Monday, December 31, 2012

A Little Good News

Today is Steven's first day at a temporary job. He is helping a company with its year end audit during the month of January. Yes, it's only for one month, but it will bring in money and help us get through another month or two. He also has an interview with another company he would really like to work for scheduled for January 11th. We are hoping and praying that interview will go well, and that a permanent job will follow when this temporary job ends.

Christmas 2012

We had a wonderful Christmas. Packages and gifts showed up on our doorstep throughout the month as friends and ward members, sometimes anonymously, made sure that everyone in the family had gifts to open this season. We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of so many people. The children received tons of Legos as well as puzzles, games and movies, plus some much needed clothes.

The Elder's quorum dropped off a box of food a couple days before Christmas also, so we had plenty to eat that day.

Also part of the day was spent on Google chat with Steven's family.
Because we had very little money for buying gifts, Steven and I made homemade gifts for the kids this year.

Steven spent most of the month of December in a friend's garage working on creating large wooden boxes for the children. I think they were the kids' favorite gifts.

The gifts I made for the children were mostly knitted or crocheted. Hannah got a scarf (and a couple small store-bought items), John got hat and scarf, Josh got a chef's hat and a snow hat, and Peter got an Elmo hat and a crochet-y monkey.

We are truly grateful for the many blessings we have received this holiday season. We hope everyone had a very merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Looking Towards a Wonderful Christmas

I have a lot to say today, and I'm not sure how to say it. I guess I'll start by saying thank you. Thank you to all those who have helped to make this Christmas a better time for our family.

Thank you to the brother in our ward who is letting Steven hang out in his garage, lending his tools and expertise to help Steven make special gifts for the children for Christmas.

Thank you to a young family in our ward - the husband brought us a bag of gifts on Sunday and said his wife wanted to get the kids something for Christmas.

Thank you to the members of our HOA who a few weeks ago gave us a Christmas card filled with cash, which has funded the few gifts Steven and I will be able to give our children this year.

Thank you to the anonymous person who left four bags of gifts on our doorstep sometime between Sunday evening and Monday morning.

Thank you to the boyscout in our ward who's eagle project involved collecting hats for children at a local hospital - and giving us an opportunity to make hats as a service project.

Thank you to those corporations involved in the "Holidays for Kids" activity hosted at the nearby Westin hotel for all the students at my boys school, where the younger ones were able to have their photos taken with Santa and get their faces painted, while the older ones had a dance, and they all got to eat a delicious meal and come home with bags full of books and goodies.

Thank you to our Ward Relief Society who planned our "Breakfast with Santa" this year.

Thank you to local radio stations that play festive holiday music throughout the season.

Thank you to Steven's Mom for the huge box she sent for Christmas. Thank you to my parents for the nativity scene and book they sent. Thank you to my sister Kristy for the package her family sent. Thank you to my sister April for the free Netflix rentals that entertained us a few evenings. Thank you to others who have sent packages and/or Christmas cards.

It's not a thank you, because it was senseless and horrible, and has had me in tears several times over the last several days whenever I think of it, but the horrendous tragedy at the elementary school in CT  has helped me to appreciate my children, and how precious they are to me. It has been a reminder that I need to let them know that I love them every single day. It has helped me to remember what is most important - not the gifts, or the food, or the caroling, or the lights, or the decorations, but the Savior - his atonement, his life, his gift of resurrection, for temple sealings, for the comfort of knowing that families are eternal and that even though we may be separated in this life, we can be together in the eternities.

This hasn't been an easy Christmas season. Still unemployed, Steven has been interviewing with different companies, but at the moment there is only one job that he would really, really like. He had a phone interview with them last week Thursday, but they have yet to set up an in person interview. (He was told that they would contact him sometime this week to set up an interview for the first week in January.) He had an interview with another company this morning, where he was told up front that the company might not exist a month from now.

We have been shown repeatedly that the Lord is watching out for us, that he is providing for our needs, and we really are grateful. It was two years ago that he was laid off from his last real job, and, amazingly, we are still doing okay. We still have our home. We still have a car. We haven't gone hungry. We have clothes to wear. We've learned a lot about the differences between needs and wants. We've learned that the Lord answers prayers in his own time, and we have faith that He will provide an awesome job when the time is right - in his eyes. (In ours, it would have been five months ago - right after Steven graduated with his MBA...)

Again, thank you to everyone for your help and for your prayers. We are going to have a wonderful Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Return to Childhood (Activities Anyway)

When I was a child, I loved to draw. I went through paper like crazy drawing princesses and landscapes. As a teenager, I focused more on drawing hands and faces, and I was always doodling.

As an adult, I find that I don't draw much any more. Other interests have superseded drawing in my life. Yesterday, during Sacrament Meeting, I found myself with a scrap of paper in hand, and a box of crayola twistables at my side. Almost subconsciously, I began to draw. I drew a picture, and then began inserting letters of the alphabet into that drawing, and I got as far as "j" before Peter noticed what I was doing and removed the paper from my hands to look at it. After church, I came across the drawing in the pocket of my scripture bag, and I came to an important realization.

Compare to last picture here.
I realized that I really enjoy drawing, and that I should do it more. I'm not saying that I'm good at it by any means, or that other people will appreciate my drawings. I'm just saying that I find drawing to be fun and relaxing. If I did it more often, I might become better at it, to the point that other people might begin to appreciate my drawings, but that isn't really the point. The point for me is that it is something that I had forgotten that I enjoy doing, and so I should do it more.

