Second Chances

"If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it. 
~Mary Engelbreit
Ringing in the new year should be a happy moment for us all. It is a time for new beginnings. It is a time for reflection. A second chance to fulfill the promises that we made to ourselves last year that we didn't get to accomplish this year. I know I have a lot to work on. I'll never gain perfection in this life, but I know that I can choose to be better. I always want to be smiling like my daughters (which I think I do), and not worry about the little things.

Sometimes starting a new year can be fearful, or fearless for a lot of people. We often wonder what is this year going to bring for us, and to the world. Those who love fashion wonder what trends are going to be in style. Some of us wonder if we are going to have any more terrorist attacks. One thing I've learned in church during discussions in Sunday school, or in a Relief Society meeting is that if we strive to live the best way we can in living a Christlike life...then we need not fear.

I don't want to be fearful about the future. I want to be fearless. I don't want to have to worry about the latest trends and fashions. I am my own designer! It shouldn't matter how the world behaves. What should matter is how we look at ourselves, and in the eyes of our children and to teach them that they can always be happy. I want them to know that resolutions can be accomplished, and that they have a chance each year to be better.

I hope that with each passing year we can look back, and reflect on how we behaved towards others, and how we can remedy the things in our life that we would like to fix. Hopefully we will reflect on the things that we read, said, blogged, or even wrote in a letter. Whether it was bold, good, happy, or sad...I hope that we can learn from the words of various writers.

My life is a resolution, and I want to always look at it in a positive manner. I want to feel invigorated and renewed. I know that if I just try to work on those things that are imperfect, at the end of each day I can say to myself, "At least I'm trying, I really am trying", and to never give up.

A Reunion at the D.C. Temple

What better way to spend the day than that with an old friend, and to meet new friends at the Washington D.C. temple. Our family kept yet another tradition this year, and we went to go see the Festival of Lights. An added bonus was meeting up with Sierra's dearest friend Carter whom she met at EFY this past summer. His family drove from North Carolina to meet with us. It was so nice to have finally met this young man, and his family. 

While we did a session at the temple, Sierra and Carter enjoyed spending time inside the visitors center looking at Mormon Ads, and taking pictures with Noah. 

Attending the temple was something that I really needed. I hadn't attended since fall, and I really needed to be spiritually fed. I wish that time would permit us to go every week or at least once a month like we used to when we lived in Utah, and North Carolina. Unfortunately life gets in our way which causes us to make excuses, and not attend. I actually think our reasons in not attending as much are excusable because we live further from the temple, and it's not as easy to go throughout the school year as it is during the summer, and winter break when we have free babysitters. I am always grateful when we do have the opportunity, and for the spirit that I take with me on the way home. 
My newest friend Susan who is Carter's mother was such a sweetie. Her soft southern accent & friendliness reminded me of why I loved living in North Carolina. It was such a pleasure meeting both her and her husband. We hit it off so well, and we have quite a few things in common. We are both converts to the church, and are both raising wonderful teenagers.
Of course Carter will only be a teen for one more year because he enters the MTC in less than a week. He will be serving a church mission in Colorado Springs for two years! We are all so happy for him, and Sierra is grateful for his friendship, and for the decision he has made in serving the Lord. 

 While my husband and I were exiting the temple tears streamed down my face because it's a place where you never want to leave. It's inevitable, and we have to face the troubles of the world outside this beautiful building. Attending the temple makes us strong, it helps our eyes see the world in a better perspective, and gives us the strength to handle any adversity that comes our way. It is always a blessing to be able to serve in the temple. No matter how busy the Christmas season gets we have always managed to give the Lord equal time in doing His work.

I really needed this. Our family needed this. I believe we always need this.

I hope that every time we leave the temple we will always carry that spirit with us, and become an even better person. I hope that with a new year approaching we can reexamine our lives, and our faults, and improve on our weaknesses. I hope that if we strive to do what's right... that spirit will never leave our side, and that our countenance will always shine.

I hope. I hope. 

A Simple Christmas

Chelsea looking into the box in which her cello ornament is in. She plans on taking cello lessons just as soon as she has a few more lessons with piano.
Although we didn't have snow on Christmas day we still managed to get into the spirit of the season. Our morning began by all the kids waking up at a later time than I was anticipating. I was actually up before they were! It was about 8:00 am when everyone woke up. We all gathered into the living area where they all looked into their stockings, and opened their gifts. It was fun watching the kids taking turns opening them. There is never any complaining or whining as to what gifts were given to them. Only smiles, and many "thank you's" were exchanged. It makes me completely happy to have grateful children! 
We attended a combined sacrament meeting with another ward, and it was so nice to see a full house. The Christmas season sure brings a feeling of peace inside. I wish we could always feel that way everyday, but with the world we live in today it's impossible. Therefore, it's up to us to make it peaceful. 

