...and they all lived happily ever after...

...and they all lived happily ever after...

Monday, December 30, 2013

Wish Granted

TwinkleTwinkleTwinkleTwinkle BLAM!

Wish granted!

Nice work Santa!  Smooth move for the man in red.

(Gavin has pretty much lived in his tent since Christmas morning.  He loves having his own bit of space.)

Even without remodeling our house Gavin's wish came true.  It's a Christmas miracle.  Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fun in the snow

It snowed here in Utah during the Christmas break.

The kids have loved that.  They have had a ton of fun playing in the white, wet stuff.

Take a peek.

(Ok, this one has nothing to do with snow, but the flashing Rudolph nose was so much fun I had to put it in...Ellie wore it everywhere until it started to hurt her face.)

Bryce used a tupperware container to build a snow fort.

Josh and I have taken the kids sledding a couple times at a local hill.  The first time we were all along, the second time the place was hopping, but both times were a ton of fun.

Aubrey helping Logan to try out our little snow board.

These little shovel head sleds were on clearance last spring so we bought a few.  The kids weren't sure the sleds would work but were thrilled when they were able to zip down the hill with reckless abandon.

However, there were some down sides to the snow as well.  We had some freezing rain along with our snow and that ended up being the death of our house hung Christmas lights.  Gigantic real icicles decided to dangle from our icicle lights and said ice ended up ruining most of our lights.  Sad.

Poor Josh had to scramble up on the chilly roof and extricate our frozen strings of lights.  They pretty much didn't survive the procedure, but Josh made it out unscathed (although very cold).

It was Weather Related Death to the Christmas Lights at the DeMoux home this year.  Oh well, thanks to Lowe's after Christmas sale for helping us restock our light supply and keep to a tight budget.  

Tons of shoveling has kept us fit (there is plenty to do as we have a couple neighbors who need help keeping their walks clear) and we have gotten good use from our snow gear.  Take that winter!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Why Chistmas

Just a little reminder (a few days before the big day) about why we go to all the trouble.

I think we can all use a little more of this in our lives.  I know I have a lot of room to improve.  May the spirit of our Savior fill your home this season and always and may you become more and more like Him every single day.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bryce's Christmas Orchestra Concert 2013

Bryce performed in the Christmas orchestra concert this past week and did a great job.  He played the piano for both the cadet and the concert orchestras so he had to learn twice as many songs as the other students, but he did really well.  I am awfully proud of his determination and work.  He is one incredible kid.

(This one features the piano most prominently so it is the best to really hear Bryce.  It was also his most difficult piece so I am particularly proud of his work here.)

Keep it up, big guy.  You get better and better all the time and I am so pleased with all you are learning.  You really are an amazing young man.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sex talk....again

Yesterday, I was minding my own business on the living room couch when I was interrupted by my stuttering daughter.

My eleven year old was sputtering her way through some words, but even though I was trying to listen I just couldn't make anything out of what she was saying.  Eventually I realized she had some sort of question about sex (which stemmed from some fairly innocent things she had encountered in a book -- she is reading the Twilight series at the moment -- actually she has been begging to read these books for quite a while and after some conversations about truth vs fiction and healthy human relationships Josh and I agreed to let her read them).

However, she was being horribly squeamish about the whole thing.  She wanted to know how Bella ended up pregnant in the fourth book.

Um, while the book is not graphic, I sort of thought she would manage that one on her own as there really is not a lot of variety in the logistics of that process.

This is soooooo not how I was hoping to spend the quiet moments of my morning.

I said, "Well, how does a woman get pregnant."

She turned bright red and sort of hemmed and hawed around the whole thing culminating with twitching eyes and a muttered, "I don't know."

Oh my gosh.  Seriously!  I said something to the effect of, "Yes, you do, come on."  But Aubs wasn't playing along.  She was obviously embarrassed, but still hanging around because wanted her questions addressed and was hoping I would drop the whole "mom" thing and just get to the heart of it.

Well, just then Logan (age 6) wandered into the room.  I took advantage of that and asked him, "Logan, how does a mommy get pregnant."

He rattled off a pretty simple explanation (6 year old, remember, he doesn't need gory details just yet) about a man's penis in a woman's vagina.  Nice job, son! (He takes after his father in this arena.)

Aubrey conceded that this was an acceptable answer, but seemed to be looking for more.  So I pulled out my trusty human anatomy book and we talked a little bit about sperm and eggs and the like.  Logan was interested as well so he tagged along in the conversation.  After an uncomfortable start, it turned out to be a pretty good learning moment.

Until we got to the part where Logan wanted to know if Josh and I ever did that (had sex).

Me (trying to keep my panic tucked in): "Yes, son, we do."

Logan: "Do you do it a lot?"

Me (swallow the panic): "Well, that is really pretty personal and is between me and your dad."

