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.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lego- Mania!!!!!

It is probably no shock that, since I have three boys (Kenny and Jacob and of husband Aaron) that Legos are very big in my house! We had quite a collection going LONG before the boys were born. They now play with them nearly every day! Kenny, especially, is into making mechanically functioning things such as garbage trucks and forklifts. He recently created this "lego city" that I found quite impressive:
In the above picture, you see a road, which he says is the main road near where we live, with a bridge going across and all. On this side of the road, he built a small house and on this same side to the right is a stoplight. On the other side of the road is a tree and to the other side of the bridge is the police station with a police car! Behind that, all of the free standing things are people that Jacob made for the city! Pretty cool, huh?

Kenny decided that since that went so well, he should give a video tutorial on how to build this semi truck:So, for your entertainment, just in case you ever need to know how to build one, here are the instructions, Kenny-style.


Ya, sometimes it is pretty darn cool to have boys.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

FREE Book Giveaway!!!

Okay, I know the word FREE just got the attention of many of my bargain loving friends!

See this guy?
This is Benjamin Vogt and he is married to my best friend, Jackie, (so does that make him my best friend-in-law??) which makes him a pretty cool guy. (Ben- do I get extra entries for compliments???)
He has just completed his SECOND poetry book that is currently being published and will be released at the end of October. He is offering a chance to win a free book to anyone who posts about it on their blog. See here for info. He recently completed his PhD in Poetry and Nonfiction at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. He loves this Earth and believes we should all work a little harder to care for it.
One such reviewer (Jehanne Dubrow) says of this book:

"' No one remembers unless they have a souvenir' write Benjamin Vogt. In Without Such Absence, poems themselves become souvenirs. These are photographs of a lost America- wooden schoolhouses, clotheslines, faded flags and strange gardens- a poetry so polished and formally rigorous that we can not forget the places Vogt has captured."

I am really excited to get a copy of my own. You can enter the contest as well by clicking on the link above and posting to your blog, or you can preorder one of these books by clicking here (by September birthday!)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Vacation 2010!!!

(Long post with lots of pictures, but I tried to keep words short...sort of )

Last week, we took our first "official" on our own family vacation EVER! We had been saving for MONTHS- putting away little bits of money here and there as Aaron did work in the garage- determined to (go somewhere cheap) and pay for it all in cash- nothing charged. We chose Niagara Falls for several reasons.

After months of saving and planning and reserving a hotel room paid in advance- the stomach flu hit our house 24 hours before leaving. I was so disappointed thinking we wouldn't be able to go and we would lose all the money we already paid. But, after talking to others and knowing this was our only chance for a while- we wouldn't be able to afford it again anytime soon- we went! At the time of leaving, we had 3 kids that had been sick in the last 24 hours. By the end of vacation, the 4th child and both Aaron and I got it. But, it passed quickly with that 4th child, Ellie (though it caused quite a gross mess to be cleaned up in the hotel room...) and Aaron and I only got a mild form of it, so luckily our vacation was not ruined!

The kids were all excited!
(and the girls pretty well insisted on making funny faces in just about every picture!)

Though it was tight quarters, all of us in one hotel room, the kids still thought it was awesome! Our room had a "window" seat- that actually looked out on a construction site (most adults would think it a dismal view but to a KID it was the BEST! Cool trucks and everything!) and we could not keep them out of the window. It actually became Kenny's bed for the week!
Niagara Falls was amazing! We knew we wanted to do the Maid of the Mist boat tour and the Cave of the Winds tour (where you climb steps right up to the falls!). It turns out, they offered a pass with those two items as well as the aquarium, the movie that told legends and history of the falls, and the gorge discover center (didn't make it to that one), and a trolley to go between them all for just a few dollars more than we would have paid for just the two tours! It was very worth it.

1) Cave of the Winds

We all got matching yellow ponchos and souvenir sandals included-but got completely soaked anyway!

(at the hurricane deck... you can reach out and put your HAND in the falls.... the pounding sound was incredible! It was like literally being in a hurricane- you could hardly see anything the water pounded and blew around so bad!) This was just a tiny portion of the Bridal Veil falls.
After taking ponchos off- completely soaked through! And, yes- we are in New York, but that is Canada in the background. Very cool!

