Tuesday, May 31, 2011

L's Note

As I mentioned in my last post, I gave the girls notebooks and pens before church on Sunday. This is the note that L(7) wrote me:

Dear Mom I love you

I haope you had fun

at church cause I Just
want to know. Cause I had fun at church
I realy did. NWell
loveyou. love, L


(Picture a whole row of various flowers here.)

M's Poem

My M(9) came home from church with her dad on Sunday. Before they'd gone, I gave each of my girls a notebook and a pen. (Sometimes they draw and play with them, but I've found that, more & more the older they get, they choose to take notes or better yet, write down the thoughts that come to mind as they listen. Totally worth it ...) M had written a bunch of stuff, including how she met one of my good friends. After she told me about that encounter, she said, "OH!! I've got to show you my poem!!" She flipped her book open and this is what she wrote:

Heavenly Father

Heavanly Father helps, and cares.
He loves you and me.
He shared the gospel.
So you and me could see him some day
he sent Jesus to die for us.
And to sacrefice of sin.
Heavenly Father loves us.

by: M(Okay-- so she typed her actual name here)

I love my heavenly Father


To finish it off, she drew a picture of herself and Heavenly Father.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

This Memorial Day weekend, I just wanted to sit down and write a bit about how I feel. I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude for those who have come before me. I would not be who I am without those who have laid a strong foundation through their example and the light of their lives. Their strength and courage have given me comfort and hope as I've faced my own challenges. I am blessed to have great ancestors who have pulled themselves through their own trials by grit and faith. There are those who have fought faithfully throughout many wars to preserve freedom and protect what they held dear. Others have fought their own personal battles. All have bettered my own life.

I am so grateful for our soldiers. They sacrifice a great deal to do what they feel is right. I've known so many of these good men and women; I've seen their desire to make this world a better place. I'm grateful for their willingness to do so.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fashion Forward

At my parents' house:

M(9):MOM!!!!! (switching instantly to calm and casual) L's gonna have to wear a scooter for the rest of her life ...

Me: She's going to have to wear it?

M: Um-hm. WEAR it ...

(After a brief pause for dramatic effect)

M: She was riding the scooter and she got her skirt stuck in it, so now she's going to have to wear it for the rest of her life.

M: She was standing up and then-- you know how you sit down like this? (Insert demonstration here.)

Mom: (Interrupting M subtly) Is she by any chance waiting for someone to come get her unstuck?

M: Oh, yeah ...

I guess that's L's payback for the locking closet ...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Condensed "Cream of _____" Soup-- Dry Mix

2 Cups nonfat dry milk powder
3/4 Cup cornstarch
2 Tbsp. dried onion
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 Cup chicken bouillon powder/granules
1 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container.

To use:
Combine 1/3 cup of dry mix with 1 1/4 cups of water in a saucepan. Cook and stir until thickened.

Add-ins:
I sauteed some canned mushrooms in just a little bit of butter. (They were what I had on hand, and sauteing them took away some of the canned taste.) I just added the soup mix to the mushrooms and then added the water.

You could do the same with some celery, a bit of chicken, etc. to create the flavor of soup that you want.

Trying Something New

I'm an apartment-dweller, and as such, I have rather limited space. In an attempt to make better use of the space that we have available, and to eat a little healthier in the process, I've been eliminating a lot of the convenience foods that we've had on hand lately. (Note: No convenience foods were harmed in the making of this blog entry; they've just moved on to other homes where they will be more loved and appreciated.)

Pasta salad in a box and pancake mixes have wandered to greener pastures. Today, I realized that one of the things I could eliminate is canned "Cream of _____" soups. They take up a lot of space, and they're not actually all that good for you. Don't get me wrong! I LOVE using these soups to cook with. They are convenient and an easy way to add flavor, but-- well, see the above complaints ...

I began searching for a good replacement recipe. I realize that I can start completely from scratch each time I want to use a "Cream Of" soup, however, I'd still like it to be convenient-- even if it doesn't come in a bulky can or package. I found several recipes for a homemade mix that will, in essence, replace a can of soup. After reading reviews and perusing the ingredient run-downs, I tweaked them to come up with a recipe that I thought would work.

