Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Through America's Gate


My family and I have been wanting to visit Ellis Island and see Lady Liberty since we moved here to New Jersey three years ago. We spend a lot of time in Manhattan, and always see the Statue of Liberty from a distance, but we never made the time to actually get on the island and see the monument.

On this Memorial day...we did, and I'm so glad.
 On the ferry and on our way to Ellis Island and to see Lady Liberty...
 no one got motion sickness and everyone was happy...especially Chelsea.
 Noah was having so much fun running around Lady Liberty in 95 degree weather!
It looks like Noah is telling me, "WHAT'S UP MOM?"
Visiting the immigration station at Ellis Island was a bit emotional for me. I didn't realize the things they went through as they tried to cross America's gate. Reading about certain experiences, and why they were detained for whatever reason was shocking. It was an educational moment for my daughters' and interesting to read about all the things they endured.


We walked through the same halls as the immigrants went through in which they were being observed and examined, and in each room there were depictions and quotes of what was happening to them in that room, and what was going to be the next step for them...a new life as an American, detained, or sent back to their homelands.


There were two quotes told by immigrants that sounded similar to those of the holocaust, except these men in uniform...were a lot nicer:

"We were put on a barge, jammed in so tight that I couldn't turn 'round, there were so many of us, you see, and the stench was terrible. And when we got to Ellis Island, they put the gangplank down, and there was a man at the foot, and he was shouting, at the top of his voice, "Put your luggage here, drop your luggage here. Men this way. Women and children this way." Dad looked at us and said, "Well, we'll meet you back here at this mound of luggage and hope we find it again and see you later."
~Eleanor Kenderdine Lenhar, and English immigrant 1921, interviewed in 1985.

 "They put us into lines, all kinds of lines. If you had visibly something wrong with you, like if they saw your eyes red, or something, they'd put one color chalk on you. If it was something else, if you were with a cane or something, it's another chalk and you go into a certain other line. If nothing visible there, the put you in lines, regular lines...And the doctors and everybody that was supposed to interrogate us were dressed in uniforms....[that]had a terrible effect on me...we were scared of uniforms. It took us back to the Russian uniforms that we were running away from."
~Katherine Beychok, a Russian Jewish immigrant in 1910 interviewed in 1995.

I can't imagine what I would do if I was separated from my family. I LOVE MY FAMILY!! It really made me appreciate what the immigrants went through, and how much I appreciate the country we live in.

On our way home we stopped in Hoboken to eat at Five Guys. There are so many quaint little bistros on Washington St., but the girls were craving burgers. We talked about Ellis Island and how they felt about reading all about the immigrants experiences.
On the streets of Hoboken.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land,
Here at our sea-washed, sunset-gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. 
~from The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus, 1883

As we left Lady Liberty we are reminded of our freedom, and how Lady Liberty herself...was once an immigrant.

Hope your Memorial Day was a memorable one...I know ours was.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Freedom is Not Free


Overlooking the Potomac River in Washington D.C.



HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY TO ALL.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

From Catholic to Mormon-My Conversion Story

"I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true"
~Moroni 10:4
My missionary and dear friend Sister Stacie Lloyd...now Stacie Duce
Corpus Christi, TX 1992


As I mentioned to you on one my most recent posts, the month of May holds a special place in my heart. It is the month in which my first child was born, and also the month that I converted to this wonderful church and gave my heart to the Lord.  Since it's the last Sunday of the month... I'd like to share with you the "short version" of my conversion story.

There are many of us at different points in our life where we feel we need salvation. We feel we need a higher source of happiness and wisdom. Some of us may feel we don't need God, and that we are okay with where we are at in this life. Some of us are comfortable in the way we were raised, and some of us were not. Some of us come from a two-parent family, or were raised by a single mom or dad, and some are raised with neither. Some of us may feel love and safety in their home, and unfortunately, some of us did not. Some of us may be comfortable believing in God without attending or being active in a church, and some of us are not. 

I was one of those people.

The Reason for Change.
To some of you that have known me since kindergarten...this might come as a shock to you. Growing up in the small town of Kingsville, Texas was no picnic for me. My mom did her best in trying to keep it together and for the most part she did...until she remarried. There was more contention than happiness throughout my childhood. The molestation I suffered is something I would never wish on anyone, and I am grateful for the strength that I had to survive it. I only had one sister and at times I felt that she was the only one who would try to protect me. As I grew up, I wanted to find a way to make my life better, to heal from my past, and find eternal happiness.



