Utilizing the power of chocolate at the most opportune moments in life.
Taken at key times it can unlock a power within us
To take on and seize almost any moment
Of any day.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Attribute Of The Day Is . . .

In church today I was inspired by a beautiful lesson taught about the attributes of Jesus Christ.  We were invited to choose one of His attributes to try to work on developing.  I was highly motivated and was looking forward to sharing the experience with my family as they were all in different classes at the time.

When I got home from church  I shared the highlights of the church lesson and I invited my family to join me in becoming more like Christ.  Not everyone was quite as enthusiastic as I was but I remained positive and patient because "patient" was the Christ-like attribute I had chosen in class to develop.

During lunch our family discussed how an increase in patience could benefit each of us and our family as a whole.  My family agreed that we could work on developing patience together!  Immediately following lunch we had family scripture study and we focused all the scriptures on patience, discussing and applying the verses to our own life experiences and circumstances.  I was so excited! Again, not everyone shared my level of enthusiasm.

Over the next couple of hours I remained patient through several little disagreements, grumpy attitudes, complaints, tattling and even the dreaded whining.  I held fast, although a bit weakened in my resolve.  The poor attitudes and arguing continued despite many kind and patient attempts to redirect.  The last straw was when I was working on the computer and it crashed.  And then. . .

I gave up! I got angry and lost my patience!

Okay, so I lost one round, but all is not lost for sure!  I am ready to resume with enthusiasm (perhaps slightly less than I had right after church today) to develop, with the Lord's help, the attribute of patience.  Perhaps my example and patient influence will have such a positive impact on my family that an attitude of patience will abound in our home!

P.S. Due to yet another (albeit different) computer problem, I had to retype this entire blog post, patiently, of course.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Response to the article "Research Finds The Effects Of Homework On Elementary School Students, And The Results Are Surprising" by CHILD EDUCATION PARENTINGBY MARIA ONZAIN

A friend shared the following article on social media and asked for "thoughts":

Research Finds The Effects Of Homework On Elementary School Students, And The Results Are Surprising CHILD EDUCATION PARENTINGBY MARIA ONZAIN


Some of the highlights directly from the article:

Why teachers shouldn’t assign homework to elementary school students

According to research, there are a number of reasons why teachers shouldn’t assign homework to elementary school students:
  1. Homework can generate a negative impact on children’s attitudes toward school. 
  1. Premature homework can damage personal relationships in the long term. While homework is meant to reinforce the relationship between parents and children and get parents involved in their children’s education, with elementary school kids this can have the opposite effect. 
  1. Homework gives a false sense of responsibility. 
  1. Homework leaves less time for kids to be kids. 
  1. Kids need to rest to be productive in school. 

Well I started typing my "thoughts" about the article and I realized I had a LOT of thoughts on the matter. So I decided to write a blog post.

I will begin by stating that I actually agree with this article. I say "actually" because I value lifelong learning and quality education. I know that it takes a strong desire, effort, sacrifice and sometimes very hard work to gain knowledge and understanding.

I am a mother of two elementary school children. I want my children to get a good education and to value lifelong learning. I want them to know that they must put forth effort and an appropriate amount of time to gain knowledge. The scriptures shed light on the importance of gaining knowledge:

Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19

 18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
 19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.
I attended elementary school over 40 years ago! The school day and curriculum requirements are much different today than when I was in elementary school. Kindergarten resembles more of my experience in 1st-2nd grade. The children are required to learn concepts much faster and testing starts much earlier now. There is also much less time for play and discovery (art / music). They have gym class once every week and sometimes once every two weeks depending on the rotation schedule. Recess is as little as 10 minutes during the day and immediately follows lunch not breaking up the day much.  

I have a Masters Degree in Social Work (MSW), I am a certified Group Fitness Instructor and a Certified Personal trainer. I know kids need to move, exercise, and play.  Family time is priceless. When my young children come home from school they have missed me. They want to spend quality time with me and I want to have quality time with them too. My daughters also need time together to play and continue to develop their "sister bond". When their father comes home from work they also need time with him. Furthermore, they need time by themselves. There is also, of course, dinner and bedtime preparations. My daughters go to bed quite early in order to get the sleep that they need to be healthy and productive each day. They go to bed at 7:30 pm and have 30 minutes to read whatever they want before lights out at 8 pm. They have an early start to the day at 6 am. We go to school a bit early to participate in the Morning Mile Program at the school where we run laps before school starts. I am one of the few parents that participate in this excellent program. We typically run/jog/walk 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 miles each day before school. I know that this exercise helps my children better prepare for a day of learning.

Homework time is definitly the most unpleasant time of the evening. Homework time often is accompanied with tears and fits of frustration. I see the impact that the pressures of school and then additional homework are having on my children (especially my third grader). I want my children to get the physical play and exercise and fun that they actually need to live healthy lives now and to set the healthy habits they will need to continue to live healthy, happy and productive lives. I want to have quality family time to strengthen our family. After all, "The family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children" 'The Family A Proclamation To The World.  

I am grateful for the education my daughters are getting.  I know that many children are not getting a quality education.  As a parent I know that the education of my children should not solely come from their teachers at school.  I have a responsibility to teach my children and to encourage them to work hard and to help them to live healthy, happy and productive lives.  Some of the most important things I have a responsibility to teach my children will not come from a hand full of worksheets sent home from school.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Happy 11th Year Wedding Anniversary!

