Monday, May 27, 2013

Los Cabos, Mexico

We feel really blessed that we got to go on this vacation to Los Cabos, and that we have a wonderful family who were willing to watch our children.

We got to go to a resort in Mexico with all of Ben's coworkers and boss.
I know it's important to spend time in your marriage away from your children, and we were lucky this time that it was facilitated by the company Ben works for. And what a picturesque place for a getaway!

The beauty of this earth amazes me. No matter where you go, God has found a way to remind us he has created this beautiful world for us.
And how grateful I am for resorts that allow you to enjoy this beauty. I mean this was the view from our room

It was so fun to be together

My favorite part was probably the first night when we sat on the beach together and watched the sun go down, with a beautiful balmy breeze and the waves crashing along the shore.

And Mexico wouldn't be complete without experiencing some of the culture.

Ben and a friend getting accosted by some peddlers. Ben is such a friendly guy, and loves to use his limited Spanish, he can't help but talk to these guys.

And they had a show one night that showcased traditional dances, which I loved. The dances were so lively and the colors so vibrant, so full of life.

We even got to go to church. None of us understood a word, but the Spirit of God is the same.

Thanks, Barcelo Los Cabos (I can still hear Ben sing-songing this phrase in my mind), you were good to us.

Although Mexico is a great "photo opportunity," I want it be said that I don't think you need to go to an exotic beach to rejuvenate your marriage or find relaxation and peace. I know that true peace and true satisfaction comes from inside, and is best facilitated by a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

And now, I am ready to get back to my babies.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Brother Derek

I am actually on my way to sunny Mexico right now but today is my brother Derek's 22nd birthday. Happy Birthday Derek!

One thing I admire about Derek is how good he is at noticing the good in others, and especially how good he is at telling them. I struggle with complimenting and thanking others, I feel like it always comes out trite. That's one reason I decided to start these birthday posts, I feel so much more at ease writing out someone's good traits than telling them in person, because I can carefully plan it out.

Derek easily gives compliments. "Wow this dinner is great" "You look nice today" "Thank you so much for talking to me" and it's never canned or forced, always sincere and specific. He says those things that you think but never actually say to the person, for pride or forgetfulness. "You said exactly what I needed to hear" "This relationship means a lot to me." I remember him talking on the phone with my mom the other day and telling her, "Mom I never have thanked you for making our home life so rich and full. This class I am taking really made me realize what a wonderful job you did. Thank you."

His never-ending sincere compliments is probably one of the reasons people joke he is the "favorite" in the family. How could you not be when you easily show love to every member of your family? When you feel loved by someone, it is easy to respond in kind. Derek brings this out in people.

Although Derek is directly younger than me, we weren't close playmates as kids (remember I had my two older sisters, and Derek had a thick-and-thin little brother Dillon). When we moved to Horseshoe Bend, however, we had a chance to get close.

Because we went to a small high school, all the sports teams traveled on the same bus. So Derek and I got to ride together. We'd sit by each other and share friends and music and just have a good time. Games were on Fridays and after a long 3 hour bus ride home, we would come home and hang out with each other and our family.

After I left for college, our relationship actually continued to grow. I would be excited to come home and tell Derek all the wonderful things I loved about college and he could look forward to.

Now after his mission we drove back to Utah together, and we had a long life-changing conversation. We realized that spiritually we were at the same point, and though our experiences that led us there were very different and varied, we could now learn and help each other progress.

It is a relationship I cherish. A spot where we are so evenly matched, both of us speak freely and discuss things and hash things out. There's no 'one instructing the other,' it's learning together. I am grateful for my good friend Derek. May I follow his example.

This is the end of my siblings' birthday posts. Whew! 10 is a lot of posts! It was a fun ride. What great siblings I have! Here they are, in age order Joel, Sarah, Justin, Heather, Bethany, Haley, Whitney, Derek, Dillon, Cassidy

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sister Haley

My sister Haley and I have a long history. As the oldest of our trio (Haley, Whitney, and Ashley), she made up a lot of the stuff we did. My most prominent memories are of the tapes we made of songs and jokes. "Christmas is always remembering" and "The green grass hill" are classics. Not only were we inseparable playmates as young kids (along with my sister Whitney), we then got to spend several quality years together as adults.

The summer after my freshman year I lived with my sister Haley (and our awesome roommate Erin Worthen). Then excluding one semester, we lived together for another 2 years until I got married. We always did awesome stuff together. We were known for our awesome dance parties. Most of my fun, single memories have Haley in them, doing things she planned: floating down the river, late night pool parties, hiking the Y to see the fireworks, numerous pancake parties, meeting on dark street corners at 6am to go running together and get poptarts at the gas station (her idea, obviously. If you know anything about Haley you know she'd do anything for treats!). Dinner groups, volunteering at her school, meeting up on campus running work errands, double dates, cousins dates, dollar movies, hot tub parties and sitting on Sam's dog, playing soccer with people we barely knew because Haley was "into" one of the guys, and the list goes on and on.

