Monday, August 27, 2012

Friends and family visits

We were so very, very lucky to see some friends and family this summer passing through town. I love it when this happens!

My Aunt Sharon stopped by, and I had such a nice visit. We actually had ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ on at the time, and talked about when she worked on the show with Mom. I totally biffed it on not taking a picture, but I absolutely love it when Sharon sees me:)

My old buddy Andy and sweet Stacy made an epic road trip with their little men to visit their family out here. We had a mass friend gathering in their honor. So much food, and people everywhere socializing. At one moment, I wondered if this is what big family gatherings were like. It was so great to see them!



Last week, my cousins and their families were heading south and stopped to see me. It made my day! I’ve been following them on their blogs. They are amazing, beautiful, and so talented. To see them in person was so much better than just on the blogs. The boys had fun playing with other kids, and I wanted to talk and talk with all the adults and learn more about them. Only had so much time before they left.

My dear cousin Lana!


Kids brought the kitchen out, always a hit. I laughed when Kris mentioned Kevin climbing right up there. I think I’m so used to my boys climbing and being so physical everywhere, ha ha!


Penny is SO cute!


Oh man, this picture is so great but hard to get all the kids to coordinate, but this is a real kid moment:) My goodness, my boys are SO tan! Desert heat summer, that’s for sure.


Last time we did this shot, it was at Kevin’s baby blessing! There’s Kevin down there in the pic, doing a good job wearing his big boy underwear. Melany, me and Lana. Love them:)


My little girl and me. Too bad I blinked, but still love this pic!


Now, the fall begins. So thankful for this summer. All the church pool parties. The swimming lessons. The food, library, and friends. A new chapter starts now, with new adventures of well, working, getting caught up with bills, and the fall season, the best!! Love Fall:)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Memories from the mission

I have a friend who will be leaving soon to serve an 18 month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This post may or may not be written for her, and any other sister going on a mission soon:)

The thoughts I’m about to share with you all reflect my personal testimony of this church, this wonderful, beautiful gospel. I completely and honestly know that this church is the only true church, with all the missing doctrine pieces, on this earth today. This church is a ‘living’ church, with a true, living prophet, a modern day Moses or Noah. I was brought up in the church, but have always felt the Holy Ghost confirm to me of it’s truthfulness as I lived its teachings, kept the commandments, and read from my scriptures. When I served in the Jacksonville Florida mission in 2002-2004, my testimony of the gospel exploded as I was in new surroundings, far from home, and needed to rely heavily on the Saviour for answers, peace, and direction.

Now, for my friend, and some good memories for my dear mission friends:)

You are about to embark on one of the greatest experiences of your life. 18 months will fly by, fast. You have no idea what you are getting into. No idea. The images that you see on church videos, posters, and such about missions don’t hold a candle to the truthfulness of missions. It will be hard and it will be wonderful. First, get ready for the Missionary Training Center, MTC.

The MTC alone is an amazing experience all of its own. You enter an ocean of missionaries from all over, tons of suits and dresses with name tags. You get to sleep in ‘dorms’ with tons of other sister missionaries, and have a blast at night. You’ll make a ton of friends, and have good scripture/devotional time. In the morning, the power may go out from the maximum use of hair dryers simultaneously. It’s really funny.

Class time with your district, small group of missionaries, will be precious, golden, spiritual education. You’re teachers will be so kind and impart to you their humble testimonies and excellent wisdom you’ll need for the field, wherever you are called to serve. You’ll love how in class, it’s always started with prayer, and everyone kneels to pray. Every time. There is great power in a kneeling, vocal prayer. I think just the action of kneeling truly makes prayer more meaningful.

Be prepared to witness sacred and amazing moments. I have to tell this story from my MTC time.

