Gratitude Photo Scavenger Hunt {Part Three}

21. Something I'm grateful for in the month of November.

My dad.
His birthday is in November. I'm grateful for the caring, goofy, crazy, talented, wonderful man he is.

22. Something I'm grateful for that makes my life easier.

Dora the Explorer.
Meet Dora. She is our second vehicle. She takes Joe to work so I can have the minivan at home. After being a one car family for a few years how I love her and appreciate her presence in our family. She makes my life so much more convenient.

23. Something I'm grateful for that makes my belly happy.

Leatherby's hot fudge ice cream sundaes.
I've never been the biggest ice cream fan...until...we found this little family owned gem. The food is terrible, but oh my stars! that hot fudge is truly something to be grateful for.

24. Something I'm grateful for that reminds me of friends.

Rag quilts.
My friend Lana taught me how to make these rag quilts while we lived in Arizona. Even if we don't live there anymore I am still grateful for my friendship with Lana and all the other amazing friends I have made in all our many moves. I have learned that no matter where you may wander in the world, there are good souls out there. And that is a truth that I am absolutely thankful for. 

25. Something I'm grateful for that is indicative of my city.

I live in the Salt Lake valley where LDS temples are almost as "common" as Walmart stores. But there is nothing common about them. Because of temples families can be together forever. I love my family and I want to be a family for forever so you can see why I would have a deep gratitude for temples.

26. Something I'm grateful for that represents my country.

I love a good parade. I love seeing people's patriotism on display. I am grateful to live in the United States of America. She may have her problems, but for the most part this great country is about freedom and a better way of life.

27. Something I'm grateful for in my Fall/Thanksgiving decor.

This time of year has an abundance of good smells. I'm grateful for all the wonderful scents this time of year has to offer my nose.

28. Something I'm grateful for that gets me from here to there.


29. Something I'm grateful for that keeps me healthy and strong.

Vaccinations and medicine.
My children may not agree, but I am very thankful for medicines that keep us from getting sick or sicker.

30. The final photo challenge is to take a photo of how you intend to spread the Thankful Spirit.
Our Thankful Tree.
I ordered this vinyl tree from my friend Sami's vinyl business. It has been adhered to our front room wall. We started our little Thankful Tree for Family Home Evening on Monday by talking about the blessings we are grateful for. We will keep adding leaves to it throughout the week and on Thanksgiving day with our extended family when they come to visit.

Thank you again to Sarah at Sarah Dawn Designs for hosting this Thanksgiving project. We've had a lot of fun this month pondering and searching for our blessings.

Visit my friend ChemistryMama to see what she and her little ones found in their scavenger hunt.


Gratitude Photo Scavenger Hunt {Part Two}

11. Something I'm grateful for in black and white.
Talents. Particularly the talents of others.
My sister took this picture of me during my first pregnancy. She was using me as a model for practice for her photography class. I have always deeply admired her talents in photography and other creative paths. I have benefited from her talents in having beautiful photographs of my family. I have an appreciation of and gratitude for others talents whether they be photography, musical, homemaking, financial, performing arts, social, etc, etc, etc.

12. Something I'm grateful for in the workforce.
My husband Joe.
Because he works so hard in the workforce I am able to stay at home focusing on mothering our children. I am so grateful he has given me this opportunity. He has an incredible work ethic and I am so thankful for the example and provider he is for our children. And not only does he work hard outside our home, but then he comes home and uses his skills to help our family, such as replacing dead batteries in the minivan.

13. Something I'm grateful for with words on it.
The scriptures.
How grateful I am for the scriptures which bring wisdom and peace.

14. Something I'm grateful for that entertains me.
How can I not be grateful for the medium that not only entertains me but has also given me a creative outlet, a way to record some family history, an opportunity to share myself with others, and the chance to make friends from all over the world? I am grateful for blogging.

15. Something I'm grateful for that is unique to me.
My ancestors.
No one else has my set of ancestors...except of course, my siblings. Regardless, I am grateful for the good people who have made me the unique person who am I.

