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Sunday, December 29, 2013

A taste of Christmas


This may be a shorter post, as we don't have our main computer with us. But I'll try to get a few pictures in. And then I'll send you a complete version of our Christmas holiday next week.  Promise.

Christmas Eve we went to my brother, Damian's house for dinner. The girls got to open their matching Christmas Eve pajamas.  Abby didn't want to sit still for the picture, so she kept leaning over and Kessa kept trying to follow her.  Haha.  They have owls on them, even though you can't see them.  You should be proud.  :)

Christmas morning we mostly have videos, so I'm not going to post them today.  Christmas evening we went up to Island Park.  Kessa got to go snow mobiling and loved it.  Absolutely loved it.

But mostly we just played on electronics.  All of us.  (But don't worry, also lots of board games.  We have a new one, Kingdom Builder, that's pretty great.  We'll teach you.)

Kessa got ahold of Grandpa's camera.  She actually got some pretty decent pictures.  Mixed between a bunch of not great ones.  Here are some of my favorites.

And that's all for today.  It was fantastic talking to you the other day!  Kessa loved seeing you, as did we.  Good luck with your new area!  You'll hear more next week.  :)

<3 Tianna and Co.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Our Santa Policy

photo courtesy of Travis Lovell photography

Long ago the idea was planted in my head that telling your kids that Santa was real was lying to your kids and wrong.  It was a boy I was dating and really liked and this blew me away.  If we got married I couldn't do Santa?!  That was ridiculous.  In the extreme.  It wasn't lying.  It was... allowing imagination!  I believed in Santa and I turned out fine.  Sure, there was that one year that I lied through my teeth when my brother, Damian, tried to tell me he wasn't real and I told him that he was wrong because I'd found Santa's gloves in the fireplace the year before.  But I've since repented and come clean with my mom about it.  (Like, a day or two ago.)

And then I had children.  And they got old enough to care.  And suddenly my viewpoint changed a little.  So BJ and I have had many talks about this, trying to decide how we wanted to handle it.  This is what we've come up with.  Who knows what might change in future.

Kessa is very curious.  She asks lots of questions.  I always try to answer truthfully.  Sometimes I have to kid-ify it so she can understand.  Including questions about menstruation and pregnancy.  Sometimes I have to tell her I don't know, let's google it.  Sometimes I go insane at the amount of questions she asks and have to tell her, "Mommy is going crazy right now.  Can you please not ask any questions for at least 10 minutes?  Please?"  (And then Daddy will get off work and ask, "What's our timeline for dinner?" and Kessa will panic, "Daddy!  Don't ask Mommy any questions!!!!")  We've started keeping her reverent during the Sacrament by letting her look through the Gospel Art book.  She loves to hear the scripture stories, so she'll pick one and we'll whisper the story in her ear.  It may not be perfectly silent reverent, but it does help keep her (and whoever is playing storyteller) focused on Jesus during the sacrament.  I'll call that a win.  Now she'll ask out of the blue, "Tell me another story about Peter!  One that's not him walking on water."  Or "Mommy, is that story true?"

It's that last question that really sealed the deal.  "Mommy, did this story about Jesus really happen?"  "Daddy, did Jesus really live?"  Yes, sweetie.  These stories are real.  They really happened.

Now what happens when Kessa asks me, "Mommy, is Santa real?"  What am I supposed to say?  Should I lie and tell her he is?  What happens when she finds out that I lied?  Will she start doubting everything else I told her?  Will she call me out on it?  (Honestly, I think she would.  She's pretty bold like that.)  Just like the day my heart was broken because she called me out on breaking a promise to her, how would I feel when she looks at me, tears in her eyes, "Mommy, you lied to me"?

I can't do that.  I can't.  With all the things in the world trying to pull my kids (and everyone else) away from Christ, how can I contribute?  No.  I need my kids to know that they can trust me.  That when they ask me a question, I'll tell them the truth.

Now, what about the magic of Christmas?!  What about their imagination!?  Are we just being Christmas Scrooges?  No fun here, sir.  Absolutely not.

The other experience that helped cement in my mind that we are doing the right thing for our family took place over Halloween.  We pulled out my magic wand and Kessa loved to magically turn the lights on and off.  I loved that she had the spells memorized.  Nox!  Lumos!  Adorable.  Of course, for it to work one of us had to stand by the light switch and turn the lights on and off.   When we got tired or had something else to do, we'd tell her that the wand was tired or that the magic had worn out and needed to recharge.  One day she grabbed the wand, turned to BJ and said, "Daddy, I want to use the magic to turn on the light. I need you to stand there and turn on the light and trick me."  She knew!  She absolutely knew that it was all pretend.  And yet, she was still incredibly excited every time we did it.  Even after that realization on our part, you still never would have known that she knew.  Because she'd act all surprised when it worked.  She was so happy and excited about it.

Turns out, kids can be just as excited about something they know to be pretend as something they believe to be real.  This came as a surprise to me.  I really feared that we'd be taking the magic out of Christmas for Kessa (and later Abby and Baby 3.0 and whoever might come after).  But no.  Kessa proved to me that pretend can be just as exciting.

Last year we told Kessa that Santa was pretend once at the beginning of the season.  I'm still not sure if she remembers that conversation.  Or if she fully grasped it.  She was just so little at 3.  Sometime between the seasons she asked me if Jesus was real.  We had a good conversation about how Jesus was real.  We learn about him every week at church because he was real and he's so important.  There are lots of other people that aren't real that we pretend about.  Those are usually the things at holidays that we talk about for a short time, then we're done.  Like Santa or the Easter bunny.  Those are fun, but they're just pretend.  Jesus, though.  He's real.   ... but I don't know if she remembers that conversation either.

This year, though, she is super excited about everything Christmas.  Santa.  Reindeer.  Everything.  I'm pretty sure she remembers everything that is said.  So far we haven't had a real talk about it.  But I think she knows he's pretend.  I think.  But we've left clues.  Like I've told her a number of times that I want to get both of the girls dresses for Christmas.  The dresses will come from Santa.  She found her stocking stuffer (a bunch of socks) and will see that come from Santa, too.  So I'll be interested to see her reaction on Christmas morning.  Is she confused?  Does she act just as excited?

There's a great VeggieTales movie that talks about St. Nicholas and his story.  I love it.  I think I might use that to help teach her why we pretend that he brings us presents.

One of her favorite things to do is go up to someone (usually mom or dad) and say, "Tell me a secret that no one knows."  I'm tempted to wait until there's a good time to talk and tell her the Santa secret. I'll say something like, "Ok, I'm going to tell you a secret that is very important we keep a secret, because many kids don't know it.  If we tell them the secret they might be sad.  But I know you're a good secret keeper (she is, for what it's worth).  You ready?  Well, there isn't any "real" Santa.  There are just lots of helpers. Do you know another name for Santa?  St. Nicholas. Do you remember the movie about St. Nicholas?  He put money in girls' socks, or stockings, to pay off their debts and keep them safe.  He gave service, even though it risked his life.  That was very kind of him, huh?  We do service too, don't we?  [talk about some recent service she's done.]  He was such a good man that we like to keep his memory alive by pretending he comes every Christmas to give us gifts.  Some of them even in our stockings! Just like St. Nicholas really did when he lived!  Now, some kids believe there is one real Santa.  And we don't want to make them sad.  So if anyone ever asks you about it, you should just tell them to talk to their parents about it.  Remember never to tell our secret.  But we can still have fun and pretend that he's coming, can't we?  You've got a great imagination."

But I still can't decide if I should do that now, or wait until between seasons.  If she asks, I'll absolutely tell her.  No questions.  I just can't decide if I should bring it up now or not.  I guess I'll bring it up when the time feels right.  Seems like a good policy with important discussions in general.

Of course, this is just what we've decided for our family. This is what we're doing for our children because we think it's what will work best for us. Other families will do it differently, and that's fine. It would be awfully silly to judge someone based on when they pass along a shared cultural secret, don't you think?

(Suggestion: do it before they're 15. Really. It gets awkward. Yes, this really happened.) 

