Monday, January 27, 2020

Christmas in Utah

Christmas in Utah was so much fun this year! We stayed reasonably healthy (until the end, I came home with a sinus infection) and we spent quality time with our family and friends!

Flying with kids is always an adventure. My kids have always done well, but especially with Mia I never know what it's going to be like since she has changed so much developmentally since the last flight! The great news is, she did awesome. She was actually a little nervous during take off and landing which I wasn't expecting, but she required WAY less entertainment than I had expected, so it was a more relaxing flight than I was anticipating.

One of the first things on the schedule for Utah was my work Christmas Party! Every year, Supply Link hosts the company at The Roof in Salt Lake City. It's so much fun when I get to go, because we get to get all fancy and eat the most delicious food.

A couple days later, we took the kids to Temple Square to see the lights. Mia was obsessed with all the pink ones. If you have had a conversation with Mia, she has most likely told you that her favorite color is pink. It comes up a lot.

Temple Square was absolutely beautiful but of course, so crowded. I saw someone on Instagram that woke up and took her kids at 6am one day because the lights are on and there is no one there, and then afterward, they went to Kneaders for breakfast! I am so tempted to do that this year...

My grandma always throws a Christmas Party, and this year she gave gifts to Nathan and Amelia. She knows Nathan loves trucks and cars, so she gave him a set of construction trucks, and she knows Amelia loves cats, so she gave her a stuffed animal cat! Mia sleeps with it every night. Both kids were thrilled! We ate delicious soup and had so much fun catching up with family.

Alex's mom always throws the most fun Christmas Eve parties. She comes up with really creative games to play and they involve winning (or not) lots of money! We had a delicious dinner and spent the night winning money (or pieces of chocolate shaped like coal) and laughing a lot together. The kids love their aunts and uncles a lot, and it's so fun seeing them all get to play together!

On Christmas Eve, the kids went to bed exhausted but happy. Experiencing all of this with my own children is so fun!

On Christmas Day, I guess I only took videos. Whoops! We woke the kids up around 8am in the morning, and both of them easily could have kept sleeping after the party the night before. It was funny because Nathan wasn't even super excited that it was Christmas haha. We loaded up and drove back over to Alex's parents to eat Christmas breakfast and open presents over there. After those festivities, we made our way back to my parents house and spent the rest of the day opening presents, because suddenly our family is huge and my Dad's love language is giving gifts haha. It was so fun and we felt so thankful and blessed by both families generosity!

The rest of the trip was full of seeing friends and family. The Friday after Christmas I got together with my freshman college roommates. It was so fun to catch up with them and reminisce on old times. That next Saturday, Alex and I drove down to the Provo area to catch the Johnson Files live show. It was pretty funny and we got to meet up with our Indiana friends, the Reusches, there! (Side note, I worked with Nicole and Shawn at EFY, and they both remembered me which I felt like was so nice! I am the weirdo who remembers everyone haha, and I never think anyone will remember me!)

My dad got a tractor to shovel his driveway and mow his lawn, and he also got a mini tractor for the kids to enjoy when they are in Utah. Nathan was in heaven!

Mia was wondering if there was a pink tractor available?

The kids also spent some time at my grandparent's house. It's so nice that they just live right next door! The kids love playing with all the toys over there and spending quality time with my Grandma and Grandpa (who they call ole Pop-Pop by his request haha).

Mia found this Princess and the Pea bed really entertaining!

Ole Pop-Pop loves playing with Nathan and it's so cute to see their relationship!

I spent lots of mornings like this with Mia, because she wasn't sleeping well. That was one rough part of the trip...

Nathan and Mia loved watching Pop-Pop shovel the snow that we got (it was not enough snow! Come on Utah! I brought all our winter gear for sledding and it never happened.)

My mom insists that her basement be left empty so that the kids can run wild and free and it totally works. The kids spent a majority of their time in the basement. It was also fun for us adult kids, because for Christmas we all got big nerf guns and we had some pretty crazy battles down there.

Being in Utah for three weeks with family really made me wish we can live there again someday. I know we could be happy anywhere, but there's just something great about being close to family! Thankfully our trip out there was nice and long, so at the end we were ok to get back to our normal routine. 

And when we got back to our house it turned out Santa had been there as well!! The kids were not expecting that, and it was fun to have a second little Christmas.

One of the gifts was Hungry Hippos, and that game has been the source of so much entertainment in the past few weeks! It's so fun to have a game all four of us can play!

Christmas 2019 was a blast! It will be interesting to see what 2020 looks like. Alex should be graduated by then, and it's possible he'll have a job and we'll have moved somewhere else! Who knows! 
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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

December Photo Dump

I originally intended for a lot of this stuff to have it's own post, but in the interest of catching up and moving forward, here is another photo dump!

My friends and I have started driving down to Indianapolis together once a month for a Costco run, and it's always a party!