As our 11th year wedding anniversary approached my husband and I were excited to take a trip back to the beach to celebrate. We are so very grateful for our awesome friends the Sagers who are willing to serve our family by watching our girls for a night so we could get away to the beach. The Sagers did this for us last year too! I know, aren't they great!

Although we found a really nice place last year right on the beach, we decided to try a new spot this year.  La Fiesta Ocean Inn & Suites in St. Augustine, FL.  It was a two story townhouse on the beach.  The view from the room was a bit obstructed and we were just a little farther from the actual beach than we were last year. However, the rooms were nice and we enjoyed having two floors with a living room, kitchenette, and balcony on the first level and a bedroom, Jacuzzi bath and a balcony on the second floor.

The walkway to the beach

The happy couple:

A beautiful sunrise:

Off to the beach we go:

A Very Happy Anniversary Indeed!

Personal Trainer

 I have been a certified group fitness instructor since September 2012 . I absolutely love teaching classes and helping people get and stay fit. It truly is the most fun I have ever had at "work".  I currently teach at a local Y (YMCA). I offer a weekly Cardio Kickboxing class, a Glute and Core class, a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) class, as well as two Ab Blast classes, Silver Sneakers Classic and Silver Sneakers Yoga classes. I also sub teach many classes at the Y.  I have never not wanted to go to work. I truly like the people I work with, the members at the Y, and I most certainly enjoy the classes I teach.

I value continuing education and it is an important part of being a fitness professional. Since my group certification I have also completed a self study course "Physical Activity Instruction of Older Adults" and received specialized training to teach Silver Sneakers (older adults) fitness classes and Silver Sneakers Yoga classes.  A year ago I decided to embark on a new challenge to obtain a Personal Trainer Certification. 

Initially, the majority of my study time was done while sitting in my car at my children's school. I arrived at the school an hour before the first bell for afternoon release and I sat in the car each day reading and studying the training materials. I read through the text book twice and completed the practice exam several times. I even took a portion of a free online Anatomy Course.  As the months passed I added more study aides, shadowed a couple of the trainers at the gym, and practiced on my husband and children in preparation for the exam.  

I received much encouragement and support from my family, friends, coworkers, members, and even some casual acquaintances! Test day came and my daughter left chocolate treats and made good luck signs (*two signs and two treats for two different test dates):
My super-supportive husband helped set me up for the online proctored exam. *We ran into some technical difficulties on the original scheduled test day and had to reschedule the exam for the following week.  

On March 7th I completed the two hour exam and passed the test:
I am now a Certified Personal Trainer.  

A few days ago my daughter told me that she thinks it is really cool that her mom is a fitness instructor and personal trainer. I think it is pretty cool too Elizabeth.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Happy Anniversary!

Celebrating 10 Wonderful Years!
Our First "Just Us" Get-Away 

Beacher's Lodge Oceanfront Suites, St. Augustine, Florida
(click on pic to expand)
Ten years ago we honeymooned in St. Augustine and stayed at the Bayfront Marin House, a wonderful bed and breakfast overlooking the bay.  For our 10th year wedding anniversary we headed back to St. Augustine area but this time we wanted a beach front experience.  We searched for bed and breakfast options but they were all booked up.  No worries, we found a condo style place that looked great. 

We were not disappointed!  The room (#410) was perfect for us with perfect views.  The sights and sounds of the ocean filled our room and the beach was just a few steps away.  We enjoyed food reminiscent of our honeymoon (seafood dip) right on the beach at the South Beach Grill.

On our honeymoon we explored the Castillo de San Marcos Fort and this time we took a ferry over to Fort Matanzas.  We explored the fort from top to bottom.  Then we enjoyed a nice stroll holding hands on a nature trail near the visitors center.  

On our way home we stopped at a roadside fruit stand and discovered another u-pick strawberry patch.  Freshly picked strawberries in hand we arrived back home to a wonderful reception from our daughters and great friends.  They decorated the house and had lots of surprises for us.  We are so very thankful to our wonderful friends Tricia and Keith Sagers for keeping our girls super happy while we were gone.

Monday, February 9, 2015

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You . . .

I must say that I use to end this statement with "Stronger" but a new perspective on this has emerged for me.  The common perspective I am challenging is how the lack of major trials and extreme struggles in one's life results in a weak more shallow individual with less to offer.  This sentiment is often expressed through quotes such as these:  
    "Challenges make you more responsible.  Always remember that life without struggle is a life without success.  Don't give up and learn not to quit."  

    "Challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful." 

Invariably no one lives a life without any struggle, discomfort or pain.  However, does having an abundance of the most difficult challenges and hardships make us better or even stronger people?  

I believe that overcoming challenges and struggles in life can help you to progress. As we put forth effort and seek after opportunities for self-improvement (mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual) and work through our challenges we can gain life experience and can become more responsible.  I believe that our life experiences, especially the connections we make with other people, are what makes life interesting and meaningful. 

I have had an abundance of major life trials and extreme struggles. Many, many people have had much more than I have had, but many many people have had significantly less.  I do not believe that it makes me any more or less strong than either group of people. In fact, as the long list of my own trials and struggles unfolds in my mind I acknowledge that they have resulted in significant changes in my perceptions and how I carry on in life, but they have not necessarily made me stronger.  

