Thursday, April 28, 2011

The effects of a tornado...

As a 12 year old girl, I still remember my mom urgently telling me and my sisters to grab an extra outfit and anything else we needed and to meet down in the room underneath of the stairs. A tornado warning was not an unusual thing in Texas, but this time for whatever reason, I remember it being more serious. I ran upstairs to my room and began sorting through all of my clothes. There was no way I was going to leave all of my favorites behind, so I didn't. I ran downstairs with arms full of my favorite clothes. I can only imagine what my mom was thinking.

Fast forward 5 years....when I was 17 years old, I went with my Dad and a whole bunch of other priesthood brethren to help with clean up after the huge tornado that hit Oklahoma City. I had never seen anything like it. I remember fighting back tears because I didn't want all the other boys and men to see them. I worked right along with them. It was very hard work and at the end of the day I wondered if we had even made any difference at all. We drove away leaving all of the damage behind us, but to this day, I can still remember walking through a field of debris and seeing a little girl's doll laying on the ground. I came home a different girl that day.

Fast forward 13 years....yesterday I spent the morning transforming our basement toy room into our tornado shelter room. It was filled with 72 hour kits, blankets, pillows, trash bags, food, lots of water, extra clothes, diapers, wipes, tennis shoes, candles, matches, flashlights, batteries, scriptures, important documents, etc. It was the only thing that I could do to prepare for the events that would follow. The first storm came through about mid-morning. The kids were all let out of school and the anxiety began to build as we watched and waited for the storms that were heading our way. Another storm came through at about 5ish and then the last final storm came in at about 7. I think it was the worst one. All though we felt somewhat safe and secure in our basement shelter, the feelings of anxiety and fear are very hard to shut out. The power went out about 5:30 and was off for the rest of the night.

The power came back on in the early morning hours and all seemed okay. Our neighborhood was untouched for the most part. It wasn't until Cory started making phone calls to members of the ward that we found out about all of the damage that surrounded us. We all loaded up in the car and drove about 5 minutes down the road. The pictures above are just snapshots of the harsh reality that faces us.

As a 12 year old little girl, the effects of a tornado were obviously not there. As a 17 year old teenager, I fought back tears of empathy and compassion as I saw what faced the people of Oklahoma City. This morning, as a 30 year old woman, tears freely streamed down my cheeks as I humbly witnessed the devastation of my community. The scary reality of what could have been. As I saw a woman standing amidst the rubble that was once her home, I felt so many emotions. Witnessing, first hand, the effects of a tornado is such an incredibly humbling experience. When I first talked to my mom this morning, we both just cried together. She told me that she just kept praying that the tornado would skip over our little neighborhood. Her prayer was answered. Many lifes are lost and homes are leveled within 5 miles of us in every direction.

So this morning as I laid Hailey down in her crib, kissed Cory goodbye as he left to go help clean up, and turned on the warm shower in my beautiful comfortable home, I felt so much gratitude, and also a little guilt. I yearn to be out there helping. I want to take that sweet lady into my home and feed her. I want to find that little girl all those years ago who lost her baby doll. But even more than that, I want to never forget. To never forget that these things around us that seem so essential and important, are just things. To never forget that in seconds we could lose almost everything, and to never forget that all I really need to make me happy and fulfilled were with me last night in that little basement shelter...three beautiful children, a very active baby in my tummy, and the love of my life. Not all the effects of a tornado are devastating. The unseen ones, the ones that can only be found in the deepest emotions of the heart and soul, are the ones that stay with you and hopefully change you.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter and a Birthday

This year Cloey's birthday just happened to fall on Easter Sunday. For months, she has been so excited in knowing this. As the months became weeks and then days, I wondered how she was really going to feel about sharing her birthday with Easter. Cory and I decided to celebrate her birthday all weekend long. We let her choose whatever she wanted to do on Saturday, as a family. We did all of our chores on Friday (the girls were off of school) so that we wouldn't have to work Saturday. Cloey decided that she wanted to have a picnic at the park. She got to choose the menu and everything. It was a fabulous idea. The weather couldn't have been more perfect, the food was delicious, and the company was perfect. After the girls played their hearts out, we went to the store so that Cloey could buy a new pair of shoes. Then we went home and ate pizza for dinner while we watched the third Narnia movie together. Right before bed, Cory and I talked to Cloey about how special it was going to be for her to have her birthday on Easter. As Cory spoke to her about the importance and significance of Easter, I could tell that he had spoken directly to her heart, as well as mine. He is such an incredible daddy!

