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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Happy Birthday, Fina!

Seraphina's birthday was last month! 2! Already? Wow... where does the time go? Remember when she had just turned one??? (The picture to the left is our little princess, at Disney World, on her 1st birthday! Has it already been a year???)

It was an uneventful day- mostly because we planned it that way. Kurt and I found that postponing her birthday a few weeks actually made her birthday much more enjoyable, so we might just do that from now on.

Anyway, I digress!

We celebrated her special day together as a family, and spent time together at home. She was pretty shy about the whole concept of presents- but in the end the idea grew on her.

Her birthday outfit was a super adorable custom creation by Blueyedesign- the shop owner is a friend of mine, and she was SO sweet when I couldn't make up my mind!!! Seraphina loves Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, and Hello Kitty- and we decided to do her birthday outfit in kitties. Isn't she TOO cute?! Blueyedesign made the shirt and the bow, and she arranged for me to have extra fabric to make Fina a matching skirt. I just loved it!

Below: a picture of Fina in her birthday outfit when it was finished. The picture on the right has an adorable back-story! I get super nervous whenever I have to cut fabric, so Kurt always offers to cut it for me. He is so awesome about measuring it twice and is super accurate- it is awesome! Seraphina saw him sitting at the table with the fabric, and pulled her blanket up next to him, proceeding to mimic his every move. Haha! 


In the end, we decided to do a birthday celebration with all of the things Fina loves, instead of choosing a single theme. So- we had Doc McStuffins toys, a Sofia the First cake, and Hello Kitty outfit! Seraphina LOVED it all!!


"The Doc is in!"



October Visiting Teaching

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a very special organization for women aged 18 and over. As a matter of fact- it is not only the oldest women's organization in the United States, it is also the largest! The organization is called Relief Society- and was created to "build faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and help those in need."

Among the many awesome things about Relief Society, is Visiting Teaching. I love Visiting Teaching, and I have a very strong testimony of the beauty, helpfulness, and necessity of this divinely inspired program.

Here is a definition of what I get to do:
  1. visiting teacher
  2. visiting teacher is a woman assigned to watch over and help another woman in her Latter-day Saint ward or branch. Two visiting teachers are assigned to each woman; they contact her at least once a month and encourage her efforts to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Awesome, right? But it gets better!!! Not only is there someone that I get to to reach out to, befriend, share the gospel with, enlighten, and uplift- there are also TWO women who do the same for me!!! They are not just here to chat, encourage, and bring awesome messages- they are also there for me to call when I am in need of something: if something comes up and I need help with the kids, if I am sick (or just had a baby) they help coordinate sisters to bring over meals, if I am personally (or spiritually or physically) struggling- they are really there to help me out!!! It is wonderful!!!

I have been so blessed to have amazing Visiting Teaching companions throughout the years. I love going Visiting Teaching, but am not very good at making appointments. I think Heavenly Father understands this, and tends to place me with women who are excellent appointment-makers, haha! Playdates, dessert meetings, brunches, and chats in the kitchen- I have enjoyed Visiting Teaching in so many different settings!

One of my favorite things about Visiting Teaching is what I get out of it when I visit someone else. I love reading our Visiting Teaching Messages, and often will create some type of little handout for our sisters- something small to help them remember the message in their everyday lives. Every letter I type, cookie I bake, or craft I put together, helps me think more about the monthly message, and about all the millions of things that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have done for all of us!

This is what I made this month, it is a small bookmark. I printed it on cream colored cardstock and backed it with some simple brown construction paper. I then laminated it. I am going to put it in a little treat bag with a votive candle and a little packet of herbal tea. Feel free to use this, or share it! This month's message is so great!!! (Aren't they all? haha!) and it is all about the divine mission of Jesus Christ! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Piano



Earlier this year, we asked the boys if they wanted to learn a musical instrument. They both enthusiastically said yes! They were allowed to choose any non-wind instruments (they just do not have the lungs for them quite yet- in my opinion) and Carter chose the violin, Harrison chose the piano.

