Saturday, June 25, 2011

Family Home Evening

One of the thousands of things I adore about the LDS Church is Family Home Evening. Our Family Home Evening was extra special because we invited our local LDS Missionaries to come and join us! The Missionaries offered to come up with our activity. Boy, was it a fun one! We were ALL laughing and having a great time! The soundtrack to the evening was courtesy of Vocal Point from BYU. We had such a great time, and we all loved the lesson.

Each person in our group was given two cookies. Our task was to remove chocolate chips from within the cookies. We listened to Primary Songs that were performed by Vocal Point while we removed the chocolate chips to the beat of the songs. It was so much fun! Once each person was finished, there was a small pile of crumbs, and a small pile of chocolate chips. The missionaries asked all of us to count out ten chips. The kids loved it! When we each had ten chips, the missionaries asked us to take one tenth of the ten, and put it back in the bigger cookie pile. The kids had a great time trying to figure out the concept of "ten percent" and they did really well! Each one of us put our tenth back into the pile... and each of us still had a pile of chocolate! It was a beautiful way to demonstrate the idea of tithing.

I love tithing to my church. I SEE the tithing in action!!!

The Church explains, "One of the blessings of membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the privilege of paying tithing. This privilege is a double blessing. By paying tithing, Church members show their gratitude to God for their blessings and their resolve to trust in the Lord rather than in material things. They also help further the work of the Lord in the earth, blessing others of God’s children with the opportunity to learn of Him and to grow in the gospel.

Through the prophet Malachi, the Lord declared:

"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Malachi 3:10).

Church members give their tithing donations to local leaders. These local leaders transmit tithing funds directly to the headquarters of the Church, where a council determines specific ways to use the sacred funds. This council is comprised of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Presiding Bishopric. Acting according to revelation, they make decisions as they are directed by the Lord. (See D&C 120:1.)

Tithing funds are always used for the Lord's purposes—to build and maintain temples and meetinghouses, to sustain missionary work, to educate Church members, and to carry on the work of the Lord throughout the world."

One chocolate chip to give back to the Lord. My children happily gave their one chip- and ate the other nine. What a super lesson!!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A day out looks like...

A typical day out for our family looks something like this...

First we run errands. Here we had visited the bank, and on our way out Harrison found a pine cone. All his life Harrison has adored pine cones- and his bedroom generally contains at least two. Harrison can also be found carrying around a toy of some kind (generally a stuffed animal of some sort) and often (as pictured above) treats.

Next stop is Barnes and Noble! Mommy takes time to read on Kindle, and boys take time to play trains with any kids who happen to be there.

After Barnes and Noble it is movie time! Here the boys enjoy sitting on one of the couches in the theater! Popcorn, anyone?

After all the excitement from the day the boys need to wind down. No better place than the little park next to our home! The kids run around and get their wiggles out before bedtime.

Perfect day!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

On Marriage...

As I read through my scriptures all this week, reading along with the Good Morning Girls, I was inspired to be so much more than I already am. Pair that with good company and I had a recipe for a great week! Last night I went for a "girls night!" It was such a blast! We went to a bookstore, drank cocoa from the cafe, and we browsed around various sections talking about books that we had read. It was a wonderful time! The women I was with enlightened me, and their words were always helpful, uplifting, and often funny. While I smiled, laughed, and browsed I couldn't help but feel the glow of pleasure- being in a positive environment with positive people really does make a body much happier!

After the bookstore closed, two of us decided to see a movie. Yes, the movie was entertaining, but the best part of the interaction came on the drive home. We ended up sitting in the car for over an hour- discussing children, marriage, and emotions. Her kind and loving words are still ringing in my ears. At one point in the conversation we were discussing single parents. (I had made a comment about how I feel like it is harder to work at a marriage than just leave.)