Logan (thoughtfully): "Where do you do it?"

Me (panic seeping out now): "Well, Logan, that's not really something you need to worry about.  It's pretty private."

Logan (inquisitive little monster): "How about the grocery store?  Do you and dad ever do that in the grocery store?"

Me (panic): "What!  No!  There are lots of people there, we wouldn't do that in the grocery store?"

Logan: "What about in the bathroom at the store, no one would see you there?"

Me (that's it, I'm leaving the room now): "No, Logan, it's pretty much just something we do at home where NO ONE can see."  And that's when I was suddenly needed somewhere else in the house for something...at least that's the story I'm sticking with.

Shake my head, what a little trouble maker.

I am so grateful that the kids will come to me when they are looking for info.  I want them to know that it is safe to ask me ANYTHING (even if it doesn't feel safe to me all the time, some of these questions are much less comfortable to address than others).  I don't want them wondering about the truth and stumbling on muddled or misguided answers from friends or other sources.  I want them coming to me.

Even if it is awkward for me.

I guess the ceiling on my sex talk endurance may be low in some spots. Trust Logan to push my limits.

Man oh man, I do wish they would go to their dad with this stuff once in a while.

Monday, December 16, 2013

How to ask for your own bedroom

This weekend, I read one of my favorite persuasive essays ever.

I do love a persuasive essays.  I always loved writing them in school, and now I enjoy perusing someone else's opinions and ideas by reading them.

This particular essay happened to be written by my 8 year old son (with the encouragement of an amazing 2nd grade teacher).  Gavin tells me they have been doing a lot of writing in class and his teacher is pushing the students to put their heart into their work.

And so he did.

This is what my cute little diplomat wrote.

The note reads:

"Dear Mom and Dad,
I love you so much and I have a favor to ask.  I have been thinking about this for a little while.  Can I have my own room?  The first reason is that Logan snores at night and wakes me up.  You want me to be wide awake for school don't you?  Second is that Logan always makes a mess and I have to clean it up.  Third is that I sometimes fall off the top bunk (not actually true for you readers, he sometimes slips when he opts to climb up the front of the bed instead of using the ladder, but still).  You don't want me to get hurt do you?  Finally, if I get my own room I'll clean up the toy box for a year and sweep the upstairs for a year.
From Gavin"

First off, note that his handwriting is MUCH better than mine (nice job G) and secondly I'm not sure anyone could help but smile at reading this(Josh and I couldn't, we were highly amused and very pleased all at the same time).  It makes we wish I had a spare bedroom lounging around somewhere that I could give him.

Sadly (for this young man) he will have to continue to share a room with his brother (which I actually believe teaches some important lessons about sharing and working together despite the suggested snoring), but I could not be more proud of his careful thought or concise expression of opinions and desires.  He even tried to get our emotions involved by suggesting that he might get hurt or lack sleep if we didn't go along with his plan.  I'm not sure that really worked in his favor (we are not easily swayed by such tactics), but it did make us smile.  What a fabulous and creative way to approach his problem.  Love that guy!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How we answer the question of Santa Claus to our kids

The first time I faced the Santa question was when Bryce was only five years old.

He was very young and very innocent and a friend at school had told him there was no such thing as Santa (it's rough when other children are involved in things like this) .  Bryce was seriously concerned.  He knew he believed for himself, but he came home with a question for me.

"Mom, do YOU believe in Santa?"  His face was so open and tender.  I knew my response mattered to him. 

I didn't even really have to think about this one before I answered.  I told him that I absolutely do believe in Santa Claus and that I hoped he did too.  He smiled, I gave him a hug and sent him on his way.  And that was good enough for that day.

But that was when I realized I needed to come up with a plan because one day that little sprite (and the five little sprites that follow along behind him) was going to come to me and press a little more insistently for answers and I needed to know before hand what I was going to tell him.

So, I started paying attention and listening to ideas.  I knew that I wanted to help solidify in my sweethearts the knowledge that Santa is important, that he stand for something beyond just a Ho Ho Hoing man in a red hat.  To me Santa is a reminder of selfless kindness, belief in something un-understandable and unexplainable, and a notion that goodness is of value and should be treasured.

Then, one day I stumbled upon this story and I knew it was exactly what we needed. (As a side note, Josh is all for this plan as well, but the kids come to me on this issue every time so far so I have been the one to deal with it hands on.  If only they would go to him for questions about sex, then we would be even.  Sigh.)  Anyway, here is the story.


I remember my first Christmas party with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My grandma is not the gushy kind, never was. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me.

"No Santa Claus!" she snorted. "Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumour has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second cinnamon bun.

"Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. 'Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself.

The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbours, the kids at school, the people who went to my church. I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobbie Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class.

Bobbie Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out for recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobbie Decker didn't have a cough, and he didn't have a coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobbie Decker a coat.

