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

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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Complaining Today: The negative side of Crohn's Disease

(**Ok, actually, that title may be a little bit ridiculous because there really aren't a ton of pluses to the disease until you get looking far below the surface and see the growth, patience and empathy for others that clingy disease friends (or struggles in general) bring to your life**)

It snowed last night, only about an inch or two (no, we don't close things down in Utah for that like my friend reports they have been doing in Louisiana this week).

This was a really wet snow so when I headed out to shovel this morning I expected the worst.  It was really watery, pretty much just organized slush.  Still, only an inch or two of snow, shouldn't be too awful, right?

Well, it didn't used to be, but when my tag-along pal, Crohn's Disease, decided to shadow my life I found some unexpected side effects.  One of those is that my joints -- particularly my wrists and ankles -- are much weaker now than they used to be.  As an added bonus, when the weather is changing (so essentially when barometric pressure is up) my joints get pretty sore.  It gets kind of ridiculous sometimes like I have to call Josh or one of the kids to help me put casseroles or brownies in the oven because I just can't quite lift them.  I know, pathetic, right.

Anyway, while Crohn's Disease and I went out to shovel (not that he's any sort of help with that, lazy sack) I quickly realized that this process was going to be much longer than usual.

Normally clearing the driveways and sidewalks doesn't take long and isn't that big a deal (bonus work out for the day don't ya know).  Normally it is a simple process.

However, when the snow is really heavy it means that I can't lift a shovel full to throw it off the cement and onto the grass area.  That means that I have to take much smaller shovels full and thus the process is much more invasive than I like (ok, actually, I don't love shoveling snow on the very best day so it's not like I ever "like" it to any degree).

Ugh.  I really did get my workout this morning.  Guess there is a good side after all!

Seriously, this disease has opened a whole new passageway in my life and while it is pretty dark and stinky, hopefully there is good that comes of it.  You build physical muscles by working them and putting them through difficult lifts and stretches.  I think it is the same when we are working to build our emotional muscles.  When we are faced with troubles and difficulties in our lives we are given the chance to build strength and find abilities we didn't know we had.  We can choose to let our trials overwhelm us and wash us away, or we can stand up to them and become strong.

Even one tiny shovel of slushy snow at a time.


Take that Crohn's Disease!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Flowers and a little bit of teasing

Yesterday Josh stopped at the flower shop on the way home (and unnecessary flowers are a favorite thing around here so I'm never sad when he does that).

He walked into the shop and the cute little high school aged girl behind the counter chirped, "Hola," in greeting to him.

Josh stopped immediately and plastered some flabbergastedness onto his face.  He took a step back and said in mock surprise and fake embarrassment, "Oh, sorry, I didn't realize this was a Spanish speaking shop.  I'll have to find somewhere else," and he turned to slink out of the store.

The poor little girl at the counter anxiously called out (in English) to stop him only to find him smiling mischievously when he turned back around to face her.  They both had a good laugh and I got some flowers out of the deal so it worked out well for everyone. 

Silly man.  

No wonder we have so much fun together.  

One lovely bouquet of flowers (and one bonus pixie) at our house.  Happy afternoon.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Basketball 2014

My two oldest boys are playing Jr. Jazz basketball this season.  They both love it and are doing a great job.  I love watching them improve and grow from week to week.  They both play their hearts out.  One plays more like his father and the other plays more like his mother, especially when it comes to how intense and aggressive they are (and I'll leave you to imagine which is which and why).

Anyway, they are doing great and I love having the chance to watch them and cheer them on each Saturday.  I adore these boys!

BRYCE (#2):

PARKER (#15):

(Also, Josh is coaching Parker's team this year and he is very good with these boys.
Most of the team has not really every played basketball before so that has been a
challenge, but it is great to watch the boys get better and better each week.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A great way to start a Tuesday...

Tuesday, Josh didn't have school (his district is on a little bit different schedule than our children so he had that day off).

