I can't believe this year is finally coming to an end. Is anyone else feeliing slightly in the Twilight Zone about this whole endeavor? When I look back over the last 12 months, it seems like I've lived entire lifetimes since January.
We started the year with a trip up to visit our best friends and be there for their daughter's baptism. Covid wasn't even really on the radar yet, we had heard about it but it was a China only ordeal at that point. Then we moved through the wildfires of Australia that devasted the country and lost a lot of the wildlife there. We thought that was the defining point of the year.
March came. Covid came with a ferocity we didn't expect or know how to manage. We all experienced some level of stay at home order or quarantine to try to save lives. Then Covid became political instead of a public health issue and everything went downhill from there. Masks became a freedom statement, and more lives lost. The U.S. leads the world in Covid related deaths because people have forgotten how to love one another. Conspiracy theories run rampant and take away from the real science and progess being made.
May brought on the biggest racial justice movement in as very long time. People finally saw the travesty our Black brothers and sisters have been dealing with for generations. Many are still dealing with these issues and we HAVE to fix that. This treatment should never have happened. There are many reparations to be made and we need to start making them as a country, as a people, as a human movement.
We went through summer like people in a haze. School hadn't even been in since March so gearing up for a new school year was rough to say the least. We came up with our family motto for the year - "Just stay alive - that would be enough" - thank you to Lin-Manuel Miranda for those inspiring words from Hamilton. Grades wouldn't be very important to us, the goal is to survive the year. Thankfully through virtual, hybrid and in person learning road bumps we have made it through the first semester.
In October we celebrated Rory's decision to be baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We were able to have less than 30 family members and close friends come and share that glorious day with her. It was a day of crazy funny stress but also so rewarding to see her take that step and be happy. Watching her start glowing as she walked towards her dad and then after getting confirmed by him as well just made my heart swell. She will never forget that day and the people we were able to share it with. I wish we could have had everyone come to celebrate but this year posed the health protocols, so maybe next year we can have a big bash to make up for it.
All 4 of us had our birthdays happen during a quarantine/stay at home order time. We are very lucky that we have such amazing family and friends that still made it special for us. Drop offs and video chats and singing videos made it better to be stuck together for so long. Andrew has been working from home since March and with no end in sight yet. So I've given up my office for him to be able to close a door to keep us loud girls out of his literal business while he works hahaha The girls have loved having him home all the time and all the extra perks of not having to wait for him to drive home. I've enjoyed having him here for the most part hahaha I think he would agree that it's awesome when it's been just the two of us here working together in the same space but it would also be fun to have our own spaces back hahaha
This year we have become closer as a family whether we wanted to or not hahaha I think this year has helped us see each other in different ways and helped us learn each other's strengths. We recently bought a new fire pit and have been trying to do one every weekend because it makes the kids so happy to just talk around the campfire and be outside watching the fire burn - and throwing all of their school papers we don't need right into it hahahaha Jade tells the funniest stories and Rory loves to dance around and tell us all about her aspirations. They are both dreamers like their mama and are mischievous like their dad.
We celebrated 10 years of marriage this December! Seems so long and yet so fast! We ate Panda for lunch to commemorate our poor newlywed stage, watched TV with the kids and then Andrew made a delicious pasta dinner for us while we watched Terminator: Dark Fate because we both wanted something mndless and unimportant to watch hahaha Normally it's Ratatouille we watch but this year we were both exhausted already so mindless violence won hahaha Happy as ever to be married to Andrew. As cliche as it may sound he really is my person. He's the one I count on and the one I know counts on me. I'm grateful that I found him and that we got over our initial teenage impressions of each other to form this amazing life we have.
This year has been trying for my faith. My faith in humanity. My faith in my church organization. My faith in many institutions I thought were correct and true. In my over 30 years of life I have not felt this heavy, disappointed, vulnerable, or misunderstood as I have this year. My faith in my Heavenly Parents and Christ is unshakable. I know They love me and are there for me whenever I need Them to be. I find peace in temple attendance and teaching/learning with others. But my trust has been broken with the contention and anger that I both feel and have been a recipient of in regards to many things this year. It's hard to "be one in Christ" when those around you call you names or say you must be this terrible thing just because you have different political beliefs than they do. Differences make the world go round, yes, but there is a trust that comes with gathering together that has been breached for me. It's going to take time and processing to build that trust up again and to heal from the many hurts/wrongs that have been thrust upon me for my beliefs/opinions.
