The Vacation with the National Parks

So I decided to compile all my favorite pictures from our vacation into one place. This was such an amazing vacation spent with family and it was just what I needed before heading off to school next month. We went to 3 different national parks (Grand Canyon, Zion, and Glacier), and visited family along the way. It was wonderful and honestly it has been sad to be back to reality. Some of these pictures are just to be funny, but others I’m really happy how they came out and were able to show the beauty of these places. Being completely in nature and distant from the world of social media for a short time was just what I needed, and I can’t wait to go back to the mountains. I hope you enjoy!

P.S. If you care a lot about looking at them in full quality, you can click on the picture and it’ll look better. But that’s also a lot of work for every picture so I’m just letting you know in case you haven’t done anything all day and want to suddenly do lots of work. lol!

 

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I call this, "sam's-tent-selfies"

I call this, “sam’s-tent-selfies”

Weird lizards that reminded me of the scary ones from the movie Holes.

Weird lizards that reminded me of the scary ones from the movie Holes.

Colorado River, from Plateau Point

Colorado River, from Plateau Point

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After we hiked up.

After we hiked up.

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Watching the sun set was one of the prettiest things ever!

Watching the sun set was one of the prettiest things ever!

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Love them.

Love them.

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The Narrows at Zion

The Narrows at Zion

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I got to stop by the Salt Lake City Temple with Jenny and Luke. Its so beautiful.

I got to stop by the Salt Lake City Temple with Jenny and Luke. Its so beautiful.

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Country Roads

Country Roads

Marmot

Marmot

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The Highline Trail at Glacier.

The Highline Trail at Glacier.

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Marmot 2

Marmot 2

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John wanted to be in same picture., but sam didn't want him to be.

John wanted to be in same picture., but sam didn’t want him to be.

So now this picture exists.

So now this picture exists.

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Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake

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Chacos for the win!

Chacos for the win!

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Sam's Christian Rock album cover. "Never Walk Alone"

Sam’s Christian Rock album cover. “Never Walk Alone”

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This was his hat hair.. honestly I'm impressed.

This was his hat hair.. honestly I’m impressed.

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Sam and Dad saw this momma moose. The camera has no zoom in this pic.

Sam and Dad saw this momma moose. The camera has no zoom in this pic.

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Iceberg Lake Trail

Iceberg Lake Trail

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The grizzly that Sam and Dad saw.

The grizzly that Sam and Dad saw.

The brown bear that they saw a few minutes later.

The brown bear that they saw a few minutes later.

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Taken from the balcony at Many Glacier Lodge

Taken from the balcony at Many Glacier Lodge

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John got pooped on by a bird.

John got pooped on by a bird.

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This tree was shaped so weirdly perfect for sitting on.

This tree was shaped so weirdly perfect for sitting on.

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Hike up to Grinnell Glacier

Hike up to Grinnell Glacier

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Lower Grinnell Lake

Lower Grinnell Lake

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This is the creeper pic we got of "Trader Joe". He was this legit mountain man that had homemade trekking poles.

This is the creeper pic we got of “Trader Joe”. He was this legit mountain man that had homemade trekking poles.

Many Glacier Lodge

Many Glacier Lodge

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Hidden Lake Trail

Hidden Lake Trail

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Baby goat.

Baby goat.

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This place reminded me of the Garden of Eden.

This place reminded me of the Garden of Eden.

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We had to walk up that, which is much steeper than it looks. I also wasn't wearing hiking boots, so it was even harder for me people!

We had to walk up that, which is much steeper than it looks. I also wasn’t wearing hiking boots, so it was even harder for me people!

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Brown bear cubs at the base of the tree.

Brown bear cubs at the base of the tree.

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Last picture of the trip. It was so sad to leave.

Last picture of the trip. It was so sad to leave.

 

 

 

 

Because I Have Been Given Much…

Lately in my life I have been feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Isn’t it funny how we often fail to notice the ways in which we have been blessed immensely when we’re in the thick of it, going through the mundane tasks of life just trying to survive the day until bedtime?

 

My feeling of overwhelming gratitude keeps spilling over the edge of the cup lately, bringing me to tears fairly often (that may also have something to do with pregnancy hormones however).

The first part of why I have been feeling so grateful is because of a more obvious blessing

My husband just recently was offered an amazing opportunity to advance in the path he would like to go in with his career. This new job is a HUGE step up from his old one, in several different ways. We keep pinching ourselves to make sure it’s real because it really is SUCH a huge blessing to our family and nothing like this has ever happened to us before. I mean, we’ve been blessed in some pretty huge ways, but never such a drastic positive change in our lives so quickly (besides when we got married and have brought new children into the world haha). I’ve actually had nightmares about it all being taken away from us as quickly as it came because it still just seems so good to be true that there’s a part of me that still doesn’t believe that it is.

 

I think this blessing has been in the works for us for a while though. Around this time last year we were praying and asking if we should try going to Texas for the summer for Alex to try out summer sales. We prayed a lot about it. We felt good about it. We felt like it was an experience we needed to have. We felt the need for a change so we took the chance. The kids and I had a lot of fun in Texas and Alex worked hard. And he struggled. It became harder and harder for him as time went on and things became stressful for all of us as a result. We wondered why we weren’t finding the success we’d hoped to find when we had felt so good about coming. Why weren’t things easy? Why were we struggling so much? Did we misread the situation? Did we make the wrong decision? Time and time again I prayed and I kept feeling like there was something more and to be patient. I thought this meant that we needed to stay longer and wait for it to get better in Texas. So I kept convincing Alex not to give up and we prayed harder, read more scriptures, and tried to stay positive in our difficulties. I grew tired of watching my husband be miserable and I got the thought one day to start putting together a killer resume and cover letter for him and send it out to everywhere I could think of that was hiring.

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I never would have done this if Alex hadn’t been struggling and unhappy, and he was always content at his other job before the sales so I wouldn’t have done it then either. During my “let’s find you a new job that will further your career and make us more money” kick, Alex decided to text a guy he knew who was a dealer support rep for a great company, and asked him if they had any open positions or if he knew of anyone or had any connections in similar positions with other companies like it, because he was interested in getting into that line of work. He planted a seed.

