Thursday, December 27, 2012

It's a Wonderful Life, Carin

photo credit:  moviefone.com
Every year we watch Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life.  I am usually busy preparing the holiday meal and so I run in and out of the movie spending most of my time in the kitchen while the family watches the movie.  This year, I really, really wanted to watch the movie, so I spent most of my time watching the movie and here and there running into the kitchen.  (Confession:  This year we actually ate on paper plates, but we did use the China the night before.  And I never did make it to the shower....Oh well. :-)

As I was in the kitchen during one of efforts to manage dinner and watch, I had an epiphany.  I have George Bailey disease.  For those of you who have never seen the movie, George Bailey's (Jimmy Stewart) only real desire his entire life is to get out of the 'crummy little town' where he grew up.  He wants to see the world.  He wants to go to college.  He wants to become someone and do something that is far, far away from Bedford Falls.

Now, I do not live in the same town where I grew up.  I had the opportunity to go to college.  Though I didn't finish everything I wanted to do there, I have a degree.  I accomplished some of the things I wanted to.  Unfortunately, I have always wanted to do and be more than I am.  I have been ready for a while to be done with the path the Lord has asked me to walk.  (Not in a spiritual sense, more a temporal one.)  I constantly struggle against the worldly desires of my heart to do what the Lord has asked of me and to be where He wants me to be.  Even though I have many, many blessings, I struggle to be satisfied and appreciate the loaves and fishes the Lord has seen fit to bless me with ....and I want different ones.  Does that seem to be the lot of the natural man or woman in each of us, or is it just my natural woman??

Why???

Why is it so very difficult to be and do what the Lord asks and appreciate the very deep gifts and blessings He has given to each of us?  Why do we look at others and see in their lives things we lack in our own?  How do we learn to be grateful, content, happy in our sphere and then to bring that joy, happiness, and peace into the lives of others?  Do we somehow feel that God must love us less because we do not have the things we want?  Do we not remember that God is a perfect Father who loves us perfectly.....that He knows what we need to develop the characteristics within that mirror His own perfected attributes?

I know that being and doing what the Lord asks of me is developing within me characteristics that are difficult for me to put into practice.  I know if it were left up to me, I would never develop those qualities because it is hard and I prefer a life free of difficulty and pain.  I would overemphasize my strengths and the things I am good at and where I would receive the praises of men (because I, personally, think I need those things in order to be successful.  I certainly appreciate them more and it makes it easier to do the things I am not fond of.)  However, in His infinite wisdom, the Lord has seen fit to put me in a place that severely limits worldly praise (motherhood, lots of it) and even occasionally evokes criticism and judgement.  I have had to learn to do what is right in the face of the ever great and spacious building, always in earshot of their mocking.  (In case you didn't know it, I am a people-pleaser and I like people [all people] to like me.)  I am super sensitive and it hurts my feelings when people don't like me.  (Pathetic, I know.)

These thoughts and ideas have been coming to my consciousness ever so slowly over the course of the last few years.  I am still not embracing my position and am far, far away from expressing gratitude for them.  But I recognize their eternal significance and the spiritual peril I place myself in if I try to run away from the process.  I have been praying for a change of heart, a place where I quit wishing for the illusive greener grass of another pasture.

THIS is MY pasture.  I need to make the grass green, that may take a LOT of water and fertilizer, unfortunately.  I need to find some flowers and trees that I like.  I may need to learn new skills so I can manage the pasture properly and make it beautiful.  If I am willing to put in the work and effort, it can be beautiful.  I may have to tear down old barns, or places where I have not been willing to put in effort or the weeds have overgrown due to my lack of attention.  But the Lord is completely aware of all of those spaces.  He knows the beauty that lies within and He knows what landscaping will make that old heap of junk into a luscious garden, if I will only trust Him and do what He asks----where, and when, and how.  Why am I so very attached to that old heap?  Because it is comfortable?  Because it requires no effort?  Because I enjoy having a pile of garbage in the yard??

It is time, time to clean out the old and allow the Master Gardner to do with my pasture what He will.  I don't want George Bailey disease.  I want to appreciate my pasture.  I want to be willing to do the work to have an oasis from the world.  I am afraid of pain, and growth, and pain, and sweat, and pain.  Oh give me the strength to move forward.  Give me a new heart of faith and hope and determination.  Help me to put forth the work and effort necessary to clear away that old barn and pile of old junk.

It's a wonderful life, Carin.  It truly is.  Maybe if you are willing to work and trust, you'll get your wings, just like Clarance.

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”  ― Orson F. Whitney



Friday, December 21, 2012

Five for Friday

1.  I made rolls this morning for Sun's school Christmas party....................the house smells delicious!!  I am just sad that I didn't pull one out to eat before I sent them all with her to school.  I will have to make some more later :-)

photo credit:  sltrib.com


2.  We started our holiday celebrations early.  Last night Drew and I went to a friend's house and watched the BYU bowl game.  It was amazing!!  I LOVE football. It was Van Noy's night!  Two touch-downs by the defensive back!  Plus numerous other things that I will not bore you with.  He was totally amazing!  The game was completely boring until the fourth quarter and then we made some adjustments and just exploded.  It was AWESOME!   Go COUGS!!

