Friday, December 21, 2012

David turns 1!

Holy cow! It is SO hard to believe that it's already been a year. I find that, like a lot of things in my life these days, the time seems to be streaking by faster than I can keep track of it. My little man is already a whole year old. Where did the time go?!

David has grown so much in the last year! He was nice and chubby when he was born, and although he's thinned out a bit, he's still got that adorable belly! He's got some seriously cute cheeks, too. And thighs. Let's just say that I'm having fun having a kid without weight issues!

What an active boy! David seems determined to catch up to Amy in every possible way. He started walking around 10 months, and by now is quite proficient, although shoes occasionally give him trouble. He's very vocal and makes a lot more noise than Amy ever did. Probably because that's his way to get my attention when Amy is pushing/pulling/sitting on him or taking away a toy, etc. You know, typical toddler behavior.

While David is certainly active, he has much more of a mellow personality than Amy. What a blessing that is! I'm exhausted enough running after the two of them. I simply can't imagine what it would be like if he was as busy as his big sister! He definitely has needs and wants. He's curious about everything, but he's much more patient with things. He'll take the time to sit and examine something and try to figure it out, rather than flitting from one toy to the next. He's much more of a cuddler, and when he's sleepy, he's content just to sit on my lap or Brett's and chug a sippy cup of milk.

We had a little party for him this past weekend, and will be celebrating some more with family on Sunday, so I'll post birthday party pictures this coming week.

For now, though, enjoy some super cute pictures of our handsome little man!

David happily sitting in my stock pot:

Eagerly awaiting the arrival of party guests:

"Om nom nom...."

Present from Grammy:

Checking out trains with Daddy at the Botanical Garden:

Comparison of him this week with him at only a few weeks old:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Crack!

A year or two ago, I found this recipe via a message forum I was a part of. I was skeptical at first, but because of all the rave reviews, figured I'd give it a shot. And I've never looked back! I've heard different names for this, but Christmas Crack is what has stuck. It's delicious, easy to make, and HIGHLY addictive!

First, gather your ingredients.

Pretty, right? I was feeling a little artsy. Ish. Anyway. Preheat your oven to 400. Next, cover your cookie sheet in foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Cover the cookie sheet with a single layer of graham crackers.

I break my graham crackers in half. It's okay if some of them are broken--just fit them in as best you can. Once that's done, it's time to make the caramel sauce. Bring the butter and brown sugar to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.

I prefer to cube my butter, since it melts faster.

Mmmmm....look at all this golden-brown delicious heart attack....

Let that gorgeousness boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Then pour it over the crackers as evenly as possible, spreading it gently if necessary.

Place in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. When you remove it, the caramel mixture will be molten and boiling. Allow to cool for about 3 minutes or until you can see the crackers distinctly. If they've shifted during baking, gently poke them back in place with a fork or knife:

There was one little piece that was just stubborn and refused to go back in place. Seems fitting for me. Anyway, after this, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and let them sit for about 5 minutes so they get all melty.

They'll get kind of shiny, and that's how you'll know they're ready to spread. I use my little offset spatula, like so:

No, that hand in the corner does not belong to Casper. That would be my ultra-reflective skin.

The chocolate spreads out nicely, and it should turn out to be even and pretty.

After this, you can add your toppings. I like to put chopped pecans on top. They're not pictured here because I was making this for class, and one of the girls had a pretty awful nut allergy. But there are a ton of topping options. Nuts, toasted coconut, sea salt, peppermint bits. The possibilities are endless. You'll want to gently press them into the soft chocolate so it doesn't all just come off when you break it up. Refrigerate to set the chocolate, and then break into pieces. Devour!
This would be my second batch, which DID have pecans.
Enjoy! Beware, though, because this is mostly butter and sugar, and you will love to eat it. And because it's so fast to make, it's easy to go through a ton of it.

Here's the recipe, adapted from A Southern Grace:

Christmas Crack

1 sleeve (approx.) graham crackers/saltines/Ritz crackers
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup butter
2 cups chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a cookie sheet with foil. Spray with cooking spray. Cover the cookie sheet with a single layer of crackers.

Bring the butter and brown sugar to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Pour over the crackers and spread as evenly as possible. Bake for 5 minutes. When you remove it, the caramel mixture should be molten and boiling; allow to cool about 3 minutes or until you can see the crackers distinctly. If they have shifted while baking, push them back in place with a fork or knife. (NOT your finger. Trust me on this one.)

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the toffee and let sit for about 5 minutes to melt. Once melted, spread chocolate evenly. If desired, sprinkle on pecans and press lightly into the chocolate. Let cool a bit and then transfer to fridge to harden. Once hard, break candy into small pieces and place in containers.

Laura's Notes:

I ALWAYS use graham crackers. The original recipe called for saltines. I've tried that, and the Ritz crackers, and I definitely prefer the graham crackers. I think they just turn out the best. You could also probably use those little square pretzels--that could make it interesting!

I have adjusted the caramel mixture to be a batch and a half of the original, as I felt the crackers weren't really sufficiently covered, but a double batch was way too much. The recipe above reflects that.

Like I mentioned in the post above, you can leave the pecans off, although I definitely love my pecans. You can also substitute a variety of different toppings--sea salt, crushed peppermint bits, toasted coconut. Get creative! The possibilities are endless! You could also try different combinations of chocolate chips--white chocolate, mint chocolate, etc.

I usually let the sheets sit on the counter for about half an hour, and then stick them in the fridge overnight. Perfection. I've found that, provided you're not storing them next to the stove or the oven, they don't really need to be refrigerated after being broken up.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas prep is in full swing!

So, I wrote about getting our tree, which I'm still just so thrilled about. We put it up in our front room and decorated it. White lights, silver garland, and red, green, and gold ornaments with my angel on top. I'm really happy we can have it in our main room where people can enjoy it. How, you may ask, can I do this with two small kids? Well, that's why I love Craigslist and the fantastic woman who sold me one of those "super play yards" that I can put up around my tree to keep the kids away. Mwuahahahahahahaha.

Brett put his train up around the tree last night, and I've got just a few finishing touches to put on before I post some pictures.

I'll be starting my holiday baking as soon as I can get to the store. I need some batches of Christmas Crack! Yum. My mouth is watering now.

My baking is somewhat restricted this year, since my hand mixer finally kicked the bucket. Granted, most of this, I can do by hand. But there are some things I want to make that require butter & sugar to be creamed together, and I just don't have the muscle or the speed to do that with a wire whisk and some elbow grease. Good thing a hand mixer is on my list! :) Maybe I'll be doing baking. Good thing the Christmas Crack is easy and requires no mixer. I can churn out batches of that stuff like it's going out of style.

The most exciting part of Christmas prep is making gifts! Like I mentioned in my last post, I make gifts for our families since we don't have the money to buy a lot of stuff. I have so much fun hunting down the "best" ideas for Christmas gifts. It's just so exciting! I love imagining the look on someone's face when they open it. Granted, my gifts probably aren't as thrilling as some things you can get in the store. But I put a lot of thought and effort and time into them, and I hope it shows. Last year I gave bath salts and sugar scrub, with some little pots of homemade lip gloss (which was delicious, by the way).

This year, my theme is different. I'm not giving it away, because naturally I don't want to spoil the surprise! But I really hope people like my gifts.

I'm documenting the process of making some of these, so look forward to some fun posts after Christmas!

Christmas Season Memories

I've been a bit quiet since my last few posts, mainly because I was waiting for some craziness to die down. But I'm back now!

