Monday, February 16, 2015

Little Valentines

Valentine's Day was pretty low-key this year. We didn't plan ahead and I didn't have the energy anyway to do anything extravagant (like last year). Amelia has a couple of kids in her class with food allergies so just grabbing the candy/card combo off the shelf isn't a very good option. Instead, we got the two kinds of candies that were OK with the allergies, Rolos (no soy products) and Dum-Dums, and put them in little treat bags.


Add a cute ribbon and done.


I've been going to Mack's Kindergarten class each time they have a class party to take pictures that will be compiled onto a CD for the parents at the end of the year. The Valentine's party was no exception. The moms and teachers put together several fun activities to keep the 21 boys (!) and 2 girls busy for an hour. Among them was blowing a Q-tip through a straw and trying to hit a target:


Racing to see who could slurp up a licorice string the fastest:


Mack was pretty excited when his team won.


And, of course, cupcakes!


Mack made his own valentine box in class. It's a monster. Amelia reused her box from last year. (I can't believe it survived the move!)


Grammie sent the kids each a scratch-off valentine that revealed cool colors under the design. She also sent a book called I love You, Stinky Face that the kids got a kick out of. I sure was glad Grammie came through with something fun because I was pretty lame this year and only got the kids a bag of Lindt truffles.


We did take the kids to see Paddington at the theater in Montpelier on Friday night, but Amelia was pretty disappointed that Valentine's Day at home wasn't more special. I need to take the time to write each of the kids a special love note.

Oh well, some years you have it and some years you don't. Such is life!

Soup-Can Phones

Consistency in Family Home Evening is still a work in progress at our house. Amelia is the best about reminding us that we need to do it and she has sometimes taken the initiative to prepare the lesson.

A few weeks ago she found an article in The Friend magazine and wanted to share it for Family Home Evening.


It tells about two girls, next-door-neighbors, who love to talk to each other each night from their bedroom windows using their soup-can phones. One day, one of the girls has to leave town and the other girl is left feeling lonely with no one to talk to. The thought comes to her that she should pray and talk to Heavenly Father just like she talks to her friend, sharing all the ups and downs of her day, all the details big and small.

It was a great message about making our Heavenly Father our friend. Amelia was really excited to make a real soup-can phone and see if it actually worked. She'd been planning to do it for a couple of weeks but wanted to wait until Daddy was home.

I don't really remember making these as a kid, surely I must have, but I was tickled to discover that the dang thing worked! The string has to be perfectly straight and pulled tight, but you can actually hear through it!





Mack was more amused by trying to jump up and grab the string than actually talking on the phone. It was too hard for him to keep the string tight. But we had a good time and the kitties sure thought it was fun to chase the string around after we were done!

I'm grateful for Amelia and her sweet spirit and how she keeps our family on track.

What's Your Happy?

I was called to be a Family History Consultant a few months ago. I am loving all the new discoveries I'm making, I love the process of researching, and I love getting to know more about our ancestors. I also love helping other people make those discoveries. There's something magical about the first time you find a document with one of your ancestors on it. You can't believe it's there in black and white! And that you found it right there on the internet!

Last Sunday as I walked home from the church after doing a shift in the Family History Library, I rounded the corner into our driveway right at 6:00. I was greeted by this sight:


Dan, slaving over a hot stove making dinner. For some reason it made my heart so happy to see him there in the warm glow of our little house. He has been making dinner on Sundays for the past few weeks (when he's not at work) while I'm at the Family History Library. It is so nice to come home to a meal already prepared, no children whining at me the moment I walk in the door. It's a small gesture, but to me it spells LOVE.

We have a tradition in our little family that every night at dinner we all share one thing that made us happy that day. It has sort of become Amelia's role to get us started by asking, "What's your happy?" and we go around the table. Some days it's as simple as this food, or I got to take a nap today, or I got to play with a friend. On this day, my Happy was coming home to our warm house and finding Daddy making dinner, listening to music on the iPod with the kids, teaching them the finer points of musical trivia. Name the only rock band to perform a xylophone solo in one of their songs.

Violent Femmes. You can thank Dan next time you're on Jeopardy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Amelia's Baptism

Amelia turned 8 on September 5th.



She looked forward to her eighth birthday for many, many months. She recognized the importance of number eight- it was the year she would be baptized.

