April 20, 2015

Introducing the....

By Amy

All mommas work. Hard. No doubt about that! But, every momma's work looks a little different. Yes, we all take care of our home and family, (and that is SUCH an important work!) but the day-to-day routines vary a lot. Some mommas also have employment outside of the home, some are stay-at-home moms, some do outside work from their home, and some have part-time employment that they leave their home to do. Bottom line; we're all taking care of business. The choice of what work each momma does totally depends on what feels right or is necessary for her and her family.  And let me just say, you can be a great momma and a successful person in all of those scenarios!

But what about the mommas who want to earn money, but don't want to (or can't) have a traditional outside-of-the-home job? What kind of options do they have? Well if that's you, this is your lucky day! That's what we're gonna talk about in our new series: non-traditional ways that moms can make money. (And I'm not talking about selling your kidney on the black market, or anything crazy like that...) :)

Sarah, a good friend who is the sis-in-law of my sis-in-law (got that?) was cool enough to let me join her for this series! :) Sarah and I are both mommas who've chosen the "SAHM"route, but both of us have sought out ways to make money while being at home. This has been a lifesaver for me. I feel a lot better when I am able to create things and earn some money, cause it gives me an outlet for my restless, artsy, creative self. And when I feel better emotionally, I'm a happier/better momma! Plus, if I can make any money to help my little family financially, then I am very grateful. My random avenues of income, even small ones, have helped my family get through the past 3 years while my husband was working his tail off at grad school. So naturally this topic is important to me, as well as Sarah.

That's why we are super excited to bring you the Mommas Makin Moola series!  Every week on Monday we will take turns featuring a momma with a non-traditional way of earning moola. I'm excited to hear each of their unique stories...it's gonna be cool! :) Oh, and just to clarify, we are totally NOT saying that every mom should feel the need to make money. Cause being a mom is a big job by itself! But, for those of us who want to or need to, (or if you just like to hear other ladies' experiences) then stick around! :)

Our first momma making moola is Jenni Martz, a yard sale-ing treasure hunter! Pretty dang cool way to make money if you ask me! :) She will be featured on Sarah's Blog...check it out here!  

Bring on the moola. :)

April 2, 2015

King or Queen? Cuddle or No?

By Amy

Guys, my baby is starting to sleep through the night! Wahooo!!!  It is soo luxurious to wake up from a 5, 6, even 7 hour stretch of blissful sleep. I'm no longer falling asleep sitting up during the day! And, I no longer want to die when morning comes! It's awesome and magical to finally get quality, uninterrupted sleep again. :)  And, I don't know if this is just me, but when I wake up in the morning and my baby slept through the night, he is like twice as adorable! :)

You may remember my little family is staying in my parent's basement right now while my husband has his last clinical before graduation. (He's almost done! GLORY HALLELUJAH!)  One decision we had to make when we moved in was, which bedroom would my husband and I (along with our baby in his crib) sleep in?  My old bedroom or my sisters' old room?  The bed in my old bedroom is a King.  When I was in high school, my parents got it so that my room could be turned into a guest room after I headed off to college. I was super cool with having a giant King bed. It was so fun to sleep all sprawled across it; I felt like royalty! Like I was Louis the 14th or something! (Except no servant ever showed up in the morning with a breakfast tray. Such a bummer.)

But, after getting married, whenever my husband and I would visit and sleep in my old bed (which is a little strange...sleeping in my old bed, in my childhood bedroom...with A BOY! EEK! Haha!) we'd lay in that huge bed and I'd think, "It's too big! My babe is too far away from me!"  I'd have to scootch over halfway across the bed to finally reach my husband for a cuddle! (Or--let's be honest--leach his warmth and stick my icy feet on his legs! Oh he loves that.) Nope, after getting married, I definitely prefer a Queen bed. When we moved in to my parents place, we put our bed in storage and chose my sister's old bedroom as our room now, cause it has a very comfy queen. I do miss our own bed, but the one we're using is a great substitute for now.

Our comfy bed which is now in storage. The headboard is perfect for sitting up against to read, feed the baby, or just relax. :)
This is my room in high school...can you believe our crazy cat sleeping on it's back!? Ha! Hmm...books, The Beatles, globes, paper lanterns, a table for art projects...I haven't changed much. :)
Even though I love Queens, I can see how if you or your spouse is a light sleeper and the other a thrasher, a King bed would be ideal. And, some people don't sleep well while cuddling or touching, so they like a little extra space. (While I'm pregnant, it's so hard to get comfortable and I'm NOT cuddly at night. Not at all. Like, "I love you!"--insert 30 second cuddle--"Ok, good night, and please don't touch me now.")

On the non-practical side, having a King just seems so awesomely posh! I mean, who doesn't want to feel like Louis the 14th? And since none of us could ever live in Versailles, at least we could get ourselves a fancy bed! :)

So, I am curious...if you are married, do you and your spouse prefer a King or a Queen? Anybody out there have a California King? (Those seem sooo big...like it belongs in Elvis' bedroom at Graceland or something. Ha.) Does anybody squish into a Full with their spouse? Oh, and do you cuddle or just sleep to your own side?  Is that too personal to ask?  Ok, I can see that I'm pretty much a totally nosy person. :)

I thought it would be hard to sleep with another person in my bed, waking me up whenever they moved.  Plus, I was VERY non-touchy in jr. high and high school, and struggled with dating anxiety, so the thought of sleeping with a dude in my bed was kinda mind-blowing!  Haha!  It took a little while after we were married to get used to it--to not wake up from a deep sleep and be all HOLYCRAPTHERE'SAMANINMYBED!" But, now I totally hate sleeping without my hub!  Sleeping alone in a big bed used to feel posh, but now it just feels...lonely.  Funny how things change.

Well, friends I hope you have a fabulous day! I'm excited cause I've got some pretty cool stuff coming to this blogity blog in the next couple weeks, so stay tuned! :) OH, and don't forget to tell me your bed preferences, cause I'm curious. :) (Please, no TMI, mm'k?) Ha.

 Love you all!

March 10, 2015

Moving!!! ...Into my Parents Basement. Womp wommmp.

By Amy

Well, it's a bit humbling to admit, but we just moved in with my parents.  I feel like I should take up video gaming and quit taking showers since I'm almost 30 living my parent's' basement. Haha. My toddler's room is all set up in my old bedroom, my husband and I, along with our baby, are in my sister's old bedroom, and we have a little kitchen/living room set up in the room that used to be my brothers' bedroom.  Which is kinda weird.  I never thought I'd be cooking meals in my brother's old bedroom.  It was a freaking pigsty growing up.  (Ha, sorry Billy and Aaron!)

My parents converted their basement into a little apartment for my grandma, and she lived with them for about a year.  She moved back to Utah a few months ago, and it got us thinking....  Since Patrick's last clinical for his physical therapy program is at an office 10 minutes away from my parents' home, it would work so much better to stay with them!  So, we brought it up with them and they let us weasel our way in!  We'll be staying for about 2 months. We're saving gas money by avoiding a daily 2 hour commute, as well as paying NO RENT! Wahoo! My parents are awesome to let us come, and--even better--my mom wants to watch and play with my boys for an hour everyday while I exercise and shower!  She is even the one who brought it up!  She's a saint, I tell you.  Hayden is very happy about that arrangement.  In fact, we had to put a child-proof knob on the door for the stairs that go up to the main floor, otherwise Hayden is constantly escaping to find Babba and Poppy (my dad) all day, haha.  It's not the easiest thing to take your fam and live with relatives, but this is a pretty good situation.  We're on our own floor, and we will have our own separate space for meals so we can still feel like we're our own little family unit.