 

A few weeks later we prayed yet again after Alex was offered a promotion at his other job if he came back right away. We felt like it was time to leave Texas and go back home. We felt a little defeated and confused, but also blessed that he was given a promotion in coming back home. So we came back home and it was honestly a little hard for me. We came back to a moldy apartment and I was reminded of how old and cheap it was, how it was falling apart and had this weird smell you could just never get rid of. The first week we were back I may have cried a few times. I was being selfish of course, and not feeling grateful for all that we had. I was just so sick and tired of not having enough money to go around, of living in this super old smelly, moldy townhome, and it all seemed worse than how I remembered it. I thought going to Texas was the opportunity that we needed, but didn’t realize yet that we weren’t meant to go there to make money, but to change our mindset.

 

After we had returned we got back into the normal scheme of things. Pretty soon, Elijah started preschool, Sophie got back into dance, Alex got used to his new position, and we moved on. I started looking at different places (townhomes or duplexes) to live because I was determined to make a change if I wasn’t happy with something in my life and a townhome or duplex change was a doable change for us, especially because with Alex’s new promotion came a slight increase in pay and we had been already living in a place that was well within our means and could have been paying more in rent month to month to begin with if we’d had to.

 

During this time Alex was told by his friend he had texted over the summer that this friend’s position was about to open up because he just got promoted to a new one, and if Alex would put his resume into the ring, he would fight for him to get it. We got so excited and so hopeful about this. We tried not to get our hopes up too much but we did. And this went on for at least a couple of months as we waited to know if he would get the job or not. We talked about all the ways the pay increase would help us and dreamed about having great benefits and some of the other perks that came with the job… And he didn’t get it. They gave it to someone else who had more experience instead. This was such a bummer for us. We were both kind of devastated, even though we told ourselves we wouldn’t get too excited about it. It was kind of hard not to.

 

A couple of months after our let down, we were informed by Alex’s friend that the person they had offered the job to decided not to take it in the end or for whatever reason it didn’t work out. So the position was back up for grabs. Alex sent his resume in again and, again, his friend fought for him. This time he got an interview. And then 2 more. Here we were, waiting, yet again. The process took about 2 months I believe, from when he sent his resume again to when they gave him a final answer. It was excruciating for us to wait that long to hear back about something that was such a huge deal for us. Alex was stressed about it and we both were trying hard not to let ourselves get too excited this time, even though we kept getting little clues that this time it might actually happen. And then he was asked to meet with them in person and they made him an offer of employment. We took the weekend to pray again and make the final decision, and then he accepted their offer.

 

This job is, like I said, one of the biggest blessings we have EVER received. It makes a world of difference for us, financially, career-growth-wise for Alex, benefits-wise, and in many many other ways. THIS was the opportunity we needed and I can promise you if we hadn’t taken a difficult path this time last year that forced us to no longer be content with the way things were, it never would have happened. Alex never even would have thought about trying to see if he could get into a dealer support rep position somewhere if it weren’t for our struggles in the middle of the summer last year. I feel like all the struggles we have gone through in the last year have all been worth it and we have come out the other end of the tunnel, into such blaring light I almost feel blinded by it. I feel blessed beyond measure and still can’t believe it’s all real.

 

–I also forgot to mention that in the fall, when we were still struggling to figure out what we needed to do, we also made the great leap of faith to welcome another child into our family and I found out I was pregnant in October, right in the midst of all the uncertainty. I knew it was right for us and I knew everything would fall into place, whether Alex stayed with his current job in his new position or found something different. Now I feel extra blessed that we have received this huge blessing just in time to welcome the new baby into the world. I’m so glad I felt such comfort and peace about the idea of having another child and that I didn’t let uncertainty, doubts, or fears keep me from doing it. Heavenly Father has never let me down before and I knew if He wanted us to do something, He would bless us for it–

 

There’s another part to my cup of overflowing gratitude though. The usually less obvious part. I have recently been blessed with the realization of what a great life we have had together so far since being married. I have been able to see what Heavenly Father sees when he looks at our family.

Here’s how: This week I have been forced to go through my phone and delete pictures and videos from it as the storage has finally gotten full after a year of having it. Many of these videos are at least a year or 2 old, as some were brought over from my old phone before this one. So I’ve been going through and watching all these older home videos from a year or two ago, when my kids were so much more babyish than they are now. I cried several times watching these happy little moments, that are mostly just the mundane everyday little moments I happened to catch on camera. Some were the whole family doing things like bowling or sledding together, some were the kids and Alex playing together, and some were just the kids singing/saying/doing cute things. I cry because I am once again overcome with gratitude for and reminded of the beautiful life I’ve been given. I have 2, almost 3, beautiful kids, a wonderful husband, and despite all the ways we have struggled up until this point, we have been overall happy. We are living such a happy life, even if we don’t always realize it in the moment. When I look back in time through these little videos, it’s like through fresh eyes that can more easily see all of the happiness we’ve had in our home and that is the biggest blessing of all. Heavenly Father has so sweetly reminded me that we have each other, regardless of anything else that we may have or not have. We will always have each other. And isn’t that the most important blessing of all?

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I’m so excited we get to have another person in our family soon. That we have the opportunity to increase our happiness even more. And I can’t say it enough: I am SO so grateful.

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How I built a Healthy Relationship with Food

Growing up I prided myself on always being “small” my friends and others around me would often make comments “you’re so tiny” etc. I credited this to my excellent genes. Then around my senior year of high school, after I quit lacrosse I slowly started to notice some of my clothes didn’t fit super well. My jeans started to feel a bit uncomfortable and my face didn’t look as cute in pictures anymore, in fact it became hard to find a picture that I felt I looked good in. Still, I was in relatively good shape and attractive I just told myself I had a more “voluptuous and curvy” shape. I went to college and developed what I call “Skinny-Girl” syndrome. This is where you feel you are immune to not ever gaining weight because of your fantastic genes and so called “high-metabolism” I had ice-cream from the BYU creamy almost every day. I would have multiple snacks during the day and my regular exercise turned, well not-so-regular. All of the sudden this “amazing-genes girl” gained 20 pounds (maybe even more) my freshman year of college. I felt like I had to put on so much make-up and always do my hair to feel attractive. I would wear leggings because they were more “comfortable” (no other pants fit well) and would feel self-conscious going anywhere. I started to have this dooming worry that I was just going to keep getting heavier and heavier the rest of my life. Does it sound familiar to any of you?