The big boys went and hung out with some friends and watched a late showing of the Hobbit.  They didn't get home until after midnight.  Because we were all up late, we slept in just a little and everyone was late for everything this morning!!  The big boys got up grumbling for family prayer and went straight back to bed.  I forgot that Smiley had a class performance this morning.  Yes, he was late, and because I was late taking everyone everywhere, I didn't get to see him perform.  Drew had him sing his little song for us in the car as we were driving.  He wasn't too happy about that because it was a solo instead of a class performance.  Needless to say, not a great start to the day.  I think we should have just cancelled today and started the holiday last night.

freephoto.com
3.  Cereal.  We even had cereal for breakfast and we were still late!  Cereal is a BIG deal at our house.  About six years ago we quit having cereal around almost all the time.  I started cooking breakfast every day.  It is also when we started making all of our bread.  I cut out the cereal because we were looking for ways to improve the budget and I couldn't find any more places to cut.  Praying about it, I was told to start cooking breakfast and to make all the bread.  When we made this change, we could save $200.00 on our grocery bill----NO JOKE!!  Who would have thought cereal and bread would cost so much, but at our house, it did.  And I was not even a nice cereal buyer!!  The most sugar I would allow was Honey-nut Cheerios and Frosted Mini-wheats--------no Captain Crunch, Frosted Flakes, Count Chocula----none of that!  Even though we were so totally late for the day, the kids were very excited for breakfast!!

4.  Pitter-patter of little feet.  My baby has started running through the house, especially when he is chasing or being chased by one of his brothers.  It is soooooo cute!  I love the sound of his little feet running across the hardwood floor.  The only thing cuter is hearing the stomping of the feet on the bathroom floor because some little boy has waited too long to make the trip and can barely hold it in while he is trying to drop his drawers.  I made that comment in front of the older boys the other day and one of them looked at me quizically when my husband jumped in, agreed, and offered his opinion.  It was too sweet to see that the memories of little people in the house had a soft spot in his heart too.  Then the boys asked if all of them did it.  Hmmmm.........yep, all of the boys did it, not their sister, just the boys.  I guess we'll be hearing those little feet again in another year or so, as we enter potty-training.

5.  Swimming.  Just an updated report on our swimming expeditions:  We have not been swimming as much as we were in the summer, but we have continued once or twice a month.  Smiley is dog-paddling!!!  Woohoo!!  He still will not float on his back or his face, but he is almost confident enough that I will not have to worry about him too much in the pool, though I would be a lot more comfortable if he would just choose to float!  We will keep working on it!  Shorty is all over the pool and so is Sun!  Yea!!  I was so worried about how we were going to teach them all to swim and how we were going to pay for it!! 

That was another prayer answered.  The only pool we have open is a 20 minute drive, so the time, plus the gas, plus the number of times we would need to go to be proficient, plus the lessons, for the number of people-----OY!  I didn't know how we could possibly manage that.  So since last summer I have been thinking and praying about how we could do it some other way---maybe a hotel in the area would rent me some pool time??  Heavenly Father had a better answer.  A friend who is investigating the church and has children my children's ages, moved to a complex with a pool.  They were allowed to bring friends.  We made a weekly play-date at the pool.  The kids learned to swim and we talked about how to apply the gospel to your life.  Win-win all around----temporally for us, and safety issues, eternally changing for them.  Gotta love it when the Lord's plan is so much better than yours!!

Here is Heather's five things today!!





Thursday, December 20, 2012

Emotionally Managing Family Get-togethers

photo credit: diapers-n-heels.com
Well, here we are in the wonderful holiday season---plenty of warm feelings and lots of food (usually) with people we love (or are suppose to).  If your family is anything like mine, sometimes these get-togethers can  cause more stress than times of enjoyment.  Here are a few tips for emotionally managing these stressful situations:

Little things:
---Dress up.  Just like a job interview, our behavior is better and our performance improved when we are dressed well.  We tend to behave more like our attire:  casual dress, casual manners; sloppy dress, sloppy manners; formal dress, more formal manners.  You do not need to over-dress, simply dress nicely and appropriately.  Even just dressing a step above the normal dress for the activity will help you act more appropriately.

---Don't eat things you shouldn't.  If you are allergic to it or it will upset your system in some way, do not eat it, even if it is Aunt Gertrude's special dish and she makes it every year and it will hurt her feelings if you don't.  You are not responsible for Aunt Gertrude's feelings.  (We will discuss that a little later. For now, if you shouldn't eat it, just don't do it!)  You will feel better if you do not, and as such, you will behave better.

---Use I statements.  When discussing anything sensitive or talking with sensitive people, consider saying things such as, I feel (this way) when (these) things happen.  I react (this way) when (these) circumstances are in place.   As opposed to saying:  You always........, I can't believe you would........, You never.....
'You' statements feel more like you are attacking the other person.  'I' statements are simply telling about yourself.  It is difficult to argue with an 'I' statement.

---Think of sincere compliments you can give to others in your family, especially when they say something critical of you.  Remember that a soft answer turneth away wrath (Proverbs 15:1)  When someone says something unkind, simply pay them a sincere compliment and see how the feeling in the room changes.

---Refuse to take offense.  Remember---your feelings, your responsibility.  Don't be easily offended, even if they say the same thing every year and it bothers you every year!  This year, chose not to let it bother you.

---Talk to your own family.  If there is an issue with my family, I talk to them.  If there is an issue with my husband's family, he talks to them.

---Prepare the children.  Let them know the plan of the get-together and that the departure time is tentative. That way if you ask them to leave before they are ready, there will not be a huge blow-up because they have unmet expectations.  Compensate them if they really made a sacrifice (they had to leave before dessert was served, without warning....offer them their favorite dessert at home, or another compensation that would ease their feelings of being treated unfairly.)  Also, explain the 'rules/expectations' of the event (i.e. I know we feed the dog scraps from our plates at home, but here we cannot do that).

Big Things:
---Remember that you are not responsible for other people's feelings.  Your feelings are your responsibility.  Their feelings are their responsibility.  That doesn't mean you can go around and just say whatever you want to or treat people badly.  But if someone says to you, "You always hurt my feelings!", the truth of the matter is that you cannot hurt their feelings.  They have chosen to have their feelings hurt by their interpretation of something you said or did.  Usually we do not intend to hurt someone else, it just happens.  At those times you can say, 'what was it I did or said that hurt you?'  Then they will probably not be very nice to you and tell you what it was.  You can correct the misconception or just apologize that their feelings are hurt and indicate that you had no intention of saying something that was hurtful.  [This goes with the Aunt Gertrude example above.  You are not responsible for making her feel good by eating her dish.  If everyone stopped eating it, maybe she would quit making it.  Right?]

