Family Picture May 2015

Family Picture May 2015
(top) Hunter, Shelley, Jess, Elise (bottom) Jane, Beth, Merrill

Privacy Policy

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fall Family Pictures

We don't get out to do this often enough, but when we do, we always have a fun time finding just the right spot to do our family pictures. We had a lot of fun, and got some good shots.

We did this on Sunday of General Conference weekend, and it was such a beautiful day and Conference was so beautifully orchestrated toward my family, my life, and the people I love.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Just keep Swimming

My two youngest daughters are starting to understand what Dori on "Finding Nemo" was talking about when she sang "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..."

They  have been through 3 days of true aquatics training. On day one, Jane entered the pool terrified of any water touching her ears or face. Teacher Brooke calmly talked to her and then after many verbal and whiny complaints, she showed Jane exactly what it was to have water in the face. She stood her one the edge of the pool, took her hands and dove her right into the pool and under water, and let her surface on her own, helping her to go right to her back.

These aquatics lessons are not for the faint of heart parent, in fact, many times parents just have to leave. But this is day two!

And day three:

 Here is some video of Beth who loves the water but is obviously getting much more comfortable with her abilities in the water:

New Furniture.... AHHHH!

Well, in nearly 15 years of marriage, we have only bought 2 pieces of furniture. Our waterbed, and our sectional, which is now over 13 years old.

This past month, since half our kitchen chairs had broken, and our hand-me-down couches were literally falling apart, we decided it was time to buy some furniture.

And this is what we purchased. A 60" square table that seats 8. We cut the legs off and purchased the dining height chairs, because most square tables only come in counter height, which we didn't want.

And some couches for the living room. Bonded Leather on the armrests and cover, with corduroy micro-fiber cushions and pillows. We also bought a shock collar for the dog. (So he won't sit on them)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Best Feeling

This Christmas season I have felt like I am welcoming a New Born into my home again. It is the cherished gift of woman, to bear her own children. I realize the blessing is has been for me that over the past decade and more, this has been the crowning joy of my life, welcoming new born babies, one by one, into my life, my family, my home. There is just nothing else like it.

While that season of my life has ended and Jess and I have ushered in a new season of raising growing children, I have cherished the feelings which have returned this Christmas while singing songs about the tiny little Newborn Baby Jesus. I have thought about his earthly parents and the opportunity and challenge that was theirs of teaching and rearing Him in the flesh. 

Welcoming the Baby Jesus into my heart is akin to welcoming His atonement and testimony into my life. It is a gift, a welcoming, an openness, a joy, peace and blessing. At this season, as we celebrate and honor Him at the time of His mortal birth, we can celebrate also our own re-birth because of Him.

New Born Soul

As I hold
my new-born
smallest, sweetest

Deepest joy
cords of love

Gift from God

Think on Thee
New-Born King
came the same
to Mary

May I ever hold
my new-born
made new

Because of Thee

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Come, Mothers,

A plea...Who will stand between our young men and video games? To what end were they created? And by whom? How much money in a family budget is put toward this vast entertainment venue? And then, how much time, precious time, is spent toward it, and what, in its place, is lost?

We have already taken away from all our children the agrarian lifestyle. We have removed from them their being needed for our families to survive. We have taken away from them skills honed from caring for animals and property. We have taken away from them the benefits of a classical education and stuck them into a "conveyor belt" style learning environment. This, in turn, has taken them away much of the time from their families. And worse, we have taken away from them examples, in ourselves, of true lifelong learning.

I have two boys. One of them, I admit, struggles more with the notion of video games. He despises work for work's sake, reading for the sake of enjoyment and learning, and gets bored easily. My other son can play alone and keep himself busy with all kinds of projects, is willing to do his chores happily, and never asks me if he can play on the computer. Incidentally we don't own a Wii or any other playstation, but we do have a computer, his only way to play games. My son who struggles with always wanting to play computer games will read, work or go to great lengths if what he is doing is earning him computer play time. Bribery goes against my grain in all ways, so I find myself just saying "no." No whatever. No more.

My sister, while serving as Relief Society President in her ward, knew personally 3 young men who came home from the MTC because they could not stand the rigors of early rising and study there. They came home, more specifically, because they missed playing their games, and were bored.

Video games, I contest, ARE addictive. The effects on the minds of young men are somewhat visible in my generation, in a rising problem in fathers who become addicted to "gaming," along with the time consumed by many adults in social media such as Facebook.  

