Always Crazy, Always Fun, Always Love

Ray Romano once compared life with twins to living in a frat house. As he put it, "no one sleeps, there is a lot of noise and a lot of throwing up." I find this very true with 4 young children, including twins. However, though things are always crazy, we always try to have fun and, most certainly, always love each other.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

No Longer a Baby (But Always MY Baby!)

Yesterday, Jacob reached yet another milestone. He lost a tooth!
I could hardly believe it! It is kind of funny really. It started with Kenny- quick story here first. Very early this week, Kenny pointed out he had yet another tooth loose (he actually lost his first tooth at about the age Jacob is now). At 4:30 am (!!) Tuesday morning, he came into our room and turned on the light to say his tooth had fallen out. So, later Tuesday morning, we were talking about it and Jacob was very interested. Knowing that Kenny was Jacob's age when he first lost, I told Jacob he would probably lose one soon. Jacob got very excited and said he was going to check his teeth to see if any were lose. A few moments later, he exclaimed he did have one lose. I thought for sure he was making it up so I took a look and, sure enough, not only was it lose, but just barely hanging on! How had we not noticed? It hung on for another day until last night, he got it out just in time to be able to enjoy corn on the cob for dinner. He was so excited for the tooth fairy to come. He knew the tooth fairy would bring a dollar. This is what he got:
He was a tad disappointed that he did not get a dollar. I had to explain that it really was the same thing, that the tooth fairy probably did not have a dollar bill, so gave him 4 quarters which was the same thing. He wasn't really convinced, even though this was the same thing Kenny got the night before. (Actually, I think the tooth fairy may need to take out a loan if this keeps up- especially in a world where we rarely have cash as it is!!! She had to dig up quarters for Kenny the night before, and, as bad as it sounds, couldn't even find 4 quarters that night for Jacob and was at a loss for what to do...... So she took the quarters out of the kids piggy bank- which is where Kenny had put his upon receiving them.... shhhhh..don't tell!)

Anyway, it just blows me away to see him growing up. He has been working so hard at getting ready for school- practicing his writing, practicing his shoe tying (he is really doing pretty well!), and now, he is even losing teeth! I swear, he was just a baby yesterday! When did this happen!

I tell my kids often that no matter how big they get, they will always be my baby. Kenny finds this funny and reminds me that he is not a baby. I explain again that he will always be my baby. The other day, when I said this, he said "But, mom, some day I will grow up and get married to someone!" And I said, "I hope you will, but you will still be my baby, even then." He said "Nooooooo!" They'll understand some day!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How To Make Brownies...With Young Children Around...

This is an official contest entry that I read about on this blog. This blog is written by Jen, who I met when she "blog hopped" to my blog a while back. I have enjoyed reading her blog- she has 9 children, including infant twins- which gives us something in common. For a direct link to the contest, click the image below:
For my entry, I would like to tell you how to make brownies when you have young children (including two young toddlers) in the house. I did not include the exact recipe because the steps apply to most recipes, but it is Mint Chocolate Brownies. By clicking on the the highlighted words in the previous sentence, you can see the recipe, where I posted it on a recipe blog that I contribute to. Here goes:

How to Make Brownies- with young children in the house

Beginning Tips:
-Allow older children to help. They will love to do it, appreciate the attention, and learn quite a bit from doing it.







-Be patient about the mess- it can always be cleaned up later.








-Read the recipe and make sure you have everything. (Walk frantically over to neighbors house and ask for an egg when you realize you are one short and be grateful for good neighbors!!)








Okay, we are ready! Let's make Brownies!!!

Step 1:
Give the toddlers (in my case, the girls- Ellen & Meghan) a snack to occupy them








Step 2:

Allow the dog to clean up the snack that the girls just threw on the floor without eating. At least you don't have to take time to get the dust buster out....










Step 3:

Preheat the oven to correct temperature and butter and flour the pan. Set aside.








Step 4:

Clean up mess of cereal spilled on the floor because you forgot to latch the cabinet....











Step 5:

Whisk together the flour (measured into measuring cup with a spoon), baking soda, baking powder and salt.








Step 6:

Remove the climbing child from the table.












Step 7:

Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool a bit.











Step 8:

Remove the other climbing child from the table.












Step 9:

Beat in sugar until well mixed. Add eggs one at a time, beating in each one until fully incorporated.







(Step 9 1/2- if child is cracking eggs, pick egg shells out of batter before mixing...)








Step 10:
Repeat steps 6&8


Step 11:
Add in required flavorings (in this case, vanilla and peppermint) and beat well.








Step 12:
Resolve fight between quarreling toddlers


Step 13:

Stir in flour mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, just until incorporated- do not over mix!








Step 14:
Repeat steps 6&8

Step 15:
Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake 30 min. or until done.