Her kind words were something like this:

Single parents were not meant to happen, that is why it takes two people to have a child. No... marriage is not always about romance, or even being best friends. Sometimes marriage is simply two people honoring their partnership and working for the betterment of the family they both agreed to have. The ideas that make us want to leave our families are often *selfish. When we follow selfish desires we never truly gain joy. I have seen divorce, and it hurts. Being a single parent is a lot harder than simply dealing with a less-than-perfect marriage. Sometimes people don't realize it until it is too late. By taking responsibility for our own thoughts and therefore taking responsibility to find happiness in our current marriages, we would all be better off and much happier!

Her words were much more eloquent than that, and much longer. I was so inspired! And, it all makes sense. Rather than sit around and make a checklist of all the things I want different in my life, I should instead stand back and remember the decisions that I made that brought me here. Rather than sit in my own little puddle (which is, in my case, made of laundry that never seems to be finished) and feel sorry for myself- I need to remember that I CHOOSE to do this, and I need to switch my mind back over to being GRATEFUL for the things that I have in my life.

Our wedding day, 2004

One of the readings this week was from Luke 14:

27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?

Carter and Harrison-

I want you to PRAYERFULLY consider marriage, and your intended wives, long before you propose. Getting married is fun- I won't lie. There are pretty dresses, gifts, tons of attention, and it is a huge rite of passage in adulthood. Being married is fun too! You get to live with the person you adore! It is a sleepover every night! Great times! HOWEVER- consider the verse above. If you tell yourself that she is the only one, and you are not going back, and if you work hard to eliminate the word "divorce" from your mind then you will set yourself up for a better marriage.

Ask yourself (and her!!!!) about what you believe your family roles should be. Discuss gender roles. Discuss children- the number, the desired time before the first, the time you would be willing to have last (Do you want a baby when you are 22? Do you want a teen when you are 70?). Ask about holiday vacations. Ask about politics. Ask about EVERYTHING!

One of the best things your dad and I ever did was talk, a lot. The early part of our relationship was spent as buddies. Later, when we felt romantic love- we were hundreds of miles apart- and our phone conversations created time for us to really get to know one another without the distractions that can come from looking into the eyes of someone who makes your heart leap. Dad and I have seen SO MANY marriages fall apart over something so simple- conflicting religions or conflicting ideas on the number of children. These failed marriages would NEVER have had to happen had the couples just put their hormones on the back burner and asked the tough questions. We do not want to see your heartache from making such a mistake! Communicate early, and often! Find your priorities, and make sure you are compatible- ESPECIALLY when it comes to building your own "tower" together. Political differences or views on food preference do not have to be deal breakers, but number of children or feelings about birth control might be. Either way- talking about it will make you informed, and only then can you make a wise and informed decision before taking it to the Lord and asking for confirmation. Be smart, boys, so that you will be smart husbands and fathers! Then, and only then, should you consider asking your love to become your eternal companion.

Marriage is not always easy. Parts of it can be very hard. But with a prayerful heart, respectful words and thought out decisions it can be rewarding and fulfilling in itself. Finally, I ask that my boys remember- it is better to be single than be married to the wrong person. Wait. Be prayerful, be patient, and all will work out.

(Yes, 6 year old Carter, I am aware that you intend to marry my wonderful friend, Kayla. But if you decide to ever even entertain the idea of someone else, I hope that you read the above text... You have been in love with Kayla for almost two years now, and from the moment you met her you expressed a desire to marry her!)

*Obviously, we were not discussing people who leave toxic or abusive marriages! We were simply chatting about the common "I don't love you anymore" divorce. My friend is the most nonjudgmental person I have ever met, and her words were directed at my comments, not divorce in general.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Take the plunge!

Carter walked to the edge, but was not so sure about jumping off. When he saw Kurt and I on the sides of the pool, he gathered his courage and took the plunge into the depths below. He popped to the surface, laughing, and swam easily to the side of the pool. Rinse, repeat!

Harrison enjoyed the shallower waters of the spa.

Harrison demanded to go off the high dive. We told him he could... if he was willing to just jump into the pool from the pool's edge. He refused for awhile, but once he agreed to jump in he got pretty upset. Good thing we didn't let him do the high dive!

Carter takes breaks, and it is adorable!

