Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Good Habit Jar

The Good Habit Jar gets filled with a bead every time someone in our family does the good habit we are currently working on! We decide ahead of time as a family what good habit our family needs to work on so we're all working towards the same goal, then once the jar is filled to the top, we go out for ice-cream! This idea came from a podcast I was listening to on Power of Moms Radio.   It is genius!
Several months ago I really felt like we needed to say "I love you" more. It just wasn't being said enough in our home! To me, those 3 simple words convey such a powerful message that we are a family that is not afraid to show love and affection for each other, and that we are a family that shares how we feel frequently by saying I love you! 
I knew that we all loved each other, but we needed to get into a better habit of actually saying it.     
Enter the Good Habit Jar!
It started out slow, but pretty soon I was hearing I love you's every hour of the day!
(However, when I noticed the jar filling up too fast, we had to make a few rules such as : No standing by the jar and saying I love you over and over and over again, while throwing beads in. And no saying I love you to animals. And lastly, mom doesn't get to put beads in because she's already really good at this habit. I tell my kids I love them all day everyday)
So, their I love you's had to be genuine, and directed to a certain person in the family. 
It took us about a month to fill it to the top. After a month my heart was filled with happy as I could hear more I love you's being shared between family members. My favorite thing was right after family prayer and right before getting into bed, each one of my kids would say I love you to each family member, then they'd go count out the beads with a huge grin on their faces.

The next good habit we did was to work on saying Thank You more often. By the end of the month my kids were saying Thank You left and right, and probably more than they needed to (Zadok discovered that he could say thank you for mundane things like me turning on the car or one of his brothers flushing the toilet...i.e. "Thank you for flushing the toilet, Odin, and now I get to put a bead in the jar.") 
We filled up the jar pretty quickly and had a delicious night of blizzards at Dairy Queen to prove it! But the best part is that our family is saying thank you more often. It makes me really happy when I cook a meal and then I hear a bunch of little voices say,"Thank you, Mom!"

I wonder what we should do next? We'll never run out of  good habits to work on!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Freedom Van for Pauline

This is Pauline!!  One the warmest, friendliest, most down-to-earth people I've ever met!

We met her and her family while living in Hilo from 2011 to 2013. #freedomvan
How did we meet? She had called me on the phone and asked me on a blind-park-date after finding my phone# in an ad about starting a local homeschool group. She was homeschooling her child, and I was homeschooling my children, so she wanted to meet at a playground and become acquainted! Yes! I thought immediately. I love blind dates!
When the day came for us to meet at the park I realized I had no idea what she looked like, so was hoping we'd find each other easily. I remember driving up, parking my car, and then seeing that there was only one other adult person at the park: a woman I've often seen around town with no arms or legs, but the most beautiful smile and warmest eyes. Yes! I thought immediately. I love meeting interesting new friends! 
(I wondered for a second why she didn't mention it on the phone the fact that she didn't have all her limbs. Probably because it wouldn't have been a proper blind date if I knew what she looked like, but most likely because her disability was the furthest thing from her mind!)

As I got to know Pauline more and more I got to learn about her incredible life and the amazing person she is.  She was born to nurturing, loving parents who taught her that she could do whatever she wanted to do, despite her disability: that she could accomplish great things in her life, and make a positive impact on the world around her.
And she has! Pauline has not only pushed forward and accomplished her own goals in life, but through her accomplishments, has reached out and helped so many people around her. 
Furthermore, she has an insurmountable faith in God, an optimistic and positive outlook on life, and an ability to make people (like me) feel comfortable and at home in her presence.  I had never met anyone like Pauline before in my entire life, and soon felt like she was not only a wonderful friend, but a spiritual giant in my life. Her example to me as a faithful woman and mother, has touched me to the core. 
There was one experience in particular that Pauline shared with me about when her son was born, that I will never forget:
She shared that right after her baby boy was born, It was especially difficult for her watch as other people in her family took turns taking care of his basic needs: as her husband changed the baby's diapers, and as her step-kids fed her baby bottles, and as her loving family did all those things that are naturally instinctual for a mother to do, she had to let go of her very strong desires to take control of those motherly things and accept her situation for what it was. It was the most difficult  thing for her to do as a new mother, and taught her a great deal about letting go of control and finding joy in the journey. #freedomvan
Now when I experience difficult challenges in my life that feel out of my control, I think about Pauline. Her first mothering experience gives me the strength to push through the hard stuff in life, and have faith that everything will work out for the good- That sometimes even though we may not have control over a situation, we still know that God is always helping us, that God will work through the wonderful people around us, and that if we trust it and accept it, we can find joy in everything else.

I hope that as Pauline is raising money for her new van that she can remember this same lesson she taught me! I know it isn't easy for her to ask for help, and it's going to require a lot of trust in other people and acceptance of the things she can't control, but I also know that wonderful people will step in to help her, and God will increase her joy on this crazy journey of life!

