Summer Fun

Back in April my kids and I made a “summer fun jar”, something I had heard of often and finally decided to do. The idea is you put slips of paper in a jar with things you and your kids want to do over the summer and pull one out when the whole “I’m bored” drama begins.
We didn’t get to all of them but between those and birthday parties, a visit from our awesome aunt and uncle, a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s and some family fun days it did make for some summer fun.

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Backyard Swimming Under Blue SkiesIMG_1539.JPG

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Treasure Hunt at the ZooIMG_1747.JPG

Sushi and “Kids’ Sushi”IMG_1388.JPG

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At the Zoo with GrandpaIMG_1466.JPGTIE Fighter Birthday CakeIMG_0582.JPG

Fishing in Beautiful ColoradoIMG_0916.JPG

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Because of Christ

Lately I have had a really hard time hearing or reading about tragedies in the world, especially those involving children. There are times when I have to force myself to think of something else because I become so emotionally overwhelmed when I think of the abuse, neglect, torture, murder and many other awful things that some children have to endure here on Earth.
I try to not read about those things anymore but there are stories and reports I’ve heard that stay with me and feel like they are physically tearing at my heart. How can people be so cruel, so violent, so evil? Especially to children?
The only comfort I find is to pray that God will send angels to be with those kids as they endure hell and that somehow the extra kisses and love I give to my babies will be felt by those who receive little or no love in their own lives.
I think of Christ and how He has felt every person’s pains. I know that He knows exactly how those poor children feel and in eternity, He can fix it all.
When I learned that there were reports coming in that one of the factions in the Syrian civil war was torturing children I crumpled inside. I wept and still do for how those children must feel. Alone, confused, in such pain and terrified. Outrage, despair and horror filled me.
Then I had a tender mercy from The Lord that helped me realize that Christ has also endured torture. He has a direct connection to those suffering children. He not only endured torture here on Earth but, through the Atonement, He has experienced every nuance of their sufferings in detail and on an individual level. He has created the possibility that no matter what they suffer here, they can have eternal, perfect peace and the smallest harm that was caused by their experiences here will be healed and taken away and never ever experienced again.

On an uplifting note, there is a beautiful video that depicts the scene from Luke 18:15-17 where Christ has the children come to Him. You can see it here.

Heartache and Joy

The other day I was in our pediatrician’s office for my son’s 5 year check up. After checking in, my son and my 2 year old daughter went to play with the magnet wall while my 6 month old daughter and I sat down in the waiting area. A man carrying a child came and sat across from me.

He was a very tall man who looked to be in his late 30’s and seemed to be in a happy mood. These were the first things I noticed. Shortly after that I noticed that the child he was carrying had short, beautiful curly hair and looked to be about 18 months. He held her close to him in an almost cradling position with her face close to his so it took me awhile to notice that the little girl was wearing an oxygen tube and what I had thought was the dad’s backpack was actually a small oxygen tank.

In addition to her beautiful hair this little one had stunning blue eyes. It was about this time that I also noticed there was a definite disability present. I couldn’t identify what it was but it was apparent. What I could clearly see was the love this father had for his child.

She held his attention as if she were the only thing in the room. He looked right into her face, held so close to his, and smiled and talked and playfully lifted her up and down. It was heart warming to see and I wanted to just sit and watch them but I was afraid he would think I was staring at his daughter because she was different.

My 2 year old came over and asked “what’s on that baby’s face?” Now it just so happened that I had recently read a blog post someone wrote about how she hopes that at times when her children ask these sorts of things that, if convenient, the parent of the child with the disability may be willing to share a little about the disability, thereby helping her own child to better understand and be more compassionate.

This thought came to my mind and I too hoped this loving father would explain a little bit about his sweet daughter. He said nothing though so I told my daughter that the tube was to help the baby breathe better.

By this time the mother had joined the man and the little girl and I felt a desire to connect with this little family and tell them how sweet the whole scene was. So, I asked if the baby was a girl (because at this point I was pretty sure but there was a possibility it could have been a boy) and fell back on complimenting looks and sincerely told them that she had beautiful eyes.