Step 16:

Make the childrens' day by allowing them to lick the beaters (while YOU get the bowl and spoon!!), realizing the chance of food borne illness in this case is highly unlikely and worth the risk!










Step 17:

Change the two diapers that have been stinking up the kitchen the last several minutes.








Step 18:

Have the children help clean up the mess.








Step 19:
When brownies are done, remove from oven and place pan on cooling rack.

Step 20:

Prepare icing and spread gently on brownies when completely cool








Step 21:
Repeat steps 6&8

Step 22:
Enjoy the fruits of your labors..... and ponder whether or not it is really worth it to bake ever again while your children are little...





ENJOY!!!!!


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Growing Like Weeds!

**disclaimer** For non-family members, this may be a boring post. Feel free to skim or skip!

Today we finally had the girls' 18 month checkup (now that they are nearly 19 mos...). I always look forward to checkups because I love to track their growth and talk about them to the doctor at a time when they are well. We are actually very fortunate to rarely be in the doctors office other than well visits because they are rarely sick enough to go to the doctor. When both of the girls have an appointment, I try to take someone else with me. Today, my sister Julie went with me and I am so glad she did- it would have been nearly impossible on my own. When we walked into the office, both girls happily played in the waiting room. When our names were called, we walked back to the exam room. As soon as we entered the exam room, Meghan started crying. She remembered where she was.... She cried the entire time- even when there was no doctor or nurse in the room. And, anytime either one of them touched her as part of the exam, she would scream. Ellie did well and was calm most of the time. When someone would touch her she would fuss, but then when they stopped she was fine.

Here are their growth results:
The doctor commented that they are both very tall, but proportionate and very healthy!

Ellen:
Weight: 28 lbs. 14 oz. (95th %)
Height: 36 in. (95%)
Head Circumference: 19 3/4 in. (95th%)

Meghan:
Weight: 26 lbs (75th%)-approx. see below
Height: 34 1/2 in. (95%)- if accurate- she was squirming and screaming pretty bad!
Head circumference: 19 1/2 in. (95%)
-She screamed so bad when we put her on the scale and she would not stay there- she kept trying to reach for me and fall/climb off. We had to weigh her by myself standing on the scale while holding her and then standing on the scale without her and subtracting to get her approximate weight. I didn't really want to be weighed today, but oh well....

Anyway, development is good- they look great, growth is great, no signs of autism! I am so grateful for my happy healthy babies! They needed only one shot (great way to reinforce Meghan's new anxiety!!). We saw a new doctor today because our old doctor left to start her own practice. I do like the one we saw today. We talked about the snotty noses a little. (recap- both girls were snotty constantly from Christmas to April- in April our old doctor suggested putting them on Claritin for suspected allergies for a while. If it worked (which it did) to stop at the end of June to see if snot started again.) We stopped the Claritin at the end of June and Ellie has been fine, but Meghan did get snotty again after a couple weeks so I put her back on it. I asked the doctor how to tell the difference between allergies and a cold and she said it is hard to tell, but said if the snot doesn't clear up on it's own or if the Claritin works, there is a good chance it is allergies. She said seasonal outdoor allergies are in the spring, but if it started in December, than it could be indoor allergies (dust, pets, etc.- we have plenty of all of that!). She also said that using Claritin daily indefinitely is fine and safe, so I will keep Meghan on it for a while and see how it goes.

Here are a few totally cute pictures of the girls just for fun! I haven't posted much about them lately it seems (Jacob is next!).

Meghan's favorite words are "phone" (pronounced "fo") and "shoe" (pronounced "sheew"). I think I may be in trouble.....This is Ellie climbing on the table. I can't keep either girl off. Ellie found Aaron's church folder and decided to decorate the contents within with a pen! She loves to color!In these pictures of Ellen and Meghan, they are wearing adorable outfits that my sister, Julie bought for them. She loves to spoil "her babies!!"**keep reading on to the next couple posts if you haven't checked it in a few days- I have been a busy blogger!!**

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Boys....

This afternoon, I was folding laundry while the girls played in front of me and the boys were playing in our backyard. There was about 500 neighbor kids playing in the yard as well. (only a small exaggeration...) . I hear a little tap on my back door from one of the neighbor kids. I was a bit irritated because they do this a lot for one of three reasons. 1) to ask for a drink or to go potty (maybe I am mean, but you live right next door- go there for your water or potty...) 2) to play with the dog or the babies through the door; or 3) to tattle about something. So, I actually ignored them at first. But they kept at it so I went to the door a little irritated until they told me that Kenny "fell off a car and was crying and hurt his head." WHAT???? So, I find Kenny who already has a giant goose egg forming on his forehead. Basically, they were playing hide and seek and Kenny went into the garage (where he knows he is not allowed to be) and was trying to climb on top of the van to hide (apparently with Jacob and several of the other kids!!!). He fell off and hit his forehead on the concrete floor of the garage. Here is what it looked like this evening. Not sure if the picture does it justice- you may need to click on it to make it bigger.
He even tried to lie about it because he knew he was doing something he shouldn't. Unfortunately he has figured out how to lie but at least he isn't very good at it yet! I went back outside to tell the other kids that my kids were staying inside the rest of the day and they would need to go home, but my yard had turned into a ghost town all of a sudden. Hmmmm, think they knew they were in trouble? I am just thankful he is okay- when I think of what could have happened.... ugh.....