---Be willing to leave.  If things do not stay nice, or make you uncomfortable, you are free to leave and return home or to the hotel.  If you are staying with your family, take a break and go to the movie or shopping or anything to remove yourself from a negative situation and give yourself a little time to think (even if you are just reading your scriptures in the car!).

---Put boundaries in place.  At some of our family gatherings, we have had to say, "We love visiting with all of you and we would like to spend time with  you.  But it is very bad for our children to see (this behavior---at our house it was yelling at each other) and we don't want that to be a part of our family.  So if (this behavior) happens, we will ask you to leave, or we will leave" (whatever the circumstances may be).  Luckily my husband had that conversation with his family (without me or the children) so it was not embarrassing to them.  Other times, I have had to pull someone aside and say, "Please don't treat my children that way.  I am very capable of correcting them if it is necessary."  Then I discussed with my children (later and privately) why the other person's behavior was inappropriate and evaluated how they are processing what has happened to them.

---Where children are concerned, remember that it is more important to be their parent and teach them properly than it is to please your parents or other family members.  Children should learn to feel comfortable in their own space.  They should not have affections forced on them if they are uncomfortable.  They should not have to eat things because of how someone else feels about it.  Help them learn to be respectful and courteous, but also support them in expressing their appropriate opinions and boundaries.  It is important for their development and for your relationships with them.

If your family is so difficult that you cannot do all of these things, pick a few manageable ones on the list.  Remember, some is better than none.  As your confidence grows, you will be able to put more boundaries in place and nurture your ability to interact with others.  You may find one day to even be able to spend quality time with people you once found toxic.

Happy Holidays and specifically Merry Christmas!!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Black Bean Fudge

I promised you the recipe for Black Bean Fudge, so here it is!!!
I do have to say, though, with the amount of butter and sugar in this recipe, there is NO WAY you would taste the measly 1 Cup of Beans you put into it.  I doubled our recipe and we are allergic to nuts, so I eliminated those.

1 Cup cooked black beans, rinsed and pureed
3/4 Cup butter, melted
3/4 Cup cocoa
2 Tbls. vanilla
2 lbs powdered sugar (yes, really)
1/2 Cup walnuts, chopped

Mash or puree the beans in a food processor (or blender).  Add the melted butter, cocoa, and vanilla, stirring well to mix.  Stir in the sugar and walnuts.  Spread in a 9X13 pan.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.  Cut into 30 squares and enjoy.

Here is a funny photo the boys caught of the baby.  I'm sure they will black-mail him with it someday after he starts dating :-)




Monday, December 17, 2012

Mark Schultz

Our young adult, Scuff is home for Christmas!!!  He shared this video and story with me and I just thought it was too beautiful not to post!!  Enjoy....watch the music first, then the story, then you'll want to watch the music again..........trust me.


Now the story:


One of my very best friends growing up was adopted.  She had a deep desire to know her birth mother and the circumstances around being placed for adoption.  It was something that was always in the back of her mind, and sometimes in the front of it.  It was of particular interest to her because she wondered about her nationality and health histories.

Two Christmases ago, she sent me a letter letting me know that she had indeed found her birth mother and her birth family.  She finally had the answers to so many of her questions.

I have other friends who have adopted their children.  They love them dearly and they are great parents.

Adoption is a wonderful gift!!  It is a very unselfish choice for a young woman to realize that a family with a mother and a father will offer her child a gift she may not be able to.  This song and story simply touched my heart and reaffirmed my feelings.



Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Unexpected Gift--Beautiful!

I saw this video yesterday and loved it!!!  Thought I would share!



Friday, December 14, 2012

Five for Friday--Education Edition

Finals
 Four of our nine children have been working on finals this last week and for the week after Christmas.  For me, it is fun to have a different schedule than the rest of the semester.  I like having time to study for the exams to evaluate how much I have integrated the information.  I am not sure if the boys like it or not.  I know they are all relieved when the exams are over.  Scuff and Sport are finished.  Slim has another week of finals and Speedy has his first one today and the rest of them after the Christmas break.

So Sport just told me that homework is "killing us."  "You know how?" he says.  "Homework uses paper, which to make kills trees, and trees provide oxygen for us.  If the oxygen is gone, we will die.  So by doing homework, it is killing us."

The kids have been doing a lot of papers and projects....by kids, I am mostly referring to Speedy and Sport, as I don't have any idea what Slim and Scuff have been up to at their various colleges.

Homecomings
Last Christmas
Scuff arrives home tomorrow from his first semester at college.  He has been gone for six months.  I am curious as to how the baby will react to him.  They had a special relationship and I am anxious to see the baby remember his special brother.  I wasn't sure he would, but Slim left in August and when we SKYPE with him or when the baby hears his voice, he gets very excited and I can see that he remembers his brother.  So, anyway, I am very excited to see how it goes.

Slim comes home the following weekend and I think grandparents are arriving a few days after Slim.  Both brothers have made food requests for their stay at home.  It will be the first time Slim has been home for Christmas in three years!  I am sure we won't have him home for much longer.  Being a returned missionary, it will be time for him to find his special someone and settle down to start their own traditions.  I am looking forward to it and a little sad at the same time.  My sweetheart keeps reminding me this is the reason we raise them, so they can establish their own eternal families.  While I am excited for them, I am a little sad their seasons with exclusively me are coming to a close.  This will probably be the last Christmas we have before we begin to add girlfriends/spouses to our holiday celebrations.

Tammy is coming home too!!!  Tammers is an honorary family member.  She is Spanky's age and has pretty much been a member of the family since she was about 11.  Both of her parents are deceased and we love her like she is our own.  We are so excited to have her home, as well!!


