Friday, May 4, 2018

Hiking Trail Singing Time

I don't know if it's the primary songs we've been focusing on or the PERFECT spring weather we've started having this week, but I have fallen in love with the outdoors lately and have just been basking in its breathtaking beauty.  It seemed only right to incorporate this amazing feeling into my next singing time lesson.  


I found a huge roll of brown paper in our garage today and used it to draw out a hiking trail map.  It definitely brought me back to my son's Dora the Explorer television days.  On the trail I marked different unique locations that match up with one of our primary songs we're working on.  


Blossom Meadow - I Often Go Walking
Singing Bird Forest - My Heavenly Father Loves Me (first verse)
Creature Summit - All Creatures of our God and King
Butterfly Wings Pass - My Heavenly Father Loves Me (second verse)
End of the Rainbow - When I am Baptized


I plan to stick it to the chalkboard and throw a magnet on the back of our little Hiker Lego.  That way he can move across the map board as we practice each song.


The great thing about this activity is that you can totally customize your map to the songs YOUR PRIMARY is currently working on.  I just lucked out that all our songs right now have to do with nature.  Fist bumps for matching themes!


Also, I have just the thing if you're looking for an awesome, unique arrangement of My Heavenly Father Loves Me.  This is the reason we're also learning All Creatures of our God and King this month.  Hop over to my mom's blog for the free sheet music HERE.  It has a cello solo option and everything.  I can't wait to teach it to the kids!



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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Paint A Bright Spot On Your Soul

For my Mother-in-law's Relief Society lesson this month she asked if I could help design the handouts.  I wish I could do this all day.  I had so much fun making these.  Here was the quote she chose to use.


During President Monson's memorial service his daughter spoke of the love he showed to everyone around him:

We do not need to be the President of the Church to notice another’s need and “paint a bright spot on our souls.” My dad acted upon his frequent feeling, “That would be a kind thing to do,” only to find it was the answer to another’s prayer. By following the promptings of the Spirit, our simple acts of service can also be answers to prayers, and we can carry on this legacy by serving others.


Feel free to steal this handout HERE.

My Scripture Coach

For anyone working on forming good habits or goal resolutions, I have made an incredible discovery.  Reward your CHILDREN for your actions!!  They turn into amazing motivational coaches!  Little T gets iPad time whenever I do my scriptures and he promptly wakes me up each morning to read now.  This is the best scripture system I've ever had!!! 
 📖❤️🧒


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Sunday, December 10, 2017

2017 Through Our Eyes

As the year wriggles its way to a close we've started looking back on all of our fun memories. Here's our highlight reel of events of 2017.



Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Elephant Baby Boy Shower

I can't say that I've had any personal experience with street drugs, but I have recently discovered that planning a baby shower is completely intoxicating.  I was on the most amazing high this weekend helping my mom throw a party for my sister-in-law.  Now I'm pretty sure decorating and planning baby showers is my parallel to cocaine.  


DECORATIONS

I had some spare wood from our fence project this summer that I used for a little name sign.  Each letter block was stained and then painted with chalk paint.  



We used tissue paper pom-poms and an old dresser mirror frame to accent the gift table.  Don't worry.  This was before the party started.  She had more than three presents ;)


Party favors...


Encaged circus elephants.  Fear not.  No animals or toys were harmed during the baby event.


SNACKS






GAMES AND ACTIVITIES

Instead of a guest book, everyone came in and signed a story page.  This way baby Charlie can catch all the little love notes as he reads it someday.


I made little booklets with all of our activities so we wouldn't have to keep handing out paper to fill out between each game.


Feel free to download and print any of the elephant game pages HERE.
Game One: Baby Song Game
For our first activity everyone listened as I played a few seconds of songs with "Baby" in the title.  The guest with the most correct answers won a prize.  If I were to go back in time, one thing I probably would do differently is cut down the song list.  I got a little over-excited googling baby music.


SONG IDEAS:
ICE ICE "BABY" - VANILLA ICE
"BABY" COME BACK - PLAYER
"BABY" I LOVE YOUR WAY - PETER BRAMPTON
"BABY" - JUSTIN BIEBER
"BABY" ONE MORE TIME - BRITNEY SPEARS
MY "BABY" YOU - MARC ANTHONY
DON'T WORRY "BABY" - BEACH BOYS
ALWAYS BE MY "BABY" - MARIAH CAREY
"BABY" COME TO ME - JAMES INGRAM
"BABY" WHAT A BIG SURPRISE - CHICAGO
I'M YOUR "BABY" TONIGHT - WHITNEY HOUSTON
I CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF YOU "BABY" - SMASH MOUTH
HEY "BABY" - NO DOUBT
AMERICAN "BABY" - DAVE MATTHEW'S BAND


Game Two: B-A-B-Y-S-H-O-W-E-R Gift Bags


Each gift bag had a baby item that started with its letter.

B - Blanket
A - Aspirator 
B - Bib
Y - Yellow Rubber Duck

S- Shoes
H- Hat
O- Onesie
W- Wipes
E- Ear thermometer
R- Rattle

Game Three: BINGO
Everyone filled out their Bingo cards with baby items they guessed my sister-in-law would get as presents.  When we opened the gifts, people could mark items off as they guessed correctly.  First person to get five in a row and call out BINGO won a prize.


