Thursday, December 11, 2014

S'mores My Way

I don't care for chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream or most chocolate all by itself. I like it sometimes but I have to be in the mood.

I don't like to be cold unless I'm camping, sitting on my chair cuddled up with a good book and blanket, or when it's drizzling and I'm bundled up going for a run but not cold enough to see my breath. I'm very picky about my cold.

Right out of the oven.
I'm also picky about my s'mores. I like them when my sister makes them into bars using chocolate chips, little marshmallows and graham cereal so all their goodness is contained.

I love roasted marshmallows all by themselves. I like them burnt, I like them golden brown and frankly I could eat a bag of uncooked marshmallows if it was placed in front of me. I also love graham crackers. So, you can see how I might have a problem with S'mores the way they are traditionally made. Plus, I hate it when I roast my marshmallow perfectly then mash it between the graham crackers only to crunch on the chocolate, have all the mallow goodness ooze out and my graham cracker crumble to pieces.

I ate this one while typing and hardly
any chocolate got on the keyboard.
What I'm about to share with you is no secret. I'm sure this wasn't invented by me, but I like to think I came up with it on my own stemming from roasting marshmallows in the oven as a kid thanks to my mom. Sorry if you invented this and I don't give you credit.

The best way to avoid the tragedy of the traditional s'more is to bake them in the oven. You won't get cold from being outside and they come out perfectly. To begin, turn the oven to 350 degrees. Place a square of graham cracker on a cookie sheet covered with foil (that way we can throw the foil away without getting the pan dirty. Did I mention I hate to wash dishes?) Place a small amount of chocolate on the cracker and top it off with a large marshmallow. You can play with the amount of chocolate you use based on your desire to be a little messy or super messy. I bought the giant bar (7oz). Last night I used one square and it was super messy and too chocolatey (is that a word?) for my taste. Today I made them with 1/2 a square and they came out perfect.

Place them in the oven (I used a small cookie sheet and could fit 8 s'mores at once which is good for large parties or dessert for families with 8 children like mine. Don't walk away unless you like the smell of burnt marshmallow. It only takes about 3-4 minutes for the marshmallows to start browning and the chocolate to melt. When they are browned to your desired perfection remove them from the oven. Squish the top graham cracker on top gently and watch the awesomeness happen. I let mine sit for a few minutes to cool and let the chocolate cool before I eat mine. Enjoy! I know we do.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Veteran's Day: Meet Cliff

Last night I had the opportunity to travel 80 miles to meet an amazing person. I'm so glad I brought my husband with me to record some of our visit. The video is the short version he gave us right as we arrived. We stayed much longer and I certainly wish we would have kept the camera rolling but here are more of the details.

Cliff called 3TV on Saturday morning after seeing this clip while I was there with my cheer squad performing. He said he didn't have a computer but he wanted to donate and asked if I could possibly drive to Sun City West to pick it up. My first thought was "that is way too far" and then I thought if I contacted someone in Far West Pop Warner near his home, they could drive over to pick up the check and mail it to me. But, Cliff said he was going in for surgery on Monday and we needed to pick it up before then. Something about that phone call made me want to meet him. I'm so glad I did.

Cliff joined the Marine Corp. when he was 18 years old. He was drafted into the Vietnam war shortly after. He didn't give any details to how long he had been there before he was captured but told us he had been a POW for about 30 days. He was the only prisoner that particular group had at the time. Like all prisoners, he was constantly hungry for sufficient food and clean water and suffered from the mind games they played with him such as Russian Roulette. Lucky for Cliff, he won every time. After 30 days he knew he was on his way to the Hanoi Hilton, a famous POW camp. Resigned to the fact that he would most likely die as a prisoner, he figured making an escape wasn't such a bad idea.

So one day he escaped by running away and hiding in the bushes when patrols went past him until he saw a group of Americans. When the last man in the group marched past, he ran up to him from behind and put him in a choke hold covering his mouth with his other hand and whispering "I'm an American, please don't shoot me." He was afraid they wouldn't recognize him because he looked so mangy.

Upon his return home to the states, he suffered from un-diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which caused him difficulty in many aspects of his life. He courageously fought through his struggles even starting his own construction business and eventually meeting and marrying his sweet wife Tora.
                                      video
They had struggles in their marriage mostly in part, he believes from his struggles with the PTSD. At one point, Tora mentioned that they had a fight and she went to her room to pray and the name of Bishop Taylor came to her mind. I'm not sure if she called him or if he simply showed up, but she had never had her prayers answered so specifically before when he arrived shortly to meet with Cliff. She started taking the missionary lessons from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and was baptized shortly after.

I don't know how much later, but there was a specific incident (he didn't make it clear what that event was or who it involved) several years ago that left him feeling humiliated about his life, he decided that for the sake of his wife he would go out into the desert with his "favorite weapon" and end his life.

Out in the desert he put the gun to his head but when he pulled the trigger all he heard was a click. It was at that moment that he knew he had something to live for. He drove home and then to the VA and checked himself into the hospital. At the hospital they immediately put him into the psych ward, a place which reminded him of his time as a POW. Because of his PTSD and his feeling that he was mean to still be alive, he and his doctor decided the safest place for him to be was at home. Tora chimed in here and said, "he was joking around about staying at the hospital and I told the Dr. that as long as he remained able to crack jokes he was ok." Tora took him home.

Tora sat there as we visited and you could feel the love she had for her husband even through his struggles. It was obvious she loves him very much.

Cliff said that since that day several years ago and because he is on disability, he sits and watches the news to see if there is anyone's life he can touch. Every year for Christmas, he offers a substantial amount of money to someone in need. That's where the story of my sweet cheerleaders comes in. That's why he called the station and asked if someone would come by and pick up the check.

Our visit to Cliff that night Tora noted, was an obvious answer to her prayers as her husband prepared for surgery tomorrow for a hip replacement. He is extremely nervous about the outcome and I'm so appreciative that I listened to the spirit and followed the prompting I felt in my heart to visit him myself so that he would know there were many who would pray for him.

I mentioned to Cliff that I was forwarding his story to the news so that he could perhaps be a support and a light for others suffering from PTSD to show that there is hope. For Cliff, reaching out to serve others is one of those ways he copes. Cliff is anxious to hear about how the girls are doing and he requested that I wish them each good luck from him personally.

