Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Right Person in the Right Place: A Note to Young Women on Marriage

I met my husband when I was 18 years old. I had just graduated high school and moved to college. We met at a meeting for the track team that we were both a part of. He had just returned home from his mission, and though we became instant friends we didn’t start dating until a few months later. From the time of our first date, it was only 3 months until we were engaged. A few weeks after we started dating, I knew I had very strong feelings for him and so I started praying constantly to know whether he was someone I could be with forever, as well as fasting and attending the temple looking for guidance from my Heavenly Father. I remember the moment I knew. We were in the living room of my apartment watching a movie. I was sitting with my head lying on his shoulder and I had such an overwhelming feeling come over me that he could and would make me happy forever. It was such a strong, warm and comforting feeling and I will never forget it. When he proposed a couple of months later, I didn’t even hesitate for a second to tell him yes.

We were engaged for 5 months. About a month before the wedding I was preparing to go through the temple and finishing up some last minute wedding details. I went for a weekend with some friends to another friend’s wedding, and during that weekend that I was away I began to feel so dark and alone. I can’t explain the way I felt. I still don’t fully understand it. I felt physically sick and couldn’t shake a dark feeling inside of me. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t find comfort. A good friend there gave me a priesthood blessing of peace and comfort, and following the blessing I had a very distinct impression that what I had been feeling was Satan’s influence. I am confident that he was very aware of the choice that I was making to go receive the blessings of the temple and to be sealed to a wonderful man for eternity. And he was doing everything in his power to stop me from doing it. With the power of the priesthood, I was able to overcome those feelings and proceed with my temple marriage.

The day I was sealed in the temple is one of the most sacred and special memories that I hold. Though the day was a blur, I will never forget the feelings of peace, joy and comfort that I felt as I was surrounded by my family and the man I love, being sealed to him for time and all eternity.

Marriage is not easy. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking it is. I’m hopelessly in love with my dear husband. He is a wonderful husband, the best father, a hard worker with a sense of humor. He’s everything that was ever important to me and is important to me now. And it’s still hard to be married to him. We disagree about things on occasion, and when those times come I am so grateful that we have similar goals and priorities in our lives in relation to the gospel. At the end of the day, we both know that our home and marriage is centered on Christ. When we remember that, it becomes easier (or sometimes just less important) to see eye-to-eye.

A few years into our marriage, my husband and I encountered a major obstacle in our desire to start a family. We struggled through years of infertility, and I mean we really STRUGGLED. During those times, we relied heavily on the knowledge that we would be together forever because we were sealed in the temple. Additionally, the temple promises that we would one day have children (whether in this life or the life to come) brought us some comfort. Now we have 3 young, healthy and happy children and our lives are so different from what they were during those times of extreme trial. And still, our temple marriage is of utmost important to me. Seeing these tiny, beautiful little ones run around, I can’t imagine not having them with me forever. Because of my temple marriage, I don’t have to worry about that. The family is indeed of God, and I am so grateful that I will have mine with me forever.

Who you marry and where you choose to marry him will have a huge impact on your life. It may well be the biggest decision you will ever make. That’s not to scare you, but rather to encourage you to use dating as a time to find someone who makes your heart sing. Someone who lives the same kind of life that you live. Who wants the same things as you want. Don’t settle. Please, please, please don’t settle. Marry the right person in the right place and you will be well on your way to a joy-filled life.

Much love and best wishes for happiness!

Monday, July 25, 2016

How To: Store Kids Clothes

If you feel like you're swimming in an unorganized mess of baby and kid clothes, shoes and accessories, you're not alone! I was given so many clothes when I had my twins, for which I was very grateful. But having both a boy and a girl at the same time, I felt the need to get organized right away. I now have my kids' clothing storage down to a system and thought I'd share what works for us!

Every item of baby clothing, shoes and accessories that I own that is not currently in use is in a bin like this. I buy only clear bins of the same size so they are easy to label and I'm able to quickly and easily see most of what is inside.

I started by sorting all of my clothes by gender and size, then filling a bin with one gender/size, and then adding the next size up if it fit as well. I have two bins dedicated to things like bottles, pacifiers, burp clothes, bibs, baby spoons, swaddlers, receiving blankets, car seat inserts etc. I have also heard of people keeping a separate bins for things like white onesies and gender neutral clothes that could be used for either gender. I chose to split my items like that into boy and girl bins, since that fit my needs better.