Harrison has picked up the piano remarkably fast. "He is an Einstein-level genius..." his teacher says, with amazement in her voice. Harrison is not just a natural, he seems to truly love playing, which is a wonderful thing for us all!

Yesterday I worked with Carter first, while Harrison was finishing up another school assignment. Carter worked very hard, and he was able to play through a rather tricky song! We were thrilled for him, and Harrison came in to congratulate him on his accomplishment!

Carter took his instrument upstairs, and Harrison sat down to work on the piano. What usually comes easy and somewhat effortlessly, was not flowing well at all. His brow furrowed, his face set in extreme concentration. Measure after measure, the notes did not come together. The more frustrated he became, the more clumsy his notes rang. To try and help him I played the song along with him, just an octave higher, so he could try and get back into his groove. It did not work, and he became completely discombobulated- not a single measure came together! 

Harrison pushed away from the piano and stood up, his little face full of agitation and despair. He turned and quickly started to walk away.

"Where are you going???"

"Mom, just a minute- I really need to pray."

...

I heard the pantry door close, and the sound of his voice, praying aloud- calmly- as if he was talking reverently to his best friend...

I sat alone on the piano chair, and marveled at what just happened.

Harrison had struggled. He worked as hard as he could, but nothing seemed to come together correctly. He knew what he wanted, but just could not get it to happen. Instead of freaking out, tossing in the towel, or throwing a tantrum- he sought solitude and a chance to pray.

Minutes passed. I could still hear his little voice. I waited.

He came back, a look of peace on his face. It was not an expression that read he expected things to go perfectly, but the tension and pressure were now completely gone.

He sat down, put his fingers to the keys, and played the song beautifully.

A lot can be learned from this little boy, his prayer, and his piano...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Carter and Harrison dot com!"

A few years ago Carter and Harrison came to us with our tablet. They happily showed us a video they made with their Lego figures. Weeks before that they had built a roller-coaster in the front yard. Weeks after, they grabbed Kurt and took off for a few hours- returning as the proud owners of their own mini-golf course- all created from things found in the machine shed.

Their adventures became pretty entertaining, and I loved hearing about them and seeing them. However, it was not long before they told us they planned on putting their journeys online.

"What?"
"Yeah! We are going to put all this on Carter and Harrison dot com!"

At 7 and 5, my boys had plans involving the internet. I was horrified. My husband was elated.

They had come up with their own internet address?! When?! How?!

It took some convincing, but eventually I agreed to allow Kurt and the boys to create a website for Carter and Harrison. The site, it has been decided, will contain stories of their adventures, random homeschool info, recipes, links, videos, books, and pretty much anything the boys decide they want to share with their extended family and the rest of the world. The site will be kid-friendly, and will be monitored by their dad and me. However- the content will be all theirs.

They are very excited to roll out their new site. Today's post is already up! Click HERE to enter!





Friday, August 29, 2014

Fall 2014

I cannot believe summer (academically speaking) is already over! That just flew by!

Our summer was filled this year! Archaeological dig, Nauvoo pageant, frequent visits to the Temple, a mini-holiday in Chicago, trip to a theme park, homeschool lessons, fabulous visit with my parents, a book convention, my graduation, sleepovers, Cub Scout rank advancements, camping- wow! I am getting a little tired just typing all of this!

Here are some pictures of our adventures!


So much fun!

The boys have started the next year of homeschooling! We broke out the next level of books- always such a treat! Carter is in 4th grade, and Harrison is in 3rd! They are both excited! Their friends Julio and Jose come over and we all do crafts and read together- so it is even more fun than ever!

Yes- both are homeschooling this year.

Carter did attend the local private school. However, after a month, he decided he was finished. In his own words, "Mom, their work is a lot easier, but school takes too long!" There you have it!

