It's pretty much the end of the year. If I'm honest, 2015 was a more difficult year for our family. I won't go into all the gory details (no one wants to hear a whine fest out of me), but things have been financially, emotionally, psychologically, physically, repairy, family-y, and scheduly tough.
We have been spread thin this year like never before ("like butter scraped over too much bread," I love that quote).
And, as long as I'm being honest, there have been moments when I have really felt the strain of it all. There have been moments when I felt like I might break in two and I wasn't sure how to keep going.
And it was in those moments that Satan came at me.
He does that. He isn't nice.
When he could see that I was weak, he dashed in to poke my pain.
And, unfortunately, sometimes I let him get away with it. Sometimes I would wallow or sink into despair and sometimes I let hope fizzle a bit as misery and desperation washed into my soul.
But it was in one of those dark and heavy moments that Satan really screwed up.
It was a Sunday morning, several weeks ago. I was spent.
Josh had been working a second job for months which took him away from our family nearly every night until 11 or 12 (we did get Mondays and he had Wednesdays for bishop appointments) and all day Saturdays (seriously, all day -- he left by 7am and didn't get home until close to midnight which meant after Wednesday we didn't see him again until Sunday afternoon). And because he was gone so much, that meant I had to do everything family and home related on my own. That meant running six kids to all of their classes, activities, events, and meetings while still trying to be home enough to cook dinner, do laundry, and manage repairs and messes. I also started a job at the elementary school in August which meant I was no longer at home during the day to take care of things.
I'm not claiming that my life was harder than anyone else's, but it was difficult for me. It was hard to stay positive and keep smiling for my kids when I felt very alone and very stressed and very tired ALL the time.
Anyway, that Sunday morning I suddenly realized I hadn't printed the handouts I needed for my primary lesson, I forgot to buy a snack to take to sacrament meeting, and kids were not cooperating when it came to getting dressed and ready for church.
I felt like I couldn't take any more.
I locked the door to my bedroom and I fell down on my knees beaten and overwhelmed and that's when Satan meandered in, almost gloating.
"You shouldn't have to do this," he seethed at me. "You have been faithful and good. You have worked hard to bless the lives of the kids at school and be a good mother to your kids here. You live on a tight budget and you don't spend money on frivolous things. You count every single penny and you make do and go without a lot of things. You are devoted to the gospel and you try to live righteously. You pray and read your scriptures. You try to serve others and do your best to be aware of the needs of people in your life. It really shouldn't be this hard when you are trying so hard."
And he had me. I was nodding my head and stepping up into his dark and loathsome bandwagon.
But that's when he made his fatal error.
"You have done so much, soooo much. You deserve better. God has turned His back on you, it's about time you turn away from Him."
And that did it. That was too much. Something inside me snapped.
I stood up, ramrod straight, and I (no kidding, it was probably a moderately humorous sight) pointed my finger at someone I couldn't see and I shouted words that came from my very core, "Never! I will NEVER turn away from my God!"
And suddenly I could see the trap I had let myself start to fall into and I knew I needed to get away NOW!
So I kept going, and I meant every word, "You can go ahead, you can keep piling it on. You can bring me financial ruin. You can bring me heartache and pain. You can attack my children so I am fighting for their souls every day. You can make my house fall down around me. You can try to divide me from my husband. You can turn my neighbors and friends against me. But nothing you can do -- NOTHING you can do -- will make me turn away from my God. He is all I really have and I will not lose Him no matter what you say."
And I threw on Sunday clothes, gathered my brood of littles (some more scraggly looking than I like, but oh well), scraped together some crackers and quick printed a coloring page for my primary kids and I headed to sacrament meeting. And I sat there soaking in absolutely zero of the message that was shared because all I felt was peace and comfort and a deep, soothing sense that all would be well -- not that all would be easy, not that all would be fixed, but all would be well.
Because what matters in our lives is not our moments of weakness exist (they happen to all of us). What matters is where we go from there. Do we hand ourselves over to the Master of Lies and let him lead us into a prison of discouragement and doubt. Or, do we grab on to whatever shred of love and hope we have in the Savior and let His power, His Atonement, pull us out of the mire even if our link to Him is worn down to little more than a thread.
The choice is ours, and it will be ours time and time again in our lives. Satan will never leave us alone.
But neither will God.
Especially, neither will God. We are His, and He will not willingly let us go. The only way to separate ourselves from him is for us to choose that.
And that is a choice I refuse to make.
I fall short in so many ways. I am weak and judgemental and emotional and unkind and selfish and I have a ton of things to fix. I know that. I am very aware of my many weaknesses.
But I also know this. No matter how hard life gets, life without the guidance and support and love of my God would not make things better, it would only make things infinitely worse.
I will not choose that.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Our holiday season has been busy (to say the least), but it has been dotted with really fabulous moments.
Looking back over the month I can see so many tiny pieces of everyday happenings that have been stitched together to create a picture of life I hope my babies can revel in and remember.
As we all get ready to celebrate Christmas tomorrow, I hope we can remember the sweet times, the smiles, the gentle hugs, the lights and sounds and beauty of this sacred time of year.