Guys, I seriously have 13 bins that look like this. Six of them are in the garage in storage, since I don't need to access them often. Upstairs in the kids closet I keep 6 more: 1 bin that each of the kids will soon be growing into, and 1 bin for the clothes that each child is currently (or soon will be) growing out of. As soon as they grow out of something, I wash and fold it and put it in the appropriate bin. When they need new clothes, I go to the next size up bin and look at what I have in there before deciding if we need to buy more of that size/season. The last bin is downstairs in another closet and contains all the shoes my kids have grown out of. I think eventually I'll sort them by gender, but I don't have enough right now to need to do that.

It's a super simple system and doesn't take a ton of time and effort, as long as you keep up on it. If you are just starting, the initial cost for the bins might be a bit more than you expect (I usually pay $5-6 per bin) but I promise it will be worth it! Once you get started you should only need to buy a few bins/year, depending on how many kids and clothes you have.

Other things that I have learned about storing clothes/shoes:
  • Throw away anything that has holes or stains
  • Tie shoes together with elastics or twist ties to keep track of pairs when storing
  • Every time your child grows out of a size, look through the clothes in that size and give anything they didn't wear to D.I., Goodwill, or someone in need.
  • When others are giving you clothes, be selective about what you keep. If you doubt that you will ever put your child in it, DON'T KEEP IT!
  • Like the above note, don't keep clothes that you dislike out of obligation. If it was a gift, maybe put it on your child once or twice when you know the giver will see it, then give it away.
Speaking of giving things away, I generally keep an empty diaper box in the closet where I can put clothes that I want to give away. If I find something in a closet that I dislike or that they wore once and it wasn't the right fit etc. then I throw it in the box. When the box fills up, I donate it.

The bins make it so easy to find anything I ever need. And as a bonus, when I'm done having children and I'm ready to sell or donate all my clothes, it will be SO easy to do!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Parenting Intentionally

Recently, my husband and I read this fantastic article (followed by this one) about how to create a positive family culture. It was a fantastic read and it really got us thinking about what we are teaching our kids, and whether it's intentional or not.

So while we were on a long road trip with the kids snoozing in the back of the van, we started discussing what we want our family culture to be like: what we want our priorities to be, what our expectations are, and what kind of people we want us (and our kids) to be. We talked for a long time and filled a page with ideas. We wrote down words like adventure, harmony, traditions, education, dreams and love. We talked about families we looked up to and specific things the did that we wanted to incorporate in our own family. We wrote down our ideas for family activities that could foster the type of culture we'd been talking about building. And then we took a big look at our list and tried to pick out the most important things. Eventually I'm hoping to take those main ideas and turn them into a functional family mission statement. But for now, at least we have a start.

Even though our mission statement is not complete, we've made some changes to our daily life because of the things we talked about. For example, one of the things we talked about wanting to be part of our family culture was physical activity. It's always been important to Forrest and I, and we want to pass our love of sports/fitness/outdoor activity to our kids. I do a lot of playing with the kids at home, wrestling, swimming, riding bikes etc. but Forrest is often at work when we do those kinds of activities. Then he would get home from work at 6, we'd eat dinner, give the kids a bath and then put them in bed. There wasn't much time for "family activities" in the evenings. However, our kids (Charlie and Caroline, to be more specific) lately have been beasts to get to sleep. We lay them down at their normal bedtime (around 7:30) and then sit and wait and tell them to get back in bed a million times until they finally fall asleep around 9 and we are exhausted and frustrated. So after our discussion and list-making exercise, we made an executive decision: after dinner, we have family activity time for an hour or two before bed. Now when Forrest gets home from work we eat dinner and then ride bikes, or go to the park, or go swimming, or go on a walk, or play outside with a ball. And then the kids go to bed at 9, completely exhausted and they fall right to sleep. No fight. No frustrated parents. And we got to spend time together as a family, doing things with our kids that are important to us.

The idea of parenting intentionally has changed the way I look at our day. The way I look at our activities, priorities and pastimes. I've gone from just surviving (which is how I often used to describe life with 3 kids under the age of 3) to doing things on purpose. I feel like a better parent because I'm thinking about what I want to teach my children ahead of time, and then when I find myself in a challenging situation I find I'm better able to react in a positive way. It's important for me to teach my children responsibility. So when they messes (many of you saw Charlie's otter pop mess in the bathroom the other day), I make more of an effort to have them help me clean it up, even when it would be way easier and faster for me to clean it up myself. (In that instance, I locked all 4 of us in the bathroom with a bag of baby wipes and gave each of the kids a wipe and told them to scrub the floors and walls until their wipe was dirty, then I gave them a new one. It took us a while, but the kids cleaned it all up.) I've also started giving my kids more chores. They LOVE helping with the laundry, washing dishes, unloading the dishwasher, etc. but for a while I just did it myself because it was easier and cleaner. Now they are responsible for putting their dishes into the dishwasher after meals (I have to be careful with this one because Charlie sometimes gets confused and throws his dishes away haha), loading and unloading the washer and dryer, putting their clothes away after I fold them, washing dishes, vacuuming and sweeping the floors. That's not to say that I never vacuum, sweep, or do laundry or dishes anymore. Most of the time when they are doing those chores, I'm helping them. But I try to make it clear that it's their responsibility and mommy is just helping.

