Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hopes of a Happy Ending

Gems of Reflection, #52
I know I already posted a Gems post today, but seeing as how it's the last day of 2013 - and because I am a slacker and didn't get these out on time - I wanted to get this last Gems post out before ringing in the new year tonight.

I absolutely cannot believe that a whole year has gone by since we started these Gems posts last January. Yet here it is - New Year's Eve - and here I sit, nostalgically writing the last one.

It was more than a year ago that I stumbled upon a jar of journal prompts that belonged to my late mother-in-law, and it has been such a treat reflecting on each little Gem over the course of this last year. If you have the time, click here and look through some of these posts, then comment on your favorites below. It would be an awesome tribute to her, and a pretty neat way to ring in the new year. :)

Now, focusing on this final reflection, I feel kind of saddened by the fact that I don't really know a lot about my mother's wedding dress, or even the day they were married. My parents were married very young, and divorced when my older brother and sister were still really little. They then remarried a few years later, and that second wedding is the one of which I have more knowledge.

I remember seeing a picture of her in the silky, silver dress that she wore that day, and I believe they only had a small ceremony and get-together at our house in Henderson.

Sadly, my parents were divorced when I was a senior in high school, but my mom did get married again a few years later. I wasn't able to attend the wedding, as they were married on a romantic, Alaskan cruise ship, but she looked absolutely beautiful that day in her cream wedding dress and elegant pearls. I only wish that story had a happy ending, though, for my mother is one of the most loving, selfless people I know, and she deserves to be truly happy. Unfortunately, however, that marriage ended abruptly just shy of their six-year anniversary.

One thing I know about my mother, though, is that is she is a survivor. She has been through so many trials in this life, yet she always manages to stay true to her faith in Jesus Christ, maintaining an attitude of gratitude. If anyone has a reason to be bitter or hopeless, it is her, yet she continues to give of herself and love those around her unconditionally.

My mother has always been someone that I've looked up to as a pillar of strength, and I know that she doesn't need a man in her life to be happy; however, I still hold onto the hope that one day she will meet her Prince Charming, and will have her happy ending all the same. :)

Reflecting on Education

Gems of Reflection, #51
I absolutely loved school - both in high school and college. In high school, I played several sports, including volleyball, basketball, and track. It allowed me to have some amazing life experiences and meet some incredible people. I also played in the marching band my freshman year, and that was a blast too. I think all of these activities helped me to stay focused on getting good grades and making choices that would help me to maintain eligibility status, thereby having a positive high school experience.

College was a bit of a struggle for me, only because I was a single mother working full time AND going to school full time too. M, who was only a toddler at the time, went from daycare to daycare, often not seeing me but in the morning and at bedtime, and looking back, I think she may have really suffered from the lack of one on one interaction with me.

I don't regret getting my education; though, and I had many awesome experiences that shaped my thinking and molded me into the person I am today. College is where I really started to hone my love for English grammar - where I first started thinking that one day I might want to be an English teacher. I also really gained a love for the Spanish language in college, and it was this point in my life when I really started to become fluent. It was partly due to the several (five) semesters of Spanish classes that I took, but it can also be attributed to the opportunities I was given outside of school (at work, for example) to speak the language and communicate with others on a regular basis.

I got my AA in English in the 2005, and I am grateful for the scholarships I received, and the numerous family members who supported me through the process and helped me to accomplish that goal. I only hope that one day I'll be able to go back to school to complete my Bachelor's Degree - possibly with a minor in Spanish. Maybe by then, we'll be living in Utah, and I can get my BA from BYU. That would be awesome! :)

Source: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com via The Purple on Pinterest

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

This Christmas Eve...

Yay! It's Christmas Eve. I cannot express how excited I am that tomorrow is Christmas! L is 3-years old this year, and so it is the first time that he has really started to understand who Santa Claus is and that he comes to visit on Christmas, bringing toys and goodies for all the good little girls and boys. He even wrote his own little letter to Santa this year (with Mom's help, of course), and every day, he wakes up trying to convince me that it's Christmas so he can open his presents. Hehe. He asked to help me make sugar cookies and has also started requesting Christmas songs when we have our singing time right before nap.

Last night, we took the kids to Glittering Lights at The Las Vegas Motor Speedway and we had so much fun driving through the plethora of incredible light displays, jammin' out to Christmas music, and enjoying time as a family. Today, I made homemade bread and cinnamon rolls for us all to enjoy with our breakfast tomorrow morning after opening presents, and I can't wait to see the look on L's face when he wakes up to find what Santa brought him. Seeing the magic of Christmas through a child's eyes always makes the season so special for me. I love being a parent, and being able to take part in making the holidays special for my kids.

This past Sunday, we had Christmas dinner with my mom, grandma, and the rest of my family at my brother's house. We did a little family-gift exchange, decorated sugar cookies, the kids (eight cousins in all) colored little, wooden ornaments to exchange with each other, and we all enjoyed some yummy ham and Christmas fixins.

Family is definitely one of my most favorite things to celebrate throughout the holiday season, and I am so grateful that I have family close to share in the magic of the season.

So, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas!

This beautiful piece of art was gifted to M by my 3-year-old nephew. ;)

Monday, December 23, 2013

An Eye-Opening Job Experience

Gems of Reflection - #50
I have been fortunate in the fact that I have been able to be a stay-at-home mom for the last few years, so I haven't worked since before I got pregnant with my 3-year-old son, L. It has been such a rewarding experience to be able to stay home with my babies, to watch them grow, to be a part of every milestone in their lives, and to have an active role in raising them. My last few jobs before I started to stay home, however, were all in the legal field. I worked as a legal assistant for a few different law offices here in town, but my favorite jobs were the two jobs where I worked for a criminal defense attorney.

The most recent of those two attorneys had a large client base of women who had charges of prostitution and trespassing. The caseload was so large, in fact, that he employed one person specifically to handle only those types of cases - me. 

I handled everything where these girls were concerned from collecting attorney's fees to scheduling court dates. I managed every aspect of their case(s) (yes, most of them had several recurring charges) short of appearing in court for/with them, and I basically was responsible for dealing with client relations, and thereby was required to familiarize myself with the details of every case. At any given time, there were upwards of 200 clients under my stewardship, and it was definitely an eye-opening experience to work so closely with these women whose sole source of income was from such a questionable nature. 

Many of these women were married with children - some had husbands who were completely oblivious to what kind of lifestyle their wife was living. Some women would walk into our office first thing in the morning as they were just getting off work - to pay a bill or inquire about their case - all decked out in their mini skirts and "hooker heels" (as my oh-so-gracious husband likes to call them) with their kids in tow, and I sometimes felt myself feeling sorrow for the the "sad" life that these women led, as well as what their children were being exposed to. 

