Monday, November 25, 2013

A Guiding Principle for My Life

I was asked to talk at church yesterday and I shared a guiding principle that has been a great blessing to my life.  I wanted to share it with those who others who may find it helpful so I am posting my talk:

Eternal Families
Since families are the means in which we experience the greatest joys in this life, as well as the greatest heartaches, I think it is important to preface a talk on Eternal Families with a reminder that having an eternal family is a fundamental reason for the gospel and if we remain faithful to the covenants we have made – we will be offered the new and everlasting covenant of having an eternal family as the crowing jewel of the gospel we have lived. Whatever our current or past family situation has been – we will have all of the joy and beauty that comes from having a loving, eternal family unit if we are true to our covenants.

As I thought about why Bro. Porter asked three mothers of new babies to talk about eternal families, I believe it is because having a baby into your home, fills your mind with wonder and gratitude for this blessing of eternal families.  I know I had a glimpse of it at the birth of our baby.  Some of you are aware that little "Ladybug" was born at home.  I kind of like to be left alone during labor so I can get into my own little world.  My midwife was there and she knew I would let her know if I needed her and I hadn’t thought  to tell anyone that the baby was coming.  There was a reverent, surprised gasp in the room as I lifted little Joy out of the birthing pool and held her to my chest.  I felt so close to my Father in Heaven as I looked down at her sweet little gaze.  You cannot doubt the existence of God when you look at a newborn’s eyes.  They do not look new – the best word I can think of to describe that gaze is “eternal”.  New babies have eternal-looking eyes.  I suppose we all do, but we don’t take the time to gaze into one another’s eyes very often and the contrast between the newness of a baby and their eternal eyes is just so stark that it fills you with wonder. Even now, as I look into her “little windows” to her soul, I feel very vividly the partnership that I have with God as I hold this little Spirit – fresh from Heaven and entrusted to my care.

Shortly after she was born, I was all cleaned up and in my bed, holding our little baby with all of my little children and husband gathered around me.  My parents were also in the room.  Some of the children were half-asleep because their dad had just awakened them to come and meet their new baby sister.  We were all gazing in wonder at this new little spirit that had just come into the world.  It was one of those moments where time stands still and you remember the purpose of why we are here and what really matters in life. I think we all felt, to some degree or another, a great love and desire to help guide this little spirit back to her Father in heaven.  Difficult and sad things were going on outside our little room, but at that moment we all felt encircled in safety and love as a family, welcoming another eternal spirit to the world – and we knew our purpose.

I take you to this experience with me because I want you to think back on an experience where you had one of those moments where time stands still and you felt that bond of love that comes with family relationships – maybe it was at your last family vacation, maybe it was a little brother sweetly smiling at you, or perhaps last night as you tucked little ones into bed or a grandchild asked to sit on your lap – remember that feeling for a moment and consider why? Why would Heavenly Father choose to send us to training ground called “Earth” as part of an earthly family?  The proclamation on the family states, “The family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”  Why is that so?

I wish I could hear some of you insights, I think we can think of several reasons why this is so.  I have pondered this a great deal in my life.  Ever since I was in 3rd grade and my best friend told me that her parents were getting divorced, I have known that one of my greatest desires in life was to help strengthen families.  I've pondered on why that is as I've’ve studied it in the scriptures, modern revelation, in formal school and in the school of experience.  As I pondered on the most important message I could leave with you in this short talk, I decided on a guiding principle that I have been trying to live by because I have found it to be true, even though I have a long way to go before I have perfected it!

Before I share this principle, I want to share the some of the doctrine that has led me to adopt it as a guiding truth.  First, I believe there is no better training ground for achieving our potential than within a family.  In the last conference, Boyd K. Packer stated, “Parents today wonder if there is a safe place to raise children. There is a safe place. It is in a gospel-centered home.” I think we are all aware that our true character comes out in the context of our family.  It is easier to be kind, sharing and cheerful when we are among friends and acquaintances, but it is much more difficult when we are among those in our family.  Why is that? There are several reasons, but I think one of the biggest ones is that we can only fake kindness for a short time when charity isn’t in our hearts and we don’t need be fake with our families, they know our weaknesses already so we end up being ourselves – sometimes our best selves (when our heart is right) and sometimes our worst (when it is not) – but  ourselves nonetheless. So I repeat, our true character comes out in the context of our family.  How well we have learned patience, kindness, and charity and so forth – is most evident in the way we treat our family members.  As unfortunate as that may be as we look back on our week – it is also coupled with the hope that our families are usually a safe place where we can keep practicing, repenting and trying again.