Along with that thought, I remembered a technique I used almost a year ago when I illustrated my cat walk story. I used Photoshop to "trace" photos for the story, and I really liked the way the pictures turned out, so I had some fun doing a couple more of these type drawings today. Yes, they are tracings... but I hope that as I do them, I am learning things that will help my drawings to become more realistic. And besides that, I think that it is fun!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Night of Excellence

Last week, the young women in our ward had their Night of Excellence, a chance for them to show off the projects they have been working on throughout the year. The theme for the evening was lighthouses.

Hannah shared the washcloths that she has been working on knitting. Other girls sang, played piano, learned to bake treats, did family history indexing, and submitted applications for college.

Earlier that day, Steven and I attended an awards ceremony where Hannah received an award for achieving a 4.0 GPA for her first trimester this school year.

Way to go, Hannah!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tidbits from November

Besides Thanksgiving and Daniel's wedding, life continues for the Hiatt family. 

Earlier this month, Hannah was part of an orchestra concert, with about seven other schools. Her favorite song to perform was called "Sahara Crossing" and sounded kind of like the "Arabian Nights" song from Aladdin.

Peter is really into arts & crafts lately. In honor of Thanksgiving, Peter created a turkey, almost life sized:

Josh has been having fun climbing the walls.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we hadn't unpacked the boxes of books yet. The children decided they made great toys and set up a store/library with them. (Most of them have since been either unpacked or covered with Christmas decorations.)

In case anyone was wondering, Steven is still job hunting. Hopefully he will find something by the end of the year. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Blessings

The past week or so has been wonderful! I have so much to be grateful for. Here are just a few of the many blessings which I have enjoyed this week.

  1. We had our Primary Program on Sunday (the 18th) and it went really well. (That was a huge load taken off my shoulders.)
  2. On Tuesday, I was able to travel to Utah with my sister's family. (Thanks Heather!!!)
  3. I was able to visit with my parents and siblings and have fun with them. (I'll never think of "reverse evolution" again without thinking about a certain game of Pictionary played with April and Heather.)
  4. I was able to attend a bridal shower for my new sister-in-law. (I'll have to practice making bridal bouquets out of newspaper, crepe paper, doilies, and rubber bands...) 
  5. In spite of the many people staying at my parent's house, I had a very quiet place to sleep - in the basement on Amber and Scott's remarkably comfortable sofa. (Thanks Amber and Scott!)
  6. I was able to have fun playing with my nieces and nephews... and hand them back to their parents when they got cranky. (I think the 1 to 3 year olds are my favorites right now.)
  7. I was able to spend some one-on-one time with my Mom while we went shopping for Thanksgiving food supplies. (Thanks, Mom!)
  8. I was able to enjoy  Thanksgiving with my parents and siblings for the first time in a decade. (And the turkey I helped prepare turned out pretty good.)
  9. I was able to get my older sister's help with some music I've been working on.(Thanks Lindy!)
  10. I was able to take a pleasant stroll down memory lane as I looked through the photos from my wedding and early marriage days as my Dad worked on sorting and scanning the hundreds of pictures my parents have in their files. (Thanks, Dad!)
  11. I was able to attend my youngest brother's wedding. (Congratulations Daniel and Jennifer!)
  12. It was awesome to be in a sealing room in the temple with my parents and nine of my eleven siblings, and several of their spouses, too. (We did miss Jarom, who lives in Taiwan, and Heidi, who is on a mission in the Philippines. They were in our thoughts, though.)
  13. While I was with my parents and siblings, my husband and children were having fun at home. They were able to have a good Thanksgiving dinner with friends from Church. They rode bikes and played at the park and decorated for Christmas, and hardly missed me. (They did seem happy to see me when I got home.)
  14. I was able to return home to my family in safety. (Thanks again, Heather!)
  15. While stomach bugs and sore throats occurred at my parent's home, I was able to return home without getting sick myself.
  16. On Sunday I was released from my calling as Primary President. (While I really came to enjoy this calling, I was ready for a change, and I know the new President will do a great job.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I know Heavenly Father Loves Me

Last night I was feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and frustrated. I had been trying to set up visiting teaching appointments only to realize I had lost the paper with the phone numbers for both my companion and one of the sisters we visit. (I had phone numbers elsewhere for the other two sisters we visit). One of the sisters had set up an appointment only to text me back a few hours later to say that wouldn't work after all, and she wouldn't be available again for two weeks... I had also been trying to contact my Primary secretary about picking up the pizzas for our primary program practice on Saturday, and she hadn't answered her phone, and she hadn't been at home when I'd stopped by there, and she had told me previously that she doesn't have time to check email anymore... I needed to talk to a friend in the ward about Thanksgiving dinner, because we were planning on having it with them, but we needed to figure out what we needed to bring. I was wondering what our Christmas was going to be like with our current financial situation, and worrying about the Primary Program, and just feeling like everything was more than I could handle. After writing it down, it didn't look like that much, but the stress I was feeling was overwhelming.

First thing this morning I received an email from my secretary. While she had left her phone at a friend's house, she had started checking email more frequently, she was planning on bringing the pizzas, was there anything else I needed her to do?

I received an email from the friend we planned to have Thanksgiving with and we were able to begin planning for that.