There was an odd dichotomy inside of me at that moment. I was truly touched and happy that this little girl, who will undoubtedly have unusual challenges in her life, had such loving parents. Yet, at the same time, I wanted to weep for her and her parents and the struggles they will face.

And then I learned something that actually did cause me to weep a little right there in the waiting room and a lot more later in the car. My son had joined us by now and he and my 2 year old were talking to my 6 month old about looking at the baby. Somehow age came up and I mentioned that I was pretty sure that baby is older than my 6 month old and I decided to ask just how old she was. Both parents answered together: “three”.

That precious little girl who I thought was maybe a year older than my 6 month old was actually a year older than my 2 year old.  It was clear that whatever this sweet girl had, extended far beyond needing oxygen. My heart broke.

I quickly, and somewhat mumbling, said something like “yep, she’s older.” But what I really wanted to do was reach out and ask what it is she has, how it affects her, is she doing alright. I felt I wanted to give her parents the chance to explain in a safe, loving situation where maybe, by telling me I could somehow spread the word, raise awareness and compassion for this little family.

Perhaps I’ve been reading too many blogs about mothers who have children with disabilities and are trying to fight against the common misunderstandings that exist about those disabilities and the people who have them. Maybe these two parents are tired of answering questions and explaining and hate being pitied.

I pray I didn’t look at them like I pitied them.

There I was with my three healthy children climbing and running and talking. Maybe those parents were thinking “my daughter will never do that”. Maybe after three years it’s not as hard for them as it was for me to think of their daughter’s future, but I’m willing to bet it is harder. Hard to know your child will be so different. Hard to want to protect her from a world that doesn’t understand. I did pity them.

Three?

As I watched I noticed she had a hard time keeping her head up, had a hard time controlling her eyes and mouth and I would guess that she was not able to really talk or walk.

On the way home I had a realization that instead of pitying this girl and her parents I should be rejoicing. She has, what I would guess, is a supportive, loving family who is taking extraordinary care of her. Something so many children in this world, disabled or not, don’t have. This little girl can and probably will have a happy life. I saw that in her father’s face. His complete acceptance of her. And when you have people in your life, especially parents, who love you unconditionally and accept you and any hardships that may come then a happy life is a definite possibility.

