Saturday, December 28, 2013

One Word Goal 2014 {Consistent}

My track record of new year's resolutions is not high. I got to the point that I wouldn't even make goals because I just knew that I wouldn't follow through and that I would forget about them a week later anyway.

But something is different with having a one word goal. And something amazing happened. I remembered my goal. I thought about it constantly through the year. And most importantly I changed.

This past year (2013) I decided to "EMBRACE" life. I had to learn to embrace Heavenly Father's timing and let go of my own as well as embracing His will. I learned to embrace Devin when my patience was super thin or when I would much rather be doing something without his help. I learned to embrace Casey and make a point to work on making our marriage better every day.

As I was making preparations for Christmas, I started looking inward thinking about who I want to become and who the Lord needs me to be. I thought about areas I could improve in and how.

I realized that I don't want to make huge drastic changes. I just need to focus on the little things. I need to let the little things become me day in and day out. Greatness is never achieved by the wave of a magic wand or some random chance. Greatness happens because you train for it. You practice for it. You live for it. And that is just it. I want to become great! 

But I want it to last. I don't want to just have one day of succeeding but rather 365.

That's why I choose 2014 to be CONSISTENT.

According to google, consistent is defined as unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time. It is choosing to become constant, dependable, reliable, predictable. Yes. I want to be predictable in the little things so no matter where life takes us, I know that I can always depend on them.

Although I will be looking for new ways to be consistent, I already know a few.
1. I will be consistent with Heavenly Father. I need His guidance and love in my life constantly. I will be consistent in reading my scriptures and saying my prayers.
2. I will be consistent with myself. My body can't handle all of these yo-yo diets. I will live a consistent lifestyle. I will eat healthy and exercise. I will be patient with myself and strive for ongoing healthy choices rather than the latest quick fad diet. 
3. I will be consistent with Devin. He needs to know that I will always be there for him and he is way more important than some stupid game or perfectly clean house.
4. I will be consistent with Casey. He will have a busy up coming semester and he needs my support and love. I will help take care of the house so he doesn't have to. I will continue to look forward to our weekly date so we can recharge together.

Here is to 2014. Here is to becoming consistent. Here is to finding success!

Elder Scott promises that "Strong character results from consistent correct choices."
So 2014 will really be the year that I build a strong character! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Brownie Points

I tried these brownies for the first time at my ward RS Christmas party earlier this month. In less than two weeks I have since made them three times. True story. I fell head over heals in love with these brownies. It is a mild, milk chocolate flavor. And so convenient to make because I keep all the ingredients on hand. I'm sure you will score major brownie points at your next party/ get-together/ date night at home/ etc. :)

1 c. butter--salted, melted
1/4 c. cocoa
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Combine the melted butter with the cocoa then set aside to let it cool. Beat the eggs with an electric mixer until stiff and foamy. (I use the wire whisk attachment on my kitchenaid--it takes several minutes for the eggs to get thick enough.) Beat in sugar one cup at a time. Add the vanilla. Gradually add in the flour. Combine the melted butter/ cocoa with the batter. Once it is all combined, turn to high and beat for ~1 minute. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350* for about 22-25 minutes. It should be set and toothpick clean but do not overbake.

While it is cooking, make the frosting.

1/4 c. butter, melted
2 T. cocoa
1 t. vanilla
1/4 c. dry milk (can be omitted if desired)
2 c. powdered sugar

Combine the melted butter with the cocoa and vanilla. Stir in the dry milk then powdered sugar. Add enough milk until spreading consistency. It should be about the consistency of honey; maybe a little thinner. Pour frosting over warm brownies and spread. Add sprinkles/ nuts, if desired, immediately because the frosting will set quickly.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sacrifice brings a Celestial Marriage

Four years ago today I married my best friend. Life was blissful and we were in love. <3

Or so we thought. But our love has only continued to grow, with a priceless increase today.

I have come to realize that this... not my marriage. It was my wedding. It was a very important day. It was done in the right place and by the right authority. But having a temple wedding is not enough. We have to work to have a celestial marriage.

Marriage is something you do day in and day out. It is staying up late with a sick kiddo. It is raking the leaves while it is beginning to snow. It is counting pennies three times in hopes they will stretch a little bit further. It is sacrificing your wants for the other person.

I have watched Casey sacrifice countless times for me. And I have done other things for him. But today I learned a huge lesson about sacrifice.

Money is ridiculously tight right now. Like uncomfortably so but our basic needs are being taken care of so we still feel so blessed. Blessed by our learning to live within a super strict budget and blessed abundantly by the generosity of others. Casey was in charge of planning our anniversary and he knew the budget. He would have to come up with something that had meaning and cost practically nothing.

I keep thinking about a quote by Pres. Monson that says:
During the challenging times, we grow closer together. Today was no exception.

For the past week, Casey left clues on our whiteboard about our upcoming anniversary he planned. One clue told me that I should wear something fancy. Some I didn't understand at the time but just thought he was sweet. Yesterday he wrote something about heading to Scotland and today it was about Tommy and Fiona. 