On Easter morning, we fixed Cloey her favorite breakfast, pancakes with strawberries and cool whip and sausage. Last Sunday right before we left for church, Hailey had somehow climbed up into the pantry and pulled down the cornstarch. It was a serious DISASTER!!! Well yesterday, she had a major blowout and as Cloey carried her to me and I lifted her into my arms, I noticed that Cloey had poop all over her shirt (the one that I had gotten to go with her cute little Easter skirt) and all over mine as well. Luckily Cloey had another shirt that matched the skirt and the disaster was averted. Church was amazing. Wonderful speakers, AMAZING musical performance, and I love teaching my new Sunday School class (a couple of weeks ago, I was asked to teach the 14 and 15 year old class instead of the 12 and 13 year olds). We finished the day with an Easter egg hunt for Cloey's birthday presents (I got some huge Easter eggs at Hobby Lobby to put them in) and all the other birthday stuff...favorite dinner on the Special plate (a tradition I grew up with), cake, singing, phone calls, pedicure from mommy, etc, etc.. And now, here are some pics from all the festivities...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Baseball Game...The Perfect Remedy

When Cory came home last night to a screaming Hailey, an upset Katelund, a whiny Cloey, and a wife who was seriously on the verge of insanity, he decided to do what any good husband would do. He hurried us through dinner, told us all to get loaded up in the van, and took us to a local minor league baseball game. We had such a great time!! An exhausting day ended perfectly.

Cory may not have any boys to play baseball with, but he has girls! Almost everyday he practices throwing, catching, and hitting with them in the backyard. It is really cute. We had a sports-themed Christmas so baseball mitts, bat, and ball were on his priority list. My list included a tennis racket and balls.

It's really hard to get pictures of Hailey these days. She is such a little busy body. She will not hold still for a second. The only time she will hold still is when she is being read to. She LOVES books!! Or when she's eating OR getting a foot massage (yes, I'm serious). So we spent a lot of time shoving food at her, reading to her, and massaging her feet and legs. Overall, she did pretty good for a 14 month old who does not want to sit still and watch a baseball game.

A battle I choose to fight...

As a parent, there are so many MANY battles to fight. Daily battles of teaching your children to put their shoes away, get their homework done, clean up the table after dinner, go to bed, use their manners, etc, etc. The battles with Hailey are way less intense, yet still constant. No, you cannot walk around the store while I am grocery shopping, yes, you will take a nap, no, you cannot touch that or put this in your mouth, etc, etc. Fortunately, she cannot talk back yet. She may cry or throw a fit (like she did in Old Navy yesterday because she was SO OVER shopping) but at least the battles are short-lived. After fighting battles day after day and year after year, I have learned that there are some battles that are just not worth the fight. You want to wear WHAT to the grocery store? Fine. You aren't going to let me put that cute flower in your hair without pulling it out? Fine, no flower. You get that point, right?

On the other hand, there are some battles that I will fight to the death about. I will fight forever over the battle of school, learning, and reading. I will fight forever over the battle of reverence in church, regularly holding Family Home Evening, scripture study, and family prayer (the promises for those that do are too great to miss out on). I will also forever fight the battle of doing housework. If I don't teach my children how to work, then I will have failed them. There is also one other battle that I will fight to the death....the battle of modesty.