But the true and far-reaching effects of video games is yet to be seen. Games for our children are more addictive with their levels, 3-d real look, subject matters and interactive abilities. My sons' friends don't like to come to my house to play because we "have nothing to do" here. They ask no less than 10 times in an hour to play on the computer. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. They leave and when I say no video games over there, they grunt and sigh and throw a fit. Or worse, my son goes against my wishes. 

I talk to their friends' mothers. I explain that I prefer that my kids don't play video games. Some are supportive, others are not.

Mothers, if not us, then who? Who will stand between our sons and this plague of their minds, desires, and perspective? Someday, a sweet young lady is going to fall in love with my son. I can already feel her pain if he wants to game instead of be with her and his children. I can see so many consequences, spiraling down through the generations, if my son is not equipped to be a man. 

Mothers, please. Stand with me. Do you have the courage to get rid of your games and take the ensuing battle and rage that will follow, and hold your ground? Do you think that I am eccentric? Do you not see the signs in your sons that I see in mine? Can you not look down the road and see that the first step down this road leads to the end of this road, and where that place is? Do you think it isn't that big of a deal? 
Can you not see that even if they are not addicted, what is lost in the money and the time that could be spent elsewhere, and much greater things gained?

We are not a video game family. We have better things to do. This is what my sons will hear as often as they ask. I hope someday they will thank me.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thanksgiving Season

How Can I Keep from singing?

What a great question! There have been times when the question has been, rather, "How can I keep from screaming?" But as one favorite songwriter put it: "God made our voices, but we make them sing; God gave us voices so we must sing." When proper perspective prevails, and we put forth the effort of that which we CAN do, we finally "survey the wondrous cross", we grow in God's grace, we
see His merits and receive his mercy... And behold, the rejoicing! How can I keep from singing, from making sing that voice that God made in me? Literally or figuratively, remember: "Jesus listening can hear the songs I cannot sing."

My new Thanksgiving Tradition is listening to, creating and enjoying beautiful hymns of Thanksgiving each day. I can count and name one by one many blessings, but ONE blessing is greatest of all, and it is real and personal and individual and useful in daily life, that of the Atonement of my Savior, Jesus the Christ. He is the fount of every blessing.

Come, thou Fount of Every Blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace.
Streams of mercy never ceasing
call for songs of loudest praise.

From one "forever undeserving of His grace," nevertheless a willing and grateful recipient, to you,
Happy and most Joyous Thanksgiving season!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Outside the Box -- Hazard Straps

Note: the opinions expressed in the following essay are my personal opinions and shall not be construed to be a statement in any way of the Tyke Toter brand or business.

I am literally chomping at the bit to write this persuasive essay because it is so difficult to convince our particular safety-conscious society to get outside the box on anything that might have to do with safety and prevention. A shout out to all of us who care about safety and prevention so much, but what if, just WHAT IF we get so far into that box that it actually works against us?

When my husband created the original Tyke Toter over 5 years ago for our then 18-mo. old toddler, it was deliberately created without straps. As an over-protective and worry-prone mother, I was thrilled with this, because the presence of straps on a child bike seat has always been to me a major liability, not to mention an inconvenience and inhibitor. Following are many of my personal reasons for this.

Straps on a child bike seat do have their place only when a child is riding behind the bicycle driver, because the adult in this case cannot supervise the child and should the child try to stand up or crawl out during a ride, the adult wouldn't know until perhaps the balance of the bike was thrown off and the child had fallen. Even in this case, straps have been found to be a major safety hazard if not used correctly, causing an unsupervised child to fall down through and become strangled in the straps.

But ingeniously move the child bike seat in front of the bicycle driver within reach and supervision of the adult, and close-in, and not only is the balance of the bike better, but the only purpose for the straps becomes irrelevant. Imagine my surprise to find other front-mounted child bike seats that still had straps! Why would anyone do something so dangerous to their child?

Many points may be addressed. First, I address the title of "safety" we have attached with the straps. This has been at the very least a very clever marketing technique, and at most, a naive classification, and shame on us for being so gullible. As stated before, the only "safe" thing about straps as they pertain to a child bike seat is perhaps that they keep a child in place during a ride when they are in a position where they cannot be supervised a.k.a behind the driver. Beyond this, I ask you to reasonably consider: are straps in this case actually "safe?"

Point in case: Are adult or child bicycle riders strapped in/on to their bikes? Short answer- no. Why not? Several reasons. Considering the purpose, speed, terrain, levels of riding, typical accidents and injuries of standard bicycle riding, and all other relevant conditions, being strapped to a bicycle would be inconvenient, not to mention hazardous. This is a simple case to reason out. However, mentionable now is the addition in the past 2 decades to the sport of bicycle riding of the helmet. Considering again the above, the helmet, as opposed to straps, is a most wise choice for most bicycle riders, protecting them from the more serious and typical types of injuries inherent in bicycle accidents.