Thankfully with my college education – Bachelors in Exercise Science. I learned somethings that helped me implement habits into my life that instead of steadily gaining weight I steadily lost weight and feel great about myself. I didn’t have to do a crazy diet, or even exert much self-control. I just noticed my habits and changed my surroundings to cut out bad habits and create good ones. Here is a list of my bad habits and how I changed them. (Your list would be different depending on your habits)

1) SNACKING:

  • I make menu plans. If I know what Im having for dinner I don’t snack as much during the day.
  • I have healthy snacks that I like easily available and I have unhealthy snacks that I love not in my house. When I do have them in my house I only have one available at a time (cookies, or ice cream not both)
  • I also make half-batches of anything sweet, so if I loose self control its not as big of a deal.

2) LARGE PORTION SIZES

  • I look at labels. I like to look at the serving size and the calories. It helped me get a better idea of how many cookies where really worth it to me. or how much ice cream, etc. Also you will be surprised what people think is a serving of things like Ice cream, Oreos, cookies. If you just look at the calories you wont get the whole picture. Spoiler alert- 4 servings in a pint of Ben and Jerrys.
  • Use smaller dishes. Its proved that the shape and size of your dishes affects how much you eat! So I use smaller plates at dinner time, smaller bowls for cereal, big deep bowls for salad, and tiny dishes for dessert. Helps me eat less but I still feel like Im eating a lot.

3) OVER-EATING AT RESTAURANTS

  • I will admit its super hard not to eat too much at a restaurant but I have definitely learned to reduce from feeling super stuffed and bad about myself to feeling good and still a bit indulged.
  • I don’t get everything. I choose one indulgence, occasionally two. Indulgences include: fries, appetizers, desserts, milkshakes, fried entrees, fountain drinks.
  • Using the word “want” instead of “deserve”. Deserve is a terrible word that people only use when wanting to justify bad decisions. I “deserve” a new car, I “deserve” clothes, I “deserve” a pint of double-chocolate blubber butt Ice Cream. When I said want it helps me stay accountable. I am making the decision.
  • I put my napkin over my bread/ breadsticks/chips when Im done eating them. This sounds dumb but it really works. If its harder to see its easier to say no. Before I did this I would tell myself that I didn’t want more and I wanted to wait for the food to come, but if it was right there I would always eat more.
  • Ask for a to-go box early in the meal if you feel you wont eat everything.

4) MY SURROUNDINGS

  • I don’t keep food on the counter unless its fruit
  • I have a blender on the counter to remind myself of a delicious healthy smoothie I can make.
  • I put homemade desserts in aluminum foil (can’t see through aluminum)
  • I don’t eat anywhere but the table, unless its in a very small dish.
  • I try not to eat while I’m watching T.V. – causes mindless eating.

These changes that I have made have given me a healthy relationship with food. I don’t feel deprived- I feel I always get enough food and have treats often enough. I don’t feel guilty- I don’t care if I eat 7 cookies in a day because I don’t make cookies that often and when I do make cookies they are usually the only treat I have in my apartment. I made small changes that I felt that I could make without feeling as though I was restricting myself. Its all about balance! The changes I made work for me. If you too feel you are either always feeling deprived from dieting or guilty about over-eating. I urge you to find the small changes you can make that will make your days feel lighter and brighter! Perhaps it will make you feel lighter and brighter too:)

 

-Sarah Williams

 

Culprit and the Cure: by Steven Aldana. Tells us what to eat

Mindless Eating: by Brian Wainsinck. Shows Why, and How we Mindless Eat

Slim By Design: by Brian Wainsnick. Gives tips for your home, restaurant, work, and school of how to mindless eat less.

I Don’t Have It All Together

Hi everyone. I’m Jenny, I’m 20 years old, a college student, and 7 months married to the love of my life and best friend. To be completely honest, I think there’s very few people in this world who can confidently say “Yes, I have all my crap together and in order.” Because in reality grown-up life is really different than what Instagram couples and your childhood games of “house” portray. Grown up life is actually really hard. You have to pay bills, and remember WHEN to pay them, and exercise because your high school lacrosse-player body/metabolism doesn’t last forever. You have to be responsible and buy the Cheerios instead of the Cocoa Puffs (still working on that one), and cleaning supplies instead of some new shoes.

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Don’t get me wrong, I have literally always dreamed of being a housewife for my handsome husband. Now I have my handsome husband and my “dream 87aa8a7f89e8dcfe010e71c330bb9bdcjob” (at least for the summer) and it’s definitely not what I thought it would be. Because sometimes you underestimate the time it takes for a frozen chicken breast to thaw and accidentally feed your husband raw chicken. And other times you clog the disposal with potato skins and the disposal completely throws up mashed up food into the sink. And sometimes you wake up and realize that you have no clean underwear because you “accidentally” binged on watching Nashville for the last 3 days and completely forgot about real life things like laundry. Oh, and SOMETIMES you turn every single one of your husbands white church shirts pink because you forgot to take his bright red shirt out of the whites load.

This post is not meant for me to burst anybody’s bubble that thinks that marriage is going to be a magical thing that makes you a great chef, homemaker, and the most responsible grown-up there ever was. I’m not trying to complain. This post is about my realization that despite all of the ridiculous and embarrassing things that I’ve done as a wife, marriage is still the most wonderful, happiest, and most fun thing that has ever happened to me. This post is me laughing at myself. For thinking that I would have my life together at 20 years old. Sometimes it’s hard being around so many great women who make life look so easy. They have children and they’re wearing makeup and feeding their children carrots, when here I am with zero kids and a naked face, greasy hair, a mouth full of donut holes, and a messy house. All day, almost everyday. But you know what? It’s okay. Because I’ll get better as I learn how life goes. I don’t know how to cook everything, but I can make some dang good cookies. I don’t always do my hair and makeup but I chose a husband who calls me beautiful everyday regardless of how horrid I think I look. We aren’t rich, but still find room to have fun date nights, and everything always works out. I don’t weigh 110 pounds anymore (and probably won’t ever again), but I have cute workout clothes so I’m getting there, right? I don’t have a clean house all the time but I have a home that is full of love and happiness.

