May 22, 2015

Growing Like Weeds.

If I'm not careful, Spring can bring with it a heaviness.  Weeds, concerts, travel, parties... The list of things to do grows as quickly as the dandelions in my grass.

I tell myself daily that God designed weeds.  He blessed us with life so that we can learn to work.  Our goal should not be to get to the point where we're finished.  Our goal should just to be pressing our "way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron." (1 Nephi 8:30)

When I take away the guilt that comes because I haven't already done something, and the pressure I have to get something done for some nebulous deadline that I'm missing, I am happy in my state of pressing forward.  

The secret of life is that life is a journey.  You never "finish" you just progress from thing to thing.  So, enjoy your thing.  
My kids are growing as quickly as my chickens!
This is my baby Wyandotte.
 This is my freedom ranger.  Those two chicks were born on the same day.  Broilers grow so fast!  They're beasts.
Here is one of our cute turkeys.
(Ignore my double chin-- it's just the camera angle.  Ha.)

We have the chicks in a stall in our barn.  The kids have been so creative setting things up for them.
They made their own baby gates out of plywood.  Freedom Rangers on left, turkeys on right.  The turkeys fly more so they're covered with netting.
We cut notches in 4x4s to hold up the plywood.  I love Drew's hammered on safety additions.
I've been playing with spray paint, refinishing a little table to put our bunny on.
A giraffe family.
A giraffe eating.
My life is busy but dreamy.
I love that my kids are learning to work hard and play hard.
I sure love this messy-faced kid.
These girls swell my soul.
When my big kids get home, we all head out to the garden beds to weed and mulch.
I'm so impressed at what a good job they do.
It's coming!!  We literally have done 1/20th of our yard.  If you really knew what a busy time of the year this is for us, you would be equally impressed.

Honestly, they key to maintaining mental health when you have a lot going on is not letting yourself worry about your list.  Just prioritize and walk forward.  I'm amazed at how much I can accomplish when I'm not freaked out at how much I need to accomplish.

Of course, it helps that I have a large family.  My older kids are SO helpful.  
It has been a blessing that sweet Lily is home sick.  Her touch in my life is orderly and sweet.
She rainbow-tizes my ponytail holders and picnics with my little ones.
You might gasp to know how excited I was to surprise them with Fluff and peanut butter sandwiches.  Their delighted squeals compensated for the fact that they were eating mystery substances.  
Ha!  11 is fun.  Ellie is fun.

Sometimes life is hard, sometimes life is picturesque.  Sometimes you are laying on your back unable to do, and sometimes your list is long and your nails are full of dirt.

The ebbs and flow of life are beautiful.
There is a time to rest and a time to work.

These are my days to pull weeds.
And I can't tell you how grateful I am for every silly weed I pull.

Life is beautiful.
Even if your days are numbered.
Just ask Thanksgiving Tom!
He's enjoying today and doesn't care a wink if I have a double chin... :)

May 21, 2015

Choosing Good

I just bought new white sheets from Home Goods.  They are freshly washed and perfectly inviting to slide into at night.      Don't you love clean sheets?  

I miss the Professor most at night.  One of the hardest things about the months I spent in the hospital was not having him beside me at night.  I have often felt that this world would be Heavenly if every person went to bed at night feeling as loved as I do.  Man, marriage is the best!

It is interesting that I am so in love with this guy (he is completely on favor of my new 'make love not war' campaign by the way), and that we are still trying to figure out our rhythm together.

Good marriages take work.

When I was sick and recovering, I was surprised to feel that FAITH was a CHOICE not a feeling.  If I searched my soul to see what I felt, I would find fear, doubt, anger, selfishness, mixed with hope, faith, bravery, optimism.  I felt both.  I had to choose what feelings I talked about or focused on.  

My feelings fear and anger were so strong they could have killed me if I turned towards them.  I did not.  I kept my face towards the sun/Son.  

I had strong faith because I chose to believe that a God loved me.  I chose to focus on the miracles not the mistakes.  I chose to be positive.