After making a batch of the dry mix, I actually mixed some up and used it in a meal.

Things that I love about this:
It was surprisingly easy, and all told it didn't take much longer than it would have to open a can. It thickened really well, and my arm didn't fall off in the process. It's still not as healthy as eliminating things like that all together, but it seems to be a pretty reasonable alternative.

In the taste department, it exceeded expectations-- by a lot. The kids LOVED it and requested that I sub this into recipes where a can is called for from now on. I enjoyed it as well. I'm fairly certain that this will be my new go-to recipe for this kind of thing in the future.

While it is probably not my top priority, I really do enjoy that making my own mix actually minimizes a lot of waste. The dry mix will keep quite well, and there aren't cans creating lots of packaging waste.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Flashback Funnies

As my daughters and I were talking this evening, I remembered an experience with my youngest that I'm not sure I've ever written down. I thought that now would be as good a time as ever.

When L(7) was 3, she was in a church class called the sunbeams. When all the children were gathered together for singing time and a group lesson, her class sat on the very front row.

At the time, I was in charge of singing time, so I sat in the front of the room, facing all the kids. While one of the other women was giving the group lesson (of course it was the most serious part) I heard a little, itty-bitty voice singing, "Meow, meow, meow, meow. Meow, meow, meow, meow ..." (You know the old Meow Mix jingle?)

Nearly everyone in the room dissolved into giggles, except three of us ... I looked up in alarm, fairly certain that I knew which little person the sound was coming from. About the same time I heard M(then 5) LOUDLY shushing her sister. L remained blissfully unaware of my concern, her sister's insistence, and all the giggling people around her. She managed to continue unperturbed through the entire length of the song, getting louder and adding more expression as she went. She finished it with an improvised and very enthusiastic high note at the end.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oh, Geez! Really???

M(9): Mom, B-- always says that L(7) sings bad. Do you think so?

Me: No, L doesn't sing bad.

M: Well, I told L to tell B to meet me out back at third recess.

Me: M! NO!

M: I'm gonna give her some talkin' to!

Me: Not a good idea!

M: She's [L] my little sister. That girl needs some talking too!!


While I'm glad that my oldest wants to watch out for her little sister, and I know that she doesn't mean it like it sounds, OY! Could be interesting ...

Friday, May 20, 2011

That's My L

Yesterday, while sorting laundry, L started laughing hysterically. She then looked at me with a cranky smile on her face and said, "Curse you! CURSE you for making me do this!!!" She then dissolved into giggles again and continued on her way.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I've Learned:

* The good things in life are worth waiting for.
* Sometimes waiting helps you see more clearly.
* Sometimes what I think I want and what's good for me are two entirely different things.
* Even the aggravating times can be a blessing.
* A good, deep breath can work wonders. (Or two ... or ten ...)
* I crave blue sky, but I can tolerate the rain.
* I don't know what the future holds, and that's okay. (I'd probably botch it from a lack of patience if I did know.)
* I love people, for good or bad--everyone has something to offer.
* I don't love my asthma. Not even a little ... But, I do appreciate how well my lungs usually work a great deal better for the reminder that comes when they don't function properly.
* It really does take a village, and I'm grateful for good friends who have been mine.
* Surprise phone calls, texts, and e-mails make my heart happy.
* I don't always have enough faith, but I keep walking anyway. Usually I find my faith along the road.
* There's a lot more right with my world than there is wrong with it.

LOTS of seconds....

This afternoon was a bit rough. Both the girls seem to have lost their ears. 2 girls - 4 ears = 1 cranky momma. After HOURS of repeating myself, doling out consequences, trying to reason with the earless wonders, begging, and cajoling (not to mention several near misses with potential waterworks-- mostly mine...) we did manage to get homework done, laundry put away, and the snack basket restocked.