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I have never once compared myself to another person until I got married and thought for some reason the whole world was going to be expected of me all at once. Which is a stupid thought, because Luke married the girl who failed her first semester of college, changed her major 3 times, and tricked herself into thinking she had too bad of asthma to exercise outside in high elevation. He OBVIOUSLY didn’t expect me to be a picture perfect wife, haha. I don’t know what made me feel like I had to be perfect all of the sudden. Probably because in my eyes my mom always had it together. But she also had 6 kids before me, and had more experience. I’ll get there one day, but for now I know 100% that I do not have my life together and that’s okay. Because I have the tools I need to better myself. And I don’t know if I’ll ever finally feel like I have it all together, but I know that from now on I’m going to be happy in my situation. Regardless of how far I feel like I have to go. I have a husband and a Father in Heaven who love me despite my flaws and cheer me on everyday.

I’ve been sad lately because I used to be so fun and such a “free spirit” who did what made her happy despite what the social norm was. And recently I’ve turned into a boring grown up who is always worried about something. But a couple days ago, I was laying on our bed and Luke was laying on the floor next to it while we were just talking. I peeked over the edge of the bed to look at him while we were laughing about something together, and as I looked at my oh-so 845e0556d25cafa3dfd047cbfd225dechandsome husband, I actually almost got a little teary because in that moment I realized that all the stupid little things that I worry about or aren’t perfect at didn’t matter. All that mattered in that moment was that moment. I know what people mean when they say they “fell in love all over again” because I do it so often with my sweet husband. And if we have a life where we can afford to laugh together and have those moments, it’s going to be a wonderful life. I’m choosing to embrace life, and all that it is. And go back to being more myself, by not sweating the small stuff, and making my little family of two’s happiness a priority.

-Jenny

Early to Bed and Early to Rise

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I know last week I already posted about something that has recenty brought more happiness to my every day life (developing myself further through music), but this week I wanted to add something else that has recently added a measure of joy and peace to my life. It sounds so simple, is so easy to dismiss, but yet is such a hard thing for so many of us in today’s day and age (myself included): going to bed early and waking up early.

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I know, I know… *insert eye roll here* So lame, you’re probably thinking. I would so much rather stay up later and watch my shows and unwind and then sleep in a little to make up for that. I feel like being a “morning person” is such a rarity these days. Even those of us who are getting up early are simply sacrificing sleep to do so because we’re still staying up too late, and are therefore awake bright and early but not super happy about it, hahaha. I know some people really are morning people though and those rare people can just choose to ignore this whole post if they wish.

I am the last person I ever thought would be singing this tune. I love my sleep and have always struggled with waking up early if I don’t have somewhere specific I need to be. My mom got after me constantly as a teenager for sleeping in past noon on the weekends and during the summer. I preferred staying up late and then sleeping in. It was my routine. I was pretty much the same all through college as well. I struggled the most with my attendance in early morning classes. I would go to those often enought to not fail and otherwise would only wake up that early if I had to be at work for an early morning shift.

I have been blessed to have kids who (up until more recently) also liked to sleep in (well compared to most other toddlers at least). Elijah has always been a sleeper and now I’m guessing Sophia hasn’t been but would just kind of hang out quietly in her crib when she woke up, until Elijah was awake (usually around 8:30 or sometimes later) and they would start playing and making noise. She never cried so I have always assumed she slept in as long as Eli did. Now that she sleeps in a big girl bed though and can just get out of bed and come get me in the mornings I have come to realize that she doesn’t really sleep in. In fact, she wakes up around 7am and then immediately wakes Elijah so now he doesn’t sleep in either.

This has created a bit of a problem as Sophia immediately wants to roam around the house when she wakes up, and get into things. So I recently made the decision that I simply needed to be waking up earlier to prevent these shenanigans. I decided that if I was going to be waking up early anyway, I might as well make it extra early so I had time to myself before they wake up. That’s when I decided I wanted to start waking up at 6 am. I know, crazy right? You’re thinking “6am?!?!? Like every day???” Yup, I am that insane. This has ended up becoming a hugely positive thing for me though and here’s why:

I wake up, I eat some breakfast, I read some scriptures, and then I exercise (all of it in complete solitude, except the ends of the workouts, which is usually around when the kids are waking up and making their way downstairs), OR I wake up at 5am, eat breakfast, get dressed, and go to the temple (only on a day when Alex doesn’t work or doesn’t go in until 11:30 though)– granted, I’ve only gone the temple route once but it was so nice to start out my day that way that I’m trying to make it a once a week thing from now on.

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(What my mornings/days were like before) I wake up, disgruntled and grossed out because I can smell poop/pee coming from someone’s diaper or pull-up, with both my kids in my face yelling different things at me about what they want to eat/drink. I am usually somewhat angry because I am still exhausted and don’t want to be awake yet (because I went to bed late). I sometimes find a huge mess or other chaos waiting for me and need to fix it/clean it before I can even so much as have my morning pee. Kids are knocking and yelling through the door (more about breakfast) while I finally do have my morning pee. Then the next hour or so of my morning is all about them. From the second I wake up I have to immediately expend all my energy on others and making sure they are fed, changed, clothed, clean, and happy. I’m not complaining about this, I’m just stating fact. I don’t really have much other time to myself throughout the day either. Even with naptime, only Sophie naps so it still isn’t any kind of rest or alone time for me because I still need to care for Elijah during that time. Then later on Alex gets home and he wants to spend time with me. I am not at all complaining about this either because he has every right to want some of my time too plus I love and appreciate that he wants to spend time with me. I want to spend time with him too. I love getting to spend time with him at the end of the day; it’s the best part of the day. However, it is more of my day that is spent putting my energy and attention on someone besides myself.