Before having worked that job, I might have been dismissive of these types of women - judgmental even - but as I continued to do my job and got to know them each on a personal level, I came to realize that they too are children of our Heavenly Father, and it was not my place to judge them. Though I didn't agree with their life choices, I was in no position to think less of them. I don't know, maybe it's naive to think that that particular situation could have changed my thinking, but I really came to see these women as normal human beings - like there was nothing setting them apart from myself, and I came to understand what it means to "love the sinner, hate the sin." Maybe this is what it means to have Christ-like love and acceptance for others and to see them as He sees them.  

Romans 5:8 says, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." I am not condoning the actions of these women, nor am I saying that I disagree with their method of earning income any less. All I am saying is that my perspective has changed a little in the sense that I have learned to look at those who would be deemed as "sinners" as nothing other than children of our Heavenly Father - who need our love and acceptance as much as we need these same things from others. And if I ever find myself sitting on a throne of judgmental condescension toward others, I try to remember this important lesson and reflect back on the wisdom that was gained in the process.

I don't know, working with these women was not the most glamorous job in the world, and I definitely got teased a time or two by my co-workers about being "the Mormon girl who worked with prostitutes," but I am thankful for the valuable life-lesson that I learned from the experience. It's one I definitely never expected to learn from such an environment.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Blessing of Friendship

Gems of Reflection, #49
So, I guess my answer to this question would depend on one's definition of the word, friend. I count myself lucky to know so many thoughtful people who sacrifice for the needs of my family, and to know so many wonderful souls who are willing to serve me in numerous ways, and so I have many people in my circle of influence that I am lucky to call my friend.

To me, a friend is someone that loves you as the Savior does and is there for you, should you ever be in need of something - spiritual or material - someone you would do the same for, should the roles ever be reversed. In this aspect, I am fortunate in the fact that I have many amazing, caring women in my ward, who have come to my rescue on numerous occasions - simply because of the fact that they knew I was in need. Many of these women have been there to uplift me spiritually, when I was in desperate need of comfort, and they were willing to listen to the promptings of the spirit and meet that need as well, while others offered to take the kids for a playdate (because they knew I needed the silence to regain my sanity. lol), or have offered to give M a ride to school or to mutual.

I know that Heavenly Father puts us in a certain place for a reason, as he puts certain people into our lives for a reason too, and I know that he knew I needed this ward. I am eternally grateful for the blessing of these sisters who have been such dear friends to me, and I pray that I can only return the favor and be a good friend to them as well.

Now, there are also several family members that I have grown close to and consider my friends. My husband and my mom are probably my best friends in the world, but I also have sisters-in-law that I have come to know and love. I am thankful for each of these relationships, for the strength and comfort they provide in trying times, and for the way my life is blessed because of their love. I know my Heavenly Father loves me and puts these people into my life to bless me daily. For that, I am so truly grateful. :)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The 12 Days of Service

With the official kick-off of the holiday season this past weekend, I have been pondering a lot lately on how I might invite the real spirit of Christmas into our home, instilling a sense of charity in my children's hearts, and teaching them about the true meaning of Christmas. The first thing that came to mind, was service.

How can I implement this lesson in a way that will appeal to their impressionable minds; though, without the situation seeming pre-meditated or preachy (they seem to learn certain life lessons more profoundly when they are delivered in a natural, easily-relatable way)? Then it hit me: The 12 Days of Christmas. Instead of giving gifts to someone each day for the duration of 12 days, however, maybe we could perform little acts of service for others instead.

So, I have been racking my brain these last few days, trying to come up with some ideas for little acts of service that they could perform for The 12 Days of Service, and this is what I came up with:

1. Bake a plate of cookies for a neighbor. Place it on their front porch, ring the doorbell, and RUN!!! Hehe;
2. When going through the drive-thru, pay for the person in line behind you;
3. Put together little baggies of Hershey's kisses (or hugs) with a note that says, "Here are some kisses/hugs from someone who wants you to know you are loved." Then, attach the baggies to several random windshields in a parking lot (at church, for example);
4. Send "thank you" notes anonymously to a few people (teachers, or missionaries serving from your ward, for example) who have made an impact in your life;
5. Put together a few "care kits" in 1-gallon ziploc bags (with toothpaste, a toothbrush, soap, gift cards for fast food, a spiritual message, etc.) then keep them in your car. Give them to homeless people who may be in need of these little necessities (I totally stole this one from a friend. Hehe). For some additional ideas on what to pack in the kits, I found this website. It had some really helpful info. :)
6. Make a tie-quilt (an easy DIY project that doesn't require sewing, and the kiddos can easily help out), and give it to a child or person in need. For those of you who want to learn how to make one, here is a cute tutorial that will show you how. The tutorial recommends using 2 1/2 yards of fabric, but you can make it smaller or larger, depending on the size of the child/person you intend to give it to. One thing I would also recommend (that the video doesn't address) is for you to make sure that you cut off the selvage edge of the fabric (usually has the brand of the fabric printed down one side) and then make sure both fabrics line up perfectly BEFORE you start cutting. I usually put a few pins through the fabric before cutting the strips as well to make sure the fabric doesn't slip;
7. Go to the dollar store and pick up a few boxes of crayons and a few coloring books. Wrap a box of crayons with each coloring book, then secretly leave each wrapped package anonymously on the door of a child in your neighborhood;
8. Leave a few extra stamps at the post office - I stole this one too, although I have to admit that I am ashamed for not thinking of it myself. A few days ago, I took L-Bear (my 3-year-old) to the post office to get a stamp and mail his letter to Santa. The lady that was in line in front of us had a bunch of packages that she was trying to mail off, but when she saw that I only had the one letter, she asked me, "Do you just need a stamp?" When I told her, "Yes," she offered to let me go ahead of her, but then said, "Ya know what? I have an extra stamp. Here you go." And she totally gave me a one of her stamps. I thanked her over and over, and knew that the experience was a call for me to pay-it-forward. So, I definitely need to do this one. This woman's kindness also inspired the next act of service:
9. Let someone cut you in line at the grocery store or post office;
10. Donate some books to your local library or to your ward nursery;
11. Leave a basket full of chocolates anonymously in the Relief Society room with a note that says, "Thank you for all you do"; and
12. Leave a plate of cookies in the office (for the office staff) of your child's school.

If you have any other ideas for acts of service that you would like to share, please leave a comment below. I plan to implement The 12 Days of Service initiative into our family home evening next week so we will have plenty of time to prepare for our acts of service in advance, and I look forward to hearing what some of you guys come up with. :)

Thank you all, and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Testimony of Life and Marriage

Gems of Reflection, #48
First off, I want to apologize for all the Gems posts lately. I have been trying desperately to get caught up on November's posts so that I would be able to write the first of December's posts today, since it is the first Monday of the month - and woo hoo! I did it. Hallelujah. Hehe.