Moving is so bittersweet.  I've always loved change and get super excited for new things on the horizon, but I am heartbroken to leave the friends we've made in the past three years of Patrick's Grad program.  I will miss the people we went to church with more than I can even express to them.  Plus, I worried about how this change would affect my very sensitive, routine-driven two almost three-year-old.  He likes things to be familiar and comfortable. We moved with him when he was a little baby, but not since he was about 6 months old.  At least with this move, thank goodness it's to a familiar place. But when we started packing the weekend before leaving, just as I suspected, he got realllly upset. We'd had already talked about moving several times with Hayden, but I don't think it became real till he saw the boxes piling and our stuff getting packed up.  And the crazy tantrums started.  And the terrible stuttering which he hadn't done for months, started again.  AND he got a bad cold.  Oy.  The week of packing totally sucked.  Then our baby Miles got sick too.  Patrick and I had had lots of hugs and discussions with Hayden that week and I kept trying to remind myself through the stress, "You are rocking his world.  Be extra gentle."  (I was NOT perfect at this.  I was pretty overwhelmed myself, and a few times I got pretty frustrated...especially during his 100th melt-down in one morning.)  But I tried to help him through.  So, instead of doing much in the way of packing while Patrick went to the clinic everyday, I would often end up sitting on our couch, surrounded by piles of boxes, and more piles of unpacked stuff and reading books and cuddling, to calm Hayden down.  We had some good talks, like when he asked, "But can we bring Doodle?" (his baby brother.) and "Is Dadda coming too?"  OH, it's enough to break your heart! So I kept reassuring him, "YES!  Of course, we are ALL going--Momma, Dadda, Hayden and Miles! Our whole family!"

Now we are settled into my parent's basement, (living the glamour life! haha) both boys are finally healthy again, and we're getting back to the normal routine.  Hayden seems happy but the stuttering is still pretty bad.  We keep talking through the change: "This is our home now!  We have all of your toys and your special big boy bed and we have your books and we get to live here! Babba and Poppy live upstairs and we live downstairs." He seems to be adjusting.  (Oh and, is it strange that he's been wearing his fuzzy comfort blanket on his head like a shepherd for the past week?  There's gotta be some deep, psychological meaning to that...Or he wants to be a Jedi.)  Here are a couple examples:

Ha, it's pretty cute, huh?

It's crazy how mind-blowing moving is for a toddler!  (It's kinda nice that my baby wasn't even phased...haha.  He's such a happy little roly-poly sausage!) For a toddler, moving is usually taking them from the only home they've ever known--their place of security--and their whole concept of life is suddenly transplanted into a brand new setting.  In May or June, we will move to wherever Patrick finds a job....and it starts all over again.  

So, any tips?  

I'd love to hear from you...have you moved with young kids? Or even older kids? What do you do to make a move an easier transition?  

February 17, 2015

Two Second Garland Tutorial

By Amy

I spend a lot of time in my kitchen.  Feeding kids, washing dishes (curse our broken dishwasher!) using my laptop at the table while Hayden draws, etc.  I also spend a good amount of time gazing into the fridge, wondering and worrying about what to make for dinner.  (I'm working on the meal planning stuff, but it's been slow going.) Then last-second, I'll whip up a box of stove-top stuffing and put a handful of baby carrots on each plate so I feel like I made my family a healthy meal.

Since I spend so much time in my kitchen, I figured it should be at least aesthetically pleasing.  Heck, I can't cook to save my life, but maybe my husband will be so dazzled by our artistically arranged kitchen walls, he won't notice that I cooked up a frozen pizza again.  But, there are carrots too, so, it's cool, right?  Right??  (For the record, he knows cooking is straight-up stressful to me, so he is always appreciative when I do cook, even if it is frozen pizza.  On his nights, he makes stuff like enchiladas or fancy pork chops...and I am in heaven.)

Well, recently I realized that something was missing from the wall above our table.  After some pondering, here's what I made--the two second garland!  Now the wall is so dazzling, I'm pretty much set for making frozen pizzas for eternity.  Who cares what you're eating when you have such a feast for your eyes before you at every meal?  Ha!

I love that my garland is gold, cute, and simple, but best of all--it was quick.  I'm no elaborate crafter cause I lack the patience and work space.

Ok... it took more than two seconds, but it was quick.  And since my blogging lately is pretty dismal, I'm sure nobody is surprised that I didn't even think of taking pics documenting the steps.  Really, the process was really simple--let me break it down.

Step 1: Buy pretty paper from the craft store and come home with 4 other crafty items which you don't need--this will cause your husband to roll his eyes.

Step 2: Find something round of the desired size (I think I used the bottom of a spice bottle) to trace circles on the back of the paper, then cut them out while watching "The Paradise" on Netflix.  (Which will also cause your husband to roll his eyes.)

Step 3: Use scotch tape to tape the circles to whatever piece of string you have handy.

Step 4: Scotch tape the garland to the back of some pictures hanging on your wall.  Voila!  Done!

Disclaimer: If you assemble according to my instructions, don't let ANYONE touch it, or it will probably fall apart.  You have been warned.  Hey, I said it was aesthetically pleasing, adorably gold, and quirky...I never claimed it was structurally sound.  Sorry.

Check out the Napoleon Dynamite quote...tutorial is here.

Well, that's all it is!  What do you think?  You could have fun adapting this simple garland, especially if you have one of those scrapbooky shape cutter-outer punch things...you could make a bunch of garlands for a birthday party or use shamrocks for St. Patty's Day...or you could just put up a cute circle garland just because you need a little more "dazzling". :)

Love you, friends!  I'm off to assemble another glorious meal!

January 28, 2015

12 Things I Miss About Being Pregnant...and 12 Things I Really, Really Don't Miss.

By Amy

My little dude is 5 months old.  He is a chub chub chub!  And so sweet.  He's soo much easier than my first. (Hallelujah!)  And my toddler is obsessed with him, in a loving, slightly stalkerish kind of way.  :)  We're so glad he's in our family!

I gotta say, I enjoy having energy again.  Even with the tiredness of waking up in the night with a newborn, I still have bucket-loads more energy than I did when I was pregnant.  However, every time I see a pregnant lady I kind of get this twinge of nostalgia, which got me thinking about the things that were awesome about being large with child.

Things I miss about being pregnant:

1. Feeling special.  (Does that sound cheesy?  People just look at you and smile, and you feel that way too, cause you are carrying a new little human...It's such a cool feeling!)

2. Feeling cute.  (Pregnant women are just cute, cause they have awesome big bellys!)

3. Never ever sucking in. (You can totally wear shirts with stretchy material that show off the preg belly...you never have to worry about looking fat, cause--of course you're huge--you're preg!  Wahoo!  PASS THE NACHOS!)

4. Stuffing my face. (Cause the bigger the belly, the cuter the preg!  Again, PASS THE NACHOS!)

No, I didn't have twins. Ha!
5. Being able to go wherever I want with my toddler.  An infant is super portable when he's chillin' inside of me. :)

6. Having an instant camaraderie with all other pregnant ladies.  ("When are you due?  Boy or girl?  Have you been sick?"...easiest conversation starters ever.)

7. Baby name brainstorming!

8. The happy anticipation of having a new member of your family on the way! (For the first 7 months.)

9. Thick hair and clear skin.  Oh how I miss pregnancy skin.

10. I can blame eating crap (Oreos) on pregnancy cravings.

11. An excuse to take a daily nap.

12.  It was much easier to feed and care for my baby when he was inside me and hooked up to a 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet.  (I'm sure he appreciated all the Oreos.)

But then I remember all of these little details and feel so glad my baby is born.  And that I'm totally cool waiting a while for baby number 3...

Things I definitely DON'T miss about being pregnant:

1. Feeling sick and weary to the bone.  Being just. so. tired.  Like crying just because you can't believe how exhausted you are.  (I did that once when I was super pregnant hangry too...ha, anybody else?)