This makes a lot of sense, really, because our Heavenly Father wants us to inherit all that He has – that is a pretty big stewardship.  How can he know we will be wise with it if we are not wise with the stewardship He has blessed us with here on this Earth? That is the second doctrine I wanted to bring up – that if we are faithful over a few things, God can trust us with more.  Our Earthly families are the training ground for a much greater inheritance.  If we can learn to truly love and treat our family members as Christ would treat them, we can will someday hear those words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things – I will make thee ruler over many things.” But if we are not seeking the grace of Jesus Christ to improve those relationships - Oh, how great will be the heartache if instead we are told, “Oh thou wicked and slothful servant” and those relationships that we have not worked to improve in this life are taken from us in the next life.

The last doctrine that has builds the foundation for the principle I wanted to share is that we are here to learn to love.  Christ has said that all other laws hand on this great truth that we love God and that we love our neighbor.  He said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have love one to another.”
“But, you don’t know my family!” We might reply.  My little brother talks nonstop – I can’t even hear myself think.  Or “my sister is always making fun of me”.  Or “My husband is so grumpy” or “my wife doesn’t appreciate me” and the list goes on – and likely with much greater weaknesses and struggles than the ones I have mentioned. So what do we do? How can we love people even when their behavior can be hard or seemingly impossible to love?

That leads me to the principle that I wanted to leave with you today.

In order to be righteous stewards of our families and be trusted with all that Heavenly Father has, we must learn to love as God loves, and that means we must first be righteous stewards of our own hearts.  We can’t do that on our own – we are too weak and incapable. To be righteous stewards of our hearts, we must hand them to God and ask Him to fill them with His Spirit and Love.  He has given us covenants made possible by the sacrifice of His son to enable us to do this.

As I have tried to live this principle, I have learned some things as I have failed. I have found that if I ever try to correct a child, or a husband, or anyone, without God’s spirit in my heart – I do not do any good, and in fact, often, if not always, I do harm. I may think my intentions are noble – after all, as their mother, it is my role and responsibility to teach them that what they are doing is wrong – but it does no good if they do not choose to change – and they will not choose to change unless they are feeling the influence of the Holy Ghost – and the only way I can invite them to feel that influence is by having Him present in my own heart.  I cannot share what I do not have.  If instead, I give judgment and condemnation, that is likely what I will get in return.

I have found that the most important question I can ask myself when I see a child behaving in a way that is not in line with gospel principles that they know is not, “How can I change this behavior?” You know, “How can I get him to stop teasing his brother”, “How do I get her to listen to me when I ask her to do something?” “How can I stop him from talking back to me?” It’s not “How can I change this behavior, but it is, “How do I invite the Spirit here?” Pretty much always, the answer to this is that I need to invite Him into my heart first so that He can touch others through me.  This makes me so grateful for repentance and the atonement of Jesus Christ that allows someone as flawed and weak as I am – to be able to have a clean dwelling place for that Spirit as I turn my heart to God. And then away -  and then back, over and over again!

Of course, this isn't  to say that we should never give our children consequences because it may make them mad and drive away the Spirit, but there is a great difference between giving consequences in a loving way and giving consequences in a frustrated, demeaning way.  Both get the job of correcting done, but one teaches that our wrong actions have consequences and the other hurts relationships and offends the Spirit.