It's a miracle, I know, but hopefully I will be able to stay on task through all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season so that these final few Gems posts will appear every Monday, as regularly scheduled, until the end of the year.

Man, I can hardly believe that we only have 4 short weeks left (after today) until we reach the end of our Gems of Reflection challenge. Even moreso, I can't believe that such little time remains until the commencement of 2014. The older I get, the faster time seems to fly on by.

Anyway, onto the topic at hand. I have a firm testimony in the Plan of Salvation, and I know that we lived with our Heavenly Father before we came to this Earth, that we chose His plan, and that we are here to prove faithful to Him in all that we do, to follow the example of the Savior and to endure to the end so that we can return to Him when the time comes.

I know that our loving Heavenly Father does not expect us to be perfect, but because of the sacrifice of the Savior, we are able to be redeemed through Him and become perfected as we strive to live the commandments and emulate the example of our elder brother, Jesus Christ.

I am so grateful for the gospel in my life, and for the knowledge I possess that gives me purpose in this life. I am grateful for my family, for the gift of motherhood, and for the many beautiful and wonderful experiences, which that blessing affords. I know that Heavenly Father wants us to experience joy in this life, and that He has promised us so many blessings if we only remain faithful and righteous - and though I don't dare to claim perfection, I do strive to let the light of Christ shine through me, that I might teach my children the importance of the gospel in their life, that they may come to gain a testimony of their own, and to know in their hearts that Heavenly Father loves them and has a plan for them too.

I love my family, and I am so grateful for the blessings of marriage. I have a firm testimony in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, and I know that those words were received through revelation from our Heavenly Father. I know that marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God, and that through the power of the priesthood, families can be together forever - bound together eternally through the Abrahamic Covenant.

I love being married to a man who honors his priesthood and strives to better himself because of his love for the gospel and his family. Marriage is not always easy, but it brings me such happiness - striving as a union toward raising a family in righteousness, and fumbling through this scary thing called parenthood - together. Our relationship is not perfect, and we definitely don't always see eye-to-eye, but I can't imagine my life without my eternal companion, and I thank Heavenly Father for the gift of marriage daily. I have become a better person through the trials we have overcome together, and I know that as we strive to be righteous parents for our children, going before the Lord in prayerful supplication, He will guide us and will bless us with the strength and wisdom to be the parents that each of our children needs and deserves.

Please feel free to share your own testimony of life and marriage in the comments below, or post a link where we might visit your blog to share in your thoughts on this topic.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Remembering Beloved Aunts and Uncles

Gems of Reflection, #47
One of my favorite uncles is my dad's brother, Lyle. I always thought he looked a lot like my dad, and I've always thought he has such a goofy personality. He is silly and fun to be around, but he also has kind of an eccentric/brilliant side that makes him incredibly unique.

He always talks about things that are so far above my head (lol), and I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be as intelligent as he is. Still, he is never condescending, and the first thing he does when he comes around is wrap his arms around you and tell you how good it is to see you.

He and my dad used to crack us up on family camping trips by telling us some of the crazy things they did growing up, and they spooked us a good time or two with their creepy campfire stories. I have a lot of memories of family reunions, and prayers said by my uncle in Chinese (he served his mission in Hong Kong), as we silly children sat around the dinner table trying to stifle our giggles. We all thought he sounded silly then, but as an adult, I realize what an asset it is to be able to speak a second language, and I admire him for having served a mission - in China, of all places.

Picking my favorite aunt is a little more difficult, as I have some pretty spectacular women in my family. My great aunt, Helen (my grandma Ruby's oldest sister), is the one who has hosted the Christmas party at her house every year, which I have mentioned in previous posts. She has just always provided an atmosphere of love and acceptance, and no matter how long it's been since you have visited her home, you always feel like you belong.

She knits the cutest little hats for all of her great grandchildren, and has even given a couple to my kids and to my siblings' children. She has stood beside me in her kitchen teaching me how to make her famous homemade biscuits, and has walked me through the process of making a quilt. She always opens her home to loved ones for a visit, and is the epitome of selflessness. I only hope that I can learn to be as loving toward others as she has been to me.

Another one of my favorite aunts is my great aunt, Joy (another one of my Grandma Ruby's sisters). She passed away a few years ago, but I have always had a special bond with her. When my siblings and I were still little, she brought over some treats for my family one Valentine's Day, but as she was addressing the treats, she could not remember my name (lol). She had always loved the name Jolene, so instead of writing my name on the valentine, she wrote all of my siblings' names and then addressed it to Jolene as well. Haha. From that day on, I was her little Jolene.

She moved to Logan, Utah some years later, but every time I would talk to her or see her, she would ask how her little Jolene was doing. She always asked my Grandma Ruby about me too, like I was her special, little niece. As I became an adult, I started signing letters and Christmas cards to her with the name "Jolene". It was our little inside joke, and it made me feel loved and unique. I miss her terribly, but I think of her often - especially around Valentine's Day. ;)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Feeling sorrow for those left behind...

Gems of Reflection, #46
To reflect upon how I feel about death is a tricky thing. I am not necessarily afraid of dying, for I have a firm testimony in The Plan of Salvation, and I know that when we leave this life, we will pass into the spirit world to await Judgment Day, and to await being reunited with our Heavenly Father again. I think the only thing I fear regarding death is how it will happen - and when. I don't want to pass from this life while my children are still young because I don't want to miss them growing up, and I want them to be able to remember me and to know what a blessing they are in my life.

One of my husband's cousins recently passed away unexpectedly, and she was about the same age as I am now. I didn't know her well, but I was absolutely heart-broken to know that in her untimely death, she had left behind a husband and four young children, all under the age of 12. I couldn't help but feel complete sorrow for her family that she was leaving behind - for her poor children who will miss their mother terribly - even though I know that she is being taken care of as she passes on from this world into the next. I also feel such incredible sorrow for her parents. I think losing a child at any age would be absolutely devastating. It's something that no parent should ever have to endure.

Still, throughout this experience, I couldn't help but feel gratitude for my own family, and for the ability that I still have to spend this time with them. I think it's experiences like these that make me so grateful to know that we have a loving Heavenly Father who has a plan for us, to know that we are here on this earth for a time - to have a family, and to experience the trials of this life - but also to know that when we leave this world, we will be able to reunite with our loved ones, and will also be able to return to our Heavenly Father again.

I am grateful for the gospel in my life and for the knowledge I possess that families can be together forever. It is this knowledge that takes some of the fear of death out of the equation for me. I am not saying that it makes things easy, but when we lose our loved ones to death, we can be comforted by the knowledge that the separation is temporary, and that we will be together with them again.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Vomiting all over yourself in your kayak is always a sign of a successful vacation!