Please take a few minutes to watch this video and donate to Pauline's Dream van! #freedomvan
Even a $1 donation will make her one step closer to her goal! Love you Pauline! Thanks for being you!

Click here to donate!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Natural Remedies for Curing the Common Cold

My family has been really sick with a nasty cold virus for the past 3 weeks. The virus has been circulating through each member of the household, debilitating them completely, and then forcing them into groggy-sleep-like comas for days at a time. 
I did not want this to happen to me! I'm the mama and have no time to lie around and be sick! So, as the last healthy family member standing, I've been determined to stay well! To make sure I covered all my bases, I  asked my facebook friends what remedies they used to help prevent or cure the common cold. This is the list I compiled from their answers:

*Elderberry, sleep, hot water with lemon, Herbal teas, warm salt water gargle if a sore throat, lots of washing hands and cleaning surfaces with an essential oil anti bacterial spray. fresh garlic, onion and ginger in anything you eat. no junk food, limited caffeine & limited sugar except a bit of chocolate. 
heart emoticon

*Honey, vinegar, hot water. Some add lemon. Ginger.

*Lemon echinacia with pelegrino and olena.

*My grandma swears by warm whiskey and honey. We use a different version with honey and lemon.

*I swallow cloves of garlic like pills, after a meal. I may not smell that nice, but it beats getting sick!

*Apple cider vinegar shots in the morning. (I dilute with organic apple juice.) And sleep. 
Reduces severity and length compared with the family members who do not partake. I call it the breakfast of champions.

*Apple cider vinegar. I also keep a bottle if fire cider on hand (fire cider: apple cider vinegar, onions, garlic horse radish, turmeric, lots if nasty potent stuff. But it will cure what ails ya. I make it by the gallon.) Wish you lived closer, I'd share.

*Getting lots of sleep, reading fluffy library books, fanatical hand-washing, wiping off doorknobs/ light switches /keyboards/phones and making garlicky recipes for dinner.

*Old Chinese recipe: 
1. Slice 2-3 thick slice of ginger, cook it in 1-2 cups of boiling water, if you can, drink the hot ginger tea without adding brown sugar. You body will feel hot within 5-10 mins. 
2. Prepare yourself clean clothes in the bathroom 
(for later use). lay down washable blanket on your bed. 
3. Now wrap yourself in blankets on the bed, nothing poking out and exposed but your head and neck. 
4. Let yourself sweat, in about 20 - 30 mins, you should feel like your body is dripping with sweat (which is what you want). That's when all the virus and germs in the body will come out through sweating. 
5. Now jump out of the blanket and take a hot shower, wash all the sweat and germs off, and you should feel better that night. smile emoticon

*I do most of these things and can usually "catch" it before it's a full blown cold. If I don't or get lazy=cold. I also like cold snap (herbal blend you can buy), and I make a tea with various herbs depending on what's going on. Usually horse tail and marshmallow and Mullein and of course elderberry. I will add rose hips for vit c and take more as well. Cut out dairy if snotty. No white flour, sugar etc. lots and lots of fluids. Gargle and rinse sinuses with alcohol.

*Stay in complete denial til it goes away. (This was one of my favorites, and one I use often)

*Speedwell by Lily Zerkle  (an herbal blend made by a local midwife/herbalist).

*Good old home made chicken noodle soup.

*Get cotton tube socks. Soak them in ice water. Ring out slightly . Put on your feet. Cover with thick wool (best) or cotton socks and go to bed. I used essential oils and even the garlic menthol rub on the bottom of the feet as well. This draws the congestion away from the head and chest. It works so well!

*Drink water until you feel like you're drowning, then drink more water.

Conclusion: I ended up getting the cold from my family, but it only lasted 3-4 days! I didn't end up doing all of these things, but will be saving this list for future reference in case illness strikes again. 
 Each day I took a morning shot of 2 Tbsp. Apple-Cider vinegar, then I took Elderberry Lozenges, extra Vitamin C, garlic, and loads of water. I washed my hands a ton, slept and took naps, and no junk food but a little chocolate because chocolate makes me happy. If my illness got any worse I wanted to try the Chinese recipe and the Speedwell. Maybe the wet sock treatment.

Stay well my friends! Summer is too much fun to get sick!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

You pick, Cherry Picking

As we were driving the 25 minutes south to pick cherries at a local cherry farm, I realized just how happy I was in that moment! I had a perma-grin on my face, and a carload full of my favorite people- my children!  
If someone asked me what makes me happiest in life, that would be it: Going on fun outside adventures with my kids. Nothing else makes me smile like the prospect of being out in nature, exploring, and watching my children thrive in the beauty of mother nature.