Cliff is more special than he realizes and because of our becoming friends, I hope I can continue to be more courageous and spread love by supporting those in need whatever way I can. Thank you Cliff for your service in the military and to our country. Good luck with your surgery today and Happy Veteran's Day tomorrow..

Monday, November 3, 2014

Dear POTUS,

I saw your recent speech on the news and while I would like to be surprised at the things you say, I am simply numb from all the things that have come from your time in office. I have kept fairly quiet about it because I don't like to make waves with my friends who support you but I can remain quiet no longer on this topic.

In regards to your statement that being a stay at home mother "is not a choice we want American's to make," I have to assume that you mean you don't want us to have to accept lesser wages because of our choice. I get you. I just wish you would have worded it better because that isn't how it was taken.

As for me, there is no price that can be placed on my choice to stay home. I'll never get into the work place and make the kind of money you think I ought to but let me tell you something about my job that you will never understand.

Like most mothers, I'm teaching my children to be good citizens, have good manners, learn to serve others, be God fearing, honest and hard working adults among other things. I get to do this all day long, unlike many working mothers who can only do this in the evening and on weekends. Every day when my kids leave, they are sent to school knowing that they are loved by me. I'm here to get my afternoon kindergartner off to school with a kiss and a smile and I'm here to welcome them all home after their long day. I supervise homework and chores and I'm a sounding board to the great things and/or the disappoinments of their day. I fix them a home made dinner almost every night and make sure they get to their activities whenever and wherever they may be. I help them with their church activities, I sing to them, I pray with them and I teach them to love others ALL DAY LONG. I am doing a job that a day care provider could never do well as I can. I'm doing a job that only I can do best for my own children.

I'm not ashamed that my kids wear second hand clothes, that we go out to eat as an entire family maybe twice a year and our family vacations are usually spent visiting family or sleeping in our camper trailer out in the woods. I am able to attend almost every single orchestra concert, football, volleyball or basketball game. I volunteer at their schools and at church. I'm with my kids at the cross roads of their day and their lives. My work is immeasurable in dollars because I'm raising the future. I'm raising the children that will one day be in charge of our government, businesses and future families.

I understand that for some there is no choice to stay home, they must work to support their family. For those that wish they could be home, I am so sorry. For those who choose to work, that is your choice and you are the only one who can make that choice. To all those moms, I know you are doing your best and I am in awe of some of you because staying at home for me is a full time job and I don't know how you do it. I can't blame you for fast food meals or for not being able to attend your child's events. I can't blame you for not allowing your children to play sports or learn an instrument because you can't support them with rides or watch them participate. I'm just sorry that our society has placed such an importance on women working that it has forgotten that being at home with your children is a job worth so much more than the value our society has given it.

Mr. President, please don't insult my role as a stay home mother. If we put more of a priority on stay at home mothers I think our country would be stronger for it. In fact, how about instead of spending all that money on preschools, consider pooling all the money together and do something to benefit the stay at home moms who you feel are so underpaid. That might be something.

Sincerely,

Stacy Johnson
Stay at home mom for 22 years

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mom Guilt and What Do I Do All Day?

August 2014

Dear kids,

I went out to lunch today with my dear friend. It's not the first time I've gone to lunch this summer while you've been stuck at home watching television for 10 hours in a row, but it was maybe my second. You gave me this look like, "what?" and I saw in your eyes that you wondered why on earth I thought it was a good idea to do something without you or not for you.

I'm sure that over the last several weeks you have wondered why I keep pestering you to pick up your stuff off the floor in the playroom, or return your dirty dishes to the kitchen (when they aren't supposed to be out of the kitchen in the first place), or get your chores done for the day.

I know for a fact that it has bugged you when I asked you to do something that wasn't "your job." I do appreciate you feeding lunch to your siblings or even making an easy dinner when I wasn't around. I don't think I've asked that much more of you than you are normally accustomed to.

I'll admit that I had a little guilt today while I indulged in myself for 46 minutes of uninterrupted "me" time with my friend while we discussed the joys of raising our children, messy houses and piles of laundry. The entire time I had a little guilt because I knew you were wondering why the heck I was going out to lunch with a friend while you were left at home.

Let me explain a little bit to you why I so selfishly allowed some time for myself today and why I refuse to feel guilty any longer.

I set my alarm today for 5:45 so I could wake one of you up for cheer practice. I worried that I wouldn't hear my alarm so at 3:20 I wasn't sleeping so I went out to the television room to watch an episode of The Waltons. I found someone asleep on the chair and put that child back to bed after changing their wet sheets and underwear.  I feel asleep on my second episode around 5am. I awoke at 5:30 to find my cheerleader child watching t.v. on my computer downstairs while eating breakfast.

I closed my eyes for 40 more minutes before going to make sure that the next kid was awake so I could take both of you to football/cheer practice. Before we left, I took the cover off the bean bag so I could throw it in the wash. I got another load out of the dryer and set aside to fold later.

I got home and took a shower after moving more laundry that did not belong to me. Then I went to a meeting for my job at church. On my way home, I conducted business on my phone for booster club.

When I finally got home, I moved more laundry then took it upstairs to sort and fold to be distributed back to bedrooms. On my way downstairs, I asked you to do your chores and you whined and complained at me even though I knew full well that you had been watching television all morning. I continued to my desk where I started cleaning up all the dirty dishes and soda cups (none of which were mine) so I could sit down and type up the notes from my meeting earlier that morning. I admit that I did blog for an hour and checked my Facebook.

Yesterday I took four of you to the Dr. for well visits/physicals so you could play sports next school year. That took two hours to get you cleared and all your shots. It was super fun for me reminding you to keep your voices down and stop dropping toys on the loud wooden floor. When the lady whipped her head around and gave me a dirty look, I just smiled. I held you while you cried before the nurse ever poked you with that needle.

On the days you actually got your chores "done" like clearing and wiping all the counters/tables, I cleaned out the gunk in the silverware drawer and wipe down the insides of the fridge. I washed fingerprints off the appliances and cupboards. I vacuumed rugs that didn't get shook when you swept and mopped the floor.