Saturday we had received some money from cashing in a 401K from Josh's previous place of work which we'd never rolled into our current fund.

So, Tuesday morning after we got all the kids off to school we waltzed ourselves over to the bank and used the money to pay off our car.


It is so nice to have that piece of debt wiped out.

Sadly, there is still more to manage.  Sigh.  But that's life and we're slowly working on it (the bulk of what is left is huddled in our home loan and student loan from Josh's masters degree and those will be a while).

But, it's exciting to have that one little sliver of debt behind us.

Yup, it was a great way to start a Tuesday.

Happy faces just before heading to pay off our car loan!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sunday night at our house

Last night my children were on the receiving end of a lecture.

It was a real Scotch blessing.

My kidlets had spent much of the day fighting and name-calling and arguing and tormenting and I had spent the day breaking it up over and over and over.  It wasn't pretty.  It was just one of those "when will this end" kind of days; they happen sometimes.

Anyway, so when we gathered in the living room for our bedtime routine and the harassing and intentional annoying of siblings continued I had had enough and I lost it.  I started in on my patent "we are a family, we should treat each other kindly so cut it out before I wallop you all" sermon (ok, I didn't actually threaten to wallop anyone, wouldn't that be a semi-hypocritical note to add to a "please be nice" lecture).  I was frustrated.  The kids could hear it in my voice.

My children don't really like being chewed out (actually, who does).  They were appropriately humbled and quiet...or they were silently plotting their revenge in their minds, I guess I'm not really sure.  Instead of our usual bubbling, energetic atmosphere, things became solemn and humorless.   There was a somber tone to our family evening and long faces all around the room.

Until someone farted really loud and broke the silence.

Then Josh couldn't hold himself back and said, "Well, that attitude stinks!" and we all busted up laughing.

So much for somber.

And things were pretty much back to normal.  But I guess that's the way we like them anyway.  I hope, maybe a little piece of my repeated pleadings for kindness sticks with them, but I'm glad we could end the evening on a good note (even if it was a smelly one too).

Just another day at our house.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A small scientific brag

Wednesday night was the Matheson Jr. High science fair.

My son, Bryce, loves the science fair.  He works hard on his projects every year and I've always been proud of his dedication and creativity.

This year he decided to do a project testing the conductivity of different liquids to an electrical charge (you know this was his arena and not mine because while physics was always my favorite subject in school I never did care much for the electrical current/magnetic field sections).  He also invited his friend to work with him on the project.  The two boys got together several times to run their tests and put together their presentation.

The boy's display board the day they turned it in for credit in December.
 Well, Bryce went to the science fair finale on Wednesday night to peruse the other projects and see the prizes awarded.  After seeing the other projects he felt that while his project was good, he wasn't sure it was good enough to warrant an award.  

He was very excited for another friend who won the third place prize in the 8th grade group.

His ears perked up when they announced that the winning 8th grade project was done by a team.  Was it possible?  

Yup!  He was ecstatic when they called his name and his friend's name as the winners for the 8th grade group.  I haven't seen him that thrilled in a long time (I love it when he gets excited because it all come pouring out of him in wicked dance moves and excited leaps and the like...its pretty fun to watch).

While I am incredibly pleased that he won first place, I am even more pleased that this project was all his (and his partner's).  They came up with the idea, they did the research so they would know what to test for, they contacted people to find the equipment they needed, they evaluated what the results meant, they put together findings and graphs, they did it all!  I am just so proud of these boys that I could burst.

Forgive me for bragging, but I just couldn't help it.
Love that growing scientist!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Tiny Dancer

This is how my daughter dresses pretty much every day.

She is a princess, just ask her.

Thanks to kind neighbors, loving cousins and other hand-me-downs (oh how we love hand-me-downs) she has several of these tutu laden outfits and she loves them.  To her, they are the ultimate in day to day fashion.  