16. Something I'm grateful for in the retail industry.
Where would I be without industrial amounts of toilet paper, bricks of cheese, and cratefuls of batteries? I'm grateful for a place I can go to stock up on things my growing family needs as well as buy a lunch for six people under $10.
17. Something I'm grateful for in my neighborhood.
Shhh. Don't tell our landlord, but I'm pretty sure they should be charging us extra on our rent for the incredible people we get to live by. I'm grateful for such good souls who have cared and loved our family from the moment we arrived in that big orange and white moving van.

18. Something I'm grateful for that keeps me warm.
A garage.
I never knew how much I would appreciate a garage until I had one. I really enjoy being able to hop into my car in the mornings without having to clean the windshields off or warm up the engine. A simple, but wonderful luxury!

19. Something I'm grateful for that makes me laugh.
My children.
These four keep me in stitches every day. How grateful I am to get to live with four little comedians.

20. Something I'm grateful for in regards to the holidays.
My Savior.
How grateful I am for a Savior that loved me enough to come to earth and endure all He did just so that I (and all mankind) could return to live with Him and a loving Heavenly Father. I cannot let the holiday season go by without feeling gratitude for the ones who gave me everything I have and am.


Gratitude Photo Scavenger Hunt {Part One}

It just never fails. Each and every year the holidays come and go by so darn quickly. After they do, some random afternoon in early January, I find myself finally sitting down, letting out a big sigh of intermingled relief and regret, feeling stunned, and wondering how on earth I let another holiday season go by in such a flurry of chaos and chores. 

It doesn't seem to matter that each October I vow that "this will be the year!", the year I will wring every last ounce of meaning out of the holiday season. And predictably this October was no different. Once again, I found myself vowing "This--THIS! will be the year!".

Of course I mean it more this year than I've ever meant before. This year I'm going to do less shopping. Less stress. Less procedure and protocol. Less guilt. Less "To Do"s. More time. More quality. More actions. More service. More family. More love. This year I'm going to make the time to enjoy the holiday. This year I'm going to do my best to reveal the true meaning of the season to my children.

And it starts today!

Many thanks to Sarah at Sarah Dawn Designs for helping me to do that. The kids and I have had a lot of fun preparing to post and link up to her Gratitude Photo Scavenger Hunt. And while my 6 year, 5 year, 3 year, and 10 month olds weren't exactly catching on to the idea of finding specific things on the checklist that we are grateful for, this little scavenger hunt opened up the conversation in our family on gratitude and looking for the things in our life that we are thankful for.

I think we might be off to a pretty good start this year.

Over the next 3 days of posts here are pictures of 30 things that I'm grateful for...

1. Something I'm grateful for in color.
Family. We're a pretty colorful bunch.

2. Something I'm grateful for in nature.
Mountains. "What are men to rocks and mountains?" ~Jane Austen
There is something about mountains that connects to something deep inside of me. They stir me up. They set me soaring. They just make me downright happy. This year in particular I am grateful to live in a home where I can open my window blinds and see incredible mountain ranges in every direction. I imagine my window views have had a little something to do with what a good and happy year 2011 has been.

3. Something I'm grateful for in the city.
And they only live a half hour drive away! This is stretching the term "in the city", but after living so far from our family we're very grateful for a teensy tinsy half hour drive to spend time with our loved ones.

4. Something I'm grateful for at the park.
Green grass.
I never realized how much I took grass for granted until we lived in ugly brown Arizona where there was none. Well, there was some, but it was so prickly and ant infested that you couldn't sit on it without being assaulted. I'm grateful for a backyard and parks with lovely green grass that my children can run and play happily on. I'm grateful for summer evenings spent comfortably sitting on grass.

5. Something I'm grateful for that is soft.
Baby cheeks.
How grateful I am for the gift of motherhood. These precious moments spent nuzzling soft baby cheeks are ones I imagine I will remember long after those cheeks won't let me nuzzle them anymore.

6. Something I'm grateful for that is hard.
I'm getting a little abstract with this one, but I am grateful for running. It is hard, really hard especially as a mom of four little ones. But it has brought me a lot of joy. I've lost 60 pounds this year partly in thanks to running. I've found an escape and a release. I've discovered that I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for. Running has developed my muscles and my self esteem. It's hard, but I can do hard things...And be happier because of them!

7. Something I'm grateful for in my closet.
I'm grateful to live in a country where I can legally bear arms. I am grateful that I have something I can protect my family with if the occasion should ever arise. And I'm grateful my husband has finally found a hobby for himself.