Um... who on are earth are Tommy and Fiona. Hello google. Apparently there is a play/ movie called Brigadoon (seriously... don't laugh... I have never heard of it before!) So next I started googling that to see if I could find if it was showing anywhere in the area. I was pleasantly surprised to find it is showing currently at a very nice theater not too far from our home.

My first thought was pure excitement. We haven't seen a play in a long time because it is way out of our budget. My second thought was hoping that Casey was given some tickets without my knowing so we wouldn't have to pay for it. But I decided to focus on the first thought and just look forward to the evening.

I instantly started texting Casey what I had figured out--my excitement bubbling through my fingers. And I also asked him to not buy me anything else because the tickets would be more than enough.

He knew his clue this morning would give it away and I would be googling as fast as I could type. But what I didn't know was his plan for the budget.

We each have a "piggy bank" in our budget. This is our free money that we can spend however we want. It just has to be recorded so the other person knows about it. The only money we have in our separate piggy banks right now is from our birthdays. Anything we had saved up prior was wiped clean to help pay for the furnace. Because money is so limited, it really makes our birthday money more special. It is our only piggy bank money.

Casey responded to my texts saying that he was paying for the tickets and wishing me a happy anniversary.

I knew as soon as I read it that he was going to use all of his precious birthday money to take me out on a date to celebrate my very favorite day of the year. I knew right then that I meant more to him than his piggy bank. I mean more than new clothes or toys or electronics.

And from his example, I lovingly learned about sacrifice. I re-learned about making marriage number one. I once again learned about growing closer together as we continue to scrimp and save.

Happy Anniversary My Love! 
I look forward to an eternity more! 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Wading through Isaiah

At Stake Conference a little while ago, my stake presidency challenged everyone in the stake to read the Book of Mormon again. I know there are blessings for those that obey the counsel. And I also just LOVE that there are strength in numbers. While Casey and I chose to both read it for our personal study, I'm not studying this book alone.

I recently started the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi. I'm not going to lie, Isaiah and I are less than best friends. In fact, in my super highlighted, thoughts filling the margins and quotes stuffed almost everywhere, the Isaiah Chapters are almost completely white. Very few colored verses. No impressions in the margins. I just struggle to understand the symbolism and difficult language. (For all of you Isaiah lovers out there, don't judge!)

There is one quote though that I keep in 2 Nephi 11. I treasure this quote and ponder it constantly while I wade through Isaiah. If there is anyone out there like me that struggles with Isaiah, I hope this quote by Boyd K. Packer will encourage you too.

Pres. Packer's entire talk is about reading the Book of Mormon... an excellent read if you are struggling to find the motivation and time to read the Book of Mormon.

Friday, October 4, 2013

{General Conference} Cinnamon Rolls

I have searched and tried countless cinnamon roll recipes. But I could never find one that was amazing. I read through countless "best" cinnamon rolls on pinterest and I liked parts of each. Basically I combined 3 or 4 different recipes to create a recipe that truly is the best. They are light, fluffy, cinnamony, and huge! These are definitely my "go-to" recipe from now on!!

Everything about this just looks amazing!!
And here is the best part. Start to finish is less than 90 minutes (probably around 75-80 minutes). Perfect for Saturday morning General Conference!! I'm so EXCITED for this new General Conference tradition!! :)

1 c. warm water
3 T. yeast
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. buttermilk (room temperature)
1/4 c. melted butter (let sit after melting to cool)
2 t. salt
2 eggs
5-6 c. flour

1/2 c. butter (softened, NOT melted!)
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 T. cinnamon

3 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
1/4 c. butter (softened)
2 t. vanilla
2-3 c. powdered sugar
warm milk??

Before baking.
Note: I found if you use two pans and roll the cinnamon rolls up the short way (instead of the normal long way), they will be GIANT and still make 12. It makes them shorter but wider. They fill an entire paper plate--perfect for sharing with friends. I will take pictures of what I mean by long ways and short ways--check back!

In the bowl of a mixer, combine water, yeast and sugar. Allow it to sit for ~10 min. Mix in the buttermilk, melted butter, salt, eggs and 4 c. flour. Add more flour as needed until dough is soft but not sticky. Knead for 10 minutes. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

While the dough is resting, prepare the filling. Mix the 1/2 c. soft (room temperature) butter, brown sugar and cinnamon with a fork in a small mixing bowl. This should resemble the consistency of a spreadable frosting.

Preheat oven to 200* F then turn off. Lightly grease your countertop and roll the dough out to approximately the size of your jelly roll pan (large cookie sheet). "Frost" the dough with the filling. Roll the dough up and cut into 12 equal rolls. Line the cookie sheet with aluminum foil (or parchment paper) and lightly spray. Place rolls on cookie sheet and put in the warm (but turned off) oven for about 5 min. Take the rolls out of the oven THEN preheat it to 400* F. Bake the rolls for 12-15 minutes.