2) Maid of the Mist Boat tour
(this time- BLUE souvenir ponchos!)
The American falls.....
Very close to the horseshoe falls.... again just pounding. It took the boats full motor to keep from going backward!

3) The trolley ride

this in itself was a blast for the kids! (a blurry picture because Meghan was too excited to sit still long enough!)
4) The aquarium

Luckily, this wasn't very big because the kids were tired- but it was small and easy to walk through with some COOL sea life! Here is Meghan looking at a sea lion.
Part 2- The Great Lakes!

So, after Niagara Falls, I thought it would be cool to show the kids two great lakes in one day, since they are very close at this point. We drove north first to Lake Ontario- the only Great lake I had NOT seen at some point in my life. This is what the girls thought of Lake Ontario:
The boys were much more excited however:
Then, it was on to Lake Erie- we had a harder time finding a decent spot without going too far south and the kids were losing their sense of humor, but we still got a picture of them in Lake Erie- so they were in two great lakes all in one day!
On the way back to the hotel room, we got pulled over by the police and got a TICKET because Aaron was talking on his cell while driving. Apparently they have a "hands free" law in NY (it is not illegal here). We had been in NY for 24 hours and he gave us a ticket- no mercy because we are from out of town and didn't know. We don't know the amount yet (have to wait for bill) but estimates put it at $75-$85!!! We didn't budget for THAT. Grrrrrr.....

Part 3: Palmyra, NY

As many of my readers know, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints (also known as "Mormon"). Palmyra (about 2 hours east of Niagara Falls) is actually where it all began. As a quick explanation- in Palmyra, Joseph Smith lived in a small cabin (with his parents and 7 siblings!!!) We believe the he went to the woods near his house (now known as the "sacred grove") and prayed for knowledge of which church to join. We believe God and Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him he was called to restore the church of Jesus Christ as it existed in the days when Christ was living on the Earth. That is very very basic (trying not to get to wordy since most who read this know my faith) . For more info, click here.

Every year in Palmyra, they have an outdoor drama that depicts our history. It is on Hill Cumorah (also significant to our history). We saw this and also toured the local historical sites, such as the homes Joseph Smith lived in and the sacred grove.

We climbed to the top of Hill Cumorah to tire them out. It worked (for me too!)- It is a big hill!

From the top:(the brown area underneath them is the stage and the green dots are chairs!)

And, scenes from the Joseph Smith home and sacred grove-
(I didn't get very many good ones. We were supposed to follow a guided tour to see the sites, but we had 4 cranky tired kids so we just sneaked around to see things and in so doing, I forgot to snap more pictures)

One last thing- a funny story if you are still hanging in there with me. A quick background explanation first..... most people know our religion has "the Book of Mormon." This is the record of the people in the America's whereas the Bible is the record of those in Jerusalem. We believe them both to be very important and use them both.

One story in the Book of Mormon involves a prophet named Abinadi. Abinadi was trying to teach the wicked King about Jesus Christ, but the King would not listen. He became angry and burned Abinadi to his death. As he died, Abinadi prophesied that this wicked King would die the same way. Several years later he did. Before the show started, Jacob was reading through the scenes that would be played including this one. Many from the cast walked around before the show greeting guests in their full costumes. One was dressed as a king. Jacob said "Hey Mom! Is that the king that will burn Obama??" (Obama, Abinadi... An easy slip I guess)

I replied under my breath... "don't I wish...."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Modern Day Religious Persecution

Right now, our family is in the middle of our vacation. It is dark and quite in our hotel room. As it nears 1 am, I should be sleeping as-no doubt- my children will not allow me to sleep as late as I will like. But, I have many thoughts going through my head that I need to get out.

