Celebrating Forty Three in New York City.

Ever since I moved to Jersey six years ago Maggie & I have attempted to keep our yearly tradition of attending the temple on or around our birthday week. It took a while for us to make this goal, and even though there have been a  year or two since my moving up here that we skipped & had lunch locally instead we always got back on our feet, and reminded ourselves to just go! This year our birthdays fell on a week where the temple in our district was closed for cleaning. Well...luckily we have the Manhattan Temple (which in my opinion should be our temple district because it's a lot closer) to serve in, and have fun afterwards in this magical city we Texan gals have grown to love. 

Attending the temple in New York is always so interesting. Interesting because once you enter through the doors all the sounds of the city dissipate, and the only sound you hear are the voices of the people that are inside the temple, and the beating of your own heart....and then all you feel is peace.  

Once we stepped foot outside the temple the noise returned, and it was okay. We love this city! We walked around the upper west side, snooped inside a couple of shops, filled our stomachs with lunch at The Smith restaurant, and after walking a few more blocks down Columbus avenue we  parked ourselves on a brownstone stoop and enjoyed our delicious cookies from one of the best bakeries in town...Levain Bakery

Because we were enjoying the city so much I didn't take too many pictures. However, I did manage to capture the beauty of the temple from a few different angles...
^^^ Beautiful shot of the Angel Moroni at the top of the Manhattan temple ^^^
and some photos of the yummy lunch I had...
 ^^^ If you plan on ordering the hamburger make sure you come hungry because it's a good size burger! I didn't get to finish it all.  ^^^
^^^ The hot potato chips, and blue cheese dressing was soooooo good! My husband was jealous when I told him about it, because anything blue cheese is his favorite!! ^^^
Can't forget to document these delicious cookies as well...
Days like this are always at the top of my "life list". They are categorized under "the best days of my life".  Attending the temple with my one of my very best friends is the next best thing to attending it with my husband. I thought a lot about my hubby while inside the temple as well as my family members, but at the same time am grateful to have gone with my dear friend, and to have a girls day out! We all need those don't we? It was so much fun, and we both said to ourselves the next time we go we may just have to spend an entire weekend here so that we don't rush ourselves driving back to Jersey. Knowing this girl for 23 years seems surreal because on some days it feels as if I met her yesterday. I never thought that I would end up living in the same area as Maggie, and because of her I was taught of all the do's and don'ts of Jersey (I also learned a lot of them on my own too!) 
Thank you Maggie for all that you did for me on my special day, and for driving us into the city we love! You truly are a gem in my life!

Here's to 43 years, and to looking forward to many more trips like this! 

Love With A Happy Weekend.

Last summer I met this sweet couple at a nearby park and normally when there are other moms at the park with a small child Noah will immediately befriend them (he's not afraid) and of course that's my cue to start a conversation with them. First of all I love, love meeting people, talking about my family, and all the reasons that make me happy in this world. And those things that keep me happy in this world are...the gospel of Jesus Christ, my family, great friends, and God. I had an interesting conversation with them, and one thing that really opened my eyes when I was sharing my religion with them is the fact that her husband said to me, "One thing I've learned in all my years whenever I've gone to a church is that God is love...pure love. You can go to church every Sunday & serve, but what should come out of your service & attending church is having genuine love."

Love, love, love.

Man was he right on, and it's so true that attending our meetings no matter what religion we are, and having the gospel is truly all about love, & we should act upon it. 

So with  General Women's meeting being held tonight, and general conference being in a week I will be focusing once again on heeding the words of a prophet and all his leaders. No matter how different each of them are when it comes to their talks I always find the inspiration that I'm seeking for, and feel the love they all have for us through their words. I always leave with a fulfillment so deep! 

I'm so happy to have two of my daughters coming with me tonight for the General Women's meeting. We miss Sierra, and wish she could share this special evening with us, but pray that she too will be listening, and seeking guidance from the words of our church leaders. 

