The Watchman

The Watchman

Friday, December 21, 2012

All I Want For Christmas by Emily

This morning I was greeted by an early Christmas gift from Emily.  It was a little book she had written and illustrated in her class entitled, "All I Want For Christmas".  Each page is written in the form of a letter.

While Rick didn't see the humor in it so much, by the time I finished reading, I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes.  It is worth sharing:


I need a hamster so when you are gone I can have someone with me so I won't be alone.

Your Amazing and Awesome,

I can play with it and feed it with a bowl of food and water and I could give it treats.

Your Sweet,

I would have it for keeping company when I am in my room and no one is in there with me.  I would have it in it's cage so it wouldn't escape.

Yours Truly,

I could read it stories and listen to music with it and when Lela is in the shower I could play with it.

Your Sweetpea Girl 5,

If you really want to make me happy this Christmas than can you please get me a hamster.

Your Thoughtful,

When I was young and would ask for something, my dad would expect me to provide him with reasons why what I desired would be beneficial not only to me, but to him and the family.  I think this little book reminded me so much of myself and that is why I love it.

And no, there is not going to be a hamster under the tree on Christmas morning, but her birthday is coming soon, so maybe......

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Just thinking.....

I am sure that I am just like many of you who feel numb and shaken with disbelief by the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  The fact that the majority of the victims were so young has really upset me.  For years when my boys were in elementary school, I worked at the school they attended in the kindergarten and first grade classrooms.  These little children were so sweet, so loving, so excited to learn.  They were always filled with funny stories and laughed so readily.  Even those that I knew came from difficult situations at home were full of kindness and hope when they came to school.  School was a refuge where they were surrounded by love and acceptance provided by the most amazing teachers.  How I loved those kindergarten and first-grade teachers.  They brought so much joy and enthusiasm and patience to their classrooms.  They made their classrooms a haven, a secure and safe place for all their students.  I am sure that the teachers at Sandy Hook were the same.  It takes someone very special to teach our youngest children.

Yesterday I made sure that I told each of my children I loved them before they walked out the door.  Actually, I know I said it more than once, probably more than twice.  This time I didn't receive the standard "I know mom" or "You already said that" in response.  Each time they said "I love you" in return.  We didn't focus on the tragedy at our house over the weekend.  We limited news coverage, but we did encourage our children to ask questions and answered them with straightforward answers.  I appreciate that their teachers did the same thing yesterday at school.  When Lela came home and told me that the glass in the windows of her classroom are bulletproof, I did take a moment to pause and recognize that the world my children live in is so different than the world I grew up in.  I can guarantee that my elementary and junior high schools did not have bullet proof glass in the windows.

I worry about balancing the need for my children to feel safe, providing them the knowledge to be safe, and not letting them become accepting of these acts as normal or commonplace.  We do not want them to become distanced emotionally from the world around them or become incapacitated by feelings of inconsequence or ineffectiveness and fear.  While talking to them about all the things their schools have done to make the environment safe, we have also talked to them about things they can do to be safe.  We have encouraged them to be involved and be aware.  If they see something that seems wrong, they need to tell an adult.  I appreciated the email from the elementary school that stressed this and let us know that there was help and support at the school for children who are having a difficult time.

Now I want to get on my soapbox for a minute:

Gun control legislation:  I understand that guns don't kill people, that people kill people.  I understand that guns are just a tool in the same way a shovel or a hammer or a knife is a tool.  Any of these tools could be used to kill as well and have frequently been used so.  In fact, I love to go shooting.  Guns have always been a part of my life.  All my children know how to use and RESPECT a gun and my children go shooting with their father quite often.  My daughters have a collection of tin cans, plastic bottles and even a pumpkin to use as targets at the gun range.  We do not hunt in our family, but my father and brother used to go hunting and my brother still does.  If our children wanted to go hunting, that would not be a problem with us.  Our guns are stored unloaded in a locked gun safe and/or have trigger locks.  I remember one incident reported on the news where children were playing with a gun and one shot the other.  At the time, my boys, who were children at the time, were shocked that a loaded weapon was stored unsecured where children could reach it and that they would think it was a toy.  That concept was so foreign to the way they had been taught.

But let's be real, there are certain guns that are made for the sole purpose of killing people.  There is no need for the average person to have a clip that holds 30 rounds of ammunition.  These are the weapons that have become the weapon of choice in the tragedies in the news headlines today.  Do I know individuals that own these types of weapons?  Yes, I do.  Why did they purchase them?  To feel macho, to boost their ego.  Do they use them much?  No. They aren't good for target shooting and defeat the purpose of hunting.

Last night, David Letterman stated that he had had his team research school shootings - only SCHOOL shootings.  Since 1995, there have been 70 such shootings.  How accurate this is I have not verified myself, but using that information it is disturbing to think that in simpler terms that is over four SCHOOL shootings a year or on average one every three months.  Many of the political rhetoric posts on Facebook "recite" incidents where a teacher or principal has stopped a potential shooter by using their own weapon.  I have yet to see one such post that says the lifesaving individual pulled out his handy AR-15.

Please contact your Congressional representatives and let them know that you would support a ban on assault-style weapons and the paraphernalia that goes along with them.  I am sure that there are many who will say that this starts us down a path that will take away our constitutional rights.  But let me say this, no law will ever be passed that will do away with an individual's right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes.  The Supreme Court has upheld this right on numerous occasions.  But it has also upheld the right of legislatures to  prohibit or restrict possession within limits.

To me it comes back to these two questions: Will my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness be lessened if I am unable to purchase an assault-style weapon?  Will my children be safer if access to such weapons is lessened?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Music

I admit it, I love Christmas music.  When I listen to the songs of the Holidays, I feel peace.  I feel the love of my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  I am not talking about songs like Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, that focus on the commercialism of the season, but the traditional Christmas Tunes that I learned as a child and that were played in our home each year.  I can remember sitting for hours by our old record player putting on one record after another.  Songs like Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer reminded us to have fun and that everyone was important.  The Christmas Song with lyrics of chestnuts roasting and Jack Frost brought visions of comfort at home and family togetherness.  O Tannenbaum spoke to my heart of hope, everlasting life and the steadfastness of God's love, while Silent Night told the story of that miraculous night with simple words and tune and O Holy Night resonated with the power that single event had to change the world.

This time of year, I can come out of the closet with my love of Christmas music.  I can openly admit that I own every Mormon Tabernacle Choir Broadcast on DVD I have been able to find.  The Playlist on my MP3 player changes over to Christmas tunes.  I am a sucker for a good Christmas CD.  I also love a good Christmas special.  Whose heart doesn't beat a little faster to the extradornary kicks and heels clicking of the Rockettes? How I miss the days of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Andy Williams.  Thank goodness for YouTube, so I can share some of those magical moments of childhood with my own children.

Here is my all-time favorite memory from Bing Crosby:

So to all of you I say Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and enjoy the songs of the season.

