More Christmas 2010

The children’s choir performed at Granny’s retirement center, we visited the gingerbread and window displays at the Grand America Hotel, and got comp tickets to Babes in Toyland, where we got to chat with Santa afterward.

More Christmas 2010

The children’s choir performed at Granny’s retirement center, we visited the gingerbread and window displays at the Grand America Hotel, and got comp tickets to Babes in Toyland, where we got to chat with Santa afterward.

I’m on a roll!

Two Sundays in a row–success is imminent! We continue plugging away through this particularly grueling time of our lives.  Five weeks left.  Today I taught a lesson on Gratitude in Relief Society, and David heard the same lesson in priesthood.  We both came away renewed and more committed to be humble and accept the Lord’s plan and timeline.  A good thing we go to church each week, that’s about how often we need reminding.

I planned my lesson and went with the flow of the discussion, and came away learning things I didn’t fully understand going in.  Through our talking, we realized that gratitude is really a principle of trust in God.  Life is by it’s nature hard, and hard isn’t bad, it’s the point.  The only thing we can expect in life is that He will make it all come together for our good. I’ve seen that happen enough to know it’s true.

I also learned that gratitude is a principle that unlocks the heavens in a way that’s beyond just cheering us up because of positive thinking–it allows the Lord to bless us in ways he can’t if we aren’t in a grateful mindset–it literally allows us to see the hand of God, and is the key to true joy in this life.  It’s not just, “I know, I should be grateful, but things are too lame.” It’s really searching for God in daily life, which in turn makes it easier to find Him, which in turn allows Him to have an even greater influence. It’s really an amazing root principle.

I also learned something about complaining.  We live in a culture where if bad things happen, we have a “right” to complain and be upset about it–indignant.  The difference between sharing our troubles with a friend and complaining is pride and ingratitude. When we are affronted by our trials rather than humbled by them, it shows that, like Laman and Lemuel, we murmur because we know not the dealings of God.  I’ve really recommitted to avoiding complaining, I really feel it limits the ability for God to work in my life.  

Funny how you can “teach” a lesson and come out with things that were completely not on the radar. That calling has been a great blessing to me.

Thanks to a gift certificate from David’s parents, their willingness to babysit and a miraculous 4-hour window David had in his insanely unsustainable study/work schedule after returning from out of town, I got my first date of the year last night, to celebrate our 18th anniversary this week. Wow, we are so old–I can’t see how this happened. For such avid daters, we have really missed it.  But it’s true that I appreciated it more since it is so hard to come by these days.

Other events of the week,—my Children’s Choir is moving over to the new Centerpoint Legacy Theater in February and out of my house. I finally decided which program I should do at the U and am applying this weekend for next fall (second Bachelor, Music Education – Choral).  Report cards came in this week and Ben and Sophie are doing well. Ben had a fabulous time on the Klondike overnighter and managed to stay warm, went cross country skiing for the first time, came home happy, exhausted, and sun kissed.

I’m really starting to see with Ben and Sophie that I have prepubescent timebombs on my hands if I don’t really start focusing in on their changing needs.  After years of just making sure everyone gets meals and clothes, spiritual fundamentals, protection from obvious dangers and sufficient hugs, I can sense a shift in my parenting stage that I’m trying to be more prepared to handle.  A lot more practical application of all this preparatory stuff coming up fast.

Pressing forward and counting down . . . .

I’m on a roll!

Two Sundays in a row–success is imminent! We continue plugging away through this particularly grueling time of our lives.  Five weeks left.  Today I taught a lesson on Gratitude in Relief Society, and David heard the same lesson in priesthood.  We both came away renewed and more committed to be humble and accept the Lord’s plan and timeline.  A good thing we go to church each week, that’s about how often we need reminding.

I planned my lesson and went with the flow of the discussion, and came away learning things I didn’t fully understand going in.  Through our talking, we realized that gratitude is really a principle of trust in God.  Life is by it’s nature hard, and hard isn’t bad, it’s the point.  The only thing we can expect in life is that He will make it all come together for our good. I’ve seen that happen enough to know it’s true.