We are continuing to use Math U See, Spelling You See, Getty-Dubay Handwriting, Usborne books, Breakfast Notebooks (here is a simple site explaining them- ours are filled with more advanced materials), Brain Quest Workbooks, and unit work. I CAN'T WAIT to get to our Charlie and the Chocolate Factory unit! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! We already finished sharks and are now on football (mostly health and fitness, but they all wanted to learn about football- so we are putting that in there too!). This will be the best homeschool year EVER!

That about does it as far as school updates go!




Thursday, August 28, 2014

Facebook

Dear Facebook,

It's not you, it's me.

We have changed. Grown apart. And I am through.

Remember when we first met? We would see one another occasionally. I remember I added everyone who ever requested me as a friend. I thought it was so fun! Friends I had known back in elementary school were now on my "friends" list! It was great! It was delightful!

Remember when we grew up? It was just a few years later that people got a bit more bold (or maybe I was paying more attention?). I remember posting something, and having people openly fight with me! It was so weird! I got dramatic too. Take that- world! That phase did not last very long- thankfully- and rather than debate and dramatize, I realized it was easier to "unfriend" and keep things positive. I refused to get into the drama.

That, for years, was my MO. Keep it positive. Pictures of kids, family, travels, adventures, cats, uplifting! I was determined to make Facebook a fun little place that would inspire and bring joy! Facebook is amoral- so I knew it could happen!!! I found that I could only handle having about 120 "friends" at any given time. I enjoy reading things my friends post, and 120 seemed my limit. I kept the 120 to people I could talk to, confide in, and trust. I wanted to be able to post things unfiltered if necessary- and I chose people carefully.

But you got smart, didn't you...

Your brilliant marketing geniuses added a trending feature. You tossed in more adds. You added a feature that posted similar articles below links my friends would post. You weren't happy with cute cats and little families- no... you wanted more.

Well, it worked.

I would find myself, often, caught up reading interesting articles, stories, or blogs. Subscribe to Scientific American or Popular Science? Nah- all I have to do is read the articles online! Oh, look! Here is a blogger and early childhood expert telling people to do what I have always done, yeah! OH! Look at that AWESOME homeschool unit on Mummies!!! YES! A new recipe! Oh look! It is a whole BLOG of new recipes! YAY!!!! Wow! Did you know that there are entire sites with cute personality quizzes?! Which Disney Princess would I most likely be?!!? (Aurora.) Which character in The Breakfast Club am I most like!?!? (Claire.) What Hogwarts house would be my perfect fit!?!?! (Gryffindor, baby.) Oh yeah... you got smart, Facebook.

But the smarter you got, the less I enjoyed you. I started walking away feeling less fulfilled. I stopped hearing cute stories from friends or my favorite bloggers- because your filters stopped showing them, or your trending topics gave them something else to discuss. You stopped being fun.

So, I quit you.

I have thought about it for a long while- but needed to grab the courage and do it.

Well, this week I got the courage and I did it!

And you know what?

I got five different texts that day.

Three different the next.

I wrote six letters this week.

My house is clean, I have the next week of homeschool work all printed and sorted, and I baked cookies twice (chocolate chip- they are awesome). I sewed a new dress for Harrison's baby-doll, and am half done with a dress for Fina. A friend and I are working on making a free cookbook. I have had cups and cups of herbal tea, and I read my scriptures three-times-a-day instead of one. And I feel amazing.

I didn't think I was spending too much time on Facebook. And thanks to your marketing, I wasn't. Instead I was clicking links and reading and reading and reading mindless fluff. Was there an occasional inspiring link, message, or blog? Sure! But it seemed to happen less and less. If someone had asked me how much time I was spending online I seriously would have said 20-60 minutes. However, based on the large amount of fun crafts and the perfection of my house now, it must have been a lot more.

I remember seeing this a few years ago:



I remember I liked her message, but I didn't understand. Addicted to Facebook? Like, you are addicted to your friends? I don't get it.

But now I do.

I am not addicted to Facebook. I am addicted to information. And you, sir, were feeding it to me by whopping spoonfuls. And, like eating Cool Whip, it was unsatisfying, unhealthy, and unwanted in my life.