Aside from a few "bumps" in the road, (which I will talk about later but involves the stomach flu and a traffic ticket....) we have had a really great time. My next posts will show some pictures and more detail. But, we spent yesterday at Niagara Falls- a first for everyone except me- and spent today swimming, going to a movie and then resting up for our late night tonight. Many know that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints (aka "Mormon" see here or here for more info) Tonight we saw the Hill Cumorah Pageant (click on that title to go the official website for it). This is an outdoor drama (for Ohioans, think "Tecumseh" but bigger) that tells the story of the Book of Mormon and how our religion came to be. It has 800 actors that do this on a volunteer basis- meaning they are not paid!!! It contains scenes from the Bible and the Book of Mormon and tells basically how the Book of Mormon came to be and how the people learned of Christ along the way.

I saw this as a child. I remember even then being very struck by the stories and just the scale of the whole performance. Another thing I remember from going as a child is those we call "anti-Mormons" who hang around the perimeter of the show trying to bring everyone down. I was prepared for them and even warned the kids that there would be people there with signs and saying things and giving out papers that we didn't want. I was not prepared for the thought it would provoke and how deeply it bothered me even though I knew it was coming.

Maybe because on one hand, I don't get why they are so negative, but on the other hand I do. As soon as we pulled up, there were people with signs. As you walk to the pageant area, and get close to the entrance, there are people standing there with signs and yelling things at us and basically (no joke) calling us stupid for believing as we do and that we will go to Hell unless we repent and turn to Jesus now. Walking across that street with people shoving pamphlets at us felt like shoving our way through Hell. But then, we got across the road and entered the pageant area, we saw nothing but smiling faces of the pageant workers there to greet us and say "Hello! Thank you for coming today, we are glad you are here." It is like walking through Hell and finding yourself in heaven!

As someone with a teaching background as well as some scriptural knowledge, this all got me thinking-about many things really- but I will try not to get too wordy, which I already have kind of. Lets say y0u want to teach something to someone. What is a better way to do it- by yelling at them and bringing negativity and bad feelings, or by gentleness and meekness and love? In Galatians 5:22, a popular scripture and one of my favorites as well it says:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith."

I think of this scripture and I think, where did I feel the love, joy and peace tonight? Certainly not while crossing the street- but rather when I reached the other side. These negative people were waving the Bible at us and shouting about turning to Christ. But, it says right there in that Bible that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy and peace but they were not demonstrating that! How can that truly be of Christ when they are not teaching and loving as Christ would? It seems so obvious to me.

Then as we were leaving, they taunted us about how our "silly little show" should not be about our religion but about Christ because that is where salvation lies. Well....obviously, none of them watched it!!!! If I was paid for every time the name of Jesus Christ was mentioned in the show, I would be a rich woman- the show was all about Jesus Christ and how the pe0ple were taught over and over that they needed to come to the Savior for salvation. So many scenes had Christ in them- either before his birth, during his life or after his resurrection! Christ had a bigger role in it then everyone!

My other thought that I had tonight or anytime I hear about our religion being persecuted is this- what is it to them anyway? Why do we upset them so? Why do they feel the need to tear us down and be so negative? Sure, there are religions out there that I don't believe are true, but do we go to their events and stand there with signs and yell mean things to them? No! Of course not- the idea seems ridiculous. That is why we live in this country so that we can believe what we want and others can believe what they want! Our 11th Article of Faith (a list of our core beliefs) states:
We claim the priviledge of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
I do believe this gospel to be true- but I don't expect others to if they choose not to. I understand that this world is full of many different people with many different lives and belief systems. This is ours. Why is it so threatening to them? They don't have to believe it, so if it isn't part of their lives, why are they so determined to tear it down?! Why can't they just live their lives and let us believe as we wish?

Well, this much I do know. There is a never ending "battle"-if you will- for our hearts. God wants us to live eternally with Him and Satan wants to destroy us. Where God builds us up, there is Satan trying to tear us down. I believe that Satan knows where the power of God will be strong and so he does what he can to put anger into the hearts of people to bring that Spirit down. To me, it just testifies more of the Spirit of God that was there tonight because when I was within that pageant, I felt close to Christ and my family and everyone was happy and peaceful. But, on the perimeter was nothing but bad feelings and it was like being attacked by Satan. Satan must have felt very threatened by this tonight so he tried put anger into hearts of others. Those passing out those papers did not have the Spirit of God with them because they did not have love and peace but anger and discontent. "By their fruits, ye shall know them..." They did not have the fruits of Christ because they did not act as Christ would.