Beat cream cheese and 1/4 c. soft butter in the mixer on high until light and creamy. Beat in vanilla. Slowly add powdered sugar. If the frosting becomes too thick, add a TINY bit of warmed milk. I normally don't use any milk because I stop adding powdered sugar once it gets thick enough. This is a total guessing game though... sorry... frosting is not an exact science. :)

My cute helper!
He *loved* helping lick the filling bowl after I was all done with it!!!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Priesthood & a Band-Aid

I have thought a lot about an object lesson I heard once for teachers. I can't remember where I heard it... maybe a class... maybe pinterest. So the idea is not my own but I wanted to share.
Several people had various ailments, illnesses and injuries. They went to their doctor in hopes of a treatment. After seeing the doctor, they had to wait in the lobby until everyone had spoken with the doctor.
The first person had a cut on their left arm. The doctor cleaned the wound and put a Band-Aid on. The second person complained about not being able to see. The doctor cleaned the left arm and put a Band-Aid on. The next person had extreme knee pain. The doctor cleaned the left arm and put a Band-Aid on. One person had headaches, one had an upset stomach, and so on. The treatment was always the same--clean the left arm and put a Band-Aid on.
While waiting in the waiting room, it became apparent that only the first person was happy. Everyone else said the doctor was a waste of their time and money. The second person wanted glasses. The next person wanted knee shots (ha,ha... no one ever wants these... trust me!). And so on. No one could figure out how a Band-Aid on the left arm did anything to help them so they decided to all ask the doctor.
Demanding to see the doctor again, the patients wanted an answer. "Why?!" they inquired. "How does a dumb Band-Aid help me when I never said anything about my left arm?"
The doctor slowly replied, "I was treating everyone equally... the same."
"But that's not fair," came the response. "We want a treatment for our own, individual problems."
"The first person needed a wound cleaned on the left arm and a Band-Aid. I'm treating my patients equally by providing the exact same treatment for all."
"But that's not fair," came the response again.
So obviously, this would never happen. A doctor would not treat all patients the same. The doctor would treat them fairly, providing a solution to each person's individual condition. The point is there is a huge difference between being fair and being equal.

When I was a teacher (a lifetime ago), I was being completely fair by allowing modifications on assignments and tests for students with learning disabilities. Was it the same? No. But was the easier assignment fair? Yes because I considered the student's personal abilities. As more children join our home, some long distance down the road, will I treat them equally? Not likely. But will I try to be fair? Yes. Fair to the circumstance, the situation and the child individually.

This post could stop here and be a good story. A great lesson to understand the difference between fair and equal. But I have to explain the reasons behind why I keep pondering this analogy and what it means to me today.

Thankfully, Heavenly Father does not treat us all equally. He considered us each personally as He gave us various talents and gifts. The world would be a mighty boring place if we were all the exact same with a Band-Aid on our left arm. But in His great wisdom and mercy, He gave me spiritual "knee shots" and someone else "glasses." 

Even more than spiritual knee shots and glasses though, Heavenly Father lovingly created me to be a woman. It is not by chance. There was no toss of the coin or a 50/50 chance. No! It was on purpose. I am on purpose. I am meant to be a woman. And my husband is meant to be a man (a very cute and smart one, I might add). We complete each other and help one another. And I am so, SOOO grateful that Heavenly Father did not send us both down to earth with Band-Aids on our left arms. Where would that get us?! Likely nowhere because we didn't need the Band-Aid.

Instead, He sent me down to earth with Motherhood. This is a divine gift, my friends. It is sacred and something I cherish deeply. It is honorable. It is nurturing. It fills my soul with the deepest warmth and the purest joy.

And in His great wisdom, he sent Casey down with the Priesthood. This is a divine gift too! And it is sacred and something I also deeply cherish. It guides Casey and he blesses my life with it. But our gifts are not the same because we are not the same. We use both our gifts to bless our family. We use them together. We use them to complete one another. But our gifts are not meant to be the same!

Are we absolutely equal as partners? 100% yes. Both in our eyes and in the Lord's!! But are we equal in our roles on this earth? In our purpose? In our mission? NO! I am a woman. He is a man. I am not meant to hold the Priesthood because Heavenly Father didn't send me down to earth with a useless Band-Aid. He sent me down with so much more. So much more! And in His great love, He is being completely fair!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Becoming a Diamond

My wedding ring is a constant reminder. It reminds me of Casey's eternal love. It reminds me of the temple covenants we entered into almost 4 years ago.

As I was studying my scriptures today, my wedding ring took on a whole new meaning. I saw the diamonds and I thought of the process they had to endure to become diamonds. Long before my wedding ring was designed, these precious diamonds used to be lumps of coal. Yes. Lumps of coal. Dirty. Sooty. Black. And of very little value comparatively.

But my diamonds endured. They went through intense pressure and heat for a very long period of time. And the end result is amazing. Sparkling. Beautiful. Forever.

To me, I think that is what Isaiah meant when he stated,
For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

And so day by day, I'm striving to become like my wedding ring. Pure. Lovely. Refined. Chosen.

