Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Youth Conference '14.

^^^ Inside the Washington D.C. temple vistiors center, photo source-Sam Muller ^^^
I marvel at the testimonies that were said by the youth on the last day of youth conference. I am amazed, and taken back by them. Some of their testimonies that were said reminded me of myself when I first joined the church. All bearing a simple witness to others that this church is it. The cream of the crop. That the Book of Mormon truly is another word of God, and that everything written in it is true. That Jesus Christ is their Savior, and that through him all things are possible. Amen to that. Joining the church at the age of 20 was the best thing that I have ever done, and a monumental moment I will never forget! The gospel anchors me closer, and closer to God and helps me recognize that life has a purpose, and that I have an important role in this life. And this is what I yearn for my children, and for every youth in the world. 

Listening to their testimonies were inspiring and behind some of the cracked voices and timid faces there's a strength in them that is waiting to be nurtured. They all have the potential, and the ability to move mountains and help others. No matter the trials the youth have today they can overcome them, and be like the armies of Helaman, and strong sisters in Zion. 

Some of them may not know this, but they are all stronger than they can imagine. 

It makes me extremely grateful that I am raising my children in this church, and that they are getting more and more familiar not only with the gospel, but with themselves in continuing to developing a firm foundation of Christ. 

I didn't have the opportunity to attend the temple trip with the youth during conference (hubby works, and had no sitter for the kiddos...boohoo), but I heard that it was the most spiritual experience ever! 

This was Lexie's first youth conference and she had so much fun! She was talking to me about all the classes that were held at the church, and how spiritual going to the temple was. She loved the story of John Tanner, and said that watching the Joseph Smith movie never gets old. She especially loved how everyone was unified at the last dance because lets face it...there are "cliques" everywhere. To see all the youth in a huge circle dancing the night away expressing fun towards one another was a miracle. Their examples of acceptance and unconditional friendship just shows that they all have the potential to continue to live in such a manner.
^^^ Sisterhood...photos by Vanessa Aparicio ^^^
The LDS missionaries of the church sent an email describing how wonderful they felt having these particular group of kids come so willingly to serve. They gave a beautiful description of how they felt the spirit so strong among our youth, and with all the work that they did. Can you believe they did 740 baptisms? Wow! They were there all day doing baptisms for the dead, watching inspirational videos, and singing hymns. 

I wish I would've been there to help lead, and experience going to the temple with 150 youth as opposed to two (my daughters), but after reading the LDS missionaries  summary statement via email of how they felt having our youth in their presence brought tears to my eyes. They absolutely had a great experience with the youth, and even quoted some of the youths answers in the question they asked them which was, "What did the Holy Ghost teach me today?"  Reading their comments, and answers hit a hole in my heart, and that's how I know they have potential. I felt the spirit so strong through their words. 

Even though I wasn't raised with these youth programs I know that they are powerful, and help strengthen our children in helping them fit into the mold. I know that it will help them grow spiritually in finding out who they really are. 

I know. 

I know this because I see the changes in my girls as they get older and no matter what trials they have gone through and will continue to go through they will survive, and with the help of the holy ghost they will be guided and strong. They all have a choice in wanting to build a Christ centered life, strengthen their testimony, and to make the best of every situation that falls on their path. I have faith that they will all eventually "get it."

Sure there will be trials along the way, hearts being broken, and all that teen, unnecessary drama that seem like a big deal now. But if we truly put an effort into choosing the right, and to stand as a witness of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places all those trials will be easier to handle. The unnecessary drama will disappear, and their life will flow so much easier. And all those things that seemed like a big deal will look like something so petty. 
^^^ Washington D.C. Temple, photo source-Vanessa Aparicio ^^^
The House of The Lord truly brings a spirit that inspires, and brings happiness, peace, and unity to one's soul. It helps us to forgive, and for a few hours helps us to forget the things of the world. It builds up our faith in God, and rejuvenates the soul.

I look forward getting to to know more of the youth, and helping them along the way in anything they need.  

Now...let's go on more temple trips. 

Shall we.





Monday, July 28, 2014

No Pre-K For This Little Guy & That's Fine With Me.