Although I was born and raised a Catholic I wasn't a devout member, and only went to CCD classes, because everyone in my age group was going. I was going through the motions because this is what I was born into and taught. I remember going to confession to confess my sins to only turn around and do it over, and over again. I stopped going after I did my first communion, and for a long time that bothered me. I thought that maybe if I went back to church things would get better. I never went back to the catholic church, but at the age of 17 I began investigating a couple of other churches.  Even in those churches I didn't feel any different, and so I stopped attending church altogether. 

 I had experienced living out of state for about a year after graduation. I lived in Florida with my sister and her family, and moved back to Kingsville because things didn't work out for me there. I was searching for a blissful environment... I just didn't know in what direction to look. I would be sitting around the house moping around in hopes that someone or something can be better than the life I was living. I did appreciate the friends that I had at the time, but that still wasn't enough. I was getting tired of going bar-hopping, and even though I was not much of a drinker or smoker, I no longer wanted to surround myself with that type of an environment. I really wanted to change my life after high school. I was stubborn and didn't go to college right away. I finally realized that I needed to continue my education, and was 20 when I decided to go back to school. As much as I loved my mother, I knew I needed to get out of the small town of Kingsville, do something meaningful with my life, and she agreed.


The media referral.
There was an advertisement on television about Our Heavenly Father's Plan from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  I hardly ever watched television, and it never failed how many times it would air every time I'd turn it on. Although my instinct was telling me to call the 1-800 number to request a free copy of this video, I would ignore it and change the channel. This was ongoing for a few weeks and then one day, my heart felt like it was going to explode, and my eyes began to tear as it aired again. I decided to call the number and just order it.


There are no coincidences.
The Lord works in mysterious ways, because as I was talking to the representative on the other end, I could barely understand some of the questions he was asking me. I remember answering "yes" and "no" questions, and giving him my age, address and telephone number. As he was asking me the last question, there was some interference with static. I thought maybe it was the cordless phone I was on. I really wanted to just request the video, answer the questions as quickly as possible, and hang up the phone. In spite of the static, I answered YES to the last question.

The missionaries.
To my surprise, the next day there was a knock on my door, and as I opened it there were two young girls about the same age as me standing there smiling, and looking all happy. I was hesitant in allowing them into the house because I knew how strict my mom was when it came to unknown visitors. They greeted me with a smile, and addressed themselves as sister missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and mentioned to me that they were there to deliver the video that I had requested. I had told them that I thought I was receiving it in the mail, but then they mentioned that I had answered "yes" when I was asked "if I wanted representatives from the church to deliver it to me personally." I didn't argue with them, and I let them in.  I honestly believe that the Lord allowed the static to intervene while that last question was asked, because if I had heard that last question being asked to me...my answer would have been NO!

They visited for a while, got to know a little bit about me, and asked if it was okay to watch the video in their presence. I obliged and so we put it in the VCR and watched the 29 minute video. My heart was softened and I had tears in my eyes as I was watching it. I felt so strong in wanting to find happiness in my life. I felt so much better after watching it. I knew that I needed to continue to investigate this church, and give it a chance. I hungered for more and wanted to see if I would feel that same feeling of my heart about to explode. The sisters had asked me to bow in prayer and offered if I would say it. I know some of you may be thinking the nerve of them to ask me when they just barely met me, but I didn't think that way at all. I felt a presence of love and security as I bowed my head in prayer. It came naturally and I wasn't nervous anymore. I had thanked my heavenly father in having the sisters come to deliver the video, and prayed to help me change my life. I closed in the name of Jesus Christ. Watching the video helped me to pray, and it made sense to me in how the only one I needed to pray to is that of my Father in Heaven and close with "in the name of Jesus Christ". I investigated the church for about four months and on May 3rd, 1992 I was baptized.

A clean slate...
Baptism day-May 3, 1992.The happiest day of my life!

