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.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Tale of Three Trees and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

The following is an old fable, and it has been written into a picture book that my kids love. It is brief; I will type it out here. I feel it appropriate on Christmas eve.

The Tale of Three Trees

A traditional folktale
retold by Angela Elwell Hunt

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.

The first little tree looked up at the stars twinkling like diamonds above him. "I want to hold treasure," he said. "I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I will be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!"

The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. "I want to be a strong sailing ship," he said. " I want to travel mighty waters and carry powerful kings. I will be the strongest ship in the world!"

The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and busy women worked in a busy town. "I don't want to leave this mountaintop at all," she said. "I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me they will raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world!"

Years passed. The rains came, the sun sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain.

The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell. "Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest," thought the first tree. " I shall hold wonderful treasure."

The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is strong. It is prefect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell. "Now I shall sail mighty waters," thought the second tree. "I shall be a strong ship fit for kings!"

The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. "Any kind of tree will do for me," he muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought him to a carpenter's shop, but the busy carpenter was not thinking about treasure chests. Instead his work-worn hands fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals. The once- beautiful tree was not covered with gold or filled with treasure. He was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals.

The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took him to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ships were being made that day. Instead the once-strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. Too small and too weak to sail and ocean or even a river, he was taken to a little lake. Every day he brought in loads of dead, smelly fish.

The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into stron beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" the once tall tree wondered. "All I ever wanted to do was stay on the mountaintop and point to God."

Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. I wish I could make a cradle for him," her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. "This manger in beautiful," she said. And suddenly, the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.
One evening, a tired traveller and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveller fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. He knew he didn not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand and said, "Peace." The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly, the second tree knew he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.
One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.

But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything. It had made the first tree beautiful. It had made the second tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God.

That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

May we all remember that it is the love of the Savior that makes us all so valuable and precious. As we celebrate His birth, may our hearts grow closer to him and our families. We wish you all a very

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!
and before anyone judges the tree- remember we have 4 small children- two of whom are 2!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Calling Update!!

So, my freedom lasted barely a week. I posted last Sunday about being released from serving with the Young Women. Today, I received my new calling. I am a Relief Society teacher. The Relief Society is the organization for all adult women in the church. There is a strong focus on service and bringing each other unto Christ. We have a weekly gospel lesson. I will be teaching that lesson once a month. I am excited about it, but nervous. I have never taught adults before- kids are much easier! But, it is exciting and new and definitely less time and stress involved. Wish me luck!!!

And, read on for an icky, sad story.....

R.I.P. "Little Miss"

"Little Miss"
June 1st "ish", 2007-December 21, 2008
(this isn't really her, but she looked pretty much like this)

Today was a sad day for the kids. Their mother officially failed yet another innocent, annoying little hamster. Little Miss died this morning a sad and tragic death. I am sure she is in hamster heaven arranging for me to rot in hamster h-e-double hockey sticks for not protecting her. To totally explain the story, we need to go back in time to August 2007.

When Kenny was in Kindergarten, he made friends with a particular boy. In August of 2007, before first grade started, we had a play date with this friend. His mother tells me the story of how they went to a pet store to get two hamsters for their kids as pets. They were assured both hamsters were boys. Well, unless God granted a miracle, it was a boy and a girl as baby hamsters soon arrived and they were left wondering what to do with all these hamsters. She offered one to me. At first, being smart, I said no- we already had 4 kids, a dog and two cats- not a good idea. But, she also offered to throw in a free cage, a whole bag of food and some bedding. I still wasn't in love with the idea, but I knew the kids would love it and I always had hamsters growing up, and I was getting everything free so we would try it. So, we got the hamster and soon named him "Cookie" because he looked (also much like the hamster above) like an ice cream cookie sandwich. The kids loved him! I didn't love cleaning the cage but the kids were happy. One fateful day that same fall (Kenny was at school, Jacob at home not yet in Kindergarten), I was cleaning the cage. Before, when I cleaned the cage, I would clean it in the kitchen with the hamster in the sink beside me. Well, this wasn't working anymore because Cookie could stretch over the sink and climb out. So, this day, I put Cookie in the bath tub and closed the door to the bathroom, while I cleaned the cage in the kitchen. I did not hear Jacob open and NOT close the door. All I knew next, is that I walked into the living room to get something and there is a wet mass on the floor. It was a broken Cookie- and my dog standing over him. He was still breathing, but barely. I took him into the kitchen, frantically wondering what to do with the broken hamster that was clearly not going to survive. He died then. The kids were broken-hearted and I felt awful for failing to protect him. Every smart part of myself, as well as other people said we should not get another hamster. But, the kids were so sad and I felt like it was my fault. The stupid part of me, and some people, said I should get another since the kids wanted one and it wasn't their fault.