For example, sometimes I have a hard time maintaining that sense of peace and love in my heart when my children are getting distracted and taking forever to get their jobs done.  The other day when this was going on and I had reminded them several times to stay on task, I heard some playing and giggling and decided to go down there and lay down the law.  My body was tense and I was clearly frustrated – not a good combination for interacting with others.  I started to say, “If I hear one more…” and then I looked in their eyes.  They had been happy and were on the verge of turning sad”. Thankfully, I was able to switch gears before it was too late and I smiled and said something funny and told them I would not be reminding them anymore, but that I would enforce a consequence if they did not finish on time because it was so important for them to learn that there are consequences for not staying on task and getting a job done.  My heart became right after looking in their eyes and remembering God’s love for them and my role and I knew more clearly what was the right thing to do – and interestingly – I have never found that the right thing is to vent my frustrations on them.

And for you younger members of the ward – you may or may not be aware that your parents are not quite perfect.  You may have picked up on a slight character flaw or two.  But the same goes for you, you can invite the Spirit into your heart and that will influence your parents to want to get it in their hearts too. Last week, I was feeling frustrated again with how the housework was going, but this time I was not so wise and I did vent some frustrations to my daughter,  about how long it was taking and how she needed to learn to be responsible, etc.  She looked at me and instead of arguing and making excuses – she said, “Oh, okay, sorry mom.” And went to do it.  I was taken aback and her good Spirit invited my heart to change and be loving and kind instead of frustrated.

We are here as families to help each other through this journey called life. What a blessing we can be to one another!  I pray that as we go home today, we will try to be a little kinder to those who love us even when we’re at our worst and that we will try harder to turn to God and let Him make our hearts clean so that He may abide in them.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Am I Willing to Do the Same?

I have been struck lately by the sweet ability to live in the moment and feel the wonder and beauty of it. I am realizing this comes easy to me when I am sacrificing something for what I know to be true - each time I realize I need to make a change and I set about making it. I guess this is the repentance process that we should constantly be going through.

I have very little discretionary time and I have found lately that what I do with it is very important. I can spend it online, or on mind-numbing things. There is nothing inherently wrong with that (which makes it easy to justify), but it certainly keeps me from doing something better with that limited time. Heavenly Father has blessed me with a curious and active mind. I love to learn and I love to teach. Like I said, I don't have a ton of time for my own studies, but God does magnify my efforts with my limited time. That time is precious. I think of the prophet Joseph Smith and how much he was able to do in his short life. It is incredible. He didn't waste his time on that which is of no worth so his efforts were magnified in the short time he had. I have seen Heavenly Father do this with my efforts when I commit to giving Him "my" free time. I am learning that how I spend each moment counts.

I am not saying that I intend to be fanatical about always doing and running faster than I have strength. Sometimes the best thing to do with my time is to sit and stare and in wonder at my new baby girl. Sometimes it's to do the laundry and sometimes it's to leave it undone and listen to a child.  Sometimes it's to read and study and sometimes it's to sit and ponder. Sometimes it's to just play.

I do know that as I use my limited free time on what is best (and not just good or okay) at that moment - God will help me accomplish great things that will bring me and others great joy.  I have seen it over and over. I just need to stop getting distracted with things of less worth.
(This is a great article for reminding us how easy and damaging it is to get distracted.)

We watched the following video at church today.  I reminded me of the sacrifices others have made for what they knew to be true.  Am I willing to do the same?


Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I can't find my journal this morning and I find that I do not get nearly as much out of my morning personal study if I don't I'm going to write a little of what has been on my mind.

 I've been thinking about priorities.  It comes from having a new baby and remembering how newborns tend to take a lot of time. Some newborns sleep a lot, but our sweet Ladybug tends to be awake a lot in the day.  Maybe it's all the noise?  Anyway, I find that I have very limited time when I am not holding a baby.  I keep telling myself to just enjoy it while it lasts.  Experience has taught me that this sweet time flies by so quickly. So I try to remember and not worry about all of the things I am NOT doing.  I tend to be a pretty busy person with many projects going on at once (though not so many actually ever finished) so it's hard for me to slow down and let things go,

For example, half our basement flooded a week and a half ago,  Bill's been busy drying it out and replacing padding. He put everything from the flooded room into the toy room.  I have been dying to go through the stuff to get rid of most of it and organize, but have not had time to clean my room some days, let alone start on all of that.