A non-posed pregnant pic.  So glamourous.  Am I glowing?  Ha...more like drooling.  Sooooo tired.
3. Ginormous boobs.  (And having to buy bigger bras every trimester.)

4. Worrying about how the things I do might hurt my baby. (Shower too hot?  Lunch meat or cookie dough??  Medium steak??  Fumes in the paint???  Sleeping on my back????  EVERYTHING IS DANGEROUS!)

5. Feeling insanely hot, and sweating like a greasy weasel all summer long...when everybody else feels fine.

6. It's just harder to move.  Like, bending over to pick something up kinda makes me want to swear.  (I got pretty good and picking up stuff with my toes.)

7. Running to the bathroom to pee ALL. NIGHT. LONG.

8. Disagreeing with hub on the baby's name.

9. Waiting and waiting and waiting for baby to come.  The anticipation gets old.  By the last 2 months, I'm like, "PLEASE COME OUT TODAY."

10. Just the general worry: Is my baby ok in there?  Have I felt any movement this hour?  Am I having contractions?  How far apart are they?  How much spotting is worrisome?  When is my labor far enough to actually go in to the hospital?  Will my water break in the middle of the grocery store and if so, should I break a jar of pickles on the floor to hide the fact?

11. When you get sick, you can't take much for it, and your immune system is lame when your'e pregnant (that's a scientific fact, folks.) so you are out of comission for like two weeks. Ughhhhhh.  Being sick when you're preg is wretched.

12. Indigestion, nausea, and other unpleasant digestional issues...(*cough* extra gas...please tell me I'm not the only one!)

Well, those are my lists...what can you completely relate to?  What else do you miss or not miss about being pregnant?  Or if you haven't had a baby, what do you look forward to?  I'd love to hear. :)

January 22, 2015

6 Easy (and Awesome) Pillow Makeovers

By Amy

Let's talk pillows.  I've got to talk to somebody, cause my husband is less than thrilled with my obsession.  Pillows are such a great way to change the look and feel of your room, without spending too much dinero.  A quick fix for a design junkie like me who is trying to live frugally.  So I thought I'd tell you about...

Remember these pillows from Goodwill?  Well, I knew when I bought them that yellow chevron wasn't really how I wanted them to stay, (I feel like chevron's kinda overdone at this point) but for the time being, I wanted to modify them without sewing.  This is the best kind of project: a quick and easy make-over.  Let me introduce you to my leettle friend:


Here are the marker's masterpieces:

From Chevron to Herringbone!

Now there's some variety to lessen the overdose of chevron.  So easy with a marker!  (That's how I did the love song lyrics on this pillow...)  Except my son saw me drawing on a pillow, and got a little too excited, so we had to have a talk about how only MOM can draw on the pillows.  Ha.  (Should have waited till after bedtime.)  With their simple make-over, these pillows will work until I find the perfect fabric and the motivation to actually sew new covers.

These navy blue pillows have been laying dormant behind my couch for about a year--they looked too plain and matchy-matchy with the curtains--so they too got little mini-makeovers!  I used....

2. Fabric paint. I loved what I could create with this, but I need to find a better brand cause the paint dried hard and scratchy.  Ain't nobody wants a lacerated face after they cozy up to a pillow.

I love the dots!!!

While I loved the dots, the paint dind't work as well for lettering.  I just wasn't happy with the scratchy texture on the "hello" pillow.  (Especially since three family members ended up in the ER with bleeding faces.  Ok no, but it COULD have happened!)  Also, since the fabric was a little fuzzy, the writing on the cursive didn't have nice edges.  It just looked crappy.

So, nope.  Luckily, I had 4 navy pillows...so I tried:

3. FELT!

I traced out "hello" on a piece of felt, cut it out, and used fabric glue to set it; I loved how it looked, but the word kept peeling up and coming off. :(  So when my husband's grandma visited, she noticed, and like the saint that she is, asked for a needle and thread and made tiny little stitches all the way around the letters.  It was so easy for her, she just stitched while chatting it up with everybody!  That woman is a sewing wonder. (She also saved my wedding day; I couldn't fit into my wedding dress, so she let out the seams so I could zip it without passing out cold.)  Thank you Grandma Vione, your magical sewing fingers saved me again!

I seriously love my "hello" pillow so much, I would grab it while running out of my burning house. (Of course after making sure my family is all safe...come on, I have SOME priorities.)

As for the source for the sultry pillow coyly lounging back behind the "hello," my advice it to just...

4. Splurge and BUY a dang pillow.  Does everything have to be DIY???

Sometimes, you need a certain color or a specific size of pillow to make the arrangement perfect.  I've tried to explain to my husband, it's not a WANT, it's an aesthetic NEED.  This year, I bought these iconic black and white IKEA beauties, ($15 a piece...so worth it.) cause I LOVE geometric prints and I needed a little black and white in the room.  It's not always easy to find the fabric you want, and pillow inserts are spendy too, so....if you find the perfect pillow, already made, I say it's worth the money.  So just cough it up.  And apologize to your husband later. ;)

Then I matched all these up with the teal, diamond...

5. Used-to-be-a-sweater pillow that flatters my couch much better than it did my figure.  For you that find sewing simple, this is such an easy fix.  Find some lame pillow that fits the width of the sweater, then sew up the top and bottom.  (Hence why I hoard old pillows...they can easily be covered!)  Also notice my teal...

6. Scarf Pillow.  It's made out of a pretty scarf my brother brought home from Europe that I'm just really not posh enough wear.  Another easy way to make a cool pillow--use fabric from something you already have that has a great print, but doesn't get much use anymore, like a blanket, scarf, shirt, etc.

Oh, and I almost forgot the hand-me-down white, furry pillow I snuck from my parent's guest bedroom.  (Ha, It's ok, I asked my mom and she didn't care...She's pretty cool like that.)

Well, there you have it!  My happy little pillow family, updated and made-over.  Voila!  But I'm still not sure...with the yellow or without?  (And don't mind my couches...they aren't my favorite, but until it's in the funds, I gotta make what we have look the best it can!)  Truthfully, I usually end up with the yellow and teal pillows behind the couches.  I don't like to feel crowded sitting on the couch. But when I want the house to look cute, I pull them all out. :)

I should probably include the following pic, cause that giant monkey is on the couch almost more than the pillows are!  It's from my big brother.  It's pretty much Hayden's best friend.

I like "Monk" too--it's fun to leave in awkward places, like sitting on the toilet to freak out my husband when he comes home after work, or tuck him into our bed, or leave him lurking around a corner...good times.

Alright friends, what other pillow transformations have you seen/done?  I'd love to hear!  Post any links to your pillow projects too! :)  And, be sure to tell me if you like with the yellow or without.  Peace!

January 5, 2015

Breakin Up is Hard to Do.

By Amy

A couple months ago, my son said goodbye to his soulmate: his beloved binky.

The time had come.  My son was 2 1/2 years old--too old for a binky--but I'd let him keep it this long cause I was so afraid of the repercussions of taking it away.  I envisioned nights of bawling, possible thumb-sucking, losing trust in his parents forever, years of counseling, a lifetime of repressed grief...etc.  He's a sensitive little guy, and I know this change would throw him for a loop.

Now, I know 2 1/2 years old is too old for a binky obsession.  Many moms are like, "Get rid of the binky no later than 12 months..."  But, he seriously loved the thing.  And, I must admit, so did I!  He only got it for sleep time since he was like 18 months, but man when he popped in that binky at nap and bedtime, it was like a magic sleep switch.  When he'd wake in the night, I hear him fuss for like 5 seconds, then he'd stick his bink in, and then...blissful sleep.  That's how it had been since he was 10 months.  Now, when your kid can put themselves back to sleep like that, (especially since he was such a wretched sleeper before that, waking and bawling till I came to rescue him up to 12 times some nights) you're not too eager to do anything that would upset that routine.  Sleep is so important for toddlers! (And mommas.)