It did my heart good to see these thousands of people just walk by them and ignore them- not take their literature and just pretend they weren't there. Even though it would be easy to get angry and to "tell these people where to go"- well, that would bring down the Spirit, which is exactly what Satan wants, isn't it? So, we all just walk kindly by ignoring them except to say "no thank you" when handed a paper.

What those "anti's" don't realize is that most of us walked away with our testimonies strengthened because of them instead of weakened like they wanted. It had the opposite effect from what they wanted. The feeling of being among them and then being among the pageant was so strongly different that anyone could feel it. In a way, all of that negativity helped us feel the full magnitude of the peace within.

So, now as I sit in peace reflecting on this night I know that I felt close to my Savior tonight and full of gratitude for all He has done for me. I know He teaches with peace and love and I know He loves us all. I know he must of been appalled to see these people speak in his name but yet display such hatred. That goes against everything that Christ is.

Tomorrow we will go back to that same location to see some of the historic sites of the town of Palmyra- which is were Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ and where the Book of Mormon was first published! So, another fun day ahead and then we drive home on Friday. I know I have had two long, thoughtful posts in a row, but I will post pictures soon!!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Self Improvement

(disclaimer..... this is really long- contains a lot of self-reflection and no pictures. But, for those of you who know me well, you may find it interesting!)

Some of you may remember this post from early April. I was in a pretty big funk at the time that I was having a hard time snapping out of. In fact, after I wrote that, my sister called me and told me she believed I was depressed. I know that she (unfortunately) has had some experience in that department, but I didn't personally believe that I was. I knew I was a bit down- and I knew if I didn't do something, it could spiral into depression- but I knew I wasn't truly depressed. I just felt very blah and unmotivated and discouraged.

Well, I have taken some steps to change that! I think that like any mom, a lot of my attention was devoted strictly to the kids and to the "demands" on my time and it was wearing me down. I didn't want to take attention away from them, but I think I knew deep down that I needed to focus a little energy on myself and helping me to grow and that would in turn help me to be a better- and happier- wife and mother. There have been a couple of major things I have done in the last 3 months. (In addition to these, there have been problems with my children that have really stressed me out too, but even those are improving a bit, making me feel better too- but that is a whole other post!) Here is what I have been up to:

1) One of the biggies for me is my weight control. As much as I hate it, I have turned into the proverbial yo-yo. More than once, I have lost weight down to my ideal weight (of course- nursing twins did make that a little easier the one time!) and swore I would NEVER be "that" big again. Yet, I woke up and found myself "that big". I don't know why it is so hard for me to keep control but it is. As much as I REALLY don't like the extra weight, you would think it would be easier to work to keep it off, but it just isn't that simple. I may have to fight the battle my whole life, but I am determined to ultimately win the war!

That being said, I knew one of my problems a few months ago was stressing over the weight. I was determined every week that "come Monday, I will "Be good" and start to get this weight off." But, by Tuesday, I would cave to something- and maybe again Wednesday or Thursday- and then, knowing the weekend was coming, I would just say "forget it, I will start again on Monday.... An endless cycle and I just kept gaining.

I tried Weight Watchers again (without meetings, just on my own) but found myself bored with counting points, which was part of the reason it wasn't working- I just wasn't enjoying it anymore like I did the first time. Doing it "on my own" wasn't working either, obviously. I needed help. I was miserable. So, I did something I was SUPER skeptical of and knew I couldn't afford, but after feeling all else had failed, figured I had nothing to lose. But, being my skepticism of the program, I told nobody except for my parents, sisters and my two best friends (basically, those who would help watch my kids and I knew for sure wouldn't judge me) and figured I would fill everyone else in if the program was working. Well, it is!