The day you brought your laundry down, I move loads of laundry for you. I put it in a pile in the dining room because it wasn't your assigned day and I didn't have time to sort through it all and put it back in your room like I would have if you had brought it down on your assigned day. I asked you to take care of it and you ignored my request for a few days.

Last month I drove you to football, basketball, cheer, softball and whatever else you needed a ride to. Several weekends, I sat on the hard bleachers for hours because I was the only ride available to you and your teammates to get to the tournament. I paid for gas, I bought drinks for your friends and I tried to make sure you knew I was glad to be there even though there was so much I needed to be doing at home.

I dragged you to do some service for a friend coming home from the hospital and you were so unhappy at me. I tried to ignore it and remind myself that you will be grateful for the opportunity to serve someday.

I forced you to go swimming with your younger cousins when I knew what you really wanted to do was sit in front of the television. They loved that you played with them and had fun even though we didn't stay long. They will always think of you as their cooler older cousins who spent time with them.

I have sometimes cleaned up after you and mostly ignored a messy house most days because of you. You have been well fed even if you had to make it yourself. I haven't had many opportunities to watch television on the big screen because I don't have time to just sit and relax, I have to sort/fold laundry while I watch my shows on the little television in my room while you are watching your shows on the big tv in the family room.

I have taken you to see movies I didn't want to watch, went swimming with you at Sunsplash when I'd rather stay home. I followed you around the library helping find the books YOU wanted when I just wanted to sit and read what I wanted. Don't even get me started on how many times I've dropped what I wanted to do and bought you a Polar Pop from Circle K nor the amount of money I have spent there.

Let's not forget that I have had to go to work in the blazing sun for those free Sunsplash passes,I buy you soda and popcorn every week at the movies and I had to use some of my extra money in the budget to buy a library card at the neighboring county just so I could go to a closer library to ensure we went more often.

My desk is a disaster because you are always sitting at it watching Netflix, I have had to go on "mini" dates with your dad just to find the time to get some one on one time with him, and I am sick of the clutter, un-organization and lack of scheduling that comes with summer time.

But I love you more than all that so I'm happy to take care of you and sometimes your friends. In fact, there isn't anything I'd rather be doing than spending time with you. In fact, after writing all this down, I have even less guilt than I did before so I think I will plan a river trip again with my friends...as soon as I make dinner, supervise the clean up and get everyone off to their activities tonight.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Cost of Things

Recently, the topic of sacrifice has been something crossing my mind nearly every single day. I see it in Facebook posts of those who want better jobs, want to make better life choices, or even those who want to lose weight.

To get what we want, there is a cost. Sometimes we have to give up something we like in order to have or do something we like more? I'll give you an example. Ben is a great employee at his company. He works hard and has the potential to move up the ladder if he wants but he keeps taking new jobs at work that aren't promotions, they are more like lateral moves. Why? Because he loves to coach football. There have been many times when he was up for a promotion (including a significant raise in salary) but chose not to take it because it would conflict with his ability to work from home and have the time needed to coach.

Some would call this a bad choice but for our family, but always the one we knew was right. We may never be rich and he may never have the prestige at work that so many long for, but he is able to do a job he enjoys while loving his job as football coach, which brings a different measure of prestige in itself.

What's my point? My point is that no matter what you want in life, it is going to take sacrifice. Mostly, it will cost you time and/or money.

Time - To lose weight, you can't expect a magic pill to do all the work for you, you will need to invest some time into exercising and strength training. Training for a race will take some time away from home to get you to the fitness level you want to compete at, and going to school is time spent in class and studying. Only you can decide if the time is worth sacrificing.

Money - If you want to lose weight, it may cost some money to join a gym or invest in a diet plan. If you want to run a triathalon, it may cost money for equipment and clothing. Maybe you want to gain some technical skills for your job, you may need to invest in a class or some training. Only you can decide if the money is worth sacrificing.

Most things take a little time AND money to accomplish. Only you can decide if the sacrifice is worth it.

For me, I have a tight budget caring for my large family so my investment of time is where I focus my efforts although I do pay for a gym membership because I love the variety of machines I can use. I generally have a very hard time paying for something I know I can get cheaper or free somewhere else. Someone once told me how lucky I was that it was so easy for me to be so "skinny." It was hard to take it as a compliment because this person obviously didn't know me very well. I work very hard to be the size I am and I love appreciate my body and what it allows me to do. I exercise fairly regularly and I don't watch television. I do a lot of coaching and volunteering and my family spends a TON of time outside together.

I make very detailed grocery lists for home cooked meals with lots of veggies, fruits, whole grains and lean meats. I rarely have chips, crackers, cookies or frozen quick meals available to my family. (Although we drink too much soda, I'll admit that). Some days I wish we had a sugary snack in the cupboard to satisfy my sweet tooth but yet that rarely comes true for me because I know I would eat an entire bag of candy corn if it were placed in front of me.

So, what is it you want? A better job? To run a marathon? A better relationship with your spouse? To lose some weight?

What do you want and what are you willing to sacrifice?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Challenger Cheer and my Growing Heart

My girls are back and we're off to a great season already! This year we have four returning girls and two new ones! We had to grow our coaching staff to provide some more one on one for our girls so we also have 5 varsity cheerleaders who coach with us. AND IT GETS BETTER! One of our girls last year turned 18 and is now my assistant coach! How lucky can we be? That makes 7 coaches and 6 girls, woot woot!!

Our squad has been working hard since the beginning of August learning our cheers and chants for the football games. We have been perfecting our jumps and our tumbling as well. This year we are with the Flames football team and we couldn't be more excited about that because Coach Marc loves us as much as Coach Larry does.

Photo Courtesy Kim Skinner www.kimskinnerphotography.com
I've mentioned before that my heart grows every time I'm with my girls. At a Varsity football game recently, one of my cheerleaders was sitting in the stands and saw her coach (who is a varsity cheerleader) and kept gesturing to her mom that she wanted to go down there and cheer with her. She absolutely LOVES being a cheerleader!

I feel so much love when I show up to practice because of all the hugs and attention I get from each of them. At the end of practice we ask each girl to tell us what they did well at or enjoyed about practice and at least every other practice one of them mentions that they just love their coaches and teammates. They also mention how proud they are of the new skills they have learned.