My testimony.
I KNOW that I have found my purpose in this life. Giving my life to Christ is the best choice I ever made. Learning from the missionaries brought me closer to God and I will always be grateful to them. The gospel has truly changed my life and perspective in many things. I am glad I endured all that I went through as a young child and teenager because it has made me who I am today. I have healed from what happened to me in my past, I LOVE the present, and look forward to my future. Most of all, I have learned to forgive, and as much as it is sometimes hard to forget...I pray for those who have hurt or wronged me throughout my life.

I'm in my 19th year of being a member. I am so grateful to have met a wonderful man who doesn't hurt me physically, and who is a wonderful father to our four children.  I LOVE attending the temple, and it gives me great comfort to know that by being sealed to my family in the temple, I will be with them FOREVER. I'm especially grateful for the courage that I have to be able to share this wonderful book with others. I know that the church is true, and that the Book of Mormon, like the bible testifies of Jesus Christ. I know that we have a living prophet on earth today who guides and leads us to become better members of the Lord's church. I am so happy to be raising my family in it. We are far from perfect, but I know that if we strive to be a good example and do the things that are pleasing to God, we can return back to our Heavenly Father and reign with him forever. This is my testimony and I leave it with you in the name of our savior, Jesus Christ...


AMEN.


**To hear an introduction of the gospel, and to receive a free copy click here.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Deal of the Day

While everyone is out on the shore this holiday weekend... the kiddos and I decided to do some thrift shopping. Goodwill thrift shopping that is. I can't even begin to tell you the things I have found there, and I'm not ashamed to advertise it either. Today I found these gently worn, cute cherry printed rain boots for Chelsea. They are Gymboree brand, and I bought them for $3.99! Sierra used her student discount of 15% and I got them for less than that. I love it when she is with me so I can bug her for her discount card! I also love the fact that there is no tax on clothing (or food) here in Jersey either.

It was perfect timing when I bought them.

Just when I thought the rain season was over it began to rain as were pulling in our driveway. Chelsea was so excited that she took them out of the bag and asked if she could wear them. After it stopped raining she didn't want to take them off. The weather cooled down afterwards and the breeze felt nice. 
Chelsea is super excited that I found rain boots to match her cherry dress (which I also found at the Goodwill store.) This is one of her favorite, comfortable dresses and she wears it A LOT! She always says to me that "I'm a good shopper, and that I know "my stuff".

As much as I love the beach I think we will go on a day when it's not as crowded. I saw the back to back traffic yesterday as I was out doing errands and I said to myself, "Yeah, we will definitely go on a day when we can have the beach all to ourselves." Of course that's impossible living in New Jersey.

We can only hope!

Have a fun and safe holiday weekend! 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Preview

"It's the same every year, you always have rain, you always have HOT weather!"
The girls were extremely HOT yesterday when they came home from school and begged if they can please put their bathing suits on, and go outside to douse themselves with the hose. I normally don't let them do that on a school day, but since they only have about ten days of school left...I obliged. It felt like 100 degrees! As I saw the girls playing around I was tempted to join them, but I didn't want to get my camera wet...so I took pictures instead.



 Noah was watching his sisters jumping around and laughing, and wanted to join in on the fun. I didn't want to bother changing him into his swim trunks so I let him go outside in his white onesie (who by the way owns at least ten of them) with his regular diaper on. Hey...we are in the comforts of our own home so that's okay!

We look forward to going to the beach, having picnics at the park, more bbq's in our backyard, and doing a little bit of traveling this summer. I was raised with humidity, but yesterday was intense!! 
I have a feeling it's going to be one HOT summer! 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mr. Independent Jr.

When you are blogging, or doing the laundry thinking that your child is safe in the living room playing with his toys, and using his imagination to entertain himself...sometimes you can be mistaken. You know you've been misled because you no longer here "Yankee doodle" playing on their toy, or hear them making crashing noises with their little tonka trucks. All you hear is silence. Sometimes it's good, and not so good. Good because you hope that they've gone down on their own for their morning nap, or not so good because they got  into something they weren't supposed to.

Well...that's exactly what happened to me this morning.

