Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kids say the darndest things...

 Random interview with Celeste (age 7):
                                                                  1st Birthday: (July 2004)

7th Birthday (July 2010)

What does it mean to be happy?
It means to smile. To be good.

What five words do you think most describe you?
Friendly, piano, child of God, creative, good listener… uh, sometimes.

Where do babies come from?
Mommy's tummy.

Describe the perfect meal:
Pancakes and sausage with syrup and cake and ice cream... and a slushie.

What's the best part about being a kid?
Playing!  And losing tooths and getting dollars!  And also being creative.  And not taking care of kids- cause it’s really hard.

What would be the best part about being an adult?
Going on dates and eating as many treats as you want.

What's the worst part about second grade?
Math... Math... MATH!!!  (Ha!  I have a feeling Daddy won't like this answer.)

What do you think about boys?
Handsome, cute (Grr- Daddy won't like that one either!)

Are you a republican or democrat?

What's life all about?

What are the greatest inventions ever?
Candy.  And family  (in that order??)

If you could change one rule that your family has, what would you change?
Eat candy whenever we wanted.  (Hmm- I'm seeing a pattern here- is she her mother's daughter, or what?) And have one hundred dresses.

What is something that makes your family special?
We believe in Jesus.

Are you a good friend? Why do you think so?
Yes- because I let people get their way sometimes.

What is the hardest thing about being a kid?
When you have little brothers and sisters- they ruin all your stuff. You wouldn’t want one.

If you could grow up to be famous, what would you want to be famous for?
Singing and art and piano

Would you cheat on a test if you knew you would not get caught? Why or why not?
No. Because I know it’s not the right thing to do, and I would feel sad.

If you were a teacher and the kids in your class would not listen to you, what would you do?
Hmm, I would tell them to stop and if they don’t- then I’d yell. Well, not like really really yell, but like kinda talk loudly.

If you could invent something that would make life easier for people, what would you invent?
Invent only one child in every family- that would make life easier!  Brothers and sisters are crazy.  (Me: But you still love them right?) Yeah, I do- but they still drive me crazy.

If you could create some new rules for the whole world, what would they be?
To be able to eat on school buses.  And only have to brush your teeth once a day- cause I don’t like brushing my teeth twice a day.  No tornadoes.

What is Heaven like?
White with clouds. And maybe even lots of white horses. Pure. Peace.

What do you do when you’re married?
You dance around in a ballroom. You can kiss and go out for dates.

Why do you think God sent you to this family?  
So I could make my family laugh. 

Yep- you're definitely right about that one!!  That's one of the MANY reasons you were sent to our family.  We sure love your bright personality Celeste.  Thanks for the joy, enthusiasm, and laughter you've brought to our home... and thanks for putting up with your little brothers and sisters!

Now please excuse me while I resume eating as many treats as I want.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Gift of Life

You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
~Kahlil Gibran

I’ve been thinking about all the natural disasters happening in the world- most recently of course the horrendous earthquake and tsunami in Japan that happened over 2 weeks ago.  The images and videos give us a glimpse of what it might have been like to live through that kind of horror, to witness your entire neighborhood- loved ones and all- being swallowed up and taken away.  But we can only begin to comprehend the devastation they suffered.  Not just physical, but emotional-- spiritual.  It seems that after these disasters occur, there is a flood of compassion, sympathy, and prayers from all around the world.  The world almost stops turning for a day or two as we all grieve with them.  There is almost constant widespread news coverage of the event, the relief efforts, and an outpouring of donations and support.

Then- a couple weeks go by, and the event seems to gradually fade from public consciousness.  We still care of course, but people seem to lose interest, and other news coverage (usually the latest scandal or titillating news story) takes its place.  But those who suffer are left- almost forgotten, when they need support and prayers the most.  In some ways their suffering may be worse.  The shock begins to wear off, and the victims have to cope with the new reality that has forced itself upon them- and begin to rebuild their homes and lives.