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

"Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down.

"Yes," I replied shyly. "It's ... for Bobbie."

The nice lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons, and write, "To Bobbie, From Santa Claus" on it-- Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobbie Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobbie's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobbie.

Forty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my grandma, in Bobbie Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumours about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.


I tend to push the kids off on the serious, sit down talk as long as I can.  I wait for them to REALLY want to know before I will take on this particular conversation.  But, as each of my youngsters has come to me when they are ready and are honestly looking for answers (and I have one at that place this year which is why this is on my mind I guess), this is the story I share with them.  Then I tell them that although I may be the one that wraps the gifts and fills the stockings here at our house, I do believe in Santa Claus.
I believe in what he stands for.  I believe in the message he shares and the life he represents.  I believe in his love of children and his open heart and his selfless acts of service.  
No, there is not one single person who gets all done up in red each year and slides down chimneys, but together -- we as a people, as a family -- we are Santa Claus.  We become him on Christmas Eve in our living rooms, but it is so much more than that.  We are Santa when we put goodness and right before convenience or personal gain.  We are Santa when we bless the lives of others even in small ways...maybe, especially in small ways.
We are Santa when we accept that there is much more to life than what our eyes can actually see and when we reach for the goodness within and allow it to come pouring through our souls.
For me, Santa is a symbol and I love what he teaches.  I WANT him to be part of my Christmases forever after.  For me, he has very little to do with the momentary bestowal of gifts and much more to do with the timbre of emotions I want flooding through my home this season.  For me, Santa is there when Aubrey and I are making simple holiday treats for her friends and instead of making the eight she needed we make ten instead and decide to have her give one to a couple someones who might not be remembered otherwise.  Santa is there when a trio of sprites run a simple, hand-made ornament around the block to a sweet lady living far from family and visit with her for a bit.  Santa is peeking out from behind these things reminding us that there is more to life than ourselves.
And I want my children to be part of that whether they think there is really a fat, jolly man in a reindeer drawn sleighs in the sky or not.
Christmas is about our Savior, Jesus Christ.  He is the entire point of this holiday, and for our family Santa Claus helps us remember to be the kind of person that our Savior wants us to be.
We want to be on that team.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Family Christmas Fun

This week we had  our annual Whitmer family Christmas extravaganza!
(That's our family party with my parents, brothers, and their families.)
My mom was blessed with creativity plus one so these events are always full of something interesting and fun.  We had the party at the cemetery (or, actually the seminary where my dad teaches, but Ellie didn't quite catch the difference there so it was the cemetery all night to her).
We generally have a theme for sibling gifts and this year our theme was "something from your childhood" which turned out to be a fun walk down memory lane for all of us.  We yacked about games we played and adventures we had (like my Grandpa Grange getting us to chew pine gum over and over and then laughing at how silly we looked when we weren't looking).
Anyway, the gifts ranged from Popple coloring books and 80's movies (like Goonies) to mini rockets and Ninja Turtle fun.
Brian and Paula (born in early 80's) got Josh and I this awesome vintage (ha ha) game that they grew up playing called "Pogs."  I knew nothing about these things (I'm about 6 years older than Brian so I guess I missed this fad but it seems that it was huge when he was growing up).  My boys have been all over them today so maybe they will make a comeback.

We also got these fabulous red blocks.
What?  You don't remember these from your growing up years?  Well, I had a passion for horses when I was young and I used to clomp around the house pretending to be a horse with blocks just like these clutched in my hands as hooves (I may have also forced by brothers into this fantasy as well).  It was really fun to remember it all.

As interesting as the gifting part for grown ups was, we didn't just ignore the children all night.
We involved our littles in a mini-program that was also reminiscent of things we did as kids.  My mom put together unique musical programs that or family performed all over the place for a couple years (ward parties, for neighbors, at old folks homes etc).  Here is the song we performed with our kidlets at the party.  Wow, this brought back memories!
My sisters-in-law (Heather and Jenny) put together some fun things for the kids.  They made Christmas tree shirts for all the girls...

...and moustache hats for all the boys.

We also invited Santa to the festivities.  Each family brings a little something to put into a stocking for the kids so pretty quick everyone's stocking is full of fun stuff without too much trouble for any one person (sometimes it is a home made treat or a little thing from the dollar store, it can be anything you want to share). 

We had a small glitch when Santa teasingly told Ellie and Logan that they didn't get a stocking because they were on the naughty list (silly Grandpa Santa didn't realize how seriously they would take that).  There were some tears and lots of soothing involved.

And everyone turned out happy in the end. 
We had fun together...

and had more fun together...
(Here we are making snow men out of toilet paper and cut outs...the kids LOVED this!)

