May 21, 2015

Calming Down …

 

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I have given myself exactly fifteen minutes to write today because I need it to help me calm down.

Things are a bit crazy over here right now. There are some big things going on which require my time, focus and concentration. Sadly, I am not good at focusing and concentrating, so I have had to implement some strategies to help me get things done and remain calm.

Here are a few of the things I have promised to do for myself each day to help me be successful and calm, in no particular order:

  1. Read my scriptures every day. The Hubby and I have been on a roll and have now read every day for the past 141 days. I look forward to that time of contemplation and enlightenment.
  2. Move my body every day. I am exercising for about 40 minutes each morning. It is hard. I don’t love it. But I do love how I feel afterwards and it is helping me to sleep so much better. By the way, have I mentioned I have sleep issues?
  3. Make a list each night before bed of the things I have to do the next day. I write everything from scriptures to exercise to blogging down because I like checking things off of lists.
  4. Attack things like laundry and housework in small, non-intimidating chunks. This means I do two loads of laundry from washed to put away every day. I also clean a bathroom or vacuum and dust a floor of the house. But I never do it all at once. This means the whole house is never clean, but I’m okay with that.
  5. Call one friend or my mom or a sister each day. I feel the stress leaving my body as my chats with them help me decompress.
  6. Spend one on one time with the kids. I read Harry Potter to Oliver or go on a walk with Soren. Late at night I go in and lay on Hannah’s bed and we talk about her day. I need to feel connected to them in real and meaningful ways.
  7. Say no to things or let go of things that simply stress me out. Sorry friends that I couldn’t do a ladies night last weekend. And teachers, I really do appreciate you, but there will be no end of the year gifts from my kids – just a handwritten note of gratitude.

I have found that if I do these things each day, my mind is clear and able to work on the larger tasks in front of me. It has really helped me feel calm inside. When I’m not totally freaking out.

One last thing I do is cut flowers from my yard, put them in my house to make it beautiful, and take pictures of them so their beauty will be with me forever. Serenity now.

And I still have two minutes and twenty-four seconds left. Sweet!

May 19, 2015

MoPro 2015 …

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On Saturday Christopher took a beautiful girl named Emily to Mormon Prom.

Many of the LDS kids in our area don’t attend the school sponsored Prom because the environment there is not great. Instead, they suit up in their modest (and really, quite lovely) formal attire and join seven to eight hundred other Mormon kids for a Prom that is well lit, has clean music and dancing, plus tons of other fun activities during the night. As a parent, I have great peace of mind knowing my son is taking someone else’s daughter to a place where neither he nor she need feel embarrassed or uncomfortable at any time.

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We helped Chris buy his first suit, a new bowtie that coordinated with his date’s dress, and a corsage to slip on her wrist. He has become a pro at hand tying his own bowtie – no clip ons here! He looked so handsome.

A large group of almost thirty kids gathered for dinner at one house with parents combining efforts to make the night a “fancy” affair. Right at 5:00 when we should have been taking pictures, a torrential downpour began, causing girls to run with dresses and hairdos to protect. We did sneak in a few pictures after the storm and the cloudy skies made for perfect lighting.

Chris drove our van (super cool car) full of kids to the Prom. They had an absolute blast! I’m so grateful our church provides this alternative Prom for the youth to attend. The great news is that it just keeps getting bigger and bigger because now lots of kids who aren’t LDS are starting to attend as well. Chris is already looking forward to Mormon Prom next year.

 prom group

May 14, 2015

Coping With Loss . . .

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About a month ago Hannah received a sobering text from her best friend saying they’d just leanred their dog had a tumor in it’s abdomen and would likely die in the next few months from complications caused by the tumor. Hannah loves her friend so much that she was teary after reading the text and quickly came asking me what she should do for Nicole. I suggested two things immediately – pray for her and call her. She did both but felt like the phone call had seemed superficial.

Later that night a thought came to me. I’m not a pet person. I have horrible pet dander allergies. I’ve never been endeared to an animal in the way many pet owners are, but I do understand that the grief associated with losing a pet is real. I decided I would ask the family if I could take some pictures of the kids with their dog as a way to help ease their sadness about what is an immanent loss in the near future.

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It’s the only think I could think of that I could do to help.

So I photographed a dog. A very fast, happy, energetic, busy and loved dog. It was so much harder than any human subject I have ever taken pictures of, but still I think I was able to capture a few moments for this family to cherish.