I get strength from my Heavenly Mother as I wrestle with feelings of inequality and dismissal. I get love and understanding from Her as I wonder how on earth to teach my girls how to not be afraid of their own strengths. That they don't need to be meek always, when we've been told that is the goal of the "perfect angel mother". They can be strong, independent women and still be just as important and just as valued. I, for one, would rather be a warrior mother than an angel one. (another time another post!) I find love from my Father as I teach my girls how to love their spouses. Andrew and I are a team and no one does more than the other. Our divine roles are separate from supposed gender roles. We team teach, team gift, team give joy, team discipline, TEAMWORK. In my Elder Brother I find someone to sit in the dark with me. I know He's there because He's felt what I feel, He's experienced the betrayal, doubt, and anger I feel inside. I feel love instead of solutions. I feel acceptance rather than awkwardness. I know I'm not alone and that He's with me through it all.
I've made so many friends through the internet this year. I've also become closer with online friends I already had. It's been a weird year to say the least but I can honestly say that without my core group of online and IRL friends this year would have been even harder for me. While we can't gather in person yet, I still feel such a connection with these amazing people - people can be so good. Even when it seems like everyone is on differing sides, people can be very good. Here's hoping 2021 can include a much deserved Disneyland trip for us all and a meet up with my amazing online tribe :)
2020 has been a rough year. We can all agree on that. 2021 is hopefully the beginning of beautiful things to come and changes being made that should have always been. The light is there at the end of the tunnel, and what a crappy awful tunnel this has been. So with the good and the bad, goodbye 2020 - I won't miss you.
We need to change the story
Most of you know that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and I have a calling (volunteer position) of teaching the Beehive class who are 11-13 year old girls.
This year we are having the girls teach with us and they get to pick the lesson. I was surprised when one girl picked "Why is chastity important?" as the lesson we would teach together. But I was also humbled knowing that she felt comfortable enough to suggest this one, without even giggling, and prepare for it.
I knew I needed help with this myself so I went on Instagram for opinions and insights on this sensitive subject; specifically, what you wish you had been taught as a young woman that you didn't know until you grew up. The response I had from my friends and colleagues on social media was astounding.
So many amazing insights and differing perspectives and I'm going to share them here because this is a conversation I feel we ALL need to have with our children. Especially our sweet girls.
As a youth myself I remember this lesson and feeling the blush come up on my cheeks just hearing the word chastity. That lesson was always a source of embarrassment and uncomfortable. But I never felt like I was being guilted or told I wasn't enough ever in those lessons. I was also incredibly lucky to have my mom and her two best friends as my teachers for 5 of those 6 years in Young Women, so the lessons, while weird, were never to make me feel like my only worth was in staying pure.
For others, they were not as lucky. They got the "chewed up gum" or the "mud splatted white fence"
lessons of guilt and worthlessness should they transgress. The worst thing some one shared was of a leader saying in a lesson like this was "what man could ever want someone that wasn't clean or pure?"
When I heard that from this incredible friend I felt like I personally had been punched in the gut. What a horrible thing to say!
While the law of chastity is there to help keep us pure and IS important to follow, that does not diminish our worth in the eyes of God if it is broken or a mistake is made. It shouldn't diminish anyone's worth in our own eyes.
Most of the time in our religious culture (almost regardless of which religion it is), women are shunned if they transgress with this law. I feel that this is so egregious and horrifying. Instead we should be so loving and open and willing to help them heal.
How do we help them heal? We talk of the healing power of the Atonement. The power of the Atonement is overwhelming when you start to understand it. Jesus Christ literally suffered for ALL of our sins. He did this so when we mess up, NO MATTER WHAT, if we repented of and forsook it, He would remember it no more because He already atoned for it. That is something amazing to realize.
Even if you do transgress in this way, you can recover, You can be healed. You are still so loved beyond measure. He will never forsake you, believe on that and your healing will begin. A friend equated it to a broken bone: over time you nurture it and it will heal, so will your heart.
