Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Why are women so concerned about how they look? 
I'm not going to lie and say that I'm not. In one way or another all women are. I think there's a balance though, between being obsessed and not caring at all. The older I get, I don't care as much how I look, but even still, I have days when I don't feel as "beautiful" as I would like to.

 I attended a New Beginnings meeting last night (for young women ages 12-18) and several of the girls talked about how much they struggle with the way they look. One didn't like her clothes, another was teased a lot when she was younger about the way she looks and still struggles to overcome it, another said she actually thinks she's UGLY. So many young girls feel like they aren't pretty or good enough simply BECAUSE they aren't pretty enough. 

What's up with that? I think a lot of it comes from TV and movies. Everyone is SO perfect and beautiful and appear to be successful and happy only because they ARE beautiful. Somehow, beauty is tied to success and accomplishment, even though they don't really DO anything to show what they've accomplished, they only LOOK perfect. Does that make any sense?

The media is constantly telling us:

Perfect Beauty (fake or surgically enhanced or whatever) = 
Successful, desirable, "worthy", lovable, wanted, preferred, acceptable, better than.

Not Beautiful = unsuccessful, undesirable, not acceptable or worthy of love, less than. As in, don't even bother trying, your effort will not be measured on the same scale simply because you're not beautiful to begin with.

It made me really sad. I had trouble sleeping last night. I was sad, because I've had those same feelings before, and it's hard to overcome. Then, I felt even more upset because I don't want my girls to go through that. My girls are so precious and beautiful to me. I wonder if I'm doing all I can to help balance and even overcome the negative influence they receive from the media and society?

The funny thing is, I was really shocked to hear these young women say they look in the mirror and think they're ugly. For a minute, I actually thought they were joking. Let me say they are SO wrong in that belief. Each and every one of those young women are SO beautiful. Truly.

 Is it there faces? Their hair or eyes? Their clothes or shoes? Their smiles?

For me, this song is the answer. It helps me on days when I'm feeling down. It helps me everyday to remember what is most important and what I should be doing with my time here on earth.

It's appropriately titled, 
from Cherie Call 
(she is one of my absolute favorite singers ever -- I love her lyrics.)

Look at all the signs, Look at all the shows
All the glamorous people who claim to know
What perfection is and what makes beauty stay
But when all the styles go out and the labels fade away

It's what you give that makes you beautiful
It's how you live that makes your dreams come true
Keep your faith in this world,

And let the light of the Lord shine through

That's what makes you beautiful

Nothing burns as bright, nothing shimmers so
As the smile of a friend when hope is running low
And how your hand feels warm when you dry a tear
Love is still in fashion at the end of every year

It's what you give that makes you beautiful
It's how you live that makes your dreams come true
Keep your faith in this world,

And let the light of the Lord shine through

That's what makes you beautiful

Even roses fade away in the snow
But the beauty in your heart can always grow

It's what you give that makes you beautiful

It's how you live that makes your dreams come true
Keep your faith in this world,
And let the light of the Lord shine through

That's what makes you beautiful.

I was so thankful that each of those young women went on to say that Heavenly Father has helped them overcome these feelings of inadequacy. The Personal Progress program has helped them to feel like they are "more than just a pretty face" and what they do has value and meaning.

Another one of my favorite scriptures:

1 Samuel 16:7

"But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

I heard this years ago (supposedly it's from Audrey Hepburn):

For attractive lips,
Speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes,
Seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure,
Share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair,
Let a child run his/her fingers through it once a day.
For poise,
Walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, even more than things,
Have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed,
And redeemed; never throw out anyone.
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand,
You will find one at the end of each of your arms.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands;
One for helping yourself, and the other for helping others.
P.S. I found THE best quote to go with this post! It's from Elaine Dalton, 
"We are royal daughters of God and our value is not based on sensual appeal."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wasn't planning to bleed today...