Several days ago we sat down and made lists of all the fun things we want to do this summer. Everything was included from hiking Zion National Park (which we just did on Mothers Day but will do again and again), finding frogs in Kolob Canyon, climbing rocks at Three Peaks, swimming in the lake on the hill, going camping, going hiking, visiting animals at Red Acre Farm, hiking in Snow Canyon, splashing at a water park, going to the St. George Children's Museum, looking for caterpillars, collecting more bugs, building sandcastles, going fishing, picking cherries, and resting in between (that was Odin's idea). 

Today we decided to check cherry picking off our list. I feel so lucky that we have farms like this so close by. I realize that this is an opportunity that not every family can experience, because of where they live. We felt very blessed today to be able to take from this local farmer's bountiful harvest. 


Saturday, May 16, 2015

My Hill

This is my hill looking down from the top. 

I run up it several times a week. It gives me something to work for. It challenges me on days when I feel overrun by mindless, repetitive tasks like laundry and dishes. My hill never feels repetitive because each time I run up it, I strive to get better at it.  I try to run faster, push harder, and get to the top without swearing. 
The challenge inspires me. It makes me want to work harder at being a good mother and a happier wife, and even better at doing the mindless, tedious tasks that need to be done on the days I don't want to do them (Does anyone out there love doing dishes? I do not.) 
Because  I know that if I can conquer my hill, then I can accomplish anything that comes my way that day.

Everywhere we've lived, I've look for a hill to run up. When we were first married it was Griffith Park in the Los Angeles hills. I could see massive buildings and freeways for miles and miles from the top! When we moved to Idaho it was the hill in Rexburg going up to the new LDS Temple. Each day I went up that hill I got to see the latest progress on the temple grounds. In Cedar City it was Leigh Hill. Oh how I loved the view from the top, looking out over the red rock mountains! In Hilo Hawaii it was West Kawailani Street. I'll never forget the giant rainbow I saw waiting for me at the top of that hill one day. I wished I could've touched it! 
Now back in Cedar City, I've found my newest hill near the golf course. It beckons to me daily: "Come run up me! Come push your big ol' stroller full of children up my cement incline. Come forget all your troubles as you drive your sweat and tears up my sidewalks. I'll make you feel like a rockstar. I'll give you endorphins and adrenaline and make you feel like a million bucks. You'll go home a happier person once you're done with me!"

So I go. And I push. And all of it comes true.
I've even found a special friend who will run up my hill with me. Her name is Lacy and she's awesome. Although, on those days together we don't so much as run, but instead walk really fast and talk about life, and our children, and happy endings. I love running with Lacy.

I am so grateful for my hill. And the beautiful view that comes with it. 
I often wonder if other people have hills, or any sort of self-fulfilling challenges that motivates them throughout the day. I suppose a hill could be anything that lights your fire.
This might look like boring sage brush and desert, but it's my home. There is hidden beauty in these hills.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Good morning smelly smells

It often surprises me how the smell of my children's elementary school brings back so many happy memories for me. The smell I think is a combination of everything that I loved about school when I was a kid, all compacted into one: pencils, pencil sharpeners, lined paper, paints, construction paper, scissors, recess equipment, computers, toys, library books, science experiments, drama costumes, musical instruments, and the occasional teacher's perfume.
I had to run some stuff into the school this morning and right when I opened the door the smell entered my brain and triggered the happy memories of times past. 
I felt really happy to be there this morning, and really grateful that my children love it so much. My third grader adores his teacher. It is his first real teacher since he had been home-schooling up until several months ago. But gosh, the way he looks up to her and cares about her is the most assuring and joyful thing ever. 
Back when I felt like I was drowning and needed someone else to help me enrich and inspire the live's of my children, I never dreamt that these teachers would be the answer. Both of them! Because my first grader's teacher is amazing, too. They love, they care, they teach, they challenge, they inspire, and they light the fire of curiosity within my children to always want to learn new things.

As I was driving home I saw the crossing guard who keeps large pockets full of candy to hand out to the kids. He's worked that cross-walk for years and everyone knows him. The kids were laughing and smiling. The principal was waving hello as children arrived. I also saw parents I know from church, from La Leche League, from my neighborhood, all walking their eager children into the building. I smiled to myself because this is my community. My home. The place I get to raise my kids.
 I felt so grateful, once again, to my Heavenly Father for leading us back here to this small town of ours. 
There isn't a lot of crime here. Children still walk to and from school unassisted. Parents still smile and wave at one another and make chit chat. People are helpful and caring, in general. 
I like it here because it's also expanding, which brings in more diversity. However, I feel a sense of territorialism, because often with expansion comes more riff-raff. I hate riff-raff.  I hope we can maintain a safe and happy community here for many years to come, even as the city expands. (no riff-raff)

Right now I am sitting at the keyboard nursing my 9 month old. He is getting his first tooth this week and needs lots of lovies. 
My mom is visiting and she's in the other room playing with my 4 year old. 
Life is good. 
I might even go for a jog today and plant some more flowers in my yard.