So, I call the mother who gave the hamster. Can you imagine making that call? "We killed the one you gave us, do you have another?" She did and was happy to get rid of another one. Against my will, the kids named her "Little Miss." I hated the name, but it stuck. I did something smart though- I bought a small plastic carrying cage for when I cleaned her cage- I would put her in the small plastic one right next to me on the counter so she would be safe- problem solved. Things went well enough, Kenny has been old enough lately to help clean the cage and they enjoyed playing with her sometimes. I wasn't so fond of her, but I figured her life span is short anyway. She did escape a couple times by a cage door left open, or a piece of her cage breaking, but we luckily found her each time before the dog did.

Well, I woke up at about 1:15 am this morning to a strange noise and my dog very excited about something in the hallway. This isn't like her- she is normally passed out on the floor next to our bed. I somehow just knew. I felt sick to my stomach as I jumped out of bed saying "oh no...." I go into the hall and turn on the light and find a dead hamster on the floor. Oh no.....not again... what was I thinking?!?!?! How did she get out?!?! I woke Aaron up- wasn't dealing with THAT alone- and he disposed of her. (Cookie got a funeral and a grave, but it is just too darn cold, for one among other reasons....) I checked out the cage and saw an area of the cage that failed.

It took a very long time to go back to sleep as I thought about how in the world to tell the kids, what was I thinking getting another hamster- it is once again my fault this thing died.

I am guilty of yet another thing as well- I lied to my kids. I just couldn't tell them the dog did it again for fear of them taking it out on the dog. I told them that the cage broke (true), she climbed out and fell (true) and was just hurt to bad from the fall (lie....) and daddy already put her with Cookie (not totally true, but not a lie- they are in hamster heaven together right?)

So anyway, this turned out much longer than intended. I learned my lesson- which I should have learned before. I did learn it before, but let my kids and my guilt talk me into the second hamster. Absolutely no more hamsters!!! Probably never again (they are stinky and annoying anyway), but definitely not while we have other animals in the house. I swear I once had a brain- then I had kids..... Oh well. The kids are handling it fine. They cried for a few minutes but then were easily distracted when I told them our fun plans for FHE tomorrow!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mixed Emotions

Three and a half years ago, I knew this day would come- though I had no idea it would be 3 1/2 years- I figured shorter. I also figured when this day came, I would jump for joy. I didn't know I would be torn between that emotion and sadness and reluctance. So, what am I talking about? Yesterday, I was released from serving with the Young Women at church. A truly bittersweet day.

A quick explanation for readers not of my faith (for those who are, feel free to skip to the next paragraph...) Our church members do all the work- no one is paid, not even our bishop- as volunteers. We are asked by the leadership to serve- we are given "callings". We believe that the leadership prayerfully considers who should fill each roll and that they are inspired as to who to "call" to a certain position. When they feel they know who it should be, we are asked to fulfill the calling. We always have a right to say no, but we generally accept because we believe that serving in different areas, even in one we never expected or wanted to, gives us opportunities to learn and grow in different experiences. We believe that the leaders are inspired, so there must be a reason the Lord wants us to serve in that capacity.

So, when I was called to the Young Women (girls age 12-18) I was terrified because I had no experience with teenagers and was honestly kind of afraid of them. I was more tempted to say no then I ever had been before. But, I also learned who the other adult leaders would be, and they were my friends, and I knew there had to be a reason why I was being asked, so I accepted. The first presidency meeting I went to with my fellow leaders did not go well for me. I am not even sure they know this. When I had that first meeting with Katie, Kelly and Tiffany, I felt so overwhelmed and inadequate. They all discussed different ideas while I sat there feeling lost, like I had nothing to offer. My two (at the time...) young children were acting up so I could barely concentrate as it was. I left that meeting and cried the whole way home. But, they were patient with me and I prayed a lot and managed to grow and learn the calling just as Heavenly Father promised I would. The women I have served with in this calling (Katie, Kelly, Tiffany, Mary, Beth, Bylle, Autumn, Suzanne, Ashley, Andrea, and Alysha) have become dear friends- and I may not have gotten to know them as well, if not for working with them.

I feel like my best teachers were the Young Women themselves. I learned so much about them and their needs and their challenges. They really have so much to deal with, but are such amazing girls. I never imagined how deeply I would come to love them, worry about them and pray for them. The calling is challenging time wise- Sunday lessons, weekly activities, camp, and other activities that take the leaders away from home. But, I often looked forward to the activities we did together.

However, there comes a time with any calling where it must end. Most callings last a couple years- sometimes more, sometimes less. Then we are released and called elsewhere, giving someone else a turn to serve there and you a chance to serve somewhere else. On one hand, I was tired and burnt out and ready to move on. But, I had also become used to the calling and the girls and there was comfort in it. I knew I would be released soon anyway because it had been so long. But, Aaron's school schedule changes next quarter to where he will have class the same night as the Young Women activity nights so I can't be there. The girls need someone who can be there.