At this point, my daughters asked if they could watch some television. (Bear in mind that not only was it a painful afternoon, but it was now several minutes past bedtime and dinner was still M.I.A.) I explained that since I had spent several hours trying to get them to do what they were supposed to, they had not earned t.v. today.

L(7) looked at me without skipping a beat and said, "No, just a couple of hours, some minutes, and lots of seconds."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Learning experiences seem to be the theme of the last several years of my life. It seems like the Lord uses life to knock off some of our rough edges and to help us be more like Him. Looking back, it's apparent that I have plenty of rough edges that need rounding.

One of the blessings that I've seen from this refining process is that I've become more introspective; I am learning to know both my weaknesses and my strengths a bit better. For example, I've learned that this little heart of mine has the ability to rise above great hardship and sorrow. Not only that, but there is a little corner of my heart that has this amazing ability to hold onto hope in the midst of said sorrow. Even when the rest of my heart feels dented or broken beyond repair, even when the hard times drape like a shroud that blocks my view, this one little corner clings to hope. Somehow, this tiny area is like a box of light that is always just waiting for the something beautiful around the bend.

It's not so much that I can't see the reality of things. Usually, I'm painfully aware of those realities. Somehow though, even in the face of those things, my heart has a little patch that (without conscious effort from me) tends to hold tenaciously to the light of this hope.

In some ways, this quality of my heart gives me hope: hope that when the weight of all these realities threatens to crush me and tries to put out the flame of my faith, that there will still be faith enough to precede the miracle locked in that little chamber of my heart. It is this little, tiny, niggling part that still has the wisdom to say, "Help thou mine unbelief." I don't know if it will be enough-- but I hope that it will!

Friday, May 13, 2011

What Happens When I Get Distracted in English Class? Creativity runs amok...

Drip,
drip,
drip.

Slowly,
Achingly,
the information drips monotonously
from your lips
onto the outskirts of my ears.

Swirl,
Swish,
Slip.

Sloshing,
some splashes into my inner ear.
Most rolls out.

Drip,
drip,
drip.
In a steady, incessant stream

Bits.
Snippets.
Pieces travel
in chaotic, disconnected groups
up my nerves to settle lightly,
restlessly atop my brain.

Poking,
taunting,
irritating!

Pestering my peace,
dancing out of reach,
unconfined by the paths of memory.

My List

I have to admit that the genetic and personality mutations floating around in the mid-singles dating pool make me rather nervous! There are some very nice people out there; there are a few who were born different and a lot who have grown different (and who continue to grow differenter *yup, I know that's not a word, but it most accurately describes what I mean* with each passing day). There are times when I wonder if I will ever find somebody "normal". (I'm not saying that the VERY unique people aren't nice. They are! It's just that somehow, they're not usually the ones that I'm attracted to.) I realize that in many ways it's all about perspective, and that in some people's eyes, perhaps I'm the genetic mutation. However, I keep holding out hope that somewhere along the line, my kind of normal and their kind of normal will meet in the middle and make friends.



I've discovered that, while I don't think that I'm EXCESSIVELY picky, I do have very distinct ideas about what I am looking for. For some time now, I've felt that I should put these in a blog entry. I'm not sure if that is so that I can remember where I put them, or if it is simply so that I can find them all in one location for easy use. It may be for some other entirely random reason that I'm completely unaware of. Who knows? At any rate, read it or not, but this is my list.



* Same religious ideas and a similar level of commitment



* KIND



* A good parent or good with kids -- While I am not ruling out someone who has never been married, someone who has been married (and possibly has children of their own) is most likely to be someone that I'm compatible with.



* Quirky -- you know, maybe geeky, but not freaky! I don't need scary, just someone with a fun personality.



* Well-spoken (either written or verbally or both) -- I like words, and someone who knows how to use them well can be very attractive.



* A sense of humor (preferably dry and witty!) -- I like to laugh. I enjoy being around people who can see the humor in day-to-day situations.