And then I hope we can sink down, enjoy the precious spirit of love that seems to fill this time of year and cherish the minutes spent with people we love best.
(Temple Square trip)
(Bryce worked Christkindlmarkt and got this sweet hat for his trouble)
(So much fun in the snow)
(Remembering my sweet Grandma who passed away earlier this year)
(Time in the dessert with Grandma and Great-Grandpa)
(Moments with ancient artwork)
(Moments with ancienter footprints)
(Moments with a flat tire -- and my boys did the bulk of the work to change it -- that is one great teaching moment indeed)
(Girls performed around the valley)
(Aubs helps Santa hand out presents at the family party...and Santa was the cutest ever!)
(G makes his own wrapping for gifts...good thinking, buddy boy!)
A very Merry Christmas from our family to yours. May you feel the love and peace of our Savior this season and always.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Sometimes on a Monday evening my family (like my bigger extended family) schedules a Christmas party. We mostly only ever do this in December.
And, sometimes we decide to do a mystery dinner box competition as part of our celebration. Yeah, we're cool like that (and we like food so there you go).
Anyway, that's what we did this time around as part of our par-tay.
We opened our box Monday afternoon and found within it:
Chinese green beans
Sounds like a good time waiting to happen.
And we dove in. We batted around a couple ideas and a few flavor profiles that might work. Pretty quick Josh had the fabulous idea to make dumplings (my sweet sister-in-law, Lisa, taught us this skill not too long ago).
I diced and lightly breaded and fried the squash and eggplant while Josh made dumpling dough.
We ground up the chicken and cooked it adding some homemade teriyaki sauce for some sweetness to balance the eggplant (which can be bitter I'm told...this was my first experience with it).
We packed the veggie/chicken chutney in the dumplings, cooked them up (and cooked the beans in the ham sprinkling them with brown sugar) and we were set.
At the party, we plated our creation and waited for the judges to taste and score everything.
The competition was really tough. There are some really fabulous cooks in my family and I was impressed with every one's offerings. They all tasted good and were all so different. It was fun to try everything.
And then the big moment.
And the winner was....
well, not us.
In fact, we came in dead last.
However, the dumplings really did taste great and several people asked how to make them (before they found out we were losers).
I blame the judges.
These three had it out for us from the get go.
Seriously, it was a really fun activity and a great way to try something new at our family feast.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Good 'ol Pinterest came through for me again.
When Aubrey came to me looking for an idea of something simple to make for her friends for Christmas I quick snapped open my handy dandy Pinterest account and in no time flat we found this little number (which, admittedly, looks way cuter and way more shnazzy on their site than it does on mine).
So, after a brief moment of sugar craftiness, Aubrey came away with treats for her friends that she made herself that she thinks are adorable and everyone is happy.
And there were even enough that Parker got to take some for his buddies as well (see, even boys like Pinterest).
Thanks Pinterest, king of idea websites (at least for me) for saving the day and making my kids smile and rotting their friend's teeth. Merry Christmas!
Saturday, December 12, 2015
Last week was our annual dance performance of The Nutcracker.
Aubrey has been a part of this production for the last four years (this is her fifth), but this year Ellie started dance so my baby girl joined her big sister in the fun.
Because the girls are part of the group's musical theater class as well as dance, they performed in the pre-show singing Christmas songs for an audience of parents and friends.
(FYI: musical theater is my favorite.)
We had one Nutcracker performance on Friday night that went fairly late, which meant that come the Saturday afternoon show some people were a little less cooperative and a little more ornery than usual.
Other people were pretty much their regular selves.
Ellie danced in the Sugar Plum world as one of the Puffoon children, spending part of the time hiding in her mother's clutch. It was really cute and she had a great time.
Aubrey's class did a Flower Waltz this year and it was lovely. Aubrey has come a long way as a dancer and I love watching her and seeing the growth she has worked to achieve. She is a sweetheart and a kind mentor to her baby sister and I am grateful we have her around.
Following our Saturday Nutcracker gig we booked it home to eat and then after a quick change of clothes we schlepped the girls off to the Festival of Trees where they had another musical theater performance that night. December is always dotted with trips to nursing homes, care centers, festivals and parties where our girls get to perform. I greatly appreciate the chance they have to do something scary, be in front of people, smile and sing and try to brighten the lives of those around them.
Plus, I love to watch them.
Sometimes it gets a bit crazy, but the experience my little ones gain is well worth the scheduling drama and driving to all corners of the valley.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
If you don't have a chemist living in your neighborhood you really should think about getting one.
Luckily, we have one who is readily available and also incredibly willing to share his insight and chemical know how with our family.
And we eat it up!
(Well, not literally. He doesn't always tell us what the chemicals are and we don't want to chance it.)
Over the last couple years we have had looooots of fun when our dear friend sends us home with a baggie of this and a tells us to add a bit of that and then watch what it does. Sometimes it changes color. Sometimes it makes things move. Often it bursts into flame. That's my children's favorite!