But, he really was getting too old for a pacifier and I worried about his teeth getting messed up.  Also, towards the end, he started to act like an overly-clingy, needy boyfriend...he'd cry and whine every time they were separated, ask for it multiple times a day, etc.  So I had to be the firm "no binky besides sleep time" enforcer, while he had meltdowns; that was getting on my nerves in a bad way.

So, my brilliant idea (aka, pinterest's brilliant idea) was to float his binkies away on a bunch of helium balloons.

Now I had prepped Hayden for a couple days, telling him that he was too old for binkies now cause "You are such a big boy!" (insert overly enthusiastic mommy voice.)  I knew that we couldn't just pull a sneaky move and cut his binky or something...cause we have a few others in the house since we have an infant.  Plus, I knew he'd just say, "Ok, it's broken, let's go to the store and get a new bink."  No, he needed to understand that HE was done with binkys--that he was simply too old.   I also knew, because he's a sensitive little dude and needs time to adjust and make peace with changes, that he needed a way to say goodbye.  I figured fun balloons would soften the blow, or distract from what was really happening...or something.  Every time I told him that we are going to float his binky away, and he would just look at me kind of confused.  Little did he know I was fer real.  I also prepped him with bribery, of course.  I told him after we floated his binky away, we'd go get some fries!  That part he did understand.  (He looooves fries.)  So, on a Monday afternoon, I busted down to the dollar store and bought a pack o' heliums.  But I forgot the minor detail that it had been getting dark earlier.  (oops!)  So it was pretty much dark outside when I got home with the shiny mylar balloons.

Turns out that minor detail saved our bacon.

As Patrick (my hub) tied the binky to the balloons, we were both talking like this was the happiest adventure ever: Yahoo!  Balloons!  Binky is going for a fun trip!  SO cool!

Sorry for the crappy phone pics.

We let Hayden carry the balloons as we trooped outside.  Then, we told our little dude it was time to say goodbye.  With no hesitation, Hayden said, "Bye, bye bink!" and released them.  (He probably had no problem letting go because of the anticipation of getting to see the balloons and bink float up into the sky...I was shocked he didn't cry!  haha...Gotta love distraction!)

It rose about 15 feet...

and got stuck in a freakin tree.  

Patrick started whacking the branches with a rake to get the bink and balloons unstuck.  And then...

the rake was stuck in the tree too. 

This was getting ridiculous.

After a few minutes, Patrick was able to get the rake out, and then he hit the branches over and over till the balloons started to break loose and float away!  The bad part: the balloons broke free but the binky was STILL stuck in the tree.  The good part: it was dark enough that Hayden couldn't tell.

So we said, "Bye bye binky!" again and waved to the balloons floating away.  I said, "Ok, Hayden lets go inside, it's cold!" and whispered to Patrick, "Finish it."  Then, he came in a few minutes later, nodded, and said, "It's done."...like we're in some old time mob movie.  Poor binky was supposed to have a glorious end floating into the clouds, but because of the dang tree, he was laid to rest amid the garbage in our dumpster.  (I actually am pretty sad typing that.  What a crappy way for Bink to end after 2 1/2 years of loyal service!  I'm a monster.)

Well, we went out for burgers and fries, and he seemed pretty chipper--until bedtime and reality set in.  He was sad, but still went to sleep.  The next day's naptime, however, was a sobfest.

After that first night, Hayden had about 3 days of tearful bedtimes and naptimes.  He started waking up scared and weepy, and even begged through tears that his Dada go up in the sky to get binky back.  (So freakin sad.)  Whenever he asked for "binker" I just told him, "Oh, you're a big boy so you don't need binkies anymore! It floated away in the sky.  Yay!  OH, wasn't that so fun watching the balloons?!"  Now, I adamantly believe in not lying to my son, but I can truly say, "Your binky floated away in the sky!" because it DID float in the sky!  (...ok, so it only went up about 15 feet, but it still floated in the sky.)

During the three sad days, we reassured him with lots of hugs and told him that he is so so safe in our home, that he still has his favorite fuzzy blanket and stuffed animals, and that if he is scared he can pray and ask Heavenly Father for help.  One of these mornings, he told me, "I got scared and said, 'God, God, help me!" :)  So, I guess the lesson sunk in.  I love that kid. :)  We also got him a special little nightlight for his room at night that he loves.

After about a week, he didn't talk about binky anymore.  He doesn't steal his brothers and he's doing great!  After how attached that boy was to his bink, it's nothing short of a miracle.

Would I tell other moms to not do a binky?  Will I skip the binky with my second child?  Nay.  It saved our ever-lovin sanity with Hayden.  He cried so much as an infant, and the binky was one of his only comforts.  As a desperate, anxious, first-time mom, the bink was a life-saver.  Plus, babies have a need to suck, so it is very soothing for them.  So, no, even though it was a hard few days to go through during the separation, it was worth it for 2 1/2 years of comfort.  And heck, a binky is way better than the thumb!  Cause you can't cut off a thumb and send it into the sky.

Goodbye binker!  You were a good bink.  RIP.

His first binky.  Oh my gosh, a sleeping baby is THE cutest thing. In the World.
Moms, what is your take on pacifiers?  Love them?  Hate them?  Have you had to go to desperate measures to get rid of the bink?  I'd love to hear! :)

Also, If you enjoyed this post, don't forget to Share, and/or Like! Thanks. :)

And if you're new here, Welcome!  To hang out with us, be sure to Like "Swag On, Momma" on Facebook or follow through Bloglovin or Google Friend Connect. We have a lot of fun around here! :)

December 18, 2014

Simple, Meaningful Christmas Traditions your Family will LOVE! (And Momma Too!)

By Sherie and Laura
Introduced by Amy

Yesterday we talked about the goal to simplify, de-stress, and happy-ify Christmas traditions.  So, to get us started, I asked two wise ladies for input. (They are both my big sisters!  I have another big sister just as wise, but she's dealing with sick kids right now, so it's not the easiest time to sit down and write.  Love you Julie!) I asked how they accomplish simple, fun and meaningful for their families' Christmas...And here are their genius responses.  I am pretty freakin lucky to have three older sisters who teach me the ways of motherhood.  :) Enjoy!

From Sherie:
Christmas can be overwhelming with all the crafts, projects, outings, gift-giving, and Pinterest-inspired things to do. So keep it simple and keep it meaningful.

One of our favorite traditions is to go Christmas caroling. Singing favorite Christmas songs to neighbors has become a lost art, but we love to continue the tradition.

Growing up we’d go caroling a few times during the Christmas time. We mostly went to people who were lonely, elderly, or struggling in some way. I loved seeing the joy our singing brought them and the spirit that Christmas music brings. I remember one particular time caroling to an older man who had recently lost his wife who loved music. Tears filled his eyes and he thanked us over and over for our humble renditions of “Away in a Manger” and “Jingle Bells”. Our small service brought joy and a smile to all of us. We had a fun time together running from warm houses loading back into our van for the next place then piling out again. When we were older, we had two singers for each part (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) and it was fun harmonizing together. I loved it when “Silent Night” in four part harmony brought tears to their eyes. I take my little family caroling up and down our block and to certain people in our area that could use an uplift. We belt out “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and leave a simple gift. Some have heartily joined in our singing, others have smiled and thanked us for the fun, and we’ve even gotten a puzzled look a few times…. which made me laugh so hard I couldn’t sing! We love sharing our joy we feel as we celebrate the birth of our Savior and hopefully bring a little of it to those we visit!

Another tradition we enjoy was one that we did growing up as well. We have a simple, wooden manger (a shoe box can be converted as well) which we keep under the tree.