Enduring life's challenges and trials. Holding fast to my testimony. Finding strength in my scriptures. Receiving comfort in my prayers. Knowing that all the struggles are for a purpose. And occasionally catching a glimpse of my life diamond in the process.

Life is not meant to be easy. We are meant to become diamonds.

Monday, September 23, 2013

15 Lessons from the 15 Month Old

Jesus taught that we should become as little children. (Matthew 18:2-3) His teaching is just beginning to make sense. I have learned so much from my charming 15 month old. Life lessons at their finest!

1. Say hello and wave to everyone you meet. It will bring a smile to both your faces and likely brighten their day. 

2. Applaud yourself. Celebrate even when you do the smallest things right. Clapping for yourself builds your confidence. 

3. Clap when anyone else does something right too. We all need a cheerleader in life. 

4. Let things go. So what if you made a mistake. You sit in time out for 90 seconds and come out smiling, ready to conquer your world and forget the problems. 

5. It's ok to ask others for help. Ask nicely. Say please and thank you. And more than likely they will be delighted to help in anyway they can. 

6. When you fall down, get back up. Falling is not failure. It just means you are learning. 

7. Support others when they have a bad day. Give them a cookie and a kiss. Because a cookie and a kiss really does make everything better. 

8. Try new things. Sometimes you might like them, it might even become your favorite. Sometimes you may not. But you never know until you try. 

9. Explore your world. There is so much out there. Pay attention and enjoy what you find. 

10. Find joy in the simple things. You don't need expensive toys to make you happy. 

11. Take a nap. Life's problems have a way of diminishing when you get enough rest. 

12. Worry less about your appearance. It doesn't really matter if your pants are too short or there's a spill on your shirt. Instead focus serving others. 

13. Make sure those you love know it. Tell them. Show them. Hug them. 

14. Patience goes a long way. Life is filled with waiting. You might as well enjoy it by  entertaining and playing with yourself. 

15. Don't judge others until you walk in their shoes. And even after walking in their shoes, still love and respect them unconditionally. 

If we could all just live by these simple guidelines and follow the counsel given by Christ... life would be so much more welcoming and supportive if we could truly learn to be like children. Thank you Devin for setting an example for me; an example worth copying.

Which is your favorite lesson taught by Devin?
Leave a comment--I would *love* to hear! :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Birthday in Heaven

Dear Grandpa,

It's your first birthday in heaven. Funny how a birthday is such an earthly holiday. We celebrate the day one leaves his or her heavenly home and mourn the day he or she returns. If we were to look at the eternal perspective I'm sure the celebrating and mourning might be reversed. But with our limited earth-life vision, it is hard to celebrate the day you returned to your Heavenly Father. It's hard to rejoice when we were left behind. 

But I think about that day a lot. It's the day Sister Monson died. It was the last day we shared a picnic together in the living room. Another funny thing is of all the happy memories I have of us, I cling to that last picnic. If I would have known that it would be the last, I would have taken a picture. But instead I replay it over and over in my mind. 

I miss you Grandpa. Maybe because tomorrow is meant to be a celebration of life. But you're not here to attend your party. Maybe because I spent so much time with you all growing up and especially these last few years. Maybe because I plan on it being a long time until I will see you again. But when my time comes, promise you will be there waiting for me. I look forward to that so much. Until then, I know we both have work to do. I have a son to raise and a life to fill with the gospel. You have spirit world stuff to work on. But if you happen to have some spare time, will you please find my other grandpa? He died when I was 7 and I don't remember him well. But maybe you can tell him stories of me and teach him the gospel? Then we can all be sealed together as one big happy family. 

Your Loving Granddaughter,

{P.S. I'm sending this letter to heaven. You are all just privileged to read it along its delivery.}

P.P.S. This post goes along with "in an instant" and "Jesus Wept" that I wrote last May, a week after my grandfather died.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Countdown to General Conference

When I was growing up, there was something magical about a countdown chain. I remember my mom would help make them for our birthdays. The anticipation made the actual day that much more special.

Last night I was thinking about General Conference. It's almost September so General Conference is *almost* next month. I absolutely love General Conference and am excited that it is coming around again. In our home, GC is just about as big as a birthday. We celebrate it and have family traditions (our Conference Bribe--treats for notes, is one of my favorite. And I think we might start eating cinnamon rolls on Saturday morning....). But more than the food we associate with it, I love the spirit. I love listening to the Prophet and Apostles.  I love the counsel. There is so much power from listening to and following the counsel.

I absolutely just love the Primary Song called "Follow the Prophet." I remember singing it growing up. And while I don't remember the words to all nine verses, I do remember and think about the 9th and the chorus rather often.
Now we have a world where people are confused.
If you don't believe it, go and watch the news.
We can get direction all along our way,
If we heed the prophets-- follow what they say. 
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; don't go astray.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; he knows the way.
Heavenly Father really loves us so much to bless us with a prophet. This world is definitely not an easy place. But gratefully, we don't have to follow the world's way; we can follow a better way. And there truly are so many blessings that will always come from following the prophet.