(If you don't want to buy all the DVDs of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concerts, you can watch the abbreviated version of many of them as shown during Music and the Spoken Word by clicking here via the Mormon Tabernacle Choir YouTube Channel.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Traditions

Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.


I was raised in a home with many family traditions: New Year's Eve we would all stay awake till the ball dropped in New York, snacking and doing jigsaw puzzles.  New Year's Day was ham for dinner and football on the TV while the Christmas decorations came down.  Easter brought dying eggs - dozens of eggs; Easter baskets hid in the living room, hunting for eggs in the yard and ham for dinner with the addition of -surprise - deviled eggs.

On the Memorial Day Sunday, the family would gather after church, taking cuttings from our gardens and put together bouquets and taking them to the many cemeteries where our loved ones were buried.  This was always a special time as my grandmother, my great-aunts and my father would share stories of those we visited that day.  I remember that as a young girl, I was always asked to put together a bouquet for a cousin who had died as a young girl.  I grew up feeling very close to this relative whom I had never met.

Then on Memorial Day Monday we would gather with the Roberts family relatives and have a big picnic filled with good food, softball games, frisbee, and lots of family stories.  It was this reunion that I took Rick to as one of our first dates and it was then that he decided that he wanted to be a part of such a large and loving and fun family.  My own dad shared a similar feeling when he was dating my mom.

July held more family picnics, sparklers on the front lawn and the Pioneer Parade in Ogden.  Also, July was my birthday and each year for our birthdays, our dad would take us to do something special.  We looked forward to this time every year.  Summers were also full of a road trip somewhere across the country.  My parents would pile us into the back of the old Chevy Impala station wagon and off we would go to explore new places and visit family.  By the time I was 18, I had been to Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa.

October was Halloween and trick-or-treating with my dad as chauffeur.  He had a route set up, where he would drop us off at one place and tell us to work our way to a destination.  We would always find him at that location drinking hot chocolate or eating a cookie or doughnut.  November was Thanksgiving with family dinner, parades on television and football.  December was Christmas.

Christmas at our house when I was young was always fun.  The big trunks in the basement filled with decorations would come out.  The lights would go up on the front of the house, the mistletoe would be hung in the entrance to the living room and the bells would be hung over the entrance to the dining room.  The tree was decorated with glass balls and the ornaments my aunt and uncle gave us each year picked up during their travels.  Christmas Eve was my dad's birthday, so the house was always full of people stopping by to wish him the best.  Then it was off to bed - all seven of us in the same room just for that  one night.  After lots of giggling and whispering and being told to go to sleep or Santa wouldn't come, we would finally doze off only to awaken before the sun and creep into the living room to a wondrous sight and we knew we had gone to sleep just with enough time for Santa to stop his sleigh at our house.  The day was always a magical starting with that clandestine peek at our presents from Santa to the time spent visiting our extended family.  It was always best when we had snow we could walk through.

Now I am the mom and Rick and I have tried to establish traditions with our children.  We have taken some from my childhood and some from his, along with starting a few of our own.  We try to make sure that whenever possible, extended family is included.  We still attend the Memorial Day Reunion every other year and watch football on Thanksgiving, but where we really excel is Christmas.

I wrote before about some of our Christmas traditions here.  As much as I love the countdown traditions, my personal favorite are the gift traditions we have established.  Rick and I decided when the boys were young, that we had the potential to get really carried away with our gift giving, so each year, we have limited ourselves to three gifts for each child.  One is always pajamas and a new book to be opened Christmas Eve.  Then on Christmas Day the other two gifts have a theme with one being something fun that the child has requested during the year and the other is something meant to remind them of family and faith.

When I was a young girl, my aunt told me a story of how she and her sister were receiving beautifully wrapped boxes for Christmas.  They were so beautiful that they couldn't help but peek, so they carefully sliced the tape holding the paper and found they were each receiving a special dress.  Problem was, they each liked the others more, so before re-wrapping the boxes, they exchanged dresses.  On Christmas morning, it was their mom who received the surprise.

With this in mind, and realizing that my children did take after me in their impatience in learning what was in the box, Rick and I established a wrapping tradition that has turned into an annual game.  While the presents are wrapped and placed under the tree, no gift tags appear on the packages from us.  Each child's presents are wrapped in their own unique paper for that year, and it is up to them to figure out whose is whose.  ONLY AFTER solving the puzzle may they open their pajamas on Christmas Eve.  Each year there are conversations of "What will mom do this year?" and once the presents appear the debates and discussion on how to decipher the clues begins.  My lips are sealed until Christmas Eve and so are Rick's.

It has been exciting for Rick and I to watch how these traditions have become ingrained in our children's lives and bonded them together.  His first year away from home, Hunter called and said he was wandering the grocery store trying to find something to eat and just couldn't make up his mind.  He knew he wanted something.  It was tugging at his brain, but he couldn't figure out what.  Since it was Halloween, I suggested chili.  "That's it!" he exclaimed.  "In a bread bowl with doughnuts and apple cider."  This year, I was taking soup to an activity and decided to make chili, with enough for the family to have some for dinner.  Jon was taken aback.  "It's not Halloween yet, mom.  We don't start having chili till Halloween."

As my children grow up and start families of their own, I am looking forward to seeing which of our traditions they take with them, which traditions their spouses bring and what traditions they establish as a family.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Spirit

Our decorations are mostly up . . . finally.  I just need to finish decorating the tree that sits in our living room/kitchen.  While the tree in our family room has always been decorated with the "kids' ornaments", the tree in the living room is decorated with nativity ornaments and other ornaments that have a significance to our family.

This morning I was kind of kvetching to Rick how decorating has seemed more difficult this year.  I am normally the Day-After-Thanksgiving-The-Decorations-Go-Up type of person, but this year I have been dragging my feet and putting it off much to the dismay of my daughters.  I know that part of it is that my decorating buddy is far away in Japan and not here to help.  Wil has always been the one most interested in the process of preparing the home for the Holiday Season and I have never had to worry that if Wil did it, it would be done right.  (Someone should ask Jon about leaving price stickers on ornaments and hoping no one will notice.)  

I also know that while last year was exciting because it was our first Christmas in our new home, this year I am missing the routine.  After 20+ years, I knew every ornament and where they worked best on the tree, where every Santa or Nativity would be placed in the house, and which wreath hung on which door.  This year it is still a process of trial and error, locate and relocate.  This has also made me a little melancholy, reminding me again of what used to be.  Yesterday I ignored the bare tree in the living room, actually turning on the lights so it looked a little less forlorn, and the boxes of ornaments sitting hopefully awaiting to be placed on that tree.  Today I woke with the determination that I will get this done if for no other reason than so we won't trip over them anymore.

As I was going through the ornaments, I pulled out a pine cone.  This ornament is very simple with a couple of pieces of evergreen, a silk flower and a maroon bow attached to the top.  This ornament is a a part of Christmas Past.  I shed a few tears (well more than a few), as my heart was filled with what this pinecome represents to our family.  