It was a fabulous evening spent with many of our favorite people in the whole world.
Hooray for family!  Hooray for Christmas!
14 grandchildren...and counting!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Aubrey Performs in The Nutcracker 2013

This weekend Aubrey performed in a presentation of "The Nutcracker" with her dance troupe.  The group includes children from kindergarten to college and it is an ornate spectacle.  Aubs had a lot of fun.

The pre-show entertainment was provided by the musical theater ensemble of which she is a part.  (That group happens to be my favorite, I always enjoy watching them perform.)

Here are a couple of snippets of that program.

Then the real event began.  Aubrey was cast as one of the tin soldiers in "The Nutcracker" presentation and she has worked hard (both in and out of class) to polish the piece.  We're pretty proud of her and the work she has done.  Here's a sample.

Aubrey is the third soldier in from the left.

I am grateful that my children have the chance to be part of programs like this.  I love watching them practice and strive for perfection and then shine as they get the chance to share the talents they are developing.
Aubs after the performance with flowers from her dad.

Friday, December 6, 2013

My side of the bed

Last night I was tired and decided to head to bed (I guess that happens pretty much every night so it isn't really that interesting, but it sets up my story so it is where we will start).

I headed into the bathroom to brush my teeth and swallow my nightly allotment of pills then I meandered into my bedroom....

....where I found my husband huddled deep in the blankets on my side of the bed.




Unacceptable to the nth degree!

I am pretty particular about my sleep habits and the side of the bed on which I repose is not something I can change without upset.  I was ready for a fight.

I started to protest when Josh leaped out of the bed and said, "Hurry, get in!  I warmed it up for you!"


Happy surprise!

I'm still smiling about it now.  I really do love that man.

Thanks, Josher!  

(I think I'll keep him around for a while.)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday Crohn's

Dear Crohn's Disease,

I hate your stinkin' guts.

You make me vomit. (For real, if there was a prize for vomiting I could definitely give the other contenders a run for their money...is that a talent I should be proud of?)

You are the scuuuuuuum between my toes.  


A loyal -- if disgruntled -- patron

P.S. You really do work too hard.  I think you should take the month of December off and relax for the holidays.  I don't mean to be rude, but I doubt anyone would even miss you much.  Thanks!  

(As a side note, while I am bothered by my clingy, ever-present friend Crohn's, we do get along much better than we did before I started on Humira injections.  I really have absolutely no room to complain.  I can function day to day just fine and most symptoms don't register as much more than annoying most days.  I guess we are getting used to each other...but I'd still rather he went away.  No such luck, we'll be palling around together for the rest of life so I'll have to settle for needling him in blog posts and hoping he doesn't retaliate.) 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


The other night the phone rang just after 9:00 pm.  The caller id said the call was from our church building.

I answered the phone and heard a weighted voice on the other end.  It was my favorite voice in the world.  It was Josh. 

He was calling to tell me that he would be late coming home from his office at the church because of some issues that had come up during an interview that night.  He has appointments with members of our neighborhood a couple nights a week because he is currently serving as the bishop in our ward.

This calling has brought a lot of changes to our life -- both good ones and difficult ones.  We knew it would when we accepted the calling (and yes, I do mean we...even though Josh is the one that carries the mantle this is something that deeply affects us both so we both needed to be willing to accept this responsibility).

It is amazing to me to watch my husband in action in this office.  I know he is doing his best to do the will of God as he serves.  I hear his humble prayers as he seeks for guidance and answers in trying to bless lives and help families.  It is incredible to see the difference between Josh DeMoux: the man I'm married to and Josh DeMoux: servant of the Lord in the Copperhills 3rd Ward.  When he is acting under the direction of the Holy Ghost to fulfill his calling there is a power and authority there that is undeniable.  He works so hard to be open to the spirit and to listen to what Heavenly Father wants for the people of this area that it is miraculous to see.  I am astounded by the growth I see in this man and the strength he is given as he strives to lead the people we both love closer to our savior, Jesus Christ.

But when he comes home I see the side of him that is sometimes burdened by the weight he has been asked to carry.  This particular night, when he came home from his office I could see the heaviness in his eyes and the pain of sorrow for someone else's suffering. 

And there is very little I can do to help him shoulder this load.

I asked him if he was ok.  He nodded and sighed and said he just really needed a hug. 

That I can do.

The most difficult part of this entire process has been the struggle to support my dear husband.  He means the world to me and I would do anything for him.  We have been partners for more than fourteen years and I love the way we have learned to work as a team.

And that is where this gets challenging.

Because he is dealing with confidential matters and delicate topics, he has no one here on Earth to go to for guidance and advice.  He can't come home and ask me my opinion or vent about a frustration with someone.  That is hard on both of us.  There is a huge piece of his life that I know very little about (which is as it should be).  That is difficult.  How am I to help him when I have no idea what he is dealing with or what weight he is carrying?  How do we act as a team when one of us has no idea that course we are taking?