I also learned that gratitude is a principle that unlocks the heavens in a way that’s beyond just cheering us up because of positive thinking–it allows the Lord to bless us in ways he can’t if we aren’t in a grateful mindset–it literally allows us to see the hand of God, and is the key to true joy in this life.  It’s not just, “I know, I should be grateful, but things are too lame.” It’s really searching for God in daily life, which in turn makes it easier to find Him, which in turn allows Him to have an even greater influence. It’s really an amazing root principle.

I also learned something about complaining.  We live in a culture where if bad things happen, we have a “right” to complain and be upset about it–indignant.  The difference between sharing our troubles with a friend and complaining is pride and ingratitude. When we are affronted by our trials rather than humbled by them, it shows that, like Laman and Lemuel, we murmur because we know not the dealings of God.  I’ve really recommitted to avoiding complaining, I really feel it limits the ability for God to work in my life.  

Funny how you can “teach” a lesson and come out with things that were completely not on the radar. That calling has been a great blessing to me.

Thanks to a gift certificate from David’s parents, their willingness to babysit and a miraculous 4-hour window David had in his insanely unsustainable study/work schedule after returning from out of town, I got my first date of the year last night, to celebrate our 18th anniversary this week. Wow, we are so old–I can’t see how this happened. For such avid daters, we have really missed it.  But it’s true that I appreciated it more since it is so hard to come by these days.

Other events of the week,—my Children’s Choir is moving over to the new Centerpoint Legacy Theater in February and out of my house. I finally decided which program I should do at the U and am applying this weekend for next fall (second Bachelor, Music Education – Choral).  Report cards came in this week and Ben and Sophie are doing well. Ben had a fabulous time on the Klondike overnighter and managed to stay warm, went cross country skiing for the first time, came home happy, exhausted, and sun kissed.

I’m really starting to see with Ben and Sophie that I have prepubescent timebombs on my hands if I don’t really start focusing in on their changing needs.  After years of just making sure everyone gets meals and clothes, spiritual fundamentals, protection from obvious dangers and sufficient hugs, I can sense a shift in my parenting stage that I’m trying to be more prepared to handle.  A lot more practical application of all this preparatory stuff coming up fast.

Pressing forward and counting down . . . .

2011 – Let’s do this!

I’m only two Sundays behind on the new year’s resolution to blog on Sundays! Yay, me! I’ve decided I’ve been subconsciously paralyzed in my blogging by the fact that both my husband and yes, my 11YO son, now have my blog in their readers. I’m just going to push past it and expect the barrage of teasing (DH) and questions (DS) to begin.

