Saturday, December 30, 2017

One More 10-Miler

I can't believe my friend talked me into it, but I ran 10 miles one more time to finish off the year. On the cool-down walk back to the car, my friend, Emily, found this bottle cap on the ground and gave it to me. It was kind of perfect. I made my goal - 3 times!! I have a runner's watch, new running shoes, multiple sets of cute running clothes, and a developing runner's body. I ran close to 1,000 miles this past year. And yet I wouldn't call myself a runner. I'm not sure why but I always feel like a bit of a poser when I put on the watch or run in public even though for all intents and purposes what else could you call me? Maybe when I start enjoying it more? Maybe after another 1,000 miles, maybe someday I will finally think of myself as legitimate and  add runner to my list of hobbies.

Monday, December 25, 2017


From Matthew's blog:

There are a few things I've noticed over the past week or so that make me both happy and sad at the same time. I think there's a fancy word for that but I can't quite put my finger on it, nor am I motivated enough to go and get my dictionary out.

I love how simple things make children happy. I love how a red balloon from a restaurant can make my son the happiest kid on earth. I love when my daughter tromps around in pink rubber boots and a church dress. I like how she finds puddles to jump in, even if they are half-way across the parking lot. I like that a really cool fort-building set was initially not the most exciting thing they got for Christmas, but when it got to be time for bed time and the possibilities of sleeping in tents were realized, the present suddenly skyrocketed to best thing ever.

I love that just about the only thing they really want and require is time and attention. Sometimes I'm more willing than other times to give it, but the investment always pays off.

The sad part for me, I suppose, is in knowing these simple things will not last forever, and they will face the difficulties of life. I wouldn't want them to stay kids forever, but at the same time wish they could. Each new day is an adventure and brings the promise of awesomeness. For me, the next day more often than not just brings more work, but the silver lining is always coming home at the end of the day and having two little ones pretty excited to see me, unless their engrossed in a TV show. I guess you can't have everything.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Gingerbread Houses 2017

This year we opted to do gingerbread houses the Friday before Christmas. Everyone was off for Christmas break, including Matthew! Yay!! Although this year the kids didn't really want any of our help, other than to use our long arms to get them their desired candy.
Cheeks' determined little face and her finished product. I'm pretty sure if they were passing out awards hers would have won for most random.

Boy Howdy's determined little face and his finished product. His was also kind of random but it was also very symmetrical.

I'm not sure mind was any piece of art either but it was still yummy to eat!!

My thanks always go out to my sweet sister who not only hosts EVERYONE every time but also makes all the pieces to the 20+ gingerbread houses and the accompanying frosting.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Our Efforts to Light the World

For the last two years the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has spearheaded a light the world campaign that consists of doing specific Christ-like activities for each day of December leading up to Christmas. I tried to do it last year and loved the way it changed the Christmas spirit in our home. This year we wanted to get the children more involved. So we tried to let them choose what we would do. We didn't incorporate as much of it into the month as I had hoped, but the children would mention needing to Light the World, so it made some impression on them and maybe next year we will do better. But I do love the few things we were able to do.

Day 1: Jesus taught: "Freely ye have received, freely give."
How can you show your gratitude to someone who has positively affected you? Send the person a thoughtful thank-you card acknowledging the ways he or she has helped you.
Cheeks and Boy Howdy decided to write thank you cards to their friends Ginny and Bentley. They both agreed that taping candy to a card makes it better. I agree.

Dear Ginny, I know you like your best friend named A--. Thank you for being a great friend. You always do great things and giving great things to me. We have a great time playing together. A--. Ginny is a girl from church. She is in Boy Howdy's primary class but will be in Cheeks' grade next year. They are inseparable.

Dear Bentley, I know you call me over to play a lot. Thank you for doing that. Maybe I will call you over to play soon too. Looking forward to seeing you. Z--Bentley is a boy in Boy Howdy's kindergarten class. They have recently started playing together during recess.

Would someone less fortunate appreciate something you have? Make an anonymous donation to someone who's struggling to make ends meet.
It wasn't anonymous, and I'm not sure she's struggling to make ends meet, but I made a quilt a few months back that I never felt was my own. I prayed one night to know who I could send it to and a women I used to visit teach immediately came to mind, even before I closed my prayer. I sent it the a few days later and she got it as she arrived home from saying goodbye to her dying great grandmother, the third death in the year. In one year this poor woman, lost her mother, grand mother, great grandmother, divorced her husband due to his poor choices and moved her 5 small children out of state. She desperately needed some extra love and I am grateful Heavenly Father let me use this quilt to help her feel of His love and mercy.

Day 2: Jesus taught: "I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink."
Did you know that access to clean water has the single greatest impact on global poverty? Consider donating to a cause that helps provide safe water to individuals or communities.
The children decided to donate money although I don't think they intended to donate their own. But with some LOVING coercion, they each gave $0.50 to the cause.

Day 3: Jesus taught: "Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days."

How can you use your talents on a day of rest? Donate your skills you use at work to bless someone's life on your day off.
There is a family in our ward going through some painful medical issues. The husband had book 1 of Matthew's Wordsmythe series and had expressed interest in the other 3 so Matthew wanted to give them the rest of the series to show them his love. I thought is was perfect.