My preparations for the Christmas season are in full swing! I'm totally stoked, because this year I convinced Brett that we should go cut down our own tree! So, off we went this past Thursday to Eckert's to chop down a tree, with kids in tow. Which made for an interesting (and occasionally frustrating) trip.

I have such good memories of the Christmas season from my childhood. Most of our Thanksgiving traditions are from Brett's side of the family, but a lot of the Christmas stuff is from my side. For example, cutting down our own tree. As early as I can remember, we would go to Meert's Tree Farm the day after Thanksgiving. It always seemed like Dad took FOREVER finding the "perfect" tree. (Which I now appreciate more, since it was my job this year.) We'd cut it down, haul it back, wait for Dad to secure it to the top of the van (which also took forever). Then we'd get home and put the tree up, cut the netting off, and voila! A huge pine tree that filled the house with the most amazing smell ever.

We'd get all the decorations out. The way I remember it, we'd decorate the rest of the house while Dad put the lights on the tree, although I'm not sure if that's entirely accurate. I DO remember that the lights took an eternity, because he was incredibly picky about how they looked on the tree. Finally we got to put the ornaments on, and then the angel on top. I remember just loving that angel, and I always wanted to be the one to get the angel out. It's the reason why our tree topper is an angel, and why I hunted for weeks for the "right" angel the first Christmas we were married.

I remember the house being filled with Andy Williams and Mannheim Steamroller (I think). Andy Williams is still probably my favorite singer of Christmas music. I remember how much Dad loved Kathy Mattea and how he would play "Mary, Did You Know?" over and over. I listen to it every Christmas.

I remember the ton of holiday baking Mom always did. I always loved helping her in the kitchen, although I'm sure I was probably more a hindrance than a help. I remember how Dad loved those little mincemeat "pies", and how he and I were pretty much the only ones who ate them. Date-nut pinwheels. Pecan snowballs. Almond bark pretzels. Fudge. Grandma & Grandpa's toffee and peanut brittle. (Seriously, the best toffee ever. There's just no comparison.)

Every single year, Dad would always warn us, "It's going to be a small Christmas this year." There were a lot of us kids, and money was tight with such a big family. Looking back, maybe they were "small" Christmases. I'm not really sure. They never FELT small. There were always gifts piled around the tree. I was always so excited about the gifts I got. I remember one year in particular, Dad got me a train set. It hadn't been on my list, but he told me he'd thought I would like it. I thought it was one of the coolest gifts I'd ever gotten. He was so disappointed when we couldn't get the train to work. He even took it back for a different one, and THAT one wouldn't work, either. I don't remember what I was given in its place. There was probably something. But I look back on that so fondly, remember how excited he was to give me that train set.

So many memories! Christmas Eve dinner with our seafood bisque, cheese, crackers, sausage, and other yummy things. Opening one gift, and that awful year I got coal and thought I wasn't getting anything else. (Honestly, probably the only negative memory I have of Christmas.) Reading the Christmas story from Luke. Cinnamon rolls. Driving around looking at lights. Taking the tree out to the garden, where it was eventually burned after it dried out. Dad's last Christmas. More recent memories with my sisters and their kids. Christmas plays with the Leigh and Hawkins kids. Brett and I painstakingly painting wooden nutcrackers by hand for Christmas gifts. We did one for each set of parents and one for ourselves. Each one took us HOURS to complete.

I love Christmas. I love giving gifts, especially now. We don't have a lot of money to spend, so I've discovered the thrill of making gifts. I get so excited searching for just the right gifts to make, hoping that people will like them.

To me, this really IS the "most wonderful time of the year."  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Clarification, because, whoa, are things getting out of hand.

All right. Time to take a step back.

I've been pulled into a religious debate that I really don't want to be a part of.

My decision to support marriage equality is a legal, political decision. It is not a religious decision. I am not demanding or expecting the LDS church to change its stance.

The US is not a theocracy. Its laws, and the laws of the states, are not determined and should not be determined by religion.

According to US law, according to the Constitution, all people are equal under the law, with no discrimination.

And to me, this includes discrimination based on sexual orientation.

So yes, I support all people being equal before the law. I support same-gender couples having equal rights before the law.

And yes, I separate that from my religious beliefs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Follow-up: Figuring out a few things.

My post: Figuring out a few things (in which I came out of the pseudo-closet), got some really mixed comments. I'm not surprised--my viewpoint is certainly NOT the traditional or majority view in the LDS church. Most of the negative comments focused on The Family: A Proclamation to the World, a document written by the leaders of the church in 1995. I wanted to make a few points to clear up exactly why I've arrived at the decision I have.

1) People confuse the Family Proclamation as doctrine. It is not doctrine. It was not and has not been canonized. The Church does not have any doctrine on LGBT matters. Similarly, the church never had doctrine on how black people should be treated, either. What the church has is policy. And there is a big difference between doctrine and policy.

Doctrine rarely changes, nor should it, as we view it as the word of God. Policy, however, is the words of our human leaders, and it DOES change. Fairly frequently. Our leaders are human and fallible. We need to remember that, and allow them to be fallible and to grow and change, just as we do.

2) I'm not asking for doctrine to change. I'm not asking for the Family Proclamation to change. "Marriage between a man and a woman is essential to [God's] eternal plan." That's what it states. And I believe that wholeheartedly. It IS essential to God's plan. It's how we bring children into this world. And I'm not saying that should change. I respect the church's right to base its religious recognition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The issue of gay marriage, for me, is a public policy issue, not a religious one. The public policy issue is that right now same-gender couples are not allowed to have the same legal protections for their spouses as straight couples do. And I have a problem with that.

The church will always have the right to recognize marriage however they choose to, as well it should. The religious definition of marriage is one thing--the state's definition is another. And the 12th Article of Faith states that we believe in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. 9 states and D.C. have legalized same-sex marriage. For the gay people who DO choose to marry, shouldn't we do the Christlike thing, and allow them to be protected under the law, even if we don't agree with their personal choice?

No one is going to force the LDS church to perform gay marriages, nor should they, and I'm not debating that.

To close, a quote from Mitch Mayne, an openly gay man and an active member of the church: "We'd do alot better as disciples of our Savior if we paid a little more attention to our own salvation, and a little less to everyone else's."


There's a lot of talk about the Family Proclamation, so I wanted to point something out. I mentioned above that the Proclamation says that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to God's plan. It is. Absolutely. But it does NOT say that marriage between a man and a woman is the only way. It says "The family is ordained of God." It is. Absolutely. It does NOT say, "The family is ordained of God, unless it consists of a same-gender couple."

Nowhere, not ONCE, in the entire document, does it say anything about homosexual/transgender people or couples.

It says that ALL human beings are created in the image of God. It doesn't say, "All human beings are created in the image of God, unless they're LGBT."

It says that gender is an essential characteristic of individual eternal identity and purpose. Not gender unless you identify with a different gender than you were born with. Not gender unless you're gay.

So, yes. I did study the Family Proclamation. Extensively. I prayed about it. And no where, not once, does it say anything about LGBT children of God. Regardless of whether you believe it's doctrinal or not, there is nothing about gay/transgender people.

NOTE: BEFORE commenting, please read this post. Thanks.

Diet Update, Week 4!

Woo hoo!

I know this was sort of small beans, but I can't help this awesome feeling of accomplishment. I have been fast food free for 30 days. I don't crave it anymore, at all. In fact, the thought of eating McDonald's is actually fairly nauseating now. I've discovered that the things I really enjoyed, I can make at home, and they're even better! (And probably less bad for you. Probably.)