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hot chocolate for me though, not coffee ;)

What waking up before my family has done for me is give me that time I need for myself. To strengthen, edify, and work on bettering myself, all before any of the people who rely on me are up and going for the day. I am able to fill my cup every morning by focusing on myself, and then I have so much more to give the rest of the day. I am more patient, I am more calm, I am more happy.

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That being said, this only works because I have committed myself to going to bed earlier. Like I said before, I love my sleep and can’t function (at least not happily) if I haven’t gotten enough sleep. If I simply started waking up super early while still going to bed late I’m pretty sure I’d be extremely unhappy throughout the morning and day and end up being less patient, calm, and happy overall. So the key here is that I really need to be in bed early if I want to wake up early and have it be a good thing in my life. It has ended up being a bigger lifestyle change than you’d think, but I’ve found it to be so worth it, and that is how I find the motivation to keep doing it.

It’s like the saying goes:

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man (woman) healthy, wealthy, and wise.

I just wish the “wealthy” part would hurry up and show itself ;)

-SJ

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Planning for Disney World (and the Memory Maker!)

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I like to plan. I get waaaay too excited about planning, actually. Especially for trips. This past fall, when we knew our Disney vacation was coming up, I was a Disney-planning maniac.

I looked up the crowd calendars for each day we’d be there, so that we picked the right park for the right day: https://www.undercovertourist.com/orlando/crowd-calendar/

I researched restaurants: http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/disney-dining-references/

and made a lunch reservation for each day we’d be in the parks: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/

I looked up which fast passes were hard to come by and which rides you don’t need them for: http://wdwprepschool.com/fastpass-at-magic-kingdom-for-on-site-and-off-site-guests/

I found out that resort guests get to book their fast passes 30 days earlier than everyone else (and therefore take all of the hardest-to-get fast passes). And the resort guest get free parking and Magic Bands too. So, we looked into resorts, but called to book for the best deal: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/

And I looked up the details for how to do “child swap” (AKA Rider Switch), and figured out how to get more out of our fast passes: http://wdwprepschool.com/how-to-child-swap-at-disney-world/

I found these “touring guides”, which had great ideas for when to hit each ride, and what time of the day to try to schedule fast passes for: https://www.undercovertourist.com/touring-plans/

I even found a handy little chart that listed good places to kill time while the rest of your party is on a nearby height-restricted ride, although, we never used it because we never waited more than 15 minutes for a ride. In all five days. (“Planning pays off!”, she shouts!)

I figured out all the cool things that Magic Bands can do, (including automatically saving photos and videos from rides you were on!): https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/my-disney-experience/bands-cards/

I also looked up Disney’s Photo Pass service, and researched Memory Maker: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/memory-maker/

BUT, no matter how hard I googled, I couldn’t find a sample of a family’s Memory Maker pictures (and maybe a little review about whether or not it was worth the cost). I wanted to see just what types of pictures you end up with if you buy the Memory Maker package. If the pictures weren’t going to turn out much better than I could’ve taken on my iPhone, I didn’t know that it would be worth it. (Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’m pretty good with my iPhone camera.)

We ended up purchasing the Memory Maker, and I’m VERY glad that we did.

So, I decided that I will be that person, to fill the internet’s void of a massive amount of one family’s Disney Memory Maker pictures. It is my solemn duty.

We were at the parks for 5 days. When I downloaded the files from Disney, there were 867 images/videos linked to our account. (There were videos from rides we went on, the pictures we had taken with photographers, and then some really cool stock photos/videos from any events or shows that we went to, just based on our magic bands being nearby.)

We tried to make it to a lot of character appearances and we decided early on that if we ever passed a photo pass photographer without a line, we’d get some pictures taken. (We weren’t opposed to waiting in line though, because even when they did have lines, they moved very quickly and gave us just enough time to wipe food off of our faces.)

We also wanted to get some more candid photos, so that not all of them were just us looking at the camera with the same face. When my husband and I would trade off going on a ride, the other one would often take the kids to a photographer to get some pictures taken. Those are some of my favorites.

I love the way they turned out and I’m excited to make my favorite ones into a photo book and/or slideshow. That’s my next project. If I ever get around to making it, maybe I’ll post it here.

For now, here are some of my preliminary favorites from our Disney Memory Maker package:

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There are sooooo many more really good ones, but these were just some of the ones I had easily accessible!

Disney World really is magical when you bring your little kids!

-Chrissy

 

What Lack I Yet?

There’s this talk that was given by a General Authority in our church this past October  at our Semi Annual General Conference called What Lack I Yet?

“The journey of discipleship is not an easy one. It has been called a ‘course of steady improvement.’2 As we travel along that strait and narrow path, the Spirit continually challenges us to be better and to climb higher. The Holy Ghost makes an ideal traveling companion. If we are humble and teachable, He will take us by the hand and lead us home.

However, we need to ask the Lord for directions along the way. We have to ask some difficult questions, like ‘What do I need to change?’ ‘How can I improve?’ ‘What weakness needs strengthening?'”

I have been pondering this thought in my heart a lot lately. I feel like I am being bombarded with this talk, almost. It seems to be everywhere I turn. There’s no escaping it! haha. Recently in my scripture study I came across the story this talk mentions about the rich man who asked Christ “What Lack I Yet?” and then was unwilling to give up his riches to follow Christ when He said that is what he needed to do. We also discussed this talk during this past week’s lesson in Young Women’s on Sunday and I have been seeing/hearing quotes from it on social media and in other areas of life lately. I have started to really ponder the question “what lack I yet?” for myself and have come out of happier on the other end, when I didn’t even realize I wasn’t as happy as I could have been. It just goes to show that Heavenly Father knows us better than we know ourselves and He knows what we need even when we aren’t aware that we are in need of anything.

For me, the answer has been that I needed to get back to developing a talent I have, which is with music. It may not sound like something that is very important but I feel pretty strongly that it is something that I need to do, and it has brought me a lot of happiness to do so, both because I now have something outside of my family that is just for me and because I know I am doing the Lord’s will in developing my talent, and that it will help me to progress spiritually to do so.