And, as I chose faith in little ways each day, my faith was strengthened.  Choosing faith helped me to feel faithful.  Choosing to believe that God loved me and was blessing me, helped me to SEE that I was loved and blessed.  It was so cool.

 Love in marriage is just like that.  It is a choice.  Opening my heart to my husband is a choice I make daily.  I'm not sure why the tides of life naturally pull us apart.  We drift to our individual lives and we have to swim back together.

Physical and emotional unity is so important in marriage.  We don't just naturally feel love.  It might feel natural, but love is a direct result of choice.  We choose to see the good in our spouse.  We choose to trust him with our bodies and our imperfections.  We choose to speak positively of each other.  We choose to remind ourselves that we are loved, that imperfection is normal.  

I have been married almost 18 years.  I am desperately in love and I really like my husband... And I still have to choose to turn towards him not away from him.  Love is a choice.  

It worries me, in this day and age, that so many people focus on how they feel.  So many people search their innermost thoughts and feelings to define who they are.  People today think happiness comes from indulging every thought, fantasy, or feeling they have.  No!

God has shown us the path to happiness.  Often we are happiest when we do the exact opposite of what we feel.  

Satan wants to destroy our happiness.  He wants to destroy the best of marriages and pull down the strongest of men.  He can whisper to your mind and he can mess with your emotions, BUT HE CANNOT TAKE AWAY YOUR AGENCY.

Oh friends-- let us choose faith.  Let's choose to love.  Let's pull our bodies and our minds towards our spouses and our God.  Let's first choose to look for the good in our spouse, then choose to speak of the good in our spouse.  Let's choose loving actions and feel how loving feelings follow (not precede) loving acts.

The prophet Lehi tells us: “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”2

Brethren, within the confines of whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we will always have theright to choose.

Decisions are constantly before us. To make them wisely, courage is needed—the courage to say no, the courage to say yes. Decisions dodetermine destiny.

There is a prophet of God who agrees with me!  You can read His words here...

Choose faith.

Choose love.

Choose family first.

You will FEEL the swelling of goodness that is the RESULT not the CATALYST of choice.  

At night, when your babies are sick and needy, you will FEEL tired and cranky and angry and selfish.  As you go towards them and CHOOSE loving actions, you will feel their need, you will feel their purity, your body will respond to their little fingers, warm brow, and innocence.  As you choose to serve, THEN your soul will fill with love.  It is a physical reaction that all lactating mothers can testify of.  We are literally filled with love as we choose to turn towards them not away from them.

Enjoy your day friend!

Love those you love!

Life is good if you choose to focus on all that is good.

I know it.

May 20, 2015


He won't always fit so perfectly in my lap.  Wow.  8 kids later I am amazed at how my eyes still get teary and my heart still aches with love for each one of them.  I can imagine an Olympic gymnast tumbling on the floor and feeling that her body was made to flip.  I feel that here on the couch with my little ones tucked in my arms, playing nearby, or close in my thoughts.  I was made for this.  Right here, right now I am doing my greatest work, fulfilling the measure of my creation. 

"When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses? When the surf of the centuries has made the great pyramids so much sand, the everlasting family will still be standing, because it is a celestial institution, formed outside telestial time."

Neal A. Maxwell

She still asks me to do her hair.

I watched the Elementary school choir sing last night and I was teary-eyed with love for these kids and gratitude for their teachers.  

6th grade is such a naturally transitional year.
Speaking of transitions, I had to snap this picture of my girls.  Anna is running track this year.  She's getting stronger and faster.  It is fun to watch,  Ellie sang her solo beautifully.  She really is growing into such a fun young woman.

But, look at Leah in that picture!!!!
My little tom-boy Leah was SO cute getting ready for the concert.  She wanted her hair in a fish-tail braid, put on red church shoes, and chose to carry a pink purse.  What?!!  Oh, I love her.