Seriously. Get yourself a chemist. You won't be sad you did.
(Our latest fun.)
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Sometimes as part of family home evening we have an impromptu lesson on how electricity/wiring works with a hands on demonstration involving mending broken strings of Christmas lights.
That's 'cause our dad is pretty awesome. I am really really lucky that a man like that would choose to spend his life with me and be such an incredible father to our little brood. He is my favorite person ever.
(And sometimes we keep our bathroom faucet in the background of the living room until we can get it properly installed...that's just how we are.)
No day around here is ever boring (heaven forbid) but also no day around here is ever wasted. We try to make sure that something good comes out of every single day for our family. Sometimes that looks like jokes over dinner and sometimes it is more like service projects for the neighbors or stories on laps in the living room.
It is good to get these growing peeps together for pretty much any moment because family is built moment by moment until that foundation of tiny pieces is so strong it can support us through just about anything.
At least that's how I see it.
Plus, lessons on electricity are a good thing.
Friday, December 4, 2015
Griping at things.
So lately, when I drive it, my car does this...
It glitches to its heart content which is always fun when you are on the freeway (which I was when Bryce filmed this snippet).
It sort of stinks.
We've had it in to the shop a few times and they haven't been able to identify the problem yet (after hours of looking, they are almost as frustrated as we are). We replaced the control panel hoping that would help...but it didn't. Then we replaced the battery hoping that would help...but it didn't.
So now, we get round three in the "let's diagnose the problem" phase of this adventure. Lucky us.
Sigh. If only I'd been born a mechanic...or a genie.
We hate...that's right, I said the H word...we HAAAATE plumbing issues around here.
Plumbing is Josh's nemesis. The two are mortal enemies. They can live in peace if both are quiet and don't really acknowledge each other, but if they have to come face to face it is death...or at least pain and whining.
This week, the plumbing in both of our bathrooms started acting up and Josh couldn't get them to behave. He even took a day off work to try to get a handle on the situation, but no dice. We still didn't have working bathroom faucets.
So we called in reinforcements in the form of our good friend who used to be a plumber. He is so good to be willing to come help (and that is tomorrow, so hopefully he and the plumbing will see eye to eye and then we can all live happily ever after).
The frame of our bed which has been limping along in pain for several years decided to just plain give out. This left me with a huge pile of stuff that used to be stored under the bed.
So, we took out the frame, propped the mattress and box springs on the floor so now we are low to the ground in case of earthquake (shorter fall, ya know) and our bed is a little less squeaky so really all is well. The kids love it because it is like a ready made wrestling platform at just the right height.
But at least there are moments like this that I find hiding on my phone when I download things to bring a smile and a chuckle to me. It is nice to remember that life is full of fabulous moments...even if not ALL of the moments are fabulous. Yes, there are hard things to face. Yes, there are setback and struggles. However, if I add up the good I can see all around me, it barely even leaves enough room to acknowledge that trouble tends to plop firmly down on us as well.
But we still HATE plumbing.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Our dryer has been slacking in its duties of late.
Oh, it tumbles clothes around, and even warms them up, but it takes a full two cycles to REALLY dry things anymore.
This is unacceptable to me. I do not appreciate appliance rebellion in any form, but the dryer and I have always been friends so I am prone to think maybe he doesn't feel well somehow.
So I went about trying to help him feel better. I emptied out the lint trap (I am very particular about cleaning the screen after every load, but I took the casing apart and vacuumed out everything I could reach -- this I do every few months anyway, so no big deal). That didn't seem to make a lot of difference so then I detached the exhaust hose and vacuumed that out which was a bit more tricky, but still manageable.
Unfortunately, that didn't seem to do a lot either so then I knew it was time to call in the bigger guns.
I got together with my other good friend, the Internet, and we tried to reason out an answer and determine why my dryer wasn't fully participating in clothes drying anymore. After learning the basics about the internal workings of a dryer, I set to work to remedy the problem my Internet pals said was most likely causing the issue.
I tore into the dryer (thank you people who know what they are doing and make videos about how to do it) and cleaned lint and dust and muck out of all the corners of the insides of the dryer. It wasn't easy moving the fat, heavy stackable washer/dryer combo around because super-woman I am not, but with lots of grunting and shoving I got there.
There was one mishap which found the dryer top clattering into the back panel I had set aside which was holding all the screws I had removed sending them catapulting around the washroom for a fun (um, no) little game of hide-and-seek, but after searching the contents of the laundry baskets one piece piece of clothing at a time I eventually reclaimed all the escapees.
(Except for this little monster who seems pretty obvious, but actually managed to elude me longer than the rest. Somehow he secreted himself underneath a laundry basket and stayed there snickering for some time. Little pill.)
Anyway, as I was finishing my project by vacuuming the insides from the top down, Josh came home from work and decided to be helpful with the camera.
Yeah, helpful (sarcasm to the nth degree). JOSHUA!!!
And now (hopefully) the dryer is feeling back to normal and will do his job without a hitch. I'm crossing my fingers that he keeps at it for a good long time.