Thankfully, I have incredible children who clean most of the house.  I will admit, though, that I have not done a good job teaching them to do things as well as I would do them, so things tend to still look a little messy when they are done.  It is sooooooooooo hard for me to tell them that their work isn't good enough.  I can do it once or twice, but after that I just let it go - I really don't like being the annoying, naggy voice all of the time, even though I think I am most of the time.

Anyway, back to priorities.  I made a list yesterday of things I feel are most important to do every day.  This talk was helpful to me.  I ordered them in order of importance so whenever I have a spare moment, I can do the next thing on the list.  This way, first things will get done first and it will be okay if I don't always get to the last things on the list.  It helped me feel better and it will help me be more wise with my limited time.

Unfortunately, I lost my journal this morning so I'm not sure what is next on my list after morning scriptures, prayer, and writing... I don't think it was family devotional yet, but I think that is what I'll do...hopefully I'll find my journal soon :-)

The other thing that is on my mind is our homeschool youth group.  I mentioned a while ago that I felt inspired to start my own Vanguard group last year. It went really well.  The youth are amazing and the mentors are so inspired and inspiring.  Word spread and others wanted to get involved.  We had 18 youth in our group last year.  A friend of someone in our group heard about it and decided to start her own group in the Orem area so I got to meet with her and help her get one started this year.  Another of our families lived pretty far away so she decided to start her own group in Box Elder County.  Mary, the original founder of the first group, moved back to Utah and started another group.  Thankfully, she also did a training to help some of these other groups get started.  So now there are five Vanguard groups.  Our group has 34 youth this year.  We've split the core class (the one everyone attends) by gender into two different groups (18 boys and 16 girls).  If the youth do the extra work they are able to go to the journeyman class and then the master class.  A lot of them are doing the extra work and going to those classes.  It is so great to see. One of our mentors wrote a post recently about some of the things she likes about Vanguard.  She explains it well there. You can also look at our webpage and click on some of the tabs to see some of what we do.  They come to class prepared to teach each other.  A few of them put some of their work on the blog this week. They are such incredible youth!

All of this growth is exciting, but does pose some new challenges.  So I've been trying to figure out how to have such a large group and not neglect any of the youth - that they all feel welcome and loved in class, that they are feeling inspired, that we are doing our best as mentors, etc.  I love it.  Being so busy with my precious new baby girl, I don't want to neglect it, but it's sometimes hard to find the balance.  I know doing Vanguard is something Heavenly Father wants me to do - it's just a matter of figuring out how much of it He wants me to do.  The other mentors are doing great keeping things going without me so I just need to figure out how I am needed and focus on that.

Right now I'm feeling inspired to get my priorities straight - to do first things first with my family and then things will be clear with I need to do with Vanguard.  So I suppose I better go get going with that.  I didn't mean to write so long! 

Some pics from the last 3 weeks:
Taken today - she is growing so fast!

Labor Day Fun in Prove Canyon:

Knights of Freedom Summit:
Bud loved this.  They trained them on the knightly virtues and on fighting for the right.  They had a big battle in the end.  It was raining, but they carried on.  I had baby Ladybug wrapped in a wrap around me and I had an umberella so she stayed warm and dry while we watched.



Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Ladybug's" Birth Story

Baby "Ladybug" was born last week.  She weighed 7lbs 10 oz and measured 20 inches long.  Here is her birth story:

I woke up at 2:22am to go to the bathroom.  I felt some contractions and noticed some signs of labor while I was in there (like leaking amniotic fluid).  I woke Rock up at 2:45 and told him I was pretty sure I was in labor so to please turn up the water heater so that we would have plenty of hot water to fill up the little pool. He went and I called my mom around 3am.  I told her it was still early labor, but I wanted to give her a heads up.  I sent a text to my midwife to give her the heads up.  She asked me if I wanted her to come by to start me on antibiotics since I had tested positive for Group B strep.  I wasn't up for making decisions at this point - the contractions had started getting more intense - so I told her I didn't know.  She said it's best to start them at least four hours before the baby arrived.  The contractions were getting so intense that I knew we wouldn't have four hours.  I sent her a text back, "she'll be here before 4 hours".  She said she'd come get the antibiotics started and since she just lives a couple of blocks away, she could go home and come back if I wanted her to.