Sometimes I just HAVE to write. Sometimes I can't function any more until I do. I have to drop whatever I'm doing and just write down what's in my head until my head feels clear. Get it out. Write it down. Let it come alive on paper. Let my mind utilize that space for new thoughts. Today is one of those days. 

I have SO much to do. I always do. Today especially. Last week I substituted at my friend's preschool 6 hours a day for 2 days, so I'm a bit behind on other things. 

It's okay though. I honestly enjoyed it. I was a bit tired by Friday evening, but I made it. The kids are absolutely ADORABLE. Really. The best part is, I got to take Beck with me. ;)

My friend has asked me to teach next year three days a week and just half a day. I'm so excited! I think it will be a great fit for my life right now in lots of ways. I really enjoy the kids and look forward to the teaching experience if I'm ever to become the "Ms. Frizzle" I want to be.

It's so fun to see kids at the preschool that I know their families as well. I can see their parent's facial expressions and mannerisms through them. How they stand and what they say and how they scrunch up their nose when they talk or smile. So amazing! I also got two special pictures drawn just for me -- Thanks, Jack and Keegan!

I'm still working on the quilt. Since January 26th is past, I'm shooting for February 1st :)
I'm so close. Last week, I remembered why I don't sew as much as I'd like and why I always stop in the middle of a project: 3 of my finger tips cracked on both sides of my nails. It is SO painful. I had to take a few days off to let them heal up again. Zeke says I always sew in the winter too -- he's right -- and there may be a correlation there since my hands are already dry. Oh, it's discouraging, but I'm not giving up!

Got my first "Bountiful Basket" on Saturday. Thanks, Nicole, for the suggestion!! I know I'm behind on that, but wow, it was fun and I look forward to the next one. Pineapple and watermelon in January? Okay!

Our house is *almost* done. Seriously. They are mudding, taping, and painting this week. Then, comes the flooring, lighting, interior doors, cabinets, exterior siding, brick...
It sounds like a lot, but it's going SO fast. 

Isn't it funny how you start something and you think it's going to take SO long? 
Then, you look back and it wasn't very long at all.

We've lived in this little apartment for SEVEN months! Wow. 
And now, in 5 or 6 weeks (hopefully) we'll move again.
We are SO blessed and I know it is a miracle from God.

I'm SO excited. I don't care how much we get moved in that first day, but when they give us the keys, the kids and I have decided we are taking sleeping bags and toothbrushes and spending the night on the floor if we have to. It's been an amazing adventure and to come this far and realize we're closer as a family than we were before we started? Even better. :)

Here's me in our freshly sheet-rocked kitchen! 


Another idea... Do you think someone can be too nice? I try to be nice to everyone. EVERYONE. Sincerely nice. I do. However, the last 10 years or so, the thought keeps creeping into the back of my mind that you CAN be too nice. I'm afraid sometimes I'm TOO nice. Not in a good way.

The last few years or so (as in, ever since I got on Facebook in 2008), this "too nice" thing has become more and more apparent. I'm friendly. I know a LOT of people from high school, college, church, my children's school, our neighborhood, etc. I like people. I love friends. I love to share positive things that lift people up. I love to laugh. I love sarcasm and inside jokes. I love making other people laugh. 

Lately though, there's been a person that continually puts negative comments on my Facebook and well, it's just become obnoxious. I've had family members send me private messages saying, "What's up with so-and-so? What's her problem?" The comments have been so childish and out of line I actually feel embarrassed for her. They try to sound "NICE" like, well, "if it was me I would NEVER do that, but you know, if that works for you", but NO, it's RUDE.

Comments about my children and their choices and appearance. REALLY? And our house. Oh, our house! Seriously, I should not be made to feel guilty because we are able to build this house. It is a huge blessing and miracle for us. Zeke worked hard to finish school and was blessed to get a really good job. The pictures and posts I share on Facebook are for family and friends that love and support us and want to see the progress.

I'm certain not everyone likes what we're doing or approves of it, (and that's okay) but THANK YOU for not saying so. Seriously. 