Anyway... back to last night. I should have been in bed. But school started so Casey was up doing homework. Our little Baby Bunny was asleep in his crib (yes, CRIB-- not pack'n'play!! Whooo!!). And I didn't know what to do with myself. I kept thinking about General Conference and decided to randomly count how many talks there were during the April 2013 GC. If I counted everything (including the Young Women's meeting and each report given during the Saturday Afternoon session) there were 40. 

I thought it would be great to start a countdown for this coming October Conference by reading one talk a day. So I counted how many days there were between now (yesterday) and Oct. 5th. 41. Oh my gosh. It was perfect!! By starting yesterday, I could read one talk a day, finish on Friday October 4th (which is also a VERY special day around here for me... just sayin'...) and be ready to listen to the new messages which will be shared the next day.

General Conference really is just as special as my special day. I searched the stack of boxes in the basement, found the construction paper and cut some strips. On each strip, I wrote the numbers 1-40. Then on number 40, I wrote the "Welcome to Conference" (the title of the first talk). #39 has the title of the second talk and so on.

Whether you make your own paper chain or simply read study a talk each day, I hope you will join me as we celebrate General Conference coming again. I know studying will be uplifting and inspiring. I know it will bring blessings. I know it will be a great way to prepare to listen to the new talks. And this is also the last chance to study April 2013 and have it be the "current" conference issue. {And... if you are just reading this today, 8/27/2013, then you have to read the first 2 talks in order to be caught up. No biggie. The first talk by Pres. Monson is super short!}

Friday, August 23, 2013

More Than Enough

I wish our house was bigger. I wish we had a third bedroom right now and a place for the computer. I wish we had a garage. I wish the basement was finished. I wish the walls were painted with beautiful colors. I wish our ceiling fan didn't rattle/ click. I wish the dishwasher worked. I wish the backyard was grass. I wish we had a fire pit and a patio. I wish we had a working furnace. I wish the curtains and pictures were hung. I wish the basement wasn't piled with boxes.

I wish. I wish. I wish.

But I have to remind myself. This is enough. This was the house we were meant to buy. All the other offers fell through and Heavenly Father doesn't make mistakes.

We don't need a bigger house, it would just mean more to clean. There is no one to live in the third bedroom right now anyway. The computer works just fine in the basement. The cars are protected in our double carport. A finished basement would just mean moldy walls with all the plumbing/ leaking problems. The walls are at least clean. The fan normally stops clicking after it has been for a long time and then I fall asleep. We are saving money on electricity and I keep up with the dishes so at least they don't pile up. Devin doesn't mind playing on the weeds. Are standing fire pits even legal?? And if we want to have friends over on a patio--move the cars and instant "patio" under the carport. Who needs a furnace in the middle of summer?! There are blinds! I really don't spend much time in the basement anyway so I don't see the boxes... Devin is not allowed down here and screams at the door if I'm down here without him.

It is more than enough. My stake has a free exercise class every day--this means the world to me and gives me motivation to get up and get ready in the morning. It feels so good to exercise again. This is such a needed blessing!

It is more than enough. There are several young women in the ward who baby sit. So far we keep asking the same girl. She is great with Devin. She brings a sweet spirit into our home. And we can afford to pay her! Plus she babysat for free while we went to the temple. Words cannot even express what a blessing this is!! Sometimes the temple takes way longer than you plan because it is crowded. Without her generosity, I'm sure I would be a total stress case in the temple trying to get in and out and forgetting to learn and enjoy while we were there.

It is more than enough. With the Relief Society sisters all starting the Personal Progress program, I have found motivation to become better in the basics. I will admit. I was definitely slacking. But that changed because I want to pass off my experiences. But more than that, I want to transform into a Princess. This is probably one of the biggest blessings in my life right now--coming closer to the Savior and Heavenly Father!

It is more than enough.
My ward is just filled with the sweetest, most caring people. I know I have mentioned this before. But it is such a huge blessing to feel comfortable in my ward. To feel like I have friends. To feel like everyone in the ward shares our same standards.

So when the wishes start creeping in and I want something bigger/better/fancier/etc, I just have to remember. This house is more than enough. Heavenly Father did not make an accident. We are here for a purpose and we are so richly blessed!

Friday, July 26, 2013

From Humble Beginnings

I was asked to share pictures. At first I was hesitant because our house is not "picture-perfect."
But it is a work in progress.
And I'm sure you will all be forgiving of the piles of boxes.
We haven't even lived here a week yet!

(And as a side note, yesterday Devin and I went for a walk. I couldn't figure out for sure what street I was on and there was no street sign at the intersection. I saw some teenage girls nearby. I asked them what street I was currently on and asked them how to find our street. See... I haven't even lived here for a week yet. I sure with time all the twisty/ windy/ changes-street-names-in-the-middle-of-the-road streets will begin to make sense.)

Our Living Room!
I worked super hard to make this Devin-proof.
I can't wait to hang pictures and decorations!