For example, I had really wanted to try this new sandwich at Jack-in-the-Box. It's a cheesesteak melt. I LOVE cheesesteak sandwiches. But, rather than buying it there, Brett and I made our own version the other night, and they were AMAZING. Seriously. Thin cut steak, sauteed onions and bell peppers, pepper jack cheese, on toasted sourdough bread, with some spicy mayonnaise. Yum.

We also really love their eggnog shakes and look forward to them every holiday season. So, instead, we got some vanilla ice cream and some lowfat eggnog, and we're going to make our own. Hopefully tonight, after my final presentation in class.

I'm going to continue this part of my diet indefinitely. I'm not saying I won't EVER eat fast food again, but it'll be a rarity.

I'm especially proud that I stuck to my guns on the no-soda thing. That was really hard. I did have a celebratory Coke last night, and I have to say, it was mildly disappointing. I don't know if it was because it was over ice, and not cold straight from the can (yes, I'm very specific about the way I like my Coke. Either straight from the can, or from a soda fountain. Light ice.). But it just...wasn't fabulous. So, even though I don't intend to really follow the no-soda-thing too closely, I won't be drinking it often. That's kind of bittersweet.

I haven't really lost any weight, again, not that I expected to. Maybe a couple of pounds, but it's hard to tell. I do feel less sluggish and more energetic, though. Today at playgroup Amy and I chased a flock of geese halfway around the pond, and I was barely out of breath.

Now that this 30-day challenge is up, time for a new one! Just in time for Christmas, ha. It's time to add in an exercise program. And yes, I will be reporting in weekly, continuing to track my weight, etc. I really liked doing Jillian Michaels' 30-day Shred before, so that's what I'll be doing. She's mean and I occasionally yell at the TV screen, but it's so worth it.

Stay tuned for exercise updates!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Figuring out a few things.

This post has been in the works for a while, and I just can't quite get it the way I want it. That's unusual for me, since I normally wax poetic (and/or long-winded) pretty easily. So, I'm not sure how much sense this is all going to make, but I have got to get this off my chest. (And yes, it is long-winded.)

A few weeks ago, I was reading a post on Stephanie Nielson's blog. I love reading Nie's blog, but there was something in this particular post that bothered me. It's a minor thing, really, but it feeds into a lot of things I've been thinking about the past month or two.

"She has never questioned her religion...ever."

One phrase. One innocuous phrase. But it bugged me. And then it bugged me because I couldn't figure out why on earth I was SO BOTHERED by that one little sentence.

Then I bugged me because I HAVE. And it bugged me because, thanks to my own struggles, I felt like that little statement made her better than me. Like, she (and any other LDS person) must be so much better/more incredible/more faithful than me if they haven't questioned their religion.

I feel like our religion ENCOURAGES us to question. To study things out. To read the scriptures. To ponder. To pray. And to do this constantly, especially in a world that is constantly shifting. And yet we're taught to always "follow the prophet".

While I am a faithful member now, and have been for several years, I wasn't always. I DID question, although the path I chose was based more on my anger and stubbornness than on any real problem with the church itself.

A lot of bad things have happened to my family, and to me. I'm not throwing a pity party, I'm simply stating a fact. My abuse. My younger sister's abuse. Years of surgery. For me, years of bullying and torment at the hands of my peers. My dad passing away from pancreatic cancer. Really, horrible things. And at the moment when I started feeling like our lives were finally coming back together, Heather was in the accident. For no reason (that I could see at the moment), her life was changed dramatically and irrevocably.

And like the selfish, prideful person that I was, I got angry. I got angry. I'd been taught for years that God gives us trials because that's how we learn, blah blah blah. That He has a plan for us. That He LOVES us. And I was just enraged. I lost it. I ranted at Him. I had several (one-sided) screaming matches with Him, off in the woods by myself. How could He DO this to my family? AGAIN? How could He take all of that away from my sister? From my mom? And yes, from me, too. How could He claim to love us when He kept letting such horrific things happen to us? We were faithful members of the church! We did everything that was asked of us! And THIS was how He repaid us?

Finally, I'd had it. He wasn't responding to me, so I was done. And I told Him so. I told Him that, until and unless He changed His behavior toward me and my family, that I was finished with Him. That unless He actually started acting like He loved us, that I was just done. That I refused to worship a God that would treat the people I love so poorly. (I'm really not sure how I wasn't struck down. I was Mean? Yeah.)

And so while I had to continue going to church while I lived at home, I was just going through the motions. I went to church. I prayed when I had to, but I didn't mean it. I stopped reading the scriptures. I stopped praying by myself. I had a running inner monologue that just wouldn't stop being angry. Once I was at college, there wasn't anyone to keep me from doing anything I wanted. I stopped pretending, and told myself I was so much happier without all those stupid rules and restrictions on what I could wear, drink, etc. And for a while I had myself fooled.

Thanks to several members of my family, I eventually came back. I realized the only person I was fooling was myself. I wasn't happy. In fact, I was more miserable than I could ever remember being. I broke things off with my then-fiance and moved home, determined to get my life back on track. And I did! And I am so much happier now.

Even now, though, things happen that force me to take a closer look. That make me examine my relationship with the church, and my personal relationship with my Savior. With all the attention that gay marriage is getting right now, I've been doing a lot of thinking and praying. The church doesn't support gay marriage. I have a problem with that. And I have a problem with my having a problem with it. There's a lot of cognitive dissonance going on in my head lately.

I've come to realize that I have to stick with what feels right to me. I love the church. I love the gospel. (No, this is not an announcement that I'm leaving the church. Far from it.) I have such a strong testimony of it. And I also know that my Heavenly Father (who DOES love me) will help guide me. That I have to rely on Him when it comes to these hard-to-figure-out issues. That I'm not a bad Mormon for questioning my religion once in a while. And that, yes, it is okay for me to be Mormon and to support gay rights. All of them.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Family Photo Shoot!

We had the fabulous opportunity to have a family photo shoot a couple of weeks ago, courtesy of Lindsay and Scott Nesham of Landlock Photography. The pictures turned out GREAT! Lindsay was fabulous with our kids, and I feel like she did a great job of capturing their personalities, especially Amy's! We had a fun
time, and got some really great shots.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 30

Whew! You guys are probably so sick of me by now! It's been really hard to do this every day (or mostly every day....I fully admit that I had to back-date some of these. I'm not perfect.).

This past month has taught me a lot about myself. How countless my blessings really are. How deeply grateful I am for so many things in my life. How much more often I should be expressing my gratitude. How, once again, if I really am determined to do something, I CAN do it.

So today, I am grateful for my determination. I am grateful for my (rather large) stubborn streak. Although it has certainly brought me a lot of grief in the past, I'm learning more and more about how to use it in a positive manner. I'm learning how to be determined instead of stubborn...and there IS a difference.

I'm grateful especially for the many people in my life who have and continue to teach me. People, like my mom, who are not perfect, but who still manage to love me despite my shortcomings, and despite how much I have hurt them. I am grateful for their ability to forgive me, and for teaching me that it's okay for me to forgive myself.

I'm grateful for my life, for my ability to love and to be loved, for my freedom to choose, for my talents, and yes, even for my weaknesses and my trials. I am grateful for my ability to learn, even if it does take me 10 times longer than is any sort of right to learn from my mistakes.

I'm grateful for every blessing present in my life, and I'm grateful for this chance to enumerate some of them. They really are abundant and countless.