The really sad thing is, this person, was, I thought, a really good friend of mine. SO "top-notch" in my book if I had a "100 favorite people list" she would have been on it, but over the last few years, (I can actually pinpoint it to a specific day), she has changed. Poisoned by jealousy. Prone to excessive negative criticism about everything we do and/or don't do. It's not my idea of a friend. Not at all.

I had a really good talk with my husband on Sunday. Um, he's wonderful, by the way. Seriously, wonderful. I'm SO thankful to have him in my life. 

Anyway, long story short. He suggested I "unfriend" her. (Who knew that would be an almost universally recognized term 10 years ago??) Wow. That's BIG for me. I'm always trying to be "too nice", trying to avoid conflict, trying to put up with people being "not nice" and trying to tell myself "they're probably right" and "I must deserve it somehow". But you know, when he said that and I considered it... I felt a great peace. It's okay. I deserve better. So I did it. Negative thoughts and feelings? Gone. Wow.

This year is going to be a good one. 

Balance, Exactness, Focus

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday, Monday... so good to me

I love simple things. Mending. Gardening (indoor for today). Repairing random things. Watering my plants. Folding Clothes. Baking. Talking and laughing together. Helping my girls sew Barbie dresses. Building Legos with Beck. Listening to good music: Beatles, Mamas and the Papas, Elton John, Eagles, Van Morrison, CCR, Simon and Garfunkel. Making milkshakes with Gabe. Even vacuuming.

I've been able to do all of these things today and I feel so good inside. 
I love having a day off from all of the driving to and from schools. I needed to refuel.

What's wrong with me? It must be the music. :)
Every time I listen to the Beatles, I think of my niece, Jacey, who also loves them!
She has good taste.

It's cold outside. Freezing. The inversion is terrible. Another red air day. 
So hard for my Kaia with her asthma. Really, though, it's too cold for any of us to even want to play outside!

The kids are out of school today for Martin Luther King, Jr. day. 
I sat them down a couple days ago and read: 

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

I asked them who said it and why it's important. We had a good chat. They all knew immediately who said this quote and I felt thankful for the schools they attend. Kaia said, "Why do people care what color someone's skin is?" Good question, sweetie. During Christmas break, we watched "Remember the Titans" with all of the kids and it was interesting to see their reaction to it and learn that some people really do judge people by the color of their skin. Even today. I don't understand it either.

On Saturday, we were able to go to the Cabinet people and pick out all of the cabinets and countertops for our new house. It was SO absolutely FUN. Wow. Zeke and I really have similar tastes and that makes things easier, I'm sure. The lady that helped us said we were the fastest client she's ever worked with. 1-1/2 hours and we were done. Half of that was messing around and chatting. We knew what we wanted, at least, for the kitchen. Then, we had some fun back-ups that kept popping out at us and we thought they just "had to go somewhere", so we decided to use them in the bathrooms and laundry room. Why not? 
I love COLOR. 

Here they are, from top to bottom:
Cosmic Strandz (for the half bath)
Tangerine (for the laundry room)
Venetian Ivory (for our bathroom)
Aqua Fizz (for the main bathroom)
Deepstar Flint (for the kitchen)

The cabinets in the kitchen are white and the island is black. 
The laundry and bathroom cabinets are black.

I've finally allowed myself to get a little excited. It just seemed so far off. They've been building since October 15th (just over 3 months) and now it's finally coming together. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I start thinking about it and I get so excited I get butterflies in my stomach and I can't go back to sleep, like Christmas when I was little. We are SO blessed. 