We remind our kids at the beginning of December that Baby Jesus needs “hay” to fill his manger. We keep a small gift bag filled with strips of cream material to represent the hay. When the do a secret good deed or kindness for someone, they can place a “straw” in the manger and hopefully have filled by Christmas day so it’s ready for the baby Jesus. It’s fun to see as Christmas gets closer, the kids scramble to find good deeds and be excited to serve others and make the connection that serving others is also serving our Savior, Jesus Christ.

These are such simple traditions to do, but give the maximum joy and meaning to the Holiday, don't you think?  And now I want to go caroling with her family! :)  Thanks Sherie!  Now let's hear from Laura, with her genius gift-giving strategies and simple tradition ideas.

From Laura

Since there are so many things to do around the holidays, I ask each of my kids what their favorite Christmas tradition is (I pick one too) and then we focus on doing those and don't stress out about the other extra things because I don't want to spend the money or time on doing things if they don't care about it anyway. This is a twist on the idea that my sister Sherie McDaniel told about the straw and the manger. I have a big bowl of red craft glass rocks that I put next to our kids nativity. They look like red jewels. They can put in a "gift" for baby Jesus every time they do something kind/serve. They try to fill up the bowl before Christmas. I don't get too picky about how they serve or are nice to keep it fun.

Simple no-stress, no cost, activities around Christmas time I like are: making paper snowflakes, playing games, singing songs around the piano, walking around the neighborhood at night to see the lights, reading Christmas books, just sitting on the couch looking at the Christmas tree, acting out nativity story with kids, and making homemade Christmas cards for those that might feel forgotten. On Christmas Eve, after we read the story about Jesus's birth while burning a candle with the lights off, we all write to all of the family members on notecards a little "love-note" and then put it in their stockings to read on Christmas!

When I plan out Christmas presents for my kids, I have then write out their Christmas lists to Santa in order of what they want the most, down to the least. I have them make a list of big presents and a list of small presents. So then I can just go down the 2 lists according to the budget and if I want them to have it. Every year I get each child: one present that promotes physical activity like a volleyball, mitt, scooter, bike, jump-rope, dance shoes.... I get a present that promotes creativity (art supplies, legos, craft kits, sewing, playdough... I get a present that is practical and useful for a long time. This year we are doing nice sleeping bags that they can use their whole lives that they will need anyway for girls/boys camp and family vacations. I get a few presents that are toys they really want even if I think it is kinda stupid or annoying.

I make a spreadsheet that has each child on their with the budgets so as I buy things, I can just hide the present and then type in what I bought and the cost so I keep track of what I have hidden and how much money I have left. It works out really well!

After I am doing buying everything, I then decide which presents will be from Santa and which from mom and dad and wrap them accordingly. So the kids get the same number of presents to open (you can put 2 together in one package if they are related). My kids will all get 7 presents this year, 3 from Santa and 4 from mom and dad. Then I dig them all out of the crawl space and wrap them so they all get the different kind of wrapping paper...maybe that is getting a little crazy but I think it is fun for them to have a variety. If somebody has all smaller gifts, wrap one in a big box so their eyes can pop out as much as their siblings at the size before they open it. Everything looks fair and equal!

See, what did I say?  Genius. :)  Thanks Sherie and Laura for sharing. :)  

I especially LOVE Laura's list of super simple ideas, cause I am a lazy momma.  Ha!  I remember having the Jesus' manger tradition growing up, and doing like 5 acts of service every Christmas Eve to fill Baby Jesus' bed before Christmas!  So fun. :)  I also like the idea of asking each child what tradition they love best; then you instantly have your priority ones to hit, and the rest can happen if you get to them--or not--and everyone is still happy. :)

How about you?  How do you handle Christmas gifts for your kids?  Do you go off of a budget that is the same for every child and don't worry about how many gifts they get? Go by number of gifts? Adjust the budget according to age?  Or just go with the flow and buy presents willynilly?  I love Laura's way.  Oh, have you heard this gift-giving mantra? --"Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read." That's a good one too!  

Well ladies, Christmas is right around the corner.  Don't let the busyness overwhelm you; sometimes the simplest things are the best!

Please PIN, Share, and/or Like so lots of mommas can hear these awesome ideas!  Thanks.  :) And if you're new here, Welcome! We'd love to have you hang out with us, so be sure to Like Swag On, Momma on Facebook or follow through Bloglovin or Google Friend Connect. We have a lot of fun around here! :)

December 17, 2014

Have Less Stress and More JOY this Christmas!

By Amy

Holidays...How can one word make us so happy and so stressed at the same time?

Now, I LOVE holidays.  It's so fun to have something to look forward to on the calendar--a time to celebrate the things that matter most to us, the things we don't take time to appreciate in our day-to-day.  Plus, I love reasons to get together and excuses to party.

However, they can take a lot of work.  As kids, we didn't really understand how much time goes into making a magical, memorable holiday.  But, now as moms, WE KNOW.

Here's the thing: I think we experience much more stress during the holidays than we need to.  We've got lots of burnt-out moms overwhelmed by too many holiday traditions; they're simply trying to do too much. We see other's traditions showcased on Instagram and Facebook and think, "Now, SHE is a fun mom. Why don't I do that?"  And we try to up our game.  Or, we had years that we were able to do more, and as time passes--we have more kids, busier schedules, and less energy--it starts to wear on us.  Moms try to keep up till they reach their limit, then in frustration they start quitting stuff.  But that sucks, cause then their kids have expectations from past holidays....They're like, "But moooom, why aren't we doing______(insert over-the-top time consuming tradition)?"  Great.  Add a fat dose of mom guilt to the burn-out.   No wonder some moms start to dread the Holiday season.  (Click Here for a hilarious blog post from Rage against the Minivan about over-the-top holidays.  I bout died!)

Right now I only have a toddler and an infant.  My toddler is getting close to the age where he might actually care about/notice traditions.  As this Christmas approaches, I feel like I am in the perfect position to purposely decide what--and how many--activities and traditions to incorporate into our holidays.  My goal is to prevent the cycle of holiday stress and burn-out.

I decided (this is the teacher in me) to create a tradition evaluation list.  To make the cut, a tradition has to:
1-Be meaningful.
2-Be relatively simple to accomplish.
3-Be fun for my kids.
4-I actually enjoy doing it.  (Or at least it doesn't make me lose my will to live.)

The best traditions will hit all four.  But three out of four--that's good too.  :)  I mean, some things are just for fun--not really packed with deeper meaning, like sledding and hot chocolate.  Some meaningful things aren't necessarily "oh my gosh I'm having so much fun!" like scraping an elderly neighbor's walk, but can bring a lot of joy.  Also, a few things might be less simple to accomplish, like baking for the neighbors or making homemade gifts for loved ones, but if you enjoy doing it, then it's still good!  However, if you aren't into the time and craftiness of homemade, or just can't do it this year (like when you're having health issues or caring for a newborn) let go of that expectation and remember that a thoughtfully bought gift can mean just as much!

Now, please know I'm not out here to pick apart others' traditions.  It's personal to each of us, so you gotta ask yourself: do I feel overwhelmed or bothered by a specific tradition?  If so, it's gotta go.  Some ladies love traditions and packing in the holiday activities, and are naturally inclined to do them.  If this is you, awesome!  Do what you love!  If you're all about nightly secret gifts or Elves on Shelves or hidden Leprechaun gold on St. Patty's morning, elaborate themed holiday breakfasts, and you have a separate box of decor for every holiday, then go for it!  (Just don't tell my kids about it, haha.) But only do it if you enjoy it.  If it's a crappy obligation that causes you to hate life, I say scale back.  If you find a certain tradition is too draining, I think it could be really good to have a real conversation with your kids telling them that a certain tradition is too much; they will see by your example that's it's important to make priorities and to not over-schedule our lives--aka--run faster than we have strength.