Camping for Kings

Recently my family and I went camping. As I prepared for our trip, I felt my usual pre-camping excitement while at the same time my usual pre-camping dread.
If given a choice between sleeping in a tent or in a house I will always prefer the house. This doesn’t mean I don’t ever choose the tent because I like being with my family and I will choose them over comfort…usually.
Before we left, my husband said something that made me think a bit deeper about my dread of camping. He labeled my feelings about sleeping in a tent as “tent anxiety”. I realized that this is a very adequate description of my feelings. I do feel anxious about sleeping in a tent. What if the kids are too cold? What if they’re too hot? What if they have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night? (How would I wash a wet sleeping bag in the forrest?) What if our air mattress leaks air? What if it rains and the tent leaks? What if we track in dirt? (I know, a ridiculous concern when camping.) What if it’s so uncomfortable I can’t sleep at all and have to go three days with three kids and no sleep? And there’s the word that explains my “tent anxiety”: uncomfortable.
Pair that with “inconvenient” and it pretty much sums up the negative feelings I have about camping.
And yet, when people ask if I like camping I’ll always say yes. Why? Because I actually do. I’ve always liked it. Especially as a kid.
So, after having this mini epiphany regarding my camping concerns I decided to determine exactly what I liked so much about camping as a kid and make sure I incorporated that into our upcoming trip.
Number one thing I loved about camping as a kid? Our pop up camper.
Well now, there’s the problem…I didn’t camp in a tent as a kid.
I loved our little camper. Most of my fond memories of camping revolve around it. Like waiting anxiously for my dad to get it level so we could finally start raising the roof. Getting a chance to turn the crank that raised the roof. Sweeping it out with our little orange camping broom (apparently dirt was an issue for me then as well). Opening the little fridge in the mornings to get the milk we would pour on our cereal from those little mini variety boxes….something we only ate while camping. Then locking the fridge by sticking that little plastic peg in the hole…something that probably drove my parents nuts since apparently, it was only to be locked when the camper is being towed.
I always looked forward to when the camper was all set up and I got to make my bed. I remember laying down layer after layer of bedding, making it super soft and comfy. I’d add my pillows and grab my book, or drawing paper and unzip all three “windows” so as I laid there the cool mountain breeze would gently flow over my whole body, taking with it any stress my young mind may have been experiencing. I LOVED that. To me, that’s what camping is, completely relaxing and being still in the beautiful, peaceful outdoors.
My very favorite thing about camping as a kid though was playing games at night. Every night after it got too dark to see outside we would go into the camper with its generator powered lights, sit down at the little particle board fold out table (which folded down into my brother’s bed at the end of the night) and play board and card games as a family. I remember Monopoly, poker and my favorite, Yahtzee. Wether it was just the four of us or extended family, we would always play something and it would always involve laughter. I’d take that happiness over the cool mountain breeze any day but with camping, I got both.
Until now. Ok, so what could I incorporate from my childhood camping trips into our current trip?
The camper was definitely out so leveling, cranking, little fridge? Not gonna happen. Though we did bring a pack of those mini cereal boxes and while I enjoyed my Frosted Flakes, I think a little of the novelty was gone when I kept wondering why they only included one type of cereal with a high fiber content and the rest were just the sugary ones. But I suppose that just comes with being the adult.
I toyed with the idea of bringing some board games for the adults to play after the kids went to bed but then thought better of it. We were camping with our friends and with seven kids between us, two of them under the age of one, I didn’t think there would actually be a time when all the kids were in bed. Turns out I was right but I didn’t find it that disappointing since when all our kids finally were asleep I was totally ready to be right there asleep with them. I did bring Uno to play with my oldest since he is beginning to enjoy card games, but building sand castles near the river and playing tag won out over Uno, and rightly so.
How about making up a super relaxing bed and enjoying the breeze? That I could do! I informed my husband that I had packed a bunch of extra blankets to help make our tent more comfortable. He gave me that raised eyebrow look that means “personally I think that’s kinda silly but if that’s what you want then ok”.
I even thought to bring an extra camp chair to keep in the tent that I would cover in soft blankets so I would have a relaxing, comfortable place to nurse my 6 month old when she woke up early in the morning.
In my mind I pictured scenes from movies that take place in the Middle Ages with tents hauled around by servants that are set up for the king, complete with tapestries on the walls, thick fur carpets, a portable throne and enough room to fit your horse. Oh yes, I could make a comfy tent!
I even had a small throw rug all washed and ready to pack when I decided against it because it was a shaggy carpet and I figured it would just get dirt stuck in it. (Again with the dirt.)
So, with my pile of blankets, including our down comforter, a queen size sheet, a couple small quilts and our sleeping bags I was ready for a repeat of my childhood camping experiences.
After my husband set up our tent (and I’ll say right now that I am very spoiled in that in addition to our air matress, we have an eight man tent the size of a bedroom that even my 6’3″ husband can stand up straight in, so really, why do I even complain?) he blew up the mattress and basically told me to have at it.
How did my bed making experience compare to my earlier years? A few observations.
First, the whole idea of peaceful and relaxing feelings goes right out the tent door flap when you have a five year old and a two year old insisting you play chase with them as they bounce on and off of the air mattress. There is no relieving of stress when your breath catches eachTaos time one of them slips between the mattress and the tent wall and completely disappears, only to pop up giggling and asking for more. Not to mention trying to get several layers of blankets on and smoothed out with two little ones jumping around on them.
Second, that peaceful breeze I remembered so fondly was pretty much non existent. Turns out I misunderstood where we were going and instead of tall pine trees and the calming sounds they make as the breeze rustles through them, we had scrub brush, boulders and the harsh noon day sun to accompany my bed making. Even with all the tent windows open, by the time I finally finished getting everything set up I got right out of that tent to go sit on the picnic table in the fresh air.
Finally, on a positive note, my extra camp chair/nursing seat/ throne worked brilliantly and I was quite happy to have such a comfy spot to feed my daughter.IMG_6155
So the trip obviously was not a repeat of my childhood camping experiences but really, that’s fine. I still like going camping, though now it’s not about relaxing moments but rather seeing the excitement in my kids’ faces as they play in the river, find a curious squirrel or help dad build a camp fire.