* Optimistic!! -- I'm not saying that they have to be cheerful and upbeat all the time, but I do want someone who can (overall) look at life and see the good. This also carries over to someone who can have hope through hard times rather than resorting to doom and gloom. I like living in the light, not constantly dwelling in the dark. I'm not interested in spending eternity with someone who thinks that the universe is conspiring against him.



* An Eternal View
-- Someone who can see that today's problems can become tomorrows strengths, or disappear entirely.



* Hard Worker -- I think that a good work ethic carries over to every aspect of one's life. It can make all the difference in the world.

An Old Post I Wrote But Never Published on Prayer

"I submit that a return to the old pattern of prayer, family prayer in the homes of the people, is one of the basic medications that would check the dread disease that is eroding the character of our society. We could not expect a miracle in a day, but in a generation we would have a miracle." Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign Magazine, February 1991

Prayer was the dominating theme in Sacrament meeting today. I found myself thinking about ways that I can improve this area in my life. Prayer is a vital part of who I am, but there are times when it can definitely be a more meaningful experience. It also made me think about what I can do to help my children better understand that when they pray, they are literally talking to Heavenly Father. (It's a concept that can be hard to wrap your mind around.)

In His Image (Written back in February or March)

This post is one that I've been debating about writing. As I've thought about it though, I have realized that it is an important step in my journey to becoming what I believe.

Belief:
I am a child of God. He has created me in His image. He made me who I am physically, and He gave me the seeds of what I will one day be spiritually.

The catch:
Body image in today's world is horribly skewed. That means that sometimes, it is easy to get caught up in the wave of what the world says we should look like. (I'm not talking about modesty, etc-- I'm talking about the nitty-gritty details of size and shape.) Sometimes, I feel like that square peg in the round hole that everyone always talks about... only in this case, I'm the curvy peg in the toothpick hole.

It has taken a lot of years to be okay with the fact that it doesn't matter how slender I get, I will always be curvy. Willowy and wraith-like are terms that will NEVER be descriptors of my appearance. I will never be super-model slim.

The truth:
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (Holy Bible, KJV, Genesis chapter 1, verse 27)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dratted Little Black Rain Cloud and Sweet First-grade Sunshine

You know those days where you just feel dumpy? You know ... the ones where it feels as though Winnie the Pooh's little black rain cloud has come to haunt you? Unfortunately, that's where I've been lingering the past day or two.

It's silly really; I've been focusing on everything that's wrong with me, rather than dwelling on all the things that I do right. A funk has found me, and I've been having a bit of difficulty encouraging it to move on.

As a general rule, I'm a very upbeat person. I tend to look for (and find) the good in life. Not much actually gets me down. The plus side is that, given a day or two, this little rain cloud will move on to darken someone else's door. It's not that I wish anyone else to find their funk; I just figure that someone, somewhere, is in a funk at just about any given time.

One of the other fringe benefits of gloomy mental days is that the good things seem so much brighter! When you're in a dark room, a candle appears to glow far more brightly than if you were sitting in the sunlight. I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

Today, as I was snuggled up in my blanket of doom and gloom, one of the little first-graders that I work with found me. She was holding a book that she had written, and she told me she wanted to read it to me. It was called "ILS". (That's the computer lab time that I help run in the afternoons.) She wrote about how much she loves ILS. At the end of the first page, this cute little girl had written that she had a teacher and would talk about her on the next page.

The whole second page of my sweet friend's story was about her ILS teacher. (Hey! That's me!) She talked about how much she loves me and how she wouldn't want any other teacher because I always help her and tell her that she can do it. **Let me just explain here that I am a shameless cryer. I can, and often do, blubber with the best of them. I blame my dad ...** By the time she had finished, I was "happy-crying" as my L would say.

I'm grateful for the down times that remind me just how good things usually are. (And I'm just as grateful that they don't usually last long.) I'm grateful for beautiful children who can see the good within me when I forget to see it myself. I'm grateful that Heavenly Father knew that I needed to hear this, and sent this little one to find me.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Finally Finishing and Magical Storage Space

This post is mainly for my sister. Those of you who'd like to look anyway-- feel free. If not, that's okay too.