Amelia has a very tender spirit. She has loved the gospel from a very young age. From the time she learned how to pray she has been thoughtful in the things she says. She has faith that God will answer her prayers and she asks Heavenly Father to help her often. She almost always expresses gratitude for her life and the beautiful earth we live on. She is always eager to report on what she's learned in Primary and she's the one who tries to keep us on track with Family Home Evening. She's the one who always reminds me when we miss family scripture study or forget family prayer. Now, don't get me wrong. Like any kid, she whines and sasses and fights with her siblings. But when the moments of passion pass, she feels sorrow and wants to be a better person.

We have to be careful when disciplining her that she understands the difference between making a bad choice and being a bad person. She worried for a long time that she wasn't ready to be baptized. Often when she messed up she would cry and say that she shouldn't get baptized. I began to worry about her, but as her birthday approached she began to internalize what we had been telling her, that God does not expect us to be perfect before or after we are baptized, He just wants us to commit to be His disciple and spend our life trying our best to follow His commandments and repenting when we fail.

It's like a switch was flipped inside Amelia as soon as she turned eight. She felt ready. She declared herself ready. Clearly, God knew what He was doing when He assigned the age of accountability. He knew how a child's mind develops and when they are capable of understanding choices and commitment sufficiently to began their journey as a disciple.

Amelia began to press us for a baptism date. But with Dan's work schedule, or lack thereof, it was hard to commit to a date because we never knew if he was going to get called out. Here in Cokeville you can select the date of your choice for a baptism provided the font is available and the Ward Mission Leader and a member of the bishopric can attend. You don't have to wait until the first weekend of the month following your birthday like in many places. Lily was baptized three days after she turned eight so I felt the pressure to have Amelia's baptism very soon after her birthday. Amelia really wanted her oldest cousin Rachel, who recently returned from a mission, to speak at her baptism and she wanted to be sure her Grammie could come. There were several schedules to coordinate.

And I was really hoping to have the house finished enough to move into before Amelia was baptized. I knew we would probably have family stay for the weekend whenever Amelia was baptized and I wanted to show off all our hard work. But as the weeks slipped by, it became clear that we had too much work to do. If we waited until the house was finished it could be months. So I gave up on postponing the baptism for the house. It was a shallow reason, anyway.  I talked to my Dad on the phone in early October and he told me, "You need to get that girl baptized. You never know what will happen." That gave me the jolt I needed. I knew my daughter was ready and eager and I was holding her back.

Amelia was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on October 18, 2014. We tried our best to guess when Dan would be home and the most family could attend. We set the date just 6 days before the baptism was scheduled and crossed our fingers. Dan ended up getting called into work two days later than expected so he was still working on the day of the baptism. But he worked the night before, slept a few hours in the morning, drove the 2 1/2 hours home from the rig, baptized Amelia, and headed back to Pinedale to work another night tower. Now, that's dedication!



Amelia wore the same dress that Lily wore at her baptism.



Sniff. Look at that cute little arm baby.



Amelia was actually baptized in this awesome, stylish jumpsuit.



I always regretted not getting a "portrait" of Lily on her baptism day so I was sure to take a few of Amelia in the pretty window light in the foyer of the church. The above picture is my favorite but Amelia likes this one:



She has a flair for the dramatic.

I also like this one, our smiley girl:



For Amelia's birthday Grammie gave her a special baptism book that has places for photos and journaling about the your baptism day. Lily received the same book but we never filled it out (I must have been busy with two toddlers or something!) so I wanted to be sure we did Amelia's. We worked on it last Sunday and one of the things Amelia wrote that she really liked about her baptism was her fancy French braid done by her Aunt Lora.



It's the little things that count! I've never learned to French braid so my girls love it when we're with Aunt Lora and they can get cool hairdo's.

Another thing that Amelia liked about her baptism was this special towel given to her by our friends Crystal and Barry.



Crystal has an embroidery machine and made this towel with Amelia's favorite color. Amelia's face lit up when Crystal gave her the towel- she couldn't believe someone had made something so special and personalized just for her. It came with this poem:

It was a beautiful symbol of Amelia's cleanliness and she loved getting that towel.

Before the baptism I asked the Bishop about taking pictures because the cousins were going to sing, and he told me as long as I didn't take pictures during the actual ordinances it was fine because we weren't in the chapel. So I sure did snap these two shots right before Amelia was baptized.