P. S. I survived my talk yesterday. Ahhh.

Friday, January 18, 2013

"Katharine Hepburn's" Fudge Brownies

Okay, I don't even remember where I got this recipe from, but it's been our family's favorite brownies for years. They are SO yummy and easy to make. Not sure if the recipe actually comes from Katharine Hepburn, but that's the title on my recipe card. There was a lady in my neighborhood a very long time ago named Pauline Balls, and I think this recipe may have come from her...
"Katharine Hepburn's" Fudge Brownies

1/2 cup butter
6 Tbsp. Cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional (I like pecans)

Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, cocoa, and salt. Add flour. Add nuts. Bake in a greased 9x9 square pan at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. They will still be "doughy" inside when the toothpick comes out clean and the top and edges are crisp. Let them cool for at least 20-30 minutes (if you can!) so they can firm up a little, otherwise they fall apart (which doesn't really matter if you're adding them to some vanilla ice cream, right?)
You can also double this recipe and put it in a 9x13 pan.

"If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased". ~ Katharine Hepburn

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Garden Flowers" Appliques

 I did it! The flower appliques are on.
I used Wonder Under to fuse the appliques to the quilt.
I'm also going to stitch around the edge of each flower and center.
 The flowers really add to the overall look of the quilt.
Again, I LOVE the colors! 
Now, for the trim. :)

If you're just tuning in, I'm making this quilt for my dear friend, Tawnya.
She is an amazing writer. Her blog is: Drawn to the Flame. You should go check it out!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Two Conversions

How's your Tuesday? I'm pretty good, I guess. I have to speak in church on Sunday and that always makes me SO nervous. It's a good thing for this quilt I'm working on -- all of my nervous energy goes into making it, rather than preparing my talk. Why am I like that?

Anyway, the quilt is coming along nicely. I'm truly amazed. I forgot to mention that I'm converting a lap size quilt pattern into a queen-ish size quilt. It's been a bit of a challenge, but I found this great website that helped me with the measurements and such:

Here's the quilt as of Saturday (this is without the flower appliques and trim). I'm so excited! It's very satisfying for me to see a project come together and to look at it and say, "I made that." Tawnya, I hope you LOVE it!

Okay, back to my talk. The topic I was given is "The Parables of the Sower and the Wheat and Tares". I've been a bit overwhelmed by it. I've been studying the last few days and really thinking about what these parables mean. Zeke mentioned how interesting it is that the Lord allows the "wheat" and the "tares" to grow up together. Why? He said we need each other. I think he's right. I also think at any given time we can change our hearts for good or bad. 

We decide if we will be the "wheat" or if we will be one of the "tares". I also think it is our duty to seek out the "tares", to love them and help them, regardless of their beliefs or standing in the Church. I was once a "tare" -- a full-on, nasty WEED! I'm trying to be more like a "wheat" these days, but only because dear friends of mine took me by the hand long ago and loved me and helped me want to change.

Of course we think, "Oh, I will be the wheat. I will be faithful and good. I'm on the Lord's side". But how many times do we find ourselves justifying our poor behavior? Or not standing up for something we know is right? (I'm saying this, because I'm guilty of those things sometimes).

I love this quote:

 The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.  ~Edmund Burke

I found a great talk from Elder Richard G. Scott called, "Full Conversion Brings Happiness"

I'm sharing this with you, because when I read this part, especially the personal questions he poses to us, I literally felt sick to my stomach and my mouth went dry. I'm not sure if I'm truly and fully converted... I hope so, but now I wonder.

“The sower soweth the word. [Some sown] by the way side, … but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.”
Could that happen to you, in the wrong environment, with the wrong friendships?
“[Some] on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when … persecution ariseth … immediately they are offended.”
Have you ever been in a circumstance when someone proposed something inappropriate and you did nothing to resist it?
“[Some] sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world … and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”
Have there been times when you wanted something so badly that you justified an exception to your standards?
“[Some] sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.” 8
It's always very ironic to me when I discover the topic I've been given to speak on is the exact thing I need to work on. It's even harder to realize I've been thinking I was more like a "wheat" and that I've been truly converted, but while preparing this talk, it's become painfully apparent that I have a lot of work to do. Such is the blessing of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- we are constantly reminded to be better. Serving in the Church is good for me, because I'm always asked to step outside my comfort zone and to stretch and grow. 
I hope by Thursday I can post a picture of the finished quilt AND have my talk ready at least by Saturday...
Balance, Exactness, Focus

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January Project: Garden Flowers Quilt

Alright. As part of my "Balance, Exactness, Focus" Mantra for 2013, I'm going to finish up some projects I started last year. I want to finish what I start and I want my mind to be less cluttered (as well as my fabric bins!)

