Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Tree Of Life.

So  here's something that I've noticed:

my kids are a lot happier when I limit their use of social media.  Like, it was a night and day change in their attitude.

So basically, I'm fine with my kids not using social media ever again.  Or until they move out of my house.

I'm not sure why that is, but the evidence is plain to see with at least one of my children, so I'm going with it.

Last week for Young Women's we took the girls (and boys) to see the Tree of Life in Draper Park.  Have you heard of this yet?

It was awesome.

And it sparkled.  Which was even more awesome.

We started out at the church and did a thought on the Tree of Life.  Knowing that this a story that they should all be fairly familiar with, I just asked them to walk me through it while one of the young women drew it on the board.  (If this isn't a story you're familiar with you can read it in whole here.)

We started with the fountain, had the straight and narrow path with the iron rod.  There was the river of water, and the great and spacious building.  We covered part of the path with fog, and then at the end stood the Tree of Life.

Once we had our picture up, I asked them what does it all mean?  And they knew the general answers (you can read them in full here):
fountain is the word of Christ,
the straight and narrow path the way that we should go,
the iron rod is the word of God,
the dirty river is the word of Christ dirtied and muddied by the philosophies of men,
the great and spacious building are those who
the fog is temptations in our lives,
and finally, they said the tree of life is heaven.

Which is exactly the answer I was hoping they would give.

Because,  yes, it can be about the plan of salvation in that this is how we make it through this life to return to our Father in Heaven.

But it's more than that.  It's also about our daily lives.  The in and out pressures and temptations of school (for the youth) and work and just life are the fog that surround us.  Sometimes we feel like we're lost and can't quite figure out our way on our path.  So what do we need to do?  We need to hold on to the rod, which is the word of God, meaning pick up your scriptures.  Literally, hold on to the word of God.  And by so doing you will find the Tree of Life, which is the love of God.  Every day we can be doing this.  And what is the fruit that we can partake of from that love?  Peace, comfort, guidance, direction, tender mercies in our daily lives, answers to prayers.  The possibilities are endless, really.  And so, so personal.

So we talked about this.

And then we went to the Tree of Life.

Today: Riding Mass Transit And Freezing My Face Off. Don't Underestimate The Power Of A Kind Word. Youth Christmas Party.

I've taken to riding mass public transportation for my daily commute.

Mostly I think it's awesome.  I used to ride the bus a lot when I was a kid, so it's something that's familiar to me.  Saturday plans usually consisted of hopping onto the bus to go hang out at the local mall.

I'm not entirely sure how my parents were okay with this, but the said mall also held a dollar theater so I was pretty much set for the Saturday for less than five bucks.  I also rode the bus clear into downtown a few times when my mom worked there to meet her for a lunch date.

I was telling Brynn about this, and she thought it was pretty cool and started getting excited about the possibilities of trax/bus riding, but then I had to emphasize that this was before we had to worry so much about people kidnapping kids.  To which Brynn replied, "Kidnappers suck.  They ruin everything."

I would have to agree with that statement.

Normally if I catch a certain timed train, it arrives at my stop at the very time that the bus leaves.  So I hop off trax and get right onto the bus which takes me pretty much to the end of the street that my office building sits on.

Except today that bus decided to pull away right as the trax train came up to the station.

I watched it pull away through the window with a dropped jaw.

Over and over my co-workers have told me to call them and they'll come pick me up from the trax station.  But I don't feel like my decision to ride trax should become their problem.  Especially once I figured out that I can also take the bus and end up within a five minute walk from the office.

So I got of trax, pulled my coat close around me, and started walking.  It's only a 20-30 minute walk, and there's sidewalks the entire way so it's really not a big deal.  Except it was 30 degrees this morning.

Halfway through my walk my face lost all feeling.

I broke down and called a co-worker.  "Are you at work?"


"Have you guys left on your morning drink run yet?"

"No.  Do you want one?"

"How about you leave right now for your drink run and pick me up while you're at it."

Done and done.

They chewed me out for not calling them earlier.  And then made fun of how red my ears were.

Stupid bus driver for not waiting a whole 3 minutes for the trax to stop so I could get on his bus.


I think this will be a smoother process in the summer when I won't mind if I end up walking, because it won't be cold enough to make my face fall off.

Also, today I sent out a round of cards and notes for the Snail Mail Society.

Honestly, I don't think we can ever underestimate the power of a kind word.