52 Gems of Reflection, #45
My favorite vacation since being married was definitely our honeymoon. We went to the big island of Hawaii, and we had such an amazing time. I don't want to get into too much detail because we did so many fun things and we would seriously be here all day talking about all of it, so I will just share a few of my favorite memories.

One of the first days we were on the island, we decided to check out this beach called the black and green sand beach where supposedly there was a family of sea turtles on the beach. The only problem was that we would have to travel about 5 miles over lava rock to get to it. Luckily, we had rented a Jeep Wrangler, and Zach was certain that it could handle the terrain. Man, was that a ride! We were laughing hysterically the whole way there because the Jeep was jerking us all over the place. We only stayed a few minutes on the beach (as it wasn't very big) and had to travel back over the lava rock again. Later on, when we were back on solid ground, we saw that the license plate in the front of the Jeep had been flipped up and twisted around. Haha. That Jeep took a serious beating that day, but it was such a fun experience. lol. Good times.

Another one of my favorite days was our trip up to the north side of the island to see Waipio Valley. Man, what a beautiful place! First off, the descent into the valley is so steep that we had to put the Jeep in 4-wheel drive and throw it into low gear. Apparently, there were cars that hadn't made the descent in the past because there was evidence of wreckage at the bottom of the entrance to the valley. There was some seriously breathtaking landscape in the valley though, with a couple of stunningly beautiful waterfalls, and a gorgeous beach. There is also a small farm village in the valley, and as Zach and I were traveling slowly along one of the narrow roads, a horse came and stuck its head in the driver-side window. Haha. The experience was definitely worth the two-and-a-half-hour drive (each way), that's for sure. If we ever make it back to the Big Island, Waipio Valley will definitely be on our to-do list.

My favorite memory to reflect back on is our kayaking adventure at two-step. Zach has a friend who lives on the Big Island (he is the guy Zach replaced in The Las Vegas Philharmonic) who took us snorkeling a few times. One of the snorkeling extravaganzas was a popular spot where you literally take two steps down on some rocks and then you are in like 20 feet of water that is lined with the most beautiful coral, which houses tons of gorgeous tropical fish. We snorkeled for a while, but I stayed in the bay (close to the beach) as I have a paralyzing fear of sharks, and simply getting into the water  at all when it was so deep was definitely an accomplishment for me.

After a while of snorkeling though, I started to feel a little nauseated. I think it was because the snorkeling gear we bought was not top quality, and after breathing in the vapors from the salt water for so long, it started to take a toll on me. Anyway, I had to stick my head out of the water for a bit and remove the snorkeling gear to try and suppress the nausea - and finally, after a while, I was able to calm down and regain my composure. We snorkeled for a bit longer and then started packing things up to head out.

As we were packing up, however, we saw that a school of dolphins had come into the bay. They weren't coming right up to the beach where all the people were snorkeling, but Gary suggested we get our kayaks and go out into the bay to see them. We unloaded the kayaks and headed out to the middle of the bay, but by the time we got there, the dolphins were gone. Gary suggested we take advantage of the kayaks since they were already out, and started to lead us out of the bay into the open water. Gary was in a single-man kayak and Zach and I were in a double-man one.

Anyway, Gary took us around the bend a ways then we turned around and started heading back toward the bay. As we rowed, we delighted in some casual conversation, and Gary knew about my fear of sharks, so he started trying to comfort me with humor, saying that I had nothing to worry about because they are MAN-eating sharks. Hehe. After a few minutes, something clicked in my head, and I suddenly started thinking about how deep the water was below us. I could no longer see through the clear water to the bottom, like we could in the bay. When we looked down, all we saw was deep blue, so I knew it had to be deep. I made the comment that I really hoped the kayak didn't tip over while we were out there in the open water - and suddenly, as if the finger of The Almighty came down the second after I finished speaking, the kayak tipped and Zach and I went over into the water.

We had our life jackets on, so I was never worried about drowning, but when I came back up to the surface of the water, I was suddenly overwhelmed with fear of what was beneath us. I became completely paralyzed and couldn't move. I just sat there bobbing in the water with my toes curled up us high in front of me as I could get them, and like a helpless little child, I started to cry. Reflecting back on the situation, I feel so silly - borderline ridiculous and embarrassed even - but I was legitimately terrified and I couldn't move. Zach says that I looked like a little girl in a horror film - you know the one - unable to find her parents, she stands in the middle of the chaos, helpless and crying. lol. I know - pathetic. I laugh at myself about it now, but I was so emotionally traumatized by the experience that I couldn't even tell the story for the longest time without getting teary-eyed again. lol.

Anyway, I finally had to force myself to suck it up and make myself move. I knew that there was no way that Zach and Gary would be able to lift me back into the kayak without me doing my part, and I didn't want to just sit there in the water like that any longer. So, yeah - while still crying like a baby, I mustered every ounce of courage I had and threw my weight forward so I could start swimming over to the kayak. Zach and Gary did help me climb back in, and once I was back out of the water, I felt so silly. The guys were really gracious about everything though - I think Zach just finally realized the severity of my fear.

After a few minutes, we started rowing back to the beach, and as we entered the bay, we saw that the dolphins had come back. At first, there were just a few that were swarming around us. Before long, though, we had dolphins from every direction swimming and dancing in the water. It was so incredible. There had to be 40 dolphins. They would swim toward us, dive down under the kayaks, and then jump up out of the water on the other side. Some of the dolphins actually swam so close to us that we could reach out and touch them. It was amazing. We stopped rowing our kayaks and just sat there in the water watching them.

Suddenly, Zach started feeling nauseated (probably for the same reason I had previously), and said, "Oh man, I think I am going to throw up." Almost as soon as he finished speaking, he leaned his head to the side and started vomiting. He didn't want to tip the kayak over again, though (bless his heart), so he tried not to lean too far over and ended up throwing up all over himself. Poor guy. It's funny though because now that it's all over, we can tease each other about what happened that day. He teases me about crying like a baby when I fell in the water, and I tease him about throwing up all over himself. Haha.

Hawaii was such an amazing experience; though, and I seriously hope we can make it back with our kids one day. :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Last (and Best) First...

52 Gems of Reflection, #44
I think one of my favorite dates with my husband (before we were married) was our first date.

When we first met, he was working full-time as a financial advisor for Primerica, so his days were pretty full with appointments and meetings.

He called me the morning of our date apologetically admitting that he had double-booked his evening. He said he had a short meeting he had to attend at the office, but didn't want to cancel our date, so he begged me to come with him to the meeting, and offered to take me to dinner anywhere that I wanted to go to make it up to me.