8. Something I'm grateful for with texture.
Gluten free food.
It's been an interesting year at our house when it comes to food. When I discovered in September that my three year old Elle has Celiac Disease I was terrified at the thought of not having anything to feed my daughter. While it may have a strange texture and be quite expensive, I am grateful for gluten free food that I can safely feed my daughter.

9. Something I'm grateful for in my kitchen.
My Bosch mixer.
My mom found this little beaut at a thrift store for a few dollars. These things normally cost hundreds of dollars, but last forever. I am so grateful she found it. I could never have afforded a brand new one. I use my mixer all the time. Fruit smoothies, breads, cookies, etc. I love my mixer!

10. Something I'm grateful for in the weather.
Along with the green grass, I missed the snow terribly when we lived in Arizona. Snow is magical and fun and wonderful. I love it when it comes and I love it when it goes. I am grateful to live in a place with weather variety. It makes me happy!

There are still twenty more things to show you that I'm grateful for. Make sure to come back Tuesday and Wednesday to see more.

And again, thank you to Sarah for hosting such a brilliant blog Thanksgiving celebration! Make sure to visit her to see what other bloggers are grateful for too.


Three for Thursday: Back from the Dead

Turkey Tail Feather / Don Van Dyke
It's Thursday again! Maybe that is nothing remarkable to you, but Wednesday morning around 4 am as I was leaning against the wall in my bathroom praying my children wouldn't find me unconscious or dead I was beginning to wonder if I would ever see another Thursday again.

Sparing you most of the gory details, let's just say Panda Express and I are through. For life. And not to slander Panda Express because it wasn't food poisoning that affected me so, but it just happened to be my last meal before...well, you get the idea. And now I can hardly type the words Panda Express without dying a little inside.

Moving on! 

Three things that I am grateful for from the year 2011:
1. Neighbors. I know, I know. I'm getting a little obnoxious with the I-love-my-neighbors thing, but they came to my rescue again yesterday when I called upon them for a priesthood blessing and help with my children. I am so grateful for good people!
2. Baby Cee. She was born right at the beginning of 2011. How I love this gorgeous, sweet baby of mine.
3. Getting laid off from my job. A few months ago I couldn't have said this, but I have finally been able to see what a blessing me not working has been for my family and home. Suddenly I have more time in my day. My house is cleaner, my children are happier, and I am more satisfied with how I am fulfilling my duties as "mama".

Three things “I’d rather not”:
1. I'd rather not give the kitchen table and chairs the deep down exfoliating scrub they so desperately need but that will require ninja skills and an exorcism to complete.
2. I'd rather not plan the Thanksgiving menu right now. My stomach just isn't up to it. Yet.
3. I'd rather not talk on the phone. Like ever. I really hate phone conversations. I freeze up. I can't hear. I would really just rather not ever use it for talking into.

Three Thanksgiving plans, traditions, or memories:
1. Plan: Cook my first gluten free Thanksgiving feast. Wish me luck!
2. Memory: A bird pooping on my head while I was hanging off the side of a moving suburban.
3. Tradition: Eat. Lots.

Three sneaky things I do:
1. Add spinach to the morning smoothie.
2. Watch the garbage man between the window blinds to see if he's irritated about my overly full garbage can.
3. Eat chocolate covered pretzels in the kitchen as quietly as I can while my children watch TV in the next room.

Three things that I missed the boat on:
1. Pop culture. Friends, Frasier, Lost, Harry Potter, Twilight, The Wonder Years, The Office. If it's popular I probably didn't read it or see it until it was all published or airing the final season.
2. Sushi. I didn't get brave enough to try it until a couple of years ago. Oh the years wasted!
3. Natural childbirth.

Three pictures:
Why wouldn't it surprise me to see Lady Gaga in this outfit?

Four of my greatest blessings

Thanksgiving 2009 in Arizona. Too small and too quiet. How grateful I am that we are close to family again.


Joy Toy Tuesday and Other Toddler Tidbits

Welcome back for the second installment in my new meme Joy Toy Tuesday, where happiness in motherhood is found through the not-so-random placement of my children's toys.

Today's picture only proves that children can see the "playability" in A N Y T H I N G.