In my little group, there was one elder (19 year old young man missionary. The name ‘elder’ means teacher.) that you could tell was the slightly rebellious, class clown type. He was funny and kind, but didn’t take anything too seriously. Well, about a week into our classes, something special happened. During one of the lessons, he was asked a question by our sweet teacher. He started to cry. After a moment, the teacher asked “What are these tears? Are they tears of sadness or joy?” to which he said “I don’t know” Then, he said “I just know that I have to get home, and tell my friends about the church. I have to tell them as fast as I can. I want them to know its true.” ( Ah! Goosebumps writing this and remembering it now)

After he said those words, his buddies sitting next to him hugged him, and warm peace was felt so strongly in that room. The words I remember thinking at that time were “Oh, if the parents could only see this.” I thought about his parents far away, and how they probably knew that their son didn’t have a strong testimony yet, and were praying for him to grow and learn on his mission. You see, the parents don’t get to see the middle of the mission, the growing part. They only see the before and after, the young 19 year old boy that they say good bye to for 2 years, and the returning 21 year old young man who has matured and grown leaps and bound from his mission. You are the lucky one who will serve around these young elders, be in plenty of meetings and teaching areas with them, and see the growth. It’s awesome, a real treat.

Everything you’ve learned about the gospel from your family and church attendance will be dumped on with tons more learning from your MTC time. The first week, we couldn’t stop staying “ I can’t believe how much I’ve learned in 3 days.” Journal it. Take notes in the side panels of your scripture pages. Hang on to everything, because you’ll need it in the field. Kind of. The field is a completely different experience from the mtc, ha ha!

It’s an humbling experience when an apostle of the Lord comes to speak to the missionaries at the MTC. Being in the same room, hearing his voice give counsel, oh, it’s one of those best days ever. When you shake their hand, you just feel their goodness and spiritual magnitude flow from their hand into yours.

Then, it’s time to get on a plane and go to your where ever you are serving. A tad exciting? Oh yeah! Nervous? Incredibly. Get used to standing out like a sore thumb. Everyone will see you dressed in church clothes, and that black name tag you’re wearing. Smile at everyone, because everyone is watching you out of the corner of their eye. Start planting good seeds about the gospel by your smile, a humble act of love.

Now, get ready for this. The only alone time you will ever have for the next 18 months is when you use a restroom. (On a mission, missionaries are always teamed up with a companion, another missionary their age. One of the rules is that you must always be with your companion for safety and protection, 24-7, except of course, when using a bathroom:) The bathroom will be a sacred haven. There are times when you might be with a companion that has a different personality or quirks that you just don’t mesh well with. It happens. The bathroom is a wonderful place for a personal time out. Maybe that’s why today in my home, I have spiritual thoughts and stuff plastered on my bathroom wall next to the toilet:)

You’ll have companions that will be great friends, and companions that you may struggle with. You might even have the fun of being in a ‘threesome’, the blessing of two other companions with you. Those are good times. When my companion and I had bunk beds delivered to our apartment, my companion danced around singing “We’re going to be a threesome”. All I could think of was, “Well, let’s see how this flows” Well, it flowed in many ways. Water fights at night, giggling at bedtime, and three entirely different personalities with ideas and opinions going everywhere. One time, we had some struggles, and I was trying to keep everyone afloat. You know that part on “Sense and Sensibility”, when Elinor is trying to comfort everyone, but all her sisters and mom are in separate rooms crying? Yea, pretty much had the exact same thing happen, but it all worked out, and it will be ok. You learn to be humble, and think of others more than yourself. Patience, patience, and more patience is needed when being in a companionship, and you’ll learn some great life long lessons. Totally applicable for marriage, too.

There will be kind church members in your area that will take on the role of ‘mission mom’. They will have you over for dinner regularly, make sure you are well fed and given anything you need, and look out for you. These people are saints, and in my opinion, will be granted a seat in the celestial kingdom. It can be hard to be so far away from home, family, and familiarity. Mission moms rock.

Mail will never be more valued than during your mission. Getting letters from home, packages, or emails, are gold. My dear, sweet mom would always try to send me $20 here and there. She loved to send me clothes and slippers. Sometimes, the slippers would not fit me but it was a score for my companion. Expensive ones, too. Glad it helped her. (Just had to make you smile while you’re reading this, dear companion, ha ha!)

If you are not afraid to talk to people, you will have a blast talking to them on the street, store, everywhere about the gospel. One of the best parts of the mission is meeting so many different kinds of people and hearing their stories. Some may slam the door in your face, swear at you, tell you what they think of the church, or give you a gatorade and tell you that you’re doing a good cause, and then, some may want to hear more of your message. Try not to freak out and scream for joy when this happens, and scare them. Baby steps. The spirit will guide you to these people who are waiting and ready to learn about the gospel. There will be many who are not ready, who you will plant seeds of small tidbits of the message, and these seeds will bloom later. You will plant lots of seeds, by giving out a Book of Mormon to someone on the street, sharing your testimony, praying with someone, and more. Don’t get discouraged. Keep your chin up, and remember how lucky you are to be on a mission. No utility bills, car insurance, and kids to worry about yet. Just the simple tasks of filling you back pack up each day before you leave, getting up at 6:30, personal studies. It’s wonderful.