I didn't know this at the time, but he admitted to me later that he was sweating bullets thinking I was going to make him take me to some expensive restaurant - like Benny Hannas or something. Haha. I think I stole his heart when I told him I just wanted to go to Olive Garden. To this day, it's one of our go-to date night dining preferences. Maybe we like it so much because it takes us back to our roots as a couple. Hehe. ;)

So yeah, we met at Olive Garden for dinner where we actually saw each other for the first time in person. A quick side note here: for those of you who didn't already know, my husband and I were introduced through a friend of mine who kinda stalked him on MySpace. lol. She had been browsing through profiles of LDS guys in Vegas trying to find a nice guy for me (apparently, I was sucking at the dating thing, and she thought I needed a little nudge. Bahahaha) and she kept landing back at his profile. Apparently, she sent an e-mail to him and to one other guy inquiring about their willingness to be set up on a blind date, but Zachary responded first. Lucky me. It must have been fate. ;)

Anyway, we ate some yummy food at Olive Garden and talked a little bit, then left there to go to the meeting at his office, which turned out to be an opportunity night meeting with his entire base shop, Regional Vice President, and a bunch of potential new recruits. It kind of became the running joke later that Zachary had had the "cojones" to bring me (on a first date, no less) to an op-night meeting. I actually had a really good time, though. It kind of gave me some insight into what it is that he did, allowed me to meet some really cool people that he was working with, and there were even some funny moments that gave me a good laugh. His boss even said that I was "a keeper" for being such a champ and braving the meeting on our first date. ;)

After the meeting, it was getting pretty late and I wanted to get Madison home and into bed, so I picked her up from the babysitter and met Zachary back at my house. After putting Madison to bed, Zach and I sat up watching Whale Rider and talked until like 2:00a.m. (and yes, I had to work the next morning. lol).

We had such a good time though, and we got along really well. When it came time for him to leave my house, I really had a strong feeling that he was fighting the urge to kiss me when it was just our first date. I had already made the decision, though, that I was not going to kiss him until I knew him a little better, but I didn't want him to think that he had struck out completely (hehe), so as he started to walk away from my apartment, I told him to wait so I could give him a hug. It was really sweet, and I could tell that the gesture satisfied his curiosity as to whether or not the date was successful. ;)

He left my house that night, picked up his twin brother and they left immediately for Salt Lake where they would be staying for a week with his sister to spend Christmas with her and her family. She told me later (after we were married) that she was really concerned that he was going to scare me away because the entire time he was in Utah, he kept talking about this "new girlfriend" and how excited he was about the relationship. I had to laugh, because we had only been on one date at that point and hadn't even kissed yet. Haha. That is my husband in a nutshell though - a boy at heart who absolutely cannot suppress his enthusiasm about things that excite him. ;)

Anyway, we talked a few times while he was in Utah, and I guess he was really anxious to get back to Vegas to see me because he left early (on Christmas day). And yes - he did finally get that first kiss when we saw each other again. But that is another story. ;)

Related Link:

52 Gems of Reflection

Monday, November 25, 2013

Singing Praises of Thanksgiving (3)

Photo by The Purple Lady.
Yesterday, we had an early Thanksgiving dinner with my family since some of us will be out of town when the real feast day arrives, so I didn't get around to posting this list. However, I didn't want to miss this last opportunity to participate in the Thanksgiving challenge, so here is my weekly gratitude list.

This week, I am thankful for:

1. Forgiveness, and the ability we have as humans to overlook the faults and mistakes of those we love, allowing our experiences to strengthen our relationships with each other;
2. Patience - the one thing that keeps me from killing my kids (and even my husband. haha) some days (come on, I know you can relate. lol);
3. Relief Society meetings that uplift us when our spirits are in desperate need of uplifting;
4. Sippy cups - because let's face it, without them, I would hate carpet even more than I already do;
5. Prayer - because some days it's the only way I am able to survive this parenting thing. Just when I think I am getting the hang of it, life throws me a curveball and I find myself on my knees asking the Lord for guidance. It is only through prayer that I am able to find the strength and the answers to continue enduring;
6. Space heaters, warm socks, and cozy pajamas - we live in an old house that doesn't have central heating;
7. Hot chocolate - please refer to #6. ;)
8. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, and dental insurance - after all, dental hygiene is important. :)
9. My awesome visiting teaching companion who makes visiting teaching an experience to look forward to. She is dedicated and reliable, and always makes sure we are diligent in visiting our sisters; and
10. Eternal Families - my family is my world and I am grateful that families can be together forever. :)

Seeing as how this is my last post for the 2013 gratitude challenge, I just want to thank The Purple Lady for inviting me to participate, again inspiring me to maintain an attitude of gratitude, rejuvenating my soul with appreciation for all that I have. The real challenge now is to strive toward keeping this attitude alive throughout the entire year - and not just at Thanksgiving time, when these expressions of gratitude are so prominent.

Again, I will invite you all to participate in this challenge by writing your own list. Feel free to do so in the comments below, or leave a link to your own blog where we may go to view it. Thank you for taking the time to read this post today - and if you are a returning viewer, thank you for your loyalty. I appreciate you and am thankful to have an outlet to express my love of life and gratitude to the Lord for all I have.

Happy Thanksgiving, with love.

Photo source: Mormon.org

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Singing Praises of Thanksgiving (2)

Photo by Photo by The Purple Lady.
So, it's week two of our 2013 Thanksgiving gratitude challenge. For more information on this year's challenge, or if you missed last week's list, check it out here

Now, on to my list. This week, I am thankful for:

1. Book club - being a stay-at-home mom while we only have one car is sometimes difficult because I don't get out of the house much - nor do I have the opportunity to visit with other adults regularly, and the isolation can really pull on my sanity strings a bit. I can't tell you how many times I have left book club after an awesome discussion with my fellow LDS book club gal pals, and have felt truly edified and uplifted. It's an awesome group, and I am grateful to be a part of it;

2. Uplifting music - music is such a beautiful gift from our Heavenly Father. I have been feeling a little overwhelmed lately with the stresses of life and parenthood, and as I sat down with my family in sacrament today, the two babies started fussing and being irreverent. Almost immediately, I felt myself thinking, "Why am I even here?" And I started feeling frustrated and discouraged, as I knew I would have to take them out of the chapel. But then two wonderfully talented sisters in my ward performed an instrumental rendition of "Come Thou Fount" (a piano and flute duet), and as I sat there listening to the music, my soul was uplifted and I felt the spirit whisper to me that I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father - that I am loved, and that I matter. I then felt a reassuring confirmation that I was in the right place, and that I was pleasing the Lord through my obedience, despite the challenges of having young kids who can't seem to sit through an entire sacrament meeting - ever. Naturally, the tears began streaming, and I said a silent prayer of gratitude to the Lord for knowing what I needed, and for blessing me in that moment with encouragement, comfort and peace. It's amazing what you can get from a beautiful hymn, even when there are no words being sung;