Consider this popular quote regularly shared on Facebook:
    "Sometimes the strongest among us are the ones who smile through silent pain, cry behind closed doors, and fight battles nobody knows about."

When I first read this quote I connected with it at one level but mostly it saddened me. Does smiling when your hurting make you a stronger person?  Should we strive to not cry in front of others and refrain from telling anyone about our struggles?  Does that make you a stronger person?  

When I have faced some of my most difficult life experiences alone, those are the ones that have impacted me in the most negative ways.  However, when I have had the support from family and friends, and most importantly have turned to my Father in Heaven for help, I have been given the strength that I needed to endure through those difficult times. 

Consider this quote:
"Challenges will come to you, but as you trust in God they will strengthen your faith"  Elder Neil A. Anderson, Quarum of the Twelve Apostles

That truth has certainly been proven in my life. When I put forth the effort by having faith in God, seeking after, and trusting in Him, I have received from Him the strength that I needed to endure through those experiences.  I am grateful for the Savior, Jesus Christ, and for His atonement.  He has suffered all things that He may know each of our experiences and know exactly how to succor us. The strength that we need to endure to the end comes through Him.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Desire To Be Christ-Like But The Reality Of Our Imperfections:

I can completely relate to a recent blog post by a friend.  The post starts off talking about charity, what it is and how we are suppose to emulate it in our lives.  Then he discusses his own experience in parenting, the kind of experience that all parents experience and wish they hadn't.

The Desire to be Christ-like but the Reality of our Imperfections:

Imperfections are the most frustrating when they impact the ones we love the most.  The adversary would have us torture ourselves in negative feelings about our self-worth, capacity to overcome our weaknesses, and our commitment to following the Savior.  My children are well aware of my imperfections and as a result they learn by my example how to say your sorry when you've done something wrong, how to show an increase in love when you've hurt someone, and how to accept and apply the atonement through the repentance process.  It would be great if we were all perfect but then whose plan would we be following?  

In Heavenly Father's plan we are all imperfect and are striving to become more like the Savior, who is perfect.  When we make a wrong choice, and we all do, then we appropriately feel bad about what we have done.  It is then that we make the decision to repent, to make the wrong right if we can, and to do what we can to not repeat the wrong doing.  When it comes to parenting, I often make the same mistakes (impatience, quick to anger, selfishness, etc.).  Each time I feel bad about my behavior, I do what I can to make things right and I seek for the Lord to help me to make the changes I need to overcome those imperfections. 

In the process the adversary tries to do the following:  He tries to minimize the wrong encouraging me to rationalize that I do not need to repent for the wrong doing (i.e. "I would not have harshly yelled at my child if they were obeying me!").  He also tries to encourage me to feel that I am not a good parent (wife, friend, person, etc.) because of my imperfections.   In addition he will make me feel that the wrong I have done is catastrophic and that I am not worthy of the atonement (to receive this blessing or any blessings).  

In one of the lessons taught today at church the statement was made: 
"Opposition, criticism, and antagonism are companions to the truth. Whenever the truth with regard to the purpose and destiny of man is revealed, there will always be a force to oppose it. Beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, down to the ministry of Christ, and on down to our day, there has always been and will ever be an effort to deceive, derail, oppose, and frustrate the plan of life."

Families are an essential part of Heavenly Father's plan.  As parents we will feel the opposition striving to derail us from our sacred responsibilities and from the blessings that are available to each one of us as we strive to follow God's plan.  Our children, sooner or later, will discover that we, as their parents, are not perfect and that they too are not perfect.  With that knowledge and our examples they can learn to overcome their imperfections, to be tolerant of others and to love one another as Jesus has loved each one of us even with our imperfections.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Help! I Can't Stop Micromanaging My Family (Free chart included in this post!)

I really do have a problem.  I micro manage everyone in my family.  I quite frequently complain to my family that "I don't like micromanaging everything" and that "It drives me crazy!".  There must be a payoff or I would stop doing it right?  I could step outside myself right now and use my social work degree to explore all the theoretical possibilities (after all it was quite an investment), but "who has time for that?" I have another chart to make!

Actually this next chart was brainstormed as a result of a particular micromanaging frustration ~ The Morning Routine.  I was becoming more and more annoyed and frustrated with the constant and repetitive "need" to instruct my two daughters on the steps required to sufficiently get ready for the day.  So I decided to let a chart do (or at least assist in) the micromanaging.
(*See below for instructions on making this chart).
So the charts (one for each of them) went up last week.  It has greatly reduced the need for me to provide constant step by step instructions for the girls as they get ready for the day.  I do however, still have to remind them to check "the chart" and to ask if they have completed "the chart" but it has resulted in a lot less irritation and frustration on my part.  As a bonus the girls like charts and are actually excited to flip over their check marks.

*To Print My Chart: 

*To Print My Check Marks

*To Create Your Own:  Create a chart document.  Use free clip art for "to do" items.  Print out check marks- two different colors.  Cut out and secure two different colored check marks together (so when they flip it over after completing a task the check mark is in a different color and you are ready for the next day). Additional supplies: (1) sheet protector and Velcro Stripping (I found it cheap at Dollar General).  Cut small strips of Velcro onto both sides of the check marks and on the sheet protector.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Our Happy Anniversary

On March 4th we celebrated 9 years together.  