Christmas celebrations start... in earnest

Jessa ~

Monday I, once again, skipped my nap for the greater good—I went to the midwife without children. This time I got to meet the CNM, Teresa, who is now with the practice.  She seemed nice enough.  No complaints about her.  Which is good, considering the midwife dilemma of 2013.  I got to hear the baby's heartbeat again, after much searching for it.  It's nice and strong.  Hooray!  Everything else looks good too.  Currently Baby 3.0, at 15 weeks, is "roughly 4 inches, crown to rump, and weighs in at approximately 2 1/2 ounces (about the size of an apple)."  It's a real baby!  Like, about the size of my fist!  Weird.  I've felt a couple of flutters over the last couple of weeks, but nothing consistent.  Probably because I mostly feel them when I'm up and moving a lot (shoveling snow or going on a mile walk).  And because I'm rarely up and moving.  Seriously, Jessa.  I've turned into a lazy couch potato.  It's embarrassing.  Which is kind of funny to admit, because last week there was a Board question about what alumni you'd like to meet and why.  And there was this answer:

Dear La Jirafa,
I've never met her in person (just over Google Hangout a couple times), but I've always liked Dragon Lady. She had such fun stories and she always seemed like such a kind, optimistic, happy person. Also, I totally blog stalk her and think she has a crazy, beautiful life. I'd like to know how she does everything she does with such a good attitude.
Hi Maven!  Thanks for blog stalking me!  :)  But at the time of reading this, I laughed and laughed.  Because I was (and still am) feeling like I do hardly anything and I'm kind of grumpy about it.  And I thought I had portrayed that in my blogs?  But I guess not.  So for the record, I'm a lazy, grumpy mom who spent 3.5 hours today on the couch taking a nap while Abby did and BJ was doing tithing settlement and left Kessa to her own devices for the majority of that time where she spent at least half, probably more, playing on the iPad.  Because I'm awesome like that.  (I hope I didn't burst your bubble, Maven.  :D )

Ok.  On to happier things.  (Blast!  I'm ruining the picture I painted of myself already!)  I promised you I'd post about our FHE this week.  Kessa has been begging to make a gingerbread house, so we bought one at CostCo and decided to decorate it for FHE.  There was no real lesson.  But there was family bonding time.  (Well, at least until Abby kept trying to rip everything apart and throw it to the floor, so she got an early bedtime.  But it was family bonding for the rest of us anyway.)  We only got about 1/3 of it done that night.  We worked on it more over the next few days and we still haven't done one wall.  But it's been fun nonetheless!

That night, after kids went to bed, I decided to use my evening time to wrap presents, as we'd gotten most of them in the mail over the previous few days.  Of course Kessa decided that she needed mommy and I spent quite awhile up there.  And there ended up being more wrapping than I expected.  So I ended up wrapping until almost midnight.  Yipes.  I don't do well without sleep in general, but especially not lately.  I'm going to be one of those boring old ladies someday that go to bed at 7 pm or something.  But not for awhile.  Anyway, point is, I love wrapping paper with grid lines.  Seriously.  I hate wrapping paper that doesn't cut smoothly when you slide your scissors across.  (Un)fortunately, my wrapping paper was both.  But I got most done.  Just waiting for the rest to come in the mail!

Kessa was quite the performer this week!  She had three Christmas programs.  First was for Joy School.  They've been learning about service and sharing ourselves with others, so they went to the Villas (the retirement community in our ward) and put on their Christmas program for them.  It involved a couple of songs and them acting out the nativity story while one of the moms read it.  Then they passed around cards that they had drawn.  It was adorable.  Kessa made a cute little Joseph.  (When you have 5 girls, some of them just have to play boys.)

Then a couple of nights later we did the same program for families.  There was a good turnout and the girls did even better this go 'round.  Kessa played Mary instead, but hadn't practiced that part as much, so Joseph (who played Mary before) had to keep putting Kessa where she needed to go.  Time to kneel?  Gently push her down.  Haha.  It was cute.  We had practiced the songs more in between, too, so Kessa did a lot better about singing loudly and all the words to the songs.  She did great.  (Seriously, when you get home are you just going to come to my house for a few days so you can just watch all these videos?)

Sorry for the horrible shot.  There were just so many people!
She's the one with antlers on the left.
Then the next morning (Friday) was her preschool program.  Grandma Homer got to come to this one, but got there just as it was starting.  It was all of the preschool classes for Monday afternoon, so I'm guessing probably 6-8 classes of about 14 each.  It was a big program.  They had it at the Legacy Center.  It also meant the audience was huge.  Which means Kessa couldn't find Grandma when she came in.  So she spent the first 2-3 songs crying.  It was heartbreakingly adorable to watch her dramatically wipe the tears on her face with her sleeve.  She kept looking around, so I wondered if she was sad she couldn't find us (she told us after it was Grandma) so I took every chance I got to make myself as obvious as possible and wave to her.  But what finally did it was daddy standing up and walking to the back to get a better shot for a video.  Then she saw him, used him to find Grandma, and afterwards she did fantastically.  Singing to every song, with a happy look on her face. She and another boy got to be Rudolph.  They got these great hats to wear with antlers and a red nose.  Super cute.  When they sang that song they go to come up front and stand in the middle while they all sang.  I was afraid she'd get shy or cry again or something, but she didn't.  She was bold and confident and sang with all her might.  Made my heart proud.

We've been working on our Christmas presents for siblings this week.  But I can't really talk about those yet.  Obviously.  But I promise a full report after Christmas.

Oh my goodness.
Does she not just look like a missionary?!

The Homer family Christmas party got cancelled on Saturday because of a death in the family (your dad's uncle, I think?)  I'm sure you'll hear about that from your Dad.  So we found ourselves completely unscheduled for a Saturday in December.  Jessa, this is just wrong.  No Saturday in December should have nothing Christmasy planned.  So we invited our friends, the Harris', to go see the Zoo Lights with us.  (Learn from my mistakes.  Zoo Lights aren't part of a zoo membership.  You have to still buy tickets.  Laaaaame.)  It was really fun.  Some of the animals were more active in winter.  The first animal we saw was the bald eagle.  And for a long while Abby said nothing except, "Birds!  Birds!"  Which was funny as we were looking at an otter (which would go swimming then get up and play in the snow!  Crazy thing!) and then sea lions and seals.  I tried and tried to get her to say sea lion and we finally compromised with fish.  She asked to see more fish the rest of the night. But Kessa wanted us to buy her a flashing light thing at the beginning and we wouldn't, so that made her grumpy every time we thought about it.  To the point that when we go to the big cats (who were awesome!) she didn't even want to look at them.  To top it off she'd taken off her gloves, so her hands were freezing.  I got her to put them back on, but it was too late.  And she was crying and grumpy and we decided to just call it quits and go home.  We were about done anyway.  But then we got in the car and she cried and screamed about her hands hurting (poor girl; I totally know the feeling) and about her whole body just being cold.  We stopped at Wendys pretty soon and getting some warm chicken nuggets and fries into her body helped and before we even got onto 215 she was happy again.  But then Abby was cranky because she wanted a drink of water.  Consistently.  She wouldn't drink out of my CamelBak.  She only wanted Kessa's Wendy's cup and straw.  Which required adult intervention so as not to get her all wet on top of freezing cold.  Poor BJ spent at least 10-15 mins of the trip with his arm reached back to hold it for her.  She still ended up damp by the end.  It was a lovely trip home.  ;)

And now... random Facebook posts!

Kessa just found one of her stocking stuffers. 1) In good news, I know she likes it. 2) Guess we'll find out soon if my theory that she knows Santa is just pretend is accurate or not.  (Note: I forget, have I told you what our policy on Santa is?  If not, I'll explain next week.)
I've been asked to write a 1-page history of myself. The only thing I can think of through the entire thing is, "One page is ridiculous! This is bare bones! I can't write anything interesting! No room for stories, for details. This is nothing but a skimpy outline!"
My new favorite pregnancy trick. Fermented pickles. I start to feel heartburn? I eat a pickle. Two if it's really bad. Viola! Heartburn gone.

Too bad the only fermented pickles I'm aware of (Bubbies at Good Earth) go heavy on the garlic and mustard. I don't love the flavor. Anyone else know of a place to buy fermented pickles?
It took *9 stores* but I finally found Kessa some good old plastic insulated snow boots. Since when are these not in demand in Utah in December?!

They're plain black and a half a size too big, but she's just gonna have to get over it.

(Note: she was disappointed at first, but when BJ told her that black were the best boots because if she dropped them in the snow she'd be able to find them, she decided they were pretty darn cool.  We purposely didn't mention that you'd be able to see hot pink boots in the snow just as well.  And probably better at night.  Shhhh!)
Know what item of clothing I hate the most? Children's socks. How in the world are you supposed to know how what size they are after they come out of the package?

I'm so tempted to DI socks when they're outgrown and just always buy new ones instead of saving them for the next child.
I just legitimately used the phrase "ere long" twice in about 3 minutes. I'm feeling rather archaic and awesome.
I totally abused screen time today in order to get in a (semblance of a) nap.

It was totally worth it.

And now... kiddisms!

  • Kessa: I want to pass all of the cars that are safe to pass.
  • Kessa: Ow! That hurt my hair bone muscle!
  • Me: Abby, don't throw all the colored pencils on the floor.
    Kessa: Don't worry mom. I can pick them up.
  • I'm pretty sure Abby only wants 6 things in life, and in this order:
    • Binkie
    • Baby Signing Time
    • Jesus/Mary (read: the nativity movie on
    • Yogurt
    • Bananas
    • Candy
  • Kessa's breakfast prayer: Help us to have a great time, though it's winter.
  • BJ tweeted: 
Watching a Pentatonix Christmas video on YouTube, my daughter [Kessa] asks me “Were they the first ones on the earth?”  ’Fraid not.
  • Abby’s new favorite activity: Touch the Snow!  (Note: Seriously.  She'll beg until we take her outside and let her grab a handful of snow, then come back in so she can throw it in the sink and say, "Cold!")