I love to watch this little fairy twirl around the house making up her own songs and dancing to the music in her mind (and sometimes from the radio).  I don't necessarily love the fight we have to get her in normal clothes when we are going out (leotards and tights are not exactly warm in the frigid Utah winter weather).

Still, I love this piece of our lives...almost as much as I adore this little girl.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Counsel with the Lord...

This week at church the sacrament meeting talks were about prayer and they were awesome (there were three, and I seriously loved them all -- it was a great meeting).

Now, I'm a fan of prayer (probably most religious people are) and I've tried to make it an integral part of my life.  Our family isn't perfect at that, but we do our best.

However, one of the messages that was shared really stuck out to me and got me thinking.

There is a scripture in Alma 27:27 that reads, "Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings and He will direct thee for good..."  Now, don't think that I've been running around just blabbing a list of "gratefuls" and "I wants" at the Lord my whole life without trying to listen to His counsel, but this speaker laid things out for me in a way I hadn't considered before.  Instead of working out all of my thoughts (which can be a pretty in depth process when you're trying to research and solve a problem in life) and then coming to the Lord with my conclusion, his talk suggested a different path and I kinda like it.

The speaker talked about what it means to counsel with the Lord.  He said when we pray for something we need to really talk it through WITH the Lord (not just before we go to Him).  The picture that came to my mind while he was speaking was that of a board room where a business type was making an important presentation to share holders while asking them to approve a proposal.  He has done is due diligence.  He has put together a power point and he knows the needed numbers and has fancy colored hand outs.  He's thought through the different angles and questions that might come up.  He isn't walking in there scattered and fumbling.  He is well prepared.

So here's maybe how our presentation with the Lord should run.

First, we should tell the Lord what we are asking for.   Now, I don't mean we should just name the thing --"Please bless me with a million dollars" -- but we should explain to Him what it is we're looking for and why we really need it.  Now, obviously, He already knows this stuff.  However, this gives us the opportunity to be open to inspiration about the purpose behind our request.  Maybe, as we do this, we will more clearly see that this is a selfish or silly thing to ask for.  Or, maybe we will really feel the depth of our need and will be able to share that with the Lord.  Or, maybe the Lord will help us understand there is a different thing altogether that would better solve our problem.  Maybe we're headed down a completely wrong path.  What we're really going for is being open to the guidance of our Father in Heaven while we tell Him about our need/desire.

Next, we should share with the Lord the things we have already done to try to solve this problem.  We should list off the steps we have taken and the ideas we have tried.  We should describe the research we have done and the decisions we have come to.  Again, this doesn't change the mind of the Lord, but it opens our minds and hearts to feelings and insights that we might not have seen before.  We shouldn't do this with the attitude of "here, see, I've already tried everything so now just give me what I want" but more and attitude of "this is what I've done and I've pretty much exhausted my thoughts on this one, do you have a different notion about what I should do?"  Again, we must work to leave ourselves open to direction from our Heavenly Father because (remember) His way is the way that will most bless our lives even if it's not the way we have in mind.

Finally, we present our conclusion.  We summarize our feelings and thoughts on what has gone on in our "meeting" and reiterate what we are looking for and allow Him to respond.  We also MUST remember to conclude with the attitude of "not my will but thine be done" because while the Lord deeply desires to bless us, those blessings are His to give not ours to demand.  Then we get up and head out with every intention of continuing to do what we need to do to make things happen and faith that God will guide our steps.  We trust that the Lord will guide us as we move forward.

Anyway, I was grateful for this insight.  It's something I'm going to try to do better in my life.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Welcome to the new age! Yeah, 2014, I'm talking about YOU!

Earlier this week we pulled this lovely relic from our closet.

Some of you may remember this cardboard member of our family from some previous posts (like this one)


This is our happy new year box.  Every year, the first Monday of the year, we do a special family home evening where we break this baby open and search through her treasures.  She is loaded with tracings of our hands from the last January (the kids always love checking out how much they have grown) as well as a list of some of our favorite things (it is soooo fun to see what everyone's favorites were a year ago versus what they are today, sometimes our children are a bit embarrassed by the things they used to love and we all get a good laugh out of it).  