When Rick was stationed in Virginia, we were limited in the amount of stuff we could move with us.  With three small children, including a brand new baby, we had to choose carefully, so all the Christmas decorations were left in Utah to be shipped to Rick's permanent duty station.  That year, Hunter and Wil, Rick's sister-in-law Mary and his niece Brittney, and I made ornaments for both our tree and their tree.  I had almost forgotten those chilly afternoons in the trailer in Prince George County.

On the first Christmas after the fire, we received a beautifully wrapped box from Steve and Mary.  Inside were some of those ornaments made that year far from home surrounded by very little that was familiar to us, along with the following letter from Mary:

Dear Rick and Ann,

I have a very special memory of the first year Steve and I were married.  It was Christmas time, we were far from home.  We were so happy to have you as near to us as Virginia.  You helped us get a tiny little tree, and when we worried about what we would hang on its branches, you helped me make many beautiful little angel ornaments.  I remember thinking that they looked difficult and I was sure I would make a mess of them.  Ann, you were so positive and patient.  You assured me that I could do it, and you were right.  We Spent many happy afternoons on weekends in Virginia, sitting in the living room of your little rental mobile home, putting together tiny little lace angels.  I remember you had Rick and the kids gathering up pinecones for some other ornaments you were going to make, and I could not conceive of how you were going to make them into ornaments.  We were very proud of our tree that year.  It was a little sparsely decorated, but very pretty.  They you presented us with a package for Christmas, and to our delight and awe it was filled with many many more beautifully crafted hand made ornaments!  Our tree was no longer sparse, but every bough was weighed down with crocheted wreathes, butterflies, and candy canes, and wonderful pinecones decorated with glitter and ribbon.  (The pinecones were my favorite.)  No Christmas tree had ever been more beautiful to me.  Your family had spent countless hours to give us a gift we still cherish even now, nearly two decades later.  Now we have to decide which decorations to leave off the tree.  But each year I make sure we have at least a few of those very special ornaments on the tree.  As each of my children leaves our home to start their own families, I plan to send them some of these decorations from our very first Christmas as a married couple.  This year I was thinking of you guys, and how in so many ways you are starting over.  So, I thought you might like a few little hand made angels, wreaths, pinecones and candy canes to decorate your tree this year.  We hope they remind you, as they remind us, of what a miracle and a blessing family is.  You were our Christmas miracle that year.  It is a memory we cherish, and we hope it will be a happy little walk down memory lane for you as well.  Merry Christmas!!

May the Spirit of Christmas fill your hearts not just now but always!!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 30

So I am a little late writing this.  I ended up spending the last day of the month feeling ill and sleeping.

As I look back on the previous posts in November, I found a common theme: Love of family, friends, home and faith.  These are the things that shape my life and make me know that I am truly blessed.

Now we enter the Christmas Season.  How I wish that the Spirit of love and peace that is felt by so many at this time would last throughout the year and be felt by all.  

I know that Jesus Christ was born in a stable over 2,000 years ago.  He marked the path and led the way back to God.  By following Him, we can be truly happy.  He is my Savior and because of Him, I know that my sins can be forgiven and that I can live forever with my family.  This gift is given to all.  It is this knowledge that lets me know that I am truly blessed.

Here is one of my favorite Christmas stories:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 29

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.

I love coming home.  I love the excited barking of the dogs in greeting.  I love the cat lying in the middle of the floor feet in the air waiting for a belly rub.  I love the hugs from my kids.  I love knowing that I will be sleeping in my own bed.  This time of year, I love the sight of the Christmas lights on the house.  They are so bright and welcoming.

When we had our house warming, a friend gave us the following card:

These are the best blessings in our lives.

Month of Gratitude - November 28

Tonight I am sitting in a hotel with Rick in North Salt Lake.  My heart is full of all the things I am thankful for tonight:  safe travel on the road; children who are secure enough to be alone for one evening; grandma who is willing to help out; that my sweetie and I still enjoy being together more than being apart.

Earlier today, I helped with the teacher appreciation lunch at our local elementary school.  I was asked to bring a crockpot of soup.  I made my new favorite chili aptly named Super-Easy Slow Cooker Three-Bean Chili..  This has also become a family favorite as witnessed by the number of times that I made it in October without ever throwing out any leftovers.

As I prepared to take the chili to the school, I carefully cleaned the outside of my crockpot.  I noticed again the chipped handle and the dated exterior, but my heart was full of joy, because this crockpot was given to us by someone after our house fire.  Each time I use it, I am reminded of the love and support that we felt during the hardest time in our lives.  I am reminded again that each of us are brothers and sisters and that we are surrounded by genuinely good and compassionate people.

When Emily came home from school, she asked me to help her with a speech that she has to give tomorrow in school.  She is talking to her class about how to prevent fires and not get hurt.  She wrote about all the things we have taught her and I was amazed at the knowledge and understanding of my little girl.  I was also amazed at her ability to address a subject that a year ago would have had her in tears.  How grateful I am to see that the psychological damage from the fire continues to heal.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 27

This morning I chased my daughter up the driveway.  She was having her normal "You may walk me to the bus stop, but I am not going to acknowledge you" attitude and had hurried up the driveway well ahead of us.  So rather than call to her to slow down, I ran.  When I caught up to her, she said that all my walking now had her worried, because I could actually catch her.  I also showed her that I can run literal circles around her.

Tonight, I was asked to take dinner into a neighbor's home who had recently had a baby.  After the meal was prepared to be delivered, I asked Rick if he would like to join me on the delivery.  He gladly agreed to go along.  I then asked if he had his car keys.  Instead he suggested we walk.  How nice it was to walk down the street with my husband on a beautiful evening and be able to have a conversation and not feel out of breath.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 26

It is fun when the family can get together.  It is especially fun when there are so many exciting things to celebrate.  I am so grateful for all the family that traveled over the river and through the woods to be with us over the Thanksgiving Holidays.  These are memories we will always treasure.

I am especially grateful today that everyone had safe travels on their journey home and were able to arrive at their final destination without incident.

One of the greatest blessings I have had in my life is family.  We may not always agree, but when we need each other, we know our family will be there.

Growing up I know that I took this blessing for granted.  That is until I met Rick.  One of our first dates was to my Memorial Day Family Reunion.  Rick was amazed at how many cousins, aunts and uncles I had.  He had grown up with a very limited extended family.  There were not many big family gatherings or celebrations.  The idea of family gathering together for baby blessings, baptisms, ordinations, graduations, or extracurricular activities as routine was not something he thought of, while for me they were expected.

My children have been blessed to have the support and love of a large extended family.  I am so grateful that this tradition has continued into another generation.  I am also grateful that my own children are continuing the tradition.

Month of Gratitude - November 25

After a long and crazy weekend of fun, food and family, nothing is better for dinner on a Sunday night than waffles and scrambled eggs.  Glad my family concurs.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 24

Today was a beautiful day.  It was one of those days that made me so happy to live in Southern Utah.  Today my parents and I mailed Wil his Christmas presents.  Hard to believe that it is only a month away.  Thirty days and I will be able to talk to my boy.  That makes me happy.  Talking to him will be the best Christmas present.

