Saturday, February 27, 2010

Surprise!

Lily is getting baptized tomorrow and Grammie arrived with a surprise for her.

video

Her BFF from American Fork, Liesel Wynn! Lily said it all, "That's BETTER than a birthday present!"

Friday, February 26, 2010

Finally, the After

So, four months ago my friend Samantha issued a challenge on her blog to find the messy Hub of my home, photograph it, and commit to making it better. My desk is definitely the most chaotic place in the house:

Then, less than two weeks later she posted the results. And guess what? Mine was the only one that didn't have an after picture. I have hung my head in shame ever since. I've tried a few times to tackle the mess, but other things always seem to be higher on the priority list. But earlier this week I decided that I just simply couldn't tolerate the icky feeling I get when I sit at my computer anymore. Overall I have become a better housekeeper in the last year and one thing I get done almost every day is making my bed. Having that one place in the house that is orderly and welcoming really helps to cheer me up and soothe my nerves. I really need a place like that out in the open where I spend most of my time.

After spending nearly two hours late the other night, I went from this:

to this:

Ahhh, I can breathe! The idea for the wall hanging file holder came from Samantha, who suggested I get stuff up off the horizontal surface of the desk. That has helped a lot, along with purging paper (read a great post on controlling paper clutter here), finding a permanent home for stuff that has been lingering on my desk for months, and getting real friendly with my trash can. The hanging file holder also gave me the push I needed to finally hang the wall shelf that I bought shortly after we moved into this house a year and a half ago!

I know, I know, there are still Christmas decorations on the shelf. But the little angels and the JOY just make me smile and they totally go with the color of paint on the wall. I think I'm going to leave the angels out permanently and put up a picture frame and one seasonal item. But for now, we can all giggle at the juxtaposition of Christmas and Valentine's Day on the same wall.

One change you may have noticed is that in the first picture there is a dark grey printer sitting adjacent to the keyboard. It's my Canon Pixma iP4300. Love, LOVE that printer! Well, I've got this little trouble maker that goes by the name of Mackay and a couple of months ago he did something to make My Precious quit working. My Mom came to the rescue by letting me borrow an old HP printer of hers until I have the money to get mine fixed or replaced. It's the white one you see on top of the desk. And it's sitting atop the premium horizontal space of my desk so that Mack doesn't break it, too.

Now, who wants to place bets on how long my desk will stay looking like this?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Vision in Purple

I may not be a working girl anymore, but that expensive photography degree hasn't completely gone to waste. Years of practice with Photoshop helped me create this invitation for Lily's birthday party on Thursday:

We only do a friend party every other year, so I try to go all out. I printed the designs on white cardstock and attached them to various colors of purple cardstock.

The majority of the elements came from this kit at Designer Digitals. I just colorized everything in Hue/Saturation to make everything Lily's favorite color. The 8 is from Jen Wilson Designs, my favorite digital scrapbooking site. And the fancy font is called Porcelain and I just downloaded it for free off the internet.

Now, if I can just pull off the horse cake and the spray painted horseshoe craft, the party should be a hit!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wyoming may be Butt Cold, but at least it's Pretty!

It's been an unusually dry winter here in Cokeville. Salt Lake City, Springfield, Missouri and even Washington D.C. have all gotten more snow than we have. It has snowed less frequently than usual, but also each snowfall has been pretty minimal. I think the biggest amount of snow we've gotten at once is 4-5 inches. Very unusual.

Something we've had a lot of this winter is fog. And fog combined with freezing temperatures creates the most beautiful, delicate blanket of white over the land.

Each pine needle or blade of grass or leaf is individually encapsulated in frost.

Everything looks as if its been spun in a white cotton candy machine.

There may not be a lot of snow, but we always have an abundance of icicles. This is the view out of the kitchen window, which is on the north side of the house.

You may have to enlarge it, but did you notice there are two flies on the window? Who has flies in their house in February? I'm not sure if it has anything to do with the fact that we live right by the horse corrals, but dang! Crazy Wyoming flies, they must be the toughest creatures around!

This one, above, is my favorite.

Love me some pretty icicles, especially reflecting the blue light from the sky.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thank you, Frank and Joe

And thank you, Daddy, for finding the hook to reel Lily into reading.

Lily has loved books and having them read to her ever since she was very small. She started reading in 4-year-old preschool and she has always read at grade level, but it's always been a fight to get her to do her reading homework. More than anything, I think it has to do with her Daddy-inherited lack of attention span. She just can't be bothered with it for more than about five minutes. There has been copious amounts of nagging and nitpicking to get her to concentrate and read consistently ever since kindergarten. It had become a real downer for her and we were worried that she would never love reading.