So I don't really know what I'm trying to say here.  It's not like we can dwell on these disasters forever- but it just saddens me- and I hope these survivors aren't forgotten.  And basically- I just want to DO something. I have this deep longing to do more than I am physically and financially capable of.  Every time I hear of any major natural disaster- Indonesia, Katrina, Haiti- I literally feel SICK inside and have an overwhelming desire (as I'm sure you do) to help somehow- in some way.  So we write out checks and send them away- hoping it will help someone out there.  Some family.  Some child.  But there's something so impersonal about that kind of giving, even though it's all we can do right now.  It's not like I can pack up my 5 kids and whisk them off to these devastated areas to join in the efforts to provide relief.  Not exactly feasible.  Someday though- in another season of life, I hope to be in a position to do just that.  But for now I will pray.  I know God can help these people know hope once again.

So I can't do much to help in Japan and other areas around the world other than give financially and pray.  But I've been thinking about other ways we can DO more to bless and serve others right here.  And I thought I’d share a story about someone who gave of himself (literally) to bless the life of another.

I’ll take you back to when I first met him. So I was in college- not a typical college girl- not into partying or dating around- just a hopeless romantic getting impatient for my prince charming to take me away.  I was sitting on my windowsill in my room thinking about my future husband and I wrote a totally cheesy heartfelt poem entitled “Where are you?":

Where are you when I need you so?

Come hold me in your arms and never let go.
If only I could gaze in your loving eyes
And feel the warmth of your touch.
I don’t even know you
Yet I love you so very much.
I wish you could be here to calm my fears
To hold me close and wipe away my tears.
You’re out there somewhere
Perhaps far, far away-
Or maybe even next door
When you find me, will you stay?

It turns out- my future hubby- my own dearest Mr. Wonderful really was next door!  He lived in the same apartment complex, and we had been neighbors for 5 months, and didn't know it.  I still have the original poem- and it will always be a treasure to me.  Anyway, I can still picture myself writing that poem- sitting on my windowsill- and I could actually see his window from mine!  We met in a college class 3 months after I wrote this poem and we both felt an immediate connection. Everything about him made me think he was THE ONE, except that… he had long hair. Really long hair.  Call me shallow, but frankly- that just wasn’t the look I was attracted to, plus I didn’t think he was the kind of guy I would feel comfortable taking home to my parents. But we developed a close relationship and quickly became best friends. Shortly thereafter, he revealed why he was growing out his hair… it was for Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for children with long-term medical hair loss. Needless to say, I felt about this small.  I regretted being so judgemental, and fell in love at that moment!  He was also a regular blood donor and for one of our very first dates he took me to donate blood.  (I mean seriously- talk about a keeper!)

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when years later- in 2007, he brought up the idea of donating a kidney to a complete stranger. He was doing some research about other ways he could give- since his hair had been rejected since it was turning gray- (I call them highlights :)).  He was shocked when he learned that due to lack of available donors in the United States, 3,916 patients had died while waiting for a kidney transplant that year. When he mentioned that he was considering donating one of his, I immediately had some questions. But I remember his matter-of-fact response when I asked him why.

“Well, I have two, I only need one, and it could save someone’s life. So it’s a no-brainer.”

We did have to think through a few things though.  We had lots of questions including, "What are the risks involved? (minimum) Will the remaining kidney be able to compensate for the loss? (yes) What happens if down the road a family member needs a kidney?" (we'd hope another family member or friend would be willing to donate.) So we had lots of questions to consider, and recognized it was not a decision to be taken lightly. But after praying about it, and consulting with our family members and church leaders, we decided that it was the right choice for us.

On November 15, 2007, after months of testing and evaluations, the day finally arrived. I think I was more nervous than he was, but I tried to focus on the life he was going to bless. During our stay in the hospital, we had the opportunity to meet that life and his family. It was a special moment that was sweet beyond description for all involved. Now, a few years later, both the donor and the recipient are enjoying excellent health and have a special bond.

And now 5 kids later, I am so grateful that the man with the long hair turned out to be the man of my dreams. He is not only my hero, but he was a literal hero to someone in need.

My purpose in sharing this story is to inspire you to consider all the opportunities that are out there to give to those in need right here- all around us.  (And remember to keep praying for the victims in Japan!)
Here are some opportunities to give of ourselves to help save lives. 
Click on the links below for more info:

Donate Blood:
Find a blood drive near you!
If you’re ineligible to donate, click here for other ways you can help.

Donate Hair:
Learn about organizations that make wigs for those in need.

Donate Bone Marrow:
Learn about bone marrow donations.