We also have a sheet with our family goals from the year before.  
Anyway, we pull it all out and get to see how we've done on our goals and how much we have changed.

This year we found we sort of really stunk it up on our goals from last year (check out our link above to see last years objectives...we pretty much only succeeded in one of the three and I'll leave it up to you to imagine which one).

Anyway, this year we opted for some new targets rather than chancing second failure on the same things we already failed at.  

So for 2014 our family goals are:

1. Read the New Testament together as a family.

2. Go on at least two out of the house, family activities every month.  (As you can imagine, this one was heavily influenced by our yeahoos.)

3. Fill up our service jar.

Now, that last one is something new for us.  We haven't ever done this before.  Well, not with service.  I'm a pretty big fan of visual reminders to keep us focused on good stuff (for example, our summer reading challenge a couple years ago or our treat jar).

Josh brought home this lovely, empty pretzel bottle for us, I decorated it, stuck some paper strips on the side and SHEBAM!  Serice jar!

When someone does an act of service for anyone else in the world, they can jot down a snippet about the act and put it into the jar.  Our goal is to fill this jar before the end of the year.  

As an added bonus, this will (hopefully) keep us a little more attuned to the needs of those around us and will help us all better look for opportunities to bless the lives of other people.  

Love it!

To go along with that, our new family cheer for the year (something we chant with vigorous actions after family prayer morning and evening) is "We Serve" (and with each word we bring one of our arms into an L shaped "flexing my muscles" position...does that make sense...so we end up with both arms flexing like body builders...um, yeah, the boys came up with that one).

Anyway, happy new year!  It should be fun to try to reach these goals as a family.

What things do you to to celebrate the new year with your family?

Our happy service jar.

Paper slips on the sides, so you get the idea.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Shredding away the holidays

So I have to brag just a tiny bit.

For Christmas, my parents gave the boys each a long board.  They have quickly become a big hit around here.  The kids love to ride them around the neighborhood and boy these babies can fly so that has become a lot of fun down our inclined street.  Logan is great to share his board with Aubrey so she gets in on the action too, and both of the oldest boys have been known to sit Ellie on their boards for a ride from time to time so she isn't left out either.  Our long boards have become our preferred method of transportation as I send my kids on errands around the neighborhood.  It's been a lot of fun.  

But the part I have to brag the very most about is that two of my brothers MADE these things.

That's right, you heard me, they made them.  From the many layers of plywood to the unique body shapes (to allow for sharp turns without having the wheels rub the body of the boards) to the kickin' paint jobs my brothers Josh and Joel did it all.

Yeah, they pretty much rock.

No wonder I adore those fellas (the ones in the picture and the ones who got all creative for our upcoming long boarding adventures).

Sunday, January 5, 2014

One Happy Holiday

I know it is well past new years, but I want to tell you a little bit about our Christmas.

This may have been my favorite Christmas ever.  I came away from the holiday feeling so grateful and so blessed that I want to share a little bit of that.

For me, this year, the most incredible thing about our celebrations was the chance I had to see my kids be amazing people.  I came out of the holiday so impressed with the people my little ones are growing into that I can't help but brag a little bit.

Like most parents, we try to help our kids feel the magic of Christmas without getting so involved in the lists of "I wants" that they completely miss the reason for this celebration.  Now, we are not so misguided that we think we can completely eclipse the excitement of new things.  Everyone gets excited about new things, that's just part of life.  However, we do try to balance the giving and gratitude for our Savior, Jesus Christ, so that it is an ever present piece of our holiday.  It went alright, over all.

Christmas morning was highly charged.  The kids were up early (of course) but they are threatened with death if they come upstairs before 7:00 am (that's right, we are big, fat meanies).  We congregated, said family prayer and headed in for the Santa Treasures.