When I received a letter from the school district informing me that Noah was on a waiting list for pre-school I was a little relieved. I had been thinking a lot about my time with him lately and how quickly these years are flying by, especially this summer! I rely on my little boy too much when it comes to happiness and friendship when the girls are gone. He's like a little grown up, and sometimes we'll get into these sweet conversations, and talk about life, school, friends, animals, cars, the sky, and everything in general! He's my daytime buddy, and someone who can really help me get it together when my days are 'blah'. Sometimes I wonder what I'm going to do when he starts Kindergarten next year! Since Kindergarten here is only half a day I'll probably still stay home, and wait for those three and half ours to be over so we can continue to have our mommy and me time. It truly is a joy being with him, and no matter how many times I have to clean all around the toilet wiping off urine, cleaning up the sink because he splashes water all over the place when he brushes his teeth, picking up soiled, wet toilet paper because he tries to wipe it down on his own, I don't mind being there to help him clean up all his messes. Toys scattered around the living room floor, spotting a cheerio underneath a dusty armoire, and piano, and hearing him say "one more time mommy" 20 times a day is fine with me. Those are reminders to me that for the past four and a half years I was raising a toddler in this house. A reminder telling me that I may not get that chance again to experience having another young one in the home. A reminder telling me that my time with him is now. It's beginning to hit home you know...that he is possibly my last child to have on this earth. I don't want to have to nag on him for the little things, but remember, and treasure his silliness, and just being a little boy. He's young, growing, learning, and so innocent. And I know that I am his role model right now. The one he looks up to on a daily basis (that is until he gets older, but I'm going to make sure that I am his number one to look up to even when he's in his teens!) The feeling I got when I received that letter testified to me that his time right now is in the home with me...at least for one more year. 

And I am going to take advantage of my time spent with him more than I ever have in the past four years of his life. 

Starting now. 
I mean...who wouldn't want to spend all day with this cutie! I am surprised at myself that when its just the two of us the day goes by way too quick, and that he literally doesn't get on my nerves! I'm so glad I had him, and that he joined our family. Our family just wouldn't be the same without him.
Here's to another year of being a stay at home mama with this little guy!

Happy Monday!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Train Ride & A Day Spent in Philly.



Life takes us on many unexpected turns & it's up to me to either accept the turn & let it take it's course, or do something about it & change it. Ever since we moved to New Jersey we've had many a hardships but by the grace of God, our faith in Him, and in His love in never leaving our side has helped us to accept every hard turn, allowed it to let it run its course, and in the end learned from the challenge, and never ever forget what it has taught us.

And I'm sure there are going to be more to come. Which is fine because after so many lessons learned I'm ready. 

And one thing I've learned about living here where time seems to fly by our prickly little fingers too quickly.  Where the hustle and bustle never stop. Where we feel we need to pack in our schedule and do so many things at once. Where we may feel as if we're the only ones looking up smiling at others...is time, and love. 

Time is flying by way too quickly, and it feels as if the older my kids get, the older I get, and of course the years go by fast!! I have learned to always keep my head held up high no matter what. I love my life, and have always made the best of my surroundings. Jersey has taught me so much just as all the other states I've lived in have. But Jersey, oh Jersey... you were way too hard on me in the beginning, and very stubborn too. Maybe that's why our personalities clashed in the beginning because I too was hard on you & very stubborn. Luckily we have both agreed that this is my city right now, and that as long as Jon has a great job this is the place for us to dwell...for now.

The past couple of years of exploring good 'ol Jersey has been interesting and fun for the kids. Of course we tend to go to NYC a lot, and that's probably one of the reasons why I love living in this part of the country. As far as Philly goes...how can you not appreciate this place with all the culture its surrounded with.