Have a wonderful weekend! 

Apple Picking On My Birthday.

Another year, another birthday, and with my birthday came autumn. Where does the time go! There are some days where I'd like to stop this thing called "time" so that I can reflect in that given moment for like "eternity",  but as we grow older so do our kids, and luckily we have traditions that keep us going that makes us look forward to the years ahead. 

Such as apple picking...
As it each birthday passes it seems as if my special day gets simpler, and easier in celebrating (which I don't mind), but I have to say that this particular birthday was one of the best days of my life. After having a pretty rough night in which I won't get into detail this day made up for it in every shape, and form! First of all my husband was off of work so we were able to spend it together with the kids. It was a weekday so we didn't do anything extravagant. We waited for Chelsea to get out of school so we could go apple picking. I felt a little guilty not taking Lexie with us because she was at the school until 8Pm! She has been a busy body ever since school began so this year she missed out on apple picking. I told her  we'd make it up to her by taking her pumpkin picking next month.

We drove out to Terhune Orchards in Princeton, and this was the cutest orchard I've ever been too. It has all the amenities a child can only dream of, and everyone was super friendly! The first thing Noah wanted to do was grab a wagon, but they are only used to hold pumpkins, and even though I could have grabbed one for him to sit on I explained to him that "we aren't here to go pumpkin picking, we're here to go apple picking." His response, "oooooookaaaaay mom...let's go pick them apples."
So off we went to "pick them apples." It's a good thing we didn't wait for the weekend to go because everything looked a little picked over. We did manage to pick a few, and while picking the kids were eating.
^^^No more sitting on papas shoulders  to pick apples. Chelsea has gotten tall enough to pick her own. Those days of having her on papas shoulders picking apples are bittersweet. and over (insert frown emoji face here!) ^^^

Apple picking is such a fun time for the kids. It gives them the opportunity to be carefree, and goof around for a bit which in some cases I did, and didn't mind.
 ^^^ Chelsea pretending to have apple eyes. She picked these two apples, and ate one of them on the way home. ^^^
^^^Noah kept "singing" the words, "get out of my way" (no, it's not a hit) while walking down the orchard kicking apples. We called it "apple soccer." ^^^

After picking them apples we walked around the grounds of this quaint orchard, and every where I turned we saw nothing but color. Color, color, color. Fall is definitely my favorite because of the colors! Oh how I love the colors of fall. Did I mention there was so much color? Including the color of this beautiful calico cat that was roaming around the entire property.
                                                           ^^^ See what I'm saying...color, color, color. ^^^
^^^ One favorite thing the kids like to do in the fall is pumpkin painting, and here a few of the pumpkins a few kids painted while we were there. I'm telling you...pops of color! ^^^
^^^ Noah was adamant in getting a pumpkin. I told him we'll go next month, and pick one out in the field! Stubborn kid. ^^^
   ^^^Huge mums, pumpkins, buckets of apples to name a few which adds color to the beautiful season of fall. ^^^
The kids about died when they saw a mini playground, a swing, and this mini maze made out of hay in which Noah couldn't help to jump around in. 
^^^ love his fly-away hair. ^^^
                              ^^^ and these old tractor trucks in which Noah had a fun time pretending to drive in. ^^^

                                                 ^^^ Noah literally hit "rock" bottom when he slid down this slide! ^^^
                                                                    ^^^ Scarecrow girl, and tractor boy. ^^^
^^^ Every little boy' s dream...truck trikes. ^^^
 ^^^ Let us not forget those apple cider donuts we enjoyed eating while sitting on a picnic table enjoying the view of a tiny pond. ^^^
It truly was a beautiful, company, and all! Seeing the kids having a good time, laughing, and running around made my day bright with joy. I couldn't have asked for anything more on my birthday, but to spend it in Princeton in an orchard picking delicious apples with a few members of my sweet family. 

I love this time of year! 

Around The Table With Lily Garcia.