Long answer: Well, some adult riders, especially road-bike racers and hard-core mountain bikers, do, in essence attach themselves to their bicycle by purchasing special pedals and shoes which clip together. Clip-in shoes enable a rider to use not only the forward/downward thrust of the pedaling motion to increase speed, but add to that the upward/back motion as well. This is a personal choice for the rider and the benefits would have to outweigh the risks, thus it is best only for very professional riders. I have personally used clip-in shoes on the bad advice of a friend, when I did not fit in this category of riders, and it is only in those instances when I have been injured on my bicycle. Why? Because in the instance of an accident, I could not get away from the bicyle, and was pinned under and dragged, crushed and twisted. In the case of all other bicycle accidents I have been in or witnessed, it was the very fact that the rider could get away from the bike, or be thrown from the bike naturally from impact that injuries were actually prevented rather than sustained.

Next, consider the situation of having your child in a child bike seat which is in front of you, and he or she being strapped-in. What is the effect on YOU as the driver of having straps on your child? Do these straps create a false sense of security for you? Consider how many levels your own caution increases just to have your child on the bicycle with you. How does having the straps effect this increase of caution? Now, by removing only the straps from the scenario, what happens to your level of caution as the driver? Does it increase, decrease? So, ask yourself, what is the appropriate level of caution you should experience as the driver to have your child as a passenger on your bicycle? Is the appropriate level present more with or without the straps?

The answer to this question convinces me that the straps are much more of a liability because of the way they affect me, the driver, in my level of caution. Because as the driver of the bike, my actions and choices have the greatest sway on our actual safety during a ride. Does how I drive my bike change when my child is with me? Yes, for sure. And without straps, my senses are peaked, my caution is greatest, and my choices are reigned-in to the appropriate level.

Of course, nothing- not safe driving, not the greatest caution, and especially not straps can prevent accidents. The next greatest risk, therefore, in any bike accident is the unknown factor. This could be anything from other cylcists, an animal, an unseen bump in the road, any reason for an abrupt stop, or heaven forbid, a vehicle. Considering each of these examples separately, then applying the scenario of your child being strapped to the bike vs. being as yourself free from the bike, and the actual outcome of such incidents, are straps safer or more hazardous? This is not something any of us want to put to the test. I have personally witnessed one vehicle/bicycle accident. The child was thrown from the bicycle on impact. This was before the day of helmets, and the sustained injuries were various minor scrapes and bruises, a broken leg, and an injury to the head requiring several stitches. Had the rider been wearing a helmet, however, the head injury would have been prevented. The bicycle itself was crushed and twisted beneath the front of the car. The fact that the child was thrown from the bike on impact saved his life. I would not want my child crushed and twisted underneath a car.

Having a child strapped to a bicycle means that in an abrupt stop or on impact, they will not be thrown from the bike. Once the child is able to stand, sit, and hold on to his own handlebars, as is the case with the Tyke Toter, an abrupt stop, usually foreseen, creates the following reaction: The parent may hold on to the child, the child holds on to the handlebars, and the stop happens without incident. Considering your speed while carrying a child passenger, should any accident occur, would you rather have the child allowed the same chance to bail from the bike as yourself, or would you rather that the straps keep him or her attached to the bicycle? Is it actually safe to be strapped to a bicycle? After all, the bicycle is not a car. The speeds are usually well under 5 mph. Considering all points, the straps, just like clip-in pedals, may actually become a liability, inhibiting the child's safety rather than enhancing it.

Lastly, we should consider: how do straps in any child seat affect the child?.. coupled with another question: What is the purpose of a bicycle ride? A bicycle ride is often for transportation purposes, but it is also a source of fun and leisure. In any case, the ride itself is a free, open experience. Strapping a child in serves to make them feel inhibited, to feel restrained and to lose patience after a short time. Remove the straps, and the child suddenly can enjoy the ride as you do. They can move, they can stand or sit, just as you do while riding. In the case of the Tyke Toter, the child has his own handlebars and thus feels a sense of inclusion, even control, in the experience. The result is a happy and excited child for surprisingly long periods of time, and a very interactive and bonding experience for both parent and child. Remove the straps and the adult finds himself very cautious, conscientious, and extremely focused on the task at hand; never forgetting or becoming complacent that there is a child passenger. The result is a refreshingly interactive and fun experience for the adult as well.