Personally, I love holiday parties and get-togethers, but some people find the holidays too busy and decline parties.  That's totally fine!  For me, I am pretty extroverted, so I love going to any kind of shin-dig; however, I feel stressed by hosting them, so I don't very often. :) Again, figure out what's best for you and your family.

I believe cutting back is the way to bring back the joy into holidays and squash the stress.  Holidays don't have to be elaborate to be wonderful.  I think spending time with family and friends, serving others, laughing, eating good food, and having fun makes a wonderful holiday.  And that can be achieved very simply.  

Plus, with the religious holidays, too much extra stuff distracts from the important reason for the holiday. So there's another good reason to cut back. :)

Now, tis the season for Christmas cheer, so I've been pondering how to help my family have the happiest and holiest Christmas possible for the years to come.

Here's what I'm thinking:  I want Christmas to be about serving, giving, fun time with the family, and Christ!  

Here are the Christmas traditions that I want to keep:

-The Christmas tree!!  Some like having a family tree with all the kid ornaments, and another tree that momma gets to decorate by herself....aka, the fancy tree!  This is an awesome idea, but I'm just gonna try to balance between kid ornaments and aesthetics cause I only want to deal with one tree. :)  I like using gold balls, both plain and glitter to be the main color of my tree.  Having a dominant color makes my tree still look cohesive when I add all of the sentimental, mismatched ornaments from my childhood.  I also want my kids to help decorate the tree...to a point. (Ha, I mean if I need to fix a few spots, cause there's 7 red balls in one spot, then I will...after they've gone to bed. :)  

-Christmas music out the ying yang.  (Starting the day after Thanksgiving.)  Daily dance party in the living room?  Yes.

-Simple, but beautiful Christmas decor.  I love wide gold and red ribbon and simple garlands. (Click here for the cutest garlands of all time!) I'm probably going to hang garlands and ribbon all around my house, hang some sparkly stars and call it good! :)  It's nice that you can use the same stuff year after year, so it isn't overwhelming.  But, if you LOVE decorating, and like to switch it up every couple years, that's cool too! :)

-Help my kids to make/buy gifts for a sibling.  Some of my favorite Christmas memories are planning and secretly getting a gift for one of my brothers or sisters.  We rotated our assigned sibling every year, since getting gifts for every sibling in a family with six kids is A LOT.  This teaches children the joy of giving, as well as the ability to graciously and gratefully accept a gift.  (Even if it's some weird popsicle stick creation from your 4 year old sister. Haha)

-Secret Santa and service!  Find a family who can't afford Christmas presents (you could ask your bishop, pastor, school counselor, etc) and let your kids help you pick a gift or two for each family member.  Or, grab a little tag off of one of those trees for children in need.  Your kids will be so excited to help pick the gifts! :)  I get overwhelmed to do the 12 days of Christmas (that's almost two weeks to commit to!) cause some nights are super busy for fams and other nights the weather is crappy, so it makes it simpler for you to just drop off the gifts on their doorstep in one happy dump of joy! :)  My sisters will both share awesome traditions in their posts that help kids get excited to serve. 

-An evening of singing carols to older couples, widows, widowers, nursing home, anyone lonely, friends, neighbors, etc.  You don't have to be the Von Trapp Family Singers--it's having visitors when you are lonely that means so much!

-Seeing Christmas lights.  This is super easy, cause you can do it on your way home from the grocery store for heaven sake!  Just slow down or pull over by an awesomely lit up house and let the kids oooh and ahh.  Those people can go to the trouble of hanging over-the-top christmas lights, and you can enjoy their efforts from your warm mini-van. :)

At Temple Square in Salt Lake City to see the lights with my bro and sis-in-law.  Cold, but fun!
-Papa Murphy's pizza on Christmas Eve.  (I made this tradition up.  Can you tell?  Ha!)  This one makes life easier for mommas: Cause who wants to have a fancy meal to prepare when you've got to make a big ol' turkey dinner the next day?  I'm gonna do the same thing for Thanksgiving Eve.  (Actually, I think I'm gonna try to incorporate take-and-bake pizza into every holiday...)

-Decorating Christmas Sugar Cookies (or some kind of variation).  If baking is your thing, awesome!  (Invite me over! Ha!)  Problem for me is, I despise baking.  And...I binge out on cookies, (and the dough) then I feel ashamed.  So, unless my hub wants to get ambitious...I probably won't make trays of sugar cookies.  This might be a special "at Grandma's house!" tradition.  I could modify this one...either store-bought cookies to frost or just skip it and make hot chocolate and orange rolls (from the pillsbury cans) instead.

-Gifts: I want to use my sister Laura's genius method for my kids' gifts (Which she will be sharing on the blog soon, so stay tuned! :)  As of now, I don't worry about getting gifts for my kids, cause they're so little.  I just let the Grandmas spoil them. :)  My husband and I make a list for each other to chose from and we give a gift to each of our parents and the assigned sibling from each family.

Last year, at my in-laws house for Christmas, Hayden's favorite gift of the day was little box of Goldfish crackers from his stocking! Ha, see simple really is best. :)
-As for taking goodies to neighbors, I think I'll start doing what my mom does...she buys some pretty ornaments in the day after Christmas sales, and hands them out the next year with a happy Christmas note to friends and neighbors.  Or, like my neighbor did this year, put a cute Christmas tag on a Mason jar and fill it with Christmas Candy!  Genius.  Then I don't have to bake.

-Christmas movies! This is a really easy, fun, and nostalgic tradition for the whole family.  A few of my favs: "Muppets Christmas Carol!" The old "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." "It's a Wonderful Life." and "Elf".  Also, for Sunday evenings, there are some beautiful movies depicting the Nativity.  

-Christmas Stories.  I already read a couple books a day to my toddler, so why not swap out "Hop on Pop" for "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."?  Everybody needs to own that book.  I love it!!!  Check out a few more that I love: "The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey" and "The Gift of the Magi."  They are both gorgeously illustrated, and both make me cry--in a good way! :)

My little dude and I reading a Christmas book....cozy!  
-Remembering the Savior.  There are some really great, simple ways to remember Christ at Christmas.  (Two of which my sisters will share in the next two posts!) For Sunday evenings in December, as well as Family Home Evenings, I want to share true stories about Christmas giving.  (If you're like, "What is Family Home Evening?" Let me explain: Mormons are encouraged to gather as a family one evening a week, usually monday nights.  Often a lesson, activity, and treat happen, but anything as a family goes!)

I love to reserve Christmas Eve as a reverent time to spend as a family focusing on the Savior's birth. After all, that is the good news of Christmas!  Growing up, every Christmas Eve my family sang Christmas hymns and brought down the nativity one piece at a time, while reading about the Savior's birth from Luke and finishing with John 3:16.  We'd talk about how He gave His life as the ultimate gift to each of us, then we'd go around the room and each share how we personally felt the Savior's love and blessings that past year.  After that, my family wrote notes to every person in the family and left them in each other's stockings.  I love reading those little notes of love from my parents and siblings.  Our Christmas Eve traditions still mean so much to me.  I'd feel so close to my Savior and my family those nights.  I think it's good to take the time to celebrate the Savior on Christmas Eve, then enjoy a day of fun, gifts, and partying on Christmas day!  You make sure to get in the most important part before all the crazy fun. :)

I'm still not sure on Christmas Cards (Thinking about addressing and mailing all of those envelopes makes me wanta vomit.)

Well, that's my list!  I will have to see if it's too much as the years go by and cut if needed.  But, for now I like this list!  This Christmas, and Christmases to come, I don't want to do things out of obligation--I want to do them because they enrich the holiday season for the whole family, mom included.

After all, Mom shouldn't have to become a frazzled slave every December.  She deserves to enjoy the holiday too! 