That is all.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It's okay cuz I have pretty face

I am so grateful for the times I had in my single-young-adult-life to travel and be spontaneous. Sometimes I get feeling a little tied down with children and animals and a mortgage that I want to burst out of my current self, run hard,  and jump on an airplane to Indonesia. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change my parenting-adult-life for the universe-- I just miss spontaneity. It's hard to be spontaneous as a parent. Sometimes I really just want to throw all my kids in the car and go on a spontaneous-adventure-of-a-lifetime, then I remember it's going to take just as long to pack diapers, wipes, snacks, lunches, extra food, water, bandaids, and other provisions I might need. Add on more time for poo breaks, for tantrum management, and for breaking up arguments, and the trip might end before we get there.
It kinda sucks the spontaneity out of it all. These days things are more planned out and prepared, and that's okay too.
(It's important to have sanity as a parent, as well, which might beat-out spontaneity in the end.)
So when I'm feeling stifled, It's good for me to remember that once-upon-a-time I did burst and run and jump onto a plane to Indonesia... Twice, in fact.
The first time I was 17 and flew with a girly-friend to the tiny island of Bali. We wanted to go on a surfing-hitchhiking-adventure with the money we'd saved up from our little-teenager-jobs.  It was probably one of craziest, most spontaneous things I've ever done! I'm so glad we went (but no, I will not let my teenage child fly to a far-off island in Indonesia when they are 17, with no responsible adult supervision!)
Second time around I was 21, and found myself on a backpacking trip with 2 other girly-friends. We flew into Thailand, caught buses down through Malaysia, and then a ferry across the Indian sea to Indonesia.

Wait!! This post was supposed to be short because I don't have a lot of time to write these days, so let me cut to the chase:
Skip the travelogue to get there, we are now staying on this teensy weensy island at the northern end of Sumatra, just a couple hour's boat ride across from the Banda Aceh Province. It is an island dominated by the Muslim religion, so we had to stay covered most of the time to respect the religious culture of the island. However, at the farthest tip of the island there is a small village for tourists to stay at. In this village you can walk around in your swimsuit all day  if you want, and sleep in small bungalows. We stayed there for an entire week, swimming, snorkeling, sailing, and eating huge amounts of fruit and fish. There was also a brothel in the village, but we stayed clear of that business. Gross.
One night there was an earthquake from the seismic activity happening there. I awoke in the night all freaked out because pigs were outside my window squealing and some witch doctor lady in the next bungalow over was chanting to the earthquake Gods. Our bungalow was built up on stilts at the edge of a rocky slope, and I was pretty sure we were going to go sliding into the sea and never be heard from again.
So anyways, we survived the quake, and then the day before the last day we were staying on he island we decided to wash our clothes near the village well. Not the Muslim village, but the tourist village, where you could wash your clothes in a swimsuit because the entire process involved getting really wet.
First we had to bring up a bucket-load of water from the well to wet our clothes. Then we had to scrub them by hand with soap and a scrubby brush. Then we had to get more water up from the well to rinse them. I had maybe 3 or 4 shirts and a couple pairs of shorts to wash, plus my under-things, so not too much laundry, yet we were terrible at working the well, so it took us longer than we'd thought because spinning the rope to get the bucket up and down the shaft was more work than we'd anticipated!
At one point I was bending over my pile of clothes, clad in nothing but my bikini and my tan behind, scrubbing furiously and concentrating seriously, when I felt a hand slap my bottom. Real hard. "Ouch!" I shouted. I looked up to see which one of my friends was trying to be funny, when I saw that it wasn't one of my friends at all. It was an older Indonesian woman balancing a huge basket of laundry on her head. Just like in the movies.
I smiled because I really didn't know what else to do.
The she smiled back and said to me in her broken English,"You have big butt. But it's okay, cuz you have pretty face."

Sometimes I think about that moment when I'm feeling the need to get away; It was a humorous, only-in-a-foreign-country-moment that made my traveling  experience to Banda Acheh Province so memorable, yet,  I don't need to go all the way to Indonesia when I have 3 little boys that tell me that almost every week!
Okay maybe not the part about having a pretty face, but at least once a week someone tells me I have a big butt! And at least once a week someone slaps me really hard! And I can put on my swimsuit and pretend that my washing machine is a deep, dark well.
It's just like back on that tiny island in the Indian Sea.
It's so spontaneous, so surreal, so within my grasp.