 

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The Passage of Time

It was shocking to me when I realized it has been over a year since I have posted anything. I thought for sure it had only been a few months.
Ever since I was young I have been saddened by the passing of time. It wasn’t until my 21st birthday that I actually felt at peace with my age and didn’t wish I was a child again. Though, ironically, when I look back on my childhood I cannot recall an age at which I did not feel grown up.
I think I feel melancholy about the passing of time because I always feel as if I am not thoroughly enjoying the moment I am in and soon it will be gone forever. I feel this keenly now that I have three children and have experienced first hand how fast they grow and how those sweet baby moments quickly give way to the toddler years and then suddenly I have a kindergartener. It’s like I can remember the then of my babies being born and the now of where they are currently at, but what happened to everything in between? It pulls at my heart to think that when my kids are grown I’ll have the same experience but instead of 5 years that seem to have disappeared, it will be 20.
I feel that each day has experiences t
hat could be looked back at fondly. They don’t have to be huge to be special. It could be all three of my kids sitting around me contentedly. Or the refreshing breeze that blows across my face as I sit quietly on our front porch swing and enjoy dusk.
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I often find myself recognizing that I am having one of those experiences I should savor only to be interrupted by my own feelings of worry and anxiety that soon this moment will be over and I won’t remember it. Then I start to think of ways I could attempt to have a similar experience everyday, or how silly it was of me to leave my camera where I can’t grab it quick enough to capture whatever it is that’s happening this instant. This reminds me that I have not written in my journal in a long while which then leads me to feel guilty and disheartened because of all the moments like this I’ve had in the past and don’t remember.
Usually by the time I have gone through this thought cycle whatever the experience I started out as recognizing as special is now over and I’m left frustrated and nostalgic for a past that is causing me to miss my present.
The solution to this? I don’t know. I’ve heard advice ranging from document as much as possible with pictures and videos to just slow down, look your children in the eye and enjoy the moment. Easier said than done I say.
For now I try to get a journal entry in as often as I can, with pictures if possible and pray that I will be able to remember those special moments when the time is right.

You Are Beautiful

I have been thinking a lot about how we view ourselves and how the world tells us to view ourselves. It becomes particularly scary when I think of my daughter growing up in this kind of world.
As some other bloggers I’ve recently read, I’ve decided to write a letter to my daughter about this topic. While I do plan for her to read it someday I hope I can even now, at her young age, begin to teach her the truths it contains.

Dear Daughter,
There is something very important that I want you to know. You are beautiful. This goes beyond what you look like and reaches into the realm of intelligence, personality and spirit. The reason it’s so important you know, understand and feel this is because the world is going to tell you otherwise.
There will come a time when either directly and in your face or subtly whispered in your ear, you will be told that you can not be beautiful unless you buy and use a certain beauty product, follow a specific skin/eating/exercise/meditation/hair/makeup regime, act a certain way, wear specified clothing or have the “right” look.
From someone who is still trying to figure out how, I plead with you that when this time comes, IGNORE THOSE MESSAGES. Believing them and taking them to heart can damage you in so many ways. Self esteem, relationships, spirituality and your overall happiness can all be hurt in both big and small ways if you let others tell you that your worth lies in how you look.
It will not be as easy as just ignoring them though. Corporations that run media like television, magazines and movies spend millions and millions of dollars to get you to spend your money on their products. They are not above lying and manipulating in order to get your money. No matter what they claim their purpose is, it is NOT to help you. It is to make money.
Many will come right out and tell you “you need to look like this”. Others, however, will be much more subtle. If you’re not looking for the “hidden” message you may miss it consciously but fall for it unknowingly.
I don’t want to scare you but I want you to be aware. What’s the best way to avoid the trap of good looks=happiness? Following Heavenly Father’s commandments.
If you are righteous and strive to pray each day, study the scriptures and serve others, you will be blessed with the Holy Ghost and He will always tell you the truth. He can warn you when you may be starting to believe something that is not true. He can tell you and help you know that your worth comes from being a daughter of God, not from being a user of Clinique or a reader or Vogue. He can help you stay firm in your beliefs while living in a world that has ever changing instructions on how to be “the best you”.
You are the best you when you live your faith and do your best to love yourself and others. It’s ok if you don’t look like actresses or the people in magazines and on billboards. They look how they look and you look how you look and trying to conform can be dangerous.
Is it wrong to wear makeup and try hard to find clothes that you think look good on you? Absolutely not. Is it ok to try new looks and spend time and money on looking good? Of course. The dangerous part comes when you start to believe that you can not be happy until you have done these things.
Why is it dangerous? Because it’s a trap. You will never look the way the world tells you you should. You will never be the size they say you should be. Because if you do reach that size or finally get “that look”, a sad thing will happen. It will not make you happy. You will not suddenly be the person you always dreamed you would be. You will still have the same problems in your life. You will still have bad days.
And if you’ve fallen for the good looks=happiness formula then you will begin to think that the reason you are not happy is because you actually need to loose more weight, buy more new clothes, try a different hair color or cut and try even harder to get “that look”.
It’s a trap and the easiest way to get out of it is to not get in it. But if you do, and I’m not sure it’s actually possible to never get even a little bit caught, surround yourself with virtuous, spiritual things and with people who know and live the truth. Be kind to those who are in the trap and offer help. And try, try to remember the truth. You are beautiful.
Love,
Momma