He is such a boy!

A Very Special Girls Night Out

Last night, I got to go on a very special girls night in honor of my younger sister, Emily, who will soon be welcoming the arrival of her second child. Her baby girl will likely be born when Emily is induced on August 8th (08/08/08!! :)) and will be named Savanna. (Spelled without the "h" because Emily's real first name is Sara- spelled without the "h"). In her preparations for the upcoming birth, she was already planning on getting a pedicure yesterday. Sunday night, I received a call from her husband, Kris, telling me he was wanting to arrange a special surprise for her. He wanted to send Emily with me, our other sister Julie, and Emily's friend Amy in a Limo to get pedicures together and then go out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory- all his treat!! I was shocked at this amazing thing he wanted to do and said I would love to go. He stressed that this was a secret and I was not to tell her. No problem, I said. Well, Emily called me the next morning to say that Kris was too excited to keep his own secret and she knew all about it! She was so excited!

So, the night was wonderful! It was a challenge to get there because Meghan became sick and was throwing up. But thanks to wonderful parents and a husband who didn't want me to miss it, it all worked out. I wanted to take pictures, especially of Emily (with her big belly!) and Kris together and of us getting our pedicures, but, like a dork, I forgot my camera. The Limo didn't work out after all due to a scheduling conflict with the company, so Kris got us all manicures as well instead! We spent almost 4 hours getting pedicures and manicures together and it was so much fun just to relax and be together and talk and laugh. I had only had a pedicure twice before in my life (once right before the girls were born and once as a treat from my best friend, Jackie, to all of her bridesmaids right before she was married. Not to digress, but it is cool because she was married on 07/07/07!) And, I had only had a manicure once before (at said wedding last year!). The only picture I have is of the finished product that I took when I got home:
Never thought I would put a picture of my feet on the WWW, but I had to show off the pretty flowers- and this is a very rare treat for me. As much as I would love to, I can't imagine ever being able to have this done "just because"- it has always been a treat by someone else.

I even did something I had never done before, despite both of my sisters (especially Julie) begging me over the years to do so. I got my eyebrows waxed! Now, to you faithful waxers and pluckers, this may sound silly or like no big deal, but I have never done anything with my eyebrows because plucking is too irritating and painful and I am not patient enough to do a good job. And waxing just sounded scary. Well, Emily was doing it, so I thought- why not?! It didn't hurt as bad as I feared and I love the results!! I must say, I am proud of myself! Now, whether or not I do well at maintaining it, we shall see.

Anyway, after the fun at the salon, we went to a wonderful dinner at the Cheesecake Factory where we gorged ourselves on incredibly good food and laughed and chatted for a long time. I didn't even get home until 11:30! I love my sisters dearly and I am so grateful to live close to them and get to see them regularly. Every time we get together, we laugh at how incredibly different we all are, but we have a bond that will never be broken and I love to spend time with them. We always have so much fun together. Maybe partly because of our different personalities. Thank you, Kris, for this amazing evening- it was so fun and relaxing and meant so much. I know Emily enjoyed her chance to be pampered before the upcoming new baby. I can't wait to meet my new little niece and hold her and tell her I love her.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A "published" Author....

Does everyone remember this post? After reading it, my mom suggested I submit it to our local newspaper. They have a column that runs on Saturday for anyone to submit an essay for- it can be funny, serious, whatever. So, at her suggestion, I did. I rewrote it, making it sound more professional. Then, I sent it to my mom and my friend, Jackie (who is working on her PhD in English..) to proof read and give suggestions. Much to my surprise, it was accepted and ran in todays paper! I was quite surprised! Of course, they took out a couple sentences and rephrased a couple things in their final editing, but I suppose they know better than me! I don't want to directly link it here because it gives away about exactly where I am. I am not too worried about psychos, but why make it easy for them to find me if they are out there? So, here it is, copy and pasted. Enjoy!

As a mother of four young children -- 7- and 5-year-old boys, and twin 18-month-old girls -- I am often cautious about venturing out with the quartet in tow.