Now, our Christmases are nothing special.  We do live on a school teacher's income and we make no apologies for that (we are thankful that Josh loves his job and are more than willing to sacrifice big bucks for exceptionally happy employment).  

But the first beautiful part of the day for me was that my children were so pleased with their new things.  Some new books, a cute outfit, a punching bag, princess dolls...there was nothing amazing here... but my sweethearts were content and grateful.  Actually, they were glowing.  They twittered over and over about how grateful they were for such simple things and then delighted in each other's excitement as well (if you've never seen a 13 year old boy thrill with his baby sister over princess toys then you are seriously missing out).  It was such an incredible thing for me to see.  It made my heart smile.  I got all wrapped up in their happiness.  I was one very proud mother and I loved being able to bask in their sweet emotion as they doted over the smallest booty.

 But as tender as that feeling was for me, that wasn't my favorite part. 

After breakfast we all came back into the living room to open presents.  Actually, I guess I need to go back a bit before I move forward with the story.

The week before Christmas, our neighbors gave us $10 for each of our children as a gift because we shovel their sidewalks and care for their house when they are out of town.  That money allowed us to take the kids to Walmart on a shopping trip.  The kidlets drew sibling names and scoured the store to buy something special for their chosen brother or sister.  It was a fun night.  I loved watching them pore over the shelves and debate which gift would be most loved by the recipient.  What a great night.

But when it came time to open presents that aura only continued to grow.  At our house, we go youngest to oldest picking a gift for someone else to open from under the tree.  So Ellie would choose a gift for anyone except herself and then Logan would choose for someone else etc.  

Well, as we made our way through the line each child combed the gifts searching for the one they had bought for their sibling.  They waited in giddy anticipation -- every child, every time -- to see the face of the opener when the new thing emerged from the wrapping.  The receiving child was thrilled -- every time -- and I think their excitement, at least in part, was flavored by a desire to please the gift giver.  It would be hard for me to imagine a more loving and grateful Christmas morning than the one we experienced this year.

But the sweetness didn't stop there.  It carried over in small moments as we continued to spend the time off of school together.  

One event in particular comes to mind.  Josh had to go back to school on Thursday of last week while the other kids didn't start back until Monday.  So, on Thursday, I decided to take the kids to the dollar theater to see a movie.  We opted to split up and the three older kids went to "Ender's Game" (a book they all love) while I took the three youngest kids to see "Free Birds" (which may be the WORST animated movie I have ever seen in my life...it was HORRIBLE!!).

Because the movies ended a few minutes apart, the older kids were out of the theater before I was (like 10 or so minutes) so they were waiting for me in the attached arcade.  A sweet man from our ward happened to be at the same movie they were and gave them $5 to play games while they waited for me.  They changed their new bounty into quarters and started to play.  

But the awesome part was that without being asked, they each set aside a few quarters to share with their younger siblings who weren't even there yet.  Then, when we did get there, Aubrey and Parker both scooped up Ellie and Logan allowing them to choose games and also helping them to play the games since my littlest ones were having a hard time.  I didn't have to say a word.  They took the young ones under their wing and then glowed in the success of their young protegees.

Few things make me more proud than watching my sweethearts look out for someone who needs them.  I love it when they put aside their own wants and needs to try to help out someone else.  I love it when they choose on their own to bless the life of another person.

Now, all that said, we also had plenty of moments of anger and fighting and pouting  and whining over the holiday.  We had our fair share of tormenting and harassing and "he touched my" and "how come I have to" and "why did he get to" and "how come I can't" and worst of all "MOOOOOOOOM!!!"

But these little glimpses of harmony and purity and kindness and love carry a lot of weight for me. They give me hope that despite the crying and screaming and everything else that sometimes makes being the mom a pretty rough gig there is also a beauty hanging out just below the surface.

And when I get to see it, it is an incredible thing indeed.

I hope your holiday was a wonderful one too.  

Playing dreidel together...for real...it was really fun.

Wrestling with dad.

My favorite sprites on the planet.

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