An amazing woman opened up about how she wished that she had been able to be more open about her changing body. But she felt that every part of her was sexualized and therefore felt embarrassed to even think about asking. She feels that maybe if that had been more out in the open, she would have been able to recognize the times when she was being sexually assaulted and been able to do something.
So much of what we're taught and discussing needs to change.
We need to teach more about what our bodies are capable of: growing human beings, feeding those same babies, preparing to hopefully be able to conceive those babies as well. We need to change the story of breasts being nothing but things to oogle at. We need to change the story that women are inherently sexual and want that at all times. We need to change the story that women are the only beings "responsible" and the only ones that have to "deal with the consequences". We need to change the story that our girls have to be constantly worried about becoming a sexual object by anyone of the opposite sex.
This lesson started as just the question of why is chastity so important? It became so much more to me personally as I read story after story of heartbreak and abuse.
Moms. Sisters. Leaders. Teachers. we need to change how we speak to our young girls and boys. Chastity is a hard thing to describe and explain to a room of preteens. I want to change that. I'm not saying we share intimate details with other people however I believe that an open communication channel between kids and adults they trust is imperative. Be open about what our bodies will naturally do and want to do. If we make it so taboo to even speak of who will they go to for answers when things are hard? I want my kids (my young women included) to feel comfortable to come to me with any issues they may have. I may not have all the answers they seek, but I can help them find them.
We have a long ways to go in our society to change how we perceive things. I only hope we have enough time to teach our kids this: Sexual feelings are natural. You're supposed to have them, it's ok. It's also ok if you don't have them right now. Sex itself is a wonderful natural gift we've been given to show we love someone else so much. But it is also so much more than physical. Save that experience for the one you know will treasure you forever. Someone who will stand by you no matter what. At the right time. In the right place.
But also this: You are loved even when you make a mistake. You are worth more than all the treasure of the earth. NO matter what.
I want to wrap every single one of these amazing ladies in the biggest Mama Bear hug possible for being so brave and sharing these very intimate experiences with me. I also am sending a virtual hug to any and all who may be dealing with this now.
If you have felt shamed for anything, please know that I see you. I hear you. I hold space for you and want you here!
Kids and Questions
Oh 2018 what a crazy year you've been already! I mean, really! My kids went back to school and the next week had another day off! That's insane to me!
Jade started Sunbeams this year after being in nursery at church! For those that don't know, in the LDS church children move into Primary (the Sunday School for children ages 3-12) after they turn 3. Jade loves being in Primary with her big sister most specifically. Rory takes her to class every week now and has her sit next to her if she's feeling a bit overwhelmed. She's literally the best big sister for Jade. Rory is in CTR 5 this year too and I can't believe it! She's halfway done with kindergarten and almost a 1st grader WHAT?! They're getting so big.
After typing that I realize I'm going to be getting these a lot: "When are you gonna try for that boy?!" or "Jade really needs a little sibling doesn't she!" or "You're not done having kids are you!? You only have two!"
**insert eye roll and a forced smile here**
I'll be blunt: I don't like these questions/statements.
I'll usually laugh or scoff it off but honestly, I think it's a little inappropriate to ask those questions to ANYONE. These are sensitive questions that are only for husbands and wives and our Heavenly Parents to ask each other. Only our Heavenly Parents know how many children are supposed to come to us, They will give us the signs/info/promptings necessary to have more kids.
I used to ask people those questions especially when they didn't have any kids yet. I now know that it's very insensitive to do that. Who knows what their journey has been! Maybe they are trying and you asking that just puts another hole in their heart after yet another negative test. Or even the couple that doesn't want children! Guess what? It's not a requirement in life to have children. And if they have made that decision then it's between them and our Heavenly Parents. I'm not saying we, personally, will never have another child BUT for the foreseeable future, no.
My reasons are truly my own BUT I will share them in hopes that it may help someone else who is also feeling this way to know they're not alone.
I could not handle another child mentally right now. My anxiety is too close of a friend still. I'm still in the trenches of small child rearing. It is the hardest and most draining work I've ever done and I worked at Disneyland for a year guys. THAT was hard but this is so much harder. And to add to my already overwhelmed state would not be good for my kids.