I signed up with Positive Changes Hypnosis!!! I am pleasantly surprised! It was very expensive and with the weight I want to lose, they wanted me to sign up for the 12 month program, but that was just NOT an option. So, the offered me the 12 week program- of course I could not get 80 pounds off in 12 weeks, but I could get started and establish the habits. They use hypnosis processes to train your sub-conscious mind to do what you really want it to- the healthy habits. It was expensive and time consuming. But, thanks to an awesome supportive husband (who has been paying for it with his garage work money!) and family who has helped babysit (I had to go twice a week!), we made it work. And, no, I do not "cluck like a chicken" as some think when they think hypnotism.... I actually remember just about everything from my sessions and they are recorded for continued listening at home- the more I can listen at home, the more I "practice" and can establish better habits. It has been AMAZING!!! The appointments are sooooo relaxing and here are some of the differences I have noticed:

1) I RARELY drink pop anymore and EASILY drink 8-10 glasses of water/day!
2) It is more enjoyable to exercise and I do so more often- not so much of a chore anymore!
3) I enjoy fresh foods more.
4) My AWFUL sweet tooth is tamed! (not cured....but tamed!) I can now eat a couple of cookies and stop! I know that sounds crazy but I am embarrassed to admit the amount I could put down in one sitting....
5) I almost never snack between meals or before bed- pretty much only at special occasions now!
6) no desire for "seconds" at meals.
7) It is effortless to continue to eat well on weekends.
8) In the 12 weeks, which I just finished, I lost 20 pounds!!! And that was WITHOUT counting calories or points, or stressing over what I could eat and how much- no measuring portions or anything!

- a lot of these things, I didn't even do successfully while on weight watchers, which is why I feel this may be different this time!

So, I am hoping I can keep it going on my own since I just couldn't afford to extend the program, but I am feeling pretty confident- besides I have my recorded sessions I can listen to regularly still. I really don't like spending money- we certainly need to save some! But, I also know that based on how I was living and family history, I was destined to have trouble with diabetes, high blood pressure and much more if I didn't change my lifestyle. I figure the cost of caring for those conditions would far exceed what I just spent on Positive Changes. If I can gain control while young, maybe I can stay healthy. I feel more energetic, positive about myself, and just better all around! Plus, I feel that I can teach my own kids better habits if I myself am a better example! So, by improving myself, I can be a better mother, wife and happier self!

2) When I was in high school, I played the trumpet in the band. Over time, I improved, got pretty good and really enjoyed it. I hated high school but loved the band and have always missed it. I always thought it would be fun to join a little community band if I ever found one. Well, quite by accident, I did find one! They performed at a memorial day picnic for our church. I talked to the director and he was interested in me joining and so was I. I told them I had not played in over 15 years and was likely to be very bad, but many in the group insisted that's how they were when they joined, so I figured, why not? So, about a month ago, I joined a community band! I dusted off my trumpet and I am re-learning how to play!

I pity the trumpet player I sit next to and the drum player right in front of me- my trumpet points right at the poor guys head and! But, if I don't try, I will never improve, right? I have some musical talent and find it very important, but I haven't fostered it well. (I also play piano "a little" and read music well). I really want my kids to get into music as well- there are so many good reasons why they should. But, again, I need to set the example and show myself trying and learning and growing and showing how important it is to me and then I can encourage them as well! So, again, I am enjoying learning something new and growing and hoping that as well helps me be a better mother.

3) To round things out, I am also making a sincere effort at improving my personal prayers, family prayers and personal and family scripture study. I know that my Father in Heaven is the ultimate resource in helping me grow!! I truly believe he loves me and wants me to be happy and successful!

So, after this eternally long post, I can say that I have completely broken out of that funk I was in a few months ago. It has taken doing things completely different and stepping "outside the box" a bit and it hasn't been easy, but I am so glad I did and I am feeling pretty good for the first time in a while!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Great Shorts and Pony Tail Boycott of 2010

See this cutie....
(this is Meghan holding the beautiful "bouquet" that she picked....)

She has decided that....under no circumstances....will she wear shorts this summer. I do not know why! She will wear pants or dresses and that is IT. I have some shorts for her that are like little skirts (skorts) but she won't wear those either. Pants or dresses. If I try to put shorts on her, she will scream and throw a fit and run away. It isn't like others in the family don't wear shorts. I actually do not wear shorts for many reasons, but all of her siblings do and her dad does. It is a total mystery to me!