Family Time and Traditions
So with all of these people coming home, we will be celebrating Smiley's 8th birthday and baptism.  Scuff will be ordained an Elder and we will just enjoy the holidays and share a few family traditions.  I mentioned last week that we will be having birthday cake on Christmas day to remember the birth of our Savior.  We will also be celebrating Slim's birthday.  On your birthday at our house, you receive your gifts first thing in the morning, no waiting!  We sing and open presents and have family prayer and then head out to our various activities.  The birthday person chooses the evening meal and then they choose if they are going to have cake or a different dessert  or if they would rather have donuts in the morning.  It is a big day here.  I LOVE birthdays because I kind of feel like it is my day too.  It was definitely a day to celebrate----the arrival of a fresh, new spirit directly from heaven!  (And I worked hard that day..........so I think I should be recognized also!)
photo credit: na.wwrd.com

For Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, we set a formal table, with all the silverware and everything.  That way, at least three times a year our children have an experience and opportunity to practice their formal manners.  When I was in high school, prom was my first experience with eating at a formal table.  I had no idea which silverware to use or the rules of etiquette or anything else.  It was neat to be all dressed up, but I felt kind of dumb for not knowing how to behave.  I wanted our children to have some practice with that, so we go all out with salad plates and even dessert utensils.  It is more work, but the children look forward to it every year.  They are excited that they get to eat on the China and use the crystal.

 Illnesses
So my little princess has been sick all week.  It started out as a cough, then achy-ness, now a runny nose.  The baby is starting to show signs now too.  So I am feeding everyone sprouted wheat and barley water.  Maybe we will kick it before our company shows up.  But it won't be gone by tomorrow........sorry Scuff.

Down for three......I got a phone call from Smiley's school.  Please pick him up, he is sick too.

Connecticut
As I was typing up this blog this morning, the news of the Connecticut elementary school shooting was coming across the airwaves.  My heart and prayers go out to the families of that tragedy.  I am so saddened by the random acts of violence which occur in our society and world.  It breaks my heart that it occurred at all, but it is more upsetting to me that it happened at an elementary school.  That age group is so innocent.

I really don't know what else to say.  I will keep them in my prayers. 





Thursday, December 13, 2012

Simple Prayers Answered

photo credit: motorcycles.about.com
When Smiley was about two, we lived on a busy road, automobiles and pedestrians.  The neighborhood we lived in was scary.  Three drug-dealing homes were located directly across the street.  The constant pedestrian traffic outside our home was disheartening, dirty, and sad.  As a consequence of what was transpiring in the front of our home our family always used the back door; we parked next to the back fence and I often kept the front blinds closed to shield myself and our family from the outside influences.  Occasionally we would have visitors stop by.  They, of course, used the front door and periodically, one of our little people escaped during our front door visits.

On one such meeting, our little two-year old Smiley went running into the front yard.  Slim, the 16 year old, followed him.  Smiley ran into the street.  Luckily, at that particular moment, there were not any cars on the road.  Our 16 year-old simply and easily went after him, scooped him up and brought him back into the house.

I did not think much of the incident until one day when our oldest teenager was struggling with some difficult life choices.  At the time, he was not sure his father and I were giving him the straight scoop on life.  Our requirements, he felt, were too strict.  We kept too tight a leash on him and we asked too much of him.  His friends had more freedom.  They spent more time doing what they wanted and their parents weren't around to monitor how they spent their time or what choices they were making.  I was very frustrated and completely disheartened.  I prayed for strength and direction to know what to say to this child, who obviously needed answers, but for whom the Sunday school answers weren't going to satisfy.  Then the scenario I related above came to mind.  I knew what to say.

"Remember when you went running after Smiley because he was in the street and you were calling him and he wouldn't come?"

"Yes."

"Why did you go and get him?"

"Duh, Mom.  He was going to get hurt.  He is little."

"But, Slim, he was happy in the street.  He was completely unaware of any dangers.  He was happy and you interrupted his happiness and interfered in his plan.  Why would you do that?"

(A bit confused) "MOM!  He was in the STREET!  He could have been hit by a car!"

"I know, but he didn't care!  Why did you?"

"Because I know how the traffic drives on this road!  He was in REAL danger!"

"Yes, Slim, you are right.  He was in real danger, and you loved him and cared about him enough to remove him from the situation.  You have had enough experience that you were aware of things which could cause him harm-----things Smiley was completely unaware of."

I let that sink a minute.  Then, I followed up with this comment:

"Similarly, your father and I have lived long enough, and had enough experience with the road that you are on, that we are aware of dangers and pitfalls, which you do not have any idea even exist.  I am sorry you are struggling with the restrictions and guidelines we require of you.  But just as you were aware of the REAL danger Smiley was in, your father and I are aware of the REAL danger you are in.  We give you these guidelines because we love you and want to keep you safe."

If I had been a better parent, or a well trained missionary, I may have asked for some commitments right here in the conversation.  But this child needed to really ponder the information he had just received.  As I saw the information sink into his soul, I was so very grateful for a Father in Heaven who not only answered my prayer, but knew how to answer the frustrations of my son.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Because She is a Mother



When you have come to the Lord in meekness and lowliness of heart and, as one mother said, “pounded on the doors of heaven to ask for, to plead for, to demand guidance and wisdom and help for this wondrous task,” that door is thrown open to provide you the influence and the help of all eternity. Claim the promises of the Savior of the world. Ask for the healing balm of the Atonement for whatever may be troubling you or your children. Know that in faith things will be made right in spite of you, or more correctly, because of you.

You can’t possibly do this alone, but you do have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you—He who resolutely goes after the lost sheep, sweeps thoroughly to find the lost coin, waits everlastingly for the return of the prodigal son. Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be.