I went to visit teach the one sister I had set up an appointment with, and we were able to spend a little more time with her than we planned, which ended up being a good thing.

Our home teacher's wife called and told me that she had been in the temple last week and felt like they needed to find out what they could do to help us with the holidays. She asked what we need, what sizes the kids are, and what food we need for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That was when I realized that the Lord really knows how I had been feeling. I realized that everything I had been stressed about the night before had been taken care of.

Later in the day, my sister Heather called to offer me a ride with them to Utah for Thanksgiving. My brother is getting married in Utah the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and I had figured that after our trip to Nauvoo this summer, we just couldn't afford another trip. I hadn't even realized that part of my frustration had been knowing that my family would be getting together and I wouldn't be able to be with them. After talking with Steven, and his assurance that he could get along without me for five days, even take care of Thanksgiving without me, I called Heather back to tell her I would take her up on the offer. Not only did the Lord provide the things that I knew I was frustrated and stressed about, but he also knew the things that I hadn't even realized I was frustrated about.

I am so very grateful for all those who called or emailed today, who answered my prayers and relieved my anxieties. Steven has felt a lot more relaxed since he quit his job, and I know that, too, is an answer to prayer. The Lord knows us. He knows our situation, and he cares enough to comfort us and bless us. The Lord knows me, and cares enough about me to send me the help that I needed. I feel so thankful!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Nightmare Goes On

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that Steven really wasn't enjoying his job. He was working as an inventory clerk, something that it seemed like anyone could do, and all the advanced skills he had developed in the past were going to waste. The technology at the company was ancient (blue screen, DOS based programs), and frustrating to work with. Steven is used to knowing what he is supposed to be doing and being able to take charge and get it done. In this job he was being micro-managed, and occasionally being asked if he had yet done something that he'd had no idea he was supposed to do, or how to do it. In the past, Steven has always been very good at separating work and family - and not letting work cut into family time. He was frustrated when he received work related texts and emails in the evenings and weekends.

Not happy with the situation, when he was approached about interviewing for another job, he agreed. This other job would involve being in charge of a new technology upgrade, coming up with and implementing new procedures, being the go-to person for anyone with questions about the new software and making protocol decisions that would have far reaching influence. The company also had a policy of good work-life balance, something that was lacking at Steven's current job.This sounded like a job that he could get excited about.

The day after this interview, Steven had his first business trip - to a resort town a 3 hour drive away -  to count  inventory at a lumberyard there. They worked into the night, and then worked most of the following day (Saturday), before returning home. He realized he really didn't like having to go on business trips, and when, on Monday, it was suggested that he spend a week working in a Wisconsin lumber yard - "to get the feel of the company", I think that was the last straw. Compared to the other job he had interviewed for, the job he was at was misery. After much prayer that evening, we received an assurance that we would "be okay" if he quit, and so, on Tuesday morning, he did. He had worked for two weeks, enough to earn one paycheck.

That was last week. Yesterday he learned that the company he had interviewed with had "decided to go in another direction", so we are back to square one. Steven is interviewing with a recruiter for another job right now.

Last night, Steven was telling me that being unemployed was like being in a ship on the sea with no wind, not moving anywhere, and at risk of major cabin fever (and I might add, at risk of running out of food and fresh water before reaching our destination). Working at a job he hated was like being on that same ship in a fierce storm, being blown and tossed with no control of direction, and at risk of capsizing. Of the two, he prefers to be becalmed, though what we would really like is a steady wind in the right direction. We are wondering what we need to be doing - how to properly trim the sails or whatever while we wait for God to send that life saving breeze.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How We Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey

We've come a long way since the first time we ever cooked a turkey. See here for Steven's account of that.

In spite of that discouraging beginning, we persisted in trying. A couple years ago, we came across an article in the Denver Post (Shaw, Tucker. "Get it Perfect." Denver Post [Denver] November 17, 2010, Features, D-01) that gave us a lot of good ideas. Searches online gave us some more ideas of how to do it. (Unfortunately I don't have the references for those anymore. You can do your own search.) The last couple years we have still had our hang ups, but once the turkey was cooked, it tasted wonderful! So here's what we do:

1. Saturday before Thanksgiving: Remove turkey from freezer, place in refrigerator so it can start thawing.

2. Tuesday morning: In a clean ice chest just large enough to fit turkey, mix 1 gallon cold water with 1 cup salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and some thyme, pepper, garlic and bay leaves. Unwrap turkey, remove any giblets from neck and cavity. Add turkey to water in ice chest, if necessary add water to cover, close lid and let "brine".

3. Wednesday Evening or Thursday morning: Remove turkey from brine, rinse well and pat dry inside and out with paper towels. If Wednesday evening, let sit uncovered in refrigerator over night. Remove turkey from refrigerator at least an hour before you plan to start roasting it.

4. Sprinkle cavity lightly with salt. Place a carrot, an onion, a celery stick and maybe lemon slices or an apple - all cut in half - loosely into the cavity. (We learned that stuffing the turkey seems to dry it out.) Secure legs with skewers or string.

5. Rub butter all over outside of turkey. Try to get it under as well as over the skin. Place turkey breast side up on a rack in roasting pan. Cook at 400*F for 45 minutes, reduce heat to 300* and cook until thermometer in thickest part of thigh reads 160* (Estimate 12-14 minutes per pound). When turkey starts to turn brown, cover it loosely with a tent of foil.