This is Carter's face after his FIRST jump off a diving board! He LOVED it and went about fifty more times! Dad and Mom jumped off too- so fun!

Carter's very first jump =)

Harrison prefers to take a break on Mommy's lap =)

Our tennis club has an outdoor pool and the kids have been begging to go. On Kurt's day off we decided to head there for a family outing. What fun! The pool has two diving boards, a pool that goes up to eighteen feet in depth, and a spa. We were very happy to find the spa was not much warmer than the pool, and doubles as a kiddie pool. Harrison doesn't trust the water enough to try and swim on his own yet, but he is happy to splash around anywhere his toes can touch the bottom, so the spa was one of his favorite places. The four hours we spent there sure flew fast!**

**Many thanks to the Aloe Gator brand of sunblock. I apply it ONE time per day and no one gets burned (or tan!)! I used it in Africa and I loved it, and it was the only thing we took to Mexico! A little goes a long way, and it is TOTALLY water and sport proof!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kurt is home!

Kurt's flight was late- he ended up arriving at 2:35am. By the time we got home and settled in, bedtime was 4am. Ouch! The kids were great and played quietly until 10am. It was nice to get some sleep - we were all so tired!!!

When we were up and around I decided to make the family some waffles. Carter adores waffles, and I thought it would be a nice treat to celebrate Kurt's return home =) Of course, the waffles were gluten free- but they turned out delicious and perfect =) (breakfast pictured above - mmmm)

Most of the day was spent in a sleepy daze, and Kurt is already asleep (its 10:30pm). Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day! Either way, it is nice to have Kurt home and the kids are very happy =)

Recipe for a Happy Morning:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (we use King Arthur GF Flour- its great! But if you are using gluten free products, don't forget to add 1 tbsp Xanthan Gum)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup butter or oil
  • 2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
  • Friends, family, or both!
Preheat your waffle maker or waffle iron. Put all ingredients, except stiff egg whites, in a large mixing bowl. Beat on low until moistened, then increase to medium speed until smooth. Gently fold in the egg whites by hand. Pour 3/4 cup of batter over your iron and close. Bake until there is no longer steam coming from your waffle maker or for about 4-7 minutes. Repeat for each other waffle. Serve hot and topped with your favorite toppings.

Toppings pictured above are Swiss Meringue and fresh raspberries, dusted with powdered sugar. Swiss Meringue IS safe to eat, because the eggs are cooked during the process. Give friends hugs, and family kisses, and enjoy!!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Graduation! ... and big decision....

Carter's kindergarten graduation was Tuesday. Carter was very happy to be finished. In the morning we all woke, showered, and dressed. Kurt was in California on business, so he was unable to be with us and Carter was pretty upset. To help cheer Carter, I asked Uncle Brian to come to the Graduation with us for some support. With cocoa (for me) and coffee (for Uncle Brian) in hand, Harrison and I took our seats and saw the first round of Kindergarten graduation- it was Sean's! We cheered, took pictures, and talked about how adorable all the kids were. Harrison was bored but behaved well, it was nice.

After Sean's group left we snagged better seats for Carter's. The clock ticked and soon parents began to worry why the other Graduation Ceremony had not started. An announcement on loud speaker told everyone why: "Will Carter's mother please come to his classroom as soon as possible!?" Ugh. I ran as fast as I could down to the class to see that Carter, who was to be the first student called in the entire program, was refusing to walk with his class. Carter saw me and his tear filled eyes instantly brightened. I hugged him and asked what was wrong. He told me he was scared. I assured him I would be right in the front, and I would be waving to him. He didn't want to go- he just wanted to hold my hand. I hugged him tight and told him that this was the moment he worked for all year, it was almost over, and then we could be home. He put his graduation cap on, and he marched away.

Carter's name was the first called. The children sang songs, and Carter did great! After the graduation there was a celebratory lunch and the children laughed and enjoyed the attention. I took pictures of Carter and his teacher, and then we all came home.

This year was hard. Carter had such a difficult time being at school. Carter had a wonderful teacher, and wonderful staff support- but in the end, it was not what he wanted- he wanted to be home.