I was truly sad to say "good-bye" to the girls. What I really honestly don't understand is that they were sad to see me go too- even the ones who I didn't think cared as much for me. I really feel that I got more from serving with them then they did from me. I really don't know what I gave them other than love, my time, and I did my best, though I can't help but feel it wasn't enough. I will certainly always remember them. I can't wait to see the women they will be someday because they will be amazing! I am so grateful I rose above my fears and accepted the call. It has been an amazing, crazy, fun, stressful, sometimes aggravating, spiritually uplifting ride.

I am still awaiting what my next calling will be. I don't yet know. For now, I am enjoying the peace of no responsibility for the week or so until I am called to the next position. I know it won't be long. And really, even though the peace and quiet is nice, I wouldn't want it to last too long. I like being involved, serving and contributing. I am definitely a person who needs to feel needed. I will update when I know what is coming! Any guesses?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fantastic Fitness Friday Report 4

Actually, it has not been so fantastic lately, but I am playing with new names for the weekly post. Though, it has been two weeks since I updated. Last Friday got a little crazy and just slipped away, as it almost did today.

As for last weeks report- I managed to maintain due to one "saving grace" if one would ever actually call it that..... the stomach flu struck and I didn't eat for 3 days. Not a fun diet plan- I don't recommend it....

This week has not gone well and I must be honest and admit it. Though I have not stepped on the scale and I can't bring myself to do it because I don't want to know. The week wasn't going great as it was and then my neighbor came over with a bag full of homemade fudge, chocolate covered pretzels and caramel corn. Let's just say, I didn't just fall of the wagon, I flew off and crashed and burned. Oh well. I will promise myself and everyone this.... While the next couple weeks are bound to be bad, I will get it back together!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Breakfast with Santa....The Good, The Bad, The Scared....

Saturday, our ward had its annual Christmas Breakfast. We look forward to it every year- it is always in early December and it is just a fun way to kick off the Christmas season. It still seems so unreal that the Christmas 08 season is really in full swing. I swear it is true that the years do go by faster the older you get. Last Christmas just doesn't seem like it was that long ago. Anyway, I digress. This year did not disappoint! We had a great time visiting with friends, eating yummy breakfast treats brought via potluck, and of course- sitting on Santa's lap! The chorale group of a nearby high school came and performed and put on an AMAZING show. I think I could have watched them dance and sing all day. Kenny was even chosen out of the audience to participate in a song where they dressed him up as they sang. You can tell by the ear-to-ear grin that it made his day.

The morning was topped off by the long awaited visitor! The boys couldn't wait to sit on Santa's lap and tell him they had been good this year. The girls weren't so sure.
This was while we were waiting in line still- Meghan was already uneasy. It didn't get better for the girls.... Here are the photos of all...

Ellie did fine until I actually put her on his lap. She was not interested at all. Meghan- we couldn't even get her near his lap, but I still wanted a picture with Santa, which is why Aaron is standing behind Santa holding her. Lets just say, she got the attention of the then entire room.

Bring on Christmas, I am ready!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom!!!!!!

A special Happy Birthday to my mom today!!! Today she is 56 years old. I found I don't have many pictures of her. I think because she is frequently taking pictures of everyone else and then emailing them to us. This reminds me that I need to be more diligent with my camera and take more of her. Here is one with her, taken in March, with Aaron and all 4 of our kids.
She is an amazing person and lives for her family! And, honestly, we can't imagine living without her. She is the worlds best mom! Her name is Sara Ellen, which is where my little one, Ellen, got her name. Here is my mom with her namesake shortly after she was born:
I thought it would be fun just to tell everyone some fun/interesting things about my mom for the world to know:
  • She has been a nurse her entire adult life- and a very good one, I might add. I often call her before calling our own doctors to get her opinion first.
  • She has worked the night shift now for so many years that she has turned completely nocturnal. Even when she is off, she can seldom sleep well at night. I frequently get emails from her stamped at 2 am. She also works on her quilts and scrapbooks during that time. Or housecleaning or whatever needs done!
  • Speaking of quilting and scrapbooking, she is very talented in many areas. She made each of her children a quilt within the last few years. Here is the one she made for me:
It is the perfect size and warmth for cuddling on the couch to watch TV or read a book.
  • She has been married 37 years and has 5 children and 8 grandchildren.
  • She is a great cook and enjoys doing so when she has the time/people to cook for.
  • Mom is probably the most selfless person I know!
  • She is a very good budding photographer. It is a new hobby for her. She recently joined a local camera club and has submitted some beautiful photos for concerts.
  • She is always happily willing to help with her grandkids whenever she can. She was there when all my kids were born, helped after they were born (sooooo helpful after the girls were born), and babysits often when we need to go somewhere.
  • My kids love Grandma because she is a cuddler and they know she loves to hug them and hold them on her lap.
  • She is a "blog stalker"- she loves reading my, my sister's, and my sister-in-law's blog. She also visits some of my friends blogs pretty regularly. But, she never ever, you never know... she may be watching!
Happy Birthday Mom!!!!! I love you!!!!