In sum, we have had all sorts of trauma, trials and plagues, evil enslaving pharaohs, miracles and sea-partings, and we’re still in the wilderness wandering, we hope, toward our promised land.  Probably just like you. 
My painfully private husband has had to go pretty public with his current preparations to take the Utah Bar, in part because we needed prayers (and still do, keep ’em coming).  He also is still working, which adds up to 18 hour days.  He now lives in a cave downstairs where I take his meals when my watch alarm goes off thrice a day, then I sneak out quickly. Only Words With Friends keeps us connected (iPhone Scrabble).  
We are almost in the middle of our 11-week ordeal right now, thus the radio silence–we were burned out and exhausted within the first week thanks to a perfect storm of Bar application demands and Christmas. I’m sad to say I kind of missed Christmas this year–I went through all the motions to try to make it fun for the kids but the stress levels were so high. As I took down the tree, I had that relieved feeling of checking off a big box, which really is sad. Next year, hopefully, I’ll internalize a little more Christmas.  
So, David takes the test on my birthday, 2/22 and 2/23, and at this point, everything revolves around that. 
In my relatively single-mom state, I still have much to do, both to bring in additional needed income and to keep the family going. The Children’s Choir is going wonderfully, I am enjoying it so much and hoping to expand it this year. I wanted to keep it very inexpensive, and I end up putting most of the money back into the choir anyway, so it is much more hobby than job, but it is very fulfilling and I hope to be doing it for years to come.  
I’m also applying to the U to start more music study in the fall. I keep telling the Lord it is not a good time but keep feeling like I need to move the process forward.  Our AMAZING piano teacher  is a great example to me, as she also has kids, just finished her Bachelor of Music and is going back for her Masters.  
The Utah Chamber Artists will be back in session at the end of the month, with our Winter concert happening just after the Bar. I LOVE being part of the UCA, it is a huge blessing in my life.    
The rest of my time that I’m not preparing or cleaning up meals or taskmastering the homework/chores/piano daily drill, I’m working on marketing jobs to pay the bills.
Benjamin is just plugging away at life, getting ready to progress to his Deputy Black Belt III in Tae Kwon Do, enjoying scouts and technology class and really excelling at piano as he prepares for AIM reviews in March.  It’s a pleasure to hear him play, unless it is 6:30 a.m., but some days that’s what has to happen to get those five days in–our teacher is very strict on that!  He’s excited to start taking a C++ programming class at school and dutifully goes out and shovels the driveway at the crack of dawn anytime it snows–without a single request.   On a busy night, I can just say, “Ben, can you take care of dinner?” And he’ll jump to it, providing a great meal, vegetable included, a well-set table and sometimes even a decent cleanup job, too.  
Sophie is enjoying school, piano and choir, and is still in Tae Kwon Do and progressing quickly, although her attention wanders often and now she wants to go back to gymnastics and try out for a community play of Annie. We’re in a contract for TKD through the summer and I really want her to get to black belt before quitting, but we’ll deal with it when we get there. She is really starting to enjoy cooking, too, and can make several things independently.  She is very good at math and seems to be enjoying Latin at school also. My mom is teaching her to sew and she made her very own Christmas stocking with a great deal of appliquéd work. Overall she seems pretty happy these days.
I’m so grateful for Capitol Hill Academy–what a great find that was.  That on its own may be why we are supposed to stay here in Utah–we still aren’t really sure why, but we feel it’s the right thing for now.
So it may seem strange that I actually ended up pulling Noah from the CHA 3-day kindergarten this month and just kept him in his afternoon public school kindergarten program. But, it saves us a third tuition payment, and we still plan to send him next year.  He loves it, and is such a fun, mischievous little squirt and still has the kissiest fat cheeks.  He is begging to go back to gymnastics too, and hopefully we’ll be able to do that soon. His reading is coming along nicely and, when they are not fighting, he is best friends with Lucy and can be so considerate of her.  
Lucy is a sweet little partner to my days. She’s so observant and constantly comments on what we’re doing (and my own inconsistencies) in such a remarkable way. Yes, I’m not yet 40, but she already feels like the comfort of my old age. She’s not doing any extra-curriculars these days, although she also dresses in her “monkeynastics” clothes often and begs to be taken, which again I hope to do again soon.  Oh yes, I added a 5-7 music class to the choir for them and some of their friends and it’s so much fun, so she has that. I’m trying to remember all the fun things I did when Ben and Sophie were where Noah and Lucy are now, I want to give them a taste of that pre-burned out mommy era.
This has been a rough few months, and we are facing at least three more rocky ones ahead. I’m frankly very tired.  Some of you are not going to believe me when I say this, but I very much would like less drama in my life. Or at least, I would like the drama I bring into it myself, like the choirs and kids and music study, but less of all the other stuff.  But that’s not how life works, and apparently I came for experience and am getting it. 
Today I was preparing for my lesson next week on the prophet’s talk on Gratitude and was struck when he said gratitude was the key to the windows of heaven. I realized that complaining really limits the Lord’s hand in my life, no matter how much I may feel I have to complain about, and it’s becoming easier to see how amazingly blessed I really am.  It has been interesting in past weeks to see so clearly the hand of the Lord working miracles in our lives, and although our long-term requests still need to wait on the Lord’s timeline, it has been such a comfort to see Him so close. When I am grumpy and make a concerted effort to count blessings, it really is an instantaneous transformation.  There are people in the direst of circumstances who have tapped into the divine power of gratitude, so in my warm home full of kids and food and clothes and the gospel, I should be able to do no less.
I was recently reminded by Chantelle in the UK about a post I did a while ago on gratitude, where I said that I’d specifically told the Lord, “Don’t change my attitude, change my crappy situation!” and He went ahead and changed my attitude anyway, because apparently He felt that was the crappy situation. If it’s going to be the way it’s going to be, why not be happier? It’s just a constant effort. And, since gratitude was the keynote issue of the prophet in this last conference, trying to “follow the prophet” these days really takes some work on the inside. But that’s always the case when trying to follow Christ–just who knew that “becoming a new creature” process really is as painful as it looks in the werewolf movies!
Well, next Sunday should be shorter now we’re all caught up, and I have several pics I need to upload from the phone, so forgive the long, pic-free post.
Love to all.
Valerie