On the rare occasions when I am brave enough to go somewhere (the grocery store, perhaps, or the park), I am frequently told by strangers that "You have your hands full" -- as if I were unaware of my load.

One outing nonetheless brought home just how full my hands are.

From time to time, I baby-sit at a church nursery while the members of a community choir practice or perform.

So, on a recent day, I dropped off my older son at school, then headed to the church.

I was scheduled to watch the children of choir members during a performance and lunch. Given the extended period, I had packed lunches for all four of mine and myself -- in addition to diapers, extra clothes and the many other essentials that a mother of young ones must tote.

Between packing supplies and getting my son to school, the morning had obviously been hectic.

As I took the girls out of their car seats, they immediately wanted to dart out into the parking lot -- in different directions, of course. I quickly grabbed both with one hand while also trying to gather the diaper bag, lunches and other items with the other.

To avoid having to fumble with the keys after I closed the door, I pushed down the automatic lock. Then I handed the smaller bag containing our beverages to my 5-year-old (who acted as if I'd asked him to carry an elephant) and shut the door.

As I heard the locks engage, I realized that the larger bag -- the one containing our lunches, the diapers, my cell phone and my keys -- was still in the van.

I almost panicked, until I remembered that my husband works only 10 minutes away. Surely he could bail me out.

Feeling better, I made it across the parking lot and into the building with my three younger children. Because I was running a little late -- typical of me -- a few of the moms were already waiting to say goodbye and leave for the concert.

Embarrassed, I admitted what I'd done and asked to borrow a cell phone. I called my husband, who agreed to come unlock the doors.

"My knight in shining armor," I thought as the women left.

About 10 minutes later, my husband poked his head through the nursery door and handed me the rescued bag.

Grinning, he said, "You know, you could have just reached in at the open driver's-side window and unlocked the door!"

My eyes grew wide as I recalled enjoying a warm breeze through the window on the drive to the church.

I had been too flustered to notice that the window remained open.

At least I kept the girls from running into the parking lot.

Amanda, 30, works "chaos

control" full time.

So, there it is! My first "published" work. (Yes, Jackie & Ben- I know- not really.... I should keep my day job! :))

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Daddy, will you teach me to mow?"

That is what Kenny asked Aaron this morning as he was heading out to mow the lawn. If only Kenny was 10 instead of 7..... We will have to remind Kenny of his enthusiasm to learn when he is 15 and Aaron says "Kenny, go mow the lawn" and Kenny gripes and complains. I just had to capture the moment for proof that he once really wanted to mow the lawn! Both Kenny and Jacob always want to be just like Daddy and do things he does.
These pictures were just too cute not to post. They always get so excited when it is time to mow the grass. They have no idea what is coming to them.......

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Youth Conference 2008- Pioneer Trek

This weekend, I experienced one of the most physically hard, but spiritually and emotionally uplifting events of my life (aside from the birth of my children...). I went on a "pioneer trek" for a youth conference with the youth of the church ages 14-18. I took a ton of pictures and so much happened over the two days, so I put them into several collages in an attempt to make the post a little shorter. If you click on the collage, you will see it bigger and be able to read the captions that go with the pictures. The captions explain a bit more of the story in some cases. As I explain things, I will define terminology in parenthesis for the benefit of readers not of my faith. I did not include the basic beliefs of our faith, but you can read about them by clicking here if you are interested. I warn you before hand, this post is a bit long- but worth reading in my opinion.

Background Information:About 160 years ago, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints (Mormons) headed west from Nauvoo, Illinois in hopes of escaping the worsening persecution and living in peace to worship as they believed. Many used covered wagons with teams of oxen leading them. Many could not afford to do this, but still believed it very important to go and be with those who believed as they did. They constructed handcarts- small carts to be pulled by two people- containing their supplies. They walked across the country with their handcarts. Their total distance was 1300 miles from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City. It took them 6 months to go the first 200 miles (from Nauvoo to Omaha NE), and about 90 days to go the remaining 1100 miles. This is because the first 200 miles was through very hilly, muddy, rough terrain. When they hit the plains, they were able to move much faster. They averaged 15 miles a day. Those first six months, they could sometimes only do a mile or two a day, due to the terrain. They obviously did more than 15 miles a day once they hit the plains. Many died along the way. The sacrifices they made to live the life they believed is incredible. 1 out of 10 people traveling by handcarts died before reaching Salt Lake City.