God is good.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 29

Today I am thankful for no class. I needed a break and had (have) a ton of homework to do. It was nice to have a break and get to spend time with Brett and the kids.

I love being in school, but the end of the semester is always so stressful. I'll be glad when this one is over.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Diet Update, Week 3's been three weeks already? Holy cow!

There's not a whole lot to say, really. I'm still on the wagon. I'm still not really losing weight. Meh. Whatever. That'll come soon.

I don't even want fast food anymore. It just does not seem appetizing. At all. (Maybe minus 1 or 2 things from Jack in the Box. Old habits really do die hard.)

Soda is easier, but still not effortless. It's a lot easier to dismiss my soda cravings now, but I still have them.

But I'm still going strong!

Giving Thanks, Day 28

Today I am thankful for naps.

I don't feel good. The kids have colds and are fussy. We got up this morning, had a little bit of breakfast, and then the kids were so fussy that I put them both back down, and they went back to sleep. So, I had a fantastic nap that I desperately needed.

And I feel mostly better. Yay for naps.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 27

Yesterday I was grateful for Amy.

Today I'm grateful for my son. What a sweet boy David is!

David was a little unexpected. Not entirely. We'd planned to start trying soon anyway, but I figured it would take a while, like it did with Amy, and that I would need medication (like the doctor had TOLD me) when I wanted to conceive again. I thought maybe we'd be pregnant by December...not be having a baby! So, he was earlier than I expected him to be, but not any less wanted!

David started teaching me from the moment I found out I was pregnant. I have learned so much more about trusting the Lord's timing, even more than I learned from waiting for Amy. I learned more humility (try not to die of shock, Mom). I learned that sometimes, I really do need to ask for help. I learned that it's okay to ask, that it doesn't mean I am weak or incompetent. Since I was on bedrest for a month with a young child, I didn't really have much of a choice. I was severely depressed. I had to be medicated for the first time in my life, and I saw a therapist weekly. It was, quite honestly, horrific. And it taught me to rely on the Lord.

Giving birth to David without medication, I learned more about my body. I learned that despite how I may feel about my looks, my scars, my cankles, my stretch marks, or any of the other plethora of things I can nitpick about the way my body looks, that I am powerful. I am a powerful woman. I am determined. And I can do hard things when I put my mind to it. Amazing things.

David is so different from Amy in so many respects. He definitely wants to go places! But he has a more laid back personality, which is good, because I really don't know how I would maintain what's left of my sanity if I had 2 kids like Amy running around right now. He loves his big sister. He wants to be like her, and he trails around after her like a little puppy...when she's not chasing him. :) He learns quickly and seems to be ready to be a big boy already! (Which I have strictly forbidden. He doesn't seem to be listening.) He's already walking quite well, almost exclusively.

He is quick to smile and to laugh. I love his giggle. It is just infectious. Often, when we're in the car, I'll hear David start laughing, probably because Amy makes faces at him. He starts to laugh, which makes Amy laugh, which makes him laugh even more, which then makes me laugh, which makes both of them laugh harder. It makes for some seriously fun car rides!

He loves to play. He doesn't particularly care with what--just give him something to hold, and he will find a way to be fascinated by it. He eats like he won't get another meal. He is so deliciously chubby! I love it.

I am so grateful for this sweet little man, and for the privilege of being his mama.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 26

I know I mentioned my family before in my "thankful" posts. And I feel like I haven't gushed too much, which I try hard not to.

But today I'm grateful for my little girl. She has already taught me so many things in her short 2 years. She is sweet, curious, adventurous, and incredibly energetic. She has a special wonder for everything she comes in contact with. She is friendly and loves to hand out smiles and waves like they're going out of style. She loves to be helpful (or at least try). She loves imitating me, whether it's "cooking" or mothering David or strutting around wearing my shoes and purse. (And yes, she does strut. She preens. She's got her own little 2-year-old swagger that says, "I'm hot stuff...and I know it.")

She loves to express her opinion about everything, whether it's actual words, nonsensical babble, a loud and emphatic "NO!", or an outright temper tantrum.

She is very caring and protective of David. She can maul him til the world ends, but heaven forbid if she doesn't know you and you try to "take him away" from her. I have no fear that David will EVER be kidnapped with Amy around. She'd make too big of a scene.

She's using a lot more words these days. One day she was in the bathroom with me while I was primping...I think the Wednesday before our family pictures. She was babbling away at me and seemed to be asking a question, so I told her "I want to look pretty for Daddy." Now she's picked up on "pretty". She'll tell me "pretty" when I'm doing my makeup, or when I'm fixing her hair. It's sweet, although of course the overprotective mother part of me is hoping that I haven't already managed to give her body image issues.

At one point in our marriage, I was afraid we wouldn't be able to conceive (despite Brett's continuing assertions that everything was fine and I was overreacting). I prayed so hard for Amy to come into our family. I begged and pleaded with my Heavenly Father. I went to the temple often, and sat quietly, crying, begging. "For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition."

I am so grateful for this sweet person, for the tiny little ball of energy that made me a mother.

Giving Thanks, Day 25

Ahhhh...home again, home again.

I am grateful to be home, in my own bed (even if it's not as nice as the bed I was in for the past few days). I'm thankful to be able to visit family and have a fun time. And I'm grateful for familiar things again.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 24

I know most of you will probably roll your eyes, but I can't help myself. :)

I'm grateful for minor league hockey teams. Barbara, Brett, Amy, and I went to a hockey game last night! Since the NHL is locked out this season with no end in sight, we've been going through hockey withdrawals. Yes, for real. We miss our hockey.

Fortunately, Dayton has a minor league team, and we got to watch a really feisty hockey game, complete with a goalie fight partway through the first period. It was pretty fantastic. Dayton's team won, and fun was had by all! Amy has been asking for hockey lately, so she was pretty thrilled. (Yes, 'hockey' is one of, like, 15 words she'll say consistently. And it's always a question. Hockey? Hockey? Hockey?)

So, as silly as it may be, I'm thankful for the opportunity to partially satisfy our hockey appetites. Go Dayton Demonz! (Yes, with a 'z'. That's really how they spell it.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 23

Now that my waistline has expanded considerably......

I'm grateful for all the early explorers and groups like the Pilgrims. They faced incredible dangers and hardships, coming here. But they persevered, and through it, helped to create a great nation. I am so thankful for them, and for their determination.

And I'm grateful for turkey and shrimp ball.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 22

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am grateful for so many things! I am immeasurably blessed, and I am grateful for that. This post is going to be pretty darn long, so strap in.

Since I am 26, here are 26 things I am grateful for:

1. My life! With the burn injuries I sustained and the infections I had and as malnourished as I was, it wouldn't have been a far stretch for me to not have made it. Also, as I've dealt with depression most of my life, which has sometimes been quite severe, I'm grateful that I never took my own life. I love my life, and I am so thankful to still be living it!

2. My parents. I am so incredibly blessed to have been taken in by such wonderful people. Mom and Dad both have their faults, of course, but I have never doubted how much they love me. I never felt different from their other, biological children. I have never doubted that they want the best for me. My life would have been so different had Mom and Dad not chosen to take me into their family, and I am eternally grateful to them for that. I love my parents very much.

3. My sisters. I haven't always gotten along with all of them. There are 7 of us, after all! I haven't always been close with them, and even now I'm not as close to my older sisters as I'd like to be. But they have always been good to me. Much like my parents, I always felt like they accepted me as part of the family. I never felt like an outsider, even as a foster child. I admire my sisters. Each of them has traits that I hope and try to make part of myself. I feel very blessed to have the sisters I do.