So a few months ago Dan started reading a Hardy Boys book to her each night at bedtime. Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! She was instantly hooked by the mystery and suspense and the serial nature of wanting to know what happens next. We read books 28, 29 and 30 with her in the fall, then gave her books 1-4 for Christmas. She is now officially addicted.

A couple nights ago I discovered Lily reading in her bed after the lights were out.

One of her Allred cousins (OK, let's be honest and just give the credit to Aunt Becky) gave her a book light for Christmas and I would have never guessed it would be such a big hit!

At first she would just use it for a couple minutes while she dinked around, arranging her dolls and stuffed animals after bedtime. But she has really started using it for reading in the last week or two. I even discovered her reading in the dark at 6:45am the morning after these pictures were taken!

I mean, really, who can resist Frank and Joe Hardy?

The beauty of it all is that it has really changed Lily's attitude about reading. She's no longer afraid of chapter books and she will now pick up picture books and read them to Mack (and occasionally Amelia who may or may not throw a fit about Biggie holding the book.) For her independent reading at home she has gotten hooked on the Magic Treehouse series and I get her a new one at the library each week when I take Amelia to story hour.

The Hardy Boys have become a great bonding time for Dan or I to spend with Lily each night. We're almost done with The House on the Cliff. Next up, The Secret of the Old Mill.

What books do your kids love?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Big Fat Zero

That's exactly how many pounds I've lost after working out 5-6 times a week for 5 weeks. In fact, when I stepped on the scale this morning I'd gained a pound.

20 pounds in 30 days? I'd settle for 2 pounds in 30 days. I did lose a pound and a half during week four, but then we made sugar cookies with the Nate cousins for Family Home Evening last week, so that was the end of that.

These girls have been my BFF's for the last five weeks:

I started exercising in November, but as is typical for me, I only lasted two weeks before I let sick kids and holiday plans and just plain laziness get in the way of my good intentions. I'd been struggling with what to do for exercise because the weather had turned cold and there's not exactly a Gold's Gym on every corner in a town of 500. Several people have treadmills and elliptical trainers that they use at home, and I was welcome to borrow them, but it just seemed too inconvenient to drag my kids to someone else's house and worry about Mack falling down the stairs or trying to climb on the equipment. And then there was the question of what to do when one of the kids was sick. So, after talking with my friend Julia, I decided to give exercise DVD's a try. I ordered Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred and while I waited for it to arrive I checked out some DVD's from the library. I did cardio/toning and some Pilates.

When I started doing the workouts, my SIL Dianna, who spent a week in our tiny house last summer (without the wood stove taking up half the living room), asked, "Where in the world do you have room to exercise?" Here's a little visual:

(Photos courtesy of Amelia. I think I deleted 27 pictures of the wood stove after prying the camera from her hands.)

I was doing my workouts in the late morning and I found it to be frustrating because Mack was always climbing all over me and Amelia was whining for me to do something for her every 3 minutes.

So when I got the 30 Day Shred video and recommitted to exercising at the beginning of January, I started getting up around 6:15am and doing my workouts before waking Lily up for school. I have been quite surprised to find that I can actually wake up that early and that I like having the quiet time to myself. They say it takes 27 days to form a habit and I am now pretty well in the groove of getting up early and exercising.

It has been frustrating not to see a lot of results after working so hard. My arms aren't quite as flabby and my legs are getting toned, but I haven't really lost any fat. For the first two weeks I alternated between the 30 Day Shred and Biggest Loser Weight Loss Yoga. I liked the yoga because it really helped my posture and balance, and it gave me a "lighter" day in between the harder workouts. The 30 Day Shred has 3 circuits of 3 min. strength-2 min. cardio- 1 min. abs for a 20 mintute workout with the warm-up. In the first two weeks I gained a couple pounds, presumably from building muscle mass, but it didn't seem like I was losing any fat. I thought maybe I wasn't working hard enough, so in the third week I just started doing the Shred video everyday and moved up to Level 2. After another week of that, I decided that there was too much toning and not enough cardio to accomplish my goal of losing fat. I might be strengthening my abs, but if you can't see it under all that chub, what's the point? I started doing the elliptical a couple days a week instead of the Shred, and that's when I lost that pound and a half.

Enter cookies. And Golden Graham s'mores. And sick kids so I couldn't go to Katie's house to use the elliptical. I just went back to doing the Shred everyday in week 5 (I am up to the Level 3 workout, though.) This morning as I was getting dressed to exercise and I discovered that I was up to 159 from my starting weight of 158, I was just so discouraged. I started the video, did the warm-up, then got down on my stomach to do supermans. I found myself hitting the pause button, sprawling out on the carpet and quitting.

I really don't want to diet. I mean I really, REALLY don't want to diet. I love food. And in the past I've always been able to eat whatever I want as long as I exercise. I'd rather exercise twice a day than have to cut back on the good stuff. But after doing these workouts for five weeks with little result in the way my clothes fit (other than my quads have beefed up so now my jeans are tight on my thighs), I'm gonna have to break down and modify my eating. My main problem is treats.