We spent the afternoon in Springdale gallery hopping with my family.  There were so many beautiful things to see.  I am always amazed at the variety of talent that surrounds me.  How lucky we are to be able to associate with individuals so willing to share with us and enrich our lives.

It was especially fun to watch Rick try to sneakily take pictures of things I said I liked.  He carries around a list of gift ideas, complete with pictures, in his phone.  (You can click here to see what I may find under the tree this year.)

Later in the day we went to dinner at one of favorite places, Jack's Sports Grill.  This was followed by the tree lighting ceremony of the Springdale Town Christmas tree.  Then home with cousins for a sleepover.

It was a perfect day.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 23

When we first moved to Southern Utah, I worked at a little gift shop in the Outlet Mall.  Prior to us moving, Hunter had completed his first Eagle project, so assured that she would soon be attending his Eagle Court of Honor, my mother-in-law purchased not one, but three Mill Creek statuettes entitled Glory - one for each of my boys, from that little gift shop.

At the time I had total confidence that without a doubt all three boys would attain the rank of Eagle.  The older two were well on their way with merit badges, with Hunter only needing to complete one merit badge and the final application paperwork.  Jon was still in Cub Scouts, but he was excited about what he was doing and ready to follow in his brothers' footsteps.

Little did we know that it would be four years, another move and another project before Hunter had that Court of Honor and received his statuette from Grandma.

Wil's earning his award was even in greater jeopardy, when all his paperwork and project documentation was destroyed in our house fire.  During that time, Rick and I were too stressed and overwhelmed to argue, cajole, and try to persuade Wil to complete another project and the necessary paperwork.  Thank goodness his girlfriend's family stepped in with the needed encouragement and Wil too was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout submitting the final paperwork right on his 18th birthday.

Two down and only one to go.  When Wil received his Eagle, Jon was one merit badge and a project away from completing the requirements for his Eagle.  No sweat, we had a year left and his dad was the merit badge counselor and Jon was all but done with the requirements.  A project was a little trickier, but there were a couple of good options available to him.  Well, as is often the case, one thing led to another and before we knew it, the year had gone and we were left with only three months and no project.  Luckily we were able to find a project with the City of Hurricane, boys willing to help him, and all was completed and paperwork submitted again pushing that 18th birthday.

Today was Jon's Eagle Court of Honor.  Many of my family was able to be there.  Many of our friends joined us as well.  It was a great party to celebrate the accomplishments of a fine young man.  And Grandmas was finally able to present that final eagle she had purchased almost ten years ago.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 22

Today was so much fun.  We had a houseful of people.  My parents, Rick's mom, three of my sisters, my brother, two nieces and Hunter joined the normal chaos of three children, two dogs, a cat, a bird and fish.  So glad our home has multiple levels so everyone can find a place to relax.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was a bit of the traditional - turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, pistachio salad, sweet potatoes and parsnips, butternut squash and apples, rolls, and our traditional dressing that is loaded with apples, onions, celery and this year zucchini.

I am glad that my children enjoy new adventures in food.  This year, thanks to Pinterest, we added the following to the day's menu:
Tater Tot Casserole - We doubled the amount of eggs and milk and it took twice as long to cook, but we still had none leftover - a real hit to start the day.

Pumpkin Spice Protein Pancakes - We used chocolate flavored protein powder and added a few chocolate chips to each pancake.  My dad said they were some of the best pancakes he has ever had.

Pineapple Cheese Ball - Absolutely wonderful.  We made it without the powdered sugar, it was sweet enough with the pineapple.  We also used turkey ham.

Avocado Hummus - We served this with fresh vegetables and pita chips.

Sour Cream Lemon Pie - My personal favorite and so simple.  I used a premade shortbread pie crust to save time, but it would have been better in a regular pastry crust.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle - Instead of pumpkin pie, we tried this.  It was a big hit as well with very little left.  I had cut up the gingerbread cakes and left them on the cutting board while I baked the pumpkin mixture.  My mom came into the kitchen and exclaimed "Oh no! What happened to the cake!"  It shocked her that I had ruined two beautiful, perfectly round cakes.  In the end, she decided it was worth it.

Cranberry Almond Pound Cake - Another one of my favorites that I will make again.  The perfect blend of tart and sweet.  I did add an extra cup of cranberries and mine took 1 1/2 hours to cook.  I was glad Hunter was willing to stay up and take it out of the oven and wait for it to cool so I could sleep.  I didn't have a  bundt pan, so used my angel food pan.  I won't have that problem in the future though, since a little elf told me Santa is bringing me a new pan for Christmas.

But the best thing about Thanksgiving is gathering together as family and friends and spending time together.  The girls made ornaments with their cousins.  We played the Logo Game.  We shared funny YouTube videos.  We watched the parade and we watched football.  It was so much fun.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 21

Today, in between all the running around completing the last minute shopping and finishing and wrapping the presents that need to head north with family, I was able to get in some "Mandi-time".  What is "Mandi-time"?  It is my weekly lunch with my friend at our local Durango's.  Sometimes we allow others to join us, but most of the time it is just the two of us.  We are both homebodies when evening rolls around, preferring to spend time with spouse and children than go out with friends, so this weekly lunch is our girl time.  Usually, it occurs on Thursdays, but with the pending holiday we rescheduled and moved it up a day.

What do we do during our weekly lunch?  Laugh, laugh, and laugh.  Sometimes we cry.  We tell stories about our too cute to believe kids, our awesome husbands, and the continuing adventures of our families.  We support each other.  We encourage each other.  We may not always agree, but we respect each other.  And did I mention we laugh - ALOT!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 20

Yep, I still want him.

Month of Gratitude - November 19

Tonight as I sit and listen to all the sniffling, sneezing, and coughing going on in my house, I am so grateful for cold medication that will help us get a somewhat decent night's sleep - at least those of us who still aren't sniffling, sneezing and coughing.

I am also grateful that the above medication now comes in flavors that are somewhat palatable to my family members in liquid form or that can be taken in tablet form so there is now horrid after taste.  It helps in the reasoning that cure is better than the problem.

As a parent, I have become ever increasingly grateful to my own parents for their love and care when I was sick as a child.  First because there is no worse feeling than having a child in pain and being unable to make that pain go away.  Second because I know that I was never that good of a patient - "Just Leave Me Alone" is my motto and so it took a lot of patience on their part to make sure I took my medication.

Lastly I want to say that I don't think I will ever reach a point in my life that the smell of Pepto-Bismal will not make my stomach turn.  It is too firmly associated with the stomach flu in my psyche.  If you need Pepto-Bismal, don't come looking for any at my house.  We drink Ginger Ale (Vernors) or eat bananas.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 18

Today I this inspired me:

In life, it's what you learn after you know everything that matters.