4. My husband. I know I rave about Brett. I really try not to be sickeningly mushy, for your benefit. And Brett certainly has his faults. But I just cannot say enough good things about this man. He is a loving husband and father. He treats me as I should be--an equal partner in our marriage. He is concerned about me and does everything he can to ensure that I am happy and that my needs are met. He is affectionate. He loves our children and is involved in their lives. He helps to care for them. He plays with them. He is a righteous priesthood holder. He is funny and smart and curious and loves to learn. Brett is everything I ever wanted in a husband, and I'm so glad he puts up with me! I am so grateful to be his wife.

5. My kids. Yes, they most definitely try my patience. Frequently. Repeatedly. Endlessly. But I more or less knew what I was getting into. After all, they've got me for a mother! I'd be deluding myself if I thought my kids wouldn't be strong willed. Ha. But they are such amazing little people. Amy is loving and caring and smart and curious and everywhere all at once. She is fiercely protective of her little brother and loves to pretend to be me. :) David is adventurous but has a much more mellow personality than his big sister--although he definitely has the same stubborn streak! I am so blessed to be their mother. I remember a time when I feared I would never have children, and I wish I could go back and reassure myself. I love being a mother, and I'm especially grateful to have these two special spirits in my family.

6. My Savior. I'm grateful for his life, his ministry, his atonement, his death, and his resurrection. I am grateful for his love for me and his willingness to forgive me for my innumerable mistakes. I'm thankful for the relationship that I have with him.

7. The gospel. I'm so thankful to have the gospel in my life. I'm grateful for the knowledge and the comfort that it gives me. I'm grateful for the meaning it gives to my life. My faith plays such a huge part in who I am, and I'm so glad that it does.

8. Modern revelation. This includes scripture, prophets, and personal revelation. I'm so thankful to have modern revelation to guide me. I'm grateful that I don't have to rely solely on a 2000+ year old book (not to say that the Bible isn't great!). I'm grateful for the clarity that modern revelation provides. I'm especially thankful for personal revelation--for answers to prayers, for the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and for the watchful eye of my Heavenly Father. I know I can receive answers to my prayers, if I am willing to hear the answer.

9. Air conditioning. I live in Missouri. It gets hotter than heck here during the summer, and it's really, really humid. Because of my scar tissue, my body doesn't sweat like a normal person, so I can get overheated very easily. Summers are really uncomfortable! So I'm very grateful that I live in the time of air conditioning. Especially when I was pregnant. Whew. Super toasty.

10. Plastic surgeons. If it weren't for my doctors, I wouldn't be alive. Enough said.

11. Medicine! Medicine for me, medicine for my kids. Pain meds, antibiotics, immunizations. (Yes, immunizations. I've done the research, and I immunize my kids.)

12. Hospitals. Although I do NOT like being a patient these days, I'm grateful they're there. I'm thankful I can take my kids somewhere in an emergency and have them receive great care. And I'm thankful they're there to occasionally suture Brett's leg when he slices it open.

13. Missouri Children's Burn Camp. This camp changed my life as a camper, and it continues to have a profound effect on me as an adult. I'm grateful to have had a place to go where I was NORMAL. Where people didn't judge or point or laugh or whisper or tease because of my scars. Where I was accepted. And I'm so grateful now to have the opportunity to give back, and to be a counselor.

14. Friends. Current friends, past friends, rediscovered friends. Friends who have come and friends who have gone. Friends who stood up for me. Friends who stood by me. Friends who comforted me. Regardless of who or when, each friend I've had has changed me as a person. I am so grateful for the many people who have been and are a part of my life.

15. A home. We've moved several times in our marriage, but we've always had a home suited to our needs. I'm grateful to have a roof over our heads, and to have a comfortable, safe place to raise our children.

16. Basic necessities. This ties into the above. Despite being dirt poor not being very well off, we have always been able to meet our basic needs somehow. I'm grateful for the many opportunities that have presented themselves, allowing us to have everything we truly need.

17. Cell phones. I love having a cell phone. I'm grateful to know that no matter where I am, and especially in emergencies, I can always get the help I need. Especially grateful for it, since I have 2 small kids.

18. The Internet. Yes, granted, I can waste oodles of time on Pinterest, but it's also super useful. I can look through the college's database of articles without leaving my couch. I can get directions to anywhere. I can keep in touch with friends and family. I can find fun new recipes, and ideas for crafts and gifts. I'm grateful to have such easy access to such an incredible resource.

19. Service. While I'm definitely grateful for service rendered, I'm most grateful for the opportunity to serve. I've grown more aware over the past few years of the blessings that come from serving others. I really do feel closer to the Savior when I forget myself, and I learn to better love God's children when I'm serving them. Even though the service often takes me out of my comfort zone.

20. Service. Yeah, again. As mentioned, I'm grateful for service given to me. I hate asking for help. I mean, I REALLY hate asking for help. I don't like to inconvenience other people, and I don't like admitting that I can't do everything myself. It's really hard for me. But when I do admit it, I'm grateful that there are always people willing to help me. This was especially evident during David's pregnancy when I was put on bedrest, and the women from our ward at church brought meals 3 times a week for a month. They called and checked on me. They offered to come help in other ways. And I was overwhelmed at their willingness to serve me. I'm grateful for that service, and very touched by it.

21. Electricity. Because how else would I read books until 3AM?

22. Other modern conveniences. Especially, with little kids, my washer & dryer, as I've mentioned in a previous post. My dishwasher. My oven and stove. Indoor plumbing and running water. I love the convenience of living in a modern age, and I'm grateful for the measure of ease that it brings to my life. I'm grateful that it allows me more time to spend on other writing absurdly long blog posts.

23. My brain. I'm so grateful for my intelligence. And no, I'm not bragging or trying to make myself look good (although at one point in my life, I would have been!).  I am grateful for my ability to learn, and the ease with which I usually do it. I'm grateful for a keen, curious mind. I'm grateful for my love of books. I'm grateful for the intellectual gifts I've been given. I really think I'd be a dreadfully dull person otherwise. I'm just not funny or witty enough. :)

24. Cars. I probably could've included this in my "modern conveniences" section, but really, it deserves its own mention. How drastically different would our lives be without these huge mechanical beasts? I love being able to hop in my car, plug in the portable DVD player, and drive 6 hours to go see family. I love being able to zip to the grocery store (although the process takes 4x as long with kids in tow). I'm so thankful for the opportunities I'm afforded by having a car.

25. My parents-in-law. I've told Brett and his parents many times how lucky I am to have them, and I've probably mentioned it on this blog, too. But really. I honestly dreaded the prospect of marrying into a family. I was terrified that I'd get stuck with some evil, mean-spirited people that I'd have to endure being around occasionally so as not to offend my husband. And I am so grateful that's not the case! I love my in-laws. They really are like a second set of parents to me. Barry and Barbara are such loving, kind people. I'm grateful to know them and be a part of their family.

26. My Heavenly Father. I'm so grateful to have a loving Father in Heaven who watches over me. I know I have a mission in this life, and I know He would never give me anything I can't handle without His help. He loves me enough to give me trials and challenges, knowing I will have to rely on Him to get through them. I'm so grateful for His guidance.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Diet Update, Week 2

Still going strong and proudly on the wagon!

I still haven't really seen any change in my weight, but again, I didn't really expect to. I rarely even think about fast food these days, unless I'm writing an update! The soda thing is getting easier, although there are still occasions when I miss my Coke.