Sure there are moments where I tell myself that going to Philly gets old because it's just a 20 minute drive across the bridge, and we go there quite frequently. Expecially when Sierra was going to school there we constantly would go just to get more familiar with the city. I always said to myself that there's not much to do there because we've already explored the Liberty bell like 50 million times, and gone to the Betsy Ross House, Please Touch Museum, Franklin Institute, Philly Zoo a gazillion times, and eaten at the Reading Terminal Market a dozen times. But I've long since realized that there is more to Philly than entering a museum, or eating at a popular restaurant. Sure there are a lot of museums & restaurants we still haven't been to, but that doesn't matter. It's the time spent with my kids in just freely walking the streets of Philly laughing, talking, and seeing Noah & Chelsea getting along and having a great time that matters. Going into the city doesn't mean you have to spend so much money to shop, (although that's nice too), but what matters the most to me is time. Time is what matters to me. Time spent with my children in exploring this old city, and looking at their reaction as we venture out. I want them to know that this city is our other neighbor (NYC is our other neighbor too!)
Earlier in the week I took the kids, and rode the train into Philly. Can you believe that this was my first time taking the train into the city? I've always, always driven, and just like my son I've fallen in love with trains. Noah is a huge train lover, and loves riding in them. Sure he's been on other trains such as the Santa express during Christmas and the essex train ride in Connecticut last year, but when you take the train into the city where it crosses a bridge over water, it's a little different. He couldn't take his eyes off the window. 
The ride was so relaxing, and I was kind of relieved that I didn't have to deal with traffic. Not that I don't mind driving, but sometimes it's nice to just take public transportation, and not have to deal with crazy drivers. 

I did have to call Sierra for a little help to figure out where certain places were (see...I'm used to driving!) Since she used to walk everywhere around the city when she lived here during her first semester of college last year I trusted her to tell me of other places to go, and where to get off from the train. It's an easy ride to Philly, and I still can't believe I waited six years to take this train! Hello...earth to Rose! 
It was a beautiful sunny day, and we had a wonderful time walking the streets of Philly. We wanted to eat at Mexico on the Square, but they were closed! How can they be closed in the middle of the day! So sad because they have the greatest mexican tacos at a good price! It's right across the street from the dorm Sierra lived in. I think they must have been on break because the lights inside were still on, and the neon light that says 'open' was lit. We waited for a few minutes, gave up and decided to eat at the one place where the kids always want to go...Shake Shack. 

Now that was good!!!!
^^^ good bye crinkle fries, hello string fries! ^^^
Afterwards we walked along Rittenhouse Square, and relaxed on the grass while Noah was chasing away some pigeons. It felt a little awkward for me to see him do that here because there were people reading, napping, and relaxing. It's not like Sheep Meadow in Central Park where you can chase pigeons, run around, and be loud. Not here...I had to explain to Noah that it's a bit different here, and that Rittenhouse is not really a park. Its just a place to sit, and relax before people have to walk blocks and blocks around the city. 
I honestly don't think he was supposed to be sitting near this dog statue near the entrance either, but I couldn't resist. He loves dogs, and I snapped a quick photo. Well...actually a couple, but this one was my fave. 
And this one...
On our way home we spotted this sweet looking cat staring from inside the window. The owner happened to be coming home, and said that his name was Ernie. He said that everyone who walks by has to stop and take a glance at him, and the kids sure had fun looking at him. Ernie seemed intrigued.
As we were heading back to the station Lexie was saying how nice today was. She said how nice it would be to wake up everyday, and walk everywhere where you are surrounded by a variety of culture. I have to agree with her. It is nice to take public transportation, and to get good exercise. We are fortunate to live in an area where we are able to do both. Jersey is my home for now, and as long as I'm living here I will continue to explore, and pay 3 bucks to take a train into Philly. Haven't taken the train from Jersey into New York yet, but I'm ready for that. Funny how we'll ride the subway around the city, but have never taken the train into the city. The only time we've taken a train into New York was the time we were in Connecticut. We took the express train into Grand Central and that was a lot of fun. Why I've never taken the train into Philly or New York from Jersey until now is beyond me. 
Well...my eyes have been opened and I'm ready for more train rides...and so are the kiddos! 

Have a wonderful weekend! 


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Remembering A Pioneer Day In Texas.

^^^ Sisters swinging on a Pioneer Day in Texas, circa, 2002 ^^^
One of the things I miss the most about living in Utah is Pioneer Day. Pioneer Day falls on the 24th of July, and is a major state holiday in Utah. It is based on our heritage in remembering the early pioneers for all their sacrifices they made in escaping persecution in order to settle in the Salt Lake Valley. I found out a few years ago that ancestors from my husbands side of the family all come from royalty, hence my girls being able to ride on of them floats of the Days of '47. It would be a neat experience to see my daughters in a parade riding on a float feeling like Miss America or something, but for now we'll do our own pioneer day kind of celebrating. The only one living in Utah right now is Sierra, and I think it would be last minute for her to have participated in a parade.