The kids and I participated in one of my favorite holiday traditions Lafayette has to offer, the Candy Cane Tour at McCord's Candies! It's so fun to get to see where/how they make the candy canes. It's been the same process and location since the early 1900s! They are the best candy canes I've ever had too, so that's' a huge plus.

One day we went up to Purdue and saw the giant live Christmas tree they bring in for the holidays. It's always crazy to see how big it is! They also have a life size gingerbread house for the kids to play in, and other fun smaller gingerbread houses that students have made.

Another favorite Lafayette tradition is the Live Nativity a local church puts on. We always go with friends and walk through. You can drive, but the line is usually up to 1.5 hours long just to wait! Usually we are freezing and our legs go numb, but we were lucky this year to go on a fairly warm night. It was even more fun than usual!

One day Nathan was really snuggly with me, so I took a picture. We don't have as much time to snuggle each other as we used to, so these moments are so precious to me.

Nathan, Mia, and I have been doing Busy Toddler's Play School curriculum, and both kids absolutely love it! One of the units was about food, so we made bread in a bag! It turned out just ok. I would love to perfect bread making! The kids had so much fun helping me though, so it was a great day!

Our last holiday outing before we headed to Utah for Christmas was to go down to Indianapolis with friends and see the Jingle Rails exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum. It was so incredible! It's a whole room full of real model trains driving on handmaid tracks in the most stunning displays. They had built a whole bunch of places from around the US with wood and it was incredible. I would totally go back!

We also had our annual Dec. 1 party where we put up the tree and opened Christmas Pj's and each kid got a new Christmas book. It's such a fun way to kick off the month and the kids were so excited!

Stay tuned for our trip to Utah!
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Monday, January 20, 2020

Thanksgiving in Wisconsin

For Thanksgiving this year, we went with the Cummocks to Whitney's parents home in Wisconsin! They were so kind to invite us and we had the best time. Whitney and I helped make tons of food, including like 12 pies which were all delicious. I'm not sure what Alex and Nick were doing during this time. I do know we hardly saw our kids at all because they were so happy playing with each other and Whitney's younger siblings Chase and Sophia. 

The day after Thanksgiving, we drove over to The Dells and checked in at the Kalahari Water Park! We had a blast riding down all the water slides. The kids were hot and cold with how much they liked it, haha, but it was still really fun! I took Mia down a kind of big slide and she seemed to have fun but also seemed pretty nervous. She kept saying, "It's not scary, it's just fun!" haha and at the end she said, "Is it over?! I'm all done!"

The kids loved Chase and Sophia so much, it was always fun to spot them hanging out.

We stayed in a super nice cabin for one night that made us all think we should probably come back and stay for longer! It was such a beautiful view to wake up to!

That morning, Nick and Alex decided to do the polar plunge in this lake. It looked freezing.

We love making memories with these people! Thanks for letting us spend Thanksgiving with you, Cummocks!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Soul Food: Pres. Nelson's Invitation for April 2020 General Conference

In the October 2019 general conference, President Nelson ended his closing remarks by inviting everyone to “prepare for a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel.” 200 years ago, Joseph Smith experienced the First Vision which marked the onset of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness. This single event brought about the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, the keys and offices of the priesthood, Relief Society, Young Women, Sunday School, every calling!

It's been a while since I did a Soul Food post, but today I shared a talk in sacrament meeting, so I figured I'd post it here too for anyone who wants to read it! 

President Nelson gave some examples of ways we might want to prepare for the April 2020 General Conference. One suggestion was to read afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price. It has been a while since I’ve read Joseph Smith’s experience, so I decided to read it and I was struck by one thing especially - how similar Joseph’s confusion in his world is to the confusion we face in our world today. He relates that as people filed off and chose the churches that felt good to them, contentions arose between people who believed differently from each other. “Priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.” I am sure we can all think of a “contest of opinions” going on now in our daily lives. Joseph says, “In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” I have found myself thinking those exact questions on many different topics over the past few years. Who is right? Are they all wrong? How do I know? 

Honestly, it’s a little overwhelming to me. In October, hearing the news that the April conference was going to be very different was exciting! What could it be? It’s exciting on the one hand, but then the invitation to prepare came and it was easy to think of it as another thing to add to my list of things to do. Preparing for conference in general has never been my strong suit. And with two young children, I’m lucky if I hear even half of the conference talks in real time. So this invitation came, and I thought, oh yes, I should do that. I would love to have a wonderful experience in April of 2020. I should add that into my list of other things I should be studying that I haven’t started on yet.

I’ve learned a little piece of psychology in the past year that becomes very important when this list of things I “should be doing” comes up in my head. Some of you may know it, it’s called “cognitive distortion”. Cognitive Distortions are when we tell ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves. When I say I “should” be doing something, what happens is I start to feel like I’m doing it wrong. When I say I “should” be reading my scriptures every day, it creates a negative feeling, one that tells me I’m messing up big time. I’m not as good as everyone else who reads their scriptures every day. Why can’t I get it together? I should be exercising every day, what’s wrong with me? Other people have plenty of time to do it. This kind of thinking is not motivating, and often keeps you from doing those things, which continues the cycle of feeling bad about not doing them!