Remember, remember all the days of your motherhood: “Ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.” 10

Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.” 11 You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Like the woman who anonymously, meekly, perhaps even with hesitation and some embarrassment, fought her way through the crowd just to touch the hem of the Master’s garment, so Christ will say to the women who worry and wonder and sometimes weep over their responsibility as mothers, “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.” 12 And it will make your children whole as well.



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Table Talk Tuesday---Black Beans and Rice


photo credit: foodsogoodmall.com
Wow!!  You google images, 'black beans and rice' and who knew you would get a bazzilion hits!  I had no idea there were that many photos out there of black beans and rice.  Far be it for me to add another one, so I just used one that was already out there and looked like the ones I make.  I actually use the recipe from the Weight Watcher's Cookbook c 2006, and I change it up a little bit.

 3 cups black beans, cooked (I prefer to cook mine in the crock pot, see this post).
2 TBL oil
1 yellow or red pepper
1/2 onion
5 cloves of garlic
2 14 oz. cans of tomatoes
1 C vegetable broth
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. chipotle powder (or 1 jalapeno, finely chopped)
1 TBL finely chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper

Heat oil in the frying pan.  Saute pepper, onion, and garlic until soft.  Add tomatoes, vegetable broth, and spices.  Add beans.  If they are too thick, add a little water.  Stir until desired consistency.  Add cilantro and salt and pepper.  Simmer for about 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to blend.  Serve over rice, maybe with some avocado and lime juice.  Enjoy.

I like these a LOT!  I prefer them to the pinto bean recipe (link above) because of the spiciness.  But if I want the children to eat them, I make pinto beans.  They are not too fond of black beans, but I LOVE them.

Next Tuesday, I am going to post a recipe from my dear friend Linzy....black bean fudge!  Seriously!!  I have not made it yet, but I tried it and it is delicious and tastes like fudge without the marshmallow creme of the traditional fudge recipe.  I am particularly excited because Scuff is allergic to corn and this recipe doesn't have any in it!

So tune in next week for that recipe!




Monday, December 10, 2012

Mothering Moment Monday--Sacrament Meeting

photo credit: lattermusings.blogspot.com

I walked into Sacrament meeting yesterday just as they began the opening hymn.  My little family was already seated.  The bench was full, so I had to sit behind them, which turned out to be a fabulous move.  As soon as I sat down, I noticed my little Smiley (7, almost 8) had an electronic toy and was beginning to play with it.  I sat my stuff down, and placed the baby on the bench as I sat down.  Then, I leaned over the bench and held out my hand, indicating, 'hand it over right now'.  He immediately began to stuff it into his scripture bag.  No, hand it over, I motioned again.  He scowled and handed it back to me.

A few moments later, he was messing with the hymn book being held by a friend (14 yr old young man) who had come to investigate the meeting with us.  Then he was poking him, fist bumping, turning the pages.  I leaned forward again and whispered for him to stop.  Then he picked up the hat he had worn to church and started spinning it on his finger.  He was seated on the outside seat next to the aisle.  I could just see his hat take flight and fling across the room.  Again, I whispered, stop now.  Another scowl.  He slammed the hat into the bench.  Another couple of minutes go by and the poking begins all over again.  (By now I am thinking, what did this kid eat for lunch??)  Again, Smiley, stop now.

By the time the Sacrament had been passed, I had decided we needed to have a little conversation.  It was a good thing too, because he had started clicking his shoes against the bench, loud enough that people across the aisle and two benches ahead of us were turning around.  Lifting the baby in my left hand, I stood up, and from behind gently pushed my little Smiley to standing.  He was very frustrated and, you guessed it, scowling!  Come with me, I whispered, and held my hand behind me for him to clasp.  We walked into the foyer.

I sat down in the foyer chair, babe on my lap, so my little Smiley could look directly into my eyes.

"Do you know why we are here?" I asked him.

"Because I was making noise with my shoes."

"Yes, that is part of the reason.  Do you know why else?"

"No."

"How about because you were poking our friend, and trying to fist bump, and messing with the hymn book while he tried to sing, and twirling your hat?  Are those appropriate behaviors for the chapel?"

"No."

"What are we suppose to be thinking about when they are passing the Sacrament?"

"Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ."

"Right.  What were you thinking about?"

"Other stuff."

"Do you think you can return the meeting and behave the way you are suppose to in the meeting?"

"Yes."

"Are you sure?  Because if you chose not to do that, you will need to sit with me instead of with the other children."

"Yes."

"OK then.  We will go back into the meeting, but it isn't polite for us to walk in while the speaker is talking.  So when she finishes, we will go to our seat.  In the mean time, we will stand here at the door, so we will know when she is done."

"What?!  I want to sit down."

"No, come over here.  Stand right here."

It is so great to stand in the doorway of the chapel, especially in view of the Bishop, especially when the Bishop is your father, seated next to a member of the Stake Presidency!  Dirty looks can carry from the stand to the foyer.  Did you know that?

When the speaker had finished, we returned to our seats and the rest of the meeting was uneventful.

Rule for parenting boys:  Do THIS.  Do it now, or THESE will be the consequences.  There will be grumbling and scowling, but for the most part, they will obey if their consequences in the past have actually occurred as and when promised.




Saturday, December 8, 2012

Five for Friday--Christmas Ornament Edition




We are linking up with Heather @ Women in the Scriptures today and sharing our favorite Christmas decorations.


#1 on the list has to be our Santa hats.  When I was a girl, I wanted one so bad!  Well, when we got married and started having children, I decided we all needed Santa hats!  When they go on clearance sale after the holiday, we buy more if we need them.  Everyone has one and we have put their names in them.  It is a big deal every year.  The first thing the kids want is their Santa hat.  Speedy even told me he has a friend who has a camo Santa hat.  How cool is that?  I have seen some of the variations, but my favorites are still the traditional ones.  Yea for Santa hats!

I couldn't resist this one in his Christmas pajamas.