I'm kidding, of course. But it's fun to reminisce. Fun to think back to the days when all the world was mine to explore, with my big butt.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Beautiful Utah...with Grandpa

Bryce Canyon National Park

Thanks so much for coming to play with us, Grandpa Stokes!
**Bryce Canyon 2015
**Don't forget-Capotol Reef 2016 here we come!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

You Can't do it all, fool

"You can't do it all." Is the thought that keeps running through my mind since I became a mother of four. The world might tell you that it's possible. Hell, even Satan might tell you that it's possible, but you'd be fooling yourself because it's one of the biggest lies on the planet! A mother cannot do it all, and if she tries, something is gonna suffer. And the fact is, the thing that suffers the most ends up being her own children. And the fact of the fact is, that letting your children suffer on account of things that don't even reach the scale of importance as them, is a bloody shame.
So, I made a decision shortly after this last baby was born, that I would pray with all my heart and let God guide me towards the things that I CAN do, and please please let the things I want to do but can't do, simply fade away. Please let me enjoy my baby, please help me put my children and husband first, and let me be happy.
And HE did.
God answered all those prayers and has been showing me what to do, how to do it, and most importantly He's not letting that big fat lie creep into my mind that I can do it all. Because I know I can't. And If I tried, I'd be a terrible mess.
The happy news is, at nearly 8 months post-partum, I am not a terrible mess! I am happy. Truly. Deeply. Purely. Simply, happy to be a mother of four wonderful, amazing, creative, funny, intelligent little boys who fill my heart to the brim with joy; Happy to be married to the most honorable, outstanding, loyal, honest, righteous, handsome, loving man I know; Happy to be where I am in this stage of my existence; Happy to be ME.

You can't do it all, but you can do the things that bring the most joy. The trick to life is finding those things, hanging onto them, and putting them highest on the priority chart.
Here's the things that I CAN'T do:

*I can't homeschool my children right now. As much as I believe in the beautiful values and principles of homeschooling, and still love the idea behind homeschooling my own family--it was literally steering me down a dark path to insanity.
I'm proud to say that I put in my best effort for the past 5 years! I read all the great homeschooling books, I  ordered awesome activities, projects, and curriculum, and I tried my hardest to implement the "un-schooling" concept in my household, where we provided an environment of learning, and watched as our children thrived in their interests and excitement for education. I loved waking up to the easy, relaxing mornings where we ate a leisurely breakfast, went exploring at parks, enjoyed our family's company......Yet I still found myself feeling more suffocated, defeated, and lost, than happy. I love my children so much, yet having them here with me all day, with no help and no support, and no social network, was killing me. When the time was right, Heavenly Father helped me to put my children in school. We waited til they were ready, we waited til I was ready, and then we went for it!! (And they LOVE it!! Which makes things 100x easier and do-able.)
I just have to say that because of this decision I am a much, much happier person. I can breathe during the day. I can smile without worrying. I can think thoughts in my brain without forgetting.

I am a much better, healthier, and happier mother now that I don't homeschool. (This may change as my babies get older-- Who knows, maybe we'll jump back on the homeschool ship in several years!)

**I can't keep pretending that I can write a book. Because, I can't write a book, at least not right now. First off, I don't have time right now. Second of all, I don't even know where to start, or how to finish, or how to make it a priority in my life. And lastly, every time I sit down to write, I remember something else that I need to do that takes priority over writing (hence the disappearance of this blog these past months.) So, Heavenly Father has also helped me fade those thoughts away for now: to put them on the back-burner for a time that is better than in the bustling throws of motherhood, babies, childhood illness, toddler tantrums, nighttime nursings, and diaper-changing. (I might even sign up for a creative writing class this Fall to help me figure out what I want to do in the future.)

**I can't get a job. I don't even want a job! Though, the thought crosses my mind every once in a while that I should go out there, do something more, and work for money! But, the truth is that money does not determine value. There are so many valuable things I am doing right now that are worth far more than any job could pay. Getting a real job would be a waste of my awesomeness. I am grateful for a husband that works and makes money sufficient for our needs. (So I can keep being awesome.)

What I CAN do right now:

**I can love this baby like there's no tomorrow!
I love this baby boy so much that I literally want to squeeze and cuddle him all day long. I can't stand the thought of missing a second of his growing up, that I probably hold him way more than he wants me to! (You've been playing too long by yourself--it's my turn!!) Everyday that I am with my baby Malachi is a blessing! He is the light of my life right now and I thank God everyday that I was able to get pregnant again and have this baby. The best thing about Mally is that he is a smile-er! He smiles so much, and his smiles make everyone else smile! He smiles at his mom n' dad, he smiles at his brothers, he smiles at strangers walking by, he smiles when I say his name, he smiles when I walk past and look at him, he smiles when I get the camera out. He is chubby and squishy, and happy, and I can enjoy him as much as I want!