One of the greatest things you will ever do is teach someone how to pray. Oh, how I loved this. You see, some people don’t know that they are a child of God. They don’t know that there was life before here on earth, and they don’t know that they have a Heavenly Father who knows and loves them.

I served out in redneckville of central Florida. I loved it. Anytime I see “Oh, Brother, where art thou?”, I get a little emotional. Just the language and feel of the south brings it all back to me. One time, my companion and I taught this sweet truck driver about prayer, and how to say one. Then, (this is where you have to be brave and trust the spirit), we asked him to kneel with us and say the prayer, his first one. The most humblest and sincere prayers come from those who are offering a vocal prayer for their first time. It’s so beautiful, and I can’t wait for you to have this experience.

Ok, funny stuff. You are going to be serving and hanging out with the other missionaries in your area constantly, the majority of them guys. Be prepared, because most of the elders will be stinking hotties. No joke. It’s like this; when a guy is righteous, lives his life clean, keeps the commandments, is obedient to the mission rules, has a sense of humor, and a darling personality, he’s dead gorgeous. Celebrities and Calvin Klein models don’t hold a dime next to LDS missionaries. Girls in the wards where elders are serving swoon for them secretly. You’ll be surprised to hear of how many elders and sister missionaries fall for each other, hook up after the mission, and some don’t even make it out of the MTC without going home to marry their MTC teacher. The poor mission president sometimes has to keep track of these little romances, and transfer the missionaries apart. Some are meant to find their eternal sweeties on the mission, and some are not. It’s all good. The funny thing is that even though you’re a missionary, and do not date or do anything of the kind on the mission, youre still a girl, and will still have to stay focused on the work, even when you’re around hottie elders. I recently saw a picture of my cousin serving in Australia on Facebook. Yup, he’s a cutie, and is a wonderful missionary judging by the great emails he sends home. No doubt he’s causing a stir with girls in his ward over there, ha ha!

Also, when you’re around your companion all day, and just need a girl break, there is nothing more relieving than to answer the phone at night when the elders call to make sure you’re home safe and to get some daily info, just to be able to talk to a guy. It’s hilarious to hear the phone ring, and see three girls screaming and diving for the phone, wringing it out of each other’s hands. Oh man, this post is so fun to write.

A small blessing; if by chance you happen to make friends with one of the hot elders in your district that knows how to be friends with you without crossing the line of being too close for mission rules, who looks out for you, and helps you stay sane through all the trials of mission life, count yourself very, very blessed. 

Working with inactive members of the church is so incredibly rewarding and wonderful. Sometimes, all it takes is small act of service of lending them some church clothes to attend church again. Never underestimate that by ‘small and simple things are great things brought to pass.’ Small things are huge things.

It’s ok to eat mac and cheese or top ramen for breakfast regularly. Try to be brave and get rid of the roaches and mice yourself in your apartment, rather than calling the kind ward member to come and do it for you.

Zone conferences and mission conferences are spiritual powerhouses. Elder Gene R. Cook came out to our mission and taught us. Another ‘apostle’ moment, when the spirit is so strong you can cut through it with a knife. You will leave those conferences energized and ready to get back and serve better.

You’ll learn to pray always, literally. Always involve the Lord in everything. When you’re companion is teaching and your sitting next her, mentally pray for your companion. It’s a wonderful habit to form, and you’ll end up doing it after the mission, when your friend is teaching the lesson at church to the young women.

You will fall in love with your scriptures. So many jewels will be found. It helps to find church answers in the bible, along with the rest of the scriptures, because the people you teach mostly know the bible. Then, it helps to back up the bible scriptures with the Book of Mormon verses. They go hand in hand beautifully. You will be so excited to do your personal studies. It’s true. Never again in your life will you have the opportunity of getting up and doing personal studies, with no distractions, for an hour. Don’t get me wrong, when you get home, you still can schedule your personal study time, but life happens. You get married, have kids, and have more distractions from that unique personal study time on the mission. The trick is to keep up the studies all through out life.