I'm not as chipper as I usually am because I'm a bit deprived in the sleep department, but I'm at peace.

I really know that these little moments are some of the most significant moments of my life.  I'm grateful to be right here, right now with these people.
Life is good.

May 19, 2015

Mom. Mom. Mama. Ma!

My youngest two have Spring fever.
I wonder if this is a real illness?
We have had a very healthy year and I can tell that these fevers won't last long (Eve is already starting to feel better.)

Fevers are my favorite illness.  They just slow kids down a bit making them tired and cuddley.

I believe that 16 years of parenting eight children has helped me to just enjoy these needy moments.

When my little ones are sick my vast list of things to do just disintegrates and they become first.  I hope they remember the hours I've spent rocking them or the many sick beds I've arranged on the couch.

Feverish Ben kept crying as he put on his boots and pointed out"side, side!"  Eve sat in a rocker on the porch slowly playing with blossoms and Ben slept on my lap while I mowed the lawn.  That silly boy makes me smile.  Even sick he still knows just where he wants to be.

Throughout the night I heard his calls, "Mom!  Mama! Maaa!"  He was hot and thirsty and cuddley.  Between Eve and Ben, I'm tired, but I really love being here to hold them.

This is my job.  
This is my favorite place to be.  
This is my great work and my glory.
Together with God I comfort the weary and strengthen the weak.  

My little ones will be back to their happy, active selves soon and my business will return.

For today, I'm grateful I'm right here with them.
I'm grateful that illness is a reminder that they need me and I need them.
Fevers remind me how grateful I am for health!!

I love this life, even when I'm tired.
Haha-- Eve is not the best bed buddy.
She's getting so big, sweet thing.
Happy Tuesday!

May 18, 2015

Called of God

Leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not apply, they do not get a pay check, they are not always the most qualified for the job.  

One of my favorite things about my church is that it is run by regular men and women who volunteer their time and efforts to serve others the best they know how.  

As we serve one another we are strengthened and blessed.  As we learn to love and forgive imperfections or inexperience in our leaders, our hearts are filled with love.

Sermons in our church are delivered by common members, not professional clergy.  When we preach, sing, and listen to others, we are taught by the Holy Spirit the individual lessons God needs us to hear.

This weekend our stake (similar to a Catholic Diocese) leadership was changed.  I knew the departing Stake President well.  He has gone from being the spiritual and administrative leader of 7 congregations in one stake, to overseeing 124 stakes in the Northeastern region.  He is a kind, inspired, good man.  

I don't know the newly sustained stake president, but I feel that he has been called of God.

Do you know how it is when you meet someone and they are familiar to you?  I felt a love and even a kinship for this man.  

In our church, we call one another brothers and sisters and that is how our relationships feel.  On Sunday we raised our hands to "sustain" this new stake presidency.  

My hand raised to the square, symbolized that I am willing to support and serve with these imperfect men.  I will dedicate my time, my prayers, my words, and my efforts to helping them minister here in Syracuse.  

In a sense, every one of us renewed our commitment to love and nurture one another.  Isn't that so beautiful?

My husband is out of town, and I brought all eight of my wiggley kiddos to this 2 hour conference.  Asking 2, 4, 6, 8, 11, 13, 14, and 16 year old kids to sit on a pew for two hours is a lot.  I thought they were amazing.

I'm not one to bring toys or art supplies to entertain them.  I really try to encourage them to listen to the speakers.  I have found that it is important that they sing the hymns with gusto to help get out some of their energy!  

Eve was a little sick, so she cuddled by my side quietly the whole meeting.  A friend of mine whose husband was out of town, came and sat at the end of my row helping out.  

Some of our good friends were both playing instruments and singing in the choir.  As the meeting was about to start, they asked if Anna and Ellie could sit by their two boys to babysit during the meeting.  

A group of young, black tag missionaries sat behind me and kept Ben somewhat entertained.  There was one time that Ben was smiling at them and leaning so far over the back of the pew that he flipped into one missionaries lap and started to cry.  I still wonder how loud my alarmed gasp actually was.