During this time, Rock was busy pumping up the little pool and getting it ready. I was working on breathing and staying relaxed during contractions - which were coming really close together and pretty intensely at this point.  It is interesting how my mind kind of knew what was happening, but it seemed a little unreal and I wasn't about to say any of it out loud.  At this point I thought, "This is going to be a quick labor - about 2 hours."  I knew what I was capable of and I knew I couldn't handle contractions of that intensity, so close together for much longer than that.  In fact, if I had been at a hospital, I think I would have asked for an epidural just from fear that I was wrong and that it was going to be longer than I thought, since it was so intense.  As it was, I just had to tune into my body and focus on breathing, working with it, and staying relaxed.

My midwife arrived around 3:30 and started the antibiotics.  It was hard to have her poking my arm and checking my blood pressure since it took every ounce of my concentration to stay relaxed and I didn't appreciate distractions.  By the time she had the antibiotics going, my contractions were having a double peak and there was not much space in between them - they seemed to go on for quite a while.  I recognized the feeling, I thought to myself, "This feels like transition, but I don't want to say anything in case I'm wrong - I don't want to know."

I had pictured in my mind that I would get in the pool during transition since it's the hardest part of labor and when I would need the most relief.  The antibiotics were still not all in me though so I had to wait. I knelt by my bed and kept focusing on working with these long contractions, all the while thinking, "These are doing some major work and I'll be meeting my baby soon." I looked at the pool and it didn't look near full enough.  I asked Rock to fill it more and got back to focusing.  Finally, the antibiotic bag was empty and my midwife removed the needle and tape.  I decided I better use the bathroom before I got in the pool.  Sitting in the bathroom, I felt some downward pressure and I knew it was time for "birth breathing" or gently breathing the baby down (this is when they tell you to start pushing at hospitals).  I had several contractions in the bathroom and I even remember thinking, "I could just have the baby here, I could catch her, and I don't want to move."  Then I thought, "She may come fast - I better go get in the pool."  So I walked to my room.

I saw my mom sitting on my bed and was glad she had made it in time for the birth.  The midwife wasn't around (I learned later that she had gone downstairs to call her helper) and Rock was by the pool.  I got in the pool and pushed gently through a contraction.  I remember thinking, "I think she'll be here in the next contraction, I get to meet my baby soon!" And when the next contraction came, sure enough, she came right out with one push.  I picked her up out of the water and hugged her to my chest.  The midwife had just walked in the room and was putting on some gloves.  My mom gasped and said "aww". Rock kissed me and said, "I didn't even know you were pushing. Why didn't you say something?"  I said, " I was in my zone and didn't really think about communicating :-)"  It was 4:54am. My midwife turned off the fan, got me a towel for the baby, and then I just got to hold her and kiss her and stare at her.  She was calm and then she cried for a sec and then was calm again.  Rock woke up the girls and they came to meet her.

She was perfect.  I stayed in the pool and held her and nursed her until I delivered the placenta.  My midwife showed the girls how it worked and where the baby had been, then she wrapped it in an absorbent pad and put it in a plastic bag and kept it by the baby.  I got up and took a shower while Rock and the girls held her.  Then I got in my comfy bed and got to hold her and feed her again.  My midwife and her helper (who had arrived by now) got everything cleaned up.  Rock woke the boys up and they came to meet her.  Gem just pointed at her then at his grandma and grandpa and seemed surprised to have so much company.  Bud just said, "She's so tiny." And Ray got in the blankets and looked tired. When she'd been around for a couple of hours and we'd had some family time, Spice cut the umbilical chord, the midwife took our vitals and weighed the baby.  She checked her muscle tone and different things and told us she looked very healthy and strong.  She gave me some instructions and things to look for that were not normal, with a handout in case I forgot what she said, and then they left.