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As many of you know, I grew up in a very musical family. Music has always been extremely important to me. I recently sang (solo) in sacrament meeting, which I haven’t done in a lonnnnng time, and when I was asked to sing I was told the topic was The Book of Mormon. “Hmmm,” I thought, “maybe a song from the Children’s Songbook?” I immediately joked that I would just go up and sing “Book of Mormon Stories,” complete with all the hand motions, hahaha. What I ended up choosing was “This is My Beloved Son.” A very simple, short, sweet, children’s song about Heavenly Father introducing Christ during His baptism, when he appeared to the Nephites, to Joseph Smith, and then to us in our hearts as we read the scriptures. Here are the words, for those of you who aren’t familiar or can’t seem to remember them all in your head:

“Jesus entered Jordan’s waters, when His work had just begun,

God the Father spoke from Heaven: “This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him!”

Nephites gazing into Heaven, saw their white-robed Savior come,

And they heard the Father witness: “This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him!”

Joseph saw two glorious beings, shining brighter than the sun,

God again presented Jesus: “This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him!”

As I read the scriptures daily– Words of Christ, the Holy One–

In my heart I’ll hear God tell me, “This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him!”

Hear Him”

I had actually originally chosen a different song that the pianist I asked to accompany me happened to have in a songbook she got for Christmas, that was about when Christ visited the Nephites. However, I had to change it to one that I knew well and would be simple to do as I realized my week right beforehand was going to be crazy and I would have litte to no time to practice. I am so glad I ended up going with this short, sweet little song though. I just seem to really love all the songs in The Children’s Songbook. They mean a lot to me, possibly because they were the first thing to really begin the process of growing my testimony as a child. I have always been one of those people who feel the spirit the strongest through music (a curse for me, because I also cry easily and am a shaky voice cry-er so it’s bad news if I get too emotional while I sing a song, haha yikes. My notes go all over the place hahaha). The first instances I can remember of feeling the spirit warm my soul (although I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time) were while singing A Child’s Prayer as a little girl in Primary. It was by far my favorite song, and while all the other kids chose songs like Once There Was a Snowman or Do as I’m Doing when it was their turn to pick any song they wanted to sing in singing time, my pick was always A Child’s Prayer, up until I was too old to be in Primary anymore. I loved the feeling the words in that song gave to me and always knew the message to be true. I also loved when we would split and sing both verses at the same time for the third verse, or the teachers would come in and do the second while we did the first. I couldn’t get enough of that.

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So singing a song from the Children’s Songbook became a sweet, spiritual experience for me, as it reminded me of the beginnings of my testimony; Those first few moments of nurturing that little seed. I am grateful for, and humbled by that sweet little reminder of what music does for me, and the opportunity I had to do something I hadn’t done for so long that fills me with so much of the spirit (and I hope does the same for others around me).

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I also recently became involved in a local community women’s choir (something I get to do that is just for me and helps fill up my cup every week, like I had talked about in my last post). Earlier this month I tried out for this choir. I was so nervous about trying out because they said we had to be prepared to sight read –which I think is so much harder with singing than with playing an instrument because there is no exact location you can physically look at and get the right note from. I didn’t know I would have help from the piano though, whew! I also had to have a prepared piece to sing (mine was Scarborough Fair), and then during the audition I was surprised with the request to pick notes out of a chord played on the piano (“The pianist will play a chord and you will have to pick out the middle note of that chord and sing it, then the highest note, and then the lowest note”). I was nervous because I have had little to no involvement with music for the past 5 years, since being married basically, and just like any instrument, being out of practice has a big effect on one’s singing abilities. For instance, my vocal range is completely shot, and I am lacking in confidence in my ability to hit certain notes and sound good doing it… BUT, regardless, I was accepted into the choir and am absolutely loving being a part of it. I also love that they asked me to sing Alto (and not just an Alto, but second Alto, the deepest and lowest of notes), which I’ve never done before. I’ve always sung Soprano (the high notes) so I think trying this new placement will help me to grow as a singer. Especially because Sopranos typically sing the melody and Altos sing harmony so it will help me become a better singer if I get used to singing something besides the melody. Call me a huge nerd (because I totally am, and don’t mind it at all) but I am really excited about our upcoming spring concert in May and the fact that we have a few a cappella pieces and I get to “doo wop” and “doot de doo” away in my super low Alto notes. YES, I KNOW I’M A HUGE NERD. It’s okay to tease me about it, I tease myself. We’ll be singing a medley of 80’s girls’ rock songs (like I Love Rock n’ Roll, Love is a Battelfield, Walking on Sunshine, and We Got the Beat), I Say a Little Prayer, Scarborough Fair (yay!), Put a Little Love in Your Heart, some of today’s hits like Best Day of my Life (where I get to “doot doo doo doo doot doot” while “I had a dream so big and loud…” goes on) and Home by Philip Philips, plus a bunch of other great songs I’m not even mentioning. Probably my favorite is A Mother’s Prayer, which is a take on The Prayer (which I shared a version of by David Archuletta and Nathan Pacheco a few weeks back). It is seriously the sweetest song and makes me tear up every time I read the lyrics. Also, did I mention this choir has FREE BABYSITTING at all practices??? It’s probably the one reason I am able to commit to it. I bring the kids along and they go play happily while I sing. It’s the best thing ever.

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These are the lyrics to A Mother’s Prayer:

I pray you’ll be my eyes
And watch her where she goes
And help her to be wise
Help me to let go

Every mother’s prayer
Every child knows
Lead her to a place
Guide her with your grace
To a place where she’ll be safe

I pray she finds your light
And holds it in her heart
As darkness falls each night
Remind her where you are

Every mother’s prayer
Every child knows
Need to find a place
Guide her with your grace
Give her faith so she’ll be safe

Lead her to a place
Guide her with your grace
To a place where she’ll be safe

And here’s Celine Dion singing it:

Gets me right in the feels every time.