It really is beautiful how church feels like a family.  I definitely had a moment on Sunday where I looked around and felt at home.  Perhaps for the first time since moving here, these people felt like my people and I loved them.

Aside from the pep-talk I gave on the way to the meeting, I am certain that my pockets full of "blessings" sure helped the meeting stay reverent.  

On Saturday I bought a bunch of Hi-Chews.  Have you tried them?  They are a similar to Starburst but a little more chewy.  They worked magically as I would quietly hand them to reverent children (and missionaries) before they got fidgety.  Ben had a few books that he looked at (Jakob took him to walk in the hallway a couple of times), the girls had a pencil and some white paper that they took notes on quietly, but for the most part we were all able to listen and hear inspiring talks.

We had a visiting authority Elder Neilson who talked about burying our weapons of war.  While he spoke, the Spirit witnessed to my soul.

I committed myself to bury my contentious communication with my husband.  I firmly believe that we can live the rest of our days without ever fighting.  

I know that two people who really love each other can disagree agreeably.  I am willing to bury our contention deep into the ground and to refuse to speak harshly to the one I love most in the world.

As I was praying last night about this new goal, I asked God what I should do when my emotions start boiling up inside me.  The funniest image filled my mind.  

I could feel that anger that sometimes comes and I could see my sweet husband who too often is my venting post when I'm frustrated.  I felt God telling me to vent with love not anger.  To pull towards Todd instead of fight against him.  In my mind, I  just imagined kissing that man with the same passion that I sometimes vent to him.  I felt God showing me that in those moments I need unity and love more than I need to puke angry, worried, stressful feelings.  

Make love not war.

I have a feeling that in the weeks to come, we will have a few less stress-out sessions and a few more make-out sessions.

Why do I tell you people these things?

Overall, we had a beautiful weekend.  I hope your weekend was also filled with hope and inspiration.

Life is good.

With my whole soul I believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a church that is led and directed by a living Christ.  I know God speaks to man because He speaks to me.  I feel goodness as everyday people learn to serve and administer in this Church in these latter-days.  

One more moment sticks out to me from this weekend.  A speaker mentioned the fact that the room was full of toddlers and the noises that often accompany these children.  He emphasized how wonderful that was.  He quoted Christ telling his disciples to suffer the little children to come into him.  

"As you hold your young ones close," he asked, "Can you feel the Savior's love for them?"  Eve was lying slightly feverish on my lap.  My love for her filled my throat.  I could feel so strongly His love for her that my eyes filled with tears.  Yes, I can feel His love for them.

It is a privilege to mother, a privilege to nurture , a privilege to worship, and a privilege to live.

Today, my soul raises my arm as I sustain the leadership of my church and as I work daily to serve in my place.
I love this gospel.
I love the Lord.
I am grateful.

May 17, 2015

Family Work Day

These two get the award for staying outside until the very end.  (Anna is showing her dirty hand, she hates dirt.)

Saturday work days are my favorite.
There is nothing better than spending the day working towards a common goal with your family.

The Professor is professing at Harvard and in Germany for the next two weeks.  I am literally moving mountains (of laundry, weeds, and mulch) here at home while he's gone.
I say, play hard and work hard.
The boys and I went to see Avengers 2 on Friday night, the girls have all been rotating through friend dates and birthday parties.  We are busy and our life is full of goodness.
My home is beautifully landscaped.  For the past 30 years a team of gardeners have cared for the property under the supervision of one of the most able homemakers I have never met but can feel the influence of daily.

This week I called the gardeners and asked how much it costs for them to do our gardens.  They told me $8000 for the year and $3500 just to do the spring mulch, clean, and prune.  Wow.
(Those dandelions were mowed by the end of the day!)

I asked the owner if I could pay her to walk through my yard and TEACH me what I should do to care for it.  I have the labor crew just not the knowledge.

She graciously agreed.