We tried to get him excited. We talked to Carter about his new school- his new teacher, playground, and school bus! Carter was adamant that he did NOT want a NEW school- he wanted to learn at home. We unsuccessfully tried to get Carter excited for First Grade. We grew more discouraged every single day.

When our children were first born Kurt and I discussed home school. When they were little I took the advice of a friend and taught the kids in our kitchen "Mommy School." The boys did not go to a formal preschool until Kurt and I were separated and I was in school full time and couldn't be home. The children learned more in "Mommy School" than they ever did at their academically driven formal preschool. My kids could both read at the age of 2, and they both knew their colors, alphabet, shapes, and numbers. I taught them this at home. But let's be honest- doing colors and teaching grammar are two different things. Aren't they?

Carter thrives with one on one attention in school. Yes, I am sure all other children do as well, but I am not the mother of all children - I am Carter's mother. Carter is a very bright and capable child, and it was extremely difficult for Kurt and I to see him develop a deep dread of going to school each day. He would scream, fight, and cry. It was so hard. I wonder if I will ever forget the look on his face each day when he would drop him off- his huge blue eyes filled with clear tears, attempting to keep a stiff upper lip, as he would slowly walk to his desk.

One of the few comforts Carter had was bringing something from home to school with him- a lovey of some kind that acted as an aid of comfort. A few weeks before school was over I turned to see Carter sitting at his desk, round shouldered and quietly crying, clutching his toy. His teacher walked to him while making an announcement to the rest of his class, and snatched the toy from his grasp. He loudly wept with sorrow. It wasn't about the toy- and I knew it. He ached for home.

We have had so many people tell us that "the problem" is that Carter just needs to grow up. Kurt and I are able to take this criticism because we know our son. The anthropologist in me wants to scream at people when they tell me Carter needs to "grow up" or I have to "cut the apron strings." No other time in human history were children pushed so far from their parents, so young. And for what? In the name of "progress?" My special needs toddlers read more words than most kindergardeners. In the name of "socialization?" I am not impressed by the behaviors that are commonly exhibited by children at school, and I would rather my son not emulate those behaviors. This is not about apron strings. Kurt and I appreciate that here in Nevada we are seen as highly interactive because we work with our children, I choose to stay home, and we volunteer in activities with them- but parents like us are extremely common in other places (most of my friends can out "SuperMom" me ANY day of the week, and I can't hold a candle to the mothers I admired in Uganda). I take extreme offense to being told that my affection for my son, and my concern for his emotional well being have something to do with my own emotional needs as a mother. Those who know me, know I am anything but a helicopter parent, and I am very proud of that.

Kurt and I have thought and prayed for months, and we have decided that Carter will be homeschooled. We asked Carter, and he had told us his desired, but we did not tell him the outcome until after he finished his Graduation. The day after Graduation I talked with Carter and asked him again about going to his new school- he adamantly proclaimed he wanted to learn at home. When I told him that I would allow him to be home schooled his little face beamed. He has been so happy, every day, knowing that he will be home.

Carter will be doing the k12 program for first grade. He will have his own computer and printer. He will take a lot of field trips. He will read a lot of books. His P.E. time will consist of golf, swimming, skiing, and whatever else he feels like doing. He will play team sports. He will learn the things that the Nevada public schools are teaching other kids, in addition to support curricula that Kurt and I are researching presently. Carter will be happy. Carter will thrive.

We have not made decisions regarding second grade. We have not made decisions regarding Harrison. Harrison is ineligible for kindergarten until 2012 anyway, so we have decided to just add a preschool curriculum and teach Harrison right alongside Carter.

We are so thankful to be in a position where homeschool is an option for Carter, and we know that this is the right choice for him at this time.

Happy Graduation, my little man!

What a week!