I love having two girls. I love that we can take one on one time with them pretty easily. I can take one with me to the grocery store and have some fun talks while the other stays with Andrew and has quality time with him. That time is very important to me because I want them to know we are always there.
Financially we could have another and be fine but diapers.....guys I'm so close to being done with diapers! Jade will be potty training soon and I'd like to rid myself of the smell of them and the cost of them. Because even generic diapers still cost money. A bit selfish? Maybe, but still true.
There are other reasons as well but these came to mind first and some reasons are just too personal to share. I know as an LDS (Mormon) woman there seems to be pressure to have a ton of kids.
I have come to finally understand that your family, and it's size, is a very personal choice. It can't be one dictated by culture or guilt/pressure. And I know most people do not mean harm in asking those questions. I know that. Most people are just sincerely wondering about you and how you're doing and they mean it well. They are genuinely curious or wanting more babies to spoil ;) Which is very sweet BUT I still feel that these questions are just too personal to ask.
And so to answer the above questions:
There are no more kids in our forseeable future. I am honestly perfectly happy with the two I have. I'm not saying never because only God knows when/if more kids are up there for us. I feel like these two are the only ones for me and Andrew and for now. They are more than enough ;)
A sacred Christmas
Y'all know Christmas is my favorite time. I mean really. I put my tree up as soon as Halloween is over just because I need that sweet spirit that accompanies the season.
The other way I keep that Spirit with me is through music. I recently received Garth Smith's
A Sacred Christmas and I immediately fell in love with it.
The music is so soothing, brings the Spirit into our home and is just beautiful. Garth arranges this music so creatively and take it back to the original beauty of the piece. Simple and natural.
My absolute favorite song on this CD is Heaven's Hallelujah. Hands down the best one there. When I first heard it I was expecting the normal Hallelujah song, oh how surprised was I! And now every time I hear it I tear up because THIS is why we celebrate. It's a gorgeous rendition of the song with so much more meaning.
Most of this CD is instrumental but the vocals used are incredible! Such pure voices and the power is astounding! Just trust me on this and get yourself a copy! The link above takes you to Garth's website where you can purchase it or it's available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Spotify. You can also purchase from Deseret Book in store or online. It's completely worth the price and he's so talented I can't wait to buy more of his work!
And if you're looking for more ways to keep your Christmas Christ centered, watch my latest FB video to see the Countdown I'm using this year!
Social Media and Righteous Women
More often than not we hear about the evils of social media, or that there's just more bad than good.
Well I'm here to attest to the absolute goodness that exists BECAUSE of social media, blogging, and networking. And no, not for profits (though for some that is a huge blessing as well).
I am here to show you some of my dearest friends. All of them I've met through blogging or social media. And THEY are the good in the world.
I attended an event recently that talked about the positive force of righteous women. And how powerful we can be. As women I know we can sometimes be more harsh with ourselves and others than needs to be. A lot of us are self conscious about something or other. BUT we are also the caretakers, the peacemakers, the fighters, the drive behind some amazing things.
I have become such a better person after getting to know these amazing women (and more) in MY life. I sat with a few of them at this event recently as we also talked about the upcoming Light The World campaign for Christmas. The Savior taught us how to be compassionate, serving, loving, and above all to think of others before ourselves. All of these women have taught me something that helped these values become a part of me.
These friends of mine have shown me how to become a better mother, wife, writer, influencer, and human being.
There IS some good in social media. If I hadn't started blogging in 2008 I never would have met these amazing ladies and learned so much about myself. I've learned to stand up for things even if they aren't popular. I've learned to be myself no matter what. I've learned empathy and compassion
for those who experience different trials than my own. "The world needs righteous women" - I couldn't agree more and these are some of the most exemplary ones I know.
I normally don't get into controversial stuff on the blog but this has been pressing on my mind for a bit here, so I'm gonna just write it and hope for the best.
Most of you know that I'm LDS (or Mormon) and if you didn't now you do hahahaha I was born into the church and have lived with it my whole life. It's a big part of who I am and who I hope to become as I grow and learn.
With the presidential election, "Mormonism" has been put under a microscope and discussed and often criticized. I get that people just want to understand about what we believe, so let me tell you.