As human beings, we are imbedded with a desire to progress (pychology says this, as does the scriptures). One of the biggest reasons for unhappiness in this life is the feeling that we aren’t progressing as we should be. We are happiest when we are making progress, and not just spiritual progress. We also need to be doing other things to better ourselves, including developing talents (that then can be used to build up the Kingdom of God, as well as bless our life and the life of our family), learning new things, becoming healthier, and otherwise challenging ourselves. If you feel there is some happiness lacking from your life I challenge you to ask in prayer “What lack I yet?” with a sincere desire to know, and He will make known to you what you can do to further your development at this point. Don’t forget, though, to also ask for a confirmation of what you are already doing right, as we all also need a pat on the back and reassurance that we are doing okay from time to time.

-SJ

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My Best Pal

So I know I just got married and you’re all expecting this to be about my super awesome, amazing, and adorable husband. But HA! I fooled you. Because it’s not- atleast not this post ;) This post is about where you can find your best pal. It’s really the greatest thing ever when your best friend growing up is your sister. And as all of you know, I have 5 sisters. And of course, I have a very true friend in all of them. But today I’m talking about my little sister Lizzie. And this post is going to convince you to become best gal pals with your sister. Here are some reasons to be best friends forever with your sis:

1. She tells you when you totally cross the line: You know when you have a weird thing going on with your body that you feel weird googling, but don’t wanna ask a doctor or your parents so you talk to your sister (obviously) to make sure its normal? And sometimes its just way too much information? She tells you when it’s too much. But if it’s not too much, she’ll just laugh at you because she’s had the same problem before.

2. She teaches you how to forgive. If you have a fight with a friend, you don’t really HAVE to make up. But when it’s your sister, you know you have to get over it sooner or later because eventually you’re gonna want to borrow that cute shirt she just bought or need someone to go to Target with. A sister is really the only person you could be kicking and scratching and yelling at one second and then the next you’re taking selfies together like nothing ever happened because you’re both having a good hair day.

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3. She’ll never talk about you to non-family members. There’s just something in “sister blood” that a sister will literally kick your booty back to where you came from if you say anything about her sister. There’s nobody that “opens a can of whoop-ass” sooner than a girl defending her sister.

4. She tells you EVERYTHING. Not only just about her life, but she tells you when someone even so much as mentions your name to her or sends any sort of negative vibes your way. That way, you know who actually has your back and who just likes to talk about you….(trolls)

5. She’ll tell you how it is. If you look fat in that picture you’re about to post, or if that outfit just really isn’t working for you, she’ll tell you. Not to be rude, just to save you from having others say it about you later and make sure you look FLAWLESS when you’re goin out.

6. She gives the best boy advice. I mean let’s be real: unless you’re married, she knows you ten times better than the guy you’re with. And she can tell you when someone isn’t good for you, and when you can do ten times better.

7. She’s always looking out for you. When I say this I don’t mean keeping all your secrets from mom and dad and “having your back” if you get caught. A sister knows when to keep a secret and when mom and dad should really know what’s going on. And sometimes she really saves you from going down a path that you really don’t want to go down by dropping a hint to the parents. She also knows exactly when to remind you that God loves you.

8. You start to know each other so well that when you were little you stopped having to say “now you say this:” when you were playing dolls because you both knew you wanted the same thing to happen in the game.

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9. She’s the best road trip seat buddy ever. Because you both like the same music and when you’re sick of your playlist you can trade phones with her and listen to hers. Also, you’re not afraid to share phones because you know her fingers won’t be greasy from the mcdonalds drive thru that morning like your little brother’s are. Also, sisters tend to be a less smelly road trip seat buddy option than your little brothers.

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10. She’ll love you always. She doesn’t care what you’ve done, where you’ve been, how many times you’ve worn her things without asking, how many times you’ve rudely ignored her when your other friends were over, or how many times you ate the last of the good cereal. She’ll always forgive you, and you’ll always forgive her.

Anyways, there’s my post in honor of Liz. I’ve obviously moved on to a new chapter in my life getting married and all, but i’ll always cherish the relationship that I have with my little sister. Love you Lizzie :)

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-Jenny

Filling Up Your Cup

This morning has been rough. It’s just one of those days, ya know? I feel like I’ve been hearing about a lot of other people’s “bad mom” days lately and I’ve been having one myself so I figured I’d post about it today. It also goes hand in hand with Stephie’s post the other day about having virtuous thoughts because how often do we get off to a bad start on our day because of those not-so-virtuous thoughts, which then snowballs into a “bad mom day.”

I’ve been a little under the weather lately. In fact, this month so far has been one illness after another for me, with usually only a few days in between to catch back up on things, only to fall behind again. It’s been frustrating and draining, as you can imagine. When I get bad head colds I get little to no sleep because I cannot sleep with my mouth open. I just can’t. So congestion destroys me. Sometimes medicine helps clear it up enough for me to sleep, sometimes, when it’s at its worst, it doesn’t. So the night before last was the worst night, I was up till 1am, then awoke again at 4:30am, was awake for about an hour, and then slept for another 2 1/2 before I had to get up and take care of the kids. I spent the whole day yesterday in a zombie-like haze and ignored pretty much all housework. I just made sure the kids had food to eat and basic needs met, everything else was ignored.

I slept better last night, and actually slept in until 9:00, but then woke up to quickly realize I had sooooo many things to catch back up on today, including dishes piled high and clothes that have been patiently waiting for days to be folded and put away, already giving myself a hard time for being behind on these things and for sleeping in, even though I wasn’t feeling my best the past couple of days. I also woke up to the sound of screaming and fighting coming from my kids, along with crashes and bangs that surely meant their room was being turned upside down. I just wanted to hide under the covers and avoid the day that was to come. I slowly got out of bed and went to the kids’ room to assess the damage. Their room was a huge mess, Sophie’s little table for her kitchen had a leg broken off, and Eli (my THREE and a half year old) had pooped in his pull-up, somehow gotten a hole in the back of his pull-up so the poop had started to spill out, and also had somehow and for some reason smeared poop on the wall and on one of the chairs, and who knows where ELSE??? We had actually had a conversation the night before about how he should always poop in the toilet and if he needs help he can always come wake me up and ask for help, because this is a recurring issue with him. He also had managed to poop in the toilet before bed so I thought we were good, so it was extra frustrating that it happened.