 #2.  This is my favorite Christmas wreath.  My sister-in-law made the wreath.  The reindeer is from my best high school friend when they were giving them away free with Burger King meals.  I think he is about 24 years old.  And the little angel was made by another friend whom I love.  I think that is why they are special to me.  They come from special people.

#3  I LOVE these little carolers.  I made them at an activity when we were visiting my husband's parents home.  (Yes, I went to their RS activity.)  I love them so much.  They keep falling apart and I keep gluing them back together.  I don't know why I like them so much.  It is funny to me that two black haired people would have a blonde daughter and a red-headed son.  Guess I should have thought about that before I chose the hair colors, huh?


#4 I also love our Christmas stockings and our tree skirt.  I bought them at totally different places and times.  But I love the snowmen and reindeer.  I realized this year that I decorate in reindeer and snowmen for Christmas and I decorate in navy blue and burgundy........which is funny.  I have a navy blue and burgundy couch and my other couches are burgundy and we just put in burgundy curtains.   My wedding colors were navy and pink.  I guess I have always liked those colors.  Drew kept asking me if I didn't want them in pink.  I told him I must have matured....burgundy is just a mature pink right?

#5.  Stocking hangers.  I have always loved stocking hangers to hang the stockings from the mantel.  We do not have a mantel that would work for hanging stockings on.  I have not been able to find quality ones that I really like.  These are two of my favorites.  I think we only have four and I have never been able to find enough that I like that match.  Couple that with the fact that the little ones just pull the stockings and then the quality, heavy hangers fall onto their heads, well, I just kind of bagged collecting them.  But I still love these ones, even though they have a few knicks from being dropped plenty of times.

Well that's it.  Those are my favorites, even if they were really posted on Saturday, right?  Have a very Merry Christmas!  Our favorite tradition?  We eat birthday cake on Christmas day to help the children remember that we are celebrating the birth of our Savior, not Santa.  For all of the Santa decorations we have, we don't even have Santa come to the house to deliver gifts.


Friday, December 7, 2012

The Coat: A story of Charity


I watched this short video this morning........loved it!

 I have heard the story before, but I really love this format.............so beautiful!!!



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mother of Men


I am a mother of men.  I have been now for about 22 years.  I have one sweet daughter, whom I love dearly.  But the truth be told, I parent boys.  My natural woman always reverts to talking to boys, disciplining boys, motivating boys, working with boys, training boys.  When I am working with my daughter, I often parent the boy way until it backfires and then I consciously remind myself this is a girl.  Oh, right, girl parenting....let's see, fingernail polish, social engagements, hair, clothes, right....girls......  (That is a post for another day.  This post is about boys.)

I do not remember when it started, but sometime in my parenting journey, I decided I needed to know what the prophets want my boys to know and do so I could help make sure they were doing it.  Since then, I have anxiously awaited for the General Conference (click here) Edition of the Ensign (May and November of each year).  I open it directly to the Priesthood Session and read the talks.

This month I began with Elder Christofferson's address.  I was floored by these statements:


Brethren, much has been said and written in recent years about the challenges of men and boys. A sampling of book titles, for example, includes Why There Are No Good Men Left, The Demise of Guys, The End of Men, Why Boys Fail, and Manning Up. Interestingly, most of these seem to have been written by women. In any case, a common thread running through these analyses is that in many societies today men and boys get conflicting and demeaning signals about their roles and value in society.
The author of Manning Up characterized it this way: “It’s been an almost universal rule of civilization that whereas girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess, or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors of women and children; this was always their primary social role. Today, however, with women moving ahead in an advanced economy, provider husbands and fathers are now optional, and the character qualities men had needed to play their role—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete and even a little embarrassing.”1

In their zeal to promote opportunity for women, something we applaud, there are those who denigrate men and their contributions. They seem to think of life as a competition between male and female—that one must dominate the other, and now it’s the women’s turn. Some argue that a career is everything and marriage and children should be entirely optional—therefore, why do we need men?2 In too many Hollywood films, TV and cable shows, and even commercials, men are portrayed as incompetent, immature, or self-absorbed. This cultural emasculation of males is having a damaging effect.

In the United States, for example, it is reported: “Girls outperform boys now at every level, from elementary school through graduate school. By eighth grade, for instance, only 20 percent of boys are proficient in writing and 24 percent proficient in reading. Young men’s SAT scores, meanwhile, in 2011 were the worst they’ve been in 40 years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out of both high school and college. … It is predicted that women will earn 60 percent of bachelor’s, 63 percent of master’s and 54 percent of doctorate degrees by 2016. Two-thirds of students in special education remedial programs are guys.”3

Some men and young men have taken the negative signals as an excuse to avoid responsibility and never really grow up. In an observation that is too often accurate, one university professor remarked, “The men come into class with their backward baseball caps and [their lame] the ‘word processor ate my homework’ excuses. Meanwhile, the women are checking their day planners and asking for recommendations for law school.”4 One female movie reviewer expressed the rather cynical view that “what we can count on men for, if we’re lucky and we choose to have a partner, is to be just that—a partner. Someone who stands in his own space even as he respects our standing in our own.”5

As I read these statements, I was grateful that my boys do not seem to be heading in that direction.  Then I consciously thought, what are we doing at our house so they do not become those men?  Now, as I go through some of our decisions, please understand that some of them have come out of economic necessity, meaning, if we had the means, we would be making different choices.  (Which I realize may be a huge blessing from our Father in Heaven that our children do not have access to some of the list below simply because we do not have the economic means to provide those things for them.)  Also, please understand that I do not believe these things are bad, in themselves.  Most of them I find enjoyable and with moderation can be used without a problem.  But I definitely believe that our lack of them in our home contributes greatly to the kind of men we raise.