6. Allow turkey to rest 1/2 hour before carving. Remove vegetables from inside before carving.

I understand that the drippings from under the turkey can make a wonderful gravy... but we're still working on that. :)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

How do YOU eat a Reese's?

In the last couple days since Halloween, I've noticed something. People eat candy in different ways. Some people save their candy, and ration it out at a rate of one a day. Some people eat it slowly, savoring each piece. Some gobble it down as fast as they can, hardly waiting until the taste from one has diminished before popping the next in their mouths. And then there are my kids. They like to play with it before they eat it. Here are a few of the creations I've seen in the last couple days.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween 2012

Twas the night 'fore November and all through the house 
every creature was stirring - except the dead mouse 
   (which the cats had dragged in.) 
The children were dressed in costumes with care, 
and expectations of sugar plums filled the air. 

Pumpkins had been carved with smiles and grins

From the tips of their stems to the base of their chins
A good friend arrived to join in the fun
No one can wait for the set of the sun.

At last it is dark and the fun can begin
They grab up their sacks to put the loot in.
Away to the neighbors' they fly like a flash
Hoping for candy, or maybe some cash
They give the door a knock or a ring
"Trick or treat" in unison they sing.
 From house to house they walk, hop or race
They set themselves a furious pace

For this is the night that comes once a year
When they can beg for candy without any fear
The streets are filled with tot, youth and teen
For this is the night we call Halloween!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Journies to Other Worlds

I like to read. I mean, I really like to read. According to Shelfari, I read 230 books last year. This year I've only read 158 so far. Almost all of these books are fiction. When I read, I like to escape from real life. For me, a good book transports me to another world. I like reading books in series, so that world expands and grows.

One of my favorite series is Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern. She has created an entire world with a history, a culture, a life of its own. With a compelling blending of science fiction and fantasy in the earlier books, she makes the existence of dragons (through genetic engineering) seem plausible.  I enjoy how different books she has written tell about the same events from different points of view.  When I am reading her books I feel drawn into her society.

Another series I enjoy is Raymond Feist's Riftwar Saga, as well as other series set in that universe. Several years ago, I came across a copy of the first book, Magician: Apprentice, and Steven convinced me to buy it. After that, I had to find the sequel at the library, and I've read each book in the series a few times now. Reading his books is like stepping into a whole new world, complete with magicians, elves, dwarfs, and even a dragon or two.

Not all that I read involves dragons. One of my all time favorite authors is Jane Austin, particularly her book, Pride and Prejudice. The appeal of these classics for me lies in the development of the characters. Each has just enough flaws to make him or her seem real. Again, when I read these books, I seem to step into another world for just a little while.

Another series that I turn to repeatedly for lighthearted relaxation is "The Cat Who..." books by Lilian Jackson Braun.  This series involves a journalist and his two super-intelligent Siamese cats who solve a series of murder mysteries. What I like about these books is that, read in order, they have a flow of real life to them. Characters he meets in one book reappear in the next--unless they are the ones who get murdered (and the books aren't violent or gory at all!). Once again, an author created a world that I can get sucked into and forget about real life for a while.

One of my biggest challenges these days is finding new things to read. I am wary of picking random books off the shelves at the library, because I never know if I'll like the world I'll find inside. We went to the library on Saturday, and once again I was browsing around, looking for something new that looked interesting. In the last couple years, I have read and enjoyed several books based on Fairy Tales (books by Gail Carson Levine, Shannon Hale, and books in the Once Upon a Time series). So, when I came across  a list of over 75 "Once Upon a Time Young Adult Fairy Tales", I thought that might supply me with reading material for a while. I checked out the first three on the list that were available.

That evening I started reading the first book on the list, The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block. I got a little way into it and decided that I didn't want to finish it. It was a collection of short stories based on fairy tales, but the style of writing was something I would describe as "urban grunge", with short, sometimes incomplete sentences that I found annoying. I also didn't care much for the stories themselves because of her treatment of them. Her representation of the story of sleeping beauty involved an opium addicted prostitute/rape victim. Snow White's story seemed incestuous. Reading that book wasn't a pleasant escape to another world; it was like being dragged through a gutter, and I left off reading feeling slightly dirty.

Yesterday, with a little trepidation, I picked up another book from the list, Entwined by Heather Dixon. I needn't have feared. This retelling of the story of the 12 dancing princesses was a pleasure to read. It was lighthearted, well written, clean and truly the enjoyable escape I was looking for. (When I finished reading it, I read the blurb about the author, and I think she might be LDS: lives in Salt Lake City, comes from a large family...)

So, a question for my readers... How do you choose books to read? Do you rely on suggestions from friends or family? book clubs? randomly pick books off the shelves at the library?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pros and Cons of a new job

As some of you may know, Steven found a job and began working a week ago today. So far I have very mixed feelings about his new job.