3. Chocolate - enough said. ;)

4. School buses - despite all the drama that we have experienced over the last two years with the school buses here in Clark County,  I am truly grateful for the bus system. As mentioned previously, we only have one car right now, and I can't imagine how much more stressful my life would be if I didn't have a "reliable" form of transportation provided for my two children who are in the school system. L's bus comes right to the house and takes him to preschool; too, so that makes my life tremendously easier;

5. Visiting teachers - mine are AWESOME! ;)

6. Resources that allow us to put our 3-year-old in preschool. His speech has been improving by leaps and bounds, and it warms my heart to see him making new connections on a daily basis;

7. Clean water for bathing, cleaning, and drinking;

8. Airplanes, because I really want to make it back to Hawaii again some day. ;)

9. Education; and

10. My laptop :)

Please feel free to comment below on what you are thankful for this week. If you are participating in this challenge on your own blog, be sure to post a link below so that we can all share in the spirit of Thanksgiving. :)

Related link:

Singing Praises of Thanksgiving (1)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Sinked Isn't Even a Word."

A couple of days ago, my family and I were all piled in the car, heading to my mom's house for dinner when, somehow, we got on the topic of iPhones. My 13-year-old daughter, M, was complaining because my husband had had to delete some photos, videos, apps, etc. from her 8G iPhone a few days before in order to run an update - when they hadn't been saved to her laptop yet. So, I asked him, "Why didn't you back her phone up before you started deleting stuff? And when was the last time her phone was even synced?"

Before he could even respond, however, M interjected with "Mom, SINKED isn't even a word! The past tense of 'sink' is 'sunk'" Yes, she went there - trying to challenge the English major (not trying to sound arrogant here. It's just a running joke in our family. You don't challenge Mom when it comes to grammar, unless you want to get schooled. Haha).

So, that lead to an entertaining conversation about sync v. sink. Initially, I tried taking the responsible, logical  approach and use it as a teaching opportunity - explaining to my daughter's impressionable mind that "sync" is short for "synchronize" (then proceeded to give her a definition of the word), whereas "sink" is to become submerged (like in water) or to descend.  I then gave her an example, saying that I SYNCED my phone to the computer to back it up, but the last time it was SINKED (hehe) was when I was taking a bath a year or so ago and she accidentally dropped it in the water after I had just finished telling her NOT to bring the phone to me while I was in the bathtub. Doh! She didn't find my attempt at humor very amusing though. Hehe.

That's when my husband decided to be clever and add in his two cents. "Yeah," he said. "And do you know what it means to be "in sync"?

So I started to explain that it's when two people are on the same page or are working in harmony on something.

"No," He replied with a triumphant, sly grin. "It means you are a gay boy band from the 90's." Haha.

And there you have it, folks - a logical and descriptive clarification of sync v. sink. ;)

Source: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com via The Purple on Pinterest

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Singing Praises of Thanksgiving (1)

Photo by The Purple Lady.
It is that time of year again where we all try to turn our hearts to the things we are thankful for, and donning an attitude of gratitude as Thanksgiving approaches.

Last year at this time, I decided to join The Purple Lady in a 30 days of Gratitude Challenge, wherein we wrote a blog post about something for which we were grateful for every day in the month of November. That experience was awesome because it kept me in a constant state of gratitude, and I felt I was always looking around for new things to be thankful for - or rather, to recognize the blessings in my life and focus on being more grateful for all of it.

This year, we kind of started talking about doing something a little different as the month of November was approaching, but we hadn't come to any final decisions. So, for the last nine days, I have simply been posting something that I am grateful for every day on my personal Facebook page. Then, the Purple Lady approached me tonight with an awesome idea. Instead of doing a blog post every day about one thing we are thankful for (as we did last year), or just posting a simple message of gratitude every day on Facebook, we would take three Sundays and write ten things we are thankful for instead. This way, we still get to focus on 30 things we are thankful for, but it kind of adds a little twist to the challenge. What can I say? She is a purple genius. ;)

So, without further ado:

I am thankful for...

1. Missionaries of the world who sacrifice their time (whether it be for 18 months or 2 years) to preach the gospel and share the wonderful, joyous message of our Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness;
2. Men and women of the armed forces who give up so much - often their lives - to defend our country so that I can have the freedoms that I enjoy;
3. A living Prophet of the Lord to guide and direct us toward righteousness in a world that is clouded by disorder and sin;
4. Temples;
5. My talents - though I know I need to improve my level of obedience in increasing them, I am grateful for the passions in which I delight, and the things that have always come naturally to me: reading, writing, cooking, language, grammar, etc;
6. Children who challenge my abilities as a parent, but love me unconditionally. They are each such a blessing in my life, and each has special qualities that contribute to my eternal happiness. I am so grateful for the fact that Heavenly father found me worthy enough to entrust their little spirits to me, and I know that being their mother causes me to become a better person daily;
7. A home that provides shelter from the elements and many comforts for my family and me;
8. My calling - as a nursery teacher, I have gained such an enormous amount of patience, along with a new appreciation for how the gospel can influence our lives from such a young age. I have also come to love each of the children in our class individually. They each have such a sweet spirit, and it is so amazing to watch their little testimonies blossom and grow. I am truly going to be sad to lose the few that are moving up to Sunbeams in January;
9. Netflix and baby gates . I know it sounds silly, but without these two amazing inventions, there would be many days when I would not even get a shower. Haha; and
10. Delicious, nourishing food to eat - especially considering the fact that there are so many in this world (and in this very country) who go without food every day. I sincerely count my blessings in the fact that I have always been able to provide this necessity for my children as well. That they have never known what it is to go hungry is something for which I am eternally grateful.

I pray that each of us will take the time to have an attitude of gratitude, praising the Lord for the blessings we are so fortunate to receive - during this Thanksgiving season, and always. After all, as President Monson has said, "We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude." ("An Attitude of Gratitude," First Presidency Message - February, 2000).

Friday, November 8, 2013

"It was then that I carried you"

52 Gems of Reflection: #43
I think the most trying experience in my life was when my parents went through their divorce. I don't want to rehash the horrible details, because it was so long ago, and I would like to think that (for the most part) many of the damaged relationships have been mended.

I will say, however, that I could not have gotten through such a trial without the love of my mother and the birth of my oldest daughter, M. I think the anticipation of her grand entrance into this world is what kept both my mom and me from losing our minds completely. She was seriously a little angel of deliverance, and we are eternally grateful for the joy she brought into our lives at a time that was otherwise overcast with the painful sting of loss and betrayal.