In addition to at least half a dozen other smaller things, I have three quilts I've been working on. Yes, THREE!! A "garden flowers" quilt for my friend, Tawnya, a pinwheel quilt for "someone" (it's a surprise!), and a T-shirt quilt for Gabe.

Here's a sneak peek of the "Garden Flowers" quilt.
I LOVE the colors!!  
(By the way, my phone doesn't have a flash on it... so not the best picture.) 

This is such a fun quilt. I offered to help my friend, Tawnya, make it... oh, I think it was LAST February! Yeah, I have a problem not finishing stuff. I'm sure Tawnya is regretting the day she handed it over to me. Sorry!!! However, in my defense: we moved 6 months ago, I'm currently without a sewing table/space to sew, and I'm actually more than halfway finished.

Anyway, I've made a lot of progress in the last week! I'm kicking myself for not finishing it before we moved, but at first I was a bit intimidated by it. I'm not the most experienced quilter, really. I think I told you that, right? It's been a really good experience for me, though, and so far, I think it's looking great! There was a great little spiritual analogy that came to me while making this quilt. I need to put it down into words so I can share it with you, but today I'm trying my best to focus on the quilt.

I've made a goal to finish it by January 26th! :) 
Balance, Exactness, Focus

Monday, January 7, 2013


Kaia and Beck made a giant paper boat during Christmas break. It was so awesome! Did I tell you how much I enjoyed Christmas break? It was a first for me. I was actually a little sad to see the kids go back to school today. Well, that is, until Gabe decided to throw a cup of water on Zoe this morning while they were getting ready for school. The ensuing water fight created the need for 3 of my 4 children to change into dry clothes before school and in less than 15 minutes... yeah. Beck was still asleep at that point or I'm sure he would've been wet too! Vacation's over! Hooray for school!

For weeks now, I've been thinking about my "New Years Resolutions" and "Word of the Year".  I love January. I love the feeling of starting something new, changing for the better, resolving to improve; however, I'm not always so good at following through. (Yeah, don't LAUGH!)

Last year my word was DISCIPLINE -- although I achieved many personal and financial goals in this area (by the way, I totally failed at the "NO SHOPPING" thing), I feel like this word wasn't exactly what I needed. Maybe FOCUS would have been a better one. I don't want to be perfect and give myself a list of strict "No's". I want to be balanced and give myself more allowances and rewards, even, for goals achieved; more "Yes, as soon as I finish this" sort of thing.

I heard a great quote a few weeks ago:

"If nothing changes, nothing changes."

A bit like the Albert Einstein "definition of insanity" quote, but to me, it's more concise and for some reason, much more profound.

This year, it's not one "word of the year" per se, 
it's more like a mantra.

When I look back, I've actually done a lot of great things in my life. I just want to feel more PEACE and SATISFACTION and PROGRESS. This year, I will use BALANCE and EXACTNESS and FOCUS in the way I do things. Now you might think balance sounds a bit contradicting or out of place with exactness and focus... "let me 'splain":

Balance in how much and when and why I do things:
  • I decide what is right for me -- when and how and why.
  • Not too much play, not too much work, not too much crazy, but a balance. (I know I cannot totally control all of this, but I'm going to control what I can -- I always get myself way in over my head with obligations and commitments.) Part of this balance is FUN for me -- as in, I gave myself permission to be on Pinterest again. Done.

Mosiah 4:27 "And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in wisdom and order."

Exactness in how I do things:
  • doing things right
  • finishing what I start
  • sticking to my plan
  • following up each week on my progress

This scripture keeps popping in my head over the last few months: Alma 57:21 "Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with EXACTNESS; yeah, and even according to their faith it was done unto them..."