It is hard, and we are both learning.

Josh meets with couples who are struggling in marriage, people weighted by sin, individuals looking for answers and he has very little secular training to help him solve these problems and guide people in the way they should go. 

However, because he is limited in his worldly resources he is directly funneled to the true source of answers.  He is left to pray and seek the counsel of our Heavenly Father.  I have watched as Josh has received answer after answer that is just the thing that people need to hear or just the direction they need to be given and I KNOW these solutions are not from Josh himself (as incredible as I know he is, many of the responses he gives to people are simply not his style, they MUST come from another source).

While this calling is challenging in many ways, it is also beautiful.  Josh gets to watch as people progress and grow.  He gets to see the strides they make.  He gets to meet with youth as they move forward in the priesthood.  He gets to see people change their lives or prepare to make covenants with God.  He often comes home in tears because of the joy he feels over the lives of the people of our ward.  He sees the quiet service people give and hears the thoughtful and humble desires of their hearts.  He has an inside view of the good and the bad in the worlds of the people around us. 

And he loves them.  He loved them before, but it is different now.  He ADORES these people.  In some way they have become HIS people.  He would do anything he could to bless their lives.  I can't describe it, but their pains are his, their loss he feels, their happiness lifts him. 

I know there will be many more long nights and comforting hugs that come our way in the next several years.  We've only been at this a few months and already we are not the same people we were before Josh was called to this office.  I can't imagine the growth I will see in this man, my husband, a servant of God, over the course of that time.

But I'm glad I have a front row seat to that.  It is going to be an unbelievable ride.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I hope you enjoy time with family and friends, eat your fill of delicious food, and remember all the wonderful things that make this life amazing.

Monday, November 25, 2013


Things I am MOST thankful for in my life (in no particular order)...

Being a mom.

A Father in Heaven who loves me and watches over me (and you too)

Silliness and laughter.

This guy.

And the rest of my plus sized crew.

I could also add measuring tapes, bicycle pumps, sewing machines, hand lotion, towels and bug spray to the list today, but lets just leave it with the concise little bit of grateful from above.  Those things matter very most to me anyway.  Everything would be off kilter without those sweet life treats.  I'm so glad to have them.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Of leaves and porn...

The other day I went out into the front yard to rake the leave before it rained and snowed.  We don't have a huge yard and we also don't have any really big trees (yet) but we still get a fair number of leaves that build up along our cement wall as they blow through the neighborhood.
As I was raking, it stuck out to me that no matter how hard I worked and how persistent I was, I never managed to get every single leaf out of the grass and into my pile.  I could scrape and scrape my yard rake along my verdant turf, but bits of broken leaves still matted themselves into our lawn.