Every now and then I receive emails about participating in certain campaigns and this past weekend I was invited to a conference for the New Jersey education system to meet the new president of the NEA Lily Eskelsen Garcia, to discuss key concerns, and issues in regards to back to school and otherwise. I have to admit I was a little nervous walking into a conference room full of educators, especially Lily Garcia because her resume is impeccable, and historic! However I was filled with excitement to hear what we were going to discuss in regards to public education. For a moment I felt a little out of place because I felt I didn't have enough "experience" to sit among such a great group of educators. I've only completed two years of college, and being surrounded by educators with a vast extensive experience in teaching was a little intimidating, yet very humbling. 
As we were introducing ourselves one by one around the table there was one particular parent advocate that really impressed me and when it was my turn to introduce myself, again...I felt a little out of my league because I was amongst a group of educators who have been teaching for years. I then felt super comfortable when Mrs. Garcia expressed her gratitude for my presence, and for sharing anything that I'd have to say. The fact that she mentioned "I am an motherhood" made me feel so much better and that's when I knew I was in the right place. 
There were so many stories, ideas, & experiences exchanged an in finding solutions as to how to "stop the madness" as said by Mrs. Garcia especially when it comes to "toxic testing", or overworking our children. Especially those with special needs, and/or disabilities where they can't even write down their own name because they're blind such as the story of Ethan Rediske which you can read here. 

I can tell that Mrs. Garcia has been "in the world" and having been a teacher before becoming president of the NEA has experienced, and seen a lot of what goes on in schools while traveling to different school districts. She definitely has empathy and compassion for everyone of color, and while I sat in on this meeting she was all action!

I've been living in New Jersey now for six years and having lived in other states I've had the opportunity to experience many different school districts.  My two oldest daughters are the only ones so far who have attended various schools in different states. My oldest who is now in college attended at least three different elementary schools as well as three different middles different states. And it was very interesting how every curriculum was different especially at the charter school they both attended when we lived in North Carolina. It was well maintained, and structured for an x amount of students, and very low key.  I think that's why when we moved from North Carolina to New Jersey I was a little overwhelmed at all the testing that they did and all the reading programs they have especially when my youngest daughter began first grade. It seemed as if they were giving double the work which in my opinion is not needed, but luckily my kid was able to handle double the writing, and double the reading. However...I do feel for the other kids who cannot be able to handle all that. I'm very grateful for my two oldest daughters who so far one has graduated high school, and that my 14 year old is not overwhelmed with all the work they incur...yet! Then again...that's the perk of being an honors student!   

I tend to get very involved in my children's schooling and try not to incessantly make complaints with the teachers or principal, but there have been times in the past when I had to in emergencies, but have long since eased up a bit. 

One thing I got out of this conference was that our children are important. Not only are they our future generation but they have a lot of potential and teachers need to realize that they are also the key to their success as well as the parents. I'm very grateful for educators & parent activists such as the ones that I met last weekend. They were quite lithe in their mannerisms and love the fact that they all have a voice, and are not afraid to use it. They were all bold in sharing their thoughts, and plans as to how we can find a resolve to all that is going on which has led up to negative experiences for both the teacher, and child today. 

I have quite a few friends who are educators and at least one of them has said to me, "It's just not fun anymore." They want out or are struggling to find a resolve in how to make schools a better place not only for the children, but for the teachers as well. 

The 90 minutes I spent in a room with these people was a great experience and I know that the NEA will continue to strive to find solutions to the matters at hand, and hope for a better education system in our children's future.

"And look where were are [today]: Nobody cares about real teaching and learning. We have turned these tests-something that means so little into everything. We are corrupting what we teach. We must end toxic teaching. We must end making high-stakes decisions based on one commercial standardized test."
~Lily Garcia, President of NEA

**all photos taken by Jen Marsh

Facing Trials With Gratitude & Learning From Them.