Also, reflecting back on that time in our lives, I am reminded of the poem, Footprints, as the line, "It was then that I carried you," echoes in my thoughts. Even though I was going through a period of inactivity when this trial commenced - and I surely didn't recognize it at the time - the evidence of the Lord's hand in my life through that entire experience flows in abundance, and I know that He had my back through it all.

In hindsight, it's easy to say that I am grateful for the trials I have faced and for the experience and testimony that were gained as a result of coming out stronger on the other side. When you are in the midst of the trial, however, and the cloud of sadness sits so low and hazy over your entire plane of existence, blackening every possible facet of your life, it's difficult to count your blessings and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I am just grateful for my family and for the strength that was given to me to overcome this trial in my life. I truly feel that the experience blessed me eternally and shaped me into who I am as a wife and mother today, ultimately strengthening my testimony, in addition to my friendship with my mom. I don't think we were ever closer than we've grown as a result of enduring this trial together. :)

Related links:

52 Gems of Reflection

A Hope of Heaven's Light

I Can Do Hard Things

Through the Joy and the Sorrow

A Childhood Friendship

Gems of Reflection: #42
The childhood friend of which I am most reminiscent is Julie. Our families were connected through the marriage of my aunt to her uncle long before my parents moved us from Henderson into my grandparents' house (in Las Vegas, where I spent the rest of my adolescence) when I was 10, but we became bosom buddies soon thereafter, and remained friends all through high school.

She was tall and thin, beautiful, and had crazy, thick hair that made her absolutely awesome and unique. She also lived around the corner from us, thereby making it easy for us to get together and hang out. When we were young, we'd chill out in her backyard jumping on the trampoline, or in my backyard doing the same or swimming. We were innocent and didn't get into much trouble, although we did try to dissect her goldfish once after it died - and we had the heebie jeebies the entire time doing it. lol. 

We used to have sleepovers out on my trampoline, and we were always in the same class at church, so we spent even more time together once we were both in Young Womens. Speaking of Young Womens, I have some awesome memories of bunking with her at girls camp too. I remember one year we kidnapped a friend of ours that was in a different ward, and held her for ransom (I think the ransom was candy or something?), and somehow, there was cherry pie filling involved. I think we smeared it all over our friend's face? lol. Good times. 

She was a good friend, and though we've gone our separate ways, I often think of her and her family. I sometimes stalk them on Facebook even to see how they are doing. Haha. After all, what is Facebook for? ;)

Related link:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Game is Afoot

Gems of Reflection: #41
So, it seems that I responded to a reflection very similar to this one in a post a while back entitled, Board Games and Giveaways, and I don't want to get repetitive, so check that post out for the traditional answer to this question, then come back here to read today's post. 

Now that you're back, I am going to touch on some new games that I have discovered recently, along with some of all my all-time favorite games, in the non-traditional sense - because a girl likes to be non-traditional and frivolous every now and then. And what do ya know, it isn't even Friday. Hehe.

So, I went to a baby shower recently, and though I was looking forward to seeing some old, familiar faces, and being there to support my friend on this exciting, new journey, I often feel an initial sense of unease going to these things. I know there are usually games at these things - and for some reason, when I am aware of the fact that I am not going to know many people at the party, the idea of games makes me a little nervous. I don't know why, maybe because I might actually have to talk to someone I don't know? Haha. When did I start feeling anxiety over talking to new people? What a weirdo I've become. lol.

Anyway, I got to the party and was pleasantly surprised at how fun some of the games were - and also to my surprise, a few of them were even games that I haven't played a hundred times at other showers. One, in particular, was a piggy bank game called I've Never. The party host listed a series of experiences, starting each sentence off with "I've never..." If she said something you've never done, you stayed in your seat, but if she mentioned something you had done (ridden a horse, flown on a plane, swam in the ocean, etc.), then you would get up and put a coin in the piggy bank. You had to empty your coin purse for this one, and the intention was to fill the baby's first piggy bank as much as possible. It was actually really fun, and I thought it was a very clever game. I found myself wishing I had brought more change with me. If I ever host a baby shower in the future, I might have to steal this one. Hehe.

Now, I know we don't usually think of sports as games, but each individual competitive experience is called a game, right? At least it is in some sports (football, soccer, basketball, etc.). That's why we say, "Good game" at the end, right? So, in this sense, my favorite game is volleyball. I played several sports in high school  (volleyball, basketball, track, marching band), but volleyball was my absolute favorite. 

My love for "the game" was sparked early in my teen years when I played with other youth at the church, so when high school came around, I just had to play - and some of my fondest memories of high school involve bus trips to games, practices, and friendships with teammates. Those were some of the best times. 

I also played club volleyball in the off season for UNLV for a few years, for which we traveled out of state for tournaments - which was always a blast. One year, we even put a team together to compete against women in an adult league at Chuck Minker Sports Complex here in town. We always got spanked (I think we were only freshmen in high school at the time, so our skills hadn't been honed yet), but man, that was fun.

To this day, I love watching volleyball - on tv, or in real life. I especially love watching it in the olympics. Gabrielle Reece (a beach volleyball goddess from the 90's) was one of my idols as a teen - until I heard she had posed for Playboy. Doh! Now, I love watching Keri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor; although, I heard that Kerri Walsh has a new partner now. Boo Sauce.

Related Link:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I HEART books!

Gems of Reflection, #40
So, here it is November, and I am just starting the Gems posts that were pulled for October. I know - so lame!

Anyway, This is going to be a really difficult Gems post to reflect upon, simply because of the fact that I love books, and I have so many "favorites." It is extremely difficult to pick just one.

As a child, I loved to read The Babysitter's Club, Judy Blume, The Boxcar Children, Bunnicula, and many more. I can say without a doubt, though, that my all-time favorite book series as a child was The Bobbsey Twins, by Laura Lee Hope. I used to collect the books in the series and my mom would ask me every birthday/Christmas which ones I still needed because she knew what a safe bet those books were where I was concerned. Hehe. When M started reading chapter books and her own love of reading became evident, I gave her my collection and she plowed right through them. That is some good reading there. ;)

As a youth, my favorite book was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. I think it was all the adventures that were had that made that book so exciting for me. This book is probably what sparked my love of adventure/fantasy books.

As a young adult, I was introduced to The Wheel of Time series, and I totally fell in love. I had read other fantasy series, such as the Dragonlance Chronicles - and those were good, but The Wheel of Time was epic. Robert Jordan created a magnificent fantastical world in these books (much like that of Tolkien's The Lord of The Rings) where you come to love the characters as if they were your own friends. While reading these books, I laughed, I cried, I sat on the edge of my seat, and I endured every adventure with angst and anticipation for how the heroes would triumph. It is seriously such a great series that I would recommend for any young adult reader (some of the content may be a little mature for the younger readers).

