Friday, March 14, 2014

Opportunities to grow...

I neglected to mention that Alex got a new church calling back at the beginning of January... He is the   2nd counselor in the bishopric now.  He has several of the same meetings as before, since ward clerk goes to many of the meetings.  However, he does often have to stay and help with tithing after church and he has other visits during the week to members of the ward.  It's not uncommon for him to be at church from 9:30am-6:00 or 6:30pm on Sundays.  I do have a better chance at getting the crew to church on time with 1:00 church this year.  And I have been enjoying Alex making breakfast on Sunday morning and helping the kids with baths before he leaves.  Now the rest of the day... well, it's pretty hard.

One change with his new calling is that he sits up on the stand during sacrament meeting.  That means I am wrestling with the kids down in the pew for that hour.  Thankfully, other people have been helping out where they can.  (Sometimes they can't be helped.)  My visiting teacher "adopted" Weston to sit with them during Sacrament meeting.  That helps so much!  Trying to handle Weston and Savannah together is nearly impossible, especially since they get wild and goofy together AND Savannah is now throwing tantrums.  Last Sunday, Weston's adopted family wasn't there, so I was trying handle all the kids.  They were fighting over toys, being loud, and just really restless.  I had pulled everything out of my bag (which seems like a Mary Poppins bag as it is...can it really hold all that stuff?).  Savannah wouldn't be held.  She just wanted to take off.  She sees Alex up front, wanting to go with him and she doesn't like to sit still.  Well, what 14 month old does right?  She was determined to go SOMEWHERE, so she just laid down on the floor and started screaming.  I grabbed Weston and scooped her up and headed out in the hallway.  Nathan, Jared, and Owen are pretty good, so I don't worry too much about them being unattended.  Usually someone comes to sit by them when I head out.  I always dread Sundays - just such tiring days for me.

I often wonder why I come, just to struggle with the kids, when I can't even hear most of the talks and sit out in the hallway.  But then I remember that it's important to simply be in the right place at the right time.  And I do get to participate in the sacrament, the most important reason for being at church.  Back to Alex's calling, I also wonder why he was called to this position in such a busy season of our lives.  There are so many other qualified people who could have been called to serve in the bishopric.  Why him?  I don't know, but I do believe that the bishop gives callings through inspiration from God, so I am willing to do whatever is required to allow Alex to fulfill his calling.  I still have a lot of growing to do in this regard.  I tend to be selfish of Alex and his time - maybe this is something that I need to work on.  I need to willingly share him with the rest of the ward and allow him to serve without complaining or making him feel guilty about not being there to help out with the kids.

It's kind-of funny - back in December, when I was having to get the kids ready and to church at 9:00 on my own (Alex had early meetings), I leaned over and said to him, "SOMETHING has to change.
I don't think I can do this anymore."  I was getting to church in such a bad mood every Sunday, and I was tired of getting so frustrated and angry with the struggle to get the kids out the door.  Then just a few weeks later, Alex got called into the bishopric.  Not exactly the change I had in mind!  I fact, I was torn inside.  I was willing to support him in his calling, but inside I was screaming "No!  I can't do this!"  I fought back tears as I watched him leave to go sit on the stand.  At that moment, I felt abandoned and overwhelmed.  But then very soon after that, ward members gathered around me, offering an understanding pat on the back or offering to help with the kids.  And in that moment, the thought came to mind that I had "angels round about to bear me up."

As I thought more about it and my feelings from the few weeks before about something needing to change, I realized that something DID have to change.  It wasn't the circumstances.  What had to change was ME.  I needed to change my attitude and keep working on being kind and unselfish.  I still have a lot of growing to do to become the person I need to be.  But that's exactly what I think the gospel of Jesus Christ can do for us.  It can change our hearts, soften them, and smooth out our rough edges.  It's really hard sometimes, but we also are never alone.  The Lord is with us, and we have
angels round about to bear us up.  So we just have to keep doing the best we can.  Keep calm and carry on.

I joked with Alex after church that day, as I was headed home with the kids and he was staying at church - "It feels like we're saying good-bye...when will we see each other again?"  Ha ha.  It's not that bad, but sometimes it does feel like we're going our separate ways.  At least I get the kids, right? Right...?  :)

Monday, March 10, 2014

repentance and the Atonement

Jared gave a talk about repentance and the Atonement to the primary kids on Sunday.  We made an analogy to him getting stitches and healing.  Here it is:

"Through the Atonement of Christ, I can repent and be forgiven of my sins"

When I was 4.5 years old, I had just learned how to ride a bike.  One day I had an accident and was not wearing a helmet.  I got a big gash on my forehead and had to get stitches.  It was not fun to get stitches, but I am glad that my head was able to heal.  I always try to wear a helmet when I ride a bike now to protect my head if I fall.

When we sin, it is like getting hurt, except that it is our spirits that need to be healed.  Repentance is like getting stitches.  It may hurt, but it heals us from the bad things we do or the wrong choices we sometimes make.  The Atonement of Christ is what allows us to be forgiven of our sins.  When we put on the armor of God each day, like putting on a helmet before we ride a bike, we can be protected.  When we read the scriptures, pray, and keep the commandments, the Atonement of Christ works in our lives.