As if that wasn't crazy enough, she will NOT let me put any kind of pony tail in her hair. Late last summer, I had cut her hair waaaaaay short by accident and, though it ended up being adorable on her, I regretted not being able to style it in anyway. It is finally growing out and often hangs in her face, but again, she will kick and scream if I put a pony tail in. She runs away screaming "No pony tail!!!" If I do get one in successfully, she screams for a few minutes and then rips it out. Ellie has long curly hair and I grew her bangs out so I have to do her hair every day to keep it out of her face. I think she lets me because she is so used to it. I sometimes wonder what people think when Ellie's hair is all pretty and well done and Meghan's just hangs straight down. Aaron thinks I should cut it again since she won't let me style it, but I am so thrilled it is finally growing out, that I am not ready to chop it again (though a bang trim is definitely in her future!!!).

So, there is our "Nutmeg"- this is a story that just had to be recorded for posterity's sake!!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

On Public Child Abuse

Over the last couple of weeks, I have witnessed two separate events of, what I believe, to be child abuse. Both of these events took place in public in plain view of others.

The first incident occurred as I was driving down the road a couple of weeks ago. The car in front of me had a child in the back seat who was maybe three years old. Not only was this child not buckled in a car seat, but she had the window all the way down and was HANGING out of the window to look around. In a split second, she could have fallen out of the car and been severely hurt- most likely killed. After hanging out of the window for a while, she did go back into the car and was romping around the back seat. There was no way the mother would have not known this was going on. I have a friend who has two little girls that are like little "Houdini's" and will get themselves out of their car seats and move around the van. But, the difference is, as soon as my friend realizes what is going on, she stops the car and re-buckles them- and she has made efforts to find other ways to keep them in their chairs. This did not seem to be the case with this other mother. I seriously considered calling 911 from my cell. Not only was this driver breaking the law by not having the child restrained, but I believe this is also child abuse when done intentionally because they are setting the child up for a serious situation. Maybe some would argue it isn't blatant child abuse, but at the very least it is child endangerment or neglect. Before I could decide, they turned a different direction then I was going. I chose to continue on my way and said a silent prayer for this child.

The second case happened at a near by "spray park". (A place for kids to run through and play in water.) A woman grabbed a boy-maybe around age 10 as a guess, by his arm and started yelling at him and hitting him on the chest and back with her hand AND fist. Over and over again. I couldn't tell what is offense had been. She was screaming at him about something and then would hit him again. What is even weirder is one of the things she yelled at him was "Do you want me to call your mother?!" So, she wasn't even his mother! Who was she? Childcare provider? I couldn't imagine someone getting paid to watch children would do that at all, much less in public! An aunt maybe or a much older sister? Possibly. I could never imagine doing this to my child- at home or in public- most certainly never to someone else's child! Again, I stood there staring at them, but indecisive about what to do. Do I call the police? I know I tend to be nicer to my kids in public, as I think most women are. So, if she was that abusive in front of people, what is she like at home?! Scary! I thought- do I intervene and ask her to stop, or would that make it worse somehow- make her turn on me or hurt him worse at home? Before I could decide, they quickly got in her car and left.

Both of these incidents got me thinking about what the proper way to handle these should be. I feel awful for not having done anything. I strongly disagree with not buckling a child AND letting them hang out the window, but is it my place to intervene for someone else's stupid decision? I know I would feel awful if I ever found out anything happened to that little girl.

And, the woman who was hitting the child, I wish I would have at least asked her to stop and threatened to call the police. I really do. That I really regret. Maybe she would have turned on me, but better to turn on me then keep hitting him. I don't even know him but feel I let him down. There were several other adults there too who either didn't see it or also chose not to act.

I don't want to judge them too harshly either. I don't know any of the story behind it- all I know is what I observed. I am certainly far from perfect and will NEVER win a mother of the year award. I have things I need to work on too. I just feel both of these incidents were very wrong and it is never okay to treat a child in that way. Ever. There is no offense a child could commit that would deserve that.

I would be interested in any thoughts from my readers on what you would have done or anything else you would like to share!