This week was crazy. So crazy that I neglected to post my scriptures, or worse- some days I neglected to read at all! No wonder I feel drained and edgy. Didn't I remember the wise words telling me to put God first? Well, the week is over, and I will do better next week. Next week Kurt will be home and we will be a bit more used to having both boys home full time. We made some big decisions this week. We saw a few big milestones this week. We are ready for change =)

Here were the uplifting scriptures for this week:

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Inner Peace

What a comforting message. Not only is there a light at the end of the tunnel, but we can have peace in our lives now! In our lives we are faced with trials, and if we stand back and give ourselves to the Lord and allow Him to carry us- be our light- and give us the peace we long for, our trials would be so much easier.

Carter has had a really horrible headache for days. Today he was in so much pain that he wouldn't even attempt to play. I gave him pain medication, lots of hugs, played Angry Birds with him, and fed him- but the worry I have for him is great. What if something serious is wrong? What if he gets worse? What should I do? What is wrong?

Carter's pain was not the only thing on my mind. Our roof started leaking last week. I woke up to raindrops touching my face- what a horrible spot for a leak! We contacted our landlord, who assured us that he was looking at bids for new roofing, but due to all of the rainfall it started to leak again.

Today Kurt flew to California for a week long business trip, so I don't have help with any of this.

None of these things, or even all of these things combined, were more than I could handle. However I did feel stressed, worried, and upset.

What a perfect scripture for today. As I take a deep breath and remember, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me," I feel a tremendous amount of peace and comfort. How often have I neglected to think of these comforting words, and instead sought comfort in venting frustrations, food, watching TV, or killing some creature in a video game. I do not need to find my comfort and rest in any source other than my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

I love my boys so much. I am so thankful for them. I had a very nice time today, snuggling with Carter and listening to his thoughts. He is such a shy little guy, he rarely cares to chat, but today he was very happy to lay in my bed and tell me about the dream he had last night, to tell Harrison why Santa cant bring him a puppy for Christmas (Harrison had expressed desire for a white puppy named "Best Friend" or "Bone" and Carter explained, "No, 'Arrison! Santa doesn't bring puppies! He brings boxes, and you cant put puppies in boxes!"), and even to ask me politely for help with Angry Birds or putting on a television program. I love my family so much, I am so lucky to have them, and I will keep this comforting scripture close to my heart as I ride out the storms that will pass overhead.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Goodness of God

It is not enough to just be good. We sin, and we need redemption from our sins. Jesus Christ offers it through the power of the atonement. My New Testament Study Guide explains, "Paul taught the Jewish Christians that having the outward signs of righteousness (such as circumcision) meant nothing if a spirit of faith and obedience did not dwell in them. The same is true today. Outward signs of righteousness (such as Church attendance) are not enough. A spirit of faith, love, and obedience must also dwell in our hearts."

We may live in momentary happiness, but only true joy can come from the freedom of repentance.

The Ministry of Motherhood

I am seriously adoring this summer book club from Good Morning Girls! I love that our daily scripture directly relates to the wonderful and uplifting book that we are reading! This scripture is perfection all by itself, but when paired with inspirational words about mothering and kindness, it really does warm the soul!

The book we are reading is called The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ's Example in Reaching the Hearts of our Children. The author beautifully discusses parenting in a unique and spiritual way. I am enjoying this book so much! As I read along with the Good Morning Girls I am feeling so blessed that this book has come into my home! Parts of this book have brought sweet tears to my eyes and have caused me to look at the scriptures more deeply. There are times when the author brings a scripture to life- adding details that may have been present, and painting a story for one to behold.

This book is not written by an LDS author, the author uses examples of Christ found in The Holy Bible. This book is beautiful and wonderful, and is non-denominational in its wordings. This is the PERFECT gift for any Christian mother! I love reading inspirational books- they strengthen my testimony about all scriptures, including The Book of Mormon. So many times I will read a beautiful scripture that is discussed in an inspirational Christian book, and I will recall a perfect companion scripture in The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, or Pearl of Great Price! So many times have I felt warmed by a wonderful passage from The Holy Bible, and upon further research felt enlightened by the fulfillment of the Gospel found in these other holy texts. I feel so blessed to have my scriptures!