Last week we had a conference meeting in my office. This week there is a scheduled training session in the front room. And oh look. Someone has already laid out the class materials.

In other kid funnies...

Yesterday three year old Elle helped me rake up the leaves in our front yard. All summer long the kids would play with the rolly polly bugs that live under the bricks in the front of our house. As Elle searched for them and realized they were gone, she asked where they were. I told her they had probably died with the cold weather.

She sadly agreed and matter-of-factly added: "They should have put their jackets on."

I just couldn't stop giggling from the imagery of little rolly polly bugs sporting jackets.

When six year old Dee came home from school yesterday he had a little confession. He looked down at the bottom edge of his shirt and solemnly said, "I let Jasmine and Alexi touch my little Yoda today."

My eyebrows about raised through the ceiling. "Pardon?!"


Lastly, we are joining in with Sarah at Sarah Dawn Designs for a novel Thanksgiving idea. She is hosting a really fun Thanksgiving Photo Scavenger Hunt and Blog Hop. Make sure to visit her for the details.

We are a little late out of the starting gate, but we finally began searching for things we are grateful for for Family Home Evening last night.

One of the items on the list is "Something I'm grateful for that keeps me healthy and strong". Knowing the kids needed flu boosters yesterday, I tried to make it fun by adding it to our scavenger hunt.

So did the kids catch on to the fun??? You know what they say..."A picture's worth a thousand words".

P.S. I don't think my son knows what "the bird" is yet...but I could be wrong.

Enjoying her first chocolate covered pretzel. Life is good.


The Absent-Minded Traveler

Last week it was my phone charger.

He accidentally grabbed mine instead of his, accidentally packed it in his suitcase, and then accidentally flew 1,839 miles to Georgia with my phone charger as his companion.

But it was just an accident. And a funny accident at that. We got a good chuckle out of it, especially considering what a habit he's making of buying new phone chargers in exotic lands like Wyoming and Arizona. I believe his current count of new cell phone chargers purchased in late night haste at 24 hour Super Walmarts is up to 3 now.

Funny, but "Please Dear...send me back my charger so I don't have to be both husbandless and phoneless for a whole week."

As he packed for his trip this week we joked about how he has learned his lesson now and will never make the mistake of packing my charger again.

And he didn't.

Instead...he packed my pants.


Of Grieving and Gratitude

I spoke with my Aunt Jane this morning.

She called me on the phone. She was laughing. She said she couldn't talk long, but wanted to know how I was doing. She also wanted to tell me that she was busy and happy.

And she giggled infectiously through out our entire conversation. That wonderful, irreverent giggle that simultaneously puts you at ease and convinces you of just how much she cares for you.

Then almost as soon as it had begun it was over. Still laughing, she said she had to go.

I tried to convince her to stay on the phone with me, but even as she told me she loved me and hung up I started to wake up.

I had been dreaming. I gazed at the room around me, blinking with the cold realization of it.

And then I began waking up again.

I had been dreaming that I had been dreaming that I talked to my Aunt Jane.

Yet, as I woke definitively, the sound of my Aunt Jane's laugh and love reverberated in my head. Before the memory of it could vanish as dreams so commonly do, I turned to my husband who was waking beside me.

No "Good morning, Honey". No "And how did you sleep?".

"I just talked to my Aunt Jane", I said.

He didn't miss a beat. "Oh yeah? How is she?"

"She's happy and busy and she loves me."

As the words left my mouth, the ache began to set in. I rolled on my back, staring at the ceiling. And then I started to cry. I grabbed my pillow, crammed it over my face creating a hasty sanctuary, and let the tears flow.

You see... My Aunt Jane passed away in February 2008. My beautiful, hilarious, talented, loving, red haired Auntie Jane has been "gone" for three and a half years.

Skin cancer. Malignant melanoma. Nasty stuff.

Long after my tears had stopped and dried, I laid in bed. Wondering. Pondering.

One could conjecture that I dreamed of Jane simply because the night before I had been shuffling things around in my storage room and had found the large wooden box I have that bears her name. My thoughts had most certainly lingered on her more than usual the night before as I hefted the box from storage, carried it upstairs, and placed it in my family room.