I choose to fight this battle for many reasons. I believe that dressing modestly will make a HUGE difference in their life because modest dress leads to modest behavior which in turn leads to a life of virtue. There is nothing more beautiful and admirable than a young women or older women who dresses modestly. There is a silent distinguishable confidence that radiates from within. This is something I want for my children. I wish that as a youth I had been more modest (not that my mom didn't fight this battle, because she definitely did) But, I know that I should have been better. I know that I can still be better and so can my girls. I think it is one of those things that you teach over and over and then you just pray that when they get to the age where they have to make their own choices, that the desire to be modest will be in their hearts. Sometimes I swear they grow over night and all of the sudden their favorite skirt that was nearly knee length has all the sudden become way too short.

As I was looking on Facebook yesterday, I was so disappointed to see some wonderful young women from my ward and wards past who chose to wear immodest dresses to prom. I used it as a teaching opportunity with my own girls. After I explained to them what prom was and why it is so important to be modest even if it is just one night, I then said, "Katelund and Cloey, I hope that when it is your turn to go to prom, that you will choose to wear a modest dress." Cloey then looks at me, totally stunned, and said, "You HOPE?? Of course we will dress modestly for prom, Mommy! Why wouldn't we?" No wonder we are to be as little children. When Cloey is 16, you better believe I will be reminding her of that exact conversation.

I know that this battle is easier to fight now and it will only get more intense (I SO remember those battle with my mom!) But, if I don't start fighting them now, in a couple of years it may be too late to begin the fight, especially in the world in which we live today.

FYI...if you haven't already seen it, you HAVE to watch the "195 dresses" Mormon Message on the website.

What about you? What battles do you choose to fight to the death?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Our Trip to Atlanta

On Saturday we drove down to Atlanta for the temple open house. Atlanta is our temple, but for the last two years that we have lived here it has been under reconstruction, so we have been attending the Nashville temple. Cory and I were SO EXCITED to take our girls to the temple. In fact, as we were just minutes away, we were all singing together, "I love to see the temple, we're going there today...." It's what I always sing around the house on the days that I go the temple. I think Cory was mostly making fun of me, but whatever. :) He got just as emotional as I did as we pulled up in excitement and realized that this was the chance of a lifetime. The chance to teach our girls, first hand, the beauty and sacredness of the temple. The whole experience was AMAZING. The girls couldn't have been more excited to walk through those temple doors and know that they could actually see what was inside. They were so reverent and just tried to take it all in. Cory and I would take turns whispering in their little ears about the importance of particular rooms and then we would also bear testimony to them of what was being said by the tour guide.

The part that I was so excited about was the opportunity that I would have to show my girls the bride's room. It was actually not part of the tour, but as the rest of the group was at one end of the dressing room, I pulled my girls off to the other end so that they could see the bride's room. As I knelt down with them and we looked into that beautiful room together, I told them to imagine themselves in their beautiful white wedding dresses and then I explained to them how this is the special room where they will get to go on their wedding day. In here, they will primp and get all fixed up while I get to stare at them in the beautiful mirror and cry because of how excited I will be for them to be standing there in the temple, pure and clean, to be married for time and eternity. It was a sweet moment, one that I will never forget. I hope that they will remember it as well. That when times get hard for them in their teenage years, that they will be able to remember themselves as a little girl staring into that bridal room and imagining themselves standing there on that special day... beautiful, pure, and worthy.

After we left the temple, we spent the rest of the day exploring Atlanta. Cory took us to some of the fancy malls in Atlanta. It was SO MUCH FUN!! Especially, when we went into Tiffany's. Katelund left very disappointed because she had really wanted us to get her a birthstone necklace. A girl can dream, right?! :)

It was a great day filled with many moments that will last a lifetime.

We were going to ask someone to take a family picture of us, but I had to go to the bathroom so bad!! So, this is all I got.

Hailey is the pickiest eater I have ever had!! We got her a fruit bowl with grapes and pineapple, but she wouldn't touch anything until we moved the grapes away from the pineapple. She wanted nothing to do with pineapple. Crazy, right??!