Jon and I didn't exchange gifts this year, and so we focused more on the children. Santa came in a hurry, and he only left a few gifts. Chelsea was the only one that noticed, and this year had a better understanding that Christmas is not about the gifts. She wasn't upset that Santa didn't get her what she asked for. I explained to her that sometimes Santa can't always get you what you want, and that it's the thought that Santa put in the gift that counts. I also let her know that Jesus and Santa have great communication, and that all those gifts written on her list were not necessary.
They were all pleased.
These two jumped for joy when they got their pajamas from the BYU bookstore in which their grandma from Utah sent. Sierra has her heart set into applying for this college (among others), in hopes that she'll get in. If she continues to keep her GPA at a 4.0 she'll have no problem. We shall see in another year! 
I had to put this photo into the blog. I think Noah felt a little left out as I was taking pictures of the girls, and so he decided to walk into this one. It made Sierra laugh because of the face he made. He's too cute not to be a part of the picture. 
Chelsea sporting her pajamas with frogs, and her frog slippers that grandma sent.
I just love my children so much. They truly are the drug that I need each day to uplift me. No matter what troubles come my way, besides praying to God...they are there to keep my mind off the spirit of contention. It seems that I have had a lot of that lately. I never let anything or anyone get to ruin my happiness in living the life that I live, and the things that I do. It makes me extremely grateful to have good friends that I can look up to besides my immediate family. I thank Heavenly Father for giving me the will to be strong, and in making this Christmas simple and sweet for my loved ones.

I hope to have many Christmases like this in the future (with snow of course), and like Charles Dickens once said, "I will honor Christmas in my heart, and keep it all the year." I pray to keep Christmas bottled up inside my heart all year long, and to strive to be an even better person next year.
I hope we all can. I hope we all can.

Merry Christmas from Jersey




Feed His sheep

Lately I have been reading on Facebook how people are helping others by lifting each other's spirits in times when we most need it. I have even witnessed a lot of random acts of kindness happening to people at this time of the year. I have heard it happening to my mom back in Texas as well. There are so many people who are willing to extend a hand, and yet so many who turn the other cheek.

I think of Mary and Joseph finding a place to stay and how the innkeeper turned them away thinking that they couldn't pay, and how he felt after doing so. Especially when he heard a baby cry. I love that story, and it makes me cry every time! No matter what has happened in the past, no matter how a person may look, no matter if it is a stranger or someone you've known for even a's so important to try to help others in times of need. Especially during the Christmas season.

I know I've had my share of blessings come from helping others, hence blessings being bestowed upon me and my family. I will always do my best to let others know that I will help them in any way that I can. It doesn't have to be with money or worldly can be with just expressing love for that person. Just as Jesus Christ fed his sheep, my hope is that we can do better in feeding His sheep.

May we all do better in feeding the Lord's sheep not only during the Christmas season, but throughout all the days of our life.

Remembering a "Happy" Christmas

^^ me and Aunt Lynn ^^
Our Christmases as young kids were bittersweet. Bittersweet because there were times when we didn't have Christmases, and when we did only the simplest gifts were exchanged. There were plenty of years when we went without, and it didn't seem to matter to us. To be honest, now that I'm writing about this I actually do remember having a small nativity displayed on top of our television set. I also remember having fixtures of Santa's all over the house. Gifts were very little...or none at all.

Seeing how your abuela would handle things as a single mother until I was about nine during Christmas time was impressive. I remember her never being angry during the holidays. She did her best in being calm and peaceful, and I think because of her example it has helped me how to handle Christmas...especially when it comes to gift giving. It has caused me to reflect back on that, and it makes me extremely grateful . It didn't matter to her if were low income, and couldn't afford the nice toys that were popular at that time. No matter how hard she struggled on her own, she would manage to keep us happy, but mostly unspoiled, and grateful. That is what I'm trying to teach y'all!

I also remember Santa coming over to our house one evening. I recall him being extremely friendly to abuela, and making her feel cared for. The night he came over I remember wearing nothing but red underwear (the kind where they had ruffles on the tush.) I kept as quiet as possible so I can hear them talk. He was talking to abuela in Spanish, and I didn't quite understand what they were saying. All I remember is your abuela expressing her gratitude, hugging Santa, and taking a black hefty bag into the closet. I had no clue what would be in it, but more or less I knew it had to be presents.

That's when your Aunt Lynn and I owned a doll of our own. Our very first doll. I named her Tracy. I can't remember Aunt Lynn's. I was five and Aunt Lynn was eight. They looked like American Girl dolls too! Too bad I don't have her anymore. You can tell by the smiles on our faces that nothing else mattered. We were so happy for receiving one gift. The turtlenecks in the picture were a gift too, and if you look closely there are Golden Books underneath the tree in the background of this photo. Rudolph was my favorite, and I still have that book. I also remember getting red Keds. Even though I was five, and hardly remember anything...looking at this picture brought back some memory of a happy Christmas. 