I'm so glad I did! I love seeing the sweet way Dan greeted her as she entered the water and the way she looked out at all her family and friends that came to see her be baptized. I wish I had taken a picture right after she was baptized with her Dad hugging her, but I had set the camera down and was busy getting the towel ready. I'll have to remember that in my internal memory bank (and I'll be sure to take that shot when Mack is baptized.)



Amelia was so happy (and shivering!) as she came out of the baptismal font. She just smiled and said, "I can't believe I'm baptized!" She'd had a nosebleed earlier in the afternoon and as she came out of the font her nose started to bleed a little bit. You can see a little on the towel by her name. She was worried about it but I assured her that bleach would take it right out.



The two talks were given by Amelia's Uncle Don and cousin Dani. Don made a great analogy about baptism and the sacrament. He said he remembered when he was a kid his mom always nagging him to take a bath. He always wondered, "What's the point? I'm just going to get dirty again tomorrow." The kids thought that was funny and several of them were nodding their heads in agreement. Then he explained that when you are baptized you are washed clean, but it doesn't take long before you say something mean or disobey your parents and you've gotten dirty again. That is why we have the sacrament. Taking the sacrament is like being baptized all over again, or taking a bath. Every week we renew our covenants and become clean again and commit to try to do better.

Dani spoke about the gift of the Holy Ghost. She gave a great object lesson using a plastic water bottle. Dani asked Amelia to try to squeeze the bottle. Not much happened. She explained that Amelia was the bottle and the Holy Ghost was the water. When she is filled with the Holy Ghost, Satan cannot bend and break her. Then Dani poured the water out and asked Amelia to try to crush the bottle. She smashed it like a pancake. Without the gift of the Holy Ghost constantly with her through worthiness, it will be much easier for Satan to tempt Amelia and all of us. The Holy Ghost is a protection to us and He motivates us to do good.

Amelia's favorite Primary song is I Love to See the Temple and she asked her cousins to sing it with her.



Dan gave Amelia a beautiful, thoughtful blessing when he conferred the gift of the Holy Ghost. He told her that like learning to read or play the piano, learning to recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost and act upon it takes practice. He encouraged her and promised her she would be an instrument in God's hand in bringing others to Christ.


Our friend Barry was part of the circle of priesthood holders that blessed Amelia. He shared this with me: "Being unable to position myself to watch Vonda who interpreted the blessing done by Dan (Barry is deaf), I just stood there and watched your beautiful little daughter. I recalled how special she was and how she'd always come up to me and sign "Hi Barry". It always touched me every time she did, because of the small hands she would use to communicate with me." Barry described feeling a distinct physical sensation during the blessing. "The spirit was so strong and evident in my body. It told me how special Amelia was to our Lord... Amelia is a special young lady. She is a gifted one. The Lord has entrusted her with an important responsibility and duty in this life. I'm honored to know her."

After the baptismal service we were all in a hurry to get back to the house so Lora could take our family picture before Dan headed back to the rig, so I didn't get a picture of Amelia with Barry and Crystal. But here is one I took last year.



A few other pictures from baptism day:



Mack was pretty excited to write his own name in Amelia's baptism book.



(I'm really not that tall, I was just wearing big chunky heels. Lily is in reality 3 inches taller than me.)




Mack was long gone with his cousins after the group photo, so there are none of all three siblings.



After having our family picture taken, we had a cookout in our new backyard. Amelia opened a couple of gifts- a CTR ring from Grammie and her own set of engraved scriptures. Amelia told me a few days after her baptism, "Whenever I look at my CTR ring from Grammie, it makes me think of the Holy Ghost".





Meanwhile, Patch took great pleasure in playing with Lily's braid.



Mmm... Brats. As in, gourmet hot dogs. Not sassy children.



It was a wonderful day with family. Amelia is such a blessing to our family and I am so grateful that Heavenly Father sent her to us!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A love note for Mom

My favorite gift to receive on any occasion is a love note. It is not disposable. It won't wear out. It is something that I can go back to when I need a pick-me-up. I don't know anyone who doesn't like to hear they are loved and appreciated. They may be uncomfortable at the expression of affection, but deep down, it boosts them up to know someone cares about them.

I like to know I am valued. But I also like to know WHY. My psyche thrives knowing the specifics. It is positive reinforcement at its best. My love language is Words of Affirmation. That is why I love receiving gifts like this:


I know a love note is my Mom's favorite gift also. Maybe as we get older and "things" lose value, we realize that what gives us the greatest joy is our relationships. Knowing that our life has made a difference to someone. That is much more valuable than an Amazon gift card.