For our anniversary I decided to surprise Sullivan with nine different things that I fondly remembered from our days of courtship.  The first thing I did was to send him a lunchtime e-mail.  At the beginning of the e-mail I wrote:  "I remember very well coming home from work for lunch, practically running into the house, quickly grabbing something to eat and bringing it directly to the computer with great anticipation of receiving an e-mail from you and then sending one off to you before I would return to work.  I loved those e-mails.  The anticipation of receiving a message from you was so great I could think of nothing else from the time I left work for lunch until I would get to my computer."  I then proceeded to share some of my thoughts and feelings about the past 9 years together.

When Sullivan came home from work he walked in with a beautiful bouquet of red roses and baby's breath (baby's breath is my favorite flower) for me and a beautiful card inscribed with a personal and heartfelt note. 

Our anniversary fell on a Tuesday which is our shopping day.  I decided that for the second thing from our courtship days we would hold hands while we were out shopping together.  Holding hands was not only something we did during our courtship days, but it also had a more significant meaning.  Sullivan and I met online on LDS mingle, therefore we did not physically meet for two months. The first time we did hold hands was a very special occasion for me because for the very first time in my life my hand and someone else's hand fit perfectly together. Perhaps I gave this experience a little more weight than it called for, but I was quite sure at the time that it was "a sign".  

The third thing I did was to institute, for a two hour period, a no kissing rule.  Well not exactly no kissing because we could do butterfly kisses (with eye lashes) or Eskimo kisses with our noses.  We both well remember these from our courtship days because we had decided early on that we would not kiss before we were married.  So we held hands and gave each other lots of butterfly and Eskimo kisses!  Our first kiss on the lips occurred on our wedding day.

For the fourth remembrance I gave Sullivan a chocolate eclair for desert.  When we were dating Sullivan told me one of his favorite treats was eclairs so that was the first dessert I gave him while we were courting.
The fifth and sixth surprises were to wear a dress that he bought me while we were dating and then to dance together like we did while we were courting.  Prior to our wedding day we practiced our dance moves before we were to dance together at our reception.  
The seventh item was to read some excerpts from "The Story Of Us."   This was one of two books of remembrance that Sullivan made for us.  It is a compilation of stories, e-mail exchanges and other documentations describing our entire courtship from our very first interaction on LDS Mingle (including a printout of each of our online profiles), to the beginning days of marriage (in the second addition of "The Story Of Us").

The eighth item was remembrances from our wedding night and honeymoon.    

The last remembrance was a follow-up e-mail the next day.  In the e-mail I wrote:

"After your weekend visits, when we were courting, I was always super-excited to hear back from you about our time together.  I would be missing having you in person and would get caught up in the anticipation of hearing from you again."  

I then proceeded to recap our wonderful night together in which we celebrated our love and appreciation for each other.  It truly was a Happy Anniversary! 

* Incidentally, our original plan for our anniversary was to go to a local spa for a couple's massage. The earliest we could get in was March 21st.  We are looking forward to getting those massages soon.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

One more off my bucket list. . .

 My First Race
Yesterday I ran my first 5K race (3.10686 miles). I really do love to exercise (although running is not my favorite exercise) and I am very competitive (although I am a pretty slow runner).  Despite those small drawbacks, for several years I have considered trying out a race.  So, when some members of my church decided to organize a 5K race and the entrance fee was non-perishable food items to be donated to local food banks, I decided This Was It!  I was going to prepare for and run my first (if not only) 5K race.

For the past year I have been teaching group fitness classes at the local YMCA so training went pretty easily.  At the beginning of January I started training by adding a few treadmill runs to my usual workouts and then after a couple of weeks I started running outside.  It took no time to work up to the 3 miles but I had to put some real effort into getting the kind of speed that I would need to reach my goal of (hopefully well) under 10 min. miles (I knew there were going to be more hills on this run than I was use to training on and did I mention that I am well aware that I am not a fast runner?).

The day of the race arrived.  My husband (who does not like exercise but runs 2-3 x's a week) also decided that he would run the race.  The girls came to cheer us on and it was great to do this together as a family.

I was anxious and excited and ready to go!

The race was actually pretty fun.  I finished the race in 29:37 minutes with a pace of 9.32 per mile.  Yup, I made my goal of under 10 minute miles.  Happy Dance!

My girls were right there at the end of the race waiting for me:

My husband is a barefoot runner (he had plantar fasciitis and switched to barefoot running a couple of years ago and since then ~ no more plantar fasciitis).  Unlike me he Is a fast runner.  He finished the race at 21:33 with a pace of 6.56 mile.  He finished 4th overall and 3rd in his age group (18yrs and up!).  


He wears the medal well!

That really was a fun experience especially sharing in it with friends 

And my family!
Yup, I foresee more races in the future.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Past and Future

Approximately every six months I naturally do a bit of self-analysis.  I consider where I am and where I would like to be going. This often includes a look at my physical, mental, emotional, and my spiritual well-being and /or relationships with others.  It is not something I plan out or make myself do, it is a cyclical occurrence that I consider a blessing in my life.   Through these reflective experiences, I have often rekindled an appreciation for my own life and for the people I have in it, as well as generating hope for my future.

Last March I found inspiration from a Primary song: "If The Savior Stood Beside Me" .   I wrote in a blog entry:
"I know that I am not perfect but I am striving to be a disciple of Christ, to be a loving and supportive wife and mother.  I hope that the lyrics of this song can find a place to call home in my heart and in my mind, that I may always think of my Savior standing next to me".