Each day there is something we can learn if we open hearts and minds.  Each day can be spent in discovery.  Knowledge is the one thing that will go with us into the next life.  Knowledge provides us with greater compassion and understanding of others.

I am grateful that each day is full of opportunity.

Month of Gratitude - November 17

Lela, Jon and Emily

Today I went with my children to the Jubilee of Trees.  This annual event is held to help raise money for the local hospital.  It was fun to spend the time with the kiddos enjoying the creativity and talents of so many wonderful people.  Here are some of the fun trees we saw:

Squirrels seemed to be a part of many of the trees

This one was fun with all the toys.  Lela loved the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy Dolls.
Mr. Potatohead made us think of Wil.

There was lots of orange, purple, teal and lime green used in the trees. I thought this one was fun.

This tree was our all around favorite.  It took over five years to put together as he built each replica of the historical buildings.

The kids loved seeing the Grafton Schoolhouse and Pine Valley Chapel.

A list of all the buildings

This tree had an ocean theme and we thought of Grandpa Dean and Monterey last Thanksgiving.
Emily performed with the La Verkin Choir

We all came home from our expedition feeling inspired.  In fact Emily felt we needed to put together a surprise for Rick and bring a little bit of the Jubilee to our house.  Here is the tree inspired by what we saw that the girls and I put together:

I am so glad Rick has a sense of humor.  He thought it was cute.  I guess we will see what kind of reaction we get from Hunter.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 16

I got to ride a school bus today as I went with my daughter's choir to their performance in St. George. It is nice to know that some things never change - many children crammed into narrow green seats, the black radio speakers tuned to the drivers favorite station, the roar of the engine as it tries to accelerate uphill and the bouncing and swaying.

Usually I go on these trips a few times each year and each time I am reminded of the many bus drivers that transported me to and from school and school related activities during my childhood.

I remember Marlowe Poll occasionally taking a moment to check on his cows during the morning drive. Now there are homes where his barn and pasture were.

I remember the dense fog on Hillfield Road each winter and knowing that there were hills and homes and stores just out of view hidden in the thick mist.  Yet the bus delivered us without incident each morning to the school.

I remember the paddle with hole in it that one driver had hanging in the front of the bus.  When we asked why it had a hole, the driver explained that the hole reduced the wind resistance so his swing wouldn't be slowed down.  I never saw the paddle used on anyone, but his reaching for it was enough to calm the unruliest of children.

I remember the many bus drivers that would get off the bus to carry the smaller children from the house to the bus and then from the bus to the house so that the South Weber wind wouldn't blow them away.  I remember being blown into a ditch as a first-grader by that wind one day after school when I thought I could walk on my own, so I appreciated the kindness and concern of these drivers.

I attended Clinton, Sunset and South Weber Elementary schools; North Davis Junior High School and Clearfield High School all while living in the same home in South Weber.  Most of the time a trip on the bus from pick-up to drop-off was at least a half hour or an hour round-trip a day on the bus or over 2,000 hours by the time I became a senior in high school and decided I was too cool to ride the bus anymore and drove myself to school.  Thank goodness for those dependable drivers that were still there when I ran short of gas money.

I am grateful that there are still dependable, patient individuals who are willing to safely transport my children on schedule from place to place each day with very little acknowledgement or thanks.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 15

Today my friend gave birth to two beautiful baby boys.  Also today, another dear friend's heart was able to start beating properly again.

I am so grateful for the miracle that is modern medicine and that there continues to be progress and new discoveries in treatments.  I look at my own children and know that I probably would not have them and most likely would not be here myself if I had been pregnant during any other time past.

Every day I feel so blessed that my dad is still here with us.  His own father died at age 40, but through antibiotics and other medications and procedures, my dad has weathered many bouts of pneumonia and his heart continues to beat.  He continues to be a strong and steady influence in the lives of his children and grandchildren.

Each day is precious.

Month of Gratitude - November 14

We woke up this morning to frost on the cars.  Actually this has happened a couple of times this last week, but this morning I had to acknowledge it.  Why?  Because we were actually using all three vehicles - Jon had to drive to college, Rick was off to work, and I had to get Emily to school and then had a list of errands.  The two cars that are parked in the garage were frost-free, but the truck in the driveway was covered.

Rick came in and asked if while I was out, if I would pick up a scraper for the truck.  I told him to go ahead and take the van and I would use the truck, because it would be thawed by the time I was leaving.  Rick wouldn't do this though, because it might not be thawed and the truck is big and I am not and he didn't want me to worry about scraping it.  He also knew how much I had to get done and how much I dislike driving the truck.

Then last night when his meeting was done, he called to let me know he was on his way home and to say "I love you."

Today reminded me again how lucky I am to have someone who loves me so much and always wants to take care of me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 13

Each morning Emily will come into my bedroom when she wakes and gives me a hug and a little bit of snuggle.  What a beautiful way to start each day!

Last night when I got home, she met me at the door and wrapped her arms around me.  "What's this for?" I asked.  "I just needed to catch up with you for a minute," she responded.

I really love that girl.  She truly is my sunshine.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 12

Things I am grateful for today: Family Home Evening, Arctic Circle, repentance and the Atonement.

I received in my weekly email from Wil a request for a specific DVD that they use in teaching investigators about Christ - Finding Faith in Christ.  He explained that all the copies available to him and his companion were pretty beat up and it would be faster, since I was sending a box anyway, if I could pick up a copy and include it with the box than for him to try and get a replacement ordered.  Determined to fulfill this request, Rick and I decided that our Family Home Evening would be a trip to St George and the local Deseret Book to pick up the DVD with dinner afterwards at Arctic Circle so the girls could use their ice cream cone certificates that were about to expire.

The tricky part was making connection with Jon who normally does not get home until after 5 PM on Mondays.  Luckily, he made it home on schedule and we all piled in the car and headed to St. George.  Of course the piling in the car involved much wailing and gnashing of teeth when we ruled that this was a FHE Activity and no electronics would be allowed.  You would have thought we were condemning them to a fate worse than death instead of just a twenty minute car ride.

Of course the traffic was horrible.  Every driver seemed determined to go at least 5 miles an hour below the posted speed limit and they all needed to travel side by side.  I could see Rick getting a little tense and I have to admit that so was I as I watched the clock creep towards 6, the time we figured the store would be closing.  Luckily we made it with five minutes to spare.  We were able to get the things we needed, plus a couple of other things and were out the door by five minutes after.  Yeah for power shopping!!

At Arctic Circle, we sat in a booth together and talked about all the things we have upcoming this week and the next; science fair, volleyball games, choir, band and orchestra concerts, church dinners, Thanksgiving, Eagle Court of Honor, trips to Northern Utah, etc.  So often it seems we are all going in so many different directions that we need this scheduled time to stay connected.

The restaurant was playing music from the 60s and 70s.  The type of music that you can't help but sing along with.  At one point Rick and I were doing a little dance in the booth and Lela leaned over to Emily, "Do they ever embarrass you?"  Emily nodded.  Jon responded with, "I see nothing wrong in breaking out in song at random moments."  The next song was The Temptations "My Girl".  We all sang along, including two giggling girls.