It might be all in my head, but I feel like I have more energy these days. I don't feel so sluggish. I don't feel like I've got a brick in my stomach after I eat! Woo hoo! Seriously, though, it definitely seems like my body is changing for the better in the absence of the crappy food I was eating.

I looked through all of our transactions on both credit cards and the debit card since January 1st of this year and tallied up how much we've spent on eating out this year. Not just fast food, but any eating out, including dates, special occasions, etc. I am just appalled at how much money we've flushed down the toilet! It's a ridiculous amount. Seriously.

Once again, more proof that my obsession with fast food is NOT WORTH IT! Not to my body, and not to my wallet! (And the amount isn't taking into account the cash I've spent, either. Which is probably a pretty high amount.)

Brett and I have talked about this several times throughout these 2 weeks. We've agreed that we're pretty much just done with fast food. The past 2 weeks have been an eye-opener. It doesn't take much more time to ensure that we've got food readily available at home, at it's a lot faster and less expensive.

I will most likely pick soda back up, but on a much more limited basis. Since we won't be eating out as much, there won't be such a big draw to drink it all the time. Pretty simple!

I'm really proud of myself, and proud of Brett, for committing to this, and keeping this committment.

Giving Thanks, Day 21

Oh my goodness. Today is just turning out to be a fantastically fun day (said in the most sarcastic tone humanly possible). We leave after Brett gets off work to go to Ohio for Thanksgiving (woo hoo! Shrimp ball, here I come!), the laundry isn't finished yet, which means I haven't even started packing, the kitchen needs to finish being cleaned up, and I still have a few errands to run. (Oh yeah...and that 10-page research paper plus 20-minute multimedia presentation for my final in 2 weeks...)

To top my morning off....or should I say, to START my morning off, I was greeted by a disaster in the kids' room. No, Amy hadn't taken her diaper off, we put her in her jammies backwards now.

She took David's off, instead. Yup. And, of course, he'd pooped, and then he pooped again post-diaper. So, he was filthy, and poop was smeared all over his sheets and the bumper pad and him. And various spots on the floor. I may have cried. (Yeah...definitely cried.)

So this morning, I am grateful for my washing machine. Oh my goodness, am I grateful for it. It means I can just chuck nasty, dirty, poopy stuff in there, turn it on, and let the machine work its magic. No scrubbing for me! (Although I did rinse his PJs out. Small price to pay.) I can spend the time I would have spent scrubbing the clothes by hand doing other things! Like bathing both children and trying to get poop out of the carpet, all while not losing my temper. Another modern convenience that has changed our lives.

Yes, I am most definitely grateful for my washer & dryer.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 20

Tonight I'm grateful for the convenience of living in a 1st world country. Granted, I have major issues with the politics that go on (from BOTH parties). But tonight it's one of the simple things in life that I'm grateful for.

Grocery stores.

Yup. I'm thankful to live in a time and a place where feeding my family is as simple as going to a store, buying food, and taking it home and cooking it. I don't have to worry about growing it myself, or hunting it, or gathering it. Mostly I don't have to worry if it's going to make us sick or kill us.

I get to just wander through the aisles, smelling produce and picking out the most ginormous turkey they have. (For the record: 21.54 lbs. I hope it fits in my roasting pan.) I push my cart up to the checkout line, swipe a card, and voila! My family has food.

It feels a little silly to proclaim my love of and gratitude for grocery stores, but there you have it.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 19

Last night we had an interesting experience. Occasionally Amy has nights where she (sort of) wakes up screaming, can't be calmed down, and will repeat the experience several times through the night. Last night was one of those nights. I'm not sure if it's a bad nightmare, actual night terrors, or something else. But it's not consistent and doesn't happen terribly often. When it does, though, it makes for one crappy night.

I went to bed early last night since I was exhausted, so, around 10pm. A little before midnight I woke up to Amy screaming bloody murder. Brett had already gotten her and was downstairs trying to calm her down, and it just wasn't working. I got up to help, and after a while she finally settled down and Brett put her back in bed. 15 minutes later, she was screaming again. This time I got up, brought her into our room, and put her in bed with me in the hopes that having me there with her would help her fall back asleep for good. A couple of minutes later, Brett came into the room and said he felt like he should give her a priesthood blessing.

In the LDS faith, worthy men hold the priesthood, or the authority to act in God's name. They can use the priesthood for ordinances in the church (such as baptism), and they can also give blessings of comfort, counsel, and/or healing. Brett holds the priesthood.

Amy and I sat up in the bed, and Brett proceeded to give her one of the most powerful blessings I have ever witnessed. We're not sure why the Lord wanted Amy to have that blessing last night, but He did. Amy went to sleep soon thereafter and slept through the night.

I am so grateful Brett holds the priesthood, and is worthy to use it. I'm grateful that he listens to and obeys promptings he receives from the Holy Spirit. I'm grateful for the power and influence of the priesthood in my own life. I've always had a firm testimony of priesthood power, thanks to my dad. I'm so thankful the Lord has given us such a tremendous blessing.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 18

Tonight I'm grateful for opportunities to step outside my comfort zone. A couple of days ago, I was asked to sub for the teacher in Relief Society (our church's women's group) today. I've never taught a class of adults before. The women in my ward are incredibly intelligent, and many of them are older than I am (which makes it hard for me to feel like they're my peers, even though we're all adults). So, I was really intimidated at the prospect of trying to teach these women anything, especially since the topic of the lesson was raising children in light and truth. I'm just starting out on my journey as a parent, and most of the women have older children, or grown children.

I was seriously terrified. Not going to lie. I've mentioned before about how I am a GREAT worrier. So, of course, I started worrying. What if no one participates? (Probably my greatest fear...a silent room.) What if I don't have enough material planned? What if I have too much? What if, what if, what if. Seriously, my list of worries was pretty much endless. I considered telling them no, that I wouldn't teach. But I felt like 1)if they're calling me, they're probably pretty much desperate, and 2)I'm being given this opportunity for a reason. So I accepted.

As expected, it was terrifying. :) I was shaking pretty much the whole time. BUT. There was a ton of participation from the women (thank goodness), and I ended my lesson right on time. I really felt guided by the Spirit as to what to say, and I thought the women had some really great insights. All in all, it was definitely a success! A great learning experience for me.

And hopefully one I won't need to repeat for a really, really long time. :)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 17

Nine years ago, my sister Heather was in a horrific car accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down. At the time, in my completely selfish, bratty, obnoxious mindset, I was angry and felt inconvenienced. (I am so sorry, Heather and Mom. You both deserved far better than I gave you back then.) Fortunately, I've done so much growing up since then.

Today I am especially grateful for Heather. I am grateful that she survived, and even more so, that she LIVES, each and every day. I am grateful that she chooses to find joy in her life. I am grateful that she is a strong, courageous, beautiful woman. I am grateful that she gave me the opportunity to really learn to love her by serving her. I am grateful for my friendship with her. I am grateful for the incredible example she is to me, every single day. I'm also grateful that we live fairly close, so that my children can grow up with such a strong example of courage and integrity.

Once again, I am indescribably grateful for the eternal nature of the family. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to be sealed to my parents for eternity. I am grateful that, so long as I remain true to the covenants I have made with my Heavenly Father, I will be with my family forever. I'm so thankful that Heather is a part of my family.

Giving Thanks, Day 16

Today I am grateful for my trials.

NOT because I enjoy suffering, or because I want to play the martyr. I don't. Really.