**I can enjoy my children! I can drive them to school everyday and pick them up. I can be involved in all their school projects. I can help them to develop positive morals and values in their lives. I can teach them the gospel and help them apply it daily. I can be an example to them. I can play with them, laugh with them, and let them know that I will always be here for them. I love my 3 older boys so much! They are each so unique and wonderful in their own ways. I spend time keeping journals of all the wonderful things they do and say. They amaze me each day with their intelligence and understanding of the world. I am one blessed and lucky mama! (Lil' Jonah is still home with me until he starts Kindergarten in the Fall)

**I can read novels. I joined a book club through our ward (church). I love reading and this has inspired me to choose good books that I wouldn't have known to pick for myself. I've really enjoyed reading each of these books and then discussing them with other book-lovers.
So far we have read:
The Forgotten Garden 
Orphan Train
The Rent Collector
The Heart Mender
The Help

**I can be a Cub Master: My husband and I were asked to be the Cub Masters for our church's Cub Scout group. We oversee and organize the program, help train new Leaders, put on monthly awards and activities, attend scout camps and jamborees, and try to invite and reach out to families in our area. I love it! It keeps me busy, as I love being involved with meaningful projects and activities for children. Our eldest son is a Cub Scout, so I have a special interest in making this a successful, and meaningful experience for him.

**I can run a successful non-profit organization in my community. I am a La Leche League Leader! I provide education, support, and information to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers! I run monthly meetings and enrichment's for moms who want to connect with other like-minded mothers. I take phone calls and emails from mothers who have breastfeeding questions. Next month I am holding a huge yard-sale fundraiser here at our house. I have been filling our back room with everyone's donations, and will sell them to raise money for the group.

**I can make exercising and eating healthy a priority in my life. I am running or walking every single day. I am training for a 10k, (which is next week.) I am eating green smoothies everyday, and focusing on eating mostly whole grains and whole foods, which means lots of vegetables, fruits, and brown rice. I have lost (almost) all the pregnancy weight (65pounds!), only ten more lbs to go, and feel better than ever!

**I can hold Family Home Evenings and daily scripture studies with my family. With the help of my husband we can provide a home for learning the gospel and developing faith in Jesus Christ. This is one of those priorities that doesn't have the option to suffer. This General Conference talks sums it all  up for me, inspires me, and reminds me what to put FIRST:  Parents: The Prime Gospel Teachers of Their Children.

Okay, my sick baby is awake, and I have things to do before the rest of my family comes home from church. It's been really fun, but I must bid adieu!

This blogging episode was brought to you by an intense need to tap into my creative-side, writer's guilt, sleep deprivation, and the first time I've been home in a quiet house by myself in 3 months. I can't do it all, but the things I can do, I am doing with gusto.

Monday, February 9, 2015

What Co-sleeping looks like.

Happy, smiling baby, rolling playfully between mommy and daddy.
Grabbing sheets with chubby fingers, pulling mommy's shirt into gnawing gums.
Pouncing onto daddy's chest, gurgling and giggling along.
Grabbing daddy's face with tiny fingers, resting his head on daddy's cheeks.
Cuddling under blankets, slobbering on pillows.
Chewing on his fingers, making mommy laugh.
Smiling for no reason. Smiling REALLY BIG!
Smiling because there's three of us in a bed enjoying who we are together.
Chubby baby cheeks filled with happiness and love.

Chubby baby cheeks getting tired and sad.
Mommy turns the lights off, signaling it's time for bed.
Baby snuggles up and nurses close to mommy's side.
Daddy says I love you and kisses baby's head.
We yawn goodnight and scrunch up tight, til wee morning snack-time.

Baby whimpers quietly, next to mommy's face.
Mommy lifts her shirt up, then goes back to sleep.

Eyes pop open, the sun is shining, a brand new day awaits!
Happy, smiling baby wakes up to find his milk.
He nurses and he gulps until he's satisfied and full.
He giggles and he grabs at whatever he can reach.
He makes his mommy laugh and smile.
Such a wonderful way to start the day!
His mommy holds him tight and kisses those chubby cheeks.
Daddy gets up and gets ready for work, leaving the two of them alone.
We lay in bed a few more minutes and enjoy the warmth and sweetness of each other.
Til nighttime comes and we start all over again.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

My Home is a Refuge

I was nursing at the computer as I sometimes do, using one arm to hold up my baby's head, and using the other arm to reach for my mouse. Before too long I had nursed the baby to sleep and then found myself jumping from website to website, browsing, clicking, and reading loads of material since I was still sitting there with my sleeping baby on me.

It's so easy to get caught up in the Internet. I'll start by reading someones blog post, then see something else that catches my eye and click on that, then see something else and click on that, then click back onto facebook, then click over to Pinterest, then over to NPR, then back to a blog, then back to facebook, until my hand and eyes are completely exhausted from all that clicking! One could do this for hours if they're not careful...... Because
the excitement and suspense of the Internet is always enticing, pulling us into it's never ending matrix of websites, new products, stories, cutting edge-news events, important causes, and the random hysterical video of someone waking up from a sleeping drug. I might start off meaning well by catching up on some reading  but then find myself wasting an hour or so watching youtube videos of some surfer chick traveling Indonesia while advertising for Eco-friendly bikinis. (I don't have time for that!)