The kitchen.
See the cupboards?! I'm making progress!!
(Ignore the mess on the counter!)

Casey surprised me with beautiful roses!
And we hand carried the statue(s) to make sure they didn't break.
It's so nice now that Christ is not packed in a box.
Seeing Him on the kitchen table is a daily reminder to stay focused on Him.

I'm really looking forward to hanging pictures back up.
Until then, I found this magnet for our fridge.
In our completely chaotic world, it is nice having this constant.

I can't believe I'm posting this!
From Humble Beginnings!!
Our dining room/ pantry disaster.
Devin has taken it upon himself to help unpack everything he can reach.
Which means all that stuff on the floor is from my little helper....

Our bed!!
Before we moved, I was terrible about making the bed.
Now I make it EVERY day
--probably because it is the only thing clean in our lives.

The pile of boxes/ suitcases that we dig through regularly.

Devin's room.
See the sleeping baby?
I haven't even attempted to tame his room...

We found the changing table, diapers & wipes.
He sleeps in the pack 'n' play (because the crib is in pieces).
We kept track of his blankie.
I dig through his suitcase in the closet to find clean clothes.
What more does he need?

Our bathroom currently.
We are just so grateful to have a working toilet.
Our poor neighbor was probably sick of us borrowing hers.
We shower at my parents house.
We are PRAYING that this will be done by Monday!

Our "office" and laundry room.
Nothing fancy or organized.
But functional.

(The lowest part of the basement.)
I will get to these boxes... someday.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Things I Love

I'm making progress on transforming this house into our home. Although I am far from done... countless boxes to unpack... cupboards, lights, windows, doors, etc!! still to clean... a weed patch that needs taming... the list goes on!

Even though it is a major work in progress, I have already fallen in love with this place! Seriously. It's OUR home!!

Here are a few of my absolute favorite things about our house:

1. I have to go up 3 stairs from the carport to the kitchen--not 2 whole flights. Carrying anything in or out is SOOO much easier!!

2. Our coat closet actually closes all the way. I know. It's the simple things. But by closing completely, it means I can hide a giant packing mess behind the door and Devin can't touch it. 

3. We could not have asked for a better next door neighbor. She is absolutely amazing and so gracious. I love talking with her every time we are both outside or I have to go borrow something. 

4. Along those same lines, I already love our ward!! I was super worried about this. But I shouldn't have stressed. We were so blessed to buy into such a welcoming and helpful neighborhood!! And... my former seminary teacher is in the Bishopric. Plus a girl we went to high school with lives only a few houses away. Crazy how it is such a small world. 

5. I love my kitchen! It's gigantic compared to what we have lived with the past two years. There is actually enough cupboards to store everything. And a huge bar/ counter that will be used for rolling out doughs and homemade meals probably more often than not. 

6. The unfinished basement is a huge blessing in disguise!! It sure makes fixing all the leaks and problems a million times easier and cheaper. 

7. I love the freedom found only in a house. No downstairs neighbors. No people/ kids running and shouting RIGHT in front of our window. No manager or set rules to follow. AND we are investing in us--not the landlord. Seriously this has to be one of the best parts!

Our house is far from perfect.But it truly seems perfect for us. Or at least it is becoming that way--one scrubbed cupboard and one blind hung at a time.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The End

All good stories start with "Once upon a time" and end with "The End." 

Well this is our THE END. 

It's THE END of our house hunt. THE END of placing offers. THE END of waiting and wondering if our offer would be accepted. THE END of applying for grants. THE END of jumping through ridiculous government hoops. THE END of trying to get a loan. THE END of our 10 day waiting period. 

And it's our beginning. 


...we are HOMEOWNERS!!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Parade of OUR Home

Buying our home is actually seeming real.
Like this is going to happen in ONE WEEK real!
I thought it was about time to take you all on a tour. :)

Welcome to The Parade of OUR Home!

I have not taken any pictures myself.
These are all from the MLS when our house was listed.

And eventually, slowly, someday we will remodel and change most things.
New paint for sure.
Everything is painted cream right now.
However, the redecorating will have to wait.
The first goal is to make it livable and fix everything that is broken/ leaks/ etc.

I love the backyard is completely fenced it.
I love the wide porch in the front.
I love the tree to shade our house!
This is the living room.
The picture makes it seem rather small.
The stairs and a HUGE coat closet are behind.
The carpet is in fairly good shape.
The dining room.
I love that the floor is NOT carpet!
I love the bay window.
We will put our pantries and freezer, as well as table, in here.
The kitchen.
I love that the cupboards are wood.
I am SO tired of white!
Devin's room.
He actually has two windows.
If you look at the front of the house, both windows on the top level are in his room.
Devin loves his windows!!
They are short enough that he can look out.
This picture has been edited pretty well.
There is crayon and marker and etc ALL over the walls.
Our room.
I love that it has a ceiling fan.
And a door to the bathroom.
I LOVE our closet!!
The bathroom.
This will be one of the first things to get a makeover.
The floor by the bathtub needs help.
There are missing cupboards on the vanity.
Its not a gigantic bathroom.
But it is big enough for our needs.
Half of the unfinished basement.
The small area on the left will be a half bath and laundry room.
The other window will be a bedroom/ office.
Behind this picture will be our large family room.
There is like a black triangle on the left.
That is the stairs going down to the other half of the basement.
We are going to put in a huge master suite.
And a storage room. And a pantry.