We have been invited to participate in the Regional Cheer Competition in Southern California again and are in need of sponsors to get us there. Last year there was about ten of us and it cost around $2500 for hotel, gas, food and fees for each girl and one parent as well as our coaches. This year there will be at least 18 of us so our cost will go up considerably.

One thing that is great about the South East Pop Warner league is that we never ask our parents to fundraise or pay for one thing. They have enough on their plates. We have had our shirts donated (THANK YOU COACH MARC) and even new uniforms purchased all free of charge. We want to keep it that way so we need your help. If you feel like you are able to donate to our cheer squad, please send a check to:

SouthEast Pop Warner
Attn: Challenger Cheer
PO Box 282
Queen Creek, AZ 85142

Your donation will allow my girls and their parents go on a quick trip to Southern California where they will show off their skills as cheerleaders, coaches and let's be honest - extraordinary human beings.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Volunteer

There seems to be a decline in the amount of volunteerism these days. I understand there are lots of double income families and by the time you both get home from work and take care of your house and family, the last thing you want to do is volunteer. I get it. I really do. I've come up with three reasons why you need to get out and serve more.

1 - IT IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO STEP OUTSIDE YOURSELF and think about others for a while. Serving someone else in need helps us find perspective regarding our own struggles. This last year I was the coach of a cheer squad made up completely of special needs girls. They were eager to learn and we always had so much fun. But after my hour of coaching was done, I thought about those parents who went home every day and worried and prayed and sometimes struggled with caring for their precious daughters the other 166 hours in the week.

2 - FRIENDSHIPS. I have made some of the best friends through my years of serving through children's sports. Fourteen years ago I met some of the nicest people through volunteering with Pop Warner. To this day we remain close. We have cried over our players as parents divorced and siblings passed away from cancer. We have cheered for them as they grew up and went on to play high school sports. All because we chose to volunteer.

3 - IT HELPS US GROW AS HUMANS. I got involved at the high school when I noticed the same handful of people were doing everything on the booster club. It didn't take long till they were burnt out. I stepped in and offered to help and through that association I have learned a great deal about tax laws, accounting, people skills and more.

Maybe it's selfish but I think that when we selflessly help others, we always get something from it. The rewards are sometimes immediate like I've mentioned above, but there is a greater satisfaction in knowing that I may have lifted someone up in their time of need.

The ways to serve are countless. You can serve on your HOA, the PTO of your school, at your local hospital or pet shelter. Volunteer at your child's school or even better, at the high school! There are ways to serve within your town, your neighborhood or your church.

I promise you the blessings are immeasurable.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Are you an Excuse Maker?

With the school year fast approaching, I wanted to talk about excuse makers. Children are the best at this, aren't they?

     "Did you hit your brother?"
     "He made me!"
   
I usually come back with something like, "you mean he grabbed your arm and balled up your fist with his other hand and then hit himself?!?! That's incredible!" At this point I remind them that if they did hit, it is their responsibility to learn how to control the feelings that cause them to want to hit so they won't do it again.

We are all excuse makers though by nature. I don't think most of the time it is a problem.

     "What's the matter with this loaf of bread?" your husband asks.
     "I think the yeast was old so it didn't rise," you respond. Then you buy new yeast and your bread turns out fine the next time.

That is an excuse I can live with where as the first example I can't. But, how does this apply to the school year, you ask? I have found in my 15 years of sending kids off to school that they (and us) are quick to blame others (especially teachers) for their struggles in school. I'll give you an example that happened to us.

When one of my boys was in elementary school, he had a teacher that observed the "rule" of not letting the kids work on big projects at home. While I'm fine with that for the most part but this child struggled and couldn't seem to put his project together in a way that he was satisfied with. I asked him to bring it home so I could look at it with him to see if I could help. He told me that he wasn't allowed to bring it home so I asked him if he had spoken with his teacher to ask for help. He acknowledged that he had not, that his teacher was always busy helping the other kids and she wouldn't have time for him (his assumption). I explained to him that if she was going to have that type of rule that she obviously expected him to go to her for help. He was going to have to talk to her because that's what she was requiring them to do. End of story is that he didn't do well on that project (I think he got a C) and he blamed his teacher for his low grade.

I was very frustrated and asked him again if he had asked his teacher for help and he replied he had not. I explained to him that his teacher couldn't be responsible for his low grade if she had no idea he needed help, she wasn't a psychic or a magician. He finally accepted responsibility. I could have easily stepped in and blamed this teacher for the problem that I had with her "rule" but what would he have learned from me stepping in? Needless to say, he has not had a problem since then asking for help from his teachers.

I had a daughter who struggled with grades her sixth grade year and she struggled all year long. She kept telling me her teacher just didn't know how to teach and things like that. I asked her every day if she had any homework and she almost always said she did not. I found websites to help tutor her on math, I offered her books to read to work on her literacy, I got worksheets from her teachers and more. I made her sit down for at least 30-45 minutes every day and do something to improve her grades but a lot of the time she just sat there and waited out the clock. She proclaimed that none of this was going to help, that it was all her teacher's fault she didn't know how to teach.

I finally gave her an ultimatum that if she didn't get her grades up to a C average she would have to do her sixth grade year all over again. If she ended up with a C average but had a D or an F in any subject her second semester, she would have to do summer school. She went from all Fs to a C average with one subject at a D in a matter of weeks. Was that her teacher's doing? No, it was hers.

We did summer school that year and she hated it. We had many discussions about understanding that it was her job to learn and hers alone. She finally owned it and recognized that we had given her plenty of opportunity to bring her grades up. (I should add that she had a stellar 7th grade year.)

When things go wrong with your child's grades or behavior at school, I think it is important to first find out what your child's ownership in the problem is. Are they making efforts with their classwork and doing extra to catch up and something still isn't clicking? Offer them ways to own the problem and resolve it. Please do not step in and fix it for them and please don't immediately blame the teacher.

We are raising a society of kids who don't know how to solve their own problems. We have parents who dash in at the very thought of their kid failing or hurting and solve the problem for them. I truly believe that in order to gain the independence we so desperately want our adult children to have, we must let them fail a time or two. What's the worst thing that can happen from failing a test at school? It might drop their grade a bit but is it really that important to have perfect grades? Don't the kids who get Cs in all their subjects still move on to the next grade?