It's photos like this, (and I wish I had more to show from my youth) where all I want to remember are the positive things that occurred throughout my childhood. The smiling faces, the hugs, the smell of homemade tortillas, the warmth I felt from your abuela before our stepfather came into our life. The non stressful atmosphere before inflation hit in the 70's. I have to say that was the sweetest Christmas of all. Remembering the positive things in your life instead of the negative things feels great! 

Of course things were different back then, and today times have changed. I always try to make your Christmases magical, meaningful, and special. I don't want to stress out over what gifts to get y'all because seriously, we shop for all of you all year round! It' not worth getting caught up in all the hoopla of having stress over Christmas, and forgetting what the meaning of having Christmas is all about. Traditions are crucial, and we always manage to fit those in. It is nice to have things planned way in advanced to avoid all the stress, and we have always managed to work around your school/church activities, and music lessons so that I don't get overwhelmed in December. I appreciate your attitudes in how you deal with the 'mean mom' at times. As y'all are aware...I can be very sweet too! 

I love you all, and I'm happy to say that I am enjoying this season of giving, and light! Each Christmas seems to get easier and simple. I slowly feel my stress diminishing. I hope that you'll remember the happiest, most simplest moments of every Christmas that passes, and when you have your own families...I hope that you will pass it on. 

Can't wait until Christmas morning. 


Flashback Christmas Photos

I didn't grow up taking pictures with my immediate family for Christmas card photos until I had my own family. I didn't start distributing Christmas cards with a photo until I got married. I didn't start enclosing updated letters in the card with a photo until the year 2003. I never felt the need to let others know about our life because it seemed less important...until I had children.

As my children grew up I have enjoyed writing, and keeping my friends and family updated on our life and all the things that are going on with them. Especially now that we have been living on the east coast for almost five years now. It deems important to me to keep others updated. Now that I have a blog it seems easier to let everyone know (including the entire universe) what goes on in our daily lives. Sometimes I don't blog about every single thing in detail every single day, or anything too personal (that's what a journal is for), but I try to blog about the most significant moments that have occurred thus far in our life.

Our Christmas card photos have always been the smiling, making sure the kids hair is combed properly, and that we don't look like we are cross-eyed, half asleep, or mad. I want us all to be happy and looking like we came out of a magazine.

For the past 17 years I have been pretty pleased with how our past Christmas card photos have turned out. There were even times when we were our own photographer! 

Just take a look...
When it was just the two of us... taken in Provo, Utah 1994
and then it was the three of us...Salt Lake City, Utah 1997
ALONE-Salt Lake City, Utah 1998
with Sierra for five whole years- San Antonio, TX 1999
and then we had Lexie- Mapleton, Utah 2000
We had these two to ourselves for another five years...SLC, UT 2003
and then Chelsea came along-SLC, Utah 2005
Which made us THE FAB FIVE for four years living in North Carolina- 2006
still in North Carolina -2007
and then we moved to New Jersey- 2008

and with Noah we became a family of six- New Jersey, 2009
One of my favorite Christmas photos in New York City, NY-2010
This year we did a collage of individual photos for our card, and will post it on Christmas Day.
We love sharing our family photos as well as what life has brought us each passing year. I appreciate all the cards that y'all have sent via snail mail (my favorite means of communication), Facebook, & emails. We wish y'all a Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2012. 

Let's see what the new year brings, and to come up with an idea for our Christmas 2012 photo without having to imitate anyone's ideas!

A Violin Caroling Evening

Last Friday night Lexie along with other students, including her teacher went violin caroling. This was Lexie's first time doing this, and she really enjoyed it! They performed on the streets of Haddonfield, and we had a very warm reception. It was about 30 degrees outside, but thank goodness for fingerless gloves! They all played so well, and for about 15 minutes played wonderful music. My favorites were Silent Night, and Jingle Bells. 

I am so happy that Lexie loves to play for others, and to have played CHRISTmas music. She has always wanted to play since she was three, and really has a great appreciation for music. She has a great teacher who is precise, and really cares about her students.
Lexie with her wonderful teacher Madeline
 I feel so blessed that she has had great teachers in the past, and I know that the more she practices and takes lessons, she will be fiddling like Charlie Daniels, and playing beautiful music like Jenny Oaks Baker.
You did a wonderful job Lexie!! Keep it up, and you will soon be playing like a pro! 

Happy Birthday to the King of our house

made with love by Sierra
There is something special between a daughter and a father. A bond that is different from that of a mother. I noticed that bond between you and Sierra the minute she was born. Now that she is older, she has grown closer to you more than ever before. Happiness fills my heart when I see the two of you bond. As you know, I didn't have a relationship with my biological father, or my stepfather. The closest person that I looked up to as a father was Joe, mom's companion of 12 years, so it really makes me appreciate the love and support that y'all have for one another.