2011 – Let’s do this!

I’m only two Sundays behind on the new year’s resolution to blog on Sundays! Yay, me! I’ve decided I’ve been subconsciously paralyzed in my blogging by the fact that both my husband and yes, my 11YO son, now have my blog in their readers. I’m just going to push past it and expect the barrage of teasing (DH) and questions (DS) to begin.

In sum, we have had all sorts of trauma, trials and plagues, evil enslaving pharaohs, miracles and sea-partings, and we’re still in the wilderness wandering, we hope, toward our promised land.  Probably just like you. 
My painfully private husband has had to go pretty public with his current preparations to take the Utah Bar, in part because we needed prayers (and still do, keep ’em coming).  He also is still working, which adds up to 18 hour days.  He now lives in a cave downstairs where I take his meals when my watch alarm goes off thrice a day, then I sneak out quickly. Only Words With Friends keeps us connected (iPhone Scrabble).  
We are almost in the middle of our 11-week ordeal right now, thus the radio silence–we were burned out and exhausted within the first week thanks to a perfect storm of Bar application demands and Christmas. I’m sad to say I kind of missed Christmas this year–I went through all the motions to try to make it fun for the kids but the stress levels were so high. As I took down the tree, I had that relieved feeling of checking off a big box, which really is sad. Next year, hopefully, I’ll internalize a little more Christmas.  
So, David takes the test on my birthday, 2/22 and 2/23, and at this point, everything revolves around that. 
In my relatively single-mom state, I still have much to do, both to bring in additional needed income and to keep the family going. The Children’s Choir is going wonderfully, I am enjoying it so much and hoping to expand it this year. I wanted to keep it very inexpensive, and I end up putting most of the money back into the choir anyway, so it is much more hobby than job, but it is very fulfilling and I hope to be doing it for years to come.  
I’m also applying to the U to start more music study in the fall. I keep telling the Lord it is not a good time but keep feeling like I need to move the process forward.  Our AMAZING piano teacher  is a great example to me, as she also has kids, just finished her Bachelor of Music and is going back for her Masters.  
The Utah Chamber Artists will be back in session at the end of the month, with our Winter concert happening just after the Bar. I LOVE being part of the UCA, it is a huge blessing in my life.    
The rest of my time that I’m not preparing or cleaning up meals or taskmastering the homework/chores/piano daily drill, I’m working on marketing jobs to pay the bills.
Benjamin is just plugging away at life, getting ready to progress to his Deputy Black Belt III in Tae Kwon Do, enjoying scouts and technology class and really excelling at piano as he prepares for AIM reviews in March.  It’s a pleasure to hear him play, unless it is 6:30 a.m., but some days that’s what has to happen to get those five days in–our teacher is very strict on that!  He’s excited to start taking a C++ programming class at school and dutifully goes out and shovels the driveway at the crack of dawn anytime it snows–without a single request.   On a busy night, I can just say, “Ben, can you take care of dinner?” And he’ll jump to it, providing a great meal, vegetable included, a well-set table and sometimes even a decent cleanup job, too.  
Sophie is enjoying school, piano and choir, and is still in Tae Kwon Do and progressing quickly, although her attention wanders often and now she wants to go back to gymnastics and try out for a community play of Annie. We’re in a contract for TKD through the summer and I really want her to get to black belt before quitting, but we’ll deal with it when we get there. She is really starting to enjoy cooking, too, and can make several things independently.  She is very good at math and seems to be enjoying Latin at school also. My mom is teaching her to sew and she made her very own Christmas stocking with a great deal of appliquéd work. Overall she seems pretty happy these days.