So, I am done.

See? It's not you. It's me. I need more. And my family and I deserve more. So, for now- we are going to part ways.

Kurt will keep his Facebook, and people can always reach me at home, phone, email, or by text.

My email is Mellissa.Smith@utah.edu

=)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

My marriage is like an old truck...

Years ago, in one of our marital counseling sessions, our therapist asked me to describe my marriage. Being the analogy lover I am, I came up with this:

My marriage is like an old truck. 

The therapist asked me to elaborate, and I did.

Trucks are strong, built for the long haul, and specially crafted to carry heavy loads. Trucks are durable, and I imagine they can handle stormy weather, rocky roads, and can be a safer alternative for passengers to get from point A to point B.

That is how I see marriage.


The therapist asked me why my marriage was like an old truck.

Maintenance is important for any vehicle. Trucks are strong and can handle a lot, but they still require regular service in order to run smoothly. Neglect of oil changes, filters, or any other fluid levels can wreak havoc on what would otherwise be a perfectly running system. Older trucks require even more care- not just routine service, but occasional replacement parts, upgrades, and additional tune-ups. 

My marriage is like an old truck.

What happens when the truck breaks down?

Unlike a truck, a marriage is made of two people. Two people with two different personalities, two different sets of life experience, two different minds. The marriage dynamic between my husband and I had him driving the truck, and me as a passenger. I could navigate, change the music, and set temperature controls- but ultimately he was at the wheel, in charge of the destination. That said- we were both knew we were in the same truck. Our eternities, our decisions, and our fate (although we may experience them in our own ways) we saw as being shared.

So, again....

What happens when the truck breaks down?

Picture this:

We parked our badly beaten truck at a lovely home in Nauvoo.

The truck was in bad shape.

Here are the facts: the truck had not been routinely serviced. Not only were simple oil changes ignored, but more serious repairs had been left undone. The truck barely, and I mean barely, made it. The wary driver and passenger had clung to prayer and hope just to get it as far as Nauvoo- both believing that being close enough to the Temple, and a new start, would help offer them some rest from what had been years of rough roads. 


And yes, the roads were rough. Everyone can agree on that. Career changes, moves, considerably dangerous medical crises- the road had been anything but smooth. 

But now, the truck will not start.

Seems simple. Go fix it? Take care of it? Just toss in a few quarts of oil every so often?

It is not that easy.

There is a story floating around the internet about a woman whose husband had told her he was leaving. In the story, she declared that she wasn't buying it- and kept carrying on as if things were fine. She gave him his space, and just kept her shoulder to the wheel. She decided to keep the truck moving. She drove it herself, but she kept the truck going.

Years ago in our own marriage, we had our truck break. It was pretty badly broken for a few years, but Kurt managed to fix, repair, and replace so much of the truck that it drove better than new. He had decided to keep the truck moving. He did much of this himself, and he kept it going.

Many times a truck will experience a breakdown, and couples will tirelessly work together to pick up the pieces- seeking help when necessary. They work together, even if they are both exhausted, wounded, or hate the setback- they keep it going.

Sometimes there are opportunities to improve truck performance. Just as an improved suspension can help trucks creep over boulders in the road, couples can work together to increase the strength of their trucks to perform better and longer, while hauling more, preparing for uncertain terrain.

There are so many different types of marriages, and marital dynamics. So many different solutions to so many different difficulties. I could probably write a few thousand scenarios! Just as along a road, there will be many people along the way will offer advice, products, or services- that can either help or hurt a truck and journey, so it is in a marriage. It can be confusing enough just to drive a tuned-up truck, let alone be stuck in a rut with a broken one!

It is all to easy for onlookers to comment or pass judgement on another person's truck:

"Ooooo, that comes with air conditioning and cruise control? You are so lucky!"
"You are so lucky you have a truck at all. I would love a truck! ANY truck!"
"A lot of people don't have trucks, so stop feeling sad!"
"Your truck seems so perfect. I am so jealous."
"You should ditch your old truck and get a new one!"