Every year, the youth of the church (young men and young women) ages 14-18 go on a youth conference (a two (or more) day trip for educational, service, or fun purposes). This year, they went on a "pioneer trek" to commemorate what those yearly pioneers did and to learn about and appreciate what they went through. This trek involved the whole stake (a stake is a collection of wards- which is the term for a branch of our church. A stake is made up of about 10 wards). We had 93 youth go on this trek. I am one of the youth leaders (of the Young Women) in my ward, so I went as an adult leader to help out. They were divided into 10 "families" representing real families that went by handcart. They were given a family name and a history of what that family experienced. There was a total of 10 handcart "families" for this trek- with about 8 youth assigned to each handcart. They walked 11.2 miles the first day, camped in tents over night and walked 9.6 miles the second day. (Remember the early pioneers averaged 15 miles a day.)
Here are the youth from our ward (and a few others) who went on the trek:
And pictures of the handcarts we used:

Here are pictures before we got started of some other people. Pioneer clothing was strongly suggested but not required. We could not convince the kids in our ward to do so, aside from Amy, but many others got in the spirit. I didn't have any pioneer clothing, but came as close as I could with a plain jumper I bought at the thrift store for $2.00. I only wish I had a bonnet and apron- would have made the outfit. Anyway- here they are:
The Trek: It was HOTTTTTTTTT!!! It was in the 90's both days and very humid. Obviously, we did not want they youth to suffer heat exhaustion so we constantly shoved water down their throats. Each youth was given a water bottle. Each handcart had a large water container filled with ice water (see above collage). One of the trucks following the group had a 250 gallon water horse in the back and the truck to refill the containers as needed. The water horse was refilled overnight. Every little bit, we would make them stop and drink, whether they wanted to or not. We had a few vans in front of and behind the group to carry those who were overheated, or just felt they couldn't walk anymore. The youth were amazing and complained very little. Once the carts got going, they were relatively easy to pull. But the hills were killer. Of course, this couldn't be done in north-east Ohio, where it is flat. No, it was in the hills of south-east Ohio. Whoever wasn't pulling the cart, had to help push it up the hills from behind- not easy to do since you had to bend over to reach it to push. This was hard work. We also learned going down hill was no easier- but harder. The carts were heavy and if not controlled, would over take those driving and run them over and get out of control. So, we would have to pull it back from behind to keep it under control. Very difficult! I (and most of the youth) walked the entire distance- taking turns "driving" the cart and pushing/pulling from behind. The heat made it more difficult for obvious reasons as well as others. It was so hot, the tar on the roads (mostly back country roads) was melting and sticking to the wheels/ our shoes- making it hard to walk. It was "sucking" our shoes off our feet. Obviously, the pioneers didn't have this problem, but then they didn't have real roads either.

One the way, there were the following two displays for them to study and think about. The one representing a child's burial was very powerful to all. A sad reminder of what was so common on the original trek west....
When we arrived at camp that evening, we had walked 11.2 miles and we could all hardly move, but got our tents set up, ate dinner (more on that at the end) and then had other fun going on. See the pictures in the following collage.
The "cow pies" were from the following morning as we were just beginning the trek for the day. My brother, Randy, waited in the grass for all the youth to catch up to that point. He explained the importance of cow pies (and buffalo chips) to the pioneers (fuel mostly) and then said one person from each family needed to find one to share with their family- and then took a huge bite out of the one he "found." Everyone was totally grossed out until they found one for their family and realized it was a big cookie to share. Yum!

One event that happened to the pioneers was the invasion of the Mexican armies. Many of the Mormon men (any old enough/not too old who were able bodied) were pulled away from their families to help defend the country. They became known as the "Mormon Battalion." This left the women (and children and old men) alone to pull the handcarts across the country. Attacks by the Indians were also common. Both of these events were reenacted during our trek:
The food: This proved to be an experience all in itself. One one hand, I don't want to sound like we were complaining. We were lucky to have the food served to us. The original pioneers had to build their own fires and find their own food and prepare it after walking their average 15 miles. I can not imagine this- we were exhausted. I suspect they wanted meals to be simple, as they were for the pioneers- I have no doubt our food was way better than what they ate, but tough on us with how spoiled we are and how hard we worked. Here was our menu:

Day 1 lunch: granola bars, trail mix, grapes, celery, carrots. (lunch was 2 hours late too...)
Day 1 dinner: canned (way too salty) beef stew, yucky tasting boxed biscuits
Day 2 breakfast: sausage gravy (not too bad really...), same yucky biscuits
Day 2 lunch: PB&J (had never sounded so good...), apples, bananas, cheese sticks (pretty good in all..)
Day 2 dinner: Here is the kicker- after all the work the last two days, and somewhat skimpy food, everyone was starved. They had been promising a big feast to celebrate our arrival to "The Promised Land." I think a lot of us were expecting they would do something really cool like bring in pizzas or something- something the youth would really get in to. But, no...it actually resembled what would be a huge feast to the pioneers...I am sure they would have been in heaven but..... it was a pig roast- a real pig roast. With a pig (skin still on!) spread out on a platter- pop can in its mouth, eyes poked out. (It was served with corn, potatoes, watermelon...and the same icky biscuits...). With the pig, the cooks had to peel back the skin- scrape of the fat- and pull of the meat. It was a bit much for some of the youth to handle..... some couldn't even look at it and some wouldn't eat it. I had a little- it was really pretty good, but needed salt- otherwise good. But, many of the youth were still hungry when we left because they just couldn't eat much of it. Our van stopped at Wendy's on the way home..... I doubt we were the only ones.