A few months (or more) ago, I either began or purchased the supplies to several different projects. It's taken me this long to have the time, the energy, and the desire (all at the same time) to finish them. However, I've mentioned before that I am trying to set my house in order, and I finally (I know ... another DUH! moment) decided that rather than just shuffle things around while thinking, "I've got to do that." they'd take up less space if they were finished and hanging on my wall. So ...

I made a Mod Podge journal. (Sorry, folks! No pics of this one yet.)

I painted my plaques, I added the metal plates and ribbon, AND I actually hung them on the wall!
(Since the writing is hard to read in the picture, I'll tell you that they say: Family is Everything, Christ is the center of our home, and Live with Gratitude.)

Okay, so in that picture they are still flat on the coffee table. Like the brown shag carpet that's gotta be older than me? ;)


I painted another plaque, printed out some pictures, Mod Podged them on, AND got this on the wall as well. (I know, I'm a bit shocked also!)


I finished touching up the frame on the Temple picture that I began last year some time. It's on the wall now too ... (Quit whispering! The answer is, "No, wonders will never cease!")


(No, my walls aren't actually a dingy gray-- they are a nondescript white. They came that way, and I'm not allowed to paint them. It is however oh so tempting!)

I finished yet another plaque and added a Gordon B. Hinckley quote. (I finished this one a little bit ago, but I finally found it a home on the wall where we can read what it says.)


The organ and piano walls don't look so bare, and the clock has been relegated to the kitchen...



I made a bunch of flowers for the girls' hair. We won't mention how many fingers I managed to burn in the process. Only one blistered ... (No pictures of these either. Since I've done a marathon of other pictures, I figure that I'm not shorting you by any means.)

Dishes are mostly caught up, laundry is too. Living room got tidied, and several boxes sorted and emptied. Overall, it's been a fairly productive weekend. Oh, and I survived Donny mania at the local Walmart, but that's a story for another day ...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Let us not die with our music still in us ... "

This beautiful quote found me today:

“My plea therefore is this: Let us get our instruments tightly strung and our melodies sweetly sung. Let us not die with our music still in us. Let us rather use this precious mortal probation to move confidently and gloriously upward toward the eternal life which God our Father gives to those who keep his commandments.”

-Spencer W. Kimball


I have probably mentioned that I am a very visual person; I know that I've mentioned how much I love music. In this quote, I find food for both these passions.

The comparison in this quote of our gifts, talents, and abilities to music is so apt. We each have our own unique self to offer to those we meet. This music-- in other words, all that makes you individually you-- makes the world a sweeter place for the sharing of it.

I love most the line, "Let us not die with our music still in us." We were meant to shine, and each of us carries within the divine ability to do so. May we share our music this day, and may it grow brighter and more beautiful each day hereafter.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Excerpts from Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address-- March 4, 1865

Speaking of North and South:
"Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes ... shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? ... With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care fro him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan-- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."

While in today's world, not everyone may read from the same Bible, I do believe that most people are just trying to do the best they can with what they have. I believe that Lincoln's words still apply. There are usually two (or more) sides praying for opposite desires. Although it may not always work out how we feel that it should, I know that there is a God, that He still has a plan for all of us, and that if we are willing to look, we can see His hand directing things for our good. I believe that He would have us be more tolerant and loving toward those we meet, even those we may disagree with or dislike. They are, after all, His children as well.
Last night, I had the opportunity to meet with my Stake President. (One of our local church leaders who is in charge of looking after several local congregations ... ) It's the first time that I have really met this man, and it was a very thought-provoking meeting.

As we were talking, he mentioned that because I am trying to do what's right, teach my children, and because I have it together (his words, not mine), I'm a bigger target for Satan than some. He surprised me by asking, "Now if he were to strike at you, where do you think he would hit hardest?"

Although I was surprised, it's something that I've thought about some lately. I answered with the two areas that I've noticed this (another story for another day) most in my life.