I believe that is all for tonight.  Hope you're having a wonderful week.  We pray for you every day!

Love and hugs,
~ Tianna and Co.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A much better, happier, reduced-stress, Christmasy week.

Dear Jessa ~

This week was much more chill.  Which was wonderful.  Far less stress.  (Minus one night of ranting about primary budget issues, but that's neither here nor there.  And it'll work out anyway.)  I really think it might be due to our Christmas tree.  Weird?  Maybe.  But seriously, Jessa.  There is something magical about white lights on a Christmas tree.  And when the sun isn't hiding behind clouds, it is shining blindingly through our family room/kitchen windows.  Literally blindingly.  We walk around squinting.  So half the week we've closed them and left the lights off, so it's rather dim.  And then night and day we have magical white lights in the main part of the house just soothing my soul.  Plus, we got the perfect Christmas tree.  It is perfectly shaped.  I've had several friends ask if it's a fake tree and act surprised when I say it's real.  Seriously.  So happy.  I put your mom's teddy bears up again this year (though left out all the breakable glass) and Abby adores them.  We put the pearls up again which I thought would be a problem because Abby kept thinking they were a necklace/bracelet and kept trying to pull them off the tree, but after a few "no no"s, she has decided to leave them alone.  We've also had to train her to "Be soft.  Only touch.  Don't grab," with some other ornaments and the Christmas village.  In general she's pretty good about it.  Unless she's overly tired. But usually she'll go up to say, a rocking horse ornament and while softly touching it say, "Horsie!  Neigh!  Soft.  Rocking."  It's really cute.

Our ward Christmas party was Saturday.  It was set in Whoville and the Grinch showed up and tried to steal the Christmas presents and decorations from the tree.  But Santa caught him and taught him the true meaning of Christmas by putting more decorations on the tree and explaining their Christmas spiritual significance.  After every one or two, there would be a musical number.  BJ sang Away in a Manger in a quartet.  Our neighbor, Riley, who is 7, did a karaoke solo of a song from The Polar Express and was amazing.  Seriously.  I had no idea she could sing.  The night ended with the Primary kids singing Silent Night.  We forgot to prep Kessa for it, so I was expecting the worst, but BJ talked to her about it maybe 3 minutes beforehand, and she ran up, sang loudly, and did an awesome job.

During dinner BJ did a duet with one of the YW on the piano.  The Sleigh Bells song that the two of you played last year.  This girl is really talented for her age and had been wanting to do a duet with BJ for awhile, so it seemed a good opportunity.  She's come over almost every night for the last week and a half-ish.  BJ was so great with her.  She's only 12, and struggled a little with timing, but BJ was great about working with her, taking things slowly, counting things out, and even I could see a major difference from the beginning to end.  But maybe that's because Sleigh Ride is my favorite Christmas song.  So I listened more than normal.  :D  BJ has decided that while he's not sure he'd be a great piano teacher (as he'd have to decide what songs to assign, etc.) he'd love to be a piano tutor.  If only there were such a thing...

One time Kessa and I were listening to them practice.  She turned to me and asked, "Mommy, when could I learn to play that song?"  Awww.  Well, she does have Mary Had a Little Lamb down pretty well now.  I told her that she could learn to play it if she wanted, but it would take a lot of practicing and a long time.  Probably a few years if she worked hard.  :D

Sorry this doesn't show her face, but it does show them talking.  And it also shows her braids.  This is my second time attempting to french braid her hair, and though far from perfect, I'm still proud of myself!

At the end of the Christmas party Santa had a seat and the kids could all go sit on his lap.  Kessa wasn't sure what to ask him for for Christmas, and debated between new pajamas and not-dry skin. (She had some painful dry skin while we were in line and spent half the time whining that it hurt, so I went and found someone with lotion, then the other half whining that the lotion burned.  Poor girl.)  But the pain went away before we got to Santa, so she ended up asking for new pajamas.  Luckily for her, there are already two pairs waiting for her in my bedroom.  One of which is a matching pair with Abby.  Awwww.  Abby was interested until we got up there.  When I asked if she wanted to sit on Santa's lap, she cuddled into my shoulder and said, "Iohwantto."  (Translation: I don't want to.)  I decided I didn't want to be the mom who forced her kids and got the hilariously sad photo of the crying child on Santa's lap, reaching for mommy, so I didn't make her.  Mostly she was just interested in the bowl of candy next to Santa anyway.  She's got a sweet tooth, that girl.  Goodness.  "Cannee?  Cannee?"

We got some pretty good snow this week.  We got a bunch Monday night and Tuesday.  I managed to shovel half of our driveway Tuesday morning before BJ went to work, but it took 20+ minutes, I was freezing, and BJ had to go to work.  And I didn't trust the girls unsupervised.  And my back hurt.  So I came inside.  And then the temperatures dropped.  So cold.  Like 1º one morning.  It warmed up to 14º by the time Kessa got done with Joy School.  Ridiculous.  So that combined with sore muscles and just being tired (and one day just unexplainably grumpy) meant I didn't ever finish shoveling.  Instead when people came over, I opened the garage and told them to come up that way, lest they kill themselves on my front stairs.  It was that bad.  So when we got another snow storm Saturday, and someone posted on our neighborhood Facebook group a reminder that we had to have our sidewalks shoveled within 12 hours of the storm... I decided to stop being lazy.  I had a sudden burst of energy when we got home from the Christmas party, so I sent BJ and the girls upstairs to do bedtime, and I bundled up and started shoveling.  To do my long driveway, 13+ stairs and part of my front porch, and the sidewalk that wraps around my property, I spent an hour out there.  In the freezing Lehi wind that was blowing the very powdery snow in my face.  But I got it done!  And I actually do like shoveling snow.  It's cathartic.  Weird, I know.  I guess I just need workouts that are productive in order to enjoy them.  Working out for the sake of working out just isn't my thing.   The resulting sore muscles aren't even that bad.  Yet.  Ask me again tomorrow.

And then we woke up this morning to find the wind blew snow all over everything.  Luckily just a little.  But enough it could be shoveled again. It probably won't be.  *grumble*  haha.

We had tithing settlement today.  It was cute to watch the bishop talking to Kessa about tithing.  And her being too shy to answer without prompting from us.  All Abby cared about was trying to get "More cannee?" from the bishop.  Apparently she likes Starbursts.

Kessa has been growing a lot spiritually lately.  She's taken a lot of interest in scripture stories.  We have her look at the Gospel Art book during the sacrament, and we'll whisper stories in her ear when she asks.  She'll sometimes pick a random person in the picture and tell me that they're her favorite and what is their story?  And I have to tell her I don't know.  But they remain her favorite.  Or in sacrament meeting today a neighbor was speaking and he was talking about some of the evils of the world today.  He mentioned that there are more and more atheists that don't believe in God.  I didn't think Kessa was listening when suddenly she jerked up, wide eyed and said, "Don't believe in GOD?!"  So I explained that there are some people who don't believe there is a God.  And then I asked her what she believed.  Is there a God or isn't there?  She thought a moment, then suddenly got a huge smile and said, "There is a God."  I love seeing her testimony blossoming.

Tonight was the Christmas Devotional.  (No longer the First Presidency Christmas Devotional.  Only Pres. Monson spoke from the 1st Pres and *gasp* a woman said the opening prayer!  And another gave a talk!  Signs of the last days, surely.)  We streamed it through our Apple TV upstairs.  The girls mostly just played while BJ and I watched.  But when Sis. Wixom (the General Primary President) got on, both girls stopped what they were doing and just watched her for probably 2-3 full minutes.  Eventually they both lost interest, but Kessa would still look up occasionally and watch for another minute or two here and there.  I loved it.

Oh, Saturday morning we cleaned the church.  Kessa was all about doing service, so we took the girls with us.  They would go back and forth between BJ and I, and generally loved it.  And did help a little bit at times. :)  I finished before BJ did, so we sat on the stand in the chapel while BJ vacuumed it.  A guy came in to practice the organ.  Every time he finished a song Abby would clap her hands and yell, "Hooray!!!" or "Good Job!"  I was dying at how adorable she was.  She would also climb up on one of the ... risers?  Where the choir seats raise up? then step off while yelling, "Mommy!  Watch this!"  Over and over again.  It's become a thing with her.  She did it during the devotional tonight on the Wii Fit balance board.  Or she'll do it on couch cushions.  She also calls all such objects "trampolines" even though she doesn't jump.  And for what it's worth, she's really good at jumping on trampolines.  Haha.  She also calls them "jumpolines" most of the time.

Oh, and afterwards we found the photo booth area set up for the party that night.  So we took pictures of the girls in their pjs with the photo booth props.  I apologize in advance for the adorable overload you're about to witness.