Alma 34:8  And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things are true.  Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

I know that through the Atonement of Christ, we can be forgiven of our sins.  He died for you and me and for all of us.  He loves us.

Jared did a good job on his talk!  We even showed the pictures of his head.

The interesting thing that I would add is that Jared couldn't get those stitches in on his own.  He needed a doctor's help - just as repentance doesn't work without the Master Healer.  It's also interesting to think about the scar.  Jared still has that, although the pain is gone and his head is healed.  Some things just leave a scar on us - we never forget about it, but the pain can be healed, if we allow repentance, forgiveness, and the healing power of the Atonement to work in our lives.  

Special occasion

On Sunday of our 4 day weekend, we had the special opportunity to see our neighbor get baptized.  We were grateful to be just a small part of her conversion.  We know God was already preparing her for this and for her husband to come back to church.  We found out in October that he was already a member of the church, but had not been to church in a long time.  We invited him and his wife to the primary program (where the kids sing and have speaking parts in sacrament meeting), and they came.  They came again the next Sunday, kept coming back to church every week and taking the missionary lessons.  We were able to have a couple of the lessons in our home.  That was such a neat thing to have the missionaries teaching in our home.  I love seeing the gospel work in people's lives, and my testimony is strengthened by listening to the missionaries teach as well.  We learned later that he had been thinking about coming back to church already.  It was his little sign from God when we invited them to church.  I know we were prompted to extend an invitation, and that was all it took to get them going.  (Small efforts by us and then the work was up to them.)  We are proud of them for their efforts and changes in their lives to get ready for baptism.  He was able to baptize his wife - what a special thing to see!  I also was honored to be asked to speak at her baptism, to talk about the Holy Ghost.  Of course I couldn't keep the tears from coming, but I got through it.  

I felt like I was supposed to share some of my personal experiences with feeling the spirit of God in my life, particularly about our move from Oklahoma to California.  We had such a hard process in our decision to move, much of which can be found here.  One of the difficult things was not knowing for sure if we were making the right decision at first, but we got small promptings and thoughts that led us here.  I remember getting the thoughts "you have some growing to do" and "take advantage of the opportunity."  We felt like it was time to move forward in faith.  And then we got here and have since felt comforted in different ways to know we're in the right place for now.  We also experienced a small miracle in being able to buy our house, which our neighbors happened to be a part of.  They saw us come look at the place and had a good first impression then.  They were part of persuading the previous owner of our home that she needed to sell to a family.  We weren't the top offer, but she sold it to us.  I can't help but see the Lord's guiding hand in all of this.  Little did we know that the Lord was already preparing our neighbors to have the blessings of the gospel in their life.  And if we were supposed to move to CA just for the purpose of being here to extend that invitation to our neighbors, it was worth it.  (But moving here 8.5 months pregnant...I could have done without out that timing... ha ha.)  Anyway, we were a very small part of our neighbors conversion, but we are grateful to have been in the right place at the right time.  We look forward to seeing them grow in the gospel.  I know each of us has a different journey, filled with different obstacles and trials of faith, but God's love for each of us never fails to amaze me.  He blesses us in so many ways.  

4 day weekend

We had a 4 day weekend in February.  The kids exchanged valentines at school the day before Valentine's Day.  We put together these monster valentines, complete with a googly eye.  :)  Turned out cute.  One of Nathan's classmates put everyone to shame, with mini roses for everyone in the class.  Apparently, one of the moms works at a flower shop?  Anyway, I enjoyed smelling those roses for a week.  And anyone that came over probably gave Alex credit for the flowers.  :)  We didn't do much to celebrate, but we did go over to a friend's home for pizza, movie, and dessert (cupcakes, brownies, chocolate...)  We had a good time.  

On Saturday, we still had basketball games and things to do. We had missionaries and our neighbors over for dinner.  On Monday, we went hiking.  That seems to be our go-to on days off, especially when we don't decide what to do until last minute. 

We also had some friends over for hamburgers and then went to see a movie at the drive-in theater.  Fun weekend.  

Shootin' hoops

Tough first season of basketball for Nathan and Jared.  This was their first time to play on a team, and unfortunately, their teams weren't great.  Jared's was 9th of 10 teams, with a record of 3 wins and 6 losses.  They did advance to the 2nd round of the tournament.  So they were 4 and 7 for the season.  

Nathan's team was 6th out of 6 teams, with a record of 1 and 8.  They won their very first game, against the number 5 team in their league.  But their best game was the first round of the tournament.  They lost 29-22, but it was really close until the last quarter.  Nathan played hard and scored 9 points or so in that last game.  The other team wasn't expecting the game to be so close.

Jared was one of the less skilled players on his team, although he showed good improvement through the season.  He only got to participate in 1 of his 2 practices a week, since one of them was on Sunday afternoons (during church AND just on our worship day in general).  I specifically requested NO SUNDAYS on his registration, but I guess they missed that part or couldn't work around it.  Anyway, Jared had fun.  He wasn't too eager to get in there and get the ball.  But he was pretty good at guarding his man.  He did score 2 times, although I never got either of them on video.  