So the other day as I was nursing my baby to sleep I got caught up reading some controversial posts on facebook about the measles outbreaks and what not. (Basically people arguing over who's right and who's wrong and who should mind their own business.) Then I clicked over and read the latest on the wars going on in Syria, and the hostage crisis in Jordan, and then the local news which is chock full of crime and killing here in America. By the end my heart was feeling heavy and sad. I didn't want to get up out of my chair. I just wanted to sit there and feel depressed and ruminate over all the bad things happening in the world. When I finally turned off the computer and left the room, carrying my sleeping baby in my arms, I felt awful. But, I followed the voices of my family down the hallway until I entered the room that they were in. They were gathered around on one of the beds playing games. I stood in the doorway for a second and soaked in this happy scene before me: all 3 of my older boys and my husband smiling and chatting together.  Suddenly this feeling of total peace and happiness came over me. I felt safe, optimistic, and full of hope again. I smiled real big and sighed a sigh of relief. I felt grateful that I had these amazing people in my life to fill me back up with joy after experiencing such sadness.
I want our home to always be a refuge from the world: a safe and happy place to turn off the noise and come together again. A place where we can sit on the bed, laugh, talk, and play with one another without the influences of the negative things around us. 

I just love my family so much and am feeling overwhelmingly blessed that I have them. They are my refuge from the world. They are the little pieces of joy that fill me up each day. 
They are the most important thing I've ever done with my life, and probably ever will.
Next time I find myself nursing at the computer, I'm going to remind myself to stay focused on what matters most right now, to leave the controversies and wars alone, to only click on the good stuff (for now), and to fill myself up with never-ending love and light from my family.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday is Bathrooms

I'm becoming really organized in my old age: like a really, really organized person that keeps track of everything and knows where everything is!! I'm pretty proud of myself, especially because this is a skill I've been trying to develop over the past decade. So let me just brag about myself for a moment here:
My digital pictures are organized into years, categorized by months, and individually labeled. All 8,000 of them. For instance, if I want to find a photo of our second child Odin holding a frog in Zions National Park in 2009, all I'd have to do is type in a few search words like "Odin","frog", or  "Zions" and my photo would pop up. Or, If I wanted to find that one picture of Micah swimming at Meadow Hot Ponds all I'd have to do is type in "Micah", "Meadow" and voila! This is something I've been working on for years and I'm finally caught up. Yay me!
Secondly, my journals are organized. Everything I've saved since I was zero years old is tucked neatly into a folder categorized by school and age groups. (Birth to 4, K-5, 6-8, 9-12, the 20's, and the 30's.) My posterity will thank me!

I've also found that sticking to a somewhat flexible and organized schedule during my week keeps me saner than I ever imagined. I think that the more children I have, the more organized I want to be.
To keep on top of house-cleaning I've come up with a daily cleaning schedule that seems to be working so far:
Monday is bathrooms.
Tuesday is floors. (sweep and mop)
Wednesday is laundry.
Thursday is vacuuming.
Friday is cleaning and tidying up bedrooms.
Saturday is front yard, backyard and both cars.

This schedule works great for me because it calms me down from freaking out. If I start to stress about the gross bathrooms on Saturday, I relax knowing that by Monday they will both be squeaky clean again. Or, If I look down at my horrendously dirty kitchen floors on Thursday, I can let the negative feelings go, knowing that on Tuesday they'll be shiny again. 
If I tried to keep everything clean and shiny every day of the week I would run myself into the ground and dig an early grave for myself! It's just not possible to have a clean house 24/7. And I don't even think I want one. Some messes are there because we were having fun and part of being in a family is having fun and making messes.

The 2 oldest boy's daily chore schedules coincide with this list, also. So on Mondays they each get a bathroom where they are assigned to take out the garbages, scrub the toilets and sinks, wash the mirrors, and scrub the bathtub ring-of-scum if needs be. On Tuesdays one of them mops while the other sweeps, on Wednesday they sort laundry and put it away, on Thursday one of them vacuums upstairs while the other vacuums downstairs, on Friday they clean their bedrooms, etc... Then on Saturday our entire family heads outside to pick up trash, pick up dog poop, and do any yard maintenance needed. They also help their dad with wood chopping, pulling weeds, checking for chicken eggs, and all that fun outside stuff. My sweet n' stubborn four year old Jonah is very resistant to doing anything to help out right now, so I am waiting patiently for him to turn a more reasonable five. 