During the drive from Deseret Book to Arctic Circle, we talked about the DVD that we had picked up for Wil.  The final conclusion of that discussion: When you do something wrong, you will feel bad until you repent.  When you repent you will feel happy.  Through the Atonement, Christ made it possible for us to repent.  Christ wants us to be happy.  It is as simple as that:  Christ wants us to be happy.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 11

I thought a lot about technology today and how it has an impact on my life.

Today, I was able to send an email to my son in Japan.  When Rick was on his mission in Canada, it took almost a week for him to get a letter and another week for me to receive his reply.  I know that within a matter of hours, once he gets somewhere that has internet access, Wil will have an update on all our goings-on this past week.  And when I wake up in the morning, there will be a response from him waiting for me.

Today, while we were already at church, Emily remembered that she was supposed to give a talk in Primary.  She was able to turn on her Kindle Fire, open the Gospel Library app, and find a poem and a story on missionary work from the children's magazine The Friend that she used for her talk.

Tonight Rick was able to talk to his dad who lives in California.  Communication has become so inexpensive.  I remember when we would pay $150 to $200 a month for long-distance on a single phone line.  Now we pay the same amount total for six separate phone numbers and long distance charges have become a thing of the past (unless you are calling Japan).

I can remember talking to Rick when he was in Canada on his mission or the east coast for military training and there was always a little static on the line.  Now I can call Japan (twice a year) and speak to Wil and it is like he is just next door and he is able to be on speaker, rather than trying to pass a phone around.

Not only can we talk to one another more frequently, but via the Internet we are able to share pictures and our children are able to receive a greater interaction with their grandparents, aunts and uncles.  Over the weekend I posted a photo of some new boots my girls had purchased.  They were so excited when within the hour, they had received comments from various family members on their choice of attire.  They love the contact they are able to maintain with their cousins, even playing games together online and engaging in online chats.

I know that there are drawbacks to technology as well.  It is blamed for creating less human interaction, helping to depersonalize society.  But I believe that technology is a gift from God to help us accomplish those things that need to be done.  It is a tool that if used wisely, just as any tool, can aid and ease us in our endeavors.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 10

Today Jon went with a friend to the family ranch.  Of course we found out about the trip fifteen minutes before he was supposed to leave.  When asked what he needed, he replied that he had been told to dress warm and wear boots.

I looked at his feet and he was wearing his skate shoes.  Besides shoes for church, I realized at that moment that these are the only other shoes my son owns.  In case you don't know what skate shoes are, they look something like this:

Not really the best for keeping feet warm on a day spent outside with intermittent rain and snow flurries.

Why am I grateful for this predicament you may wonder?

The rest of the story:

Last night, I had the need to get out of the house and spend some time with just Rick.  Too much Go-Go-Go over the last couple of weeks had me feeling pretty anxious at the end of a do-nothing day and needing to get out of the house and go for a walk.  Since it was too cold for a walk outside, Rick decided a trip to the local WalMart would be perfect.  I could walk around the store and he could look for Christmas lights for the Town.  In the process of my walking (more like meandering), we went by the shoe department and Rick saw something that caught his eye; these:
Ozark Trail - Men's Putty 2 Waterproof Hiking Boots; Size 10 1/2

So guess what Jon was able to wear to the ranch.  Glad this son is as tall as his dad and comes with the same size feet.  Also glad I have a husband who actually enjoys shopping.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 9

For a few moments I can sit back and relax, before it is on to the next event.

I was able to spend my time this morning at the elementary school finishing the events from the Fall Festival - ie announcing The Pie in The Face Vote winner.

Here is the video of the results.

Today showed me once again how blessed I am that my children have had and continue to have great teachers, administration and support staff at their schools.  I have never been one to make teacher requests, but have always prayed that my children will be given the person that can have the greatest impact on their life at that time.  I have never been disappointed and as a result my children have a developed a love of learning and the desire to continue even when the subject matter is difficult.  This knowledge and ability will take them far.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 8

I am sitting here completely exhausted, but breathing a huge sigh of relief - the Fall Festival at La Verkin Elementary is over, finished, complete, put to bed.  And I am ready to be put to bed as well.  I am just sitting here trying to decompress so that when I do go to bed, I won't toss and turn and keep Rick awake.

The biggest thought in my head right now is that I live in an AMAZING community.  This is why we moved here.  This is what I longed for my children to experience.  This is what I remember from my youth.  This is what I dreamed La Verkin would be like before I even knew where it was.

Because I am just a girl who can't say no, I opened my mouth and volunteered to organize the rescheduled Fall Festival.  (By rescheduled, I mean that it used to be known as the Spring Carnival.)  Originally I had just about six weeks to get something pulled together, but a conflict with the teacher's schedule resulted in two extra weeks.  (Whoooooooo!)  With the change of date from spring to fall, it soon became clear that many of the things that worked in the spring when it was light later and the event could be held outside would not transfer to a fall event when it would be dark. No bounce house, no fire truck with hose, no unlimited seating area for a dinner, no petting zoo, no dirt pile to dig in - I think you get the picture.

Thank goodness that the faculty and staff of the school were amenable to relocating the event inside as much as possible.  Thank goodness there are incredible people in this community that are willing to step up and make what seemed insurmountable doable.  Thank goodness for those who had paid to be there, but at the end of the night pitched in to help make sure the building was clean and ready for school in the morning.

Thank you!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!! to everyone that made the reinstated La Verkin Fall Festival such a resounding success its first year.

Month of Gratitude - November 7

So I have to do it.  Today I have to brag on my children.  I have been so blessed to have caring, happy, talented, smart, motivated children.

Today I went to Lela's Parent Teacher Conference.  It is nice to hear good things about your child from others.  Lela jokingly told me we had to go to her math class, so that I could hear how wonderful she is.  Scary is more like it when it comes to math.  Her Language Arts teacher let me know that she had specifically assigned Lela a seat to help a couple of other students in the class.  Her Orchestra teacher said she would love to have a whole class of Lelas.

A teacher at the elementary school let me know how grateful she is for Emily and her willingness to help with a student who struggles.  She complimented me on Emily's compassion and kindness towards her fellow student.  During the last weeks, I was able to see Emily perform in both her dance recital and the story-telling festival.  I am impressed by her ability to step out of her comfort and explore and develop new talents, then share them with others.

I can remember similar experiences with my boys when they were young, but they are grown now and have their own lives in which their dad and I play only a small part.  But we are so grateful for the fine young men they have become.

It is nice to hear something positive, especially on a day that was so filled with negative.  It really made my day brighter.

I challenge everyone to go out and say something nice to someone else today, especially if they aren't expecting it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 6

This morning as I stared at my closet deciding what to wear, I took into consideration that my day would end  at my daughters' volleyball games.  Knowing that Lela's jersey is red and Emily's jersey is blue, I debated wearing something completely neutral such as yellow so as not to offend either or to find a way to make them both happy.