Some of you may be wondering about bathrooms en route. I, for one, was worried- hoping I wouldn't have to go in the bushes. Well, let's just say some luxuries are just too important to give up....
My brother-in-law, Kris, drove his SUV with this trailer and these 4 port-a-potties for the whole trek. Basically, he would drive ahead 2 miles and stop and wait for us to catch up (in his air-conditioned car, watching movies on his lap top...). We would have a 15 minute break, go potty, drink water and he would drive ahead two miles and wait for us to catch up again.

Again, I have to say the youth are incredible. They worked together and complained very little. I think they understood that yes, they hurt- but so did everyone else and they just had to keep going until they were done. So, they all pitched in and did the work. I think they learned a lot about what the pioneers went through and the faith those early pioneers had. They got an appreciation of how hard the work was and some perspective on it. We walked just over 20 miles- those pioneers walked 1300- and had to work for their own minuscule meals, with little to no water. We had a testimony meeting at the end ( a chance for those who desire to stand and declare their beliefs and what they learned and their feelings) and the faith and the spirit of these young people on this trek this year just amazed me. I can't imagine what those early pioneers went through. I was so exhausted and in so much pain the first day (I was pushing/pulling with them! Not just walking!) that I could hardly move and had no idea how I was going to do it the second day. At times I wasn't sure if I could keep walking- and I knew that next step was going to hurt, but I took that step anyway- and another and another. I suppose that is how the early pioneers did it- they just kept taking that next step- no matter how bad it hurt or what trials they faced- until they got there. That says a lot for how strongly they believed in their faith. After two days, I got to go home and take a shower (ahhh.....the best!) and sleep in my own bed and hug my healthy children and eat pizza. After 2 days (and many many more...) they still had to get up and do it all over again, despite their pain/exhaustion/hardships. But, they all said it was worth it in the end. I have to say it was worth it as well. The appreciation I have gained and the growth of my testimony (not to mention the excellent free workout :)) were worth it. Here is a shout out to the 3 wonderful Young Women from my ward that I get to work with on a weekly basis (there is more, but they were unable to come on this trek- the young men were awesome as well- I just don't know them as well and wasn't around them as much.) I know you all did an awesome job in many ways, but here is what I noticed the most:

Jackie B- You pulled that cart more than any of the guys- and you are not a "big" girl- but obviously strong! You pulled that cart at LEAST your fair share the first day, and way more than your share the second. You were positive and helpful the whole time. I truly enjoyed walking beside you this weekend.

AmyB-You walked the entire way and remained positive, helpful and uplifting to the others. You watched out for everyone. You were in the spirit of the trek with you dress and attitude. Thanks for bringing your viola and sharing your talent along the way. You have an incredible spirit.

Rachel F-You went up a day early with the stake leadership to get things set up and ready. Thank you for efforts in helping to plan this event and working so hard to help bring this all together and for being there. You worked hard and stayed positive and friendly despite small injuries you faced, making it impossible for you to walk day 2. I know you would have if you could. You are amazing- thanks for all the work you did in planning!

Also, to my wonderful husband, Aaron-Thanks for taking such great care of the kids while I was gone- and putting them to bed still even though I arrived home in time to do so, as I was beyond dead and wanted to do nothing more than take a shower. Thanks for rubbing my sore legs (after my shower...), letting me sleep in a bit Sunday morning and making breakfast for me and the kids. Also for humoring me while I typed this horrendously long post while we were also watching a movie. You are amazing and I love you so much! A few people asked how I was able to get away from the kids for the two days and I said it was because I have such a wonderful husband.

I know this post has been long, but I took so many cool pictures, and I could only talk myself into leaving out 2 of them. There were so many different experiences and I just had to explain them all and have them recorded. It was truly a painful, difficult, but wonderful journey!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Journal Jar Entry #2

As I mentioned before (see entry #1 here), when I am low on things to write about, I will choose a slip from a journal jar I made a while back. This will give me plenty of things to write about and good insight into my life and my thoughts for my readers and my children, should they read this in the future. Here goes:

What do I know about my Savior? What are my feelings about him?
I have been looking forward to this one, because I haven't posted much on my beliefs yet. I think the timing is appropriate because I will be going on a two day youth conference this weekend with the youth ages 14-18 at church this weekend and it is sure to be full of spiritual experiences. We will be going on a pioneer trek to commemorate and learn about what the pioneers went through nearly 200 years ago. Look for that post with pictures around Sunday.