Having a weekly meal plan has also saved my sanity:
Monday is a Meat Dish.
Tuesday is tacos. (or any Mexican dish)
Wednesday is breakfast for dinner.
Thursday is noodles. (or any Italian dish)
Friday is PIZZA.
Saturday is leftovers or eat out.
Sunday is scrounge for food day or crockpot. 

This schedule works for me because I no longer have to freak out on Thursday afternoon wondering what the heck I'm going to make for dinner that night! I already know it's something with noodles. And noodles are easy. Fridays are actually my favorite. (Thank you Little Ceasars. Okay sometimes we make our own pizza). And I always look forward to Tuesdays because it's either burritos, tacos, enchiladas, or nachos.  Yum!
We've actually saved a lot of money by following this plan. I type out our menu, then one of us goes to the store and gets the food, then we don't have to go shopping again for a week! (un;less we need fresh produce) It's saved us from last-minute-runs to the store to get last-minute items for dinner, and buying last-minute-things that aren't on sale.

I asked around on facebook to see what my friend's thought of this weekly meal-themes-planning-schedule and found that most of them follow a similar one, too. I think the idea originated from the Food Nanny, but maybe our ancient cave-ancestors followed it, too.
Monday: Meat on a stick
Tuesday: Berries and grass
Wednesday: Meat on a stick
Thursday: Grass and berries
Friday: Meat, grass, and berries
Saturday: leftovers
Sunday: Barbecued meat-grass-berries

Wait, did neanderthal cave-dwellers even  have fire?

Well, it's Monday, and I'm off to clean my bathrooms! (Just in time for them to be dirty again by next Monday. :)

Friday, January 16, 2015

No More Licking Rocks

Poison Control: Hello this is Mary at Poison Control, and  how can I help you?

Me (panicking): Well, my baby was sucking on a blue rock crystal and got the chemicals in his mouth and all over his face and hands.

Poison Control: What type of rock crystals are we talking about?

Me: It was from a "grow your own rock crystal set" that my older son had. He put the rock on the floor and the baby got it and starting sucking the crystals off, and now I'm really worried because when we were doing the project we had to wear goggles and gloves to keep the chemicals off of us , and now my baby has been sucking on it!

Poison Control: And how old is your baby?

Me: 6 months old

Poison Control: And his name?

Me: Malachi

Poison Control: Is he in general good health?

Me: Yes, he's very healthy in general.

Poison Control: Is he showing any signs of irritation or redness around his mouth? Has he been vomiting?

Me: No, he's actually happily playing right now and doesn't show any signs of irritation. No vomiting.

Poison Control: Has he been given anything to drink?

Me: No, I just washed the outsides of his face and hands to get the blue off. Should I?

Poison Control: Yes, it doesn't sound like he ingested very much of it, but it sounds like he may have received a small amount of chemicals in his mouth and throat so giving him a sip of water may help to relieve any irritation. It sounds like he's doing okay, but lets keep an eye on him for the next hour to make sure. I'll call back in an hour to check on him, okay? He's going to be allright, okay?

Me (calming down some): Okay, thank you so much. I'll look forward to your call in an hour. I mean, he seems like he's not bothered by it, and he's happy right now, so I suppose he'll probably be okay. 
But gosh, it must've been disgusting! I licked the rock to see what it tasted like and ewww! It was SO gross!

Poison Control: Ummm, you licked the rock ma'am?

Me: Yes, I licked it to see what it tasted like.

Poison Control: And how old are you ma'am?

Me: Thirty-five.....

Poison Control: And your name?

Me: Sally....

Poison Control: Are you in general good health?

Me: Ummm yes, but I"m fine. I was just seeing what it tasted like. I'm not calling for me. I'm fine. I am calling for the baby...

Poison Control: Are you showing any signs of irritation or redness around your mouth? Have you been vomiting?

Me (awkwardly): Um, no, I am fine. I swear I'm fine. I was just licking it to see what it tasted like.

Poison Control: Okay well, you may have received a small amount of trace chemicals in your mouth and throat so take a sip of water to help relieve any irritation. I'll call back in an hour to check on both of you, okay?

Me: Okay...

One hour Later: Ring-ring.

Me: Hello?

Poison Control: Hello this is Mary from Poison Control. I am calling to check on you and Malachi to make sure you're doing allright.

Me: The baby is doing fine. He hasn't shown any signs of irritation or illness.

Poison Control: Were you both able to take some sips of water?

Me: Yes, he took some sips of water and he's doing fine. We're both doing fine.

Poison Control: Okay great! Now keep in mind next time that if you suspect a possible poisoning, take caution not to ingest the same thing as your child. It wouldn't do either of you any good to both be sick at the same time. You need to stay healthy to take care of your child, allright? Let's not go licking any more rocks, allright?

Me (rather sheepishly): Yes, maa'm. Thank you. Goodbye.

Poison Control: Goodbye!

**And that was my lesson for the day.