DAY 6 - Jesus taught: "Judge not, that ye be not judged."
Do you find yourself sometimes thinking negative things about others? Help to overcome this habit by saying nice things behind people's backs.
There is a boy in Boy Howdy's Kindergarten class that frequently makes Boy Howdy's naughty list. When we talked in the morning about how we could light the world, this boy was mentioned that yesterday he called my son a "poop head". When I gave him the challenge to do something nice for this boy or say something nice about him, Boy Howdy was pretty adamant that he could not be nice to a bully. I mean, this boy can't even get up the courage to ask friends to play with him, let alone be nice to someone who calls him a poop head (not in a nice way).
But . . . when he got off the school bus he informed me that he offered to give this boy a candy tomorrow at school and that mean boy is going to give him a candy. Color me shocked!! This is why we are doing #LighttheWorld! I am so proud of my son and so thankful to have daily opportunities to find new ways to emulate the Savior.

Day 7 - Jesus taught: "Suffer the little children to come unto me."
How could you make a child's day? Make plans and take time to help a child feel special.
I drove both children to school today. This made Cheeks especially happy as she has started asking me to drive her instead of sending her with our neighbor. Later that night Matthew did his part and said yes to playing "Chutes and Ladders". Both of us hate that game, though Matthew probably more so. But to help his sweet daughter feel loved he tamped down his aversion enough to say yes.

After Day 7 we REALLY lost steam, but on Day 19 we did one more:
Day 19: Jesus taught: "Rejoice, and be exeedingly glad."
How often do you stop to think about your blessings? Reach out to someone who has blessed your life, and thank the person for his or her example.
I encouraged the kids to write a thank you card to their daddy.

Dear Dad, thanks for playing Battleship a lot with me. You make cool lego creations. Thank you for working really hard even though you don't want to work. Thank you for giving tickles at night. Love Z--
Dear Dad, you bless my heart with your love. Thank you for playing legos with me. Thank you for doing the dishes so much and for coming home. And thank you for playing battleship. Even for doing a great job cleaning up everything in our house. Thank you for giving us tickles at night that we keep our room clean. Love A--

We didn't do tons, but what we did helped us more fully feel the true spirit of Christmas in our home. And I'm grateful we were more proactive this year in including the children. If we didn't Light the World we at least lit our home more brightly.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Master of Legos

From Matthew's blog:

I have a long history with legos. They are a big part of my formative years, from castles to spaceships. I'm big on spaceships.

The point of saying that is I'm an expert. I know how to play with them, and turn any pile of ordinary or un-ordinary pieces into something extraordinary. Last night though, I saw something that truly put me to shame. It was a new way to play with legos.

I guess I never really considered how my lego people felt when I played with them. After a long day's session of building the perfect thing, I left my people in the bin, on the floor, or fixed in place in whatever epic battle I was interrupted in the middle of with bedtime. 

My daughter, done with her people for the night, tucked them in, and then had me tuck her in. 

When she plays with legos, she cares.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Christmas Trees

From Matthew's blog.
I was impressed. It's always kind of interesting to see how our hunt for the Christmas tree goes. I'll be forthright, I don't always like the adventure of trying to find the right tree. This year almost careened into disaster-land when we decided to attempt to find a new tree farm just by driving out towards the hills. I'm not good with wanderlust. I'm a find a place, go there, and ignore everything on the way kind of person. I'm also better at going to the same place I went last year sort of person too.

Regardless, once we decided that wandering around in the hills with about thirty miles of gas left in the car wasn't a good idea, we went to a farm we were familiar with and I swear had a tree picked out within about ten minutes of wandering around. That's expeditious! The kids were successful as well, and got two Charlie Brown small trees for their room. They demanded lights--multicolored lights of course because what kid loves classy-looking white lights like their boring parents? Today was officially Christmas season kick-off because virtually every other word out of their mouths had to do with Christmas.

We did a sanity check to be sure they understood the meaning of the season, and they promptly replied that we are celebrating Christ's birthday. Whew. Okay, they probably will only be thinking about Jesus Christ for brief, fleeting moments, but at least they know what it's about.

So, we have three trees in the house. They smell good. I'm pretty sure my daughter has a pair of scissors in the room and will give her tree periodic haircuts until all the needles are gone, but she's happy. That's good.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Light is Just so Bright!!!

When we got married, I had savings. Not a ton, but I was headed towards buying a house within a year or so. Then I met and fell in love with my sweetheart who was going to law school and I threw caution to the wind and said yes to him and his student loans.

With that "yes" I immediately went from being in the black to being neck deep in red.  I remember being so sick to my stomach when, after finishing law school, we wrote a check for over $10,000 that went solely to the interest he had accumulated while in school.

For our whole married lives (11 years now) we have talked about how rich we will be when we are done with student loans. We would travel, buy fun stuff (just because we could) and not worry about finances. With my infertility I continued to work after he graduated and we talked about paying off all our loans in 5 years. The light seemed dim but attainable in those years. And then we felt inspired to send Matthew back for more graduate school, this time to get his MBA. That 5-year plan died and with it, the light at the end of the tunnel.

Matthew getting his MBA was by far the best career move he has made to date as he doubled his salary with two more years of school, but someday continued to be a far distant construct for us. Fast forward to the beginning of the year. We had about $30,000 left on his loans and we both felt the impetus to focus on paying them off within the year. It felt daunting but we knew the Lord would help us reach the goal he wanted us to achieve.

Thanks to a generous year-end bonus, paying off my car, and work for me, today we are officially student loan debt free!!! We have finally made it to someday!!! Hallelujah and thanks be to a wonderful Heavenly Father who helped us reach that goal!!