Focus on what is truly important:
  • family (show love everyday)
  • health (physical, spiritual, and emotional) 
  • finances (use exactness and restraint to achieve financial goals)


Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
I'll let you know how I'm doing in a week... if I can focus that long.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Bread Sticks or Pizza Crust

Okay, this is another favorite recipe of mine from an old ward cookbook. The credit goes to a lady in my ward named Julie Thorngren. Thanks, Julie! It's been over 15 years since I was in that ward -- I can't remember her, but her breadsticks are DELICIOUS. All four of my children love them. In fact, if you have teenagers you might need to make a double batch!

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. yeast (or one package)
2 Tbsp. sugar

Combine the first three ingredients. Stir a little, then let it sit for about 5 minutes to let the yeast start to activate. 
1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/2 cups flour

Mix in about 2 1/2 cups of the flour and stir. Gradually add the remaining flour until soft and sticky. Knead 5-10 minutes. Let rise about 10 minutes.

At this point you could roll it out onto a pizza pan basted with olive oil and sprinkled with cornmeal and go from there, but for breadsticks here's what you do:

Melt most of a cup of butter (yes!) on a cookie sheet. Roll out dough and cut into 1 inch strips. Dip strips in butter* and twist together. Sprinkle with parsley, garlic, and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until golden brown (mine are usually done in about 12 minutes in my oven). This recipe makes about a dozen BIG breadsticks, 
depending on how thin you roll out the dough (I do about 3/8").

 *Dipping the strips in butter takes awhile and gets pretty messy, so I like to cut the strips, twist them together and lay them on the cookie sheet that has the butter melted on the bottom of it (so that coats the bottom of the breadsticks). Then, I take a basting brush and dab up some of the butter from the cookie sheet and coat the top of the breadsticks with it. The butter is what makes it SO yummy!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Christmas Magic

I was so excited during the weeks leading up to Christmas: decorating our little apartment, wrapping presents, baking goodies, reading Christmas stories each night, watching our favorite Christmas movies... I love it all.

The kids got out of school a few days before Christmas and I couldn't be happier. This year has been really crazy. Driving 4 kids to 4 different schools each morning has been insane... I can't seem to get anything accomplished, so I was really looking forward to the break. Just to chill and not drive everywhere all day and tell my kids a thousand times, "Time to get up, let's go, get in the car, we're going to be late, do your homework, go to bed!"

We live in the center of town where it's considered "walking distance" to all of the schools, so there are no buses to pick up my two older kids. Just to catch you up -- we sold our house and moved into an apartment the end of June. 1000 square feet, 6 people, 3 cats, yeah. But it's a actually good thing. We're building a house and it's supposed to be finished by March 1st, so I can almost see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Anyway, this is our first move in 9 years. I was really comfortable where we were. I knew everyone in our neighborhood and ward (church group). It was home. Exciting as the thought of building a new house may be, it has been quite an adjustment for all of us. We've been attending our new ward since we moved.

The new ward is nice enough, but it's new. I've really tried to get to know people and yet, I look around and I feel like I hardly know anyone.  We went to church the Sunday before Christmas and I was just feeling so sad. Walking into sacrament meeting, I felt like a total stranger. We sat down and saw so many people -- most of whom we didn't know, families that came to visit other ward members -- I had no idea who was who for that matter.

Anyway, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself... feeling sad that we moved... missing our old ward and neighborhood and friends... feeling very alone and hoping our Christmas break would be happy and relaxing. I've decided that moving is sort of like losing someone you love. Things will never be the same. You see or hear something that reminds you of your lost loved one or your old neighborhood and a flood of memories come back. It can be so overwhelming you feel like you will burst and no one really truly understands how you feel. No matter how wonderful your life is now, there's still something missing. Something that can never be replaced. It's a new "normal".