I have a new and different "outside the box" title for straps on a front-mount child bike seat: Hazard Straps. Call them what you may, they are nevertheless hazardous to safety, to fun, and to the functionality of the very purpose of the child bike seat.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The one part of Charity

When you truly love someone, the virtues of Charity, or God's Love, take toll on your actions and decisions. There is one part of Charity that I have felt pulling my heartstrings lately, as a mother.

Charity suffereth long. So there it is. The word "suffer" doesn't make this sound like a piece of cake. I think suffering long takes the most work, but creates the most joy. It is much like gardening, or the law of the harvest (there it is again!). There are weeds to pull, there is watering to do, seeds to plant and re-plant, suckers to remove, bugs to keep at bay, and the list goes on. It is hard work! But there is the harvest, in its time and season. And I know personally those who have come to their harvest and how great is their joy!

Some plants are lost for a season, there is trial and error. Sometimes the winds come and blow off flowers that would have born wonderful fruits. Sometimes neighbor kids come and break trees in half, and they have to be cared for and mended with great patience. Sometimes plants have a mind of their own and try to crawl to all the wrong places. (These are actual experiences from my garden this summer.) The key to suffering long is that because of Jesus Christ and his atonement, we never need give up. We may ask ourselves "What more could I have done for my garden?" We can do everything we can as mortals, but the one thing we must always have is hope. Faith, Hope and Charity really do go together, for without hope and faith there cannot be Charity. We never give up on those we love. We keep striving with them. We keep trying new ways to teach them, new ways of speaking and practicing all of Charity's virtues: kindness, seeking not our own, not being puffed up. We suffer long when we never lose hope and never give up. We can do the hard work, we can pull the weeds and do the watering. But we must never let the drought of discouragement set in.

Suffering long is possible because Jesus suffered for us. He has never given up on me all my days. When I wondered if it was too late for me, it wasn't. I can do that one simple thing for those I love. I can suffer long and never lose hope for them. The truth is there for them to hold on to in their time and in their way.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gettin' our feet wet

We've been getting our feet wet all summer long....

At Bridal Veil Falls
With our friends...

And at the Riverwoods...

With more friends...

We LOVE Summer!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What story are you telling yourself...

I will be attending a mom's retreat this October. As part of our preparation as attendees for the retreat, we receive weekly writing assignments starting about now. I truly look forward to these assignments, for they are such an amazing opportunity for growth.

Feel free to take part in these and do your own writing, even if you won't be attending the retreat!

Here is the first one:

(This is the theme for the entire retreat:) I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth. . . therefore, first set in order thy house." (D&C 93:40,44) ... you are the house.

(Assignment:) Each of us is constantly narrating a story in our minds--it is the story of our own life. We are interpreting our actions and thoughts and even foreshadowing or predicting future events. How we narrate our own story is very powerful, but usually we don't even recognize the story we are creating in our heads, let alone stop to question whether it is accurate or not. This week, please ponder over the narration of your story.
What story are you telling yourself about your “house?” (Please remember that you are the "house.")

This past week, I've been paying more attention to the story I am narrating to myself about me. How I define "me" affects this narration a great deal. I have noticed a different narration take shape depending on which role takes the lead. Even the title I chose recently for this blog "my many names" shows that I recognize that "I" encompasses many roles. In my narrative, I see myself stretched in more directions than I would like, but each direction is indispensable. It is probably the most difficult thing I do in my life- prioritizing and balancing all the demands placed on me, and feeling pulled in so many directions all the time. Perhaps the title "my many names" ought to be a tool for helping me see myself as one entity with multiple names, rather than so many different entities; realizing that others recognize just as well that I am only one person and not superhuman in my abilities; that I cannot "run faster than I have strength."

As is suggested in the assignment, I don't usually recognize the story I am creating in my head. However, I am well aware of my feelings and emotions as it relates to my narrative. As I have paid more attention, I am realizing that because I am emotionally connected to my narration, it is a difficult thing to tell whether or not it is accurate. Perhaps the greatest gift I could receive is to see myself how God sees me, and receive from Him an accurate report so I could do better if needed, or feel better if deserved. For I am always trying to do better, yet not feeling so great about my efforts.

I do know which of all my roles bothers me the most, or for which the narrative is most painful; the one for which my narration is mostly questions, disappointment, guilt, sadness and regret. And it is the one that precludes the theme of this mom's retreat. It is that of mother. I find myself trying to be positive despite the stress and sadness of the negative things I see in my children's attitudes and actions. I wonder if I am expecting too much, after all they are just children? I wonder if these things are normal? I wonder if they knew how badly it hurt me to see them fight, disobey, not listen and act up, if they would stop? I think about God and the fact that even as a perfect parent, He nevertheless still has children who are contentious, even a third part that were lost.