This will really be ours... in ONE week. 
I'm SO excited!
We will sign hundreds of papers and finally be given the keys. 
And the very first thing we are doing once we have the keys?
Changing the locks. :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I am a FACS Momma!

Last night, I was a very lucky girl and had two escorts to our apartment building ice cream social. One escort held my hand and the other was tethered to me with his lion backpack/ leash.

It was nice to meet people in the complex! One super cute girl asked me if I used my degree at all. I immediately responded, "Yes!! Everyday!" as I looked at Devin. I know she meant the question to mean am I currently teaching and using my degree in the way it was intended but that wasn't the question.

It made me think. Do I use my bachelors degree anymore? Am I really using it everyday? Were all of my classes and textbooks and fees and labs and scholarships and the time spent for nothing?

I love the quote that says, "When you educate a man you educate an individual; when you educate a woman you educate a whole family."

But more than educating a family, I really use my degree everyday of my life. Seriously. The knowledge I gained while studying for tests and completing projects made me who I am today. And my degree was definitely not for waste. If nothing else, I learned how to learn when I was in college. That skill alone is completely invaluable!

I loved my family finance class and now love budgeting. I love being in charge of our money together and knowing where it is going instead of wondering where it went. Our budget is what is allowing us to buy a home right now! And living in our budget means knowing how to save money and distinguishing between wants and needs.

My interior design classes were extremely time consuming. But I learned so much! And trust me, I am already grateful for the knowledge. It made our apartment more homey instead of just a place to live. Once we move, I will really be using my interior design skills. I get to plan and paint and decorate. It will be amazing having color on my walls and finishing the basement anyway I want. Our home will truly transform from government owned fixer-upper to a place of beauty. A place of peace and shelter from the world. A place of laughter and hugs. A place that is ours.

One of my hardest classes and lowest grade at BYU was in my food science class. I worked so hard and crammed so much before tests. Luckily I was married when I took this class because Casey became my study buddy and quizzer. If it weren't for him, I am sure I would have done much worse! Surprisingly this is also one of my only books I ever refer back to now. Not because I care to review the chemical structure of foods. But because I want to know why certain ingredients affect recipes the way they do. I want to know how to modify recipes to make them healthier. I love figuring out why a recipe failed and how to improve the next attempt. I am constantly try new recipes--in fact it is rare that we eat the same thing twice. Along with this is making meal plans for the week, knowing how to have everything ready for dinner at the same time, and eating healthy but enjoyable meals. This is still a work in progress but I'm so glad for the foundation I have!

Then there is sewing. I have not followed a pattern to complete a project for a while now but someday I will! Sewing was not my favorite section because it was so time consuming. I would spend countless hours in the sewing lab. But I still use the basics constantly. I altered Casey's work shirts, mend holes, make baby ties, create homemade mittens, sew blankets, pillows and hooded towels.

The last part of my major was child care. Do I use this? Yes! Child care is more than merely babysitting and more than watching the TV together. I am meant to teach Devin and it needs to be on an age appropriate level. We are learning and growing every day. I'm really looking forward to when I can teach Devin preschool, just like how I taught preschool at BYU and as a student teacher. We are going to do experiments and go on field trips. We will have dramatic play and stations. We will have activities to go with the children's book. But forget the future. I'm teaching today; I'm teaching every hour of every day. Devin is learning about the Sacrament and how to count. He is learning his colors, shapes, body parts, etc. And he helps me pack boxes and do the laundry.

So yes. I truly am using my degree. Constantly. It blesses my life. It blesses my family. It blesses countless others.

I am a Family and Consumer Science Momma!

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Greatest Power

Yesterday was a special day. A historic day. An inspiring day. We were blessed with the opportunity to watch a Special Broadcast: The Work of Salvation. And we were doubly blessed because we were actually able to watch and listen and feel the spirit. Mr. Devin slept through the first half and then sat quietly and ate granola bars and snacks for the rest. If you didn't have a chance to watch it last night, I hope you will take the time to do so. It was very touching and uplifting!

Most of the meeting was about missionary work--sharing the thing that I love the absolute most with those that we love the most. Pres. Packer spoke about how to teach. And I absolutely loved this quote!! I decided to make a printable to have in our home. Because sometimes I need a little reminder that being a stay-at-home mommy is the greatest thing I can ever do. Teaching Devin is more valuable than anything the world could give a working woman.

"I have come to know that everybody is a teacher. In the church we talk about being called to a position and being set apart to teach Sunday School or any other Priesthood auxiliaries. The Priesthood, I think, sometimes prides itself with having the power to doing the teaching. They don't come near the power that's given to a mother. The greatest teaching in the church is done by the mothers." --Pres. Boyd K. Packer (Special Broadcast: The Work of Salvation. about 1.37:30- 1.38:30)

I just love this!!
The power of mothers... and the ability to teach!
A good reminder of my worth.