For specific information on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints, of which I am a member, click on the link in this sentance for our basic beliefs.

I know that the Savior is essential to our salvation. If not for his atonement, we would not be able to return to our Father in Heaven. I know he is our eldest brother, who loves us and died for us. I believe he wants us to be happy in this life- and that he has a sense of humor. Fun is a good thing, when we are following Him.

I know that He loves children and finds them to be of highest importance. I love the Bible story where Jesus had been teaching all day and parents brought their children to see Him, but the guards turned them away. Jesus replied saying,
"...suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them and blessed them." (Mark 10:14-16)
This is something that helps me everyday in my life and is often essential in getting through my day. There are times when I get so frustrated with my kids and yell entirely way too much and get mad when I shouldn't. Often, during these times, I think of Christ and this scripture and pictures like these and think "What would Christ do if he were with these children this day." This often helps me to relax as I remember His love for them and my love for them. I love my children so deeply and I love to sit back and try to see them through the Saviors eyes- these innocent little people that he trusted me to watch over in this life, to guide them back home to Him. I do believe that is my biggest goal, is to help these 4 beautiful children of God find their way home to Him. I am amazed daily by their simple testimonies, how quickly they learn and the spirit they bring to our home.

I know when I live as I should, I can feel the Savior close in my life. I am not perfect. I pray every night, thanking God for the endless blessings I receive and asking forgiveness for my sins- which are daily. He is essential in my day to day life. One of my favorite hymns, "I Believe in Christ" is so simple and so powerful. I love to sing this and the words mean a lot:

I believe in Christ; He is my king!
With all my heart, to him I'll sing;
I'll raise my voice in praise and joy;
In grand Amens, my tongue employ.
I believe in Christ; he is God's son.
On earth to dwell his soul did come.
He healed the sick; the dead he raised.
Good works were his; his name be praised.

I believe in Christ; oh, blessed name!
As Mary's Son he came to reign
'Mid mortal men, his earthly kin,
To save them from the woes of sin.
I believe in Christ, who marked the path,
Who did gain all his Father hath,
Who said to men: "Come, follow me,
That ye, my friends, with God may be."

I believe in Christ-my Lord, my God!
My feet he plants on gospel sod.
I'll worship him with all my might;
He is the source of truth and light.
I believe in Christ; he ransoms me.
From Satan's grasp he sets me free,
And I shall live with joy and love
In his eternal courts above.

I believe in Christ; he stands supreme!
From him I'll gain my fondest dream;
And while I strive through grief and pain,
His voice is heard: "Ye shall obtain."
I believe in Christ; so come what may
With him I'll stand in that great day
When on this earth he comes again
to rule among the sons of men.

I want my friends and family and children to know that I believe in Christ and I love him and all of you!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy Birthday, America!!

I absolutely love summer- by far my favorite season. I appreciate all of the seasons for different reasons, but I love the warmth of summer, picnics, being outside, no school schedules to work around. Life just seems a bit lighter in the summer. I love independence day- the food, the fireworks, and of course, the meaning behind it all. Here I share some pictures and experiences and thoughts from yesterday.