Sunday was bittersweet. New friends and cheerful smiles, a beautiful Christmas program -- but those familiar faces I've known for so long, those knowing smiles I'd come to rely on, the Christmas programs our ward did, the inside jokes, the special connections, and touching stories that bound us together for 9 years -- it just wasn't the same. That Sunday I couldn't figure out for the life of me why I chose to walk away from all of that. Familiar. Comfortable. Easy. My heart ached to go back, but really, there's no going back. Ever. It will never be the same. I look in the windows of our old home and see warm lights and happy smiles... but it's a new family. That life is gone.

I sound crazy. I know! We chose to leave. We felt like it was time to move on and bring our family closer together for many different reasons. We're so excited about our new house. REALLY. This year, however, I've truly realized it doesn't matter where you live. It matters what's inside you and what you do together as a family WHEREVER you live.

So after sacrament, I had agreed to substitute in nursery with the 3 year olds. I have to admit, I wasn't really looking forward to it. Since moving, I've been asked to sub in Primary (children's classes) a lot. It feels like every Sunday I'm there I'm substituting. I know I could say no, but that's just not me. I know they need help. Anyway, I feel like I haven't gotten to meet very many ladies in our ward because I never get to go to Relief Society. Blah blah blah, whine whine whine, I know. Nine years is a long time. I got really comfortable in our old ward. I knew everyone and everyone knew me. It's just going to take some time.

Nursery ended up being wonderful. The other lady helping in the nursery was so nice and friendly -- it means a lot. The children were adorable. We got to take them into Primary with the older kids for awhile to help them adjust since they would no longer be in nursery starting in January. They were so nervous. They didn't even know me and they held my hand so tight. A few of them had tears in their eyes and told me they wanted to go back to the nursery.

Everyone in the Primary was so excited to have the little nursery kids there. They were so friendly and they had fun songs and games for them -- but the nursery kids were afraid. They wanted something familiar and comfortable and easy. I knew just how they felt! My heart filled with love for these sweet little children. The rest of my Sunday was filled with serving and giving and understanding -- I wasn't feeling sorry for myself anymore. Substituting in nursery that day had been a gift just for me. A tender mercy from a kind and loving Heavenly Father. I loved nursery so much I offered to substitute the following Sunday! :)

Christmas was absolutely magical for me this year. I woke up on Christmas Eve feeling kind of depressed and stressed and blah. Not really sure why -- just a lot going on. I was wishing we could be with family -- we visited our parents for Thanksgiving and decided we would stay home for Christmas. It was snowing like crazy -- I was bummed thinking about our house that is waiting to be shingled and how many more weeks the storm will set us back. I was stressed -- Zeke and I were trying to deal with various issues with our children and it's just very emotionally draining and hard not to wallow in it sometimes. I was tired -- I remember curling up with the family to watch "Elf" around noon and I fell asleep for a bit. I hardly ever sleep in the middle of the day. Not sounding very magical, is it?

Okay, as a family, we like to pick someone to do the "12 days of Christmas" for each year. If I remember, I'll do a blog post about what we actually do -- it's very inexpensive and really fun. Anyway, the person we chose was someone we didn't know very well --  a man who lives by our apartment. He lives alone and well, all six of us wanted him to be the one for various reasons. So that was definitely a great experience -- anonymously leaving treats and gifts on his doorstep each night for eleven nights. We hoped it would bring him some Christmas cheer.

Christmas Eve was the last day. On this day, we all go as a family and introduce ourselves and give the final treat. I was still feeling blah and it was still snowing. We bundled up around 3pm and trudged over to his apartment. He was SO thrilled to finally learn who had been leaving all of the treats. We had met him previously this fall so it was fun to chat and get to know him better. It was then I noticed a little bit of happy creep into my heart, a little less blah -- I was thinking about someone else besides myself.