Now, I am fairly realistic and I don't expect to get every single piece of tree waste when I am raking.  That isn't practical.  And that is where I started thinking about porn.
No, not in a nasty way.
But the issue of prevalent porn problems have been on my mind lately and while I continued to rake a few things occurred to me.
I'm sure you have seen the petition circling the internet lately about the "opt in" idea for online porn.  I am not here today to push you sign this or tell you it is worthless.  That is for you to research and decide on your own. 
I have read many opponents of this idea who say there are unresolvable issues with this plan.  I'm not going to disagree with them.  There are absolutely logistical and financial and political and a bunch of other 'als' that rear their heads in the body of such a thought.  There are glaring problems with this proposal.
However, does the fact that I cannot clean up every single leaf perfectly from my yard mean that I should just give up and not even bother trying at all?
And that's where I think these people are right on track.
Agree or disagree with the specific solution they present, at least the proponents of this are doing something about the problem.  They are opening a dialogue to address a plague that mutilates families and individuals.  I am not saying they are right or wrong -- I am not really sure about this specific scheme one way or the other -- but I love that they are saying something.  I love that they aren't giving up just because a perfect solution is not readily available.  I love that they are fighting for a cause that needs more attention in this world. 
What I am here to say is that pornography is a sinister trap.  It is insipid and venomous and highly addictive.  It degrades souls and corrodes relationship.  Its destructive tentacles have a way of winding around its victims and clutching them relentlessly.  Its grip is nearly impossible to entirely escape.  It is ugly and rancid.
And it is readily available EVERYWHERE!
I would imagine that most people who read this blog know someone whose life has been afflicted by pornography addiction.  Over the years I have known several people who have fallen prey to the poison of porn.  I would bet that there are more people in my life that fight this addiction and I just don't know it because it is a personal and embarrassing battle.
Some of those I have known have been adults, some have been teenagers.  Their ages and social standings and religions and home lives are different, but the crushing arms of pornography constrict tightly around them all, sometimes nearly suffocating them. (This is one of my favorite articles about the dangers of online porn.)
Did they initially choose to indulge in this toxin?  Generally, yes. 
Like all addictions, it starts small.  But as it is invited into a persons life it takes stronger and stronger hold on them until they have trouble getting away from it at all.  It follows them everywhere they go whispering to them and seducing them to sink further and further into its filth. 
Do they now regret the unending pull that it has over them?  Almost universally, yes.
But getting away from it isn't so easy.  When the pollutant is stored inside your mind, how do you weed it out?  How do you pull images and scenes from your brain once they have been recorded there?  How do you function in a world where a few simple clicks can sate your yearning for something you know you shouldn't indulge in?
This is not just a problem for the individual.  This is not a victimless decision.  Families are torn apart by porn and its influence.  Porn has a deep and steady relationship with violent crime.  Its reaches go far beyond any one single mind.
And what about when our young ones are exposed to such smut before they are old enough to really know how to handle it?
I want to share a personal experience.  One of my sons was in the elementary school computer lab when he was in second grade.  He and the members of his class were instructed to type in the address or a particular website which had some educational games.  My little seven year old typed in the address, but misspelled a word and when he clicked enter several lewd images filled the screen.
He was shocked and embarrassed.  He tried to get off the site, but the more buttons he clicked the more images flooded the monitor.  And this was in school with filters upon filters where our kids are supposed to be safe from this stuff (I am not blaming the school here, what I am saying is that no matter how careful you choose to be you cannot completely let down your guard when evil is involved).
Finally he called over the teacher who turned the whole system off, rebooted and helped him access the correct site.
When he came home and told me what had happened, he was in tears.  He knew we didn't approve of those types of images and that he wasn't supposed to look at things like that.  But now what?  He had seen them.  Those pictures were locked inside him and he was having a hard time NOT thinking of them.   And he was in second grade.  An accidental key click could have polluted my little boy in a way I could not repair.  It took us a lot of time and effort to work through that one.
We had a similar experience when we went to Vegas on a family trip and ventured onto the strip to watch the Belagio fountains.  Another son was haunted by the "trading card" images that littered the sidewalk and were in full view of our little ones despite our best efforts to avoid them.
Not every leaf that I have to clean up comes invited into my yard.  Often they wind their way onto my grass from some far off place with no encouragement on my part.  It is the same with porn.  Our children WILL be exposed to it to some degree even if we don't invite it into our homes.
As parents, it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to protect and teach our children.  We MUST be open with them about the dangers of pornography, about its addictive nature and seductive pull.  We must also be open with them about the fact that they will be drawn to it to some degree or another because sexual desire is natural and normal and even -- lets admit it -- good when used appropriately. 
But erotic fantasies posted on websites are NOT an appropriate use.  They also aren't realistic and they aren't natural or normal.  They lie.  They set up false ideas and expectations (among other things). 
And by sitting around and doing nothing the problem is growing and spreading and infecting more and more people day by day, moment by moment. 
If I ignore the leaves moldering in my yard they don't magically go away on their own, they get more and more disgusting.  They get wet and goopy, they grow mold and slime each other together and when I finally address them in the spring they have become a much more grotesque chore than they were before.  Ignoring filth only allows it to mature and spread.
Famed Irish orator Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."  I believe that is true.
And that is why I feel like it is intensely important that we fight this filth.  We must step forward and do something or evil will continue to grow and will subject more and more victims to its insistent and foul appeal.
I don't know exactly the steps that should be taken.  I don't know all that should be done.  I'm new to this venue. 
I do know that whatever we do, it has to start at home.  We have to teach virtue and strength and the power of faith. 
We have to protect our families.  We have to keep their little eyes from being the accidental conduit for allowing pornographic grime to seep into their young brains to be stored for further review.
And as they get older we need to take on the weighty responsibility to do everything in our power to protect them from images and acts that will poison and ensnare them.
But it can't end there.
We can't sit by quietly hoping that if we protect them at home then everything will be ok.  There is a whole world out there and if voices for good do not call for action then voices for evil will surely allow drivel to ooze into every available corner.
Say something.
Find a way to support this fight.
There is something you can do, if only that you open your mouth and voice your opinion, that is a start. 
And maybe together we can begin a cure for this plague running rampant in our nation.  Not that every piece will be swept away, that is not how it works.  That isn't realistic.  But little by little if we will each do something we can see the world change for good.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg address. 

This concise snippet of verbal history may be no more than 272 words, but its powerful message has helped to shape a mighty nation. 

Anyone can string a bunch of words in a row to create a speech, but when those words are woven together in a simple and yet emotionally robust way their weight speaks to the soul rather than just the ear.  When that happens, we still care 150 years later that a humble man -- whose words were originally labeled as unimportant and an awful failure -- took less than three minutes to say some of the most poignant words this nation has yet to hear. 