After Zach and I got married, his love for the Harry Potter movies rubbed off on me - and soon, I just had to read the books. I would have to say that this series definitely holds a place in my heart, and quickly became one of my all-time favorites.

I also gained a love for regency romance novels early in my adult life. Some of my favorites where this era is concerned are Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. I recently discovered a new author that has released a few novels in this genre, with which I absolutely fell in love. Her name is Julianne Donaldson, and her books are Edenbrooke and Blackmoore. They are both absolutely enchanting, and I would definitely recommend them to readers of all ages. :)

Related Link:

52 Gems of Reflection

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fun in the Snow

52 Gems of Reflection: #39
I know that I already posted a Gems of Reflection post today, but I am still so far behind (I haven't even started October's posts yet), and I am determined to get caught up. 

So, it didn't snow here in Vegas very often when I was a child, but I remember waking up a few times to a thin blanket of white outside - and naturally, it was like a holiday with the amount of exuberance we all expressed - especially considering the early hour.

I remember one time when I was a kid (we were living in Henderson at the time) and the snow stuck well enough for us to actually make a snowman (though the snow was pretty muddy. hehe). I remember another time making snow cones out of snow. That was pretty awesome. 

Though it didn't snow right here in the Las Vegas valley very often, it did always snow up at Mt. Charleston, which is just about a 45 minute drive from where I grew up (on the northwest side town, where we moved when I was 10). I remember going up to Mt. Charleston quite often as a youth, and it was always such an exciting adventure. We'd pack hot chocolate and a picnic lunch, wrap our socks in plastic bags (why we didn't just invest in a good pair of snow boots is beyond me. lol), and we'd pick a spot where we could go sledding down the hill on plastic trash can lids or cheap, plastic sleds. Haha. Talk about a good time. Those were the days.

One year, shortly after Zach and I were married, we went up with M (who was only about seven at the time), and we found this really cool spot where the hills were slick with slippery snow - perfect for sledding. I was sitting with Zach about half-way down the hill (facing downhill), and M was up the hill about 15 feet behind us with my younger brother and his (then) girlfriend (who is now his wife). At one point, M turned around to face them, turning her back on the downward slope, and I guess she lost her footing. She slipped and fell on her behind, sliding full speed down the hill - backwards. All I know is I suddenly heard this blood-curdling scream, and though I didn't really have time to react, something inside me did. I instinctively stuck out my right arm just as she was flying past me and grabbed hold of her jacket, stopping her from sliding the rest of the way downhill. She looked at me with this look of desperate relief on her face as she let out a huge breath - half sobbing, half rejoicing. "Wow," she said. "You are Supermom." To this day, she talks about that experience and says she is still convinced that I have super powers. Hehe. 

We probably won't make it up to the mountain this winter since I am pregnant (I wouldn't want to fall and injure myself), but this post is definitely making me jones for some fun in the snow - especially since we haven't been up since the babies were born.

Anyway, I have to say that I have always been jealous of people who get to experience a white Christmas, but in reality, I am not really sure I'd want to live somewhere where I have to shovel snow. Then again, I have been saying that I want to move to northern Utah (Salt Lake area). I guess that's what is so great about having a husband and children - delegation. Hehe. 

Related link:

Eat Dessert First

Gems of Reflection, #38
I don't really think there is a secret to good health. It all boils down to eating right and getting a consistent amount of exercise. That being said, I have always been one to allow myself to indulge in the sweet pleasures of life (if you haven't figured it out by now, I LOVE food). My motto: Eat dessert first. Hehe.

Okay, Okay - I know that that isn't the best advice. Our health should be a top priority, especially when it is such a huge factor in our quality of life. I will say this though: if we practice moderation in all things, the occasional sweet indulgence would not have such a huge impact on our overall health. Not only that, but regular exercise can do so many great things for our body's physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Knowing that doesn't make the "doing it" part any easier all the time, but I know that I am really going to make getting healthy a priority in this coming year.

My health hasn't been so great over the last year, and I wonder how much of that has to do with environment vs. diet/exercise. I will say this though: being pregnant with my 4th child (at age 31) has made me realize that this body needs to get healthy and stay healthy. So, here's to a year of focusing on our health and well-being. Now, if only I could get my lung capacity back up to par so that regular exercise was not so taxing. ::sigh::

Anyway, on to the second part of this question: What is it like to live with me? Well, I would like to say that life is all puppy dogs and rainbows here in the Jackson household (haha), but I am sure that there are days when my kids (and maybe even my husband) want to disown me. I'll just chalk that up to pregnancy hormones though. As for the rest, it's nothing that can't be made right with some good old homemade chicken soup and homemade bread...or cookies...or cupcakes. ;)

Related link:

52 Gems of Reflection

Monday, October 14, 2013

Creating Memories in the Kitchen

Gems of Reflection #37
Handed down talents - Hmm. I would have to say that the main handed-down talent that I possess is my love for cooking and baking. I believe it originated when I was younger and would spend a lot of time with my Grandma Ruby. I would sit and watch as she made homemade biscuits and potato soup - two of my all-time favorite comfort foods. 

As I got a little older, I started helping her add the ingredients and would always delight at the finished result, knowing that I had had a hand in bringing to pass those delectable, little creations. It gave me a sense of accomplishment, a sense that I was a big and important.

I also have fond memories of making sugar cookies with my mom. We usually did this around Christmas time and Easter, and it was always so much fun to help her cut the shapes out of the dough, carefully placing them on the cookie sheet and popping them into the oven. The house would quickly be filled with the sweet aroma of yummy goodness, which always preceded my favorite part - the frosting and sprinkles. I am not sure if as much frosting made it onto the cookies as did in my tummy (hehe), but it made for some fun, quality time with my mom that I will never forget. 

I also remember making divinity with my mom, and chocolate candy with candy molds. We also did rice crispy treats (with peanut butter, yum!) and chocolate chip cookies. Spending time in the kitchen with her is one of my favorite memories, and as I became an adult and started having children of my own, I started feeling that desire to continue the tradition with my own kids.

Somewhere along the way, I developed a passion for cooking and baking. It began to become a source of stress relief for me - a way to feel in control and rejuvenated. It's also an added bonus that bringing yummy treats into fruition brings joy and pleasure to my family and friends - which ultimately brings me an even greater amount of happiness. 

It makes me happy, too, that my own children find as much joy in helping me in the kitchen now. L-Bear, My 3-year-old son, always asks to help whenever I am baking cookies, or making yummy muffins. Even when it's something as simple as french toast, he is eager to offer a hand to help, and I am thankful for these precious moments that I get to spend with him, hopefully creating some fun, lasting memories for him to cherish one day too. :)

Making cookies with Mommy. :)

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52 Gems of Reflection