In September I wrote
"For almost as long as I can remember I have been self-conscious about various aspects of my appearance. Over the years there have been stretches of time that I was much less self-conscious, accepting of, even confident in my appearance; the pendulum swings through time and circumstance."

During this reflective state I was able to consider my own self-image and come to a better understanding of how my personal habits have been directly influenced by that self-image. Furthermore, I was able to see a better path for my future as a result of the process.

In January 2012 I wrote in another blog entry:
" I have been thinking about the new year and what I would like to accomplish.  I thought about working on being a better mother, spouse, friend, etc.  What it all comes down to for the new year is that I want to be more like Jesus.  I am not talking about becoming a fanatic about my religion but to apply these simple principles, found in the lyrics to this song, to my daily living." 
The song I was referring to was another Primary song,  "I'm Trying To Be Like Jesus."

Which brings me to now, 2014.  January is one of my favorite months.  I was born in January, I was baptized a member of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the month of January (1987), and although my mother died in the month of January (in the year 1995 just days before my 25th birthday), God's Plan of Salvation allows me to know that I will see her again.  I know that my mother is safe and well and busy working in heaven.  Despite the great loss of not having her here with me, I know and feel that she is very much a part of my life.  I am truly grateful for this knowledge, and it is a great comfort and blessing in my life.  Finally, January starts a new year and as previously indicated, it naturally is a great time for me to reflect on my life both past and future. 

This month I am drawn back to my previous inspirations, the two Primary songs: "If The Savior Stood Beside Me"  and  "I'm Trying To Be Like Jesus." .   I think of the Savior every day.  I think about the choices I make each day that are pleasing to Him and I feel His love everyday.  I also recognize the many times each day that I fall short and make choices that are not pleasing to Him.  I still feel His love every day. 

I often tell my daughters that no matter what they do, no matter how bad they are behaving, or how upset I am with them, "I will Always Love Them No Matter What!"   It is the same with our Heavenly Father and The Savior, no matter what choices we make they will always love us.  

I tell my daughters that Jesus will never walk away from them, that only they can walk away from Him.  I know that I often make choices that cause me to walk away from the Savior but I also know that I can turn around and walk back toward Him and He will always be there for me.

One final inspiration for the coming year came to me a few days ago.  My four-year-old has been going through a very demanding and whiny stage that has been very taxing to deal with.  It has been going on for quite some time now and my patience with it has dwindled to next to nothing.  A thought came to me that I needed to separate myself from her, not physically, but intellectually and emotionally not allow her reactions and responses to control my feelings and responses. Easier said than done, but I look forward to using this inspiration to make my future, with my daughter, a lot brighter. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

My Little Experiment

For almost as long as I can remember I have been self-conscious about various aspects of my appearance. Over the years there have been stretches of time that I was much less self-conscious, accepting of, even confident in my appearance; the pendulum swings through time and circumstance.

Despite periods of self-satisfaction, I have always worn make-up.  I have worn make-up since I was somewhere in my teen years, when my mother reluctantly consented, stating that I was "beautiful without make-up".  Along with make-up, I used long hair and bangs to hide my self-aggrandized imperfections.  

My mother was my model for this particular life decision, that is, to wear make-up.  She wore light make-up and always wore lipstick. She would go to the mailbox only after applying lipstick.   I can only conjure up a couple of times that I have left my home without make-up on, and I think both times I had it with me in the car to apply before arriving at my destination.

All that said, I decided to try a little experiment (no, I did not go out in public without make-up).  I applied my regular make-up regime to only one side of my face and left the other side o'natural.  I then approached my husband with camera in hand and asked him to snap a photo of my face.  Before handing over the camera I asked him if he noticed anything different about me.  At this point he was standing directly in front of me, inches from my face.  He started to discuss my hair.  I redirected him to my face.  He was puzzled and perplexed unable to identify the change.

I informed him of my little experiment, he nodded and said something like "you don't wear a lot of make-up"
and then he took this photo:

(Does this pic count as going out in public without make-up on?)
I studied the pic for a few minutes and contemplated his response.  I looked in the mirror as I proceeded to complete the application process on the other side.   I thought about the countless hours I have engaged in covering-up (albeit a light application).  I considered the cumulative cost of products over the years. I still think I look better in make-up, but I also think I have put much too much emotional, physical, and mental energy into the "needing" to wear make-up.

I wonder if my two daughters will absorb the same "need".  They watch me apply make-up every day. They have asked obvious questions regarding my daily and consistent application process:  "What are you doing to your face mommy?"  My response, "I'm fixing my face."  The reply, "Is it broken?"  I have yet to find a comfortable response to any of their questions.

Ultimately, I would like to think that my mother was right.  Perhaps I can use this little experiment to focus my energy on much more important things in life, with or without make-up.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I Don't Always Believe What You Believe and That's Okay. . .Isn't It?

There have been a lot of very controversial subjects in the media over past couple of years. Some of the topics have kindled my emotions and have challenged my thinking.  However, it has been the discussions in public and social media that have had the most significant impact on me. 