This dedication of a hallowed field transformed into much more than just a speech at a political event.  Over the years that followed it became a hearty cry to arms for the American people, a rallying call that all could stand behind, a reminder that this country is built on something more than just laws and party lines and the absence of a king.  This nation was built on the backs of those who envisioned a place of freedom and power.  It is a nation of the people, by the people, for the people. 

That is something worth remembering.  Even after 150 years. 

Aubrey's class in school presented a program about President Lincoln and the Gettysburg address.  It was beautiful.  I honestly had tears in my eyes by the end.  I am so grateful for teachers who help my children learn about the things that are truly important.

My little confederate soldier with her friend Mr. Lincoln (aka, Will).

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Nutcracker

My daughter, Aubrey, is part of a dance group.  She has been for about three years and she loves it.
She is actually part of two groups, a dance class and a musical theater group which performs all over the valley.  I am really pleased that she works so hard and dedicates herself to practice and improvement. 
(P.S. if you are looking for a great dance group for your child to join check out Miss Margene's Creative Generation.  Margene is AMAZING.  Believe me, you want this woman as an influence in your child's life.  She is loving and kind and expects her students to take care of each other and act as a family.  She also has high standards when it comes to modesty so costumes and dance moves never push the lines of inappropriate.  We are immensely grateful for her, she is wonderful!)
Anyway, right now Aubrey is prepping for a performance of "The Nutcracker" which till take place in early December.  (If you are interested in coming to the performance -- and I think you should, it is a lot of fun -- learn more about the event by clicking this Nutcracker link.)
Aubrey will be performing as a toy soldier in this piece and she is super excited.  I love it when my kids are happy about the things they are involved in.  I love it when they work hard to learn something new or master a new skill.  I want them to learn to stick with something even, or especially,  if it is hard.  I used to have a volleyball coach who said, "It's the hard that makes it great," and I agree with that.  It is working through the hard that really gives you that triumph that you did something worthwhile.
As a side note, while we try not to let them be involved in too many classes and events, with six of them each participating in something it still gets pretty crazy driving them here and there and everywhere.  We like our children to feel the influence of home in their lives and not be stretched too thin, but I guess their time at home does not necessarily also correlate to Mom's time at home.  If we are all running each other around in the car can that count as an extension of "home time" as well?  I hope it can.
So hooray for Aubrey, hooray for "The Nutcracker" and there you go.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Choose Happiness

While I was growing up my mother used to regularly recite a bunch of quirky, if insightful, if cliche phrases to us kids.

Her offerings were things like "a stitch in time saves nine" (I'll be honest, until I was a teenager I pictured a ragged,ripped hole in the fabric of time that someone wanted me to stitch up and I didn't really understand what that one was trying to teach me) or "don't let school interfere with your education" (meaning that while classes were important, there was more to learn than just the classroom lessons).  The quirkiest of these may have been her regular call of "can't dance and it's too wet to plow" (essentially saying, might as well, you got nothing else to do).  But the one that stuck with me the most was when she said "fun is an attitude, not an activity."

That phrase rang true with me.  Fun has much less to do with what you are actually doing and much more to do with your feelings and attitude about it.  Some of the funnest times I have had in my life involve activities that are far from the definition of fun.  Now, that's not always true, sometimes activities are lame despite our best intentions, but even the funnest activity can be horrible and boring if your attitude stinks.  

I've tried to teach this concept to my kids and show them that even the most mundane thing can become fun if you approach it right.  Think Mary Poppins, if you will.  

Anyway, a few months ago I was in a store looking for a thank you gift for a couple of ladies I love and I saw this sign and I HAD to have it in my home (and since it's cute little price tag was only $3 I didn't feel guilty for investing).

This little scrap of colorful wood spoke to me (even though, in all honesty, yellow is not my favorite color).  It reminded me that happiness -- like fun -- is not something that happens to us, it is something that we decide in life.  Happiness is not up in the air floating around waiting to bestow itself upon us or not if we are lucky enough to bump into it, it is inside us waiting to get out and waiting to see if we will let it free.

No matter the circumstances around us, we can each choose for ourselves what our attitude will be and whether or not we will allow happiness to flood our lives.

Now, that doesn't mean that we will never feel sad or lonely or afraid or upset or whatever else.  I don't think what we are aiming for here is some false sense of "everything is roses and candy canes every moment of every day.  (Insert cheesy grin)!"  But, we can choose to live our lives from a base of happiness and build up from there.  Problems and trials and struggles will come and they will sting, but if our foundation is built on the choice to be happy we will better be able to deal with those and move forward to handle the problems instead of allowing them to swallow us up.  