Here is my list: 
  • We do not have a gaming system.  My children have begged and begged for one.  We have had people offer to give them to us for free.  I considered purchasing a Wii when they first came out.  Luckily, when one parent is seriously considering the offer or the purchase, the other parent is unwilling.  I believe this has been a huge blessing to our family---mostly because we have so many boys who would waste so much of their time on trying to beat the high scores even if we didn't have violent games.  Also, as we have considered this idea, we have had some children who my dear husband said to me, "You know that child is going to get unapproved games from his friends and he will be up playing them in the middle of the night while we are all sleeping."  I knew his words were true.  I don't think we will ever have a gaming system in our home.
  • My children do not have cell phones while they live here.  Mostly, this is an economic choice.  But I have to say, I believe they interact with each other better, they are kinder to one another, they have to actually talk to each other in order to communicate---no texting or leaving messages for each other.  There are no midnight conversations with people who do not live here.  There is some down time in their day.  There is no internet access through their phone that they do not have.  
  • We have one computer in the middle of the family room that all can use for their entertainment, socializing, homework.  We all have to share it, which makes us all take turns and learn how to cooperate and to be patient, and to plan our activities.
  • Our computer is locked.  Only the parents have access to the code.  This is not about not trusting our children.  It is about protecting them.  Lucifer knows who they are and knows when/where they are vulnerable.  It is irresponsible of us as guardians to allow them temptations that could spiritually damage their soul and future to happen here in our home, a place where they should be safe.  The same goes for the television---most of the channels are locked.
  • We have one television, no TV's in the bedrooms.  Entertainment is a family experience.  We all have to watch it together, which means sometimes we cannot watch a show/movie we want to because it would not be appropriate for smaller children in the room.  It requires compromise and team work to find stuff we are all willing to watch. 
  • We are super selective about the entertainment we view.  All movies/shows are previewed by parents before they are watched at all.  If we do decided to watch something with the children without a preview, we have to be willing to turn it off at the first sign of anything off-color.  If they do it once, it will usually happen again.  Don't wait hoping it will get better, it probably won't.  We also read reviews if say a teenager is going to watch a movie with friends and we do not have time to preview.  Discussion is had about the rating and the various aspects of concern: language, violence, or sexual content.  Discussions are had of willingness to walk out of the movie/theater/performance even in the case of peer pressure.  I think because we are so selective about our viewing, my children have all become avid readers (in which we teach the same selectivity, though we cannot keep up with their reading---we have had to leave their reading choices to their discretion, with obvious veto's from the parents.)
  • Even movies shown at school are previewed.  The teachers are aware of how selective we are.  The elementary teachers are extremely good about working with us.  High school teachers?  Not so much.  Our children know if they choose to walk out of class because something is morally offensive to them, we will support their decision and they will not be in trouble with us.  We applaud their decision making and courage.
  • We do not let them go to friend's homes where gaming is the primary activity.  We try to host get-togethers at our home.  Friends are always welcome and we will do what we can to have a fun activity in line with our standards.  Besides, with boys, it really is about the food, right?  We have plenty of that.
  • Our children are expected to babysit, cook, clean, change diapers, and provide service to others all because they live here.  Period.  When I need something of them, I try to be respectful like I would if I were calling someone else.  I let them know with plenty of warning.  I ask.  I work around their homework, personal desires, and social schedules.  We try to accommodate everyone involved.  When that cannot be done, we ask for sacrifice and we try to spread that around so one person is not always saddled with the burden.  
When our last little one was born, we were visiting with staff at the elementary school.  The principal commented on what a lucky little boy he was to be born to our home.  Quizzically, I looked at her.  She said, "I am very serious.  He is very lucky to be coming to your house." 

Some of the children's friends, when they learn of some of the 'rules of the house' so to speak, talk about how strict we are and how they would hate to live here.  But our 17 year-old, the other day, said, "You know Mom, I can't help but notice that my relationship with my parents is very different than the relationships some of my friends have with their parents.  One friend will always make the opposite choice of the one her parents want her to make, just because she doesn't want to do something if they want her to."  How sad.

Teenagers, children, all of us, really, need limits, need guidelines, need boundaries.  Guard rails along the road are not to inhibit our freedom to drive off of the cliff.  They are to keep us on the road to our destination, to help us safely return.  Likewise, we have to place our own guardrails up to help our children be successful and guide them along the road to their destinations, that they can arrive unharmed and prepared.



Sunday, December 2, 2012

A night at the Symphony

Photo credit:  Mlive.com
A friend in our ward plays in our community's symphony and was able to give us complimentary tickets to her performance.  We attended Friday evening.  It was amazing!!  We are not a large community and I did not expect the performance to be anything spectacular.  But the musicianship was SUPERB!!!  They played several selections from Handel's Messiah, a few from the Nutcracker, and then had a 15 minute Christmas sing along.  It was so much fun!

photo credit:  ecu.edu
I particularly enjoyed the brass section.  As a former trumpet player and musician, the brass has a special place in my heart.  I was unprepared for the waves of emotion that I felt during the performance, not so much due to the music, but because I really miss playing.  Band was a HUGE part of my life for about eight years, concert band, jazz band, pep-band, marching band.  As we left the performance, I figured out that I probably spent about three to four hours a day playing my trumpet in one form or another for the last five years of that time period.  I cried because I loved to play.  I love the camaraderie of the orchestra and the fun interactions we had during the rehearsals, hours and hours and hours of rehearsal.

As a mother, I do not have time for hours and hours of rehearsal, even for a small season.  But I can appreciate the work and musical abilities of those who do and can.  Thanks for the beautiful music.  I hope I can attend the Symphony more often!!  You were incredible!



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Woman=Motherhood

Today, 22 years ago, I became a mother.  I gave birth to my first child.  Now I say that I became a mother, but the truth is, I was a mother long before I gave birth.  Motherhood, is the true nature of womanhood.