I went for the latter and pulled out a purple shirt.  They both got the significance that red and blue make purple and so I was supporting them both.  Isn't it nice to know that the ability of red and blue coming together in the beautiful color purple can bring happiness?  It is such a simple concept, taught in preschool, that children can understand.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 5

My dear friend Michelle Ennis posted this on Facebook today: Any reason to celebrate life is a good excuse for a party.

When my girls came home from school, I sat and listened to them as they went outside to play with the dogs.  They were laughing, the dogs were barking and there was the sound of squeaking toys.  For homework, Lela practiced her violin while Jon played his guitar and Emily recited the story she will be telling today in the storytelling festival.  Later tonight, after dinner and showers and bedtime preparation, we all gathered in my bedroom (thank goodness for a kingsize bed) and watched Castle just as we do every Monday night.

How grateful I am for the simple things that make our house a home.  We had a lot to celebrate today.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 4

I gave the lesson today in Relief Society.  I found a talk given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf entitled "Your Happily Ever After" that spoke to me of the love of a Heavenly Father and that life is a time of hope.  You can read it by clicking here.

As I prepared to share this message with the other Sisters in my congregation, I could not help but think of how blessed I am to have a mother who read to me.  Every day at naptime, she would lay down on the bed with us and read to us from books or from the Children's Friend magazine.  Often, she would read to us until she fell asleep.  We would still stay on the bed and look through the pile of books and the magazine, enjoying the beautiful illustrations.

I know that it was this dedication to reading to us that has instilled in me my love for reading. 

Now whenever we go to visit or they come to visit us, she takes the time to read books to my girls just as she did with my boys when they were little.  She is much better at this than I ever was, but between the two of us, my children have gained the same love of reading.  This is a gift that will bless their lives forever, just as it has blessed mine.

The Reading Mother
by Strickland Gillilan

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.
I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.
I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness lent with his final breath.
I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a Mother who read to me.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 3

Today I want to express my gratitude for this man:

Described on Wikipedia as a notorious train robber, bank robber and leader of the Wild Bunch Gang, Robert LeRoy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy, has become the impetus for some of my family's best memories.

Each year on the first weekend in November, the Town of Springdale hosts the Butch Cassidy 10K/5K Run.  The race goes through the towns of Springdale and Rockville ending in the ghost town of Grafton.  This early settlement of Mormon pioneers was abandoned after being flooded out one too many times.  Today the Grafton Heritage Partnership is working to restore the remaining buildings.

This year's amazing logo by Sandy Bell

The Butch Cassidy 10K has been held as a fun run for 27 years.  Money raised from the event has gone to help support many programs in the community such as community trails, the Zion Canyon Seniors, the Youth at Zion Canyon, solar projects, community playground, the Visitors' Bureau and of course the restoration of Grafton itself.

Last year, my friend Anita and I braved horrible weather and participated in the 5K walk.

Here we are crossing the finish line.  Notice the mud.  That's because over the course of the race it rained and SNOWED.

Me in the flurries of snow
This year the weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold.  The runners seemed to enjoy themselves and so did the spectators.  One participant told me they were so impressed with how well organized the event was and how friendly everyone involved was.  Yep, the Town has a great staff and amazing volunteers.

All I have to say is it is Butch Cassidy Weekend and my children know that their weekend is booked.  For the last 10 years, Rick has been hauling one or more children to Grafton to help with the race set-up, clean-up and everything in between.  Even this year, even though Rick had not asked Jon specifically if he was going to "volunteer", Jon had planned that he was and adjusted his social schedule so he could get to bed early Friday night.  (This means that he postponed his date to see Wreck it Ralph till Saturday night.)

The girls and I used to stay home snuggled in our beds watching cartoons as the men would leave bright and early to be in Springdale by 7 AM.  The last couple of years, the girls have been old enough to help pass out water at the aid stations as the runners come by.  Now as a family, we have laughed at the cold, the snow, the heat and enjoyed days like today that were wonderful.  It is fun to go and cheer on our friends.  Rick is glad that the girls are so willing to step up and help as their brothers grow older and move out.

After the last racer has loaded the shuttle for the ride back to Town, we have a tradition of going to lunch together as a family somewhere in Springdale.  Here we are this year at Oscar's Cafe.

With our friend, Brandon Gowans (who took first in his age division this year)
I understand the Murder Burger is to die for, but I enjoy the fish tacos myself.

You may think you have never seen or heard of Grafton, but if you are familiar with the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, this famous scene was filmed there:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 2

My life is blessed and made fuller with wonderful friends. 

There are friends I have known since my childhood; siblings, cousins and neighbors. I love when we get together and share stories of those carefree days of longer than I want to admit ago.  Community parties, youth sports, school programs - participated in together as children and now as adults cheering our own children on let me know that life is not lived alone.

There are my friends from school; high school and college.  Through the wonders of Facebook, I have been able to reconnect with so many.  It is such a fun group; so many good times back in the day and these friends have gone on to have amazing and wonderful lives.  Yet lives filled with ups and downs, joys and sorrows.  Again, I know that life is not lived alone.

And there are the friends of my adulthood; friends I have made since my marriage to Rick, that we have made together.  These friends share our mutual history.  We have been together through the lean times and the hearty times, through the rocky times and when the waters have run smooth.  Some we have known as long as we have been together, others have come into our lives more recently. With some we have moved together and then moved in different directions, but we still maintain that connection and with all we try to support and cheer each other on. 

When I look at my days, I know that they would be diminished and a little dimmer without all these friends.  Each has a story, and each story is worth taking the time to hear.  Each story shared has made me a better person and helped me know in my darkest times that I am not alone.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 1st

To honor the spirit of gratitude that Thanksgiving brings, I am going to post each day something I found that day to be grateful for.  I was inspired by a friend of mine who posted each day during Lent.  You can check out her insight at Follow Me Home by clicking here.

Today started out with the inspiration for my first post.  As Rick and I were taking our morning walk, we were able to watch the sky change from black to pink to day as the sun rose.  I am so grateful for this time each morning to be with my sweetheart and enjoy the beauty of the sunrise.  Just like snowflakes, no two sunrises are ever the same.  

Here are some of the beautiful sunrises I have enjoyed this year:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Piano Guys

I have mentioned before I am sure how much I love music.  I am in awe at the power music has to change a mood, an attitude, an environment.  I am inspired by those who have musical talent since I have very little.  I am amazed at the power of music to unite diverse groups and bring people together. I know that each time I hear the Star Spangled Banner, I become a little weepy and I have noticed that I am not the only one.  "How Great Thou Art" has the same impact on me.  

For me, the power of music is most strongly witnessed in my own home.  Music has always united our family. 

We enjoy singing in the car while driving.  Our little quintet has not been the same since Wil left on his mission.  No one can quite hit those high notes like Wil.  Our bass line will suffer the same fate when Jon leaves on his mission early next year. 

