakelemon squares, and lemon poppy seed muffins).

Thanks to your comments, I tried a few new recipes this week. Rollup Blender Pancakes from Mel's Kitchen Cafe were probably the biggest hit (even though they were for breakfast and not dinner). We also tried Mel's 30-Minute Quinoa Enchilada Skillet (Mabel and I loved it), Our Best Bite's Black Bean Soup and Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos. I would make them all again. Thank you! Oh, and we brought these Healthy Applesauce Oat Muffins to Sunday dinner and they were gone in a flash.

I printed out lots more recipes from those sites to try next week, too. Hurray!

This is the best time of year to be in Arizona, so we are going to do our best to soak it up this weekend. Yard work is on our to-do list, and hopefully we'll actually do it instead of loafing around like we usually do on Saturdays. Ha!

Have a happy one!

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

for teens

Friday night's meeting was broadcast from a chapel in Queen Creek, about 35 minutes from me. But Saturday night's meeting, which was for teenagers and their youth leaders, was live right here in Mesa! Since I was recently asked to serve in the Young Women's organization in my ward, I got to attend Saturday night, too.

Just like Friday night's meeting, Saturday night was very casual and candid, but this one was geared toward teenagers. Here are my notes:

Elder Ballard started the meeting by sharing one word that would change the teens' lives: desire. If they desire to know the mysteries of God, or if they desire to follow Jesus Christ, then like Nephi and like Joseph Smith, they can have their own "sacred grove" experience, which will help them remain true to the teachings of the gospel.

On the proper use of media: Elder Rasband urged the youth to be connected to the church's media sites. He cautioned them to police themselves. The adversary has entered into our personal space through our devices. If we dedicate time to the word of God each day, we will be able to better withstand the offerings of the adversary.

On preparing for a mission: Elder Ballard said that if desire is focused in the right place, it will be easy to stay morally clean and serve a mission. He said that they should do all that they can to prepare, but leave some time for fun, too. Learn to be a hard worker, make prayer more meaningful. For girls (who are not expected to serve missions) listen to the Spirit when deciding whether or not to go. Focus instead on living the way Heavenly Father wants you to live. Don't be nervous to share the gospel, just stand tall. Anxiety can become a problem when we are too anchored in the internet. Learn to talk to people face to face. When you have a question, seek the answer from the Lord before seeking it elsewhere.

On being happy: Elder Robbins said that the more we become like Jesus Christ, the happier we will be. Because He was always serving others, he was always happy, and so can we be. Pray for happiness and for the opportunity to use our talents to serve others. Smile more. It is a choice.

On opposition and peer pressure: Elder Costa said "It is better to prevent than to fix." Choose good friends. If you are with friends and they make bad choices, leave. Don't stay to be a good example. Just leave.

On dating and marriage: Elder Ballard reminded that kids that one date with someone does not make you a couple! Keep yourself pure and clean. Don't let the world dictate how we live. Stay close to your parents. Have fun. Don't do anything to mar the beauty of your spirit. And never, never ask someone on a date through a text message. :)

The overall feeling that I got from both of these meetings was that the answers are always simple. Live the gospel. Be happy. Serve others. If our desire is in the right place, we will already be doing the right things. Don't worry too much, everything will will be ok in the end.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

for parents

Sometimes the responsibility of parenting these children feels really heavy and I wonder if I am teaching them everything they need to know. Well, on Friday night, Mike and I attended a special meeting just for parents, held here in the Phoenix Metropolitan area. Elder Ballard and Elder Rasband were in attendance, as well as other general authorities from our church. It was a casual, candid setting and I really enjoyed learning from these men. I promised to share my notes here. I hope you find them as helpful as I did.

On overcoming spiritual apathy: Elder Ballard suggested making prayer, scripture study, family home evening, and family councils a priority. Never allow our love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to be secondary to other things. Don't give ourselves or our children time to become apathetic. Be anxiously engaged in the gospel together.

On social media: Elder Rasband said that we need to strategize. We need to be prayerful and come up with a plan to protect our children from the negative effects of social media. We need to create an environment where our children can come to us with questions. As we answer their questions, we should try to use the Savior's words. We need to set boundaries together on internet/social media use as a family council.

Elder Robbins talked about how unfortunately our children sometimes seek their self worth in the internet. They compare themselves to the perfection they see portrayed there and can feel diminished. He says youth are looking for their identity on the internet, so point them toward family history work. This will help them find their true identity. The more time they spend on the internet, the lower their self worth will be. As parents, we need to help them to not be idle, and to retire early and arise early. Revelation comes best in the early morning hours. Also, Heavenly Father often publicly praised His Son. How often do we do that? We need to catch our children doing good and praise them for it. If we observe them, we can give them a true reflection of who they really are. Make a conscious effort to notice the good. We are their best mirror and can help them recognize their worth. Also, use For the Strength of Youth to plan family home evening lessons.

On pornography: Elder Costa made four good points. 1- Assume they have been exposed to it already. 2- Hold frequent father interviews. Guided by the spirit, ask questions to determine if it is a pattern or just a single incident. 3- Turn on our devices only once our intention is clear. Once you have accomplished your purpose, turn them off again. Don't idly scroll. 4- Have hope. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, anything can be overcome, including pornography.

On preparing for missions: Elder Ballard had some great advice. He said preparation should start early. Make sure our children know our expectations. Know your child's friends. Help them get a job and earn some money so that they know how to work. Help them be responsible for their own things. Teach them to pick up after themselves. Help them to read the Book of Mormon on their own and gain a testimony of it. Sit with your children and have them bear their testimony of Jesus Christ to you. If they can't, or aren't sure of His role in their life, help them to learn about Him. Read Preach My Gospel together. Teach them the value of one soul. Help them to understand what Christ did in Gethsemane for each of us.

I don't remember who said this, but we need to respect our child's agency. We teach them the doctrine, but we have to leave them at the crossroads of decision, trusting that the Holy Ghost will guide them and that they will listen.