We want our children to be successful as they learn but they need to have ownership in that knowledge or the value of that knowledge goes down.

Aren't you so glad that the first time you fell off your two wheeler your dad didn't rush back to the store to demand someone fix the problem? Didn't he get you back on time after time until you figured it out? Falling off the bike is a failure of sorts, it is the type of failure you learn from.

Don't be an excuse maker. Take ownership in your struggles and make plans to work on fixing them before you blame someone else for your shortcomings.

**Having said all that, I do realize there does come a point where a parent must step in and protect their child from physical, emotional and mental health danger so please don't think I have never called a teacher and confronted them about something regarding my child. I just think there is a time and place for it and almost always, it is after I have given my child time to own the problem and fix it himself while offering him support and suggestions. Sometimes I don't make that call. Sometimes I let my child fail. Growth comes from struggle and if we don't allow some struggle to happen, there can be no growth.





Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Perspective

I would have liked to have driven my Yukon to girls camp as it seated more girls and has 100K less miles than the truck but the air conditioning went out on Friday before camp (after I just had it fixed) and I wasn't about to drive two hours into the Arizona desert without AC. I begrudgingly drove my pickup truck.

Towing the truck home
Unfortunately, on the way home from girls camp the truck died on me as I was going up a hill. We got my trailer hitched up to another truck and got the girls into other vehicles to go home. I rode most of the way home where I met Ben who was driving our Yukon and a flat bed trailer to tow the truck home with. I turned around with him and we went back to get it. So I still got to drive a few hours without AC in our lovely desert. Lucky me.

Yesterday I finally had a chance to drive the Yukon into the dealer to have it looked at since they had just fixed it a few days prior to it breaking again. As the mechanic opened the hood he realized the serpentine belt was misaligned. "You are lucky you made it in here on that belt!" he stated and I got sick to my stomach when I could see where it was fraying. I don't know much about cars, but I know the serpentine belt is pretty much the most important belt in a car. "OK," I said and waited for more bad news, "I'm just going to let you look at it and call my husband when you know something more." I left quickly.

Ben texted me about 30 minutes later to tell me that we had blown the engine on the truck and the cost to fix it would be significant. I was defeated. Two cars dead in one week? I trudged through my shopping trip, only getting about half the items on my list. I was too upset to care. If I had a blown engine on the Yukon as well as the truck, we were sunk.

When we arrived home I went upstairs and laid on my bed. I wanted to cry and scream but I felt numb. I just laid there until I fell asleep. I woke up to the sound of Ben coming home from coaching football as he gathered us for Family Home Evening.

We started our meeting as usual and then when it came to the lesson Ben told us the story of his afternoon. "When I got the news about the truck and the Yukon, I didn't know how I was going to tell Mom and Drew (the truck is essentially his to drive). I knew they were going to be upset. At football practice I screamed at the boys until I realized I was letting my anger and frustration out on them and at that point I became unusually quiet. My other Coach was unusually quiet as well and approached me as we were walking to the field. I was about to tell him about my crummy afternoon when he started to speak, "Coach, I can tell you aren't having a good afternoon but I have some bad news to tell you. My cancer is back and I will have to do chemo throughout the season. (He undergoes chemo in the off season and has endured this for many years.) Suddenly I forgot I even had car problems."

As Ben was telling us this, he was very close to tears. He loves this coach. Ben realized at that instant that our car problems were nothing. Our thoughts turned to our beloved coach and his sweet wife and all they have endured in their lifetime together.

Perspective is a funny word. In one moment everything changed and my problems seemed insignificant. I decided to count my blessings and they are many. We all have our health. We have an income, we have the most awesome kids and extended family. Life really is good.

And, the truth is that we made it through the last two weeks making several trips an hour north to basketball games carrying most of the team in our Yukon, how tragic it would have been for it to have died en route to our many activities.

Post Note:
They called about the Yukon and the dealer said it was their error that they didn't check the alignment of the serpentine belt so we only had to replace that belt and an AC belt, they covered all labor costs. Then later, our friend and neighbor called as we were driving to get the Yukon to tell us his friend could put in a new engine for about $1000 less than anticipated. That is some good news. We are blessed.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Gossip

A few years ago, I was the subject of some specific gossip. (I'm sure it has happened more often but I have pretty thick skin.) It made its way to my ears and my feelings were hurt; I mean really hurt. The person who was talking didn't know all the facts surrounding the circumstance and was assuming some things that were not true. It made me look awful.

Gossip: Don't Pass It On
I love this person but it has been difficult to be in their circle of friends. Maybe that means I haven't completely forgiven them but I sincerely am trying. I just want so badly to tell everyone the truth about what happened. I wanted this person to ask me for the details; I would have spilled it all but nobody ever did.

I still walk around wondering who thinks I'm the terrible person I was portrayed to be. Was this information offered to one other person or to many?

I try to avoid gossip. It isn't easy and sometimes it is really hard. I remember a friend who was going through a very difficult time in her life reached out to me once for support. I wish I had been the friend she needed me to be but every time I turned around, there was gossip about her. I was polite, I talked to her at church but I didn't stretch out my hand in love and friendship the way I should have. I was affected by the gossip.

That friend is gone now. I'm confident that nothing I could have done or said would have changed the circumstances of her leaving. But in my heart, I know I at least could have taken a stand about the gossip going on. I wish I would have had the courage to remind my group of friends that we didn't know the details and that it wasn't our place to be discussing it.

I would like to suggest some ways to rid gossip from our lives.

Find something better to do.
A lot of people are searching for something to occupy their day. Instead of reaching out and serving others, they find themselves busy with idle chit chat to fill up their life. They gossip on the phone, at lunch with friends and on social media. If you need something to do, call your local church leader, local school, shelter, soup kitchen, etc. and volunteer. Make your hands so busy that your mouth doesn't have time to bring others down.

Offer positive remarks in response to gossip.
While visiting with friends, if Mary starts talking about Julie in a negative way, offer something like, "I saw Julie volunteering the other day," or something to that effect. We can't stop the words from coming out of someone's mouth, but we can make the last words someone hears about that person, positive ones.