Kessa's half bday was on Friday.  She has been so looking forward to be "4 and a half" for months now that we decided to make it special.  She got to choose our meals (german pancakes for breakfast, she had yogurt for lunch, and mac and cheese for dinner) and while shopping for dinner I bought her a helium balloon.  It's becoming our special treat for all special days.  And it means I can say no for every other grocery shopping trip when we walk by w/o feeling guilt.

The night before she noticed a humidifier in the hall that a neighbor had returned.  She asked what it was, I told her, and she exclaimed, "Oh good!  Now Abby and I can both have humidifiers in our rooms!"  I agreed, but told her that I thought that neither of them needed one right now.  She insisted that she did need one.  "Why?"  "So my cough can go away faster."  "But Kessa, I haven't heard you cough in days.  I think your cough is already gone."  "Oh good!  Now I can pick out my own donut!!!!"  I was very confused for a moment until I recalled a few weeks earlier.  She had just started to get her horrible cough and I was denying her excess sugar.  She went to preschool and of course it was someone's bday, so she came home with a treat.  A donut.  It sat on the counter (wrapped) for a couple of days, but I still didn't want her to eat a full donut with her sore throat.  So we made her a deal.  If we could cut it in fourths and share it with everyone, then when her cough went away, we'd take her to the store and she could pick out her very own donut.  I had planned on honoring the deal (we all love donuts/pastries), but honestly?  I had completely forgotten about it.  She hadn't said a word about it for weeks.  But apparently she hadn't forgotten!  So after school on her half bday we went to a new coffee/donut shop in town and bought donuts.  She got one covered with m&ms.  So, nothing super special, but enough that she felt pretty cool (though sad that we didn't give her any presents) and has proudly announced to anyone who will listen that she is 4 and a half.

From Facebook:
Know what's great about pregnancy? Everyone assumes that the pooch on your belly is a baby. Heck, they might even be right.

One Christmas present almost done. (Which must remain a secret on here.) Baby's mini stocking in progress because our stocking wall looks like it's missing a spot. Family Mario Kart night was a success (read: our team lost miserably every time). Girls are going to bed. It's almost time for Once Upon a Time! Which we are far behind on. And I cleaned my family room. And have even kept it clean all day.

All around, I'll consider today a success!


  • BJ tweeted: Just discovered my 4-yr-old refers to pages in a book as levels. “This level is hard.” #ipadgeneration
  • Kessa in her prayers after the Christmas party, "And please bless Santa to bring me pajamas for Christmas."  Then after her prayer she told daddy, "I said that so Heavenly Father can give them to Santa to give to me."
And... apparently I haven't been writing things down this week.  Soory!  But you got more kid stories, so hopefully that helps.  Oh here, another Abby story.  So she's obsessed with dresses.  Specifically, this one red and white checkered dress with ladybugs and flowers embroidered on it.  She'll wake up, point to the closet and yell, "Dresses!"  She'll dig that dress out of the hamper and insist on putting it on.  After I did laundry it ended up on top, and thus was immediately confiscated.  Unfortunately for her, it's a little too short on her.  Just covering her bum.  It's going to need to disappear soon.  Luckily for her I decided to unpack Kessa's old 2T clothes and found her 11 new dresses.  So hopefully she'll be able to transfer her obsession.

I saw a Black Friday ad with a bunch of purple kitchenware and immediately thought of you. Awww.

And... I think I'm all done.  I had two interrupted naps today.  So I think I'm going to bed early.

~ Tianna and Co.

PS - Here's a video of BJ and Abby dancing while standing in line for Santa.  She loves dancing:

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holiday chaos

Dear Jessa ~

So, I thought I was pretty insane when I volunteered to do Thanksgiving.  More insane when I offered to host my dad's surprise 70th bday party (which I haven't mentioned up till now for the obvious reason that it was a surprise).  All while 1st trimester pregnant.  I've been feeling remarkably better since baptisms last month, but because of it I haven't been taking naps lately, and I think I've just traded that for more nausea.  And a continued lack of energy.  But turns out, life was even more chaotic than I had anticipated! Fun times in the Lehi Homer home!

So Monday I worked really hard and got the upstairs pretty darn clean.  Kessa was a great helper.  All that Joy School stuff about service and sharing ourselves seems to have paid off.  All week she has been asking me, "What can I do to help?"  Tonight she got mad at us because we weren't letting her serve.  (I don't remember the context, but we had legit reasons for not letting her help with what she wanted.)  It's adorable.  There are still things she doesn't want to do, like clean up stuff.  But she really likes to help with cooking, and she'll even help with cleaning up the non-normal rooms or doing laundry sometimes.  It's not perfect, but totally unexpected and I'm loving it.  Abby loves to sing the "Clean up, clean up" song while picking up Legos or any toy that she knows how to put away.  I have the most awesome kids ever!

Tuesday I had planned on cleaning up the main floor, but ended up spending most of the day running errands (I had to go both to Riverton and Santaquin).  And by the time I got back I was exhausted and not feeling well.  I started to wonder if I had overdone it on Monday.

Wednesday I expected my mom here early enough for us to spend the day cooking.  But they didn't get here until probably 4:30 or 5.  And all I could convince myself to do was sweep the kitchen floor and pull out rolls to defrost.  The rest of the day I just laid on the couch.  By the time my mom got here I told her she had to figure out dinner.  We ended up running to the store and came back to make baked potatoes with chili on top.  But it took us so long that we didn't even start eating until 7 or so, when Jalin showed up (also late).  And then Jalin's family (mostly sons and husband) made pies.  Needless to say, it was a very late night.  Especially for kids.

Thursday I continued to be completely lame face and pretty much directed the cooking from the couch.  I had to keep convincing myself that planning the menu, doing most of the grocery shopping, hosting the thing, etc. was worth something.  I wasn't being completely useless.  Although I sure felt like it at times.  I did help some.  But not much.  BJ was the real hero.  He took all 8 kids here upstairs and kept them entertained for the majority of Thursday and Friday.  Largely that consisted of playing Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart on the Wii.  But he kept a rotation going that kept them mostly happy.  But still.  That much time as the only adult with 8 kids aged 22 months - 14 and coming out sane in the end?  Total super hero.
Massive Wii party. Note the 3-yr-old playing MarioKart.

BJ also took the kids on a walk to the park.
Spencer decided to bury his head in the sand.
Dinner was yummy.  We made a maple orange bacon turkey at Jalin's request.  It was good, but I don't think I'd do it again.  The bacon was delicious.  I hear the veggies the sauce dripped on were delicious too.  The bacon was fantastic.  But the turkey just tasted like turkey to me.  And the drippings made the gravy really sweet.  And I didn't love it.  It's Sunday and I still feel like that's the only taste in my mouth, no matter what I eat.  I don't like it.  Overall, Thanksgiving was good.

The maple orange bacon turkey

We also played some games Thanksgiving night.
7 Wonders is fun!
Friday, though.  Oh the stress of Friday.  First, we'd planned on holding my dad's 70th bday party at our clubhouse.  Just my siblings.  Nothing big.  We'd spent the last month getting people to write my dad postcards/cards/letters and sending them to my house.  He ended up with almost 90.  He's one popular guy!  We were doing dinner.  BJ and I had made the chicken and marinade for fajitas and froze it on Monday.  It wasn't even at my house.  So it was supposed to be really simple.

But Abby cried all night.  Though, I think it must have been more whimpered all night, because neither BJ nor I heard it.  Only my mom who shared a wall with her heard it.  But poor Abby was just acting sick and miserable all morning.  And she looked miserable.  It wasn't until almost noon that we realized that her big toe was really infected.  It looked gross.  And she screamed if you touched it.  (Problem with footie pajamas and being lazy and staying in pajamas all morning.)  And she had a low-grade fever.  We figured it was probably an ingrown toenail.  So I called the pediatrician, but they were counting it as a holiday, so they were doing after-hours, which means one doctor is on call for all of Utah Valley.  And when I called that doctor, their message said that they were on lunch from 12-1:30.  Of course it was 12:04 when I started calling.  [sigh]  I finally got through to them at 1:30 and was in to see the doctor by 3.

Her fever kept rising and when my mom and I got to the pediatrician's office, Abby had a full-body rash.  Dr. Conner thought she might have strep when she looked at her throat (it was red with white patches) so she swabbed it.  Which is NOT FUN.  Poor Abby.  (She doesn't have strep.  Thank goodness.)  Then she came in and lanced Abby's toe and pushed all the puss out.  Which was a lot.  Much more than she expected there to be.  That combined with the fever growing and the sudden rash, she worried it might be a staph infection in the blood.  So she immediately sent us to the hospital for a blood test.

Abby's old enough now that they draw blood like they do an adult's.  Tourniquet around the arm, needle in the forearm.  Only difference was that she was in my lap, I had to hold her arms and forehead while two nurses held down her forearm and drew blood.  She hated it at first, but once it got going was rather fascinated by it.