Do you need a kind word?  Do you know of someone else who needs a kind word?  Are you willing to send a kind word to someone who needs it?  Send an email to hellosnailmailsociety @ for how you can get involved on either side of that project.

The stories that come in for why people would like letters sent are heart touching.

And to round out the day we held our Christmas party with the youth of my church.  We played this game with them,  but we're mean leaders so we made them start our a few rounds with gloves on, which was hilarious, and then did a round of white elephant gifts.

We gave a $1 limit so the gifts are usually pretty funny.  I've learned, though, that I need to start aiming for Caitlyn's gift.  Two years in a row now she's simply wrapped up a dollar.  It's genius.  That's a McD's Coke just waiting to happen.

Next year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Choir Battle. And Lights At City Hall.

It's come to my attention that I'm probably not a very good mom.

And I should probably clarify that nobody actually told me that I'm not a good mom.  It's just something I've picked up on a lot recently.

Most recently this morning.

The story goes something like this:

Every year some odd number of my children decide they want to join the choir at the elementary school.  It's a big commitment since the practices are held early in the morning, before school, and with my work and school schedule, chances are pretty good that they're going to have to walk there in the early morning cold temps of November and December.

Honestly, I've been impressed with their willingness to get up and get it done.

As Cali is now our only child in elementary school, it fell upon the neighbor boy whom she walks to school with to also join choir so Cali wouldn't have to walk alone.

I'm pretty sure that neighbor boy made it to practice more often than Cali did.

Half way through Cali asks me, in her most pouty voice, "Do I have to take choir next year?"

To which I laughed, literally out loud, because, Chica, I didn't even make you take it this year, that was a choice you made all on your own.

She's not a morning person and the practices became something she dreaded simply because she didn't want to get out of bed early to go to them.  My schedule was more flexible this year than in previous years (yay online classes) so I started giving her rides most mornings and that seemed to help her attitude.

This year is also the first year that Cali is old enough to join the elementary orchestra.  She begged to take violin, and being as Casidee decided not to take violin this year, I told Cali she could use it.

I signed her up and paid the fees.

Practice is once a week, after school.

She hates it.

But frankly, it's paid for, and she's going to have to see the year out with it.

So most of my week has had a battle in it with getting that girl to choir and orchestra.  She certainly doesn't have to sign up for these things again, but she needs to fulfill her obligation and finish out this year, even if there wasn't a fee for choir and it was strictly on a volunteer basis.  And I explained that to her.  It's okay if she doesn't like it, but she can't bail when she's given her word to be there.  She can finish it out and then not sign up again.

Every year the choir sings at the lighting of the Christmas lights at our City Hall.  The kids sing, the lights across the property light up, and Santa, that jolly ol' elf himself, is there.

Cali never gave me the note with the information and time.

Luckily her orchestra teacher doesn't send notes.  She emails.  So I received the email stating when the orchestra kids needed to be at City Hall, and knowing that she also needed to be there for choir, because they've done so every other year, we raced to City Hall to get her there on time.

We made it just in time for her to join the choir performance.

Normally at concerts I take videos, but I never did that at the City Hall event because I knew the bigger concert was coming up, and I planned on taking video then.

After choir it was the orchestra's turn.

And she did well.  Even though I know she doesn't like doing it, I still had fun watching her show off her new skill.

As a reward we got in line for Santa Claus.  We checked him out from our place in line and I asked her, "Do you think he's the real one?"

She peered at him in contemplation.

"His beard looks real so I think he's the real one."

It only confirmed her thoughts when we overheard the people behind us having the same exact conversation, and coming to the same conclusion.

After Santa we checked out the lights, and went home.

 Two days later Cali had her orchestra concert where I was able to get my video of her playing the violin.  I'll post about that tomorrow.

This morning the alarm went off, and off, and off, and off... I finally went in to drag her out of bed.

"Come on, girl, you've got choir this morning."

"No I don't."

"What do you mean no you don't?"

Tayler interjects, "She forgot about the concert and didn't go."

This concert was the concert.  The whole reason for the choir and the practices.  It's done now, no more choir. I know good and well that Cali didn't forget about that concert.  I'm quite certain that she simply didn't give me the note that had the information on it, and just didn't go.

But there isn't much I can do with it at this point except sigh.

And tell her to put her violin on her backpack so she remembers it, because I paid way too much money for her to "forget" about orchestra.

I've determined that I'm not a good enough mom to be on top of this stuff, and I probably should be.