Then after I got married, Haley got married 9 months later and we continued to have fun times together with my brother Derek. Then she left me sister-less when they moved to Las Vegas. I forgive her. Hopefully someday she will move close by me again and all of our kids will be friends.

On to what I like about Haley and would like to emulate. This trait of Haley's I have admired for a long, long time. Haley is incredibly dedicated. She is incredibly consistent. She never stops. Ever.

When we were kids, Haley made a goal to read her scriptures every single day. And she did it. In fact, if you ask her now she still hasn't missed a day. Same with writing in her journal.

Haley has never considered herself bright. She struggled somewhat in college because of this perception of herself. But she persevered. She never gave up. And she graduated from a university she was not sure she was "smart enough" to get in to.

Haley never considered herself athletic, she never played sports or actually even exercised in high school. After she graduated from college, she decided to run a marathon. I tear up just thinking about it. I remember because I lived with her during all the training. I remember the day she came home from running 13 miles. I was amazed. This girl, who'd never touched a sport in her life was an athlete! And she did run that marathon. Even though she was hurting and had ever other ailment, she never stopped, never walked, never gave up, and she finished.

Haley would want me to go running with her in the mornings. Like most people, I started out strong, but would eventually succom to my warm bed by the end of the semester. Not Haley. She said she was going to go running everyday before work, and she did. Even if it was shuffling in the snow.

Haley had some baby weight to lose after she had Emily (Haley never has been and never will be fat). We sisters had a weight loss club that included no sweets. Anyone who knows Haley knows all about her sweet tooth (in fact, I distinctly remember visiting Haley at her school one time and she was having a big bag of M&M's as her lunch). But Haley doesn't cheat. She followed all the rules exactly (and even some optional ones) and easily met her goal weight.

It doesn't matter what Haley sets out to do, you are guaranteed she will do it. She is richly blessed for her consistent obedience and this godly quality of never, ever giving up. May we all choose to be more like her.

Happy Birthday Haley!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Mother-in-law

Two years ago I wrote all about my mother's redeeming qualities. Now I haven't known my mother-in-law for nearly as long, but I thought it only appropriate that I write a post about a few of her admirable attributes that I have noticed in our few short years of marriage.

I was afraid to write this post because I thought it would appear like I was comparing the two. It's dangerous when you write a list because then one can say, "Well that's not on my list" or say "I'll never be able to be that." But one thing I've learned from being married to Ben is that we are not all the same. We do not all have the same strengths. But we DO all have strengths. And those strengths are not meant to be all the same. There's no "one size fits all" or "all perfect people respond in this way." We should celebrate our differences and our different strengths.

Speaking of strengths, I wanted to point out my mother-in-law's.

I really should get a more recent picture. This is Cheyenne circa May 2011.

She has shown me how work is joy. There was no sermon, just her gentle, constant work and her attitude towards it.

She is incredibly kind and giving. She would give away all that she has if she could. She is constantly thinking of the other person's comfort. It's not because she thinks that what she "should" do, it's because that what she IS. She epitomizes kindness and comfort.

She's an amazing teacher. She used to teach school, but now she teaches her grandchildren. I've never seen her in the school setting but I can just imagine her. Most recently she was a reading aide, and when she retired she sent us a bunch of the books she would read with her students. As I looked through the books I could hear her reading to some child, sharing a special time. Time is of no consequence to her when she is helping someone. She could sit there for hours playing with the children, being in their world, loving them. Oh how lucky, the child probably thought, are her grandchildren. I would love to have a grandma like her. 

And that child is right. Her grandchildren are lucky. And so is her daughter-in-law.

Mother's Day is a perfect day to forget yourself. I love this post that has really put Mother's Day in perspective for me.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


I just finished the book Laddie by Gene Stratton-Porter (don't let her name throw you off... it's a woman's name). I had to return it to the library so I didn't have time to write down my favorite passages like I usually do. Maybe I will get a new old book for Christmas like I did last year...

I loved the things I learned from this book. Family life on a country farm in the 1850's.

This book spelled out all the things I said back here about the home being a place to cultivate souls. Wow, there were so many great things about how they taught their children and valued education. The mother herself was uneducated, and taught by the father before the children came. So interesting! This book is based on Gene's own childhood.

This family builds their life from scratch. It sounds absolutely beautiful. Orchards, gardens, chickens, geese, barns, streams, woods, country roads, the whole bit. So many dreamy passages of  a beautiful world.