She had been in my conscious. In my subconscious. Is that why I dreamed that I dreamed that I spoke with her?

One could also speculate that those gone from this earth are not truly gone, that they speak to us in dreams. That they are very near and watching over us. That it was not a trick of the mind, but a true and sincere conversation with a beloved aunt who still lives just not in the same world as I. That she is indeed happy, busy, and that she loves me.

I am not exactly certain what happened in my dreams this morning.

But I am most certain of a few things.

She does live. And I will see her again. We will be reunited and when we are it will be as family. She will know me as her niece and I will love her as my Auntie Jane. Death cannot break the bonds we had on this earth.

Today, I am most grateful for that knowledge. Families are forever. Death is but a temporary separation. A painful and heartbreaking one, yes. But in the end, nothing but a fleeting moment. I am grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ, and for the power of the Atonement that will make that sweet reunion possible.

Today, I can't help but be sorrowful as we enter another holiday season without Jane, but filled with hope and happiness that we will meet again.

And not just in dreams.


Three for Thursday: Waxing Nostalgic

I just can't help it.

There's something about the end of the year and the holidays that gets me in a bit of a nostalgic mood. But a little jaunt down memory lane never hurt anyone, right? Why not? Let's take the memories into another Three for Thursday.

Three long lost hobbies:
With the arrival of each new baby I've had to bid adieu to more and more of my favorite past times. Some days an empty nest looks so appealing, doesn't it?
1. Scrapbooking. Which is rather ironic since my children have given me loads to scrap about. It's just finding the time to do it. What a paradox!
2. Card making. Now you're lucky if you get a scrap of paper with your name scribbled on it.
3. Reading. At least adult fiction. No! Not that kind of fiction, ya' pervs!

Three jobs/careers I have had:
1. Counselor at a summer Boy Scout camp. Oh the things you will learn when surrounded by 12 year old boys.
2. Emergency Department Technician. Best job ever! The blood. The guts. The drunks. The twelve hour night shifts. The crazies. The coworkers. Loved just about every minute of it!
3. Freelance writer. You mean you can make money doing something you love?!

Three childhood dreams that came true:
1. Marry Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome. Check.
2. Be in a musical. Check.
3. Drive a mini-van full of kids. Check. And check.

Three childhood dreams that didn’t come true:
1. Be the first female president of the United States of America. Hey! I guess there's still a chance.
2. Hone the ability to magically draw animals to me with the sound of my luscious vocal chords. What's Snow White got that I don't have?
3. I can fly. With nothing but pure mental exertion.

Three toys I asked for Christmas when I was a kid:
1. Books. Yes, I was that kind of kid.
2. Riverdance on VHS. Cue aging jokes now.
3. I never asked for much. I'm too indecisive and I always hoped my parents would just know what I wanted even if I didn't. So I always got clothes. Even still, I really...really...really hate getting clothes for Christmas.

Three pictures:
Since this is "Memory Lane" 3 for TH I'm using three old pictures. Ahhh...The good ol' days!

Told ya' he was dark and handsome. You'll just have to take my word on the tall part.

Halloween 2006. Dee and Jeigh as Nacho and Sister Encarnacion. My first attempt at homemade costumes and not to toot my own horn but also my favorite costumes to date.

Squishy, squishy.


Thrift Store Thoughts

I've been a busy little bee working to get my house in shape for the holidays. For the first time ever, we're having Thanksgiving and Christmas at our place this year. I'm so excited to share my home with all of our family, but only if I can get it looking presentable.

Through my cleaning and dejunking I collected several bags full of things to donate to our local D.I. (Deseret Industries). Today I made the drive over there with every intention of unloading some extra clutter. I handed over about half a dozen garbage bags, drove the car around the back, and found myself parking in the front. Let's just take a look inside, shall we?

I can't resist thrift store shopping. There's something exhilarating about finding a treasure in the trash heap. Something enticing about giving discarded items a second chance to be loved, used, and appreciated. Today we found several toys in spectacular condition! I know Christmas is right around the corner but I just couldn't resist.

I purchased all of these and a few other items for about $15! With the help of some Lysol disinfectant wipes they are as good as new. In fact, if my children hadn't been right by my side finding these goodies with me, I could have used a few of these as Christmas gifts.

Only...when it really comes down to it...I just can't do it.