Have I mentioned that I love sugar cookies?

In fact, I've eaten two while typing this post. I have to get rid of the treats, y'know, so I can start dieting...

Please give me some ideas for healthy snacks and meals, preferably ones that everyone else can stand to eat also. 'Cuz if there's one thing I'm not doing, it's making two separate meals every night. Also, if you have any suggestions for a good cardio workout, please share.

Ok, I'm off to work it with Jillian and the girls while I wait for this to come in the mail.

And I will NOT eat a sugar cookie right after I'm done.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A God of Miracles

I, and many of you, have witnessed a miracle. We do not know the why's of God's intervention, but I am sure it has something to do with the mission of the Staker family and little Bronson. I count myself blessed to be able to watch it all unfold.



For those of you who have wondered, Sara and I met in 1997 when we both worked at Allen's Camera in Orem, UT. In addition to both being photographers, Sara and I share a love of scrapbooking and in the early years when Dan and I lived with my Mom, Sara and I went to crop nights together often. We have watched each other become mothers and juggle a photography career with parenting, and now we are both blessed to be able to stay home with our children and pursue photography at our own pace as we focus on raising our children.

I want to publicly thank and acknowledge Sara's husband Matt for the nothing short of Christlike behavior he has shown towards Sara during this whole ordeal. I believe it is because of the true charity, unconditional love and forgiveness he immediately extended to his dear wife that he was worthy to call down the powers of heaven in a priesthood blessing to make his son whole. And to my dear friend Sara, I want to say Be of Good Cheer! Every mother gets distracted. The truth is that there is no limit to the diverse ways a child can be endangered, their safety and very lives at risk. Fortunately for the whole human race, the Grace of God and the Atonement of Jesus Christ lift and carry us when our efforts are not sufficient. Our God is a God of love, as surely as the sun rises with each new day.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mack in the Box

He's always super helpful with the laundry.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Who is God?

This is what I KNOW about God:
  • He is the Father of our spirits. We are His literal sons and daughters.
  • His love for us goes far beyond what even human parents can fathom.
This is what I BELIEVE about God:
  • In order for us to truly be tested and prepare to be exalted, we must experience pain and suffering.
  • Heartache and tragedy are part of the human experience. God's plan designed it to be so. Not because He doesn't love us, but because we cannot progress without it.
  • Horrible things happen, that is the law of the universe. But God has the power to intervene at any time, in any situation.
  • God's action, whether in allowing natural consequences to occur or in intervening on behalf of His children, is based upon this question: "What course of action will best mold My child into the exalted being I know he or she can become?"
  • God's hand is in ALL things. It is up to us to seek understanding of His will and have faith that He is helping us to reach our greatest potential.

That is my simple testimony. I am praying hard for myself and many others to have strength to endure all trials with an eternal perspective, always asking, "What kind of person is God trying to help me become?"

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Your Prayers Make a Difference

There is wonderful news to report on Bronson! Please visit Sara's blog http://www.stakerzxposed.blogspot.com/ to read all about it. Sara shares the details of the accident in her February 1st post, then the newer posts track his progress. But he is alert and responsive.

Thank you for your prayers. They are making a difference! Keep it up!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Are You Prepared to Cope?

I went visiting teaching with Becca on Friday morning and the lesson really got me thinking some deep thoughts. The lesson was about being self-reliant. We talked about how often the most critical aspects of being self-reliant go beyond physical or temporal preparedness. More than having food storage or being financially responsible, when trials come it is critical to be emotionally and spiritually self-reliant. We have to prepare ourselves to be able to cope with hardship.

I have so many thoughts on this concept. A couple days ago I had a good visit with Zoe, one of the Nate women. We ended up talking about our histories and it got me thinking a lot about how differently people deal with potentially crippling life experiences. There's a lot of crap in the world today. Some of it is inflicted upon us and some of it is due to our own choices. Some make bad choices as a result of their traumatic experiences or poor environment. But the bottom line is that as we become adults, WE are responsible for how our life turns out. We all have an excuse for our behaviors, someone or something to blame our shortcomings on. But ultimately, no matter what we've gone through as children or hardships we've faced as adults, we have to make the choice to rise above our past and become healthier and happier human beings.

When I think of spiritual and emotional self-reliance, I think of having the coping mechanisms to continue functioning at a somewhat normal level when facing hardships. Being able to do the things that need to be done each day to keep yourself, your home and your family healthy and safe. We have to be willing to recognize when we just can't seem to handle things, when we just can't "deal" with life, and we have to do something about it. There are so many different answers, so many different tools for dealing with trauma, disappointment, apathy, guilt, fear, etc. But we have to be willing to explore those tools to become self-reliant.