In many cases my own beliefs and conclusions on the subjects have been diametrically opposed to the mainstream media and some of my friends' and family members' beliefs and opinions. These differing of opinions presented me with an opportunity to more fully consider and reflect on my own beliefs.  Although I embraced the opportunity to talk with my spouse about my thoughts and feelings on the matters, I refrained from openly discussing my opinions on social media.  It was not simply that I was uncomfortable that I did not share the same opinions or beliefs that many of my friends shared, but it was the often hostile expressions of their beliefs that closed the door to communication and disheartened me. 

The opposing opinions expressed by others were often presented in such a way that I believed if I expressed my differing belief my relationship with them would ultimately be at risk.  In some cases there were personal attacks on those who expressed opposing views.  I saw friendships dissipate and communication within some families stop as a result.  Some of the issues under consideration became so charged with emotion driven responses that people began to questioned eternal truths and their own faith.  

I know of the goodness within so many of these individuals and my heart aches for what they have given up.  It is disheartening to watch intelligent goodhearted people allow emotion driven responses to overcome rational expression of personal views and opinions.  

There will be many more issues that will be hashed out over the media.  Am I going to witness more of these emotionally driven discussions that push aside basic rights to have an opinion?  Am I too much of an idealist to expect open communication and thoughtful discussion of even the most serious of issues?

From a gospel centered perspective, I know to expect more and more conflict and I know that we each individually have a choice as to how we respond to all the tumultuous noise that will be sounding off around us.  We can either contribute to it or follow the Saviors' path and shine the light of peace and forgiveness through the thick smog of confusion, frustration and pain.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rachel ~ Lost & Found

Today I took the girls to an Easter egg hunt event in a neighboring town.  Sullivan was at a church meeting so it was just me and the girls.  I knew there were going to be a lot of people at this event so I took a few precautions.  I wore a super-bright pink shirt and instructed the girls to stay close to me and to always look for mommy's shirt if you get separated even a little.

We arrived without any difficulty and found the event to be very well organized and structured.  There were lots of fun games and activities for kids and the girls and I were having a great time.  The egg drop was the main attraction for the event.  The hunt was divided up by age groups.  The times and locations were different for each age group.  Elizabeth and Rachel went together.  There were hundreds of people gathered around the area for the egg drop.  They instructed the parents not to go in with the children into the area during the egg hunt.  They counted down for the kids to go and off went Elizabeth and Rachel into the crowd.  I was able to see Rachel a few times, but soon the crowd became too scattered and I lost track of them both.  It was a fairly small area for the egg hunt so I waited for the girls to come back to me.

After all the eggs were collected Elizabeth came out from the crowd but there was no sign of Rachel.  I grabbed Elizabeth's hand and we set off to find her.  After all the crowd had dispersed Rachel was still no where to be found.  I told every event organizer I could find and they announced Rachel's missing status over the PA.  I found some friends of mine who were at the event and we all set off looking for Rachel.  My heart was breaking as each minute passed and I began to imagine how afraid she might be and even that I might not find her.  So many feelings swarmed me and I turned to my Father in heaven, a pleading child of God, to help me find her and that she would be safe and well.  I was praying out-loud at this point and I was feeling more and more helpless as the minutes passed.

Finally, I heard my friend's voice yelling to me that she was found.  I turned toward the voice; he was carrying her and walking towards me.  I began to cry as I held my baby girl Rachel.  Rachel had no idea that she was even lost.  She had gone to the other area where the older kids were gathered around their Easter Egg Hunt awaiting their turn to collect Easter eggs.  Elizabeth and I however had quite an experience together that we would not want to repeat.  In talking with Elizabeth about the experience Elizabeth expressed her love for Rachel and how grateful she was to have Rachel back.  When we got home we knelt together and thanked Heavenly Father for watching over Rachel and bringing her back to us.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"If The Savior Stood Beside Me"

Today at church in Primary (the children's program) the children were practicing a song they will be singing in the Fall for the Primary Children's Program.  "If The Savior Stood Beside Me", (there are several versions around on the internet here is one that I thought was nice:"If The Savior Stood Beside Me" , I also liked this version and this child's voice version). I heard this song several years ago and it touched my heart today as much as it did the first time I heard it, perhaps even more.

As a wife and mother of two young children, ages 3 and 6, I have learned a lot about myself as I have tried to care for, teach, nurture, and discipline my two daughters, along with trying to be a supportive help-meet to my spouse. Although I believe that I have tried to do the best that I can, I know that I have fallen short much of the time.  I have learned that it is in my nature to be impatient, selfish, controlling, and quick tempered.  These are not characteristics that I regard in any way as acceptable.  I know that these things are not pleasing to God.  I do not want my children to learn these behaviors from their own mother and I certainly do not want to pass these traits onto them.  I also cannot be a very good spouse if these characteristics are left unchecked.  

In the scriptures the Savior taught us about the characteristics that followers of Christ should exhibit.    From a talk given by JUAN A. UCEDA Of the Seventy  "He Teaches Us To Put Off The Natural Man":

"He teaches us to be submissive, or in other words, to yield to the will or power of the Lord. He teaches us to be meek, or in other words, to be “mild of temper; soft; gentle; not easily provoked or irritated; yielding; given to forbearance under injuries.”  He teaches us to be humble, or in other words, “lowly; modest; meek; submissive; opposed to proud, haughty, arrogant, or assuming.” He teaches us to be patient, or in other words, “having the quality of enduring evils without murmuring or fretfulness” or “calm under the sufferance of injuries or offenses.” He teaches us to be full of love.  He teaches us to put off the natural man.  He teaches us to become “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.” And then we will reconcile ourselves to God, and we will become friends to God. "

My Sharing Time lesson today was on the atonement of Christ.  I am grateful for the power of the Savior’s Atonement to cleanse, purify, and make us and our homes holy as we strive to put off the natural man and follow Him.  I know that I am not perfect but I am striving to be a disciple of Christ, to be a loving and supportive wife and mother.  I hope that the lyrics of this song can find a place to call home in my heart and in my mind, that I may always think of my Savior standing next to me:

"If The Savior Stood Beside Me" words and music by Sally Deford


If the Savior stood beside me, would I do the things I do?
Would I think of His commandments and try harder to be true?
Would I follow His example? Would I live more righteously,
If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?