Used thrift store goods as Christmas presents???

I don't know. I can see the practicality and thriftiness in it. I know in a ever declining economy this would be a great way to make Christmas happen. But I just can't do it. It just seems so tacky to me. So...brutal. I can just picture it now: My children telling their therapists about their used Christmas gifts and how the downward spiral was perpetuated by the realization that they just weren't good enough for "new". And while I don't believe that my children are entitled to lots of big, expensive toys, I just don't think I could look them in the eye on Christmas morning knowing they just opened up someone else's "junk".

And for the record, I don't mean to sound like a snob either. While I get fidgety about gifting from the thrift store I certainly have no qualms about buying toys, clothes, dishes, and other goods for my self and my family from the thrift store year round.

I'm curious to hear what others think about this. Do you or would you buy thrift store items to give as gifts? Whether for children or adults? And in turn, what would you think if someone gave you a thrift store item as a gift? Like a wrapped "Here! I thought of you!" gift?

Don't be shy. Give it to me straight.


Joy Toy Tuesday

For the past seven years I have noticed something about my home.

There are toys...E V E R Y W H E R E.

And those toys must be breeding like little bunnies because some days I wonder if they are going to take over the house. Typically it irritates me to have the mess of toys around the house but every now and then I find one placed just so that I can't help but laugh and remember just why I love being a mom so much.

Enter my new meme: Joy Toy Tuesday. Every so often I want to share a picture of the toy that was placed ever so carefully such that it reminded me just why being a mom is such a hilarious endeavor.

Conference meeting in my office. Stat.
We'll be discussing the downward trend of glitter, Barbie segregation, and how to cut the risk of snarly manes. 


Skool iz rill kul

In my quest to express my gratitude this month I choose to pick on our education system. The gratitude will come later. For now I can't help but share this bit of the kettle-calling-the-pot-black...or however that culinary saying goes.

This is a spelling test that my six year old first grader Dee brought home a few weeks ago.

Can anyone tell me why I was almost doubled over laughing with the irony of it?

All joking aside...I really am grateful for the public servants who take on educating our children. Every now and then I go through the inner debate of taking on homeschooling my children and every time I decide it's just not for us.

Thank goodness there are wonderful people out there who have recognized a talent for teaching within themselves, dedicated themselves to learning how to guide children, and then sacrificed all hopes of lavish salaries to work day after day molding the minds of our young ones. Sure, I've questioned if a few people really should be in the education system, but for the most part I appreciate those who help me in creating intelligent, noble, and wonderful little human beings.

thank you teachers!--I mean: Thank you, Teachers! ;)


Three for Thursday: Just Doing My Thang

It's Thursday and time for another Three for Thursday! Not much going on here. I'm just a mom doing her thang. And yes I spelled it "thang". Hope your Thursday is similarly...normal.

Three things I stole borrowed from my kids’ Halloween candy stash:
1. Butterfingers
2. Kit Kats
3. York Peppermint Patties

Three things I buy that have to be name brand:
1. Crayola crayons. Nothing beats the classic brand.
2. Cheese. Tillamook Cheese. Blocked, not stringed.
3. Trident gum.

Three things I spend more than fifteen minutes doing every day:
1. Debating whether to get out of bed now...Or not yet...
2. Dee's first grade homework! *groan!* head--->desk
3. Waiting in the school parking lot as my very social little kindergartner wishes the entire morning kindergarten class and their parents and siblings and their dentist's sister's uncle's first cousin twice removed a very fond farewell. Sure wish I could convince that child she will see everybody again tomorrow.

Three things that put me in a fantastic mood:
1. Loud music!
2. Running!
3. Rain and snow storms!

Three things I do that a grown woman has no right to be doing anymore:
1. Running up the dark stairs as fast as I can so the Boogeyman doesn't get me.
2. Using words like "thang".
3. Spilling everything I eat on myself.

Three pictures:
I call this picture..."Obsession".

I ask you, Does it get any cuter than this? I submit, it does not.

Our pineapple from Bountiful Baskets. "Bountiful" isn't exactly the word that came to my mind.
P.S. Today I am grateful for all those bloggers out there who play along with my silly little meme. Make sure to leave your link below so I can come visit. Cheers!


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