But then again, maybe I should give myself a break because what chance do I have against the nine year old who doesn't want to go to choir?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Swedish Pancakes

Every family has it's traditional recipes, and mine is no different.

Every holiday morning (and let's face it, any given Saturday morning, or Tuesday night for that matter) calls for a round of Swedish Pancakes.

This recipe has been handed down in my family for generations.  I know it to come from my Great Grandma Johnson who barely spoke a lick of English.  She brought this recipe with her when she immigrated from Sweden.

1/2 C Sugar
1/2 - 1 1/2 C Flour*
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
2 C milk

*These pancakes are meant to be thin, but I find they're extremely hard to flip.  Making them a little thicker helps with the ability to flip them.  Hence the range of possible flour.  Find your comfort zone with it.  I, personally, use 1 cup of flour.

Combine the dry ingredients and then blend in the eggs. After blended slowly add milk as you mix.

There are two very important tips to making Swedish pancakes.  The first being the temperature of your pan.  You don't want it too hot or it will burn you pancake before it's ready to flip.  I usually start warming my pan up on level 6 and mid-way through turn it down to a 5.

The second tip is cooking spray.  I have no idea how they kept these from sticking to the pan before cooking spray was invented, but they will stick badly so make sure you coat your frying with cooking spray before every single pancake.

After your pan is warmed up and you've applied the cooking spray, just poor the batter in to fill the bottom of your pan with thin layer of batter.

Let it sit until it bubbles and appears to be cooked through, at least on the edges.

Flipping can be difficult because of the thinness of the pancake.  It's going to take some practice, but even if you end up "scrambling" the pancake, it still tastes really good so don't worry about it.  Just keep practicing.

I shimmy my spatula under the edge and flip fast.

Because the pancake is already mostly cooked through at this point, it only needs to sit on the second side for a few seconds before it's done.

Use your spatula to roll it up and put it on a plate.

You can top your pancakes, or unroll them and put your toppings on the inside, and the roll them back up again.

We tend to use butter and powder sugar, and sometimes fruit (fresh or canned) on ours.  Jam and syrup are also good toppings.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Holiday Wishes: Idina Menzel

I remember sitting on my couch in my rented house in Vernal with my four young kids running here and there around me.  We had been relaxing to some PBS cartoon of some sort, I can't remember which one now, and at the end of the show the spell had been broken and my girls were running crazytown again.

I know you've been there.

But the TV had captured my attention.  After the cartoon finished a documentary of sorts came on, talking about a new Broadway musical coming out very soon about the Wicked Witch of the West.  I watched as they proceeded to tell a bit about the story line and introduced the singers who would be preforming in this new Broadway.

I was captivated.

It's not that I've ever really had a thing for Broadway, or even the Wizard of Oz, but of all things I always love a good villain (the wicked queen in Snow White, Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, and of course, the Wicked Witch of the West) and to see a spin on the Wicked Witch's side of the story caught my attention completely.

(I'll insert here that I was as equally excited about Maleficent when it came out)

Going to New York to see a new Broadway show wasn't in the books for me.  But I bought and read the book it was based on, and I bought the soundtrack and memorized every song, trying to fill in the missing details that might be played out on stage in between the clues I was receiving through song.

At my divorce Idina Menzel's "Defying Gravity" resonated in my soul with the lines:
"So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
Ev'ryone deserves the chance to fly!
And if I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am
Defying gravity
I'm flying high
Defying gravity
And soon I'll match them in renown!
And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!"

I was able to see Wicked in Salt Lake City and it was every bit as magnificent as I had hoped it would be.  I was on the edge of my seat, hanging on every word, drawn into every song.  And though it wasn't Idina Menzel in the production, I loved her even more after watching that song come to life in front of me.

Idina Menzel's voice has become a favorite of mine.

Enter Frozen.

Need I say more?

Actually, yes, I do.

Because she now has a holiday album called Holiday Wishes.  It's my new favorite "go to" holiday CD.  Sorry, Collin Raye Christmas, we had a good run, but it's time for something new.

Holiday Wishes is out now on Warner Bros. Records.

The album was produced by Grammy Award-winner Walter Afanasieff (Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey) and features such classic favorites as “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” as well as Joni Mitchell’s Christmas-themed “River,” one of Menzel’s favorites.

Another highlight is a duet with international superstar Michael BublĂ© on “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” An exclusive Target edition of Holiday Wishes features two bonus tracks, including “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”.

Can I just say that duet with Michael BublĂ© is on repeat in my car right now?