Lead us not into Temptation

Two weeks ago we heard from one of the leaders of the LDS Church, President Henry B. Eyring. He is an apostle of Christ and I love hearing his counsel to us. What he said has changed the way I pray.
Growing up Catholic I had the Our Father prayer memorized and recited it at least once a week. I always thought the part about “lead us not into temptation” was odd. Why would God lead us to temptation? Why do we need to pray and ask Him not to cause us to be tempted? Satan causes temptation, not God. It seemed to me we should be praying for His strength to fight temptation.
Now I know what “lead us not into temptation means”.
President Eyring told a story about being in another country and having a friend of his give him a walking tour of a little European town. His friend was not a member of the LDS Church but knew President Eyring was and knew his standards.
His friend got a little ways ahead of him and turned into what looked like a quaint little village store. President Eyring, having his head down a bit, followed his friend right in and when he looked up he saw large, full color pornographic images on the walls. He turned right around and walked out.
He said that the images were of things he had never seen or even thought of before but after just mere seconds of exposure they were burned into his mind.
He went about his life for awhile and every so often those images would come back to him. He could not get them out of his head.
Once, while praying about it he had a very distinct answer from Heavenly Father. Heavenly Father told President Eyring that He had been protecting him his whole life from many things. President Eyring was not grateful for this, or even aware and so Heavenly Father had taken that protection away for just a moment to help him understand the power of that protection. President Eyring said that after that the images were gone and he can not recall them to this day.
This made me reflect on all the times I have been protected in my life. How grateful I am for that. It also made me realize that I need to pray for that protection to continue.
Can Heavenly Father lead us into temptation? Yes. Does He? Apparently He does when necessary to His purposes. Are we praying not to be lead into temptation because He is a mean or uncaring Father and wants us to fail? No. “Lead us not into temptation” is really about protection.
It turns out we really are praying about strength to fight the temptations we face but there’s much more.
We have to face temptation but not all temptations. “Lead us not” is about asking for God’s protection so that we don’t even come in contact with those temptations we don’t need in order to progress.
In the prayer, right after “lead us not into temptation” is “and deliver us from evil”. Since hearing President Eyring’s words I have tried to remember to pray to be protected from temptations but also that I and my family will be kept from evil. Specifically I think of protection against hatred, violence, sexual harm and accidents.
The school shootings, the awful crimes against women and children, terrorism. These are all very, very evil things that exist in our world and Christ has shown us, through example, that we are to pray to be kept from these things.
If we do this; will we be spared from all evil? No. There must be evil to know what good is and we must have the chance to suffer in this life to grow more like Christ and our
Father in Heaven. But I know that by consistently praying for divine protection and to specifically be kept from evil that our instances of being harmed are greatly reduced and that when they do happen we will still have Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ with us and that all will be well in the end.