At first it was something I had to get used to. Watching you and Sierra laughing and talking about all the things of the world was different, and it was something I had to get used to. Different because I NEVER had that kind of interaction with any father figure until I was in my 30's. I eventually got used to your actions, accepted it, and it makes me happy to know that she can rely on you, and talk to you about anything! Although there are certain topics she feels she can only talk to you about, I'm happy that you include me in those conversations. Sometimes Sierra will ask you for a favor, and if it is something that requires my part in it, you will always tell her to ask me. It makes me feel good that you include me. It is a sure sign that you trust my opinion as her mother, and to have the final say. Sometimes she'll do that with me, and at times I'd have to tell her that we need to ask you if that's okay. Bottom line is that I'm grateful that both you and I have great communication, as well as a close relationship with our children. 

The firstborn always tend to be our guinea pig in many ways, and although I made a lot of mistakes with Sierra in the beginning...I corrected them right away. I feel that I am a better person, and mother because of all the experiences we endured with her being the only child for five years. With our second it became easier, and so forth.

As I look at this ship that Sierra made for you, and all the things that she wrote about you...

Defender of dreams.
The hospitable one.
Lover of the family.
Holder of the priesthood.
Seeker of wisdom.
King of Corny.

It warms my heart to know how much she LOVES you, and how she looks up to you as her father. 

All of those things that she wrote about you are true, and that is exactly why I married you.
Wishing you the happiest birthday ever! 


It's not about the necklace

"Yea, they had been taught by their mothers." 
~Alma 56:47
What a beautiful December it has been. Busy, but beautiful. Beautiful because my husband and I celebrated 17 years of marriage, and the fact that he puts time in on his days off to spend time with the kiddos, do some home teaching, and attend the temple makes all things merry and bright. He also has three Sundays off this whole month which is fantastic!! Oh...and his 41st birthday is tomorrow!

The best Sunday thus far was last week. I have never felt the spirit so strong within my heart, mind, and soul. It was the best Sunday for me because I accomplished something that I didn't grow up with that took me two years to complete, but 40 years to earn. What am I referring to is my Young women medallion.

Both my daughter and I accomplished this great goal, and together we received our medallions. We also both bore our testimonies on the purpose of achieving it as well as the love we have for the gospel. It feels so great to know that we accomplished this program for a purpose, and that it wasn't just about receiving the necklace. A friend of Sierra's in high school even called it "her bling". This was such an honor to receive, and to have accomplished it with my daughter has been such a blessing. I saw all the hard work, and countless hours she put in reading her scriptures, doing service projects, attending all her meetings, and participating in all the young women activities. Her example of following the Savior has been close to perfection, and it brings me great joy to know that she did this on her own motive. Her heart was totally into it as was mine.

How nice it would have been to have learned these values while I was a young teenager, but the Lord knows the direction we are all headed. My time was to have earned this is with me eldest daughter while being a mother to four wonderful children living in the Garden state.

Totally worth all the work and hours I put into receiving this. 
For all you young women, and mothers of every age, and I encourage you to work on this wonderful program. It will transform your life into a better disciple of Christ, and a mother. 

Scenes of Santaland

It was a magical time at Santaland this past week, and Noah and Chelsea sat comfortably on Santa's lap. This year we arrived when the lines were super long, and my two oldest missed out on seeing Santa. 

They didn't mind.
 It's not as if they've never experienced Santaland before... 

 Of course when Noah was one he was looking at Santa as if he didn't know what he was talking about, but then seemed as if he was paying close attention to the words of Old St. Nick.

Santaland at Macy's in NYC, circa 2010

They didn't have much to say to Santa this year. I was very surprised with Chelsea. She only has about five things on her list and only mentioned one...dress up clothes, and the only words that came out of Noah's mouth were "choo choo", and "train".

We always enjoy going to Santaland at Macy's in New York during Christmas. We don't mind the crowds, and the 30 degree weather that comes with it. If you don't mind driving long distances or driving period, you won't mind driving in New York City traffic. I'll warn you that patience is a must! It doesn't matter if everyone in the world spends Christmas in New York, and that we go at the busiest time of the year.
 the look on these two PRICELESS!

Our evening

How did we spend our wedding anniversary on Thursday evening???

We spent it by attending our daughter's National Honor Society fundraiser dinner at her high school...and it was delicious!
This was the best lasagna I've ever tasted! It had no meat, and yet it was delish!!
Our yummy dessert...cupcakes. Sweet & simple!
All the students helped out with the decorating, cooking, serving, and cleaning.
 My daughter was the best waitress, and her buddy T.J. was a great waiter!
 I thank all the NHS students in helping make our wedding anniversary the best one yet!
And it was better than going to any fancy restaurant in all of New Jersey!