That's why I chose to make/keep traditions that bring joy, not stress! :)

Well, thanks for reading, friends!  I'd love to hear your input...what simple/awesome traditions do you love to do with your fam?  Have you ever experienced holiday burn-out or cut any traditions? Do you send out Christmas cards?  (I totally wanted to this year, but my hub just informed me it's too late; they won't get there in time! :(  Phooey, I am such a procrastinator.)

If you appreciated this post, please Like/Share it!  And if you're new here, Welcome!  We'd love to have you hang out with us, so be sure to Like Swag On, Momma on Facebook or follow through Bloglovin or Google Friend Connect.  We have a lot of fun around here! :)

Also, be sure to tune in tomorrow for a guest post with a couple genius/simple Christmas traditions from Laura and Sherie, two mommas who got it all figured out. ;)  (They'll roll their eyes when they read that. Ha!)

Ps. This post will be linked up to the Be.You.Tiful link party...there are TONS of great posts there every week, so check it out! :)


December 1, 2014

Sunday Thoughts: Meet This Mormon!

By Amy

*Sometimes, I share a post that is less about toddlers throwing tantrums in Walmart and more about the bearing of heart and soul.  This is one of those.  Here on SOM, we talk about the things that matter most to us--for many of us that includes our faith and religious beliefs.  I hope that we can all show respect and learn from each other's perspectives, even if they are different from our own.
Thank you for allowing me to open my heart to you!*

So, there's a new movie that came out in theaters called, "Meet the Mormons."  I haven't seen it yet, but I'm excited to see it (cause I am one! Ha!) and it will be so interesting to see how we as a group of people are portrayed.  (Ps. I've heard that it will be coming out on Redbox and Netflix, so you can check it out there too!)  But, ya know, if "Meet the Orthodox Jews" or "Meet the Amish" or "Meet the Buddhists" was in theaters, I'd be excited to watch any one of them.  I love learning about other cultures and religions.  (I was a Geography minor in college--I'm pretty much a geography nerd.)  I love people and hearing their stories. :)

Because of this extra exposure that my church is getting (as well as the negative attention and misunderstanding we've had in the media off and on through the years) it seems like more and more Mormons are trying to be super open about their beliefs, to welcome any questions and clear up misunderstandings.  Kind of like saying, "This is who I am and I am happy to let that shine!"

Sometimes people ask, "Why are you guys so into telling others about your church?"  Here's the way I think of it:  Let's say I go to a new restaurant that's not super well-known.  And it is AMAZING!  Seriously, the best food I've ever had.  The first thing I want to do after that delicious meal is tell everyone, "Oh man, you GOTTA try this place!!!"  You want to tell the world!  It's human nature--we like to share what we love so that others get to experience it too!  And that is just a silly example.  My faith is so much more important to me than an awesome restaurant.  It truly brings me so much happiness and direction in life, so why wouldn't I want to share that joy with others that I care about?  And, it's ok if I share my beliefs with someone and they tell me they aren't interested, I totally respect that, and our friendship is still the same. :)  But, I like to share cause you never know who is searching for a way to come closer to God, and maybe I could help them on their path. :)

(PS. Just for a little clarification, the real name of our church is: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints".  We are 100% Christian!  The name "Mormon" is a nickname, since we believe the Book Of Mormon (an ancient record written by the prophets God called in the Americas) to be scripture along with the Bible (which you probably know is an ancient record written by God's prophets and apostles living in the regions around Jerusalem).  And since our name is kinda long, people started calling us "Mormon" and it stuck!)

Anywho, I'd like to tell my own story...so you can meet this Mormon.  :) (It's kinda long...but some stories just are.  You have been warned. :)

I grew up in a Mormon home.  Before I can remember, my mom was singing to me, "I am a Child of God." and "I'm trying to Be Like Jesus." (classic Mormon children's songs.)  My parents taught me to pray, to read the scriptures, to be kind, and most of all to follow Jesus.  I was a happy little girl, who sang constantly.  My family called me "Amy Poo Lovey" and "Lovey" cause I was such a hugger.

At eight, I was baptised.  I was young, but I knew that I wanted to follow Jesus my whole life, so I was excited to make that choice.

But as I got older, I became less open-hearted; I was skeptical and jaded.  At some point during Jr. High, I decided I never wanted to be "girly" since people equaled being "girly" with being "weak and silly."  So it became my mission to be this tough tom-boy; I laughed at anything I considered emotional or cheesy.  I literally RAN when my mom tried to give me hugs.  I would roll my eyes and snicker when my parents got emotional talking about love or spiritual things.  (Sheesh, I was such a brat.)  I don't know why I was such a pain...teenage hormones or something.  Also, I think in part, this was a way to kinda mini-rebel against my parents, who I felt were too strict. (Now I know they were doing their best and I was being very dramatic about it.)  I wanted to rebel to hurt them, but I didn't want to do anything stupid that would ruin my life like doing drugs or getting terrible grades.  And I was way too scared of boys to rebel by dating some bad boy!  Haha!  So I just stayed bratty to my parents, even though I never quit going to church or praying.  At family scripture study and prayer, I just acted too cool to care.

During this time I didn't have a strong relationship with God like I had had when I was a full-of-faith, open-hearted little kid.  I didn't even know for sure if He was there.

The weird thing?  Even though I acted too cool, I desperately wanted to believe there was a God.  I hoped He was there.  I wanted to trust in Him.  I just didn't know.  Everybody talked about feeling God's love or feeling the Spirit...but I didn't think I had ever felt it.  I thought I was broken, since everyone else seemed to feel and recognize the Spirit.

I also started to worry: what if I was only in this religion cause it was how I was raised?  After all, I was only 8 when I decided to be baptised, just a little kid!

My church taught about Jesus Christ.  But, how could I know if He had really existed?  I didn't even know if there was a God, so how could I know if he sent His Son to earth to die for our sins?  And how is that even possible?  It seemed far-fetched at times.

My church also taught that the Book of Mormon is a book of true scripture: that while the prophets and apostles kept records of God's dealings with them over in Jerusalem, on the other side of the world, in the Americas, God called prophets and taught those people too!  The Book of Mormon was the record that they kept--it also testified of Jesus Christ and His gospel and works in harmony with the teachings in the Bible.

My church also taught that the same church that Jesus Christ organized when he lived on the earth--with apostles who had authority given to them by the Savior--had been organized again on the earth.  That after the Apostles and early christians were killed off and the pure gospel doctrines were distorted over the hundreds of years that followed, God called Joseph Smith to be a prophet again on the earth--a legit prophet, like Noah and Moses.  Once again Jesus Christ's church was on the earth, led by a prophet and apostles who had the same authority that Christ had given His apostles in the ancient Christian church!  That the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormons) was that restored church, with all of the full teachings and authority once again restored, not by a man, but by God.  That Christ leads our church through a living prophet of God today!

That is a pretty freakin bold claim.

I didn't know if it was true.

I wanted all of this to be true, cause so many people that I loved and trusted believed in it.  I knew they weren't lying to me, but I was so scared that we were all just believing what we wanted to believe.  I desperately wanted to know if God was there, if Jesus was real, if my church was truly Christ's own restored church--all of it.  But I was scared.  What if I asked God and I didn't get an answer?  So I kept scoffing at spiritual things and acting flippant, to hide how worried I was that I didn't know what everyone else seemed to know.

Looking back, I can see that I was being controlled by fear.  My anxiety and skepticism was blocking me from feeling peace from God.  It's like I would feel good at church or while praying and I'd talk myself out of those feelings!  I'd replay all those doubts in my mind, thrusting out the seed of faith every time it was planted.

Deep down, I always had those feelings of faith there.  I had a strong foundation lovingly laid by my parents.  They tried to help me and answer my questions, but I didn't really want to hear it from them. They were wise not to push me as I searched for my own answers.