Nathan is a good shooter.  One funny story here - The other team got a technical foul called on them, which means that Nathan's team got to shoot 2 free throws without any other players.  They also get to pick who shoots the free throws.  The point guard on Nathan's team was up at the line, getting ready to shoot.  Nathan reminded his coach that he (Nathan) was the best shooter on the team.  
"Coach!  Coach!  I'm a better shooter!"   :)  The coach switched out shooters, and Nathan did make the shots.

Way to speak up for yourself Nathan!  
(Alex and I got a kick out of Nathan's boldness.  Is that the right word?)  I also felt a little sense of pride there, thinking about how I was also the one picked to shoot the technical foul shots for our team when I played.  Must be hereditary... 

Just like Jared, Nathan seemed pretty timid about getting after the ball at first, but he greatly improved through the season.  He was pretty tough by the end.  It was fun to watch them play.  

I didn't get very good videos.  Basketball is hard to capture the play AND I was usually dealing with 2 or 3 other restless kids (Owen, Weston, Savannah).  Here are a couple short videos of Nathan scoring.

This was probably the most aggressive Jared played all season.  He's number 5 with the blue shoes.

I made some sugar cookies and snickerdoodles for the players on both Nathan and Jared's teams.  I also ended up putting together a last minute gift for Nathan's coaches.  They got jelly beans and gift cards.  

(It was my first experience with royal icing for the cookies - kind of a lot of work.  It was easier to just pipe the black icing on orange colored snickerdoodles.)   

Well, it was fun to watch the boys play and to improve.  HOWEVER, I didn't imagine how frustrated I would feel about playing time.  Nathan was one of the better players, so he got quite a bit of time.  His coach was pretty good about fairness in time for all the players.  But for Jared, I was frustrated.  For most of the games, he got to play about half of the game.  That's okay, except that a couple of players on his team played nearly ALL of the game EVERY game.  That's hard to explain why some kids get to play the whole time and some have to sit out half the time.  What do you say when they ask you why they were sitting out so much?  This is 2nd grade basketball.  (I understand about playing time with older kids, but these are 7 year olds!  It's not about winning.  And we all paid the same amount for our kids to play...) 

I remember one game (the assistant coaches were running the show) - Jared only played 9 of the 28 minutes.   Not even half the game.  And the very last game (which also was run by the assistant coaches coincidentally), Jared's team was down by 10-15 points.  That's not a difference that can be made up in the last quarter.  Not even close to winning.  But who sat out most of the 2nd half?  Jared and another poor guy.  And 2 of the players played the whole game.  I kept thinking they would pull them out just the last few minutes and let those that had been sitting out play.  I nearly went over there to ask the coaches to put those kids back in the game.  I wasn't brave enough to make a scene, but I was fuming inside.  Instead I just yelled from across the court, "Come on!  Put them in!" (amidst all the other noise during play).  Alex thought he was going to have to hold me back.  Luckily (I guess), they didn't hear me.  Or they chose to ignore me.  I think they knew what they were doing - but I don't understand why they were being so unfair.  I mean, did they really think we were somehow going to make 15 points in the last few minutes to win the game?  (AND the kid who was supposed to be the star player kept getting called for walking...)  Anyway, let's let everyone PLAY the game and have fun.  You can't have fun sitting on the bench.  

I was mad the rest of the day.  I hope I can handle these sports.  This 2nd grade basketball left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  Thank goodness this season is over.

I was proud of the boys for their effort - I did enjoy watching them play.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Saturday stroll

I like this place.  We're out & about in t-shirts and shorts in February.  It was actually just a bit chilly and overcast this morning... maybe 65 degrees.  Ha ha.

We decided to put the 3 youngest in jogging strollers and let Nathan and Jared ride their bikes.  Owen wasn't too excited to ride... but he warmed up to it.  (He is a bit big for the jogging stroller...) 
We had a nice jog/bike/push-the-stroller-up-the-rough-terrain and come back down the other side outing.  Not sure if some parts of our trail were intended for jogging strollers... 


So proud of the boys for running hard for 30 minutes!  (I got to help mark lap cards with Nathan's group, so I didn't get a picture of him running.)  Both of them filled their cards.  They were expected to do about 15-20 laps... I think they did that.  :)

cheetahs and bears

Nathan's official un-official ceremony to get his bear award was at the blue & gold dinner.  (He got the award, but not in the standard ceremony.)  Moving on to Webelos now!  

Instead of making a cake this year for the cake contest, we made cupcakes. Nathan contributed by putting the cupcake toppers together (After I printed them out, I coerced him into cutting and pasting.  I thought he should contribute somehow.)  I had to remind him what a scout was...helpful, kind... 

We couldn't find his blue neckerchief either... not so prepared.  And this was the only picture I got of him being honored for the award.  

The scout committee did a great job on the dinner and decorations though - fun night.

(Sewing these patches on is HARD!  How many of these do I have to do?)