We started the day out in festive style. Thanks to the inspiration I received from Lauri's blog (see here), I thought it would be fun to start the day with a red, white and blue breakfast. Very fun- everyone enjoyed!
It has become a tradition to head to my father-in-laws to watch the fireworks in their city. As I have mentioned before, he lives where a river runs through his back yard. He owns a house boat. The city shoots fireworks over the river, so we take the boat down to watch on the river. Makes a traditional experience a little more unique- not to mention the city does an EXCELLENT job on fireworks! This has actually been a record setting year for Ohio for rainfall and the beginning of this weekend followed suite. It rained all day Thursday and all day Friday. It stopped just as we were leaving the house and actually cleared out nicely. The weather stayed cool, which made it interesting, considering we usually roast. But, the rain was gone, so it was quite nice. The girls were dressed up in style. Here they are on my moms lap before leaving on the boat. I was so glad my mom decided to come along! Meghan is in the blue, Ellie in the red.
Not the greatest picture, they were trying to squirm off her lap, so I had to snap it quickly, but you still get the idea how cute they were! Here are the boys riding on the roof of the boat, anxiously waiting for the fireworks. They remembered seeing the fireworks on the boat last year and talked about it all year, so excited for this year! Here is Kenny:
Oh, by the way- the baby in the arms of the lady next to him is my new nephew Dominic, who was just born 2 months ago- I mentioned in a previous post. (Not his mom holding him). I think he is so cute in that life jacket!! And here's Jacob:
So, you are probably thinking the same questioned I pondered before this trip. How in the world do you contain two very active toddlers on a boat??? Here is the answer that we came up with:
Put a playpen on the roof of the boat- life jackets on at all times, and feed them a constant stream of Oreos to keep them happy! Actually, while the boat was moving on the way to the viewing point, we kept them inside the boat with the doors closed (life jackets ALWAYS on), and put them in the play pen when the boat was stopped for the evening. Don't let this picture fool you though. It didn't work as well as it looks. It was past bed time at this point and they were well sick of their life jackets. They didn't really like the view from the top of the boat- probably a strange sensation for them, especially when the boat rocked a bit (the top is really to only place to watch from! There is a rail around it). They wanted to roam and explore, but that obviously could not happen, so they were very cranky. The only things that helped were their pacifiers and Oreos. However, it didn't take long before Ellie's pacifier went overboard. Not good. If you look in the picture, you can see the remaining pacifier on the floor- to the left by Meghan's foot. A little later, we happened to look down in time to see that one bobbing down the river. And they can only eat so many Oreos...... So, here we are, well past bed time with cranky toddlers in stuffy life jackets, unable to move- and no pacifiers. The waiting was not pleasant! Here is a view of the playpen from the lower deck:
Aaron was misbehaving, so we put him in there with the girls! ha ha! Not really- he is standing beside it, but I think it is hilarious, because it looks like he is in it.

Finally the fireworks started. One thing I have learned since being a mother is that the wonder and fascination on children's faces is even more amazing then the fireworks. I love these shots of the boys faces: Kenny and Jacob:
Kenny:
Jacob (love it!!!!):
The girls were beyond their limit. We had been holding them for a while, but as the fireworks started, Aaron put Ellie in the playpen and I think she was too tired to complain. She just laid there and continued to do so even as the fireworks went off- which was probably actually a good view to see them from..... the poor thing! The fireworks were literally right over our heads, so I think she actually enjoyed laying back and watching them- she was awake and peaceful the whole time.
Meghan, on the other hand started screaming as they began. I took these pictures while holding here, so I was trying to capture her reaction without getting me in them:
I talked to her calmly and when they went off, I would say "Wow! Isn't it pretty? Wow!" Pretty soon, she relaxed and even began to enjoy them. She tried repeating me by saying "Ow!" as they went off- trying to say "wow!" It was sooo cute!
Needless to say, we had 4 sacked out kids in the van when we got home. You would think they would have slept in a bit...... oh well-one of these days!!

But, despite the chaos, I was able to enjoy the fireworks and reflect on how wonderful it is to be in this country, where we can sit in the warmth, comfortable and safe, and enjoy the beauty of the fireworks and nature surrounding them. I am grateful to live in this country where we can enjoy the freedoms we have and I do not want to take them for granted. I truly believe that God gave us this country as a "promised land". Consecrated to be a place for His work to go forward and for His people to live in freedom and happiness, as long as they follow Him in faith and gratitude. We must remember it is He that gave us this land and never take it for granted. As my sister and I were driving along a local freeway today, we saw four different fireworks displays in nearby communities. How beautiful to see several shots of color across the sky. As I walked into a grocery store to pick up a few items, I could hear the booms of them literally surrounding me and I was grateful to be in a country where I could smile at that sound- knowing it symbolized freedom and happiness and celebration; whereas in other countries, those noises may have symbolized something terrifying.

**note- yes, I do realize there are pictures of everyone except me. Not that I am disappointed by this- I prefer it that way, but my mom did take one or two decent ones of me I may add later when she emails them to me, so check back if you are curious.

One more unrelated but fun picture: A few days ago, I finally took Kenny to the store to buy a toy with his birthday money. He chose this 200 pc marble toy thing. Though, despite the fact it looked like way to many pieces to have around, he was so excited and we got a good deal on it. He had $12 to spend. This was on a shelf for $15- but I knew it probably wasn't right- but that is what it said. I also had a $3 coupon for anything in the store. I went to the register and it rang up for $29.99- I told her what the shelf said. They checked it, it was on the wrong shelf, but gave it to me for $15 anyway since it was there error. And we had the coupon- we got it for $12! Perfect.

Well, this is the kind of thing I would consider beyond my capacity to put together. I normally wouldn't try- I would just wait till Aaron got home. But, I was inspired (again...) by Lauri's blog (see here) . She was talking about how living alone has helped her to be more independent and do things on her own. I thought- I am a smart, able bodied woman (not to mention Kenny was waaaaaaay too excited to want to wait the HOURS (not that many) till daddy got home, and I should be able to follow an instruction manual. So, about an hour later:
I am woman, hear ME roar! :)