Then it was back to the pediatrician's for an antibiotic shot. Just in case it was bacterial.  She was that worried.  Then they gave the shot, telling us, "I'm sorry, but this shot is a doozy.  It's just so thick, so it hurts.  So much that we add Litocain (a pain killer) to the shot, too."  Yipes.  Abby hated it.  But calmed down when we got out and showed her the fish in the waiting room.  They told us they'd call us that evening when they got the results of the tests.  If it showed a bacterial infection, they'd have us come back in the next morning for another shot.  If not, they'd call it viral and there's nothing we can do except keep an eye on it.

We got home a half hour before the surprise party.  Everyone else was frantically trying to do everything in our absence.  During that time, the doctor's office called.  "We got your results back from the hospital.  She has two broken wrists."  ...  Wait, what?  "Umm... I think you called the wrong mom.  Because I'm pretty sure you can't tell that from a blood draw.  Which are the results I'm waiting for."  She was so embarrassed.  But honestly, I needed a good laugh.  At this point my emotions were very raw.  My daughter was so sick the doctor was worried.  She was highly contagious, so we couldn't take her to the party that I'd been planning for a month.  So I figured I'd have to stay home.  (BJ, the champ, stayed home in my stead so I could go.)  Nothing was going smoothly to prep for the dinner.  So the laugh was good.  While she had me on the phone, though, she checked to see if her blood tests were in yet.  All but one.  They all looked good, except her white blood count was a little higher than normal.  But not enough to worry them.  They'd call after they got the last test result.

We finally got everything ready and surprised my dad.  It was fun to have almost everyone together.  (Damian's family couldn't come because his youngest got croup.  And, of course, BJ and Abby weren't there.)  But everyone else came.  We ate dinner (and my cumin tastes/looks eerily similar to curry.  So those were interesting fajitas) and opened presents, then ate pie.  Then they put on home videos from when I was just a few months of shy.  It occurred to me that I was just a couple months older than Kessa is now.  Weird.  After the first video was over, I was getting antsy.  I had already had a couple good cries and really just wanted to go home.  Which made me feel guilty because it was my dad's special night.  So during the second movie, which showed more cousins than any of us, I just couldn't take it.  So I went into the kitchen and started cleaning up so we could leave sooner.

The three oldest boy cousins. Would you believe it's
oldest-to-youngest, from left to right?

Saturday morning I realized the doctor had never called back.  So I called them.  They took a message and said they'd have a nurse call me.  Which he did at 10 am.  "We have the test results back, but before we talk about them, Dr. Conner wants to know how Abby is doing."  So I told him that she was a little happier, though still decently miserable, didn't have a fever, or at most a low-grade fever.  The rash maybe looked a little better?  And her toe was purple instead of dark red.  "Ok, I'll let Dr. Conner know, then give you call back."  Wait, what?  You know the test results but aren't going to tell me?  You had no problem telling me the night before.  Lameface.

Dr. Conner went off call at 11 am.  At 11:10 I was freaking out a little and trying to call them, but as they're after hours, I can't call directly.  It's a mess.  I hated it.  Still hate it.  So then I started to call the answering service for the next on-call doctor when Dr. Conner's office called me back.  I was so flustered that I didn't really think straight.  "If the fever stays under 101º then she doesn't need to come back in for a shot.  We're just going to prescribe an oral antibiotic.  We'll call that in right now." The end.  It wasn't until after I hung up that I realized I still had no idea what the last test said.  I didn't know if it was staph or not.  I assumed it was bacterial, not viral, as they were prescribing an antibiotic.  Nor do I know how long she's contagious.  Nor can I google anything because I don't have a diagnosis!  I'm rather annoyed at this point.  To top it off, I can't call back because they're on after-hours!  ARGH.  Well, whatever, I'll call back Monday.

I waited a few hours, then went to get the prescription.  The pharmacy didn't have it!  They never called it in!  At this point I just wanted to cry.  My baby has an infection and the doctor was worried and I can't call the doctor, so now I have to wait until Monday to get her any medicine for it?!  So I called the next on-call doctor, explained my plight to the receptionist, and she was like, "Well, we don't have any access to other doctor's prescriptions.  But this is important.  Let me see what I can do."  So she had her doctor call Abby's doctor who told him everything and he called in the prescription.  So I was finally able to pick it up Saturday evening.  [sigh]

And then we went and bought a practically perfect Christmas tree.  Which makes me so happy.  Though, it might take me all season to decorate it.  :D

In good news, she's now acting much better.  She's happier.  She looks better.  She doesn't scream when you bump her toe.  She will cry about it when she's tired or if it really gets bonked.  Though, there's a little more puss there, which makes me nervous.  So I'm trying to keep it bandaged and clean.  But I'm almost out of the purple bandage tape stuff (like when you give blood) so we'll see how creative I get.  And I'm planning on calling in the morning to say, "Hey!  What's the diagnosis!  And what do I do if there's more puss?!"  It's so, so, so good to see her smiling and running around and just happy and being adorable.

It's times like this that you really understand how big a momma's heart can get.  Unfortunately, that also means I'm still an overflowing emotional basket case.  Not as bad as I was Friday, thank goodness, but I'm still pretty pathetic.

Then today was the day of everything going wrong.  I found out from my bishop that our baptismal clothes from the baptism yesterday (which I got out of because there were two others in my presidency there and I didn't want to go, everything considered) were still in bags in the hall closet.  Wet.  [sigh]  So during Sunday School my dad and I took them home and started washing them. (My mom stayed home while Abby napped.)  Then I was feeling sick.  And my parents left me.  But then had to come back because they had my wallet in the car.  Then Kessa wouldn't obey and took forever to go potty so we could return some stuff to your parents that we borrowed.  Oh, and BJ was doing tithing settlement, so he didn't get home from church till 5.  Which is the main reason why I was taking the stuff back to your parents today.  So I had something to do.  And then I finally got everyone in the car and... it wouldn't start.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  And I had a low tire.  (But my car is fickle and if it's even 1 psi under the recommended amount, it yells at me.  And my car had been out in the cold, which often lowers the psi, so I wasn't too worried about that.)  So my parents came back again and jumped my car.

But after that the day was lovely.  :)

Seriously, though.  As much as I loved having my family here, I'm so glad this week is over.  I've finally gotten to the point in life that when things like this happen, instead of saying, "Why is this happening to me?!" I now say, "Ok, God.  This really had better help me empathize with someone in the future.  I'd better be able to help someone."  I think this change of attitude is a good thing.  It helps trials become a little easier.  But I'll be ok if I don't have any more empathy-building moments for, say, the next month or two at least.  :D

So... I think that's all of our major updates.  BJ and I are both ridiculously tired, so we're going to bed early.  So I'll save the rest of the cute kid updates until next week.  Except for the kiddisms, of course.  :)  There aren't many, but they're pretty classic.


  • Abby: Jesus!
    BJ: Umm… that's actually Mega Man. Not Jesus.
    Abby: Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!
  • BJ just said, “Guess we'd better get a cow.” I just wanted that to be noted.
    More full story:
    Kessa had just finished reading “Click-Clack Moo:  Cows that Type” to BJ and we were all talking a little.
    BJ: You know what mommy? I don't think we should get Kessa a typewriter.
    Kessa: Why not?!
    BJ: because then you'd start writing us notes and wanting electric blankets.
    Me: And diving boards.
    Kessa: No! Because we don't have a duck!
    [Much laughter]
    BJ: Kessa, I love you.
    Kessa: And we don't have a cow!
    BJ: Well, I guess we just need to get a cow, then.
  • Kessa, playing on the trampoline and pretending to eat breakfast: “Do you know what I'm having for breakfast? Cereal. And meatballs, because meatballs are really good.”
  • Abby, imitating BJ: “oh goodness. Oh goodness.”
  • Kessa: Daddy, what’s the first verse to tying my shoe? (Read: what’s the first step)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Two weeks of catch-up! But not ketchup.

Last week can basically be summed up as "sickies".  I was sick Saturday, as you know.  Sunday we were magically all healthily.  Then BJ got sick Monday late morning, so took the rest of the day off work.  He took a nap, then spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch.  The poor guy is the favorite parent, so as soon as the girls realized he was there, they had to be with him.  They spent every possible moment by/on him.  It was adorable, and BJ handled it well.  Thank goodness.  Because turns out that taking care of a sick husband while in early pregnancy (especially when still recovering from my own sickness) doesn't lend itself well to also constantly pulling chillins' off Daddy.

We both went to bed early out of sheer exhaustion.  And then Kessa woke up crying.  Trying to give BJ more sleep, I got up with her.  While she coughed and coughed and threw up clear mucus.  Oh great.  I finally get BJ better, he'll go back to work, and I'm going to have to deal with a sick preschooler.  And honestly, I didn't know if I could do it.  It was bad enough being sick and wondering all the time if I needed to be in the bathroom or not.  I didn't how how I'd do it with such low energy with a 4-year old.  I went to bed miserable that night.  Oh, and she had a low-grade fever. Which neither BJ nor I had.  Which confused me a little.  And disheartened me.  So we kept her home from school, even though she was acting fine the next day.  In hindsight, she just got a bad cold and probably would have been fine.  Thankfully she didn't ever get the stomach bug BJ and I got.  But colds, of course, last forever.  She's still got a minor cough, but it's almost gone.