Consider the Golden Rule.
Would you like to have others talking about you the way you talk about others? Think before you speak. Turn on your brain before opening your mouth.

Go to the source.
If you want to know the truth about someone/something, go to the source. Ask the person directly involved. If you are too uncomfortable to ask, then it's probably none of your business.

Stop Gossip.
If you hear something that you aren't sure is true, don't share it. Keep it to yourself. That's all there is to it.

I love the saying that is attributed to several sources that says:

The words of the tongue should 
have three gatekeepers:
Is it True?
Is it Kind?
Is it Necessary?

Our words have the power to heal or to hurt. What do you want your words to say about you? I hope we can be found lifting others up instead of tearing each other down. There is enough ugly in the world, let's find a way to add beauty.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A New Hand For Anny

My Anny was born six years ago this month. We didn't know until she arrived that she would be our sweet princess, we like those kind of surprises in the delivery room. She has three older sisters who all originally were going to be named Anny but when they arrived, none of them seemed right for the name. Who knew we would end up having our seventh child actually arrive and fit the name perfectly! But that is another story. This one is about Anny's hand.

Anny just over a year old
At the halfway point of my pregnancy, I went for a routine ultrasound. As I drove down the freeway with the radio off, I did what I normally do when I'm alone and have a little conversation with my Heavenly Father. I thanked him for this new spirit that was coming to our family and asked him for the strength to do this again after a five year break. I was feeling overwhelmed and nervous. I wanted to know why I felt so much anxiety even though this was my seventh go around. I drove down the road in silence and was overcome with a feeling of peace. It washed over me and I just felt calm and ready to do anything.
Anny about 20 months old
Photo Courtesy: Kim Skinner Photography

I arrived at the appointment and met Ben who had come straight from work. We went into the ultrasound appointment without a worry. Shortly into the scan, they discovered the possibility that our little one might not be "perfect". To this point I had always said it didn't matter what as long as they had 10 fingers and 10 toes. That day, our idea of perfect was forever altered.

At first they thought she had her hand in a tight fist and wouldn't open. They rescheduled us for a few weeks later when the baby would be larger and we could get a better picture of what was going on. Unfortunately, the next ultrasound revealed what we had feared and that she indeed was missing three fingers and most of her thumb and pinky on the right hand. My mind was spinning, how will she throw a ball? How will she shake hands? How will she dance? How will she...?

 We had waited to tell the kids because we didn't want them to be worried but when it became a reality, we decided to sit down with them and tell them the news. I cried as we sat there and told them what we knew. They asked a few questions and I brought up a few talking points. I thought they would be upset or overly emotional or not know what to think about it but basically they said, "Ok" and went about their business. 

This experience taught me again that I needed to feel peace about this. Besides, who better than our family to raise a happy and confident child and give her the opportunity to excel at whatever she wants than us?!?! Vance said, "even if she can't throw a ball, she could always run cross country!" We got a good laugh over the reality of his statement. I was thinking about all the things she might not be able to do instead of focusing on what she could do.

After that, I did lots of research. I spoke to anyone I saw with a limb difference and asked them how they felt about it and told them about our new baby coming. I cried, I prayed, I learned what I could so I could best support this new adventure in our life.

We learned early on that she is naturally right handed. She almost always puts the fork or the pencil in her right hand and attempts to use it properly. When she feels like she can't, she switches to the left. There has been nothing she has tried to do that has been a failure; we work around it. She dances, she plays sports with her siblings, she is a cheerleader, she can write, she is even taking piano lessons! There is nothing this girl can't do.

Anny and her pink fingers June 2014
But, I recently saw a post about a new type of prosthetic made with a 3D printer. I saw plastic hands being made for pennies on the dollar of a real prosthetic. We waited until she was older so she would realize that she doesn't "need" fingers to get along. We just think it is pretty cool. It allows her to do things with her right hand that she may not have been able to do before.

I was apprehensive about sending her to kindergarten for more than one reason. She has been pretty sheltered at home and her missing fingers have never been much of a topic of discussion. I admit that I'm a little afraid to send her into the "world" because I know how children are and I never want her to feel like she is somehow less in the eyes of her peers because of her limb difference. So, I sent out a Facebook plea to my wonderful friends in search of someone with a 3D printer. I had seen a video of a boy whose father made him a hand and I wanted one for Anny. I wanted something she can wear to school that would make her feel special more than she feels different. (Please do not confuse this with her self confidence)

Anny and Brandon Henrie
I had several friends contact the technology teachers at their high school and one even offered us their assistance. I wished that our high school had a 3D printer but they don't. I kept that idea on the back burner with the hope that someone closer to me would be able to help. I'm glad I waited. A friend in my very own neighborhood informed me that her husband has a 3D printer he uses for work. They live less than a mile from our home!

We went over and had an initial visit with Brandon and he looked at her hand, traced it on paper and then told us what he thought he could do. We left that day anticipating her first new hand. What a joy it was a few weeks later when he called and asked her to come to a fitting. She played with it a few minutes while
Brandon and I discussed what we thought he could do to improve it to make it fit better and work more efficiently.

Long story short, a few short months and three visits later, Anny has pink fingers! She is delighted to be able to wave, shake hands, pick up a tennis ball, and more! It will take a little bit of getting used to it, but I think it is already a hit with those who know her. She is excited to show it off. We are so appreciate of the Henrie family and the time devoted to us while they had a myriad of other things to attend to at the same time. They are truly a selfless family and we appreciate this more than words can express.

This video shows the very first thing Anny picked up with her new fingers. This is just the beginning...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Where did May go?

I seriously don't know what happened to the month of May and how it went so quickly. But, I'm determined to have a fabulous summer with my kids! June keeps us pretty busy with football, basketball and cheer camps for the older kids almost every day but I need something to do with my younger kids so I went on a search. Here is a brief list of things local to me in the QC/San Tan Valley area that are free or cost very little. Are you ready to join me for some fun this summer?!?!

Queen Creek Library (Ellsworth/Ocotillo in QC)
Free Every Thursday from 1-2 there are things like magic shows, yo yo demos and more. There are other events as well for older kids as well as babies, check out their calendar Here.