I have learned so much, and continue to learn about myself because of my trials. The adversity I have faced has made me a better person than I ever would have been without it. My abuse and my burn injuries have helped me to be a more compassionate, empathetic person. My history of abuse forced me to face truths about myself, and my fears of being a parent and continuing the cycle of abuse.

Because of what I have been through, I am strong. I AM strong. I am determined. (Sometimes stubborn or downright pig-headed.) I am patient. I love to serve and help others. And while my trials shape who I am, they do not define me.

I am grateful for a Father in heaven who knows me, and who knows what I am capable of. I know all of this is part of His plan for me, and that I have an important mission in life. I'm thankful for His faith in me.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 15

Tonight we spent the evening at our friends' house. We ate, played games, and dealt with crabby kids. :) (Mostly ours.) And then we had a massive explosion in Amy's diaper. Not really sure where that came from, but, suffice it to say without getting into disgusting detail, it was NASTY.

So, tonight, I am grateful for a husband who says, "It's okay, Laura, I've got this one. You go in the other room." I'm grateful for a husband who loves his children. I'm grateful for Brett, who is a wonderful father, who is helpful around the house and with the kids. I'm grateful that he is so involved with our children. Yeah, he has his moments when he doesn't want to deal with them, but so do I. (And what parent doesn't?!)

I am so thankful for a husband who truly believes in an equal partnership, and practices it.

And yes, that he is willing and offers to change some of the most disgusting diapers ever known to mankind.

Brett, you rock. Thanks for being an awesome guy. I'm glad I married you and that we made 2 cute kids together.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 14

Today I'm thankful for school. It's hard. It's stressful. It's occasionally seriously boring. But I love it!

I love to learn. I have a true passion for learning, and I am so grateful I have the opportunity to go back to school to finish my education. I'm grateful for the support I get from Brett. He realizes how important this is to me, and wants me to accomplish the goals I set for myself.

I'm grateful that I get this second chance at school. My younger self didn't  understand and didn't care. I was so used to skating by in my classes with little to no effort, that I just couldn't comprehend a world where I actually had to TRY. I actually have to STUDY. I actually have to *gasp* NOT wait until the night before to do 10-page papers. Who knew?! (Other than Mom, of course.)

So I'm grateful for my education and my opportunity to continue it. I'm grateful for teachers who have and continue to push me to do better. (More about that later.)

I love school, even when I'm complaining about all my homework or the group project I have to do. Learning is fun. :)

Diet update!

Since getting some flack from my sister-in-law about the naming system Brett and I use, this will now be referred to as the anti-McDiet. (Better, Nancy? ;) ) Don't want to be confusing people or anything. ;)

My diet is going fairly well. I'm surprised at how easy it's been to avoid the fast food. The first day or two were pretty tough. I felt like my mouth was watering nonstop and all I could think about was big, juicy Sourdough Jack with a large Coke, light ice. Yes, that specific. Wednesday night, after not getting my usual fast food on my way to class, I actually had DREAMS about it. Not even joking. And I seriously drooled on my pillow. Who wouldn't?!

It's been a lot harder not to drink soda, much as I thought it would be. Coke is my go-to pick-me-up on those days when I haven't slept well (which happen more than I'd like), but I've got to be up with the kids. Like today. Today would SO be a Coke day. I actually thought that when I was awoken this morning by Amy banging stuff on the walls in her room. "Wow, today is definitely a Coke day....oh wait." Yeah...bummer. But I'm determined not to fall off the wagon! So I'm going to keep myself as busy as possible this morning in the hopes that when we get home, the kids will crash and so can I. :D I really hope they cooperate.

According to the dreaded scale, I've lost a little over 2 pounds...which really doesn't amount to anything since your weight can fluctuate by as much as 4 pounds daily. I'm not really too bummed about it. I didn't expect huge results on the scale since I'm focusing on diet and not adding in exercise yet. But I'm confident that I'll see changes in the long run.

Physiologically, other than weight, it's hard to quantify any changes. I don't think about fast food as much as I did at the beginning of the week. I'm not really feeling the "need" to go get a burger, although admittedly, it still does sound REALLY good. (Sourdough Jack, anyone?) But it's a thought I can easily dismiss rather than feeling like I have to give into it. Soda-wise, I still do feel like I need Coke, at least on a morning like today. (Amy is definitely NOT sick anymore, and is making up for her last two energy-less days.) Well, I guess "need" isn't really the right word here, either. It's a thought I can dismiss. I think, "Wow, a Coke would really be great right now. Give me an energy boost, taste yummy...Nah. Not worth it."

That's the biggest change for me right now, and it is one that I'm thrilled to be seeing already. My willpower is winning! I can look at fast food and soda, and even though it looks great and I can practically taste it when I think about it, I can also tell myself that it's not worth it! And then I just move on. No more debating with myself, trying to talk myself out of it and failing miserably. No more feeling guilty. No more hiding.

Just the assertion that is is NOT WORTH IT. And it's not.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 13

There's actually been a lot of talk about Phineas and Ferb among my sisters, but I can't help myself. Since we're on Day 2 of Amy apparently not feeling well, today I'm grateful for Phineas and Ferb! Amy loves watching it, and since I'm pretty much tied down all day, I'm glad there's a kid's show that I don't cringe at. I actually really love this cartoon! It's so funny, and I don't have to worry about innuendos. (I'm surprised at how many kid's Disney shows there are that have some really inappropriate content for young kids.) Also, even though they're "getting away with stuff", they don't talk back to their parents and they aren't rude. That's my biggest pet peeve about most kids' shows--they show the kids smarting off to their dumb, clueless parents, who do nothing about the bratty way their kids are behaving....and somehow this is what we want our kids to watch? Pfft. No thanks.

So, I'm glad there's a cartoon out there that DOESN'T feature that. I'm glad my sick little girl and I can watch Phineas and Ferb curled up on the couch together. Thanks, Phineas and Ferb!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 12

Yup. Today I'm grateful for medicine! Specifically, children's medicine. Amy's been sick today and has thrown up a couple of times..including on me. Not sure how she ALWAYS manages to vomit on me, but she does. Since today was the observance of a federal holiday, Brett was off work, so I got to jump in the shower while he dealt with the mess. (Poor guy. What a trooper.)

The one good thing about Amy being sick is that she's WAY more cuddly than usual. I'm not sure how it happened, but neither of my children likes to cuddle, and both will barely tolerate being held for more than 30 seconds, if that. So, when someone's sick, I actually get to cuddle with one of my kids! It's kind of nice.

At any rate, I ran to the store and picked up some lovely bubble gum-flavored Pepto Bismol for children. Sounds AWFUL, doesn't it? I shudder to imagine. But, apparently it worked, as we had no more puking incidents. We don't use a ton of medicine in our house, especially on the kids, but boy am I grateful it's available when we do need it! Over-the-counter meds and prescriptions alike.

I feel so blessed to live in a time when we have medications readily available so I can help my kids feel better and get better faster.

Giving Thanks, Day 11

I am so grateful for the men and women who defend our country. From those like my Grandpa who fought in World War II (and those who fought in earlier conflicts) to those who are fighting now in the Middle East, these men and women deserve nothing but our respect and support. These men and women are heroes.

Why? Because they risk their own lives to protect our freedom, and to protect those who cannot protect themselves. They protect our right to elect our president, and they protect our right to complain about it. They protect our freedom of speech, of religion, of assembly, the right to bear arms. They put themselves in danger every day, because it is their job.