Life takes us on many unexpected turns and it's up to me to either accept the turn and let it take it's course, or do something about it and change it. I choose the latter. Ever since we moved to Jersey we've had many a hardships but by the grace of God, our faith in Him, and believeing in His love & never leaving our side has helped us to accept every hard turn, have allowed it to let it run its course without any embitterment, and in the end learned from the challenges, and to never ever forget.


Why shouldn't we ever forget about the struggles we've faced or our shortcomings? Because you never know when you're going to be faced with them again.

And we have had to face them over, and over, and over again.

And I'm sure there are going to be more. Which is fine with me because after so many lessons learned I'm ready. One thing I've learned from all the struggles we've had since the beginning of our marriage is the fact that I never forget them. Reflecting back on past struggles, and how we handled them can better teach us how to handle them today. It's crucial to never forget the trial, to remember about what the trial taught us, and to remember all that happened in between that trial. What we did to overcome it, how we handled it, and what we learned from the trials. And in a good way to try to remember all that was good throughout that trial, as well as expressing gratitude throughout that trial. Key word being trial. Just wanted to clarify! 

When our car broke down two years ago that was the very first time in about 17 years of marriage where we actually focused on what was going on throughout the trial. The way we handled things, and how we found solutions in getting to the places we needed to go without transportation was sometimes frustrating, but in between we found the joy & appreciation knowing that this too shall pass, and explored our little borough via foot and discovered things we've never seen before

We used to focus on the beginning and end of past trials, and was never happy in between. Never really strived to find a solution. We'd sulk, and eventually found a resolve, but man did it take a toll on us. We 'd always complain, and say things like "Why us" , and "I can't wait till this is over." We were always stressing, and fighting. Never did any of us any good really, and all it'll do is put stress on the kids if you constantly stress and complain in front of them. Take them out of the equation, but also let them know what' s going on. I recall there was never enough prayer, or even support, and without those things forget will be even harder. We have learned that focusing in the middle of all that is happening throughout the trial will teach us something. I personally often try to find ways to laugh through it all because let's face it...what else can we do. Crying, being bitter, whining, and complaining "woe is me, no one cares" constantly and avoiding the world will not make the situation any better. I have found that it'll only make the trial worse, and focusing on the negativity of it all will not make it go away any faster. 

This is what we are teaching our children. We constantly teach them to think, and pray in the midst of any trial they may be experiencing. To have focus on the purpose of living and to put all their effort into Heavenly Father's hands with gratitude. 

Having our oldest daughter living 2100 miles away from us hasn't been easy for me because while she was here I was always there to help guide her and lift her up in person. We'd go on walks, thrift shopping, and have lunch every chance we get. Even though she is living with my in laws doesn't mean that her life will be perfect. If anything she is learning and growing from all her experiences she has had there with school, and relationships. My mother in law is not her mother, but her grandmother, and guardian and even though they're under the same roof doesn't mean that everything will be built to perfection, and that is exactly why i constantly text, write, and will call her from time to time. It's so important to stay on top of our children no matter how old they get. We think our kids our strong, but in today's society with the adversary hanging around the most valiant individuals will try so hard to bring them down to an all time low. I know this from experience because not only have I experienced it as a single adult, but married with children as well. 

I'm extremely grateful for the gospel in my life because I know that without that my life would have fallen apart a long time ago. My marriage would have fallen apart years ago. It's so easy nowadays to just give up on life, and God. We tend to give up on our children as well, and I see a lot of that. No matter how exhausted I may get when it comes to life as a mother I will always find a way through it all. 

Prayer, service, attending the temple, and laughing are three of the things that keep my spirits high.

Prayer because I know that Heavenly Father is listening, and telling me not to cry, and that this too shall pass. 

Serving because when I think of others it totally makes me forget about my own problems, and the love for it just keeps growing. It never gets old. 

Laughing because it is the best medicine. Especially when our car broke down while road tripping (and there have been so many of them!) Smiling with tears because our nine year old gave you all the money from her wallet after hearing when Jon lost his job . 