But a few days later, Abby got the same cold.  A little worse off, even.  After the Primary program, I brought her home to sleep.  She was falling asleep there and I figured we could both use a nap.  So we did.  She spent the entirety of the day either napping or cuddling on my shoulder.  It was pretty pathetic.  Poor girl.  A day or two later she completely lost her voice.  Which is one of those moments that you feel awful about laughing.  But it was also hilarious.  So we laughed.  For almost a week she took 2-3 naps per day.  And long ones too.  1.5-2 hour naps.  One morning she woke up so early that she was down for her first nap at 8:30 am.  Just as I was finally getting out of bed.  She's almost out of that and back to one nap a day.  Though that one nap is often a little longer than normal.  And she's still got a pretty yucky barking cough.  But hopefully it'll get better soon like Kessa's did.

BJ appreciation dinner
So, I keep telling you how BJ is the best husband ever, right?  And how you need to find someone to live up to his example?  Well, one day I was crockpotting a chicken bacon alfredo dish (freezer meal) and saw some Martinelli's at the store and thought, "I should do a special dinner to thank BJ for all he does!"  Kessa got into it, too, and we had a lot of fun.  We bought some artisan bread.  We googled how to fold napkins.  We pulled out some candles for the table.  Kessa and I made a puzzle out of a picture of BJ and the girls.  And we had it all ready when he got home from work.  He was rather surprised.  And it was awesome.  And he totally deserved it, because he's the best ever.  And to prove it, he still did dishes.  :D

Primary Program
Kessa's primary program was last Sunday.  After last year's fiasco of Kessa being so confused about what she was supposed to do, we practiced with her constantly.  Her part was "I am a child of God; I can make choices."  She got very good at saying it slowly and clearly.  (Not in a baby voice, thank goodness.)  Just before the Saturday practice I practiced with her waiting in line, then climbing on the stool to the microphone and speaking her part into it (and not eating the microphone) about 6 times.  We talked about where she was sitting and how she could see us while she was up there.  What we didn't talk enough about was how many people were in the audience.

The poor girl ran up there on Sunday, sat down, and burst into tears.  She had a front row seat (like, they put the little chairs right in front on the stand) and as she explained it later, "I was scared.  I've never had so many people at one of my programs!"  Poor girl is used to a max of parents and siblings of 5-14 families.  Instead she got a chapel and an open gym.  BJ ended up sitting up there with her for the first half, then she wanted me.  So he came back down.  But of course I happened to be busy trying to write a card to the Primary about how awesome they did, so I couldn't go up.  So her teacher bribed her with two suckers if she could be happy.  Which made everything better.

The funny part is that when it came her turn to say her part, she was totally composed, brave, and did exactly what we'd practiced.  So we did do some good!

Watch Kolter
We watched my nephew, Kolter, last Saturday so my brother could take the rest of his family to the BYU-ISU game in the freezing cold snowy rain.  Sounds like a good time, huh?  Kolter slept for 2-3 hours of it, but when he and Abby were both awake, she adored him.  "Koh-tuh!  Koh-tuh!"  She would follow him around and try to play with him.  She just loved him.  I love when my kids get along with their cousins.  Even if most of their closest-age-wise cousins are boys.  And even if my girls are girly girls.  (I'm not kidding.  This morning Abby woke up, gave BJ her binkie, pointed to her closet and said, "Dresses!  Dresses!"  Then picked what dress she wanted to wear to church today.  GIRLY GIRL!)  I hope it lasts for a long time.

Nick and Chelsea for dinner
We invited Nick and Chelsea for dinner last Sunday so Nick could help me make an amazing spreadsheet.  Of course, I was feeling sick, so I wasn't much help, nor did I understand half of what he did.  I still haven't looked at it.  Probably because my brain always feels so muddled.  But the girls got to play with Chelsea and sometimes Nick, so that made it all worth it.  They just love Chelsea so much.

Midwife appointment
I had my first midwife appointment last week.  I'm currently 12 weeks along.  I ended up going with my previous midwife, largely because if I'm going to travel, I might as well use someone I'm familiar with and travel to a city where I can multitask my trip.  Plus, they hired a CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife.  A midwife who is also a nurse.  And usually only work in the hospital because they can make more money there.) and are talking about moving to Lehi.  Which all came out to me when I was still struggling to figure out who I should go with.  It seemed like good timing.

We got to hear the baby's heartbeat!  There really is a baby in there!  Not just some sort of benign tumor that replicates the symptoms of pregnancy!  Haha.  Kessa thought it was incredible.  Her eyes were huge.  It was adorable.  And then Heather (the midwife) used the doppler so we could hear Kessa's heartbeat.  I thought that was really sweet of her.  Kessa thought that was pretty great, too.

Joy School
It was my turn to teach Joy School again.  It went better than last time, because I had more energy.  Not a lot, but I didn't teach from the couch, which was nice.  It was a really fun and awesome week of lessons, too.  They're the intro lessons for The Joy of Service and Sharing.

So the first day we focused on Serving.  We drew each other pictures, we served each other snacks, the "secret elves" (aka the girls) cleaned up toys after free play time while I "took a nap" (though, to be honest, it was really hard to keep myself from actually falling asleep).  Then I asked BJ to come help with Abby (who, to be fair, was being incredibly cranky) and while he was upstairs, we all snuck down and secretly cleaned up a big mess the girls had made down there.  (This may or may not have been pre-planned.  Not the mess, but to have BJ come upstairs so we could secretly clean his office.)  Then we went across the street and picked up leaves from a neighbor's yard and put them in a garbage sack.  With our hands.  Because the thought of giving these 3- and 4-year olds rakes was a little unnerving to me.  How great a day is that?

The second day was more focused on Sharing.  They brought show and tell to share.  I shared some stories with them and a special snack.  For free play time I brought out play dough and they had to share the cookie cutters, rolling pin, and butter knife.  And it was really hard at first, but they got really good at, "May I please have the flower cutter?"  "Not yet, but you can when I'm done with it."  It was adorable and warmed all those little cockles in my heart.  And we turned the idea into sharing ourselves.  We read The Giving Tree and how the tree gave of herself and it how it made her happy.  And basically showed how when we give of ourselves, we're doing service.  And we learned yesterday that service makes us happy!  So sharing ourselves makes us happy too!

All of this is the lead in to the Christmas program we'll be doing first at the retirement community in our ward, then for family members.  They'll sing songs and act out the Nativity story while a mom narrates, then they'll give the elderly a present (probably cards they colored) and a hug.  Then for the family one, we're charging admission of a can of food.  Then the girls get to give the food to a food bank.

Joy School is the coolest idea ever!!!

Bridal shower
One of my best friends over the years, Taralyn, is engaged.  Hooray!  I've lived with her 5 times, including China, and I just love her to death.  Her bridal shower was Saturday, so Kessa and I went down to it.  Poor Kessa.  I told her there might be a couple of games.  I think she was thinking more along the lines of Candyland than "Guess the age of the bride in these pictures."  But there was yummy cake and fruit, so she was mostly placated.  And then we played, "Make a wedding dress for the bride out of toilet paper."  And all of Taralyn's nieces jumped at the chance to do it.  So it was mostly girls 11 and under.  So, of course, Kessa wanted in the fun.  But, of course, she ended up too shy to do it without me.  So we grabbed a roll of TP and sat on the sidelines making accessories.  We made a bouquet, a wedding band, and a necklace.  Kessa thought it was the greatest thing ever.  By the end of the shower she didn't want to go home.  But I think that's mostly because she wanted more cake as I got her out of there by reminding her that we'd have pie after dinner.

Goddard Thanksgiving
Why would we have pie?  Because dinner was the Goddard Thanksgiving dinner!  Hooray!  It was fun, as always.  Uncle Richard has been serving a humanitarian mission assembling wheelchairs in 3rd world countries, so he took some time to tell us about that.  Typical Uncle Richard stories.  Full of laughter and tears.  :)  (But good tears.)  Your cousin, Brieanne, has a 2-year old girl who turned out to be the perfect playmate for our girls.  She is 6 months older than Abby, but she's Kessa's size.  I'm not kidding.  She wears 4T.  So both girls felt totally comfortable with her and the three spent the evening running around and playing.  I tried really hard to get a picture of them together, but it just didn't happen.  We're hoping to try again at the Christmas party.  Because it's seriously hilarious.