"My truck performed better with product X- you need product X in your truck."
"Your wife should clean your truck."
"Your husband should get the oil changed on your truck."
"So-and-so got a new truck- doesn't she look happy! I wish I was as happy with my old truck as she is with her new truck..."


Similarly- all too often people enjoy commenting or passing judgement on another person's marriage. Don't believe me? Just read those above in a new way:

"Oooo, your husband does the laundry and makes dinners? You are so lucky!"
"You are so lucky to be married. I would love to be married! Any marriage is better than this!"
"A lot of people want to be married, you should be thankful for your marriage, stop feeling sad!"
"Your marriage seems so perfect. I am so jealous"
"You should ditch your husband/wife and get a new one!"
"I did ____ and it saved my marriage. If you want to save your marriage do _____!"
"Your wife needs to stop nagging you to make dates."
"Your husband should spend more time with you."
"So-and-so is so happy with her new husband! I wish I was that happy in my marriage..."


See? If you have not heard any of those, in some form or another, chances are you still may have caught yourself thinking them in your own head. While some of these comments could come from people who are well-meaning, it is important to remember than while all of us can see and hear about another person's marriage- none of us are actually living it. Just because I can see your truck, doesn't mean I know how it drives- and even then, test driving a truck is not the same as owning one- so it is best to try and keep comments like this in check.

It is best not to compare whose grass is greener - let's all just try to water our own lawns.

Our marriage has been broken for awhile. As I said, we barely made it here. Our own thoughts and feelings about this conflict greatly, and that does not help. Matt Townsend once told us that we needed to stop fighting about the smoke, and figure out what is causing the fire. Currently we are trying to do that- but the smoke is pretty thick, and we disagree on the cause of the flames. This process is not something that can be fixed quickly, and we are both busy- so even this seemingly simple step takes a lot of time.

I can say this: there are flames. There is a lot of smoke. The truck is broken.

I can tell you that I am exhausted. I feel like I have been in charge of caring for this truck so long, that I am just done with it. I feel like if I do not schedule the truck for service, and take it myself- it doesn't happen. I have had a lot on my own plate (We moved, and because of scheduling I did most of the packing and unpacking. I just graduated, our kids are both homeschooling again, and Fina decided she wants to potty train)- so I have not been able to handle any of the maintenance at all. My husband works 60 hours a week in a new job, and there is still yard-work, more unpacking, and weekend errands to run- so he doesn't get to working on the truck either.

So the truck is broken, and neither of us is fixing it.

For a long time we were nervous or afraid to mention our truck's current state because we have seen- firsthand- the extreme damage that can be done when someone shares information like this. We have witnessed couples go from civil separations to excessively hurtful divorces- all because, in their moments of pain, they allowed others to influence them. We have seen the significant damage that comes from allowing others to plant dangerous seeds- and we have tasted the bitter cup of regret for allowing ourselves to be fed the wrong kinds of "support." Neither of us hates one another. Neither of us wants to be single. Neither of us wants to be divorced. However- the truck is broken. Our marriage is broken. It teeters on the edge of ruin, and that has some very serious eternal consequences for all five of us. For this reason- we reserve the right to place immediate, appropriate, and healthy boundaries on EVERYONE. 

Some of you may be asking, "What can I do?"
DO offer your prayers.
DO NOT offer criticism of our spouse.

DO offer your ears.
DO NOT offer your own opinions.

DO offer small gestures of love.
DO NOT call us demanding to know details.

DO send texts or messages saying you care.
DO NOT demand us to tell you our plans.

DO support us as we figure out our next step.
DO NOT expect us to tell you what that step will be.

We have a lot of options. We are both reasonably intelligent people, who are trying to be calm during this time. We are trying to make good and healthy decisions, as rationally as possible, while dealing with our own pains. There is a lot in our past, a lot going on right now, and we have a lot in the future- and careful consideration is necessary at every single step.

My marriage is like an old truck... that has broken down... and it hurts.