Game Four: Gumballs in the Bottle


Beside the guestbook was a baby bottle full of gumballs.  Closest guess to how many were inside got to take home the bottle.  

Now I need more friends to have babies so I can plan more parties.  I am addicted.  Admitting it is the first step...


And, finally, here is the 
"Okay-everyone-is-gone-Let's-stuff-our-faces-with-left-over-cake"
 photo.

Love you, Mom!  Love you, Elizabeth!




Thursday, September 7, 2017

Five Heavenly Nudges And One Huge Forest Fire

In Sheri Dew's recent book she talks about praying everyday for a spiritual experience.  It sounded like a great idea and I wanted to hop on the bandwagon.  Everything was going well and I was truly getting my daily dosages of Vitamin HG.  Then Saturday came along and I was suddenly spiritually ultimate punched in the face!  In a wonderful way!  


So many spiritual experiences poured into my life from one single event.  The only way I can think to describe it is that heaven was nudging me over and over again with different spiritual reminders.  

And the whole experience began with an illegal firework...

View from our back deck Saturday afternoon

We live in the northwest right in the heart of the gorge.  We returned home from an afternoon swimming to find smoke billowing up from our back hills.  Based on news reports the story was that a group of teens were goofing off and throwing smoke bombs in the forest.  

The dry forest...  

During the heat of the fire summer season... 

People are good at things.  We'll discuss this later*.

NUDGE 1: JESS, BE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR BLESSINGS

The fire grew and grew AND GREW.  Our neighborhood became a ghost town as everyone vacated their houses.  We were the last sliver of the city that could remain with a level two evacuation warning (have everything packed and ready to leave at a moment's notice).  

It felt a little surreal trying to decide which items to take and which to leave behind.  This became a beautiful reminder of what things are truly important in this life and what things are "things" that can be replaced.  I looked over at this little guy napping beside me and felt so much gratitude for the blessings in my life: My eternal family, my friends, and my testimony of my Savior.  Everything else I had been given in this life was just temporary.


NUDGE 2: FIND THAT PEACE IN YOUR HEART, JESS

The prophet is great, the scriptures are magical, but I can't get over how awesome it is that we can personally communicate with our Heavenly Father for individual and family guidance.  Another challenge I took on from Sheri Dew's book was to pray to recognize personal revelation.  


A few weeks ago a friend of mine was discussing this subject and she explained how you can always identify a spiritual prompting versus your imagination by whether or not you feel peace in your heart when it happens.  I cannot count how many times this week I have felt the Holy Ghost's prompting while making decisions and recognized that familiar peace.  This experience has helped me finally translate when that feeling in my heart is personal revelation coming from God.

NUDGE 3: JESS, PEOPLE ARE GOOD, LOVING, AND PRAYING FOR YOU

What wonderful, hardworking men and women left their homes and families on their holiday to come protect us.  I was so grateful for the awesome firefighters and police that have been keeping us safe.

The fire may spread fast, but the news spreads faster.  This experience has shown me how many good, loving friends are surrounding us.  I counted and within three days literally 14 different families we knew invited us to sleep in their homes if we didn't have a place to stay.

I counted another number: SEVENTY-SIX people told us they were praying for us through social media, text messages, phone calls, and "two hands clasped together praying" emoticons.  Our family could feel the love gushing into our lives from so many individuals who cared about us and about our home.  I was overwhelmed.

NUDGE 4: OH, HE IS COMING, JESS. HE IS KNOCKING RIGHT AT THE DOOR

Sunday night: The glowing flames stenciled the dark mountainside and kissed the treetops.  It felt as though God had delicately glided a burning paintbrush across the long horizon.  I watched the forest bleed ashes and smoke that climbed up into the never-ending sky.  

The majority of us mortals cringe in fear at the thought of being burned.  The agonizing pain of fire to flesh sounds almost unbearable.  But standing there, alone in the darkness, I could feel no negative energy flowing from the breathtaking scene.  No, it seemed almost as though the earth was gently sighing.  She was resting.  She was replenishing.  


As the moon glowed blood red and the darkness lit up like Mordor, I felt a twinge of desire to review a couple of scriptures....

Doctrine and Covenants 29
11 For I will reveal myself from heaven with power and great glory, with all the hosts thereof, and dwell in righteousness with men on earth a thousand years, and the wicked shall not stand.

14 But, behold, I say unto you that before this great day shall come the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall be turned into blood, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and there shall be greater signs in heaven above and in the earth beneath;

Doctrine and Covenants 39
24 Behold, I come quickly.  Even so.  Amen.

I love reading scriptures about the second coming.  There is such a thrill watching these humbling calamities and knowing it's one of God's ways of telling us the Lord will be here soon!  I am so excited for Christ to come to earth.  I cannot wait for the world to be cleansed and made pure.