As I've thought about our conversation, I've realized that there is one more area that I've allowed to distract me from my purpose. It's easy to do. I'm in school and a lot of it is online. Because of this, my computer is on pretty regularly. I keep up on social media, my blog(s), e-mail, and homework. The problem that I've noticed is that I've been letting it creep into my time with my children.

My kids are (and should be) more important than anything I can do on the internet. Even though there are times when I need to finish up my homework when my girls are home and awake, there are a lot of things that do not need to be done right away. I am realizing that I need to be more conscious of these things. I'm not saying that I need to give these things up ... they don't dominate my life by any means. I'm just saying that my time with my kids is precious. They are growing up, and I need to make the most of the time I have both to influence them and to cherish them.

While I will likely still blog regularly, (I use it as a sort-of journal, most of it is done when the kids are sleeping, and writing is both easy and therapeutic for me ... ) I am going to try and make a more conscious effort to keep the computer off as much as possible when the kids are at home and alert. :) When that's not possible, I need to make sure that what I am doing is worth time away from my kids.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"I Believe My Blessings"

Dear Feedtracker,

There have been a couple of times that I've been truly grateful to know you. One is a story for another day. The other is a perfect tale for this evening....

Thanks for making me think!!


As I was looking at my feedtracker the other day (as I occasionally do ... Don't worry! It doesn't reveal any horrifying details-- it just gives me a general idea of how people are finding my blog.) I saw that someone had googled, "I believe my blessings." I've spent several days mulling that one over....

In thinking about this specific wording, I began to wonder: do I believe my blessings? Do I take the time to recognize their source? Do I accept them with gratitude or do I-- with cynicism-- look a gift-horse in the mouth and wait for "the catch"?

I am realizing that I need to be aware not only of my blessings, but my attitude as well. I need to accept my blessings with gratitude and not as though they are my due. Just as important, I need to believe that they are planned; that God meant them specifically for me; and that He is infinitely aware of me, my children, and His plan for us. It's okay to revel in the moment and enjoy the blessing!

I'm thankful that someone thought to google their way to my blog. Their query has made me think about things a little bit differently....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Small Steps of Faith ... Big Miracles ... Indescribable Blessings ...

I have been looking forward to spending this summer without the added pressure of homework, class-time, etc. Lately though, I've been feeling VERY strongly like I needed to try and get at least one or two courses done this coming semester. (Read: smashed down firmly by a heavy burden of worry ... ) This was an added concern as I had used up all of the grants, etc. that I was allotted for this school year.

After fretting about things for a couple of weeks, and while pondering my dilemma, I got a nudge-- "Just e-mail the financial aid office." (I know, for some people this may have been instinctive ... Obviously, not for me.) I followed this prompting. I explained my needs and asked if it was possible to obtain any other funding so that I could attend summer semester. I didn't actually expect a yes. (Read: "Oh ye of little faith!")

I was thrilled to hear that they were giving me another pell grant, etc. As I began to look at both my funding and the classes available, I realized that several of the classes were ones I would not normally be able to take but would need for my degree. (Between work, kids, child-care issues, etc. scheduling can be a bit difficult.) It turns out that I will be able to take 17 credit hours this semester; the added bonus is that 4 of my 6 classes are each only half of the summer. Trying to cram several 15 week courses into 7-7 1/2 weeks each could make for an interesting workload, but hey-- it's like labor ... there's an end in sight.

Being willing to go out on a limb and send that one little e-mail has opened the door for bigger miracles than I could have imagined. In addition to being able to attend this summer and to take needed classes without loss of work-time, this will likely allow me to cut a year to a year and a half off of my schooling. If all goes well (Read: I pass all of my classes & my advisor says that I have enough done ... ) I should be able to begin the teaching program next spring.

I'm grateful for that prompting to send an e-mail. I'm more grateful that I actually followed it through. I'm most grateful that the Lord has seen fit to bless me in spite of my unbelief. I KNOW He's there! I know that He loves me, and that He will bless me when I listen for His guidance.