I am honored to have veterans in my family. I am so proud of the service they have given to their country, and to me. And I am thankful for them, and for every veteran who has or will serve this country.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 10

I am so grateful for the Atonement. I have made many, many mistakes in my life. There are periods of time from my past where I pretty much regret everything. I was not a good person. I was young, I was stupid, I was selfish. I am so glad that part of my life is over.

But I'm even more thankful for my Savior. I'm thankful that He came to this earth, lived a perfect life, and loved me so much that He suffered for MY sins. He felt MY pain. He knows my regret, my shame, my self-loathing. And He loves me anyway. Despite how imperfect and unworthy I am. He has taken on all that sin and imperfection and paid for it, so that I can return to my Father in Heaven.

I don't deserve it. He knows it. And I know He knows it. And that's why I'm so grateful.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 9

Yes, a day late. My bad.

So today/yesterday, I'm grateful for friends! Friday I watched a friend's kids so she and her husband could go on a date. :) They have four kids, who are a ton of fun. I had a blast (and really wore the kids out, since I forced them to be outside for over an was too beautiful to stay in our little townhome all afternoon! So they ran. A lot. Mwuahahahaha...)! I was glad for the opportunity to sort of pay Melissa back, since she's watched our kids several times, in addition to helping me can stuff. I wouldn't mind doing it again, either! Although, admittedly, it WAS nice to have a quiet house after they were gone and our kids were in bed. Amazing how exponentially louder it gets, the more kids you have in one place.

I've had a lot of friends over the years. Some new, like Melissa. Some super old, like Lindsay, whose just got married to an amazing guy a month ago. Some who have chosen to leave, which is always extremely painful for me. Some I've chosen to leave. Some that I've wronged horribly, and some who have done wrong by me. Some who forgive. Some who don't.

It's interesting to look back at my friends over the years. My friendships tell the story of my life, I think. They tell how I've grown and changed as a person. My friends have changed and shaped me, laughed with me, cried with me, and taught me valuable lessons. I'm grateful for each and every one of them, even those who no longer call me a friend.

Thank you for making me who I am.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 8


Today I am so deeply grateful for the love and support of family and friends.

Yesterday I posted about my diet, and I shared the link on Facebook, asking for positive thoughts and prayers.

I am so completely overwhelmed by all the encouragement I have received. I know there are people who love me (or at least let's hope so!). But the number of supportive and loving comments is just astounding. I'm just blown away.

I CAN do this. And I can do it because I have a support system. I can do it because I'm incredibly pigheaded stubborn determined. I can do it because an entire host of people has my back.

So thank YOU. Thank you for your sweet, insightful, loving, encouraging, supportive, helpful comments. I'm so thankful to have people like all of you in my life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 7

Today, I'm grateful for media. Yeah, you read that right. Last night, Brett and I watched a documentary called "Supersize Me".

It's a documentary by a man named Morgan Spurlock from 2004. After seeing headlines about 2 teen girls suing the fast food industry for their obesity, Spurlock set out to see if they really could be held responsible. He went on a "McDiet"--eating only food from McDonalds, 3 times a day for an entire month. (When he started out, he was in incredibly good health. He consulted with 3 different physicians and a nutritionist during his experiment.)

Everyone knows fast food is bad for you. I know it. But we keep on eating it. Why? Because it's cheap and fast and easy, and it's everywhere.

Even knowing that it's "bad", I guess I didn't really put together just HOW bad it is. After 3 weeks, Spurlock's health had deteriorated so quickly and dramatically that all 3 doctors recommended he stop the experiment. (He did actually complete the last week.) His cholesterol had more than doubled. His liver enzymes had almost quadrupled. He gained 16 pounds. In three weeks. At the end of the 4 weeks, he ended up gaining over 20 pounds. He was fatigued and depressed.


I eat way more fast food than I should (duh). I'm actually embarrassed about how much fast food I eat, so much so, that when people ask me about it, I usually lie about it. How sad is that? I am so addicted to this crap that I really do treat it like an addiction. I defend it. I hide it. Really, I do. Sometimes I really want some, so I'll stop while I'm out and get some food, pay with cash, and then throw everything away in the dumpster so Brett won't find it. (Brett, if you're reading this, don't hate me.) It is absolutely ridiculous the lengths I go to in order to get my "fix".

To be truthful, I either eat or get a large soda from a fast food restaurant 3-4 times a week on average. Sometimes up to 6 times a week, and occasionally twice a day. Ugh. I can't believe I'm admitting this. When I actually look at my behavior and my "need" for fast food, and especially what I do to conceal it, I am seriously appalled!

So, no more.

I'm going on my own "McDiet", and we'll see what happens.

For the next 30 days (starting today), I will not eat ANY fast food or drink any soda. Of any kind. (That's the part that's really going to kill me.) I know I should get into the habit of exercising as well, but let's start with baby steps. This is going to be more than enough to occupy me for now.

Whew. Yikes. I'm nervous.

I'm not going to post my current weight, mainly because I'm kind of embarrassed about how big I am, and it's none of your business. :D But I WILL track my weight. I'll post weekly updates on my diet--if I'm keeping up with it, if I've had any slip-ups, what's going on with my weight, and how I'm feeling.

Positive thoughts and prayers are appreciated as I take this first step to tackle my food addiction.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 6

I voted today! Did you?

Today I'm grateful for 2 reasons. 

1) I have the right to vote and let my voice be heard concerning who I want governing me and how I feel about certain issues. How many people in this world don't have that right? An astounding number. But in this great nation, we DO have that right. And we have that responsibility. I feel it is everyone's responsibility to vote as soon as they are of age, and it really bothers me that some people either don't bother to register, or don't bother to go to the polls. And then they complain about the results of the election. If you didn't take part in the election, then don't complain. You had your chance to voice your opinion, and you chose not to exercise your right to vote.

2) I have the opportunity to turn Election Day into a teaching moment for my kids. Brett and I decided to go together today and take the kids with us. I want Amy and David to grow up going to the polls. I want that to be normal and expected of them. I remember going to the polls with my parents, not every time, but enough that it made an impression. I want them to see Brett and me voting, and I want to be able to stand in line, like I did today, and explain to Amy why it is so important that we go vote. I want to raise children who are conscious of their civic duty and take pride in it. I'm thankful for the opportunity to model responsible behavior for them.

How grateful I am to live in a country where my voice is heard, where I can express my opinions without fear of retaliation, and where I have a say in my own government!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 5

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

In 1605, Guy Fawkes and 12 other men attempted to blow up the House of Lords in the hopes of beginning a revolution that would lead to greater religious tolerance for themselves and the rest of the Catholics living in Protestant England/Scotland.

Today, I am so grateful for the many freedoms we enjoy in the United States, but most especially religious freedom. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I belong to a religion that is not particularly well-liked nor understood. My faith is such a huge part of my life and affects so many aspects of it. My religious beliefs are extremely important to me. I don't expect others to share them, but I do demand from others the same respect that I show toward other religious beliefs.

I am so thankful for the freedom I have to practice the beliefs I hold. My knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for me have changed not only the way I live, but who I am. I am also grateful that others have the privilege to live according to their beliefs, whatever they may be. How blessed we are to live in a country that protects our religious freedom!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day 4

This is sort of silly, I guess. But since we drove home from Ohio today, I'm so grateful for our portable DVD player. We spent, I think, $60 on it before our vacation to Pittsburgh this summer. It is a LIFESAVER. The kids napped for a couple of hours, and then we put on Tangled for Amy. It kept her quiet for the next couple of hours, which made for such an easier drive.

So even though it's a bit shallow and materialistic, I'm thankful for modern conveniences that make life a little easier and more pleasant!