Donate an Organ:
Learn about organ and tissue donations.

Common Myths about Organ Donations

The recovery was pretty rough- but the hardest part was keeping the kids off him.  They had a hard time understanding why they couldn't roughhouse together like they usually do!

Here he is wheeling the kids out after his operation.  Ha!  Shouldn't it be the other way around?

(Have I menioned that he's wonderful?)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Prayer Pillow

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment. (Matthew 22:38-39)

Recently I read through a journal I've kept over the last few years and noticed something that really made an impact on me. I had marked each day that I had prayed and studied the scriptures- and noticed the periods in my life that I had been doing these things consistently, were the times I wrote about deep contentment and serenity.  My marriage was rock solid, and I seemed to have more patience with the kids.  It's not that my life was free of trials during these times, but I seemed to have a greater resolve and strength to be like the Savior- a strength beyond my own. 

Prayer and scripture study are gospel basics that I KNOW I need to do.  But the challenge is in the DOING- doing it consistently and doing it right.  Admittedly, I've done it all wrong too often.  There are days when I'm completely sleep deprived- I've been up with an infant or a sick child, so I wake up with just enough time to scramble to get myself and everyone else ready. So in other words, I make time for everyone... except the Lord. And the rush of the day begins, and I have every intention of praying and reading scriptures during the day, but sometimes I get distracted or pulled in so many directions that it just doesn't happen. Rather- I fail to make it happen. "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:4) My intentions are good- but I just don't always have the discipline to follow through.

Another mistake I've made is to be too casual with prayer and use "vain repetitions". Or I'll start a prayer, and allow my mind to wander off onto something else (that's embarrassing), or on occasion, if it's a bedtime prayer, I've even fallen asleep in the middle of it. Although I believe the Lord is pleased with any sincere effort we make to communicate with Him- I think He expects more from us.  He asks us to be sincere and penitent. Thankfully, He is eternally patient and kind with me and with all of His children.  He wants to bless us!  And He already knows what we need- but we must ask Him in prayer. I love this quote from the Bible dictionary, "The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them." and " … your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." (Matthew 6:8).

There's No Place Like Home

I think as mothers in particular, we have a great need to renew ourselves spiritually each day.  As much as I adore my children and LOVE what I do- motherhood and homemaking can be exhausting. So we especially need to draw upon the power of God so we can best serve our families.  They deserve nothing less- than a balanced wife and mother who has made time to commune with the Lord.

So I made a decision to be more consistent in prayer- and it has been a great blessing in my life.  Sometimes all it takes is ONE small choice- we just have to make up our minds- and choose to put Him first.  The change came about as I asked myself, what is the single MOST important thing in my life?  And the answer came- it is truly my relationship with God and my love for Him.  So who then should get first priority in my life?  Not my husband, not my kids, not even myself... God should!  So I decided- the very first thing in the morning-- every morning-- my knees will hit the floor, in an effort to show my love and devotion to Him each day. It's a simple ritual, but it makes a tremendous difference in my life.

I know there is power in prayer.  When I sincerely pour out my heart to Him... I literally feel the burdens lift.  The problems are still unsolved, but I can let go of the negative and worrisome thoughts, and choose to be happy and trust in the Lord.

I even put a little pillow down beside my bed- as a symbol and a reminder of my desire to keep the first and great commandment.  The kids know not to move it- it is now a permanent fixture beside our bed.

"Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can" Pres. Benson declared. "He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life" (Teachings, p. 361).

He truly does make more out of us than we could ever make of ourselves.  And that is what I noticed in my journal- I discovered me without Him... and me with Him.  And I definitely prefer the latter! (And I think my hubby does too... he even has a nickname for my "feisty" side when I start snapping at him or the kids- it's Nicollete, haha!)

Basically, we can choose to go it alone in life- with our own strength, our own intellect, and our own abilities-  or we can trust in Him to walk us through this life and compensate for what we lack.  He wants to bless us and fulfill the petitions of our hearts but we must take the initiative and let him in.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Slumber Party?

So Mr. Wonderful went on a ahem, "business trip" in Pheonix this week. While he was out enjoying 85 degree weather at some ritzy resort, we were here in Wisconsin where winter never ends- cooped up inside.  We decided to have a little fun of our own while he was gone- so we had a slumber party on St. Patty's Day! And I let them ALL sleep in my bed.