A few years ago, I posted a love letter to my Mom on my blog. It largely reflected on the past and how having her for a mother had shaped me. All of those things are still valid. This time I want to talk about what my Mom means to me today, at this time in my life. There are two solid things that stand out.

My Mom is interested in my life. She calls at least every week, often more. She wants to see how I'm doing, how I am bearing up my everyday burdens. She values my friendship enough that she calls me when she has exciting news to share. She asks for my opinion. She visits and sleeps in whatever bed we have for her, even if the clean sheets are still going in the dryer.

My Mom makes time to nurture relationships with each of my children. She makes the 3 hour trip to come to dance recitals and birthdays and sometimes just because the kids are missing Grammie. She takes an interest in each one of them, buying a new puzzle to do with Amelia, taking Mack to the Dinosaur Museum for the 6th? time, making a new Scottish recipe to celebrate Lily's completion of her World Day project. She talks to them on the phone. She sends notes in the mail periodically. My Mom is blessed to live within three hours of 3 of her 4 children, but she doesn't just make the effort because of the relatively close proximity. My oldest brother lives on the east coast and my Mom makes a trip out there at least once a year so that her far-away granddaughter knows that she is valued and loved and that her Grammie cares about having a relationship with her.  My children, and I suspect Mom's other grandchildren, have a sure knowledge that Grammie loves them.

 {World Day where Lily presented Scotland 5-08-2014}

 {Flowers after Amelia's last dance recital 4-18-2014}

{Sharing birthday wishes with Mack 12-28-2013}

I love you, Mom. Thank you for the gift of your time. It is precious.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Only once this winter?

Although we will continue to get snow off and on until May, the big snow has melted off for the year and the bikes are out.


We're crossing our fingers that the mud won't be too bad, but April is usually full of snow and rain. March is such a tease in Wyoming! With the weather slowly changing, I figured I better post these sledding pictures from Valentine's Day before I look up and it's summer.

It seems deplorable that we only took the kids sledding once this winter. We live in Wyoming, for crying out loud! Most of it had to do with the back problems that Dan and I both have. But the kids did play in the snow a lot at home, so I don't feel too guilty.

Lily was at ski school for the morning so we took Mack and Amelia up to Test Hill to sled for a bit. Silver was pretty excited to be out and running free!

She would follow someone up the hill,


then come sprinting down at top speed.



Dan took a couple runs, then took Silver for a walk along the river.


While walking along the river, Silver went out on the ice to sniff around. She got out where it was thin and CRACK, down she went. Dan had to get down on his belly and crawl like a polar bear to help her out of the water. Man, I wish I had a picture of that! She came back soaking wet but all smiles.


Amelia had a great time sledding and made it through this outing without much whining and no huge meltdown. That's a first!




Mack insisted on climbing to the very top of the hill. It was much too high for him but he would not be dissuaded. Over and over he came crashing down and got bucked off his sled halfway down.


I kept telling him to just get back on his sled and go down from the middle of the hill. "No! I took a long time to get up here and I'm not giving up!" Back up the hill he went with Amelia, who was lagging 10 yards behind and declaring, "I give up!" Those two are polar opposites!

He finally made it most of the way down the hill, but caught some serious air.


He came down pretty hard and I think it knocked the wind out of him. He decided sledding wasn't fun anymore, so he went and sat with Silver.


I love, love this picture! The quintessential Boy and his Dog picture. It would be more accurate, though, to have Lily sitting with Silver because Lily is her favorite. Mack likes Silver well enough, except when she slobbers on his stuffed animals. Usually he's either trying to climb on her or ignoring her.

Dan picked Lily up from ski school and brought her over to the sledding hill. She still had a little snow fun left in her after 3 hours on the ski hill.


Then the real fun began.


Dan started throwing snowballs and I took one right in the eye seconds after I took this picture. Some of it got on my camera lens and I was totally unamused.


This dude is serious about his snowballs.


Then it was all-out war.






 Snow down the neck, baby!


Mack stole Daddy's hat and started chucking snow at him.




Looking a little disheveled in the aftermath.


For only one sledding day during the season, we didn't do too bad!


And just so you know what I mean by the off and on snow, here's our yard only 3 hours after I took the picture at the beginning of this post.