We enjoy listening to the radio, but prefer the MP3 player.  It doesn't matter whose we plug in, because we all share the same eclectic tastes with Emily leaning more to Taylor Swift, while I am known to weigh heavier on Randy Travis tunes, and Wil has more Bon Jovi.  It all works.

We attend concerts together as a family.  Whether it is the band or orchestra concerts of our children, the choir or musical performances of a friend, a theatrical musical production or the concert of a group we all enjoy, these opportunities bring us memories that we long talk about and are steeped in Wixom Family Tradition, such as dinner before or ice cream after and even sometimes both.

October has been a month of these performances.  We kicked off the month with Jon's first performance with the Dixie State College Symphonic Band.  How fun to see our son performing with a group of individuals who were there not just because it is a class, but because it is a passion.  We will end the month with Emily's dance recital and Lela's orchestra concert.  How fun it will be to see these two shine and experience something for the first time.

In the middle of the month, we had The Piano Guys.  Who are The Piano Guys you ask?  Well in my opinion, they are some of the most amazing performers around - five dads from Utah who love music and who have followed their dream, but stayed true to their core values while finding success in the crazy world of music.

Our whole family loves these guys.  From their imaginative videos on YouTube to Jon Schmidt's playing the piano upside down and Steven Sharp Nelson's strumming the cello like a guitar or thumping it like a drum, there are so many things to love.  We even have a little history with The Piano Guys since Paul Anderson, producer/videographer, sold us the piano that now sits in our home.  He was great to work with through all the chaos of insurance and rebuilding.  Our family was so happy to learn that they were going to be performing at Dixie State College and I wasted no time in getting our tickets for Friday night's performance which allowed us to be on Row B.  We took quite a group: Rick and I, Lela, Emily, Jon and his friend Kendra, Grandma Wixom, Wil's friend Nataly and her parents Rob and Totty.  The days leading up to the concert were filled with their music via YouTube and CDs.

At the start of the concert we were a little disappointed to learn that Steven Sharp Nelson would not be there in person, but understood when we learned that his wife had just given birth that day.  Lela and Emily said it was good he was with his wife where he should be and Jon said it just gave us a reason to go see them again.  I thought about that and thought what a great example to my son and daughters of having the right priorities.  I want my son to remember that his family should be his most important responsibility and my daughters to have husbands who will sacrifice for them.

Even with Steven Sharp Nelson's absence, the concert was so much fun.  Jon Schmidt never disappoints.  Afterwards we were able to meet him in the lobby and Lela shook his hand.  She said she would never wash that hand again, except that she was afraid that all the sweat from being so nervous and excited to meet him had probably already washed it.  The car ride home was filled with the chatter of two little girls talking about their favorite songs, what they were going to tell their friends and teachers come Monday morning, and how they wanted their piano teacher to teach them to play upside down and with their toes.

Last night as Lela practiced the piano, she got all excited because one of the songs in her book (her teacher uses Jon Schmidt's method to teach piano) was an arrangement that Jon had performed at the concert Friday night.  She was so energized that she can play something she heard the maestro play himself.  We all got treated to a little concert.  Great memories!

Now you can enjoy one of my favorite Piano Guys videos:

And this is one of Lela's favorite Jon Schmidt songs:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Change in "Fortune"

Rick's fortune from dinner:

My fortune from dinner:

Glad that Rick doesn't have to worry about what he will do with all that unexpected treasure.  ;-)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

When Reality Hits You In the Face

Have you ever had one of those moments when you realized that no matter how tightly you held on to what is, it will not be what will be?  Yesterday as Rick and I scrambled to get out the door and on the road to Phoenix, Jon took his sisters downstairs to watch the Saturday morning session of the LDS General Conference.  It didn't take long for him to come running back upstairs and ask us if we heard. "Heard what?" we responded.  "President Monson just announced that the age for missionaries has been lowered to 18 for men and 19 for women."  I think both Rick and I responded with something similar to "Are you sure you heard right?"

Two minutes that changed many lives

Of course we turned to the internet and quickly confirmed via Twitter that Jon had heard correctly.  By the time we stopped to get gas, video clips of the announcement were being posted to Facebook and status updates showed various reactions to this news.  As we drove, I continued to read the tweets from the press conference following the conference session.  The more I read, the stronger became my testimony that this change is inspired and what is needed, as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated, to provide "more and more willing and worthy missionaries to spread the light and the truth and the hope and the salvation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to an often dark and fearful world."

As the mother of one son who has returned from service as an LDS missionary and another son who is currently serving, I have witnessed the hope and light the message of Christ has brought to those that my sons met.  Missionaries serve as representatives of the Savior here on earth.  They share the message of hope that Christ shared 2,000 years ago.  They offer service to their fellow men just as Christ served.  Christ set the example that missionaries of the LDS faith try to follow.

As we drove, Rick and I discussed how this change will affect many that we know.  Already many of the girls that graduated with our two younger sons have said that they are excited about this new opportunity.  Some have even contacted their bishops to start the process of paperwork and application for service.  There are many families such as ours with sons now serving or ready to serve that will have the possibility of more than one child dedicated to service to the Lord at a time.  This could place a financial strain on these families, but Rick and I discussed the opportunity it provides to others who have never had the opportunity or who are better able to afford it to step forward and receive the blessings that come from providing financial support for a missionary.  I can testify that there are blessings in heaven predicated upon this sacrifice.

What does this announcement mean to our family personally?  Jon is 18.  Jon is ready to serve.  He has prepared himself physically, mentally and spiritually to leave his home and family for two years and dedicate himself to the Lord.  In many phone conversations throughout the day, we discussed options with him.  If he could go, he would go in December.  But there are things to take into consideration - Can we handle two sons on a mission financially?  The answer to that is a cautious yes.  We had planned an overlap of six months for our two sons, a full year will present a slightly greater challenge.  What will happen with his schooling?  Jon had planned to have his associate's degree before he left.  He is willing to delay this till his return.  His scholarship will be put on hold and waiting for him in two years.  He has not progressed so far in his studies that he will face the same speed bump that his older brother did upon his return.  What about his orthodontic work?  This could be the one thing that puts the brakes on his accelerated plans.  His next appoint with the orthodontist is the end of the month and we will know more then.

I will admit that I met this announcement with mixed emotions at first and more than a few tears.  Jon is my "baby".  When he was born, we never expected to have any more children and it remained that way for seven years.  I know I have held on to his staying at home with a white-knuckle grip and have been so grateful that he chose to attend Dixie State College for at least this first year.  I love his calmness, his positive outlook on life, his unflappability.  Our home will feel truly empty without him.  Rick bemoaned that with Jon leaving, he will be truly outnumbered.  Our house will shift from a house of men that we women endured to a house of estrogen with Rick forced to hold his own.

I know that serving a mission is the right choice.  He will be blessed, our family will be blessed and most importantly, the people he is called to serve will be blessed.  So I say, "Let's get him gone!"