  1. Steven has a job with a large company.
  2. Steven is finally earning a paycheck comparable to what he was making two years ago.
  3. The job benefits include good health insurance and 401k matching.
  4. Steven gets out of the house so I get more done during the day.
  5. We don't have to move away from our home.
  6. The kids don't have to change schools or leave their friends.
  7. Steven's new job is across the freeway from a light rail station, so he could potentially take public transportation there and back when he gets comfortable with the idea. 
  8. I'm getting more exercise, riding a bike or walking when I need to get around during the day. 
  9. We will soon have money to spend on non-essentials again. 
  10. We can start paying off the loans we have borrowed over the last couple years.
  1. After one week on the job, Steven doesn't seem to be enjoying it very much. 
  2. The job involves an hour commute each way - longer in inclement weather.
  3. The skills Steven has developed over the last several years are not being utilized.
  4. The job requires frequent business trips, starting next weekend. 
  5. Moving might have been a nice change.
  6. The kids don't get to see their Dad as much.
  7. We only have one car now since Steven sold his broken down Jeep, and Steven takes it to work every day.
  8. The long commute makes Steven tired (and grumpy) when he gets home.
  9. We've had to cancel Hannah's free viola lessons due to lack of transportation.
  10. I have to rely on others for rides to go to Institute, Visiting Teaching, anything else during the day outside walking distance.

While I am very grateful that he is finally employed, I wonder if it is very ungrateful of me to be wishing he had found something else a little closer to home, something that challenged and excited him. I don't feel the relief and satisfaction that I thought I would feel when he found a job, and I still feel the uneasiness and stress of his unemployed state. We started packing some of our books when we thought we would be moving to Virgina. I don't think I will unpack them until I really feel settled.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween Ghosts

Our ward's Trunk or Treat activity is tomorrow night. The Primary is in charge of it this year, and while I pawned the total responsibility for it onto one of my counselors, I am in charge of decorations. In preparation for that, I made ghosts today! I did this with the kids last year and they turned out really cute, so I thought I'd make a few to decorate some of the tables. What do you think?

What is a Silly Rabbit? Answers!

A week or so ago, I posted some Funny Buddy Riddles. To those of you who looked at them and tried to figure them out, but gave up, or those who thought they knew some but weren't sure, here are the answers:
  1. bottle vehicle - can van or jar car
  2. polo soil - shirt dirt
  3. nylons container - socks box
  4. fuzzy fruit - hairy berry
  5. quill guys - pen men
  6. chart wire - table cable (or board cord, as April said)
  7. aqua loafer - blue shoe
  8. fedora talk - hat chat
  9. toad swine - frog hog
  10. cook dessert - bake cake
  11. insect squeeze - bug hug
  12. organ section - heart part
  13. divider toy - wall ball
  14. impoverished entry - poor door
  15. recliner duo - chair pair
  16. verifiable paste - true glue
  17. tome corner - book nook
  18. vomit muffler - barf scarf
  19. spirit emcee - ghost host
  20. unleashed gander - loose goose
  21. feline carpet - cat mat
  22. faint melody - swoon tune
  23. large stick - big twig
  24. insane flower - crazy daisy
  25. vegetable bird - carrot parrot
  26. video hood - tape cape
  27. tomb leaked - crypt dripped
  28. mind stretch - brain strain
  29. corn dream - maize daze
  30. sheep sleep - ewes snooze

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Word to the Primary Teachers

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka the Mormon Church), the Primary is the organization designed for children aged 18 months through 11 years. According to the Church's Handbook of Instructions:
The purposes of Primary are to help children:
  1. Feel Heavenly Father’s love for them.
  2. Learn and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  3. Feel and recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost.
  4. Prepare to make and keep sacred covenants.
 I have served as President of my ward (congregation) Primary for three years today. (Read here for the post I wrote the day I was sustained.) During that time I have seen a lot, learned a lot, and hopefully I have grown a lot.

One thing that I have noticed - and I've been bothered by, is that many people seem to think of serving in the Primary, particularly as Primary Teacher as a "place holder" or "low class" calling. They seem to think the bishopric had nowhere else to put them and so threw them into the Primary since we always need people there. Serving as a Primary teacher isn't deemed as important as Relief Society President or Elders Quorum President. When a previous bishop is called to serve as a primary teacher, how often does the thought cross people's minds that he has been somehow demoted? Many primary teachers don't seem to feel the value of their calling. They would rather be in classes with other adults, where they can socialize with their friends, and hear lessons geared for them, rather than "babysitting" the children. I have something to say to these people.

If there is one thing I have learned these last few years, it is this: The Lord loves His little children!
Remember this scripture in Matthew 18: 2-6?
 2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
The Lord loves his little children. He loves their humility and purity. He wants them to be taught his gospel by kind and loving teachers, who take personal interest in each individual and helps each to feel loved (See purpose #1 above). He wants those teachers to come to class prepared to teach true gospel principles in ways that will engage the children (Purpose #2). He wants teachers who will help them to feel the Holy Ghost and help them to recognize his influence in their lives (Purpose #3). He wants teachers who will challenge and invite the children in their classes to live gospel principles - to follow the prophet, to pay tithing, to keep the Sabbath Day holy, to serve others, to be baptized (Purpose #4).

Serving as a Primary Teacher is NOT a "place holder" calling. Yes, the primary organization can be a big one and it does require a lot of individuals to serve as teachers, but those teachers are called only after a lot of prayer. Not only do I pray and ponder to know the Lord's will, but after I submit names to the Bishop, he and his counselors also pray for confirmation before any call is extended. I believe that there is a reason that each individual serving in Primary is there. Each has been blessed with skills and talents that bless the lives of the children in some way. The Lord loves the children and wants them to have those teachers who are best equipped to bless their lives.