Loving and leading—these words summarize not only the all-consuming work of the Father and the Son, but the essence of our labor, for our work is to help the Lord with His work. How, then, may we as Latter-day women of God best help the Lord with His work?

Prophets have repeatedly answered this question, as did the First Presidency six decades ago when they called motherhood “the highest, holiest service … assumed by mankind.” 
 
Have you ever wondered why prophets have taught the doctrine of motherhood—and it is doctrine—again and again? I have. I have thought long and hard about the work of women of God. And I have wrestled with what the doctrine of motherhood means for all of us. This issue has driven me to my knees, to the scriptures, and to the temple—all of which teach an ennobling doctrine regarding our most crucial role as women. It is a doctrine about which we must be clear if we hope to stand “steadfast and immovable”  regarding the issues that swirl around our gender. For Satan has declared war on motherhood. He knows that those who rock the cradle can rock his earthly empire. And he knows that without righteous mothers loving and leading the next generation, the kingdom of God will fail.

When we understand the magnitude of motherhood, it becomes clear why prophets have been so protective of woman’s most sacred role. While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living” —and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood.  Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us.  Sheri L. Dew, October 2001

I LOVE this quote from Sister Dew.  It means so much more to me knowing that she is a professional woman who has never been married or had children.  Instead of looking at what she is lacking in her life, she has chosen to study, ponder, and pray about a topic very dear and sensitive to her heart.  She has chosen to embrace the doctrine and to do what she can in her sphere to magnify her eternal identity.

I appreciate the opportunity I have to bear and rear children.  I recognize it as a gift and a responsibility.  To be honest, I really struggle with the blessing of being asked to do it more often than I would have chosen to.  There are many things I would like to be doing that I cannot because I am a mother to so many.  I am not complaining.  The things I would like to be doing are no where near as important as what I have been asked to do, but it is important to understand that there are plenty of things I have to sacrifice in order to mother so many. 

It is interesting, when I let my green-eyed monster roam free, I am sad and dissatisfied with life.  But when I can see it through eternity's lenses, I recognize that those I am jealous of have their own hidden heartaches, sacrifices, and unfilled dreams and desires.

So.......even though I love my brood, I struggle with them too.  I know all women are mothers, those who have special gifts given them to love and lead the next generation, whether they give birth to them or not.

Happy Birthday, sweet son!
Love,



Friday, November 30, 2012

Five for Friday...


This week we participated in parent-teacher conferences!  Woohoo!!  I do love hearing how the children are doing and learning about how things are functioning for them in their classrooms.  We get specific feedback on how we can help each child perform better in their class.

I bring paper and pencil so I can jot down notes, positive and negative, so I remember what I want to share about the conference with each child.  This year, Sun's teacher wanted her to attend her conference.  She was very nervous (only because that is her nature).  He was extremely complimentary and praising of her.  It was very fun to watch her beam as he lathered on the compliments.  She really needed it.  The other thing he did that I hadn't seen before was he had each of the children evaluate themselves in their classroom behavior and social interactions.  He gave them a list of things like:  I always get my work done; I am kind to others;  I follow the teachers instructions;  I am respectful;  I turn in my homework on time; etc...  Each child was suppose to grade themselves, 1 being never, 2, meaning sometimes, 3 meaning most of the time, and 4 being always.  On the back he gave space for writing things like:  My goals for the year are:,  I think I am good at:, stuff like that.  Then during the conference, he went over their self-evaluations and gave us his opinion of those areas.  In most areas he felt like Sun did better than she gave herself credit for.  That was important information as her mother, to realize that sometimes she undervalues herself.  (It was actually my husband who pointed it out, as I was explaining our conference to him....thanks Dear!)  So that will be something we will be working on at home, to help her come to a more accurate self-image.

I found out that even though Shorty is on top of all of his classwork, he hasn't turned in any book reports which are due once a month.  Why? you ask.  Well, that was my question too.  So I asked him.  The answer:  Because I don't know where the book report forms are in the classroom.  REALLY?!  OK so today's only task was to ask where those papers are located.  Did it happen?  Nope, not today either.  So tomorrow if he doesn't know when he gets in the car, I'll send him back in to retrieve one.

And Smiley.....well, I already told you about his homework habits (HERE).  That was the only negative thing on his report card.  His teacher even told me how difficult of a time she has disciplining him because he seems to have such a good attitude, and it genuinely bothers him when he doesn't have his homework to turn in.  Well, that isn't how it appears at home.  Read the link to find out his reaction.  Anyway, we have implemented some consequences at home that appear to be working and motivating enough for him to remember to turn in his homework.  Whew!


I cleaned the shower!!! Will miracles never cease??!!  It was disgusting!  You did not want to see a before photo, trust me.  And yes, the entire bathroom is pink tile, see:
The toilet is pink too, but you don't want to see that either.


The winter weather is upon us:
WET, WET, SUPER WET!!
Have you ever had a really bad thing and a really good thing happen in the same day?  Yesterday was like that for me.  One of my children attended a college banquet to receive an award.  I didn't get to attend because he is far, far away.  But just the fact that he received it was a great honor.

Later that night we received some sad news, not horrible, manageable.  But I was just sad for one of my kiddos.  It is just so weird to have really happy feelings and really sad feelings all in the same day about totally different events and people.

Number 5 was suppose to be the best-----the big finale!!!  I was going to post on how awesome it was to decorate for Christmas.  I had plans to bring the children home from school, pull all the decorations out and go to town.  But alas, my plan was foiled!

Service is so inconvenient sometimes!  One sister needed a ride to the department store to exchange pants.  Another sister needed to have her car jump started.  I am sad to say I was annoyed they needed my help instead of being able to decorate the house.  What kind of a Christian am I?  Sad!  I am going to have to change my attitude.  Speaking of which, my sweetheart now needs my assistance and I cannot even finish this blog.  Oh well, such is life :-)

Linking in with Heather today!