A Special Anniversary wish to:
My Grandparents!!! They are celebrating 63 years together today! (My dad's parents)

Makes me think about where we will be after 63 years. I love my grandparents and hope they enjoy their special day!

One Final Note-

This is my 100th post!!! Yay!!! I have enjoyed doing this blog more than I ever imagined. Thank you to all my readers who have helped keep me motivated!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas- My Way!

This is a fun little blog game that I saw on Lauri's blog. Figured I would play along. Thanks for the blogging idea, Lauri!

1) Gift Wrap or Gift Bags?

Gift Wrap. I am no good at it and don't really enjoy wrapping, but I prefer to open a wrapped package then dig in a gift bag. For that reason, I generally wrap presents for others as well. They just aren't always very pretty.

2) Real or Artificial Tree?

Generally Real. There is something magical about going in the cold to get a real tree and the tradition of having it in your home- as well as the scent it gives. However, I am somewhat tempted lately by the positives of an artificial tree- no fallen needles and you can put it up earlier (without the fire hazard....)

3) When do you put up your tree?

Usually about the second week of December. Though maybe earlier if I end up going the artificial route. Maybe later if I am too lazy to deal with 2 toddlers picking things off the tree....

4) When do you take down your tree?

No later than New Years Day. I always look forward to getting ready for Christmas and putting the tree up. But, once it is over it is over and I am ready to take it down!

5) Do you like eggnog?

2 words..... eww gross!!!!

6) Favorite gift as a child.

Hmmm- have to think there.... Probably when I got my very own stereo when I was 13ish and it was also about the time I got my own room for the first time. So, it was cool to have my OWN stereo I didn't have to share. I am sure there is more, but this stands out the fastest as I think about it.

7) Hardest/ Easiest person to shop for.

Hardest would probably be either Aaron or my Father in law. I never know what to get Aaron- all he wants often times is tools for his garage. I wouldn't know what to buy, which leaves the option of giving cash/gift cards which just seems boring.

Easiest would be my kids. They haven't hit a stage yet of having "must haves" that they really want. They are happy with anything.

8) Do you have a nativity scene?

I have two- one that is pure white glass that my aunt Margie got for Aaron and I the first Christmas we were married. The other is a Fisher Price "Little People" Nativity set- very cool!

9) Mail or E-mail Christmas Cards-

Definitely Mail- What kind of cheap-o would e-mail? It would be better to not send then to just do email!

10) Favorite Christmas Movie-

It's a Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, The original Miracle on 34th St, The original The Grinch who Stole Christmas.

11) When do you start shopping for Christmas-

Generally not before November. I used to never shop before Thanksgiving, but now with a larger list, it helps to start a little sooner. Any sooner than November though just feels weird.

12) Favorite things to eat during the holidays

Chocolate, Chocolate and more chocolate- love the candy, the cookies, etc. Also, Mint Hot Chocolate....oh, the best!!!

13) Favorite Christmas Song

O Holy Night (especially by Josh Grobin), Sleigh Ride, Silent Night, Away in a Manger, Carol of the Bells, that cool song done to Canon in D by Transiberian Orchestra ("On this night"?)

14) Angel or Star on top of your tree?

Angel- She is watching over us. Actually, it is because I bought it cheap at Odd Lots when we were first married and I just still like it.

15) Open gifts Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?

Christmas Morning. Sometimes Aaron and I will exchange one Christmas Eve.

16) Most annoying thing about the holiday season?

People who spend ridiculous amounts of money for a single person for a Christmas gift, stores that put decorations out in September, Bruce Springsting's version of "Santa Clause is Coming to Town," and the version of "The Drummer Boy" with those operatic old sounding ladies that the radio plays all the time.

17) Favorite Ornament/ Theme Color

Hmm- not sure. I don't have much of a theme due to "hurricane children" in my house and lack of style sense.

18) Favorite christmas dinner

A really good Ham and those cheap "Brown and Serve" Rolls. (those are the best! :)) Yum!

19) What do you want for Christmas?

Lower bills, a bigger house, for us all to continue to be as healthy as we are, and a date night or two with my husband.

Who else would like to play? I would love to read about you! Consider this an "unofficial tag"- if you would like something fun to blog about that says a little about you, play along!