I know we still have a lot of work to do. I imagine we'll be redefining our ideal family culture pretty regularly over the coming years. But for now, I can see the changes we've made starting to take effect. The kids LOVE family activity time, and every night at dinner they ask what family 'tivity we get to do that night. I've also noticed that now when they make a mess, they are instantly searching for a towel to wipe it up. And I'm taking that as a win!

Have any of you created a family mission statement? If so, I'd love to hear it!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Life is Like an Overgrown Currant Bush

Recently, my husband and I faced a serious disappointment. We had been working toward something for several years, and had gotten so close to fulfilling our dream. And then, after all of the hours and days and months and years of hard work, we got our answer. "No."

Really? No?! After everything we put into this, we get a no? It was really hard to face that gut-wrenching outcome. But that was our new reality. There was some anger and bitterness, and a few tears. And then my husband told me a story he had heard many years before of an overgrown currant bush, told by Hugh B. Brown back in 1973. His story, "The Currant Bush" from, follows:

I was living up in Canada. I had purchased a farm. It was run-down. I went out one morning and saw a currant bush. It had grown up over six feet high. It was going all to wood. There were no blossoms and no currants. I was raised on a fruit farm in Salt Lake before we went to Canada, and I knew what ought to happen to that currant bush. So I got some pruning shears and went after it, and I cut it down, and pruned it, and clipped it back until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps. It was just coming daylight, and I thought I saw on top of each of these little stumps what appeared to be a tear, and I thought the currant bush was crying. I was kind of simpleminded (and I haven’t entirely gotten over it), and I looked at it, and smiled, and said, “What are you crying about?” You know, I thought I heard that currant bush talk. And I thought I heard it say this: “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as big as the shade tree and the fruit tree that are inside the fence, and now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me, because I didn’t make what I should have made. How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.” That’s what I thought I heard the currant bush say, and I thought it so much that I answered. I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and some day, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down, for caring enough about me to hurt me. Thank you, Mr. Gardener.’”

(You can read the whole story here.)

Elder Brown goes on to talk about a time many years later when he was serving in the Canadian Army. He was eligible for a promotion to General, and had been working toward that rank for 10 years. When he went in for the interview, he was told that he was completely qualified for the promotion but would not be receiving it due to his being a Mormon. In his following moments of bitterness, he remembered the conversation he'd had with his overgrown currant bush. Only this time, he was the bush that had grown so tall, and the Master, the gardener.

I have no doubt that there's something for us to learn from all of this. That lofty goal that we had and almost achieved must not have been part of His plan. And although it is so heartbreaking right now, I have faith that there will come a time when we will thank our Gardener for cutting us down.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

One month ago, I honestly felt like I was on the verge of a mental break-down. Staying home with three kids all day every day is no joke. And it's worse when Forrest is out of town or doesn't get to be home for the weekend. I often find myself feeling completely starved for adult interaction. I have a hard time focusing on anything for an extended period of time. Even when I'm away from the kids, I find myself constantly looking around and worrying about where they are and what kind of mortal danger they are in.
Not that anything is really that bad. I absolutely love my life and I adore my kids, but some days (LOTS of days, actually) are just really hard. I live for those precious hours of nap time and after the kids' bed time, but it always passes too quickly with me not getting to most of what I needed to get done. And two weeks ago I was at the end of my rope. Maybe it's because I knew vacation was right around the corner.
Oh blessed vacation. Up until the moment we left, I had never spent a night away from Juliet. I'd left the twins for a couple of nights here and there, but this was 8 completely kid-free days! Completely glorious. (A huge shout-out here to my amazing mother-in-law who took a week of her own vacation days to come and stay with my kids, and to my awesome sisters and parents who took them the last couple of days. Seriously, family is the best.) 
I expected to be a little sad when I left the kids, but walking out that front door and heading to the airport knowing it was just going to be the two of us for over a week felt oh-so-good. Clearly, it was a much needed break.
We flew into Washington DC and stayed with my little sister and her darling family in Virginia. We all drove to NYC for the weekend and had a total blast. We ate Cheesestakes in Philly, got hot-dogs from a street vendor, walked through Central Park, and rode the subway. (We also ate some incredible pizza, bagels and pretzels but I didn't want to make it sound like all we did was eat!) Totally worth the $60+ we had to pay in tolls to get there.