So now it was time for poop clean up and a bath and to get them dressed and ready for the day, and all before I had even had so much as a bowl of cereal. I also felt guilty because I knew I hadn’t been doing a good enough job hiding the anger and frustration on my face about the poop (I knew I shouldn’t let him see how frustrated I am, especially because he doesn’t seem to be doing it on purpose) because he covered his face with his hands in shame, in a way to hide from my angry face. I felt awful that he was so ashamed of himself. So then I was mad at myself for that. What I didn’t realize until later is that I had also been blaming everything going on this morning on myself as well, for sleeping in. “If I hadn’t slept in they wouldn’t have had time to turn their room upside down because I would have immediately taken them downstairs for breakfast. If I hadn’t slept in Eli probably wouldn’t have gotten poop all over the place because I would have realized it quickly and cleaned him up before it got on anything. If I hadn’t slept in they wouldn’t have been screaming and fighting with each other this morning because I would have been there to referree. If I hadn’t slept in I could already have had the dishes done by now and be working on cleaning up other things. I’d be so on top of things by now.” I don’t think I thought any of those exact phrases in words, but I felt them. When I stopped to examine how I was feeling and why, I realized at the base of it all I started off the day upset at myself for sleeping in and then blaming everything on myself because I did. I also had depleted all my energy the past few days on trying to get feeling better and fighting with the kids all day over things like cleaning their room or taking naps or going to bed. I was emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted, and then blaming myself for not doing a good enough job because of it. It made me lash out at everyone else in anger and frustration because, what it boils down to, is my cup was empty.

I remember when I first started my mental health counseling master’s degree program (which I still haven’t finished) in one of my classes we talked about getting “burnt out,” which is common amongst mental health professionals because dealing with the difficulties and emotions of others all day long can really leave a person mentally, emotionally, and physically drained themsevles. So we had talked at length about what kinds of things a person can do for themselves to fill back up their cup. People had talked about things they did in the car on the way home from work to refuel themselves and prepare to switch from work mode to family/home mode, or ways they took time out for themselves throughout the week to refuel and add back into their cup, after their job and other obligations took so much out.

I think moms definitely need to be mindful of “burnout” just as much as any mental health professional. If you think about it, the nature of motherhood requires lots of giving. Most of what we do throughout the day is for the betterment of our family and/or home. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize that we aren’t doing much for our own personal enjoyment or alone time (if alone time is what refuels you, as it does for me. Maybe time out with some friends would refuel you more). I think every so often our cups get completely emptied out because we have given so much of our time and energy to our kids (especially if they are little ones who still need so much all the time), to our spouses, to our callings at church, to our jobs, or to other responsibilities, and if we keep that up with little to no refueling sessions, we will come to a point where all we can do is yell at everyone else and then sit down and cry. Because we’re tired. Because we’ve speant all the energy we had. Because our cups are empty and the adversary saw it as the perfect time to throw unvirtuous (is that a word? haha) thoughts into our head. Because we are depleated and we have run faster than we are able.

I am still struggling to find that balance in my life and to recognize it in time when I’m starting to get low on fuel so it doesn’t get to that point for me. I have “bad mom days” more often than I’d like but I’m going to try to fix that, or at least lessen the frequency. I’m going to start trying to focus on myself more from time to time, and do the things I like to do, by myself, so I can fill back up my cup before it completely runs dry. What are some things that help refill your cup?

I was going to post a picture of me from today right here, with messy hair, no makeup on, and very clear dark circles under my eyes, so you can see the realness of the dark days of motherhood, but I’ve already been about as brave and real as I can be for one day, just in writing this post, so I’m going to refrain. I’ll just let you imagine the dark circles, messy hair, and no makeup in your own mind, as it will probably be kinder than the actual photo.

P.S. THIS. I watched it today and it has definitely added a little back into my cup. It lifted my spirits and brought peace to my soul. It is an absolutely beautiful rendition of this song. It definitely brought tears to my eyes.

-SJ

who can find a virtuous woman?

I probably shouldnt be posting given my current emotional state… BUT I am anyway.

A month or two ago I heard a thought about virtue, and it has really stuck with me.   I used to think the above scripture was just referring to being chaste, but then I can find so many virtuous women!  The thought I heard was about how we women tend to think a lot, and we tell ourselves things constantly, and some of those things are virtuous, but most are not.  At the time I heard this, I thought to myself… I dont think negative things to myself very often.  But then I was sensitive to it… and I do! All day long.  I dont always let those thoughts affect how I feel about things but they creep in sometimes.

“you need to work out more. youre overweight.”  “you need to fix things with jsfsjh.”  “im home all day long and cant even get the laundry done.” “i stink at visiting teaching, and as a mom, and with the budget”  “you’re not a very good mom.” “mom had ten kids and she still did…..” (other non-virtuous thoughts may be about other people, things… gossip, complaining, etc. although thats not what I’m feeling right now.)

So many thoughts into my head.  I think when I have a bad day its because I let my guard down and this non-virtuous thoughts get the best of me.  This morning that happened and I listened to the talk, Behold Your Mother by Elder Holland and AGAIN, just had tears coming the whole time.  The words he spake which are echoing in my head are, “you are doing better than you think.”  (he also talks about how a mothers love is closest to the love our savior feels for us. My mom exudes love for us, especially in times of trial.  I was looking through pictures from when Flossie was born and love this.)

IMG_7138There are so many things I need to work on, and so many people out there to remind me (well meaning people) and yet sometimes we just need to snuggle our kids, watch tv and say,.. its okay. Im okay.  I want to be that virtuous woman. All I can do right now is block those thoughts, and maybe someday I can replace them. Not today.

PS I am NOT writing this and looking for compliments.  I think we all have a day every once in a while where we are too tired or hormonal to block those feelings and they affect us.  But most of my days are extremely blessed. (again, shortly after flossie was born.  I love this.  She was in and out of sleep but laying still and brad was asleep but holding her tight.  If Heavenly Father loves us much as brad loves his babies.. then its okay if we cant do it all and we should just shush those thoughts.) the end.  — StephieIMG_8295