Attending the temple is just about the highest of the highs for me. I leave that building feeling I can conquer anything. I have found the peace so deep within my soul that no matter what awaits for me when I step outside that beautiful building no drama, no trial, heartache, loss of a job, or family member can take that away. I have to be strong in this life. I want to be strong in this life. I need to be strong in this life. For myself, for God, and for my family. 

All those things is what helps me guide my way through. I want that for my children, and no matter how far family may live away from me especially my daughter I want her to know that having faith in all those things can make any bumpy road a smoother surface to navigate through. 

Knowing that we survived from all the trials we've had before will help us get through the ones that are about to come, and may be currently going through. And putting all the faith that we can muster into said trials will make us stronger individuals, and our soul worth living. 

***I love this talk by President Deiter F. Uchtdorf. He has such a humble heart, and always assures me that there is always light in the midst of any tribulation.

On The Cusp of a New Season.

The days are getting shorter, and the weather is getting cooler. Not that I mind, but sometimes I would like for the days to last just a bit longer. I'm slowly putting away our summer clothes, and saltwater sandals, and it actually feels pretty good to be doing so. September is a big deal for me not because it's my birthday month, but because the cusp of autumn becomes more official. Next to summer, fall is definitely my  favorite & this season prepares me for back to school nights, Halloween, & Noah's birthday. Those are the things I tend to concentrate on throughout my birthday month. Turning 43 in a week seems surreal because I feel as if I have a young heart. Hitting 40 didn't freak me out like I thought it would. It was just another day for me, and hopefully I'll have the same mentality when I turn 50, and so on! I'm focusing on the now in enjoying life. The years & days seem to get shorter & in a sense I think I am too! Spending my days with Noah is all I want to do right now. I don't yearn for a job or a career at this time. My time during the day is with him & today we both had a lunch date with papa at the pop shop. Because he's still on a "probation period" with UPS he's only been working a few days a week, and has two more days till it's over (yes!) Since we didn't have a date night last week we decided to have lunch at one of my favorite places. I'm grateful for those free meal coupons I get via email for my birthday. 
We didn't mind that we had Noah because he is the life to every party...literally! Everything was delicious as usual. I had a yummy tuna melt topped with swiss cheese & Jon had a sandwich with shrimp in it (I forgot the name), and Noah, well...he mostly drank all my root beer (he had cereal for lunch earlier!)  
Pop Shop's signature is are the "paper hats" and we all decorated them. Noah kind of added a little bit of his art on mine! He is the funniest boy & sometimes I have to calm him down. He's not used to drinking soda & when he does boy is he like the energizer bunny. He'll just keep going, and going until that sugar wears him down. We had the sickest shake known to man & if you've never had one you've got to try it. They have a variety of flavors & because it's my birthday month I got the chocolate Oreo! It was mouthwatering & between me & Jon that thing was devoured in seconds. 
We then went for a drive to check out if the rain brought forth any colors to some of the leaves. I love, love going on drives whether it's out in the boonies or further north which in this case we only drove within our neighborhood. We did see tiny hints of yellow, and red on a few trees, but nothing really bright! We get the changing of the leaves here pretty late in Jersey so hopefully when we venture our further north in the future we'll see some color. Right now what we saw is what we got which were brown, light golden discolored leaves. We didn't mind & Noah was still a happy camper especially when I told him when the leaves fall to the ground we'll have ourselves a leaf war. I think  after his last birthday he's fully aware that he's a fall baby like his mama & when he sees me happy he's happy too. 

Jon snapped a few shots of us brown leaves and all! 
One thing for sure we are super excited for autumn to officially arrive so that we can have apple cinnamon, and pumpkin scented candles, sweater weather, wearing scarves, go apple and pumpkin picking, and have a hay ride -drinking hot cocoa kind of days! 

Happy Wednesday!