If the Savior stood beside me, would I say the things I say?
Would my words be true and kind if He were never far away?
Would I try to share the gospel? Would I speak more reverently
If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?

If the Savior stood beside me, would my thoughts be clean and pure?
Would His presence give me strength and hope, and courage to endure?
Would His counsel guide my actions? Would I choose more worthily
If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?

If the Savior stood beside me, would I often kneel to pray?
Would I listen to the Spirit's voice, and hasten to obey?
Would I count my many blessings? Would I praise Him gratefully
If I could see the Savior standing nigh watching over me?

If the Savior stood beside me, would I comfort those in need?
Would I try to show the Savior's love in every word and deed?
Would I give to those who hunger? Would I serve more willingly
If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?

He is always near me, though I do not see Him there
And because He loves me dearly, I am in His watchful care
So I'll be the kind of person that I know I'd like to be
If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Happy Anniversary

8th Wedding Anniversary

Eight years can seem like a long time or feel like it flew by.  Well for me it is a little of both.  A lot of life has happened in just 8 years mostly good, some bad, some just challenging, and countless blessings.  Through it all we continue to love each other; to strive to strengthen our marriage; to apply gospel principles to our lives together; to celebrate the good and to comfort and support through the bad.  Knowing that our marriage will last through all eternity, as long as we continue to follow the path together, is a tremendous blessing that is both motivating and comforting.  I am grateful that Heavenly Father sent me Sullivan and our two beautiful daughters to love and to enjoy.  It truly is a Happy Anniversary.
On our anniversary I put on my wedding dress and Sullivan and I danced to our wedding CD.  Putting my dress on again after 8 years and dancing with Sullivan brought back some amazing feelings and memories.  I look forward to trying my dress on again in another 8 years and dancing the night away with you Sullivan!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Slowing Down

Slowing down has not been a part of my lifestyle pattern for quite some time.  I have almost prided myself on packing as much into a day as I can.  In the most recent General Conference,  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency said,

"Isn’t it true that we often get so busy? And, sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life."

As a stay-at-home mother I spend a lot of time with my children but as I look at my daily interactions I realized that I have found lots of ways to spend less and less time actually interacting with my children and even my spouse.  Of course I do not need to spend every waking hour interacting with my children (see my previous post here) or my spouse, but I do want to be sure I am not actually avoiding spending time with them.  President Uchtdorf counseled:

"Let us resolve to cherish those we love by spending meaningful time with them, doing things together, and cultivating treasured memories."

Over the past week I have consciously made efforts to slow down a little.  To take time to have more meaningful interactions with my family and also to take time to relax and listen for the quiet whisperings of the Spirit.  As a result I have had more promptings from the Spirit and I have enjoyed spending a little more meaningful time with my family.  

Surprisingly, the things I was doing to fill up my time have not been missed!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Certified Group Fitness Instructor

I have always enjoyed physical activity and exercise.  When I was a young child I loved to test my muscle strength.  One of my favorites was to wrap my arms around my mother's legs and try to pick her up off the ground (she did not share in the joy of this experience).  I also enjoyed moving furniture and other heavy objects and performing manual labor activities.  The motivation was as much my competitive nature as the feeling of using my muscles.   I even enjoy the soreness of muscles after breakdown and as they are in the process of repair.  When I was in high school I joined the soccer team and I remember taking pride in flexing the muscles of my quadriceps and seeing significant muscle definition.  Admittedly, I still enjoy flexing my muscles.

I have not always been involved in sporting activities or had a gym membership.  I have been significantly out of shape a few times throughout my life, but I always get to a point where I make a commitment to get in shape.  At the age of 30 I returned to playing soccer, first in a woman's outdoor league and then in a co-ed indoor league.   After a few years I took a couple of years off playing soccer, got married and had my first child.  Six months later I was back on the soccer field until I was pregnant with my second child.  Again, six months later I was back playing and I am currently playing in a woman's soccer league.  I also love my gym membership!

Having children, especially in my thirties, resulted in some pretty significant physical changes.  I was pretty sure I would not be able to recover the shape or form of my body I enjoyed prior to childbirth (x2).  However, after making a commitment to myself to lose weight in a healthy way and rebuild my physical fitness level, I recently reached my weight and fitness goals and I am feeling great!