At the time... it seemed like a good idea. After I woke up this morning with a monsterous headache... um, not so much. But truthfully, it wasn't just about making special memories for the kids.  I just don't like sleeping without my hubby. Every little mysterious noise freaks me out and I can't sleep. So yes, I admit, my motive was a little bit selfish. But we had fun nonetheless!

So here's a video of them during our movie night. We watched "Tom and Jerry" and "Pollyanna". Yep, I'm an old-fashioned girl at heart, and I go for the classics. Plus, it wouldn't hurt if that whole "glad game" idea rubbed off on my kids a little.

This video makes me so happy. They've been bickering quite a bit lately and it drives me absolutely. crazy. If I only knew what fighting kids did to a mother, I would have been a much better child!!! Anyway, so I was pleased to see them getting along so well last night. Seriously- the sound of their laughter is truly music to my ears- and harmonized laughter... even better.

And I even let them eat popcorn in my bed. (A decision I would later regret.)
Little Jarom had fun too. I think all the laughter was contagious!
 Definitely takes after his daddy-

Here he is thoroughly enjoying himself. He has so much personality already, it's just ridiculous! He is one jolly kid.

So it was a fun slumber party (although there was not much slumbering going on). But we were up way later than their bedtime, and they got to school late. I guess they're young enough now it doesn't matter too much... it's not like it will affect their SAT scores or anything!

I should have gotten a picture of us when we first woke up. Surely- it would not have been pretty! Everybody sprawled out, popcorn kernels in my hair, serious bags under my eyes from lack of sleep, and somebody's foot in my face. But I think it was still worth it. So maybe I'll allow a slumber party once or twice a year when Daddy goes on business trips... but probably not on a school night next time.
Oh yeah- and no popcorn in bed again. Ever.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Leprechaun House

The kids spent all afternoon together making a Leprechaun House in the backyard. They thought of everything to make the accomodations suitable for him. His new humble abode is furnished with a little couch, some leaves for his bedding, and green decor throughout. They even put some rice in there for his lunch. Isn't that sweet?
Well it turns out... they had another motive other than just his comfort. They did all this in hopes that he will leave gold candy coins in exchange for their generous hospitality. Ha!

So guess who will be searching all over town tomorrow to find those darn things? Do they even sell those anymore??


So sure enough (thanks to your comments!) the Leprechaun delivered. And made a couple kids really happy. Happy St. Patty's Day!

Who needs alcohol to have fun anyway? Just give me a few kids instead. Life becomes magical again and each holiday- special and memorable.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Return to Virtue

The young women had another special evening recently where they welcomed in the new young women for the year. It went SO well. They performed a program for their parents and friends called "Happily Ever After" that highlighted the theme for the year. Each young woman had the option to sing or speak during the program. I think it's so important for them to have these opportunities at church. Seriously- what better place to develop our talents than among people who love us unconditionally? It was so inspiring to watch them shine!

I mean really- aren't these girls just adorable?!

One of the songs from the program was called, "Return to Virtue". Here are some of the teachings about virtue we shared with the young women:

What does it mean to return to virtue? We are calling for a return to moral purity and chastity. Virtue is purity. Virtue is chastity. The word virtue has also been defined as “integrity and moral excellence, power and strength”. The core of a virtuous life is sexual purity, and yet this definition has almost been erased by the world. The prophet Mormon taught that chastity and virtue are “most dear and precious above all things” (Moroni 9:9).

President Boyd K. Packer has said that "nothing in the history of the Church or in the history of the world … compare[s] with our present circumstances. Nothing … exceeds in wickedness and depravity that which surrounds us now. Never before has there been a greater need for virtue and purity in the world."

President Thomas S. Monson said, "You will need [courage] to be chaste and virtuous. You live in a world where moral values have, in great measure, been tossed aside, where sin is flagrantly on display, and where temptations to stray from the strait and narrow path surround you. Many are the voices telling you that you are far too provincial or that there is something wrong with you if you still believe there is such a thing as immoral behavior.

"Isaiah declared, 'Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness' (Isaiah 5:20). Great courage will be required as you remain chaste and virtuous amid the accepted thinking of the times."