Depression is a part of life for me. I have accepted that and committed myself to being wise about managing it. One of my tools is medication. Proper and consistent use of an anti-depressant is essential for me. But meds aren't for everyone. So what other tools are there for coping and being emotionally self-reliant?

I credit a lot of my emotional well-being to an intuitive and wonderful counselor who I saw for 8 months in 2000-2001. I had seen a handful of counselors over the years, but Alison was the first one to help me really recognize the root of the unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors I had developed over the years. I went in to see her about one thing, and because of her training, and her sensitivity to the Spirit, she was able to steer me in a different direction and help me realize that my problems had real solutions if I was willing to pursue answers. It was not an easy process. But it changed my life. I learned not only the "why" of my behaviors, but the "how" when it came to permanently altering them. Because of Alison's help, I am now confident that trials and hardship won't break me. Life being life (i.e. HARD) won't completely cripple me. And a truth that I've recognized over the years is that if you've had a long, long struggle with depression, it takes someone special, not just any person who's willing to listen, but someone trained and practiced to be able to teach you how to become emotionally whole.

OK, so not everyone is off the deep end like me. For many people (and for depressed people like me, too) there are many great tools to staying emotionally healthy. Exercise is one. Not only are there the obvious physical benefits, but on the days I exercise I just feel better because if nothing else gets done the whole day, I at least accomplished that. Solitude is another. Taking private time to meditate and just breathe is so essential. I was reading on my cousin's blog last night about how she loved having time to herself because as a mother you feel like there's constantly someone wanting something from you. It's nice to give to yourself every so often. One tool I rely on is having good friends to confide in, to blow off steam with, and just relax with. I've been trying harder to be more social instead of feeling like I can't go anywhere until my house is clean. It really lifts me up to get out of the house for an hour or two. I come home with more energy and willingness to tackle the tasks waiting for me.

To me, emotional self-reliance is a prerequisite to being spiritually self-reliant. If you don't feel good emotionally, there's just no desire and no energy to seek after spiritual things. When I am feeling downtrodden, rather than turning to the scriptures or uplifting music, I would rather just hide and sleep. But when I am emotionally healthy I have a desire to fill myself with spiritually uplifting things.


******************


Since writing this post, a good friend of mine has experienced a true tragedy in her family. On Saturday morning her 15-month-old son drowned in the bathtub. He is alive, but unconscious and on a ventilator. His mother performed CPR as soon as she found him and the ambulance arrived probably within 10 minutes of when he began drowning, but he was in full cardiac arrest when they arrived at the hospital. They were able to restart his heart, but it is unclear whether he will survive and if so, how much brain damage he has sustained. He has been heavily sedated, but they have seen some neurological activity with eye movement and being able to move all four limbs when stimulated.

Though I have shed many tears over my dear friend's situation, I simply cannot fathom the gut-wrenching heartache she and her husband are going through. There has been a whole army of people praying and fasting for little Bronson and his family, and I would invite you to participate. What has struck me is the faith and hope Sara and her husband Matt have shown. They know their family is eternal, they have their testimonies of the gospel and especially the Atonement to uphold them. Seeing this has really hammered home this concept of being emotionally and spiritually self-reliant.

I read a quote in my Young Women lesson on Sunday that, although it was about forming good habits, I thought was precisely the reason that Sara and Matt will be able to cope with their tragedy:

Good habits are not acquired simply by making good resolves, though the thought must precede the action. Good habits are developed in the workshop of our daily lives. It is not in the great moments of test and trial that character is built. That is only when it is displayed. The habits that direct our lives and form our character are fashioned in the often uneventful, commonplace routine of life. They are acquired by practice. (Elder Delbert L. Stapley, Conference Report, October 1974)

There has been a lifetime of effort in building up their spirits and their emotional health to prepare Sara and Matt for this, the most difficult test of their lives. They have strived to teach their sons (4 boys) the gospel and the eternal nature of their family. Sara has always been a doer, one who's much more prone to get up and tackle something full force than allow herself to wallow in self-pity. I dare say that no challenge in her life has come remotely close to what she is facing now, but she has exercised her emotional and spiritual muscles all these years and it has prepared her for the road ahead. In the same situation, I might say, "Well I have no choice BUT to survive." But there is a difference between surviving in the literal sense and being able to endure a tragedy without it completely breaking you. Regardless of the outcome, I believe Sara and Matt will ultimately triumph over tragedy.

Please join me in offering prayers for Bronson and the rest of the Staker family. And take some time today to evaluate where you are emotionally and spiritually. Do you have the faith and the strength to cope with hardship? Are you self-reliant enough for your spirit to survive tragedy? If you find your answer less than you want it to be, I urge you to do whatever it takes to be the very best you. The Lord will help you.