Directly in front of his apartment is a narrow alleyway on a fairly steep hill. By this time, the snow was at least 6 inches deep and there were no snow plows in sight on Christmas Eve. We ran back over to our apartment, bundled up a little more, grabbed our sleds, and raced back to the alley. It was awesome!    The alley was great: not too fast, not too bumpy, and all to ourselves. It was then I realized I was smiling and laughing AND that I had been for quite awhile.

The man we had just visited came outside and visited some more while we sledded and watched the kids.  He told us more about him --  both his parents had passed away, he was divorced twice, and his kids were grown and married and really didn't visit him much. It's almost as hard for me to type that sentence as it was for me to hear him say it. I can still see his face and the ache I felt in my heart. I wish I could tell you more about him, but I don't want to get too personal.

We had a really good visit and I just knew we needed to invite him over for Christmas Day to eat dinner with us. I looked at Zeke and I knew he was thinking the same thing. So we did. He said he might come. He was invited to his brother's house a couple hours away, but with the storm he wasn't sure if he wanted to travel that far. We encouraged him to come over and hang out with us.

We came in from sledding way past dark and I seriously felt like a little kid again. I can't remember the last time I've felt quite that way. It was truly magical! What a simple thing -- taking treats to a neighbor and spontaneously going sledding on an empty street. Later, we opened our traditional Christmas Eve present (or two or three -- thanks Grandmas and Grandpas!) The kids were excited about their presents, but they kept mentioning how much fun it had been to go sledding and how excited they were to have our new friend over for dinner the next day.

We read the account of the Savior's birth from the Bible and somehow got the kids in bed (notice I didn't say ASLEEP). Christmas morning came bright and early as Beck woke up at 5am wanting to know "did he come? did Santa come?" I think we got everyone up and ready to go around 6am. We opened presents and it was crazy. (I'll save that story for another day.) Anyway... it was mostly good.

After breakfast, I started fixing our Christmas Dinner. We planned to eat at 3pm and there was lots to do. Everyone pitched in and at 2:55, the table was set and ready, so I went to the bathroom to freshen up a bit before dinner. While I was in the bathroom I heard the doorbell ring. A wave of butterflies surged through my stomach -- he's here! I wasn't sure if he would really come. I was nervous, but excited.

We had a great dinner. He was so grateful and kind. He was really interesting to talk to and the conversation just seemed to flow. He kept complimenting our children on their good manners (what the? yeah, it was a truly magical day in many ways). He stayed for a few hours and I felt like it was one of THE best Christmases I've ever had. We talked a lot about our beliefs and membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He is also a member of our Church.

My heart ached for all that he has been through and all that he is going through. Suddenly, my "trials" and "troubles" seemed so incredibly trivial and even foolish and shameful. I tried to empathize with him, but I found myself flailing over every word I'd try to say. He was so happy just to have someone to spend Christmas with and I felt ashamed for feeling so crowded and overwhelmed with my little family sometimes. He has so many health problems and I felt so grateful to realize how healthy we really are and what a blessing that is.

Without any fancy presents, parties, or plans, and basically a "stranger" at our table, I felt closer to the Savior this Christmas than any other Christmas I can recall. I felt His love for me and my sweet little family. I felt His love for this kind man. I felt JOY. I don't know how to describe it, but joy is different from happiness. It is more than happy. It floods your entire mind and body with peace and fulfillment and hope and love. It's the true Spirit of Christmas.

This feeling set the mood for our family. Again, this is not like other Christmases. We're usually all sick and fighting most of the time. We have been SO blessed for Zeke to have two weeks vacation from work. It's been so cold and it has snowed so much, we haven't really gone anywhere. Quite simply, we have spent time together. The clock has literally come to a stop and it has been the most wonderful Christmas, here in this tiny apartment.

Just being together. No plans, no running around, no expectations, no fevers, no doctor visits, no alarm clocks, no homework, no schedules: just playing, cooking, eating, watching movies, building with Legos, taking pictures, laughing, playing video games and board games, singing, dancing, thinking, talking, reading, napping, cuddling, living, being. There is no price tag on the gifts I have received.
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