We returned to Virginia for a delicious Easter feast, then Forrest and I headed to North Carolina for a couple of days. Oh, the beauty. I love that place. We went on an early morning run in 65 degrees as the sun was coming up. Amazing. We ate some more really great food. Also amazing.
Back to Virginia and DC with miles upon miles of the most gorgeous cherry blossoms. I could have stared at them for days. Oh, and did I mention traffic? 
We had the best time. Traveling with my #1 makes my heart happy. And getting to visit with family makes it even better! At the end of 8 action-packed days, though, I was ready to return to my mental-breakdown causing children. 
Being home has been so great! I missed those three so much it made my heart ache. When I walked in to see them Charlie ran up the stairs and hugged me and for at least a minute kept saying "Hi! Hi mom! Hi! Hi!" It was the best. 
But seriously, I feel like a whole new person. Like mom 2.0. Moral of the story = vacations are good for the soul.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Juliet turns 1!

A few weeks ago we celebrated our baby girl turning 1! We had a small party at our place with family and Juliet was the star of the show. We ate Shepherd's Pie (her favorite food), opened presents (she loved putting the gift bags on her head), and ate cake and ice cream.

The cute birthday girl! Her favorite part of her birthday was getting to wear that crown on her head. *Not*

She loved her cake! I made it myself (the first one I've ever attempted) and though it's far from perfect, I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. 

She loved opening her presents and giving everything she pulled out to her daddy. She was easily distracted by the bags, boxes and tissue paper so it took a lot of re-focusing to get through this part! It was such a fun day, and the perfect way to celebrate our little lady!

A little about 1-year old Juliet

Her crib/sleeping
Sucking on her fingers
Shepherd's Pie
Chicken Nuggets

Loud noises
Not getting to go outside
Being left behind
Having her nose wiped or teeth looked at

Going up and down stairs
Clicking her tongue
Blowing raspberries
Jumping in her crib


Thursday, February 25, 2016

I forgot what it was like to have a 1 year old

Juliet will be 1 in a week. I was trying to plan the small family party we're having for her and every time I asked Forrest his opinion he would respond that he had no idea what I was talking about because our baby IS NOT turning 1. We're in a little bit of denial about it.
With the twins I felt like every time they hit a new milestone I was SO excited! Cheering them on, helping them practice etc. But with Juliet I've wanted so much more for her to just stay little. She must have missed the memo. I'm sure she must not be that much different from what Charlie and Caroline were, but it seems like she does 100x more, and there's only 1 of her.
It wasn't that long ago that the twins were turning 1, but even in that short amount of time I honestly forgot what it was like to have a 1 year old. I've had to re-lock the door leading to the trash can. I have to remind myself to shut the bathroom doors when I leave. I've stopped sorting all of the toys into their various bins because they all end up on the floor in a pile anyway when Juliet enters the room. I step on oven mitts, saucepans and lids, and kitchen towels every single time I walk into the kitchen. I think I've put back everything under the sink in my bathroom at least 15 times this week. I've started storing toilet paper on the back of the toilet instead of on their rollers because she eats it, and started leaving the bathroom trash up there as well because if she can't eat fresh toilet paper she'll settle for the kind that has boogers blown into it. I can't turn my back on her or before I count to 5 she's at the top of both flights of stairs.
She disappears constantly and is still as silent as ever. I frequently have to search every room in our house before I find her hiding somewhere giggling quietly. She loves to tease me, and she knows exactly what she's doing. She loves when we throw the kids into the air in a blanket, and she waits so patiently. As soon as we put the blanket on the ground and say "it's Juliet's turn!" she crawls on there so fast and lays down on her back, as happy as a clam. She loves to clap and as soon as she hears someone clapping or the words to "If You're Happy And You Know It" she joins right in. She is a master peek-a-booer and if there's a blanket anywhere near her, you can bet it will be on her head in an instant. Her favorite word is "hi" and she thinks she's so funny. She loves her daddy and she never gets so excited as when he comes home from work.
It's near impossible to get her to sit still to change her clothes or her diaper. I swear the twins were never as wiggly as she is. I swear they couldn't climb onto the top of the toilet to get to the hidden toilet paper and trash cans when they were 1. I swear they didn't know how to go down stairs backwards before they turned 1. I swear they couldn't climb onto the couch or out of the highchair when they were 1. But I'm sure I'm wrong about it all. I just forgot what it was like to have a 1 year old.
Happy almost birthday, sweet baby girl.