Oh my!!  For two hours the wonderfully knowledgable woman taught me about every tree, bush, weed, plant, and flower in my yard.  She poured out wisdom as I scribbled pages and pages of notes.  I feel like I took a jam packed college course just on my yard.  It was AMAZING!  It is so cool to be 37 years old and still learning so much each day.
(Before-- all crowded together.)
(During- can you see those pathways?)
(After- all mulched up with room to bloom.)

The biggest thing I realized was that weeding is only half the battle.  Gardening is keeping your plants where you want them to stay.  She emphasized over and over again the importance of pulling out Black-eyed Susans or a Daisies that were spreading.  The importance of maintaining a 6-12inch border around each individual plant.  The importance of cutting off old wood or trimming older branches so the new branches can strengthen.  

I began to see that my gardens needed to start out looking more like polka dots of plants than a collage of plants.  Weeding and pruning back plants that spread keep the garden able to grow and bloom without overcrowding.  

The song "Keep the pathways bright" kept singing in my mind.
Pulling weeds is tough!  But there is GREAT satisfaction in feeling that root slide out of the ground.  Pulling weeds is like teaching children.  We teach moment by moment, one small thing after one small thing.  There is ALWAYS another weed to pull in our gardens or in our family.  But the ACT of weeding is holy and refining.
The goal is improvement not achieving.  And somehow along the way you look around and see beauty where their once was chaos.
You cut back flowering bushes after they bloom.  There has got to be symbolism in that!
My day is full today although I wish I could write for an hour on teaching your children to work happily.  (That happily applies both to how you teach and how they work.)

It is hard.

-I always start the morning with a family council, song, and prayer.  I outline our goals and let them choose where they want to work.  (I like teams of workers.)
-I work beside them for a little bit until they have the hang if it and then I rotate to the next group.
-I try to keep a light-hearted, grateful attitude.  If someone is whining that they can't do something I try not to yell at their whining, but instead focus on what they have done.  When Leah says the rock border is too hard for her to do, I walk over to the last section of border and happily praise her for what she has done!! I touch her, hug her, look into her eyes and thank her for working hard, even if she hasn't worked hard yet.  In seconds she is back at work whistling happily "I will go!  I will do!  The thing my mom commands."  True story.  It works.

-When there comes a moment of melt-down, contention, and exhaustion right in the middle when nothing is finished and the task seems too large.  I have to
walk away.  I tell the kids to get a drink of water and I walk to a private place to pray.  You might think I'm silly and overly religious, but I'll tell you there is ALWAYS a moment when I'm so stressed I want to scream at everyone.  Usually at that moment they probably deserved to be screamed at because they are squabbling about stupid yhjngs or throwing worms on each other or refusing to help...
Walk away and pray!!!

Yesterday I prayed with my whole soul.  I start with gratitude for the ability to work and for a beautiful home and family that requires so much work.  Then I think about Christ and pray I can be more like Him.  My soul is flooded with images of him healing, loving, teaching, and calming.  I can hear his gentle rebuke "oh yea of little faith" as he calms the storm.  And I feel Him.  I know that I can calm the storms also.
It really works.

Yesterday we accomplished more than I ever dreamed we could.  We worked together happily.  We learned together.  We laughed together.  We worked hard.
We barely made a dent in our mountain, but we did make a dent in it!!

In addition to gardens we unloaded 2000 lbs of organic grains from our van and moved our baby birds to bigger stalls.
When Anna was having a meltdown because the turkey water spilled on her three times, I hugged her and laughed, "Anna!! We have the best life!  You are crying about turkey water... What a COOL problem to have."
Today I am sore and SO grateful for my beautiful life.

I love working together with my family.
Life is SO good.
Hard work is a gift.
Wow, I feel blessed and so grateful for my work crew.
(Drew is pretty good at tying those dandelion bundles!)

Enjoy your Sabbath Day friends!!
Delight in your life, your land, your home, and your God.
He is blessing you.

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