One thing really struck me. When one of the daughters was about to get married, she bursts into tears and says she wants to get married in their home, because it has such significance to her. The parents just look at each other with tears in their eyes, "We have succeeded. She loves this place that we have built." She didn't meaning the building, she meant the culture, the feeling of home. It really gave me a second to pause. I want to create that home where our family is so connected, so much a part of each other's lives, that the very structure we live in gives this feeling of peace and comfort, of love and warmth, of community and dependence on your family.

The mother also talks about how she trains her daughters to leave the house. She teaches them every homemaking skill she knows, sewing, cooking, cleaning, mending, until they themselves are experts at it. And then, when they seem ready, she leaves for a month and puts them in charge of the household! I love this old way of doing things. Where home was seen as a preparation for your future home. It's a combination of these two things, home education and the joy of work, that I've written about before.

I even learned quite a bit about prayer. Oh how I love old books! It's so easy to find God in them. The little girl telling the story has quite the relationship with God and her childlike faith is so inspiring. Great miracles come about because of her prayers and her sincere belief in God, and earnest love and effort to help others.

Dependence on neighbors also comes to mind with this book. It is so telling when the girl is making a wedding guest list, since they are having in the home she decides to invite "only close friends and family." As she goes through each person in the community, she gives a reason why she must invite them, some reason they've helped the family in the past, or even how an invite to the wedding dinner could help their hungry family, and ends up inviting everyone! How we are missing this in our world today! We can be great cyber friends with people halfway across the globe, but yet not have time to help our neighbor across the street. A great lesson I want to think more about.

Gene Stratton Porter has written more books that I am excited to check out. If they are worth reading, I will be sure to document them here!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sister Whitney

Whitney's birthday is actually tomorrow but she'll be in Ecuador tomorrow (for 6 months teaching English with her husband!!) so I wanted to post it today.

Whitney is the sister just older than me. But actually most of our adult lives we have lived in separate states so most of my fun, happy memories of Whitney are of us as little kids. She and my other sister Haley, we were a threesome. My mom made us coordinating sweatshirts one time in different colors that had our names ironed on them and we loved them. We also had these three little chairs in matching colors that we used all the time. Whitney is one of the reasons I loved having sisters. We played together, shared a room, we would talk late into the night about boys. We made up games and movie skits and everything in between. We made dandelion stew under the porch and snow tunnels in the yard. We shared friends and lots of laughs. Exactly what sisters are supposed to me.

One of the things I love about Whitney took place in her adult life. When Whitney first started college, she was UBER-social. It actually turned into a detriment to her studies. She loved people soo much that she had a hard time getting to class, or finding time to study. She was just so friendly, and unfortunately to a fault. But in the past few years, this weakness of hers has turned into a strength. She is still her super friendly self, but she uses it for good. Everyone loves Whitney. She was the Senior Class President of her university and was constantly involved in service projects and helping the missionaries. This is what I am so impressed with Whitney. She has successfully used Christ's Atonement to make herself a better person, and as a result be an instrument in His kingdom. These are my favorite kind of success stories. I love it when people are not perfect, but through Christ find a way to become a more like Him. Whitney has shown me that God does not change who we are, but instead uses our innate strengths to enable us to be His servant. I hope I can learn to do that as well.   

Love you Whitney! We will miss you! See you in November. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Brother Joel

Today my oldest brother Joel turns 37. My youngest sister is 18. That means my mom was bearing children for nearly 20 years!!

Joel's life is perfect. He returned home from his mission and met a beautiful woman. Shortly thereafter they were married. He graduated from college, then law school. He worked in the industry for a few years before he decided to work for himself. Now he is a very successful business man, with a dream house in the middle of nowhere, a STILL beautiful wife of 15 years, and 7 fantastic well-behaved children. Sounds like something out of a storybook am I right?

He has been richly blessed. Although I'm sure he has his share of trials just like the rest of us do. But he is someone you are glad to admit, "Yeah he's my brother." Not because of his apparent success, but because of what he is: He is just good.

One thing I really admire in him and would like to emulate is just that strong conviction he has, to be good. I was never a part of his growing up, his "coming of age," I don't know when he made this decision or if he has always been this way. But nearly all of my memories of Joel are of him and his growing family. I got to see them start their family traditions, to raise and grow their children, the rules they kept, the lifestyle they cultivated. It is quite a unique experience that most people do not get to have with their siblings and is something I cherish. To see the inception of a family, to see ideals and dreams begin, and then witness their fruition.

I am so grateful for my brother Joel. I hope that I too can choose to "be good" and stick with that conviction. Then hopefully someday I can pick that precious fruit that is ripe from hard work and dedication, as he has.