My field of education and employment experience is in social work.  I have temporarily left my professional career to take the opportunity to care for, nurture, and teach my two small children. In my professional career and in my church service callings I have always most enjoyed the opportunities I had to teach groups.  Five months ago I decided I would combine my love of fitness, teaching, and helping others and pursue certification as a group fitness instructor.  After much hard work and preparation and an entire day of training and testing, I received this in the mail yesterday:
I am now officially certified as a group fitness instructor.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Perspective: Time Away From Our Children

A friend, and someone who is really one of the nicest people I have ever known, wrote a post on Facebook.  She wrote:

"I am always perplexed when I hear moms say they can't wait for their kids to go back to school or they can't wait for moms night out. Working and still doing all the mom things ( cleaning, grocery shopping, PTO, Sunday school and youth activities, laundry...)"

My first thought was, well, I am one of those moms.  I really enjoy spending some time away from my children every day.  I dearly love my children, I like being with my children, I am grateful to have them in my life.  I made the decision and took appropriate steps to leave my professional career to stay home with my children.

The fact is, I find the immaturities and irrational natures of children quite taxing.  I find it physically, emotionally, and mentally stressful to be around children for long periods of time without some away time.  That does not mean that I do not like children, or that I do not deeply love and appreciate my children.  It does not mean that I don't want to be a stay-at-home mom.  I take the privilege and responsibility of being a mother quite seriously and I am sincerely grateful for those blessings.

I know that my friend, who is an amazing mother and school teacher, has been given the beautiful gifts that allow her to feel the way she does and to wonder how it is even possible to feel any differently about a mother's desire to spend time with her own children.  I know that we are not all given the same gifts, talents, abilities, or personalities.  I know there are lots of really amazing mothers who feel the same way I do.  I am grateful for the friends in my life who do not share my perspective.  It reminds me to be open minded and to be careful not to judge others.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Delightful Reunion

I believe some people are suppose to be in our lives.  Of course, our family members are in our lives (unless we choose otherwise).  Family can offer many things, not always what we expect, want, or need, but family serves a tremendous purpose in life.  Friendships also serve a great purpose.

I have had many friends come in and out of my life.  I have lost many close family members and relatives.  Although I miss those close relationships I have learned to appreciate the experiences I had and to accept that relationships are not static; life is not static.  I do not usually consider an inactive friendship a failure.  The experiences we shared together had meaning, purpose and impacted my life.

When I turned forty I felt compelled to do some retracing.  I looked up some past friends and acquaintances (mostly on Facebook).  I had an opportunity to meet up with a few of my closest friends from my schooldays (middle and high school).  I was amazed at how awesome these women are (still) and how much some of their best qualities, that I remember from when we were young, were still prominent.

A couple weeks ago I had an opportunity to vacation in Utah where one of my closest friends from middle school was now living.  We met at a local zoo and spent the day getting to know each others spouses and children.  I was so very pleased to see us, and our families, coming together almost seamlessly.  In no time I was feeling a delightful sense of closeness to her and to her family.  It became clear that our friendship had survived over 25 years of inattention.  Once again, some people are suppose to be in our lives!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Being Happy

A friend posted a quote on Facebook from a source that is very dear to my heart:

“In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.” - Gordon B. Hinckley

I believe this to be true.  I want to apply this principle to my life every day.  I ache to be happy.  I have 1,000 reasons to be happy.  I do things that I enjoy, I do things of which I have fun, and I definitely love laughter.  When I was a child I remember getting caught up in laughter, taking me to a state of out-of-control.  With tears running down my face and a sore belly the ride would eventually come to a stop.  Laughter often comes now as a surprise like a sudden jolt of electricity that tickles my soul.  I will sometimes keep a laugh going beyond the reality of the humor in hopes of savoring the feeling just a little longer.  Sometimes that makes me sad. 

I have read a lot of books and have been well educated on how to acknowledge life's difficulties and then move on or use them to better ourselves.  I know that our thoughts can determine how we feel.  I have a strong faith in God and that He wants me to be happy. I know that I am a child of God and that I am eternally loved.  I have great reasons to be joyful, happy, and to enjoy life.  I continue to press forward with faith that I can live life happily rather than just enduring.  That I can truly realize and accept that life really is to be enjoyed, that despite the 1,000 reasons I have to be sad, I can rather be happy.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Preparing My Family For General Conference

I am looking forward to General Conference next weekend.   First I am working towards being spiritually, mentally, and physically prepared myself.  I am also looking forward to getting together all my preparations for my family.  The girls require lots of activities and attention getters so I do my best to plan ahead.  Here are some of my plans:
We set up tents in the living room facing the television.  We used sheets and blankets last April:
Last October and this coming weekend I plan to use these:
General Conference Treasure Box

This activity will help to catch their attention when there is a new speaker.  It will also help them to learn to recognize the apostles and their names.  And they get special fun treasures!
Print out the apostles pictures and names and paste 1 on each side of the box (2 per box).  When one of the apostles speaks they find the box with his name and picture and enjoy the treasure inside the box:
I have a little candy, bubbles, stickers, and other things the girls will enjoy.

Print Treasure Chest picture here.  Print apostle pictures here or  here

Conference Squares Matching
I love the conference squares.  For my girls I like to make stickers out of them and use it as a matching game:

On the last Sunday session we enjoy pampering each other with hand massages and hair brushing. Check out last April's pampering here.

Coloring and Other Activities
LDS.org has some coloring pages here and some other activities for children here.

One of my favorite resource sites is Sugardoodle.  They have some great ideas for General Conference here. Check out the General Conference notebook at Sugardoodle for older kids.

You can get the April 2012 General Conference packets for Primary age children here and for younger children here.

For More Information About General Conference go here.  Happy General Conference!