I think everyone who is alive gets depressed from time to time.  I know that feeling to some degree.  Depression and I have met on several occasions.  For example, I remember the weighted pain I felt the first time I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and was given the list of the things I COULD eat (which seemed dreadfully small).  I remember feeling like I was going to starve because breads and pastas and fruits and starchy vegetables were suddenly NOT ok and that was a large part of my diet.  I cried and felt like I was going to starve (let's face it, you get between a hormone ridden pregnant woman and her food and there will be tears shed... On a side note this diagnosis at this time made it easier to handle the much less temporary diagnosis of Crohn's disease several years down the road).

I was grateful for a husband who scooped me up and pored through the grocery store with me reading every single label until we found things that I could eat (including a carb smart type of ice cream that didn't taste awful) and we could make do.  He also climbed on the diabetes diet truck and ate only what I could eat (at least while he was at home...he may have cheated elsewhere, I don't know).  He helped me choose to be happy despite what, for me, was a difficult issue to handle without feeling hobbled.  Diabetes became a bit of an inside joke to us (even though in reality there really isn't much that's funny about it) and we laughed about some of the day to day issues it brought into our life

Sometimes the choice of happiness means recognizing that we can't handle all the problems around us on our own and we need to seek help in one way or another.  Maybe that help is a lunch date with friends or maybe it is saying no when someone asks us to do something that will overload us or maybe it is seeking for someone with experience to talk to about it and work through it all.  That does not make us weak, that makes us humble and humility brings a strength that few other virtues can match (for more about that idea, this article is AmAzInG!).  Choosing happiness means that we don't let the ugliness of the world make our choices for us.

Now, that said, I also want to put out there that despite the verbiage we sometimes use in an almost trite way, no one in this world can "make" us happy.  People can support and love and care for us and help us through our struggles and trials, but no one -- no matter how amazing he or she is -- can force happiness upon us.  Happiness must be chosen, it cannot be bestowed.

We all see videos and read stories all over Facebook and Youtube about people who, despite the rottenness life has thrown at them, choose to be happy by finding a way to conquer that rottenness and in essence say, "My life is more than you, problems.  I am more than my struggles."

I'm sure you know people in your very own little world who have done this exact thing.  As I think on this I can picture a friend who lost both arms in an electrical accident who has devoted hundreds of hours to volunteering with teenagers to teach them about positivity and faith, a woman who after surviving a death-defying car accident and later seven strokes still jokes and laughs and buys candy for neighborhood kids even though she has trouble functioning, a grandmother struggling under a crushing depression who still takes time every single week to scoop up a group of four year olds for two hours and make them feel like the most important people in the world, a beloved man watching helplessly as his wife slips deeper and deeper into the pit of Alzheimer's disease and yet he stays by her side moment after moment as her caretaker and friend and speaks about her as though she was the most beautiful thing in the world even though she doesn't even much like him anymore and on and on and on.  

These people aren't super heroes.  No one will be handing them a cape or a medal or a key to the city any time soon.  In fact, outside of their sphere of existence probably no one really knows the struggles they face and the choice to be happy they are making.  Sometimes they feel like they can't do it anymore, I know they do.  Sometimes it would be much easier to give in to despair and doubt.  But they don't wallow in that.  They let themselves sink into sadness for a moment or two and then they yank back against that pressure and choose to smile -- not that everything around them is happy, because it isn't -- but that they don't let the sadness define who they are.

They choose happiness. 

They choose light.

And that choice defines them.

That's who I want to be.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hockey? Yes, please!

The other night we took the kids to a hockey game.

I really love hockey, I always have.  

Now, that doesn't mean that I'm a pro.  I'll admit that I pretty much never watch it unless I am AT a game and I don't know the rules much beyond offsides and icing and you get a penalty if you slug someone.

But, thanks to our friendly neighborhood Pass of all Passes, we get to attend a bunch of games throughout the season and we super love it!

(If you are looking for a great way to involve your family in a lot of different activities for not very much money this might be just the right thing for you, it is for us.  I paid $30 per pass and got a $20 gift card to Walmart for each pass I purchased -- which is where I grocery shop anyway so it was like money to me -- meaning the passes essentially cost me $10 per person.  We have made that back already this year going to Hollywood Connection and the Grizzlies game.  Last year we also attended Real games, Bees games, did the water park once **which was not my favorite**, played at a family fun center,  saw movies and trounced a trampoline facility.  Click here to see all the things included in the Pass of all Passes if you are interested in checking it out.  It is a perfect fit for us.)
Anyway, we went to the hockey game.  It was a great game!  My boys were excited that there were a couple of fights (while I sat there toning them down with my steely "fighting is not cool" glare) and the game went into overtime and then a shoot out so really it doesn't get a lot better than that.   We had a great night (except Ellie who wanted to go home pretty much the whole time but save the moments when we were dancing between the periods).

Hooray for hockey!!  Fun for the whole family...or, well, 7 our of 8 ain't bad.

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