Although everything is childproof downstairs things can happen. I keep forgetting to close all the doors in the house. Noah is sneaky and will get into the girls dresser drawers, and start pulling out all their belongings. The first door I close is the bathroom, but sometimes I forget. After all... it is the only finished bathroom in this house, and it is always being used. The girls forget to close it too. I heard a soft crashing noise and saw Noah on the floor with the step stool that we keep in the bathroom for Chelsea. He didn't cry too much. He had grabbed the step stool to bring it closer to the window so he can be tall enough to look outside. That's fine and all, but he's still too small to be trying to step off of it like an adult would. I was a little worried he had sprained his little ankle, but he's fine. I had a solution and put my green cedar chest close to the window so he can climb on it carefully without getting hurt. I trust him to climb on that instead. I know he won't step off of that with one foot over another!
A few weeks ago I bought Noah a percussion set which includes a little piano, xylophone, and the drum. He loves playing with all three, but lately he's been using it as a step stool to get close to those hard to reach places. He's even moved it to the living room window. I am teaching him that the drum is not a step stool! I hope he'll get the picture.
He's too smart for his own good!
 Noah has also reached the point where he no longer wants to sit in his Bumbo chair to eat. He still fits in it. No matter how hard I try he refuses to stay put and wants to sit on the chair like the rest of us. He was actually cooperating when I took these photos.
He has the longest legs that go for miles. He's getting too tall, and wants to do everything on his own.  I have to come to the realization that he is no longer a little baby, and that he is growing up. This moment reminded me of when he spilled milk a few months ago, and was wiping it up on his own. I wrote a post back in February on how I need to accept the fact that Noah won't stay little forever. I will always remember this quote given by C.S. Lewis..."the maternal instinct is a gift-love". I know that for the past 18 months I have been giving him that gift of being needed, but there comes a time when it is also important for them to have their independence. I am still treasuring these moments while at the same time still willing to accept that "Gift-Love".

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Spirit of Joey Ramone

They're forming in a straight line
they're going through a tight wind
The kids are losing their minds
Blitzkrieg bop.
~Joey Ramone

I was browsing at H&M the other day and found this signature tee for Noah. I normally don't buy signature tee's but when I saw this shirt it reminded me of my youth, and the time I saw Rock 'n' Roll High School. I was a month shy of my 10th birthday when I saw this movie with my older sister. It also reminds me of my husband who was, and in a way still is a Ramones fan. We hardly listen to the music anymore, and we don't have any of their songs on our ipod...yet. I just like the color of the shirt.

There is something about the shirt when Noah wears it. He behaves a little rambunctious, and dances, and jumps around for no reason...without any music. When we saw this behavior my husband said, "it's the spirit of Joey Ramone!" I laughed so hard, and I certainly hope it isn't!!

I still think it's a cool looking shirt, and it has his Dad's name on it too.


Hey Ho Lets Go!

*Are you a Ramones fan?
*Have you ever watched  Rock 'n' Roll High School?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Overcast...with a bit of Sunshine

"A cloudy day or a little sunshine have as great an influence on many constitutions as the most recent blessings or misfortunes."
~Joseph Addison

This morning we had the park all to ourselves. Sometimes one on one time with Noah is great! Just me and him. On these overcast days I feel the urge to get out of the house and go to any park in New Jersey (I just can't go to the same one...I'll get bored.)

He's so animated and beginning to talk a little. He says "mom" more than "dad", (which I love!) It's so fun watching him run around the park, playing on the slide, and rocking on the zebra. He'll motion me with his little hand and say to me, "come". 

So cute!!









 We felt little drops of rain and went home. As I'm typing this, I look out my window, and now the sun is coming out. Okay, it's cloudy again. Now the sun's shining again. 

DON'T YOU JUST LOVE THIS WEATHER...SOMETIMES? 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Remember Who You Are

Some people on life's journey forget who they really are, and what is really important. Without finding your identity and priority, blessings that matter most are at the mercy of things that matter.
~Elder Russell M. Nelson
A couple of months ago I sat in on a lesson in Relief Society at church and our Relief Society president gave a talk about finding our identity through Christ. I logged onto lds.org and remembered the talk in which she discussed. It was a talk given by Russell M. Nelson titled Identity, Priority, Blessings. This talk really helped me realized in choosing the things which are deemed important in this life. Sometimes we need reminders to remember who we are, why we are here, and what the purpose is in our life while living here on earth.