Children remember things that they were taught at very young ages. These things become part of them and it can be very hard to dislodge things that they were taught at this tender age by someone they loved and trusted. Teaching Primary may not carry with it a lot of prestige in the ward as a whole, but to the children they teach with love, they are famous! I can't express the joy I felt when I overheard one of our Sunbeams point at me and tell her mother with a big smile, "She's the one who always says 'Welcome to Primary!'"

Teachers who feel that their job isn't important should know that children can be strongly affected by the lack of a regular teacher. A couple months ago, our Sunbeam (3 year old) teacher was released rather suddenly. She'd had three callings at the time and was feeling overwhelmed. It took several weeks for us to find a new teacher, and in the interim, the children were taught by a string of subs. One of those children, my 1st counselor's son, no longer wanted to go to class, because he didn't like the constant change of teachers. At that age, these young children need stability and regularity. They need teachers who realize that their regular attendance can make a huge difference in a child's perception of Primary. The Lord loves his children and wants them to love coming to Primary to learn about him.

Primary teachers may feel that they are not being spiritually fed when they come to church, hearing and teaching lessons that are geared for children rather than for adults. To them, I would remind that it is the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, that teaches. When they prepare their lessons, they should invite the Spirit to teach them, not only what and how they should teach, but what they, themselves should learn. Frequently when I am preparing a lesson for Primary, I do learn things that I didn't realize before, or I am touched by how simple the basic gospel truths really are. Each song we sing in Primary is a sermon. We can be spiritually fed each week if that is our desire; if that is what we are striving for.

Serving in Primary is a holy calling. We have been entrusted with the care of these precious souls, helping them build a foundation of gospel learning that should last throughout their lives. To Primary teachers wherever they may serve, I would ask them to follow the instructions they have been given in the Handbook (Section 5.5.4):  (The bold words are from the handbook. What comes after is my own elaboration.)

  • Love those you teach. When you love the children you teach, you won't begrudge them the time you spend in Primary. You won't wish that you were attending an adult class instead of being with them. You will get to know them and their interests. You will seek out those children who are on your rolls, but don't come, and do all in your power to invite them to come. You will try to make each class period one that will capture their interest and invite them to come to Christ. When the children feel your love for them, they will be better able to feel the love Heavenly Father has for them.
  • Teach By the Spirit. You will seek the Spirit's guidance when preparing your lessons. You will pray for the children in your class and to know how to best meet their needs. You will live so that the Spirit can be with you, to teach you how to teach your children. You will develop a testimony of the things you are teaching so you can teach them with the Spirit's power.
  • Teach the Doctrine. Follow the lesson materials you have been given - they were written with inspiration. Teach from the scriptures. Encourage older children to bring their own scriptures, to mark them, to become familiar with them. Seek inspiration from the Lord before you seek help from or other sources. He loves them and knows what will best help them to understand.
  • Invite Diligent Learning. Elder David A Bednar said, "Testimony is knowing what is true. Conversion is being true to what you know." (For more on this subject, read his October 2012 conference talk.) Teach the children the gospel, ask them questions, let them discuss it, act it out, truly understand it, and then invite them to live it. Invite them to make a difference in their lives, to come closer to the Savior, to not just gain a testimony, but to become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is through doing that we internalize the gospel teachings, and make them part of us. If you teach about keeping the Sabbath Day holy, invite the children to do activities on Sunday that will help them keep it holy, and then follow up. Encourage them to continue living by that gospel principle.

The calling to serve in Primary is a wonderful one. I love working with the children. I love the basic gospel truths that I get to teach. I know that the Lord loves the children dearly and wants what is best for them. I wish that Primary Teachers everywhere could understand that, and appreciate the incredibly important calling they have.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Some Things That are Looking Up

Last week Thursday we had Parent Teacher Conferences. I spent over three hours talking with the boys' teachers - Josh's teacher, Peter's teacher, a speech therapist, John's Math, Social Studies, Language Arts, Science and Engineering teachers, two art teachers, two media teachers, two music teachers, and two PE teachers. Later that day I went to Hannah's school and spent another hour talking with her Math, Language Arts and History Teachers, as well as her Great Books and Orchestra teacher. (Her Science teacher was out of town.)

In general my children are doing very well. They have all scored very well on assessments, some are showing very good leadership skills when working with other students. John's math teacher described him as being "a Ferrari of math brains", jumping from problem to solution so fast, that he is working on getting John to slow down a bit so he can explain what he is doing to get the solution. At the moment Hannah is getting straight As. Due to computer issues at the boys' school, I don't know what John's midterm grades are, but from his teachers glowing reports, I would be highly surprised if his weren't straight As as well. I've got smart kids!

In other good news, Steven received a job offer on Friday. This was for a company called ProBuild, and is located here in the Denver area. As I understand it, the company sells building materials to construction companies. It is located on the south end of town so it is a bit of a commute, but we wouldn't have to move immediately. This job will also require a good amount of travel, which we aren't thrilled about, but at this point we are willing to take whatever we can get. Steven is busy signing paperwork, etc. today, and he is supposed to begin work in two weeks. We are relieved and grateful - and still kind of wondering if this is actually going to happen. It still feels unreal, and I suppose it will continue to be unreal until he actually starts working and we get the first paycheck deposited in the bank.

We appreciate your prayers and support that have buoyed us up over the last couple years, and especially these last few months that have been so difficult for us. Thank you!!!