And, these answers did come, as the scriptures say, "line upon line" a little at a time.

The first time I remember strongly feeling God's love as a teenager was during a really hard trial that my family went through.  Remember my sister Sherie's post about when she lost her first baby not long after she was born?  It was devastating.  I was distraught and could not understand how a loving God could let this happen.  No one would be better parents than my sister and her husband.  It was so hard to see my sister in such pain.  While my tiny niece lay in the NICU, kept alive by tubes and machines, I prayed harder than I'd ever prayed before.  I remember pleading with God to provide a miracle. Then, ever so softly, I was filled with the peace.  He assured me that He loved me and would care for my sister and her husband, but He couldn't answer my prayer in the way I wanted.  And I kept feeling His assurance and love through the funeral and the next few days.  Many in my family, including my sister and brother-in-law, later talked about feeling God's love lifting and supporting them through their grief.  Little Jana's few days on earth profoundly influenced my faith, as well as many others.  I fully believe that I after I die, I will get to meet her again and I look forward to that day!

After this trial, I knew that God was there and that He loved me.  I had felt his love so strong, and I no longer doubted. I knew I hadn't dreamed it up, He really had comforted me and taught me.  After that, prayer became much more real to me--it went from, "Well I hope someone is listening" to "Hi Heavenly Father, I know you're there."  But I was still searching for answers about everything else.

In my seminary class (many Mormon teens take 4 years of seminary, which are classes where they study scriptures) that year we were studying the New Testament.  As I read the accounts of Christ--His life, His compassion, His teachings--in the Gospels, I just knew it was all true.  I was so moved by His miracles and His love for the poor, the sick, and the doubtful--people that others forgot and ignored.  I cried when I read about Him being beaten and spit on, then giving His life for us...for me! I imagined the sorrow of the apostles, His mother, and the other early saints and followers, followed by their overwhelming joy when they saw Him resurrected.  It felt so real to me.  I had been told these stories my whole life, but this time, really studying them on my own, my faith began to flourish.  I loved Jesus and believed that He was the son of God.  I loved how He lived--and just like when I made the choice to be baptised at 8, I knew I truly wanted to follow Him.

One day, my friend's dad, (he served in church leadership with my dad...he's such a great guy, super fun, but so wise!) asked me if I knew for myself that the Book of Mormon was a true book of scripture from God.  He also asked if I knew for myself that this was Christ's true church and if I knew that Joseph Smith was truly called of God as a prophet.  I trusted him and felt safe answering him truthfully, so I said, "I don't know.  I believe it's true, but I can't say that I know."  And he said, "Do you want to find out?"  I said that I did.  So he told me, "Then you'll have to put in the effort.  Show God that you're willing to do your part.  You need to study and really pray and He will answer you."  So I did.  I began to read the Book of Mormon with more intent, really studying it.  I also asked God to help me know if it was true or not, and if the church was true.  But, I didn't really know what to look for as an answer.  People described feeling the Spirit as a burning in their heart or like a "warm blanket."  So I kept waiting and waiting for a warm blanket feeling while continuing to study and learn.

Then, at a seminary testimony meeting at the very end of my senior year, I was listening to the other kids share their testimonies of the gospel.  Suddenly, I literally felt compelled to go share my testimony.  Like I would pass out or puke or die if I didn't!  In a panic I silently prayed, "But Heavenly Father, I believe it's all true and I think it is, but how can I say I KNOW?"  And I felt assurance like I should say it anyway.  Talk about scary!  Me--the girl who scorned showing emotion--was suddenly in front of over a hundred other teenagers, crying and saying, "I know that God lives and this is Christ's true church."

I believe it was God's way of asking me to take a leap of faith, to trust in all the good feelings I'd been having for the past few years of my search.  So I did.

And you know what?  As I said the words, I felt so good!  When I sat back down, the thought came to me, "This is not how a person feels when they tell a lie.  I really do know it's true!"  And I cried even harder, because FINALLY I had my answer for myself.  I wanted to shake the person next to me and say, "How crap, I really really DO know it's true!!!!"

It's so funny to look back and see that God was trying to guide me all along, but I was resistant because of my own doubt and fears and skepticism.  

I learned that faith takes an open and soft heart.

Plus, everyone feels the Spirit differently...I most often feel it as peace and joy and just "feeling right" about something--never the "burning in my heart" physical warmth that I was looking for as a teen. :) Haha, I don't know why I was so hung up on needing to feel that!  So, I was receiving my answer all along, I just didn't know how to recognize it.

My conviction grew and grew, and over time, it became so much who I am; my faith shapes my desires and decisions.  After three years of college, I decided to serve as a missionary for my church. It felt like my chance to give back to my Heavenly Father for the blessings and spiritual guidance He’d given me in my life.  If I could help others feel the joy of coming closer to Him, then being away from my family, wearing a dress every day (yikes!) and halting my education for a year and a half would be worth it.

Here's a couple pics of me as a missionary in Missouri and Oklahoma.

I'm on the right, with two of the missionaries I served with!  I served with so many AMAZING ladies! (And guys too!)

Such a sweet man!  He was baptised when he was like in his 70's...he inspired me so much.  When many people become more set in their ways as they get older, he loved learning and increasing his faith.

Some cute kids in a family I taught.
Since my high school days, I've realised that getting a testimony is not just a one-time thing.  Over and over again my faith is strengthened.  Like when I have an answer to prayer, when I feel uplifted by a lesson at church, when I read a scripture that turns out to be just what I needed that day, when I reach out in love to my children and others, or when I am having a hard time and someone reaches out to me!  I feel God's love and my testimony is renewed and strengthened--It keeps feeling right.  I see now that even when I was a skeptical, bratty teen, He was always there.  And I know He always will be.

Now that I'm a grown-up, raising kids of my own in a world that's got a lot of evil in it, this reassurance gives me the courage to move forward, trusting in Him, knowing that He will guide me and my family.

My three favorite scriptures also give me courage that I don't need to fear the future if my foundation and first priority is living as a follower of Christ.

"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33.

"Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not." Doctrine and Covenants 6:36.

And this scripture where a prophet is speaking to his sons: "And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." Helaman 5:12

I love those three scriptures so much!

Now, I get to teach my children how to pray and love others and follow the Savior.  (I hope none of my kids will be as bratty to me as I was to my parents...but it will serve me right if any of them are!  Ha!)  I know that in this crazy world that seems to just be getting worse, the best protection I can give my children is to help them nurture their faith, so that they will have their own strong foundation.  When we are on the Lord's side, we don't need to fear!

Well, that was my very long story. But, it's all true and I'm glad I could share it with you!  Please tell my your thoughts, especially if you have questions for me! :)  If you believe in God, how did you come to know that He was there?  I'd love to hear. :)

And, whoever you are, I know that God loves YOU.  You are precious to Him because you are His child.  If you'd like to get to know Him or learn how to pray, I'd recommend putting forth the effort to gain a relationship with Him.  It is life-changing.  Here's a good place to start.  If you already have a relationship with God, but you'd like to gain more knowledge and understanding about His plan for you, I'd recommend this website to you too! :)  It's so good!

I hope you take this post as I meant it, to share what is important to me.  Please know that I while I love to share my own faith, I love and respect all people for their beliefs!  :)  If you appreciated this post, please Like and/or Share.  Thanks a million!  I think sharing our stories can open hearts and bring about better tolerance and understanding of each other.

Remember, I'm always looking for ladies to share their stories, so please check out the "Wanna Contribute?" button up on the right side of this blog! :)  And if you're new, Welcome!  If you wanna party with us, follow along through BlogLovin, or you can like Swag On, Momma on Facebook, or your can join this site through Blogger.  So many options!  We have a lot of fun around here. :)