Yesterday, we had a leadership meeting in Broomall, PA in which Sister Julie B. Beck spoke. She is such a wonderful teacher and truly inspired me as she shared a little bit about herself as well as her spiritual experiences when it came to visiting teaching. I know that everything she taught us in how to become better visiting teachers and members of the Lord's church really strengthened me. She reminded that every one of us are sisters and children of God. I pray that all who attended the fireside on Friday and the leadership meeting on Saturday felt edified and strengthened as well.

Today was our stake conference for those of us who live on the Northeastern seaboard. My family and I were in attendance and heard talks given by Russell M. Nelson & President Henry B. Eyring. I loved both of their talks. Elder Nelson spoke on how important it is to teach our children true principles at a young age. Principles such as paying tithing, and for the youth to attend the temple to do baptisms for the dead. He encouraged us to have pictures of Christ and the temple in our home. One thing I LOVE doing is reading to my children, and mentioned to teach the scriptures to our children; and to always kneel in prayer. He mentioned that we should strive to carry a current temple recommend, and to attend the temple as often as we can. There is so much work to be done for our kindred dead in the temple.

All of these things are important in my life. I LOVE The Book of Mormon, the Holy Bible and other good books. I have to admit that there are days when I wake up and I don't do it. Especially on the days that are hectic. There are days when I am too tired to read because my husband came home late from work and talked with me until midnight. Or too tired to read because I stayed up half the night with a sick kid comforting them, and then slept in until eight a.m. (that's sleeping in for me!) Or too tired to read because I myself am not feeling well and hope that by skipping a day, I'll feel better and hope that I can find the energy to read in the evening. Sometimes that's not the case. I really want to be consistent in reading my scriptures. Everything else seems like a piece of cake.

I started a blog back in January, and I have been pretty good in keeping it up to date. I also keep a handwritten journal and I am diligent in writing in it almost every other day. It all depends on the subject or what transpires at that given moment. I LOVE serving and helping those who are in need. It doesn't matter whether or not you attend my church. I LOVE attending all my meetings at church and feeling renewed after leaving the chapel.  I appreciate the time it takes for each sister in preparing her lessons so that I can leave feeling spiritually fed. I LOVE doing my visiting teaching and trying to help sisters get strong again with the Lord. Some of these things I am strong in might be someone else's weakness.

In the Relief Society lesson, there were things mentioned that were not important and things to do that are important. One of the things mentioned on the "not to do list" was blogging, going to the movies, having lunch with a friend, and reading books. You can imagine the look on my face when she mentioned blogging! The "to do list" was of course reading your scriptures, serving others, praying daily, attending the temple, and doing visiting teaching. There is so much more that can be added to both these lists and I have to say I am guilty of doing things on both of the lists.

I love to write.
 Since I started my blog, I don't feel guilty, and I don't allow it to take over my life. I don't google everything and I certainly don't have many blogs I follow. I know there are those who spend countless hours on the web searching for the latest fashion, stores, etc. That is worldly to me, and I don't really spend too much time on that. There are pros and cons to the web, and I am careful and have control in using it.

I started a blog to connect with friends, and for my family to keep in touch so they can see what is happening in our daily life. I feel that if I am "doing" and making the time for everything on the "to do list" that it's okay to take time to do the things on the "not to do list." There are times when I have had lunch with a friend, and at the end of the lunch date, our friendship is stronger and somewhere along the way we both needed each other's company. I don't watch too many movies and I love to read. I will TRY to get my scripture study in before I begin to open a "worldly" book and start to read. There are a lot of good books out there that are uplifting, but I know that I need to prioritize my daily scripture study before reading another book, blogging and watching a DVD.

I'm older, wiser, but I'm still learning.  I feel that I have found a balance in my life in being a wife, a mother to four children, and to be able to handle the things of the world while at the same time focusing on the things that are important. I am thankful for the membership in the church I attend and for leaders in our church such as Sister Beck, President Eyring, and Elder Nelson who help me to recognize my priorities. Believe me when I say this...when you have four kids and they are all five years apart heading in different directions, I have had to learn to balance my life. It's not easy, but I know that in the end...it'll be worth it.

 Each day they grow older. Each day they learn something new. Each day I find myself as a mother feeling needed and more loved by them. I am teaching them by example and want them to know their identity and to do the things that are important. We are all children of God and that is something that I want our family to remember for the rest of our life; and to know that we can kneel down in prayer and pray to Him...especially in times of stress and trials.



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