Talk - Spirit of Christ
I got to give another talk today.  Aren't you jealous? (You made a cameo appearance this time.)  My topic was "The Spirit of Christ." It was another talk with a high councilman, this time in my own ward.  It was fun to watch the girls from the stand.  They would get big grins on their faces whenever we made eye contact.  It was great.  My favorite compliment afterwards was something like, "Hey Tianna, Elder Oaks called and wants you to speak for him at General Conference."  (Or something similar.  It was noisy and he was a few people away.)  But I had two older people come up to the stand right afterwards and give me the most heartfelt thanks and praise for my talk that made me feel so good inside.  And a little guilty.  Because  honestly, I didn't start writing it until last night.

I've been thinking about it for two weeks, but really just had no idea where to go with it.  Like, is this the Spirit of Christmas?  Christ's actual spirit?  The Holy Ghost?  It wasn't until I sat down yesterday and started searching that I really started to figure out more what it meant.  And even then I felt like I was learning some brand new doctrine.  Which was hard!  Because I didn't feel qualified at all to teach something that I still didn't really understand.  I went to the Thanksgiving dinner a little worried because I knew we'd stay late and I had only written two paragraphs that I didn't like at all.  But BJ and I had some good discussion about it, and then I had a short conversation with your dad about it, and then BJ and I outlined what I wanted to talk about on the drive home, so I was able to type it all up in an hour or two.  Then I woke up early to add some more, do some editing, and practice it to make sure timing was right and to make sure I didn't have to just read it all.  It felt very rushed to me.  I can't tell you the number of times that I told BJ, "I wish I hadn't procrastinated this talk for so long!  I need more time!"  But last night I prayed, "I know I haven't put the work into this that I should have, but please don't let my lack of preparation adversely affect what the congregation learns.  Please help the spirit tell them what I should have been saying.  And apparently it worked!  Because I really don't think that what I said deserved the comments I got. :)

Fourth Sunday dinner
Well, we technically cancelled 4th Sunday dinner because we had the Goddard Thanksgiving yesterday.  But we're moochers, and I was tired, and your parents had lots of leftovers, so we went up anyway.  Two thanksgiving dinners in a row!  I noticed today that my belly is starting to show.  But I'm honestly not sure if that's my pregnant belly or my two-Thanksgiving-dinners-in-a-row baby.  Food babies for the win!  :)

Also, your mom is going to start taking over your blog for me.  I'm just so bad at getting it published in time.  And I feel bad for family members who try to keep up with you regularly.  And your mom is Super Woman, so I know she'll be more timely.  Once she figures out the technology portion of it, anyway.  :D  She did post your last two tonight.  And I wrote a list for her to follow.  So hopefully when she blogs your email tomorrow she'll do great.  :D  Also, I think she's having more fun coming up with nyms than I did.  I love your mom.  She's great.

I've been trying to read to the girls more often.  We got 5 of the My First Little House books from the library, which are a simplified, illustrated version of the Little House on the Prairie series (from the same author).  They've both loved them.  To read all 5 takes about 20 minutes and both girls will sit on my lap the whole time.  We've started to talk about how Laura and Mary were helpers to their Ma and lately, between that and the Joy School lessons, Kessa keeps asking if she can help doing things.  She's been loving it.  Hooray!  Let's keep it up.  (But not things like cleaning up messes.  She wants to help with cooking and drying dishes, etc.  Not her normal chores.)  

20 things about me
There's been this Facebook thing going around where someone tells you X number of things about themselves and if you like their status, you're given a number to do the same.  I hated it because I loved reading them, and wanted to like them, but I couldn't like everyone's or everyone would give me a number!  But one night I had a hard time falling asleep because my brain kept thinking of things I'd put on my list, so the next day I just made my own list of 20 things.  I thought I'd share you so you could maybe learn more about me.  :)

  1. I used to collect autographs from anyone and everyone. It’s how I met my missionary (who is not my husband) when I was a Freshman in high school. I have very few famous people, but I do have the real Coach Boone from Remember the Titans, one of the Miss America’s (or Miss USA? I don’t remember), and one of the Idaho governor’s. I also have no idea where my autograph collection is. I have at least 1k, maybe 2k, autographs.
  2. My missionary broke up with me at his homecoming. I thought I’d be devastated. Instead I felt incredible peace, and we stayed friends.
  3. Speaking of ex-boyfriends, I tend to stay friends with my exes. Or at least on good terms. One ex was our mortgage officer when we bought our condo (until he was deployed to Afghanistan) and another ex has provided several art pieces in our house and still comes to our house for games or to visit on occasion.
  4. I’ve lived in two cities in Idaho, 4 in Utah, Urumuqi, China and Jerusalem.
  5. My address in China included the line, “In the middle of Wu Chang Highway.” And that was pretty darn descriptive.
  6. I was technically (and completely jokingly) engaged to BJ before I ever went on a date with him. My engagement ring from that shattered just days before we broke up for the first time.
  7. I didn’t serve a mission in part because I was scared of proselytizing and in part because I simply didn’t want to. I did start filling out my papers twice, though. I just never could bring myself to finish them.
  8. I went through the temple without going on a mission or being engaged. I just wanted to.
  9. I’m kind of a hippy/crunchy/naturalist/whatever word you want to use kind of person. I don’t like to take medicine unless I have to (but then I will). But if a natural remedy will work, I will opt for it every time. I garden and would love to heirloom garden. I birthed Abby at home. On purpose. And am planning on a home birth with this one, too.
  10. I’m driven by emotion at times, but mostly I’m driven by logic.
  11. I played the trombone for 6 years. I still find myself trying to remember the positions for my part when I hear Sleigh Bells (which remains my favorite Christmas song) and any pep band songs, like Summertime Blues and Eye of the Tiger. I still even remember their page numbers. (63 and I think 31, respectively.) I also want to start playing Jingle Bells every time it starts snowing. (Thanks, Mr. Bennett.)
  12. I could have printed off transcripts with the following majors declared: General Education, Computer Science, Nursing, General Education: Nursing, General Education: Health and Education, Communications, Open Major, Anthropology, Theater and Media Arts, Marriage Family and Home Development, Audiology and Speech Language Pathology, and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. That’s 12 majors, folks. But I didn’t necessarily choose nor even take classes in all of those majors.
  13. I can’t remember all the boys I’ve kissed. I counted 9 I can remember, but I’m pretty sure it’s actually in the low double digits. Does that make me a bad person? (Note: I thought of one more later, but I still think I'm missing maybe 2.)
  14. I gain my energy from social situations, but I don’t feel like I’m an extrovert. I think I’m somewhere in between extrovert and introvert. Many people don’t believe that I can actually be quite shy.
  15. Halloween is my least favorite holiday. I hate the glorification of violence, gluttony and immodesty. My stomach churns the entire month of October when I see pictures on Facebook and Pinterest of gore. But I don’t want to offend, so I don’t usually say anything publicly lest someone think I’m directing it at them specifically. Relatedly: I hate, hate, hate, the zombie craze.
  16. I have taken classes in French, Norwegian, Spanish, Mandarin, and Biblical Hebrew. I definitely learn languages better when they’re not written in Romanized letters. I can’t speak/read almost anything in any of those languages, though. I’m the most saddened by the Biblical Hebrew.
  17. I taught myself to not be a picky eater. I still don’t like shrimp. I only tolerate celery. And I still find myself reverting to my childhood tendency to look at something and decide I don’t like it before I’ve even tasted it. And then I have to force myself to give it a real chance.
  18. I almost choked to death on the fumes of cinnamon flavoring as a wee babe. I haven’t liked the taste of cinnamon candy since, though I’ve learned to tolerate it.
  19. My sister once let me try to crawl out of a 2nd story window without a screen and my brother tried to suffocate me with a pillow. Both times I was saved by my mother. I wasn’t a popular baby. They’ve both since assured me that they like me now.
  20. I’ve always harbored a desire to write a book, but I probably never will because I’m afraid of being judged. If I ever did, it would either be a YA fictional romance based loosely on my own dating experiences, an older children’s book based on a dream I once had, or Bible Stories told in modern English. I probably won’t do the first because it’s about real people and it’s too easy to read bad things into stuff like that. I probably won’t do the last, though it’s the one I’m most interested in, because I’m afraid I’d get things doctrinally wrong and be judged by smarter people than I. Which leaves the second, but I don’t remember the details and am too lazy to figure out how to fill the logical holes I already see in it.
  • Me: What does Abby say?
    Abby: [considers] Ruff, ruff!
    *Note: This girl is obsessed with dogs.  Every time she sees one, real or stuffed, she yells, "Doggy!  Ruff! Ruff!"  It's adorable and scares me greatly for the future.  I don't want a dog!
  • When Kessa talks about higher or lower notes, she calls them lighter or darker.
  • Kessa: And Daddy, if you ever feel like you don't have anyone to love, you can always love us!
  • Kessa: Next time you try to die a lot, before you even die, you should look and find this necklace because it has lots and lots of hearts on it to show you how much I love you.
  • Abby dropped her binkie on the floor. BJ lowered her so she could pick it up. The following commentary followed. “I dropped it! I got it! I did it! I found it! See it?” Seriously. She says so many things lately. It’s adorable.