Nothing to Fear?

A little over a week ago, on Oct 5th, a girl named Jessica Ridgeway disappeared on her way to school. Five days later, her body was found, dismembered in such a way that it took two days for authorities to say decisively that the body was hers. She lived only 7 1/2 miles from us. As of now, police appear to have no suspects.

At my own boys' K-8 school last week a 14 year old boy sexually assaulted a six year old. The incident was immediately reported, the 14 year old was removed from school, and letters have been sent home to assure us that increased security measures have been put in place to keep it from happening again.

Hannah usually walks with friends to her bus stop. She learned last night that one of those friends wouldn't be walking to school with her until Jessica Ridgeway's killer is apprehended. This morning, I made sure that the boys were ready earlier so we could all walk together to Hannah's bus stop, and from there to the boys' school.

I refuse to live in fear. By nature, I am a trusting person. I don't want my children to be afraid to walk to or from school. I don't want them to be afraid every time a car drives by or someone passes them on the sidewalk. We have taught them not to take rides or to accept food from strangers, but will they remember what they have been taught if the "stranger" seems nice? Or if he or she is someone they have seen around the neighborhood before? When we take walks as a family, the children frequently like to stop and ask pet owners if they can pet their dogs. What if they do that when Steven or I am not with them?

I usually do walk the boys to and from school. In the last couple years, when John has had after school activities, I've let him walk home from school by himself. Hannah usually walks home from the bus stop by herself. Sometimes I wonder: Should I continue to let them walk by themselves? Should I never let my children out of my sight unless they are under the supervision of another trusted adult? Is there an age where I can let go? If something happens to my children, am I going to be mad at myself for not doing everything possible to keep them safe?

Remember the movie, "Finding Nemo"? Remember how 'parentoid' Nemo's dad was at the beginning? I don't want to be like that. I want to trust. I want to believe that my children are and will be safe. I want my children to have courage to go out into the world and do amazing things.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What is a Silly Rabbit?

A Funny Bunny!

Can you solve these riddles? Each pair of words is a clue for another pair of rhyming words.

  1. bottle vehicle 
  2. polo soil
  3. nylons container
  4. fuzzy fruit
  5. quill guys
  6. chart wire
  7. aqua loafer
  8. fedora talk
  9. toad swine
  10. cook dessert
  11. insect squeeze
  12. organ section
  13. divider toy
  14. impoverished entry
  15. recliner duo
  16. verifiable paste
  17. tome corner
  18. vomit muffler
  19. spirit emcee
  20. unleashed gander
  21. feline carpet
  22. faint melody
  23. large stick
  24. insane flower
  25. vegetable bird
  26. video hood
  27. tomb leaked
  28. mind stretch
  29. corn dream 
  30. sheep sleep (I get extra points for this one because the clue rhymes too!)

Friday, October 5, 2012

First Frost

This morning we awoke to a layer of white on the grass and the car. It was still coming down as we ate breakfast, but by the time the kids left for school it had stopped, and the sky was blue. I love living in Colorado.

Peter kind of looks like an elf in his chosen coat and hat. The coat is actually one of Hannah's... Josh chose to wear layers of about three hoodies, rather than one coat. John wore a regular coat - and two hats, one big knitted one to keep his ears warm, and a smaller felt one on top of that to keep the snow from coming in through the holes in the knitted hat. Is it a good thing my children don't seem to care what others think about what they wear?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Peter's Play School

Last night I took the three older children to scouts and Young Womens. When I returned home, Peter was sound asleep in bed, but I could see what he had been doing. Several of Peter's favorite stuffed animals were lined up against the wall, each with either a backpack or a jacket. Facing them was the rocking chair and bench/desk with some books.

Of all my children, Peter is the most attached to his stuffed animals. How many of your children set up elaborate games to play with their stuffed animals? (And how do you teach them to put the toys away when they are done with them - without being reminded?)

Monday, October 1, 2012

In Case Anyone was Wondering

I guess my last real post didn't really mention much about how we are doing. Nothing much has changed since my last status update. Steven is still busily searching for a job, and still isn't getting much response from anyone. No longer is he searching mostly in Denver with a few scattered jobs elsewhere. Now he is applying for whatever jobs he can find - mostly elsewhere with a few in the Denver area. We wish the phone would ring more from potential employers, and less from political campaigners.

We are grateful for the assistance we have received from home teachers and other ward members in the way of food and clothes, as well as with car repairs. In spite of their help, Steven's Jeep is out of commission. Until Steven finds a job, we can manage with just the van. It helps that both the boys' school and Hannah's bus stop are within walking distance.

 I sometimes wish that I were in a better position to bring in money, but I'm afraid I don't have the skills necessary to find a good job, and I don't really want to find a job and then have to leave it a few weeks later because Steven found a job in Tallahassee or somewhere equally distant. I also feel that it is important for me to be home when my children are home. Even though I have almost seven hours a day on normal days, they get out early on Wednesdays, they frequently have days off, teacher work days, etc. and I want the flexibility to stay home if one of them gets sick, without the added stress of having to find a substitute. I don't know anyone who is currently in need of child care, and that idea doesn't really appeal to me anyway. Plus I'm lazy. I've never wanted a job outside of my own home. I love having the time to pursue my own interests, and I hate being so busy I don't have time to nurture my creative side. Years ago, I was given a father's blessing in which I was told that my husband would always be able to support me; that I didn't need to worry about preparing myself for a career. Now I'm wondering about that.