I am not a professional photographer, but there have been a few times when I have been able to use my “hobby” to help other people. It is when I am the most grateful for this burgeoning talent.

nicoles love

May 13, 2015

New Go To …

sugarcookie bars

If you’ve been living in a world where sugar cookie bars are a reality, why oh why didn’t you tell me? If you’ve been living under a rock, like me, I’m about to set you free.

A few months ago Hannah had to take dessert to a track dinner. She wanted me to make sugar cookies, but I immediately said no as I had just recovered from making fifty Salt Lake Temple shaped cookies frosted with gold sugar on the tips of one of the spires. Too much work!

Then as I was browsing the Pinterest, I came across a few rave reviews for a sugar cookie bar that claimed to have all the deliciousness of regular sugar cookies with two thirds less work, so I decided to give it a try.

We’ve now made “THE BARS” three times. And believe me when I say this recipe is a winner!

All the benefits of rolled and cut sugar cookies, but so much less work. So tasty. And the frosting I’ve been using, which is from another sugar cookie bar recipe, is light, fluffy and creamy. I’ve gone pink with multicolored jimmies all three times I’ve made them because it makes me think of the big sugar cookies you can get at gas stations, but you could do whatever color you’d like.

Here’s the recipe

Sugar Cookie Bars (modified slightly from A Little Bit Crunchy, A Little Bit Rock n’ Roll)

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
2. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
3. Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.
4. Add the vanilla to the creamed mixture and then slowly add the dry ingredients.
5. Press into a greased 13 x 18 inch pan and bake at 375F for 15-18 minutes. (You can use another shaped pan that is similar in size, but a 9x13 will be too small.)
6. Cool and frost (see directions below).

Frosting (via Sally’s Baking Addiction)

3/4 C unsalted butter, softened

2 and 1/4 C confectioners sugar

3 Tbsp heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

salt to taste

With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy - about 2 minutes. Add confectioners' sugar, cream, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. I usually add anywhere between 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Beat in food coloring, if using. Frost cooled bars. This frosting makes enough to cover the entire pan generously. Add sprinkles if desired.

Let me know if you make these. They are delish!

May 12, 2015

Then & Now …

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Every once and a while Quite often I find myself in a bit of a mental freak out due to time, how fast it’s flying, how much things are changing and how I have no control over it. I just want to slow it down so badly, making it possible for me to truly savor every moment I have with my children at home and my parents living nearby.

For Mother’s Day I had only one request this year: I wanted a nice picture with my kids. As the mom who wields the camera around these parts, I am rarely in any of the photos. So we grabbed the tripod and headed down to the wooded path in our neighborhood. We took about thirty minutes worth of photos, and let me tell ya, there are some GEMS.

But as I came back home to look at the pictures and came across the one above, there was something that felt very familiar about it (see below).

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In five years time, I guess not that much has changed after all. I feel better already.

May 11, 2015

The Sabbath Is A Delight …

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Part two of our family home evening was spent reviewing Elder Russell M. Nelson’s talk from General Conference, The Sabbath Is a Delight. (click for link) It was such a great talk to end conference and one we needed to hear!

We all agreed that though we keep the Sabbath holy in respect to worshipping at church, not frequenting places of business or doing many of the other things we do during the week like sports or hanging out with friends, we could all work harder at making the day more sacred by what we do in our home.

We each committed to doing two things on Sunday after church that would bring us closer to God and family.

Samantha: Interview children and record personal histories of kids on Family Search, including audio and photographic files. Read/study the next week’s Relief Society and Sunday School lessons.

Travis: Do Family History work (ie. indexing). Continue to do personal interviews with the children on Fast Sundays.

Chris: Work on indexing project. Spend quality time with family.

Hannah: Read the New Era magazine. Learn to play new hymns on the piano.

Soren: Read two chapters of the Book of Mormon. Work on Family History with mom or dad.

Ollie: Spend meaningful time with family. Avoid whining and screaming. (trust me, this would really help our Sabbath out a ton.)

By doing these things, hopefully we will find more joy in our Sabbath and see that it continues to be a day set apart from the rest of the week for specific purposes. Elder Nelson put it beautifully when he said,

“What did the Savior mean when He said that “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath”? I believe He wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life and an opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal. God gave us this special day, not for amusement or daily labor but for a rest from duty, with physical and spiritual relief.”

I am happy to report that the past two weeks of Sacrament Meeting have seen marked improvement by the children. I have gotten more out of the meeting and feel spiritually fed. I will let you know how the second part goes after a few weeks of trying it out.