He also counseled: “You be the one to make a stand for right, even if you stand alone. Have the moral courage to be a light for others to follow. There is no friendship more valuable than your own clear conscience, your own moral cleanliness—and what a glorious feeling it is to know that you stand in your appointed place clean and with the confidence that you are worthy to do so.”

Elaine S. Dalton gave us instructions from the scriptures to help us remain virtuous: “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.” “Cleave unto [your] covenants.” “Stand … in holy places.” “Lay aside the things of [the] world.” “Believe that ye must repent.” “Always remember him and keep his commandments.” And “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, … seek after these things.”

After the program, each girl was given a white rose as a symbol of purity and to remind her have courage to stand up for what is right and virtuous in a world that often mocks virtue.

Sister Elaine S. Dalton, "As you grow and blossom, your personal purity will enable you to become a force for good and an influence for righteousness in the world. I truly believe that one virtuous young woman, led by the Spirit, can change the world."

And the important reminder about the power of Jesus Christ and the atonement: You are God’s precious daughters! Because of the knowledge of our divine identity, everything must be different for us: our dress, our language, our priorities, and our focus. We must not seek guidance from the world, and if our true identity has been clouded by mistakes or sins, we can change. We can turn around and repent and return to virtue. The Savior’s Atonement is for you and for me. He invites each of us to come unto Him.

The decorations we chose to go along with the theme were all black and white to go along with the theme. And this is the handout that went along with it:

In a world that is blurring morals and lines
between right and wrong, the Lord’s standards
are clear. There are no gray areas.
We don’t believe in being partially honest.
We don’t believe in being chaste only
when we want to. The 13th article of faith
makes it clear what we believe. The
difference between righteousness and
wickedness is “black and white.”

We believe in being honest
We believe in being true
We believe in being chaste
We believe in being benevolent
We belive in being virtuous
We believe in doing good to all men

And of course us leaders dressed in black and white. Have I mentioned how much I love these women?!
And the refreshments had to go along with the theme too... so we had black and white cupcakes and sundaes with black and white toppings- (marshmallows, choc. chips, oreos, sprinkles, hot fudge, etc.) So fun!

I hope these young women choose to rise above the things of this world- and strive to live a virtuous life. I know they see the consequences in the lives of their peers who have chosen otherwise. Rarely do they see happiness as a result of immorality. I hope they always remember who they are- each young woman is God's own child.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Child Labor

Yes, that's my 4 year-old mopping the kitchen floor. And that's my 3 year-old vacuuming. And this is my view from the couch. I could get used to this!

These kids are little tornadoes. Everywhere they go, they each leave a trail of messes. I clean and organize nearly every. single. day. But I still can't keep up. I love the quote, "Cleaning house while the kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk while it's still snowing." Truer words have never been spoken!

So I'm constantly picking up after them, and nagging reminding them to clean up after themselves throughout the day. Then by the time I get them all in bed, I'm usually too exhausted- the last thing I want to do is clean- again. So I'm often left feeling discouraged and overwhlemed at the end of the day. I'm a homemaker... making our home comfortable for those I love is what I do- one of my primary responsibilities. So when my home isn't exactly up to my standards, I often feel inadequate and depressed. Then when I'm struggling with those negative thoughts and feelings- I feel even less motivated to try and clean up. It's a brutal cycle. So I realized I needed to do two things:

1. Lower my expectations- at least while the kids are this young.
2. Ask for help!

So I'm working on both. Mr. Wonderful is working ridiculous hours lately, so expecting more help from him is not exactly an option. And honestly, sometimes it seems easier just to do the housework myself instead of asking the kids to help... but that leads to burnout for me, and indulgence for them. It's healthy for children to learn the value of WORK.

So here's the solution for us that has been a great blessing for us: I've implemented a very simple ritual we call the "15 minute clean-up". So now, as part of our bedtime routine, we blast some upbeat music (usually Veggie-tale jams- not exactly my personal fave, but at least it motivates them), I set the timer and we all race around the house and tidy up. It's actually quite surprising to see how much can get done during that brief time when we all work together. And they actually enjoy it, so no nagging necessary. And I feel so much better at the end of the day, especially knowing that the house will actually stay that way for at least 8 hours... until the little tornadoes strike again!


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