Once we moved away from Utah, and moved to San Antonio due to a job transfer I was very impressed with the members in our ward, and how much they appreciated in celebrating our heritage. I absolutely loved everyone! When my church announced that there was going to be a family activity for Pioneer Day I was pretty excited. I was like, "this stake actually does something to honor our heritage for pioneer day, yay!!" At the time the girls were seven, and three and at that age they got pretty excited about almost everything. You can imagine the look on my face when we arrived to the location where it was being held. It was held on acres and acres of land, and my jaw dropped! 

This wasn't just an activity...it was a huge celebration!!

And everyone including neighbors, the community whether you were a member or not was invited!! It honesty believe this was the beginning of my fearlessness in having major gospel sharing experiences! 
The girls came dressed as pioneers wearing bonnets, and cute Laura Ashely dresses that looked like something the pioneers wore back in the day. They've always liked playing dress up, and they were happy to have been wearing the bonnets...until that Texas heat started boiling up! 
Sure there were games, animal balloon making, and good food, but the memory of why we were celebrating never stopped. There were tents with various activities including a few members, and LDS missionaries handing out Books of Mormon, and sharing our faith. 

I will always remember this day, and how wonderful the turnout was for Pioneer Day in Texas. The fact that it was near one of our favorite country stores was a blessing. I literally would go out of my way to go shopping at this quaint little village. The best part about coming to this village were the swings that were available for customers. I also love the fact that it's out in the boonies.
There are days when I look back and long for this period again. When the girls are growing, and learning about life, and God. I am so happy to reflect back on these days especially on the moments that have meaning. Don't get me wrong, every moment with my kids have meaning, but there are those days when they were perfect not just in pictures, but in real life. 

Celebrating, and remembering our ancestors and the sacrifices the pioneers made is is very important to our family, and no matter how far we are away from the place where our heritage settled doesn't mean we don't need to remember. Sierra experiencing Trek for the first time in North Carolina was a huge blessing for her, and a great testimony builder. She was riveted by the experience, and at times we'll reminisce about that time. We have been very fortunate to have lived in other states where we did something to remember our pioneers. Haven't experienced that in Jersey yet, but time will tell. As long as we remember our heritage, sing praises in honor of them during sacrament meeting and appreciate all that they sacrificed in helping us to better appreciate what we have today is good enough for me.

***

Love this inspiring message by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. It gives me an even greater appreciation of the mormon pioneers, and helps me to strive to be a better example of faith, strength and courage in these modern days.







Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wheaton Arts.


Bill Moyers said, "Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous" and I believe we found one of those places in our neck of the woods. New Jersey never ceases to amaze me. I love the fact that you can find places to go that are tucked away  without driving for hours and hours, and if you do...it doesn't seem like a long drive. I have found a few hidden "gems" in the Garden State, and the latest gem/adventure we found was exploring the art in a beautiful wooded village in Millville called Wheaton Arts

This place is perfect for people of all ages. We lucked out on going on a perfect non-humid, cool weekend, and the best part...it was free! Apparently they have a free weekend in July every summer, and we just happened to pick the weekend where admission was free. 
We first got to experience the art of glass blowing, and can I just begin to tell you how brilliant blowing glass is!! I was amazed at these artists in how they shape, bend, and heat up the glass to make it into a perfect size pitcher. Noah was enthralled with the whole experience that he was listening with intent during the demonstration observing every move these guys made.  
As we were leaving the building we scoped out some huge round glass looking ornaments and a shrine full of, what else...blown up glass! Everything was done so tastefully & I commend them for their hard work! I can see why they charge so much for their art. Not only is it perfect, but standing in front of an oven that's 1750 degrees for hours blowing glass would be understandable as to why this art is high in price. 
As soon as we walked outside of the building into cooler temperatures we got a glimpse of these lovely glass bowls, and vases. So colorful, but I left with nothing. Maybe next time. 
They also have a playground inside for the kids, and as soon as they spotted it they all ran towards it. It was perfect, and because I had a feeling we were going to be here all day we let them swing away! Noah was too much fun as you can see here.
We then went inside the building next door, and experienced the world of pottery! I was particularly impressed with this gentleman who knocked these coffee mugs out within minutes! 
My daughter Lexie told me how she can totally picture me wearing my overalls with my hair in a bun doing pottery. I sort of shook my head thinking...yeah, I could do this. By the way... Noah kept petting this beautiful Golden Retriever. I can tell he would like us to own one someday. Not now little man!
As we walked around the rest of the place I had myself a little house on the prairie moment. They have an old school house where you can walk inside and get a taste of how it might have felt like to be a student in the 1800's. The desks were so old that you can smell the wood through the glass window. 