Today is my GG's funeral. I know it will be an emotionally draining day but I'm also happy that we get to gather as family and friends to celebrate her wonderful life with us ;) I miss her but again, I'm SOO happy she's with her loved ones that have passed on before her. I'm so grateful to my Grandpa Frank for loving her these past 15 years and taking care of her so well.
I'm beyond grateful for the gospel in my life. It always saddens me when I hear people say they'll never see their loved ones again. That WOULD be sad wouldn't it? I'm so happy that because of this gospel and the blessings of the temple, I'm forever sealed to my GG - hahaha she can't ever get rid of me! ;)
I LOVE this one of her and Grandpa Smith I never got to meet him in this life (he died when my mom was 7) but you can see how much he loved her in this picture ;)
See that cute little boy?! That's my grandpa! Such a cutie patootie!
Why yes, that is my mom holding a small child ;) Hahahaha Stephanie I think??
This describes her so well hahaha she always liked to have fun and show us how much she loved us.
I can't wait til I get to see her on the other side of the veil and hug her and know we'll never have to part again ;)
Love you GG!
Aurora's Blessing Day
SO we blessed Rory in church on the 16th of September and Perla was super amazing enough to take pictures for us to remember the day ;)
For those that don't know, in the Mormon church a baby is blessed by their father (or other father type figure) and it's a special prayer just for the baby ;)
Andrew did an amazing job and yes I cried through the whole thing ;) And my lovely daughter tarted talking into the microphone as soon as they walked up to the front, then she started to fuss, so all the men started "the bounce" and she quieted ;)
- Nick, Papa Smith, Grandpa Mills, Dad, Rory, Grandpa Bowler, Great-Grandpa Frank And Nick missed the "look at the baby" cue hahaha
- See my grandpa's face? That is how he looks every time he sees her ;) And she LOVES him right back ;)
- With the great grandparents from Andrew's side - and she was just really tired of all the pictures I promise!
- See how tired the poor thing was?? She snuggled right into me and fell asleep right after this picture was taken ;)
Ok, can I be selfish for a minute and mention my dress? I LOVE THIS DRESS! I got it from eShakti.com and had it custom sized cuz none of the pre-done sizes fit my post-pardum body hahaha AND IT COMES WITH POCKETS! I loved pockets before I was a mom, now they're basically essential to my wardrobe ;)
Little blue forget-me-nots
Last night I went with my mom and grandma to the LDS Relief Society Boradcast. I hadn't ever been to one (I usually had to work at the Disney Store) but boy was it needed. I didn't even realize how much I needed to hear the words of comfort and love until they were spoken.
The sisters were amazing and I'm going to try to do better about my visiting teaching and such, but I will say that the highlight was hearing President Uchtdorf speak to us.
He spoke of the forget-me-not flowers. (Which has a huge significance to me and the hubs anyways) and for us to realize that even though we may not have the perfectly blossomed red rose, we have those beautiful little forget-me-nots all around us.
He told us not to be too hard on ourselves for not being perfect right now as the world seems to think we need be. He told us to stop comparing our weaknesses to the strengths of others. Now I don't know bout you, but I definitely struggle with this. I want so much to be better with being cute all the time, or being crafty, or being someone everyone wants to be friends with, or model themselves after. And sometimes I forget how much I already have, in pursuit for what I think I need or want. This seems to be a recurring theme in us of the female persuasion ;)
I'm going to make a printable about forget-me-nots to help me remember not to focus so much on being a perfectly blossomed red rose, when I can be a beautifully small forget-me-not and still be all I can be ;)
I LOVE Conference.
I love listening to the Prophet and Apostles teach us from the pulpit. They are truly great men and I am inspired by them all the time. I have had my testimony strengthened, my spirit renewed, and I wanted to share with you my love of the Gospel.
I love my Savior with all my heart. I know He knows me and loves me. I know God hears my prayers and answers them, not in my time always but in the right time, and with the right answer. I know that I was sent here to loving parents and have a purpose here on this earth. I don't know what the purpose is quite yet, but I know I'll find it ;)
If anyone is interested in my church and beliefs please click the button on my sidebar or you can go here to see some of the Conference talks.
It's truly amazing how simple the message is, and yet so profound ;)
Here you will find love, magic, bookworm favorites, Disney tips, and a family on their journey to Happy Ever After!