Talk: The Spirit of Christ

I am speaking today about the spirit of Christ, often referred to as the light of Christ. The spirit of Christ is a gift from our Father in Heaven. In Moroni 7:19 we learn,

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man [which is to say, mankind. So men and women], that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

There are two things I’d like to pull from this scripture and discuss today. First, the spirit of Christ is given to us that we may know good from evil. Second, the spirit of Christ is given to every man.

Let’s discuss the first topic. The spirit of Christ is given to us that we may know good from evil. Sounds a little like Jiminy Cricket, doesn’t it? Well, we’re not each given a cricket to help us know good from evil, but we are given a conscience. That is one of the main functions of the Spirit of Christ—it is our conscience.

So what? Why do we care? Why am I up here telling you all that you have a conscience? I hope you all already know that. So, how can knowing that you have the Spirit of Christ, to know good from evil, be applicable to your life? Why is this topic worthy of a sacrament talk?

In Doctrine and Covenants 93:38-39 we read:

Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.
And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.

When we are born, all of us are innocent. We have perfect access to the spirit of Christ to know right from wrong. But as we grow and as we start to disobey, we allow Satan access to come and take away that light and truth. He slowly removes our access with every disobedient choice we make.

It’s easiest to think of sin in terms of murder, adultery, abuse and other big sins. We also think of sin in terms of lesser offenses such as not reading scriptures, not paying tithing, being mean to your brothers or sisters, etc. But we can sin in even smaller ways. James 4:17 teaches, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

How many times have you thought, “I know I should be doing X, but I just don’t want to?” I know I think it all the time. “I know I should clean up dinner, but I really just want to go read my book.” I know it is right, to keep my house a house of order; the scriptures teach me so. But far too often, despite knowing what is right, my natural man kicks in and I instead choose to be lazy.

Daniel K. Judd wrote an article for the Liahona about the Spirit of Christ. In there he discusses this concept of sin as knowing to do good and not doing it. He tells a story that describes it well.

My wife had asked if I would rock our baby Rachel to sleep. I knew I should, but I really wanted to watch the football game. I quickly settled on a compromise: I could take the baby into my room, watch the football game on the portable television, and rock her to sleep at the same time. A real win-win situation! I would miss the color screen, but what a small price to pay for being a good dad!
The problem came after about two minutes of watching the game. Rachel began to fuss. The thought came to my mind that if I turned the television off, walked with her, and sang to her, she might be soothed. I knew it was the right thing to do, but did I do it? No, I spent the next 30 minutes struggling to watch the game and rock Rachel, all the while resenting the fact that I couldn’t do what I wanted to!
While it is a little uncomfortable to admit, when I didn’t get up and walk with my child, I went against that which I knew was right, and that, in a word, is sin.

With every disobedient choice we make, whether it’s disobedience to a commandment or to our conscience, which is the spirit of Christ, we allow Satan to remove that light from our lives. If we want to bring ourselves back to that easy access of knowing right from wrong, we have to again start listening and doing those things we know to be right. Justification is our enemy. In Bro. Judd’s story, he justified his actions. He listed his justifications as (1) I’ve been working with difficult situations all day, so I need some time to myself; (2) My wife is much better suited to deal with babies than I am, and she should be doing this; (3) My wife doesn’t appreciate all I do, so it’s really unfair she would have me do this; and (4) I’m so tired; I need to sit down and relax. I’m sure all of those justifications seemed fair and just to him. But it did him no good. He still chose to disobey what he knew to be right, he started to distance himself from the light of Christ, and in so doing, started to drive a wedge between himself, his wife, and his duties as a father.

President Spencer W. Kimball stated: “There are many causes for human suffering—including war, disease, and poverty—and the suffering that proceeds from each of these is very real, but I would not be true to my trust if I did not say that the most persistent cause of human suffering, that suffering which causes the deepest pain, is sin—the violation of the commandments given to us by God. … If any of us wish to have more precise prescriptions for ourselves in terms of what we can do to have more abundant lives, all we usually need to do is to consult our conscience.”

Now have I depressed you all? I know I’d be thinking, “Well, shoot. Now I know I’m not perfect. I make choices like that every day. There’s no way I’ll ever make it back.” That is not the end of the story. Do not forget that our Father is a loving god whose work and glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. He provides ample opportunity to fix our mistakes, to do better, to repent. This is the whole point of the Plan of Salvation! Every time we choose to instead do what we know to be right, we work our way back. When we keep our sacrament covenants and repent of our sins, they are washed clean. Big sins and little.

But there are those who feel their sins cannot be wiped away so easily. Perhaps they feel they are so far removed from the spirit of Christ, because of their own choices and actions, that there is no way back. This is not true. No matter how far buried the spirit of Christ is in you, it is still there. Let’s look at King Lamoni as an example. You remember the story? Ammon goes on a mission to the Lamanites, gets captured, ends up a servant to the king and cuts off the arms of the bandits who are trying to kill the king’s sheep. Prior to Ammon’s arrival, the bandits usually managed to steal the sheep and the king would kill his servants for allowing the sheep to be stolen.

We usually focus on Ammon in this story. Let’s focus on King Lamoni instead. He had been raised his entire life by wicked men who had taught him that, as king, “whatsoever he did was right.” So if he killed his servants, then it was right. No biggie. But when Ammon cut off all the arms of the enemy bandits, Lamoni’s long-buried conscience kicked in. Alma 18:5 says, “Notwithstanding [King Lamoni and his father] believed in a Great Spirit, they supposed that whatsoever they did was right; nevertheless, Lamoni began to fear exceedingly, with fear lest he had done wrong in slaying his servants.”

Despite a lifetime of distancing himself from the Spirit of Christ, believing himself to be right in whatever choices he made, the Spirit of Christ was still inside of him. As the story continues and as Lamoni allows himself to act according to his conscience, he progresses closer and closer until he is prepared to be baptized and receive the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

If Lamoni, who slew untold numbers of servants simply because they displeased him, could repent and find his way back to recognizing the Spirit of Christ, then surely every one of us can as well. We are never too far gone.

On that same note, no one else is ever too far gone. Too often we judge other people’s future actions based on their past and pass judgment that they are past help. We believe that someone who has left the church clearly knew what they left and thus what’s the point of even trying to help them? We judge the homeless man out by Walmart. We judge everywhere we look.

One day I had a conversation with a non-LDS friend of mine on Facebook. His view was that all Muslims are evil. Why? Because they aren’t Christian. There is clearly no hope for them, he thought. This concept blew my mind. God will not punish his children simply because they never had the opportunity to learn. That’s why we have temple work—to give those people the opportunity to accept the gospel. We also send our missionaries all over the world, to bring people to Christ. Currently my sister-in-law is serving her mission in Cambodia where the majority of the people are Buddhist. We do not believe the Cambodian people to be without hope simply because they were born into a different religion.

This brings me to my second point. Why is it important to know that the Spirit of Christ is given to every person? Because it is important to know that everyone has the capability to know right from wrong. Everyone has the opportunity to be enlightened. My friend doesn’t understand this. Because he doesn’t understand, it is easy for him to pass judgment and to believe that non-Christians are simply evil. We cannot afford to pass that judgment on anyone. The first presidency is focused on Hastening the Work of Salvation. That is impossible to do if we do not understand that the Spirit of Christ is given to all men.

Throughout history we have seen non-Christians and non-LDS people alike enlightened through the spirit of Christ. In 1978 the First Presidency stated that great religious leaders “such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as the philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light … to enlighten whole nations.” Isn’t it interesting that God would choose to enlighten an entire non-Christian nation? Perhaps they were not ready for the entire truth, but they were ready for a portion. Why did he enlighten these men? Because He loved their people so much to want to give them more. Because he knew that because they had the spirit of Christ, they were capable of learning the truth and deciphering it from the lies in the world.

It’s not just religious leaders that God enlightens through the spirit of Christ, but also leaders, philosophers, scientists, artists, etc. President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “Those who make these discoveries are inspired of God or they would never make them. The Lord gave inspiration to Edison, to Franklin, to Morse, to Whitney and to all of the inventors and discoverers, and through their inspiration they obtained the necessary knowledge and were able to manufacture and invent as they have done for the benefit of the world. Without the help of the Lord they would have been just as helpless as the people were in other ages.”

We, as confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are entitled to the constant companionship of the Spirit. But everyone in the entire world, past, present and future, is given the spirit of Christ, which prepares people to first receive the temporary witness of the Holy Ghost, and then the constant companionship. We need to stop judging people by their past and instead believe in their potential. Instead of judging based on what we see or think we see, we need to always give the benefit of the doubt, no matter their actions, no matter their religion, because they still have the spirit of Christ and there is always hope.

I testify that each of us has the spirit of Christ, that God loves every single one of us. I testify that there is always hope, no matter our situation in life, or the lives of others. I testify that we alone allow ourselves to be distanced from that gift of the spirit of Christ through sin, but through repentance and obedience can be brought back to enlightenment. And I do so in the name…