We then browsed the award winning museum stores & quaint shops where they sell all kinds of american glass. From paperweights to jewelry, and unique accessories...it's amazing artwork! 

I didn't trust Noah to go into some of the shops with me for fear of breaking something so he stayed behind and chalked the walkway in front of the shops. Believe me if you're in a store surrounded by $400 paperweights from all over the world, and if you have a touchy kind of kid I guarantee you'd want them to stay outside, hence the chalk. Maybe thats why they have boxes of chalk laid out all over this place...to keep the kids occupied. Chelsea went ahead, and joined him in on the fun, only after she we went inside the General Store to listen to this mechanical piano. Really old time music!

This place was quite amazing, and I'm so glad I discovered it while driving through the backroads of South Jersey. The kids had so much fun exploring this fun place. It kind of reminded me of the time we went to Sturbridge Village (another hidden gem.) Old school, but modern.

Wheaton Arts truly is a hidden gem.


Monday, July 21, 2014

A Few Snippets From Our Weekend In Palmyra.

Growing up I didn't attend church too much and if I did it was because my mother told me to. She said it was good for the soul, and that it would make me a better person. She said it was one way to know Jesus, and make friends. I remember going to CCD classes only because my friends were going. Even though my heart wasn't completely into the whole church thing, she was right about one thing...making friends. And ever since I joined the LDS church I've always managed to make friends where ever I go. 

Reflecting back on our weekend in Palmyra was awesome y'all. Every time we come here it gets better and better. The choices I make in having a good time, continuing to believe, and having my testimony strengthened by this wonderful place is refreshing! And when you have friends you can visit with who allow you stay with them is a blessing, and that adds extra icing to the cake. 
I wish we would have spent more time here with Jacob & Emily, but the weekends seem to get shorter, and shorter! They have the coolest farmhouse with lots of  land, goats, and chickens. Makes me want to seriously think about moving up here, and join in on having a farm life. Although Jersey is home for now there are some days where we just need to get away. Where we need to escape the "city life" and venture out to a place where we can catch our breath. Where the kids can actually run around, interact with country folk, and experience attending another ward. When I asked the girls if they wanted to stay for the remaining two hours of church they both willingly said yes, and my heart swelled! Even Noah...he was a bit fussy in the beginning, but knowing that Emily was a familiar face in the Primary eased his mind, and from what she said did very well. He even looked content after classes were done. I personally was thinking of leaving right after sacrament meeting so that we can have more time to visit the sacred grove again, but ended up staying for the remaining two hours and I'm so glad I did. I love meeting new sisters and feeling a different kind of love from them. They don't know me, and I don't know them, but for that one hour of being in Relief Society I immediately felt as if I was part of their family. They were extremely welcoming, and I'll tell ya when you participate, and comment during the lesson they love you more! Listening to the girls wanting to stay and go to Primary and Young women classes on their own motive tells me that this is where they wanted to be. And that they also continue to believe. 

We may not have had enough time to visit with our friends, but attending church with them was so nice...so nice! I sure love their family, and I'm so grateful for their hospitality! 

This will be my last post from our weekend in Palmyra, and I now leave you with a few snippets from that weekend...
 ^^^ Eating ice cream at Chill and Grill because this is where it's at! ^^^
^^^ Colossal size banana split! Shared it with Lexie because I just couldn't finish it! ^^^
^^^ Colossal ice cream cones the first time around. ^^^
 ^^^ Fun pictures taken inside the Sacred Grove because there are times when you just can't take life to seriously. ^^^
^^^ Sisterly love. I hope that when they are in their 20's they'll look back at this pic and say to each other, "Those were the best of times sis!" ^^^
And another picture for our posterity. Going to the temple on a road trip is a must! Whenever we are on a road trip, and there's a temple nearby it's mandatory that we attend. It truly helps with my patience on the drive back...especially when you have two young ones who constantly pick at each other. 

Hope your summer weekends thus far have been memorable, and fun! 

**You can see other highlights of the pageant, the sacred grove, and the temple herehere, and here. 

Happy Monday! 

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