Spot on.

You can find the album on iTunes HERE or on Amazon HERE.

Also, Idina's official social media:

I participated in the Idina Menzel Holiday Wishes album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

LDS Temple Medallions: A Giveaway.

Temples have been on my mind recently.

They've become a part of my quiet contemplation as I'm commuting on Trax.

They've become a part of my monthly routine.

They've been a topic of discussion lately in Sunday school.

We've been studying Ezekiel in Sunday school, actually, and one thing that was said recently has really stuck with me.

The temple is the one place that connects this world with the next.  It is "the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever..." (Ezekiel 43:7)

"The place of the soles of my feet"... it is where he walks.  In the midst of us.

And we get to be there.

This is something that I want my girls to understand, to comprehend, to feel.

There's a website called LDS Temple Medallions where you can buy these beautiful medallions to wear (or otherwise display).

Tayler will be turning 12 in a few months, and in anticipation of her being able to visit the temple I'm giving her a medallion.  I hope it will get her excited, and remind her of what she's going to be able to be a part of.

I hope she'll learn about the temple.

And love it.

I actually get to give not one, but two medallions away this week.  Two of you will be able to win one medallion of your choice.  The giveaway opens today and will run for one week until midnight on December 10th.  Winner will be contacted by email so make sure the email you use on the rafflecopter is one you check regularly.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I really do love to see the temple, and I'm excited to have found this website.  They have a large selection of temples, so whether you want a reminder of one that's near you, one that was part of your mission, or one that holds a special meaning to you for any other reason, you'll probably find it in their selection.

The prices are surprisingly affordable as well.

And just in time for Christmas.

I did receive a medallion in exchange for hosting this giveaway, but the words, thoughts, and opinions are all my own.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

An Easy Way To Spice Up Your Christmas Tradition.

Today I'm posting as part of an online Christmas advent calender.  You can check out the other awesome posts as they unfold daily HERE.

Christmas has a way of testing one's resilience.

Especially in the eyes of my youngest daughter, Cali.

That girl is all spice.

And honestly, I get it.

I do.

I remember, as a kid, snooping around in my parent's room for my presents.  Sometimes I'd find them, but usually not.  We lived next door to my grandparents, and I found out as an adult that all of our Christmas presents were hidden in my grandparent's basement.

Obviously a wise choice on my parent's part.

But there's only so much a parent can do, and only so much anticipation I could handle.

As the presents began to show up under the tree, wrapped in pretty wrapping paper, and labeled with our names, I would sneak out to the tree in the middle of the night to look at them in all their Christmastime glory.

I would quietly find the packages with my name on them and careful peel back the tape on the end of the wrapping so I could unfold the end and see what was inside.  Then I would follow the folds of the paper, wrapping it back up just how it was, and replace the tape.

Guys, I know.

I was such a stinker. Horrible.  And my parents had no idea.

Honestly, I came to realize that Christmas morning really wasn't that much fun when I already knew what all my presents were.

I faced a similar situation a few years ago with my own children, Cali in particular.  Only, apparently, they're not as stealthy as I was as a child.

I began noticing that presents had ripped corners, exposing some of the present within.

Knowing how I was as a child, and knowing how I inevitably always ruined the magic for myself, I took this as a challenge.

How can I keep the magic of Christmas, but not have a strong temptation for my children to peak into wrapped presents?

Last year I heard about the perfect solution, so we tried it.

I wrapped all the presents as I normally would, but then labeled them with code names.

The kids still had fun poking around in the presents, and trying to guess what was in them, but I found as they didn't know which presents belonged to whom, that not of the presents were peaked into.

Though I did take the extra precaution of wrapping them in unidentifiable boxes as well.

It drove my kids crazy not knowing which presents were theirs.

On Christmas I had them pick one present with the code name that they thought was theirs.  One by one they would open the present they had chosen and then guess if they thought they were right, or if they thought that present belonged to a sibling.  After everyone had opened their present we told them if they were correct in their guesses, or not, and everyone got sorted out, and knew which code name belonged to them.

They loved this so much they asked if we could do it again this year.

And we are.

Maybe you have kids that are better behaved when faced with a pile of tempting presents than I have (or I was), regardless, this little trick added a layer of surprise that the kids really enjoyed.

If you're looking to try something new to spice up your Christmas traditions, this one is really easy to do.

With the holiday season up us, we wish you a Merry Christmas, from our family to yours.


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