Plus they have a summer reading program! Click Here. 

Apache Junction Library (Idaho/University (Superstition Blvd))
They have a darling castle for the little kids to climb in, play dress up and checkers along with maybe even do a little reading, ha ha. Miss Alana comes to story time on Mondays from 10-11am. Check out their calendar of events Here.

San Tan Regional Park (south of QC) and Usery Mountain Park (northeast Mesa)
I know the daytime is too hot to hike during the summer but they have awesome classes, star gazing, night hikes and more! Cost is $6 per vehicle to get into the park. Check out their websites Here for San Tan and Here for Usery. 

Dickinson’s Theaters at Signal Butte and Baseline
FREE movies all summer long. Tues-Thurs at 10am and 12:30pm Check the listing of movies Here:

Free Lunch and Free Breakfast
Absolutely FREE for kids! Combs District at Harmon Elementary. Check out their flyer Here

Queen Creek District (I couldn’t find anything on their district website but I’ve eaten there and it is for real) Here is a link to an article at azcentral.com, click Here.

Skyline Aquatic Center - Crismon/Southern in Mesa
This is a great place to take your family. They have season passes as well as punch cards or you can pay each time you go. Check their calendar for details. They also offer lessons and team swimming and synchro. It is a fabulous place. Click Here for more info.

Apache Junction Pool
Right next to the skate park, you can blade and scooter for free till you are too hot and then jump in the pool. Click Here for more info.  

Check out this website for fun and crazy holiday ideas. I've made my list of wacky days we will celebrate this summer including National Donut Day, best friend's Day, Tapioca Pudding day and more!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April is National Poetry Month

...and I am way behind on my daily postings of poems. I was doing them mostly on Facebook but I have gotten a few days behind so I'll post them here for my mom and dad and the two other people who read my blog and/or care about my poetry, ha ha. If you haven't been following me on FB, I have been taking my daily cues on what types of poems to write from my friend Stephanie at www.stephaniesaysso.blogspot.com. She has taken all the work out of it for me when it comes to choosing what to write each day and I'm so grateful for this opportunity to stretch myself as a writer.

So as a catchup, I'll start with Day 19 which was free verse. It turned out to be harder than I thought and while both of these are quite amateur, I think there is some potential in them and they will be revisited soon.

My Closest Friend
Procrastination is my closest friend
We often spend time together
Saying “tomorrow I’ll have more time”
When the reality is that I know I won’t.

So instead of saying “I’ll do it later”
I have been trying to do it now.
Except for the laundry
And I'm confident I"ll get to it tomorrow.

Easter Peeps
Easter Peeps you are delightful
I love your large packs of three
From chicks and ducks to little birds.
Your sugary goodness delights me.

Until I’ve eaten too many to count
And my sugar levels start to rise
I take a break and eat some cheese.
Because if I told you I could eat just one…
I'd be full of lies.

Day 20 -Grateful Poems

Grateful 
I want to take a moment
And be grateful for things I hold dear.
Family, friends and talents
And diet Pepsi ‘cause it could have been beer.


Sincere Gratitude

My body is a blessing
I can work and run and play
I try to always be grateful
When I say my prayers each day.

 There was a time when it was broken
"You'll never run" I heard the doctor say.
My fighting spirit knew this wasn't right.
My doctor trusted me when I said, "no way."

Day 21-Onomatopoeia (check out this link for awesome words http://www.onomatopoeialist.com/)

Noises
My babies are noisy when they play;
They swoosh when they go down the slide.
There’s the bling bling when Anny rides her bike
And the carink when Derek is on his sweet ride.

But my favorite sounds are when they are still;
Like the hhrrnngg when they snore sound asleep
And the gibber they whisper when sharing their dreams.
Their noises are treasures I’ll keep.

Day 22 Nature Color Poems

Green is the succulent and prickly leaves
The aloe vera my burn it relieves.

Yellow the tulip standing tall and strong
It basks in the spring sunshine all day long.

Brown is my dead, sorry, depressing and overgrown yard
With some water and love enjoying it won’t be too hard.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

10 Years Seizure Free

As we drove to the restaurant to meet our 19 year old daughter for lunch my husband says to me, "Remember the time when she was seizing and I just held her in my arms while we sobbed sitting on the living room floor and you kept saying it would end soon?" The tears wouldn't stop running down my cheeks as I looked back through the first few years of her life and remembered how it all started.

I can pinpoint her first seizure at age two or three and I remember the phone call from my sister like it was yesterday. I rushed her to the Dr. office she had perked up by then and was walking and responsive.

We sat in the waiting room for only a minute before they took her back to a room. After looking her over for a minute, she asked to use the potty. I walked with her to the restroom and helped her. Just as she climbed off the toilet and had her pants pulled up, she collapsed into my arms and had a full gran mal. I held my composure the best I could while I opened the bathroom door and yelled for help. They all came running and took her from my arms and into the room again. I lost it. I knew this was bad.

The week in the hospital they did several tests to discover the reason for her fever and it turns out she had a severe kidney/bladder infection. Hindsight is 20/20 because from the time she was born to this point, she had lots of unexplained fevers but a few days of antibiotics usually put her right and we were on our way back to health. Turns out she had probably been having lots of urinary tract infections and we didn't know about it...but that's another story in itself. These seizures were labeled as febrile, meaning they came from the quick onset of a fever.

Fast forward another five years. We are in New Mexico visiting Nona with all the cousins. They were all sleeping in the living room while the adults slept in nearby bedrooms. Early the last morning of our trip, our 8 year old Vance came running into our room telling us that Marly was shaking all over and it woke them up. Ben jumped out of bed and ran to her. It took me a few minutes to get decent before I went out and by that time her seizure was over. We went to the ER and they couldn't find anything wrong. They sedated her pretty well and we got in the car for the longest eight hour drive of my life.

We didn't see any grand mal seizures after that but about 9 months or so later we would notice moments when she would be in the middle of a sentence and then just go quiet, like she would zone out and we couldn't get her attention. I called a neurologist and made an appointment. He called them absence seizures and told me not to worry. We started her on some medicine and while it seemed to help, she still had some on occasion. We let her teacher know it wasn't a big deal but if they became a problem to let us know.