I’m so grateful for Capitol Hill Academy–what a great find that was.  That on its own may be why we are supposed to stay here in Utah–we still aren’t really sure why, but we feel it’s the right thing for now.
So it may seem strange that I actually ended up pulling Noah from the CHA 3-day kindergarten this month and just kept him in his afternoon public school kindergarten program. But, it saves us a third tuition payment, and we still plan to send him next year.  He loves it, and is such a fun, mischievous little squirt and still has the kissiest fat cheeks.  He is begging to go back to gymnastics too, and hopefully we’ll be able to do that soon. His reading is coming along nicely and, when they are not fighting, he is best friends with Lucy and can be so considerate of her.  
Lucy is a sweet little partner to my days. She’s so observant and constantly comments on what we’re doing (and my own inconsistencies) in such a remarkable way. Yes, I’m not yet 40, but she already feels like the comfort of my old age. She’s not doing any extra-curriculars these days, although she also dresses in her “monkeynastics” clothes often and begs to be taken, which again I hope to do again soon.  Oh yes, I added a 5-7 music class to the choir for them and some of their friends and it’s so much fun, so she has that. I’m trying to remember all the fun things I did when Ben and Sophie were where Noah and Lucy are now, I want to give them a taste of that pre-burned out mommy era.
This has been a rough few months, and we are facing at least three more rocky ones ahead. I’m frankly very tired.  Some of you are not going to believe me when I say this, but I very much would like less drama in my life. Or at least, I would like the drama I bring into it myself, like the choirs and kids and music study, but less of all the other stuff.  But that’s not how life works, and apparently I came for experience and am getting it. 
Today I was preparing for my lesson next week on the prophet’s talk on Gratitude and was struck when he said gratitude was the key to the windows of heaven. I realized that complaining really limits the Lord’s hand in my life, no matter how much I may feel I have to complain about, and it’s becoming easier to see how amazingly blessed I really am.  It has been interesting in past weeks to see so clearly the hand of the Lord working miracles in our lives, and although our long-term requests still need to wait on the Lord’s timeline, it has been such a comfort to see Him so close. When I am grumpy and make a concerted effort to count blessings, it really is an instantaneous transformation.  There are people in the direst of circumstances who have tapped into the divine power of gratitude, so in my warm home full of kids and food and clothes and the gospel, I should be able to do no less.
I was recently reminded by Chantelle in the UK about a post I did a while ago on gratitude, where I said that I’d specifically told the Lord, “Don’t change my attitude, change my crappy situation!” and He went ahead and changed my attitude anyway, because apparently He felt that was the crappy situation. If it’s going to be the way it’s going to be, why not be happier? It’s just a constant effort. And, since gratitude was the keynote issue of the prophet in this last conference, trying to “follow the prophet” these days really takes some work on the inside. But that’s always the case when trying to follow Christ–just who knew that “becoming a new creature” process really is as painful as it looks in the werewolf movies!
Well, next Sunday should be shorter now we’re all caught up, and I have several pics I need to upload from the phone, so forgive the long, pic-free post.
Love to all.
Valerie

So excited!

I have so much catching up to do–later. But before I turn in I have to tell everyone what a great opportunity I have tomorrow. The UCA was invited to sing at the governor's inauguration and the songs are so transcendent and beautiful. Wearing a fancy formal and singing at a state function at the Capitol on the first Monday of the New Year hopefully bodes well for 2011! This choir is one of the best things that has ever happened to me–what a blessing! It will be broadcast at 11:45 on KUED channel 7 here in Utah if you're interested.