Why is this? Why, when the role of mother is the one I have most wanted to play my entire life? It must be because all I have to judge myself by in this role is my children's behavior and attitudes, more especially their attitudes and behavior toward me. I see myself vicariously through their eyes, or how, by the way they treat me, I conclude they must see me. I have always believed in the law of the harvest and because the fruits I am reaping are, to name a few, disrespect, whining, unkind words, disobedience, back-talking, laziness, rudeness and un-appreciativeness, I constantly find myself berating myself and asking what have I done wrong?

When I step back, I think my kids are all basically happy, well-rounded, and even well-behaved for others, that they are provided a clean, organized, loving environment with proper boundaries and consistent discipline. I am the facilitator of much of the verbal teaching that goes on in our home. Obviously, I am also often the teacher by example. While much of what I 'do' all day is out of necessity; just barely keeping up with the basics of bathing, dressing, and feeding my children along with performing necessary temporal tasks i.e. laundry, helping with our family business, studying, exercising, serving others; I also do much that is deliberate in teaching and training them.

I take time each day to teach them the gospel above all else. We read scriptures, sing hymns, and I share experiences when appropriate, and my testimony with them. I listen to their questions and we have discussions. However, rather than the inquisitive, humble comments I would expect, I often get the rolling eyes, the pessimistic or silly attitudes, the facetious answers. Their attitudes speak so loudly that I am wasting my time, that I am preaching to the choir, that they are sick of the sermon. I can be feeling the Spirit so strongly and bearing out my heart, and they are concerned with the most temporal and unimportant things. I think "you are missing so much!" Certainly my children see that the way I live represents my values, and reflects the values taught in the holy scriptures? But then all day I have to intervene and stop fighting, mean speaking, name-calling and hitting and kicking, along with other unwanted behaviors such as messes, disobedience and other repeat offenses. I have to repeat and repeat to them what is expected, and remind of the jobs they have been asked to do. Although they know the expectation is to return and report, they get side-tracked and do all they can to get out of work.

Where have all my efforts gone? I pray this every day. I ask the Lord to inspire me to solve these issues. I know He is aware of my disappointments and sadness. I ask Him for that gift of seeing whether my efforts are acceptable before Him even though I do not get the results for which I pray and hope and work so hard. I constantly ask close friends for their tangible answers, their candidness and honesty about my parenting follies. They are as aghast as I at the things I tell them occur and that my kids say and do, and the way they treat me. This makes me feel all the more that I have somehow failed.

I know that my dialogue is, in short, one in which I am the victim. I am the hard-worked, over-stretched, well-intentioned, perfectionist mother, who, despite every effort whether by study or by faith and action, cannot achieve the results I desire in my children as their mother.

You see, just by writing it out, I can immediately see the problem with my even feeling this way. For a child to possibly feel emanating from his mother that because of him, she feels she has failed, is perhaps to predict more of the same behavior from him in the future. Certainly my children do good things, too. Perhaps I need to really focus, for my own benefit, on their goodness, so that I can see my amazing success-fulness!

I believe that what is insinuated in the question is correct; that "
How we narrate our own story is very powerful." So I want my narration to change into one where I am empowered as mother. If it is true that "by your fruits ye shall know them," then by which fruits am I to judge myself as mother? Again the questions: am I trying to pick fruit before it is ripe on the vine? Am I trying to separate wheat from tares before the field is fully ripe? Will the true fruits come in many, many years while right now I should suffer these things? Am I making a pebble in my path into a stumbling block? Is there a ruler by which I should measure, about which I am unaware? Are my children's actions and choices my only measuring stick? Or because of agency, are these the worst measuring stick I could use?

There is a spark of hope that says maybe this is the reality, that I am being too hard on myself, that I can have confidence that I am doing my best and that the fruits will come of it someday. I just don't want to fail them. Knowing that "no success can compensate for failure in the home," knowing how painful it is to lose a child to sin or unbelief, I want so much to have peace in my home now, kindness as the rule, cleanliness as the mantra. I want to express my love to them rather than be cumbered with so much coaching and coaxing and pleading and reprimanding! I shouldn't loathe my duty as repeated reminder. I should just know that is what I should have to do, what is part of the job of raising God's children.

I welcome any dialogue on this subject.


Beth (who is trying to overcome the habit of re-arranging her underwear): Mom? Why doesn't Jane pick her butt?

Jane: (adamantly) I DO!