Lastly, don’t let Satan get you down. He’s such a jerk, as he tends to work hard on the thoughts of good missionaries, making them think that they’re not doing good enough. Much wasted time can come from letting him have control over your thoughts. Memorize scriptures, immerse yourself in the work, have good music to listen to. Just keep swimming, but be aware of the adversary so you don’t let him wreck your day. You will be a fantastic missionary.

Then, it’s time to come home and resume normal life, because mission life is not normal. It’s wonderful, special, super hard, sacred, spiritual, and the best 18 months of your life. How blessed you are to have the opportunity to serve a mission. I cannot wait to return on a mission with my dear husband when we’re cute, old foggies.

Oh, there is so much to write about a mission, but I must stop and get to bed. Today was a day of potty training, breaking up fights, hugging and loving my kiddos, and feeding the dogs. Thank you for giving me a chance to go back in time, and remember an amazing chapter of my life. It was wonderful.

I wish my stinking printer was working and I could scan more mission pics for this post, but thankfully, here’s on of me and my dear companions. We served 6 months together, and had some great times. She helped me so much. Oh, the Florida humidity, the hair! Pre-sulfate days, ha ha!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer’s almost over

Can you believe it? Somehow, this summer flew by. I’m trying to keep up and slow down at the same time. Swimming lessons, park in the morning, learning from this year’s gardening experience, and more.

Here’s some instagrams of our moments. I love trying to capture the moments with Instagram!



Love it when this happens, although it usually ends up rowdy and rough.


Water parks! Can’t live without them.


One weekend, we decided to get rid of all the landscaping rocks in our backyard. They give off a ton of heat, and were roasting the garden. My goodness, what an enormous job that was. We hired one helper, and between him and Shaun, we got it done. I remember helping out raking up the little piles, while they took loads out to the large dumpster. We were bone tired. We took turns resting while one of us took care of the kids. It was so worth it. You could feel the difference in the temperature back there.



All from the backyard, wow!


Sweet Brooke, on a teething day.



Isn’t this picture darling? Ethan is so huge, and Brooke is so tiny! This just makes me smile.



Swimming lessons for Ethan!



I have always felt that books are such an important part of life. I make sure there is a basket of books in the most rooms to grab from. We use the library SO much. It’s a candy store.


Glow sticks at bath time!


Our random rain that we cherish!


Ever since I stumbled upon the idea of ‘child led weaning’, feeding Brooke has been tons easier!



Ethan and Kevin at our homeschool play group. They had a big birthday party for everyone. Lots of fun.




Love this pic. I got a sitter, and took Shaun with me to one of my wedding jobs. This was a beautiful outdoor reception, and it was so fun to have him there. I’d go around taking pictures, and then eat some yummy food with him. I loved this night.


I went on a church activity with the youth, and the boys had a blast. Boats, I mean, come on? Boy heaven. There were lots of fish in the water. One touched Ethan’s leg and he completely freaked. It was funny.


Boys in my new garden boxes. Nothing makes me happier than having more space to grow food!



I’m preparing to start our homeschooling in September, and have been buying curriculum of Amazon. It’s exciting. I’m trying to not get overwhelmed, and keep things simple. Simple, simple, is what I always love and yet, its not always simple over here. Crazy at times, of course. It will be a great learning adventure.

Brooke is finally pushing herself up on her tummy more! I got to get a pic of it to show, but at 10 months she’s getting there:) I love hearing her giggle and her holding on to me when I carry her. It’s the best.

Yesterday, we got Kevin a little potty, and tried for the third time to potty train him. He shocked us by pooping in it, his first success. Highly great! Today, he’s done fabulous. I think I’ve learned. Feed him popcorn and lots of juice, time it, and then try to get him to sit when its about time to tinkle. I’ve learned not to let him go hide in his room and tinkle in there, ha ha! So, I think I’m getting somewhere with this potty stuff. He’s three and a half! It’s about time.

And, Kevin is up! Here we go again with the focus on the potty stuff. We got Netflix at just the right time, as he sits on his potty, watches a show, and we try to master this task. We’re also trying not to have cabin fever, too. Oh, this week will be good, but I wonder how going out with Kevin will be now. New chapters:)

I want to write more, but gotta go. Simple, breathe, pray, hugs and love, that’s the goals around here.