So, one way to get over a cognitive distortion is to substitute “should” for “would like to”. I would like to be reading my scriptures each day, sounds much lighter and more hopeful. I can sense the truthfulness of that statement and I feel more motivated to find time to make it happen. Oh, how I would like to prepare for conference like President Nelson has invited me. I would love to have the experience he has promised, that if I prepare, general conference in April will be unforgettable. Suddenly, I’m asking myself how I am going to make it happen. 

One thing that I love about President Nelson’s invitation to prepare for April’s conference is that the exact way we prepare is completely up to us. His examples of what we could study are always preceded by the words, “you may wish…” It’s just a suggestion, an option, one thing you could do - study these things, ask these questions. He also says, “Select your own questions. Design your own plan.” It’s up to us.

As I’ve been doing my best to study the Book of Mormon this year, I’ve been struck with just how important personal revelation truly is. Lehi and his family are a small scale version of all of us in the church now. Each family member had their own experience following the prophet, or not. First Nephi is full of examples of Nephi seeking answers for himself, just like Joseph Smith, and just like us. In 1 Nephi 2:16 Nephi explains that he cried unto the Lord and his heart was softened and he believed. This lets us know that Nephi did not follow his father blindly. He may have had misgivings at the start, he may have been worried about leaving his home in Jerusalem, he may have had questions in his heart. But he wanted to know, so he asked and got answers that he needed which kept him strong through many trials. Laman and Lemuel had many spiritual experiences, but from what I can tell from the scriptures, they didn’t spend a lot of time seeking those experiences or asking for answers for themselves.

Lately, I have noticed the Prophet and Apostles inviting all of us to develop our own relationship with the Lord, to ask our own questions, to get our own answers. I haven’t heard any of them say that we should follow them blindly. They all ask us to seek our own personal revelation. And the thing about that is that it’s personal. There isn’t one right way to get an answer. Each of us will come to know the truth in our own way.

Another thing I’ve learned this past year is that relationships with others are all in our heads. Our relationship with someone else is based completely on our thoughts about that person. While I was pondering this, I thought of my relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. What are my thoughts about them? There have been times I have felt very in tune with them, very close, and I felt that they were aware of me and my life. There have been other times I have felt completely disconnected and questioned if they were truly there. In both instances, the way I felt never changed the way they felt about me. God loves his children and has a vision for each of us. Regardless of how I feel, Heavenly Father always feels the same about me. That I am worthy, that I am important, that I have a purpose and a divine potential. 

Whether we have been spending an hour a day studying and preparing for the upcoming conference or whether my talk today reminded you that you might want to get going on that sometime soon… your worth is the same. You aren’t doing it wrong. Heavenly Father is just as willing to give you a wonderful unforgettable experience at conference either way. The preparation itself only opens our own minds to strengthen that relationship and receive our own revelation and inspiration. God’s willingness to share that inspiration and revelation with us never changes. 

I have a testimony that God knows our hearts. That he sees our struggles and our triumphs. I know that he wants us all to succeed. I know that he sent Jesus Christ, our Savior, to the Earth for that exact reason. I’m grateful for Joseph Smith, and for his willingness to ask hard questions and withstand persecution. I am grateful for the Book of Mormon, for the testimonies of Christ within it, and the relatability of its characters and their lives. I know that if we do our best, it is always good enough. You are enough, I am enough. I am excited to continue following President Nelson’s invitation leading up to conference so that I can be open to a wonderful experience. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

November Photo Dump

Well, we have a lot to catch up on! Here are some photos from November (pre-thanksgiving, Thanksgiving gets its own post), with as much as I can remember from the month!

Mia's hair is long enough to braid! I am no hair expert, and the sides of her hair are still pretty short and always fall out, but seriously? how cute.

Our best friends, The Cummocks, came back from Florida and there was much rejoicing in the land! Honestly, after Alex graduates and we move somewhere, if it's not near the Cummocks I will probably always feel guilty for separating Nathan from Brynlee and Benson. Their love for each other is so pure!

I just thought they looked cute this Sunday, but also that it looked like I had dressed them for family pictures or something? I'm pretty sure my dress also matched haha.

I just love them.

We saw Frozen 2! It was Mia's first time at a movie theater and she did really well! She doesn't love sitting for whole movies, so there were many whispers in my ear of, "Is it over?" and "Where is Olaf?" but she sat happily and didn't disturb anyone else! We've been singing the soundtrack ever since. Nathan, as usual, was a complete angel and enjoyed every second of the experience.

I know this one is blurry, but, you get it, right? The outfit complete with Nathan's tie, the hair, the facial expression... she's my favorite baby girl EVER.

We went to the grocery store and the kids insisted on bringing their reusable bags which of course was helpful and environmentally friendly! Thanks kids!

I realize that these photos are not super interesting, but it's always fun to look back at the random memories!