NUDGE 4: BUILD YOUR HOUSE UPON THE ROCK, JESS

By Tuesday the whipping winds were making us nervous.  The fire had blossomed to about 30,000 acres.  And our home sat a half a mile from the east edge of the flames.  There was a knock on the front door where we found our bishop checking in on us before taking his family and saying goodbye.  He spoke with hope that the town would be spared, but a small tremble of worry was hiding in his voice.  "This is a beautiful house," he said and glanced around our living room with tears in his eyes before leaving.  "I hope it's still here when all of this is over."

It didn't take much time after that for my husband and I to make the decision to get in our two cars and leave.  After buckling our son in his car seat, I hugged my husband standing in what might be our last time in our little front yard and started the car.  

Talk about a stand-still moment in time.   This home was our special sanctuary.  It was a sacred temple filled with love and beautiful memories.  And our minds forced us to realize the small possibility that it might be taken away from us.

For some reason, with all the spinning feelings spiraling inside of me, one prominent visual came to my head.  I was picturing Lot's wife from the bible.  That's right, the one that looked back and turned to a pillar of salt.  Obviously, there's nothing wrong with taking one more long glance back at a place that's special to someone.  I wasn't afraid of becoming a table companion with ground pepper, but something inside of me forced my eyes to look forward.

As we silently drove away I again felt that familiar peace, focusing on the future and knowing that God was leading me exactly where I needed to be.  

The highway was closed off in both directions and only citizens escaping town were allowed to enter the ramp.  There was such an eeriness being alone on the road passing through the cloudy, white smoke.

The little voice from my son came timidly from the backseat requesting we listen to some music.  

"What song should we listen to, Trekker?"

"Wise man...  Wock."

Being the primary chorister for the little kids on Sunday means we usually have a CD of all the children's hymns in the car for practicing.  I skipped ahead on the music tracks to 'The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock.'  I started bawling as I listened to the lyrics:

The rains came down and the floods came up, 
The rains came down and the floods came up, 
The rains came down and the floods came up, 
And the house on the rock stood still.

I was so happy that my life was built on a rock.  This challenge wasn't shaking me.  And I am grateful to have Christ as my foundation to help me through my trials.



*NUDGE 5: FORGIVE, JESS. FORGIVE.

There is a sacred beauty in the gorge that can't be comprehended unless you've experienced it.  These are not "just" a bunch of trees.  It's its own entity.  We are mourning the loss of a loved one in the hearts of all the locals.


And emotions tend to boil over when we realize it came from carelessness and human error.  

But I have to remind myself that we're all human.  We make mistakes.  We do wrong things.  Sometimes we don't even feel remorse for it.  But it's just not our place to judge.

If you're still with me and haven't quit reading this blog post yet...
My challenge to everyone is to forgive this teen who started the fire.  I can't even imagine the guilt that may be weighing down on his heart watching the spiraling consequences of his actions.  


I'm still not sure what will end up happening to our house.  I have no idea if and when we will come home to it.  Whatever the future holds, I am so grateful for the spiritual nudges that came from this experience that I will never forget.

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Monday, September 4, 2017

Summer Bucket List

It was a special summer since our toddler was finally old enough to really enjoy and experience the season.  As parents we have been living through him and I love it because it makes me feel like a kid again.


I am also a lover of checklists.  Call me Checklist Charlie.  I thought making a chalkboard bucket list would make things more fun which it did... But I forgot how I never actually complete my lists ever.  So next summer I need to jump in knowing the goal will defeat me and be totally okay with that possibility.

So here you have it.  My dream summer bucket list that will get approximately 50% crossed off every year from a realistic perspective.

I know there are some super moms looking at this list thinking, 
"Psh.  I could complete all this junk in 2.5 seconds."  That's so wonderful.  I can eat an entire bag of Salt and Vinegar potato chips in 2.5 seconds.  I love you for your strengths.  And I love me for mine.


1.  Have a classic picnic: The ones on the ground - with the food - with the ants - and the stereotypical checkered red blanket

2. Splash at the splash park


3. Fly a kite

4. Float the river


5. Lay in the grass stargazing

6. Berry picking:  After picking these blackberries I had a childhood movie come to mind about a bear cub that eats some wild mushrooms and starts getting crazy dizzy and sick.  I ate them nervously.  But I never died so I suppose they weren't poisonous.


7.  Feed the ducks at the park

8.  Build sand castles on the beach


9. Visit the Zoo

10.  Visit the temple grounds

11. Visit Enchanted Forest:  Everyone needs to go here.  It will be the most magical/creepy experience of your life.  Similar to the feelings you get watching 
The Labyrinth or anything claymation.  


12. Take a tandem bike ride

13.  Run through the sprinklers


14. Visit the library

15.  Have a bowling night

16.  Movies at the park : So, um, I messed up on this one...  We were all packed and prepared with blankets and snacks for the city movie night and I got the time totally wrong when the movie started.  So we came home and cuddled as a family on the bed and watched Netflix instead.


17. Walk a pup at the Humane Society

18. Take a camping trip

19. Visit the fish hatchery

20.  Take a boat ride


Oh gosh, I love this family.  I love soaking in every happy second I can from these sweet best friends.

"In family relationships LOVE is really spelled T-I-M-E."
-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf



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