We are grateful for your prayers. It is easy to become discouraged, but we strive to trust that the Lord has something better in store for us, if we can be patient long enough.

What is Different? (Part 7)

This picture was taken on the kids' first day of school.

Friday, September 28, 2012

What is Different? (Part 6)

This picture is from our Pack Meeting on Tuesday. Josh received his Wolf patch.

A Day in My Life

For lack of anything else to write about today, here is a generic model of what my days are like these days.

6:30am The alarm clock goes off. I roll over and attempt to catch a few more zzzzs, but usually get up within a few minutes, collect my clothes and head for the shower. Steven gets up, wakes up the kids and gets them moving.

7:00 Ideally, everyone is up and dressed. We gather for family prayer and scripture reading.

7:15 John puts the bowls on the table, Josh gets the spoons. Hannah pulls the cereal boxes down from the top pantry shelf and hands them to Peter, who brings them to the table. We gather at the table to eat.

7:30 Time to finish getting ready for school. Shoes are found, planners are signed, backpacks are double checked for homework. I try to get the dishwasher emptied and loaded with the breakfast dishes, and get a load of laundry into the washer. I remind the kids to make sure their dirty laundry is in their hampers.

7:45 Hannah leaves for her bus stop

7:55 The boys and I leave for school. We walk the half mile to school, usually passing Hannah as she gets on her bus. I walk Peter to where his class meets, then say goodbye and walk back home.

8:20 Home again, I usually go straight to the computer to check email, Facebook, and Blogger. That done, I start on the day's chores. This varies from day to day, but usually includes sorting and folding laundry, cleaning the cat's litter, cleaning the kitchen, and picking up clutter in the rest of the house. Some days I clean out a closet or a drawer, or do a detailed cleaning of some part of a room. For the most part, I try to ignore that Steven is at home so I don't interrupt his job search.

Later... Chores done, I have time to relax. Sometimes I find a book to read. Sometimes I play the piano or guitar. Sometimes I sew or knit or crochet. Sometimes I bake something or make yogurt or granola. Frequently, I'm back on the computer playing on Photoshop, preparing a blog or doing whatever. Some days I have Primary presidency meetings. Other days I go visiting teaching. Often, Steven and I go to the temple. I go shopping when necessary.

3:15 I leave home to head for the boys school. I collect Peter and Josh and we start for home, usually to be joined by John before we get halfway home.

3:40 We arrive at home. The boys get drinks, change clothes, and start on their homework and chores - theoretically, anyway. I usually have to check their backpacks for homework, and then encourage them (repeatedly) to get their homework done. Chores generally only get done if someone wants to be on the computer or watch a movie.

4:25 Hannah arrives home from school. I start working on dinner.

5:00-6:00 We eat dinner. After dinner, the kids do their meal jobs.

6:30 Frequently we prepare for whatever activity we have going on that night, whether it is Family Home Evening, Relief Society, Pack Meeting, Scouts, Young Women, or just staying home. 

8:00 Bedtime. The boys get pajamas on, brush teeth, and prepare for bed. When they are ready, they can read a book quietly.

9:00 Lights out, no more talking for the boys. Steven and I prepare for bed, read our scriptures and put ourselves to bed. Hannah gets herself to bed eventually; I don't mind how late how she stays up as long as she is quiet and manages to get up in time for family prayer the next morning.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What is Different? (Part 5)

Some of the changes in this one are pretty subtle. I guess I'm practicing my photo touch-up skills as much as just having fun. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What is Different? (Part 4)

I was almost late to pick up the boys from school today because I was working on this one. This one was fun because it seemed like there was more going on; there was more to play with.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What is Different? (Part 2)

How many differences can you find here?

What is Different?

I was inspired by a "funstuf" in the October Friend (pg 10) called Spot the differences. Several things had been changed in a photograph, and it asked if you could find the differences. So, I made my own. Can you find 13 differences between the two pictures? (I think you can click on the picture to see it larger)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Then again... Maybe not...

Early Monday morning, I drove Steven to the airport, and he flew to Virginia to meet with the CFO of the company there. He interviewed with him and several others in the office, spent the night in a hotel and flew home Tuesday morning. He liked the office, he liked the people, and he felt that it had gone well. That evening he received an email from the company saying that they would like to interview other candidates before they make a final decision.

Our first thought was, "What?! Didn't you already offer Steven the job?" Apparently that was a preliminary job offer, contingent on their liking him when they met him in person... and I guess, for whatever reason that hasn't been made clear to us, they decided they wanted to keep looking.

We are disappointed, to say the least. Frustrated and confused are also major emotions, especially because we felt like this was what the Lord wanted us to do, and now we haven't a clue where to go from here. It has been weeks since Steven has heard from any companies here in Denver, despite sending out resumes to anything and everything that he seems qualified for. After thinking--for just one week--that we were almost out of this stressful quagmire of unemployment, and then to find ourselves back in the midst of it with no leads at all just feels like someone is playing a cruel game with us. When will this end?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hannah is a teenager!

Yesterday was Hannah's 13th birthday!!!

 Her gifts included a duffel bag, clothes, socks, a watch, a webcam, a notebook, a pencil sharpener, stencils, and a sock purse.
Hannah made the chocolate cake herself!

Happy Birthday Hannah!