Several months later, I went to wake her for school and I could tell she had wet the bed and was taking forever to wake up. She was breathing fine and I assumed she had a seizure. I called the neurologist and he told me to call an ambulance and she had two more on the ride to the hospital. That began a 5 day nightmare of seizure medicines and cocktails to get her seizures under control. She would have them every 20 minutes or so 24 hours a day until the medicines finally started to kick in. We brought her home and since she was slowly having less and less of them, we were able to get homework from her teacher so she could stay caught up with school.

She was lonely and missed her friends because if you know anything about Marly, she is Miss Social. I called the teacher and the nurse and asked if we could meet to discuss my options.  Her episodes were only lasting 90-120 seconds and they were very small. Really, the only struggle with her seizures were that she would be incontinent during one. We solved that by having her wear a pull-up to school. The teacher was so kind and helpful and I could tell she would do whatever it took for her to be back in class. We agreed that if she were to have a seizure during class that the teacher would make sure she was safe and send someone for the nurse. As soon as it was over, she would go with the nurse to be checked out. At this point, she was so quick to come out of them, she was fairly responsive and could walk to the office. Marly kept a supply of pull-ups in the nurse's office so nobody would even know. Each day a different friend would be responsible for running to get a teacher if something happened on the playground or during lunch. I felt like we had all the bases covered and I assured the teacher that if it ever seemed too much of a burden that we would try something different.. Everyone in her class learned not to panic and how to take care of her and because everyone loved Marly, she never had to deal with bullies or anyone making fun of her...luckily.

Slowly her seizures got further and further apart till the last one happened on January 31st, 2004.  She remained on her medicine for another two years when the Dr. told us we could slowly wean her off. That was a scary day when she took her last small dose. We planned it so it would be summer time and mostly close to home. I secured a position at girl's camp so I could be nearby in the case of a seizure but it never happened.

At our traditional Seizure Free Day lunch date
I should add that she had countless priesthood blessings and many prayers go up in those few years she struggled. We talk about how it changed her perspective on the necessity of being kind to everyone because you never know what others are quietly going through. We were able to educate others on the symptoms and how to treat someone having a seizure. I spent more than one conversation with a mom whose child was recently diagnosed with epilepsy and we cried and cried together.

I still cry, but today they are tears of gratitude for the growth that came to me as a mother because of this experience. I'm certainly more calm and less reactive to medical emergencies (my kids say my catch phrase is "suck it up") and I've watched as a loving Heavenly Father blessed my sweet daughter with the strength beyond her years to get past this medical issue. I have perspective as well to know that my story is nothing compared to those I've met over the years whose children have suffered much more than we did because of their seizures.

Every year on January 31st, we celebrate Seizure Free Day by going to lunch with her. It's a tradition I hope never ends. So Happy 10 year anniversary my sweet girl. I feel blessed to be your mother.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Marriage Advice

My younger sister was married this last weekend to a wonderful man. In their guest registry, it asked for a simple message of advice or thoughts on marriage. I know I wrote something but I'm not good "off the cuff" and I've been wondering about what I wrote since then and wondered if it was "enough." Marriage between a man and a woman is the most sacred trust our Father in Heaven has given us. It is this union that brings children to the world and links together generations. I wanted to share what I really wish I would have written when I signed our names to the book

1. Always put God first. A marriage is like a perfect triangle with God at the top point and the couple at the bottom two points, neither one being more important than another but always equal. When I think about the choices I make in my life, I always ask first if it is something my Father in Heaven wants for me, if I think it is, then I consider how my spouse will feel about it before making a decision.

2. Always put your spouse before yourself. This doesn't mean that you should submit to every need/desire of your spouse, it means that you respect their opinion and feelings before making a decision that may affect the both of you (and isn't that most every decision you make after you get married?) When both spouses follow this guideline, there will always be moments of give and take. There is a balance between getting what I want/need and what he wants/needs.

3. Never stop dating. When we were newlyweds and had no children, every night felt like date night when we were at home. So, we made sure that a night was specified as date night where we got dressed and went somewhere together. Sometimes it was out with friends, sometimes just out for a walk, but always together. Dating was tough when the budget was tight but it always happened. When we had small children at home and my husband was working full time and going to school full time, we knew that we needed a regular reminder that our marriage was first and foremost in our lives. I remember searching for coins in the seat cushions and under the front seat of the car so we could buy a giant soda at the gas station and drive our car to the end of the airport runway to watch the fighter jets take off and land. We discussed kids, talked about our responsibilities and dreamed of the future. Even now with eight children, hectic church callings and a myriad of volunteer responsibilities, we make time to go out every single week and reconnect as a couple.

4. Forgive and let go of the trivial. As I've matured, I've realized that the pile of dirty clothes left on the floor is minor compared to the eternity of our marriage. Sometimes things get said that are unintentionally unkind. Don't be on the lookout to be offended or you will be. Be the first to forgive but don't be a martyr. Make your feelings known and move on. If you are the one who has offended, apologize and try harder to be better. I know the old saying is "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" but it goes both ways.

5. Be intimate as often as possible. ('m not talking only about the bedroom either.) I would hope that no matter your age, your size, or your ability, you will continue to find ways to be intimate with your spouse. Intimacy is the glue to a great marriage. Hold hands, kiss in the kitchen, cuddle on the couch, and always sit next to each other at church no matter how many children are on the bench with you. Non sexual touch might be equally important as intimacy. On a similar note, I appreciate the counsel we were given before our marriage to never
use sex as a bartering tool. For example, "I'll buy you a dress if you will have sex with me." This cheapens  intimacy and can lead to feelings of resentment and low self worth. I could go on about this but I'm so grateful for that advice.

We also don't joke about our threaten divorce...ever. Being married is hard work but the rewards are heavenly. I like to think that my marriage is proof that these simple rules can work when both partners choose to live by them. After 22 years, I still try every day to make an effort to be the wife my husband wants me to be and he in turn does the same for me. When we both do that, we end up being the best spouse possible and we are better individuals for it. Marriage is the most second most selfless partnership you will ever know (the first being when you have kids and then you really learn what being selfless is all about, but at least you will be selfless together as a couple and that's a great place to be too.)