This was the yummy pizza that I ordered. It was SO DELICIOUS!!!
Cory got a pic of me in front of Tiffany's, but it's on his phone.

Just Pictures...Mostly....

This was the first time that both Katelund and Cloey crossed the monkey bars the whole way without any assistance.
Hailey's first time down a slide by herself. She DID NOT like her bare feet touching the sand afterwards. It was hilarious!

Apparently, sticking out her tongue was part of the process.

Hailey was being a really good sport while her sisters played with her like she was their own personal baby doll.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Just Words

No pictures, just words. I'm having issues with downloading pics today, so I'll have to post some of the adorable pictures that I have later. Oh, and I even took some pics of my latest organizational closet and bathroom. They look amazing (well, compared to how they looked before)! You'll just have to take my word on it for now.

Life is good, busy but good. I had a dentist appointment cavities. YEAH!! I had a doctor's appointment weight gain (for the last 6 weeks) YEAH!!! Why 6 weeks you ask? Because I missed my appointment the other week. I totally spaced it. I guess you know that you're on your 5th pregnancy when you totally space out your appointment and when you have no idea what week you are on. Whenever I get asked, I can never remember...which is totally not how I was with previous pregnancies. But, just for the record, I am 25 weeks. The baby (I THINK Cory and I have FINALLY agreed on a name but I haven't told anyone, so I better tell my family before revealing it on my blog)is 1 1/2 pounds. She is quite the kicker and I think the sickness is finally over!!! YEAH!!!!!! Other than the normal aches and pains of pregnancy, everything is going great!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

My new favorite quote...

"God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars."-Martin Luther

The other day I saw this quote and I immediately fell in love with it. Some of the greatest sermons I have ever heard are the ones that have been whispered to my heart as I have gazed upon the beauties of the earth.

This year it has not been working properly, but last fall and winter, Cory and I would spend each night, after the girls went to bed, out in our hot tub. We would talk about everything. We would laugh together, solve problems together, and then there were moments were we would just snuggle up close to each other and silently sit in awe as we took in the heavenly star-filled night sky. Those moments are some of the most precious ones I remember because on those nights it seemed as if every care or concern would just wash away as we remembered that we are part of a plan that is far greater than anything we could ever imagine. Part of a plan that was established and organized before the creation of our world and one that will continue on past this mortal life. It was then, that everything was put back into perspective.

On our latest trip to Clairisa's grave, as I was walking back to the car, I felt a fresh wave of sadness come over me. Then, as I looked up, I saw the most beautiful buds formimg on the tree in front of me. As I thought of these little buds forming, the Spirit so beautifully reminded me once again that death is not the end. That although the leaves of life fall and the branches become bare and lonely, spring will come. New beautiful leaves will perfectly grow back and the tree will not only come to life, but it will grow back bigger and even more beautiful. The sermon that was spoken directly to my soul that day was just the one that I needed to hear.

This year I planted pink tulips once again. As I waited and worried over them, I felt so much anticipation and excitement for the day that I would finally see their pink delicate petals. The green leaves appeared, but no flower. A couple of days before I left for Texas, there was still no blooming flower. I had decided that I must have waited too long to plant them and that the flower would never bloom. I was so discouraged and disappointed. But, the Lord knew that these were no ordinary tulips. For in them, lies one of the greatest sermons I've ever heard. That very day, my friend Amy, who I have not seen for a long time, showed up at my door with a pot of pink tulips. I also got a package in the mail from my sweet sister-in-law, Stefani, who sent me a skirt with pink tuilips all over it. Then, as if that wasn't enough, I recieved a sweet email from my friend Melissa, who had sent me the most amazing pictures of Holland's fields full of brightly colored tulips. That day, I had not only felt the Lord's love in my life, but I had also been ministered to by three of his precious angels. The very next day, my tulips bloomed.