I thought this one sentence was a good stand alone quote too.

As was this one. :)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Quiet Book for Toddler {printable}

UPDATE: This is by far one of my most popular posts... and even though I'm not regularly blogging right now (because my life is so busy with two Little Loves and family history and etc), I thought I would mention that I have started an Etsy store selling other Quiet Books, LDS File Folder Games, etc. This quiet book will always be free and I hope you will continue to use and love it! :)

Etsy Store: LivingOurDreamLife

UPDATE: This is now availabe to download as a PDF... all ready to print! Go to {Living Our Dream Life} facebook page. PLEASE LIKE THE PAGE! Then go to the photo album called {Freebies}.

{Living Our Dream Life} facebook page

Before Devin was born, I made several church bag activities (most of which I never posted on the blog--sorry). I had plans. Devin was going to sit quietly and look at the activities and we would all listen to Sacrament meeting and be uplifted. We would never eat cookies or play with cars at church. Well, allow me just to say that my super curious one year old has a very hard time sitting for three hours. And it does not help that my ward has Sacrament last so by the time we get to that meeting, he has already been sitting on our laps for almost two hours. (Yes, we keep him on our lap. I know he would rather go play. But he is not allowed off our lap. And he knows that and doesn't fight it too much anymore. He rose to our expectations. However, even with expectations, he can still only last for so long!) Yesterday, I bribed Devin to stay with us during Sacrament meeting by feeding him cookies and he played with a tractor. So much for my ideal world.

My church bag activities were not working because they are meant for preschoolers... if not older. He doesn't understand how to put the Popsicle stick puzzles together or how to read all of the photo books I made him. I needed something simple and on his level. Something with few words and lots of pictures that taught the purpose of the Sacrament. The main goal was to have the flip book teach--not just entertain. I searched the internet. I found nothing created for an early toddler. So I decided to make my own.

We will probably save this mini quiet book for only during the Sacrament itself. I want it to be more than just a snack to him, which means I need to teach him. We weren't sure how long to have Devin wait to take the Sacrament for the first time because we didn't know if he would get it yet or not. Yesterday I decided Devin gets it. He knows that sunglasses go on my face and he tries to put any sock he finds on his foot. He knows we talk on phones and touch the spoon to the plate before we put it in our mouth. If he picks up on those things, I know he is paying attention to us taking the Sacrament as well. I was whispering to him yesterday while we all took the Sacrament what we were doing and why. He began whispering back to me (I have never heard him whisper before). It was like he was reciting back to me what he learned--even though I didn't understand what he was saying. Hopefully this flip book will help him begin to understand the why better and connect my whisperings. 

I took some of the phrases from lessons in Behold Your Little Ones (the nursery manual). Others I just made up. I figured that manual is designed for early toddlers and more on the level of my curious child. (even though he is not old enough to go to nursery--I try to convince the nursery workers to let him come early. He walks, plays with toys and sits to listens to stories at the library so he could sit for nursery lessons too. But they won't go for it... not six months early at least.) The pictures are mostly from the Gospel Art Book. And if the cards seem repetitive, it's on purpose!! I'm hoping hearing similar things over and over will help it sink in better.

I printed the pictures at home on cardstock. I did not want to put them in a photo book. I wanted this to be different and I already made several church photo books. (But you certainly could print them off at a picture place and do the book option if you wanted!) My cards are 3" x 4" with a hole punch in the top left corner and a ring. Plus they are hard laminated for heavy duty/ still-puts-everything-in-his-mouth use. You are welcome to save the pictures and print the book for your own personal use. But please refer back to this post instead of uploading them again yourself.

UPDATE: This is now availabe to download as a PDF... all ready to print! Go to {Living Our Dream Life} facebook page. PLEASE LIKE THE PAGE! Then go to the photo album called {Freebies}.

I know this one is a bit wordy.
And he probably won't totally understand.
But I wanted it in there so I could remember to whisper it in his ear. 

Example of the last two pages:
Both of these pages are also in Devin's flip book.
I put them before the last page of "Jesus loves me."
But I didn't really want Devin in everyone's book.
And printing out Devin defeats the personalization purpose!
You will have to make your own mommy/ daddy pages.
Or just leave them out... :)
The font is called "Hank BT" --in case you want your pages to match.

UPDATE: This is now availabe to download as a PDF... all ready to print! Go to {Living Our Dream Life} facebook page. PLEASE LIKE THE PAGE! Then go to the photo album called {Freebies}.

UPDATE: This is by far one of my most popular posts... and even though I'm not regularly blogging right now (because my life is so busy with two Little Loves and family history and etc), I thought I would mention that I have started an Etsy store selling other Quiet Books, LDS File Folder Games, etc. This quiet book will always be free and I hope you will continue to use and love it! :)

Etsy Store: LivingOurDreamLife