Yes, I do believe that the gospel is written in the trees, the flowers, and the stars, for all things testify of Christ. If only we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the heart to feel, then and only then, will we receive the most beautiful sermons of our life.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The House I am Trying to Create

This was the puzzle that I made for FHE. After the lesson on Monday night, I have left it sitting out on a table in the library. Yesterday as I passed it many times throughout the day, I really thought about how I am doing in creating this dream house of mine. Some days I do good, other days I completely fail. Some areas I am constant in and others I really struggle with. Having order in my home is one of the areas that I struggle with. I am not a schedule driven person. I don't like to have a day each week to do my laundry. I want to do laundry on whatever day I feel like. I don't want to have a certain hour each day that I have to scrub my bathroom. AHHH!! I can't stand that kind of schedule. I try to have some kind of routine to my day and week but I have to have some flexibility because I don't want to grocery shop when it is raining outside. I don't want to organize and clean out my fridge unless it is trash day, and I definitely don't want to spend my day cleaning if I just need to have a day to focus on others because I need some service endorphins (I actually listened to a BYU devotional once where the man speaking told about scientific studies that actually prove that we get an endorphin "high" from serving).

But, when it comes to my children, I am all about routine. They have an online chore chart for every morning and night (thanks Melissa N.!!!), they have 30 minutes of outside playtime after school and then it's homework time, no tv or movies on weekdays, Saturday morning is spent doing house/yard work, etc, etc. I know there has to be routine but there is still a part of me that fights against it. Being a stay at home mom can be pretty monotonous on its own, I don't want to add to it by making myself stick to a rigorous schedule each day of the week. Not that there is anything wrong with it, I greatly admire people who are so organized and orderly in their life.

I may not like to live by a rigorous schedule but I do yearn to have more organization in my home. So, for my spring cleaning this year, I am adding organizational projects to my list. My friend Rebecca did before and after pics of her organizational projects about a year ago. I'm thinking that I might steal this idea. It may actually give me some motivation to really do a good job. But, if I do this, PLEASE don't judge me for my lack of organizational skills. It's just not one of my strengths. I like a clean house and I like to be somewhat organized, but I am by no means organized when I think of some of my friends who seem to be experts in the area. I have a ways to go....but I am going to start somewhere. Picture one coming judging!!!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Weekend Update

I spent many, many hours last week gathering and creating decorations for our ward's Boy Scout fundraiser/ward activity on Friday night. The night included a silent auction in the back, a court of honor, a spaghetti dinner, some entertainment, and a service auction for each individual boy to offer their lawncare/babysitting/pet watching services. It was a jungle theme, which I was totally excited about. Especially when the perfect motto came to my mind, "Be Prepared...It's a Jungle Out There!" (In case you don't know, "Be Prepared" is the Boy Scout motto.) I wanted to decorate as cheaply as possible (since the whole point was to make money for scout camp, not spend money on decorations), so I had to get creative. I spent lots of time picking bamboo leaves, cutting down bamboo stalks, and searching for vines to cut. The incredible part is that when I went out in my backyard one day to look at my beautiful tulips I noticed something in the bushes by the fence....a VINE!!! I couldn't believe it, but the more I have thought about it the more I can believe it. Of course Heavenly Father could grow a vine for me in my own backyard. It was PERFECT!! I wanted to use lots of real greenery and I also wanted to have vines hanging from the "bridge". They wanted the boys to walk on the "cat walk" when their services were being auctioned off. Since I assumed that boys would probably not feel so comfortable with walking a cat walk, I decided to make it look like a bridge instead. Anyways, it is hard to capture the whole gym in just a couple small pictures with my phone, but here was the finished product.

[FYI...I am posting these pics because my mom, mother-in-law, and sisters want me to, but I also want to because when I went online to search for Boy Scout jungle themed decorating ideas I got absolutely no help. So, maybe I can bring some ideas to someone else out there or even just get their own ideas flowing]

The rest of the weekend was of course AMAZING because of General Conference! I think I cried in almost every talk. Yes, I'm pregnant and my emotions are super sensitive, but I also just felt so immersed in the spirit. There is just nothing that compares to that feeling!! More on conference to come....

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