My mom got me some breakfast from IHOP that I was craving.  She, Rock and the kids then cleaned the house while I rested and stared at my new baby, then my mom asked if she could take the kids to her house for the night.  She did (except Spice who stayed to help me) and I had a nice day and a half to just rest and bond with the baby.  My mom stayed through the weekend and I pretty much stayed in bed and got to rest.

Since then, I have had good friends bring me meals and do a lot of things that I had left undone with our Vanguard group.  I have felt incredibly blessed to have such wonderful, Christlike people around me.  Rock has been incredible - he lets me sleep and keeps the other kids busy.  I figure that if I take it really easy for a couple of weeks, I'll be ready to get back to "normal" much sooner.  Baby has had some rough nights and some good nights - I'm sure some days will be much more normal then others, but I'm setting my expectations for myself low and am determined to enjoy this time, which I know, all to well, zooms by like lightning.  Her siblings love her - Spice has a way of getting her to sleep when she is fussy and Little Miss likes to take care of her when I need it.  Gem often says, "Hole-dit" - meaning he wants to hold her and then he gives her hugs and kisses.  At first, he often pointed at her and laughed. Ray likes to talk to her and kiss her head and play with her feet.  Bud holds her, and moves her around, and sings a song he made up for her (consisting of her name over and over with a particular tune).  They are all so good.  I feel like God has poured out so many blessings that I barely have room in my heart to hold them all in.

There are times of worry when I wonder how I can handle it all, but I like to remember that I don't have to, that God has always been there for me and will help me through anything.  After 7 children - I have a very strong testimony of that!  I am reading an awesome book called "Just like Jesus" by Max Lucado (I have a strong need to read uplifting books after having a baby - my emotions are so close to the surface) and it really helps me remember how much God is there for me. 

Mostly, my heart is filled with gratitude for all of the "moments".  We had a devotional the other day where we watched one of the Bible videos from - I was pacing with the baby in the back and the kids were in front of me watching Jesus teach his followers.  The way they were sitting made them look, from my perspective, as if they were also reverently sitting at His feet and listening to His words.  My heart filled with gratitude for that beautiful moment where I remembered who their real teacher was and how much He loves them.

So, yes, the little boys are extra loud lately, and there have been a few more quarrels than normal between the kids as we try to make this transition, but the house is filled with an underlying reverence for this new little spirit. We all feel an increased measure of love in our hearts which makes it easier to see and feel the beauty of the present moment.  We love our new little miracle.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Being Less Selfish and Family Updates

I've come to realize how selfish I am.  I've considered myself a pretty giving person and I do care a lot about the comfort and welfare of others.  It's just that as I've been studying the character of Christ, I'm starting to get a glimpse of what it really means to look outside oneself.  Elder Bednar's book Act in Doctrine has been very eye opening to me.  I've been praying for correction throughout my day - for Heavenly Father to let me be aware of when my thoughts are inward centered (selfish) so that I can change them and turn them toward loving others.  It's been neat to notice how often my thoughts are inward and how I can choose to turn them outward (with God's help) and how much lighter and better I feel!  I find I am a better listener, a more patient wife and mother.  I have such a long ways to go.  I sometimes don't realize my selfishness until later on in the day and I'm sure there are plenty of times when I am not aware (Heavenly Father is a kind tutor - he doesn't show me all of my selfishness right away!)

It's easy to get "martyr" type thoughts when I'm pregnant, "If only everyone knew how tired I am and I'm still doing _____ for them, why can't I get a little more help or respect around here when I do so much.... etc."  Now when those thoughts start creeping up, I remember how selfless Jesus was and how I want to be like Him, I pray for help, I serve willingly, and then I feel love and compassion for the people around me.  This in turn helps me know how to lovingly ask for help if I need it without feeling sorry for myself and to have a soft (though firm) answer when others show ingratitude or an unwillingness to help.  It's such a happier way to live.

Like I said, I am only getting glimpses at this point, I have such a long ways to go, but I am loving the small changes and I hope I can remember to persevere and keep it up.

I'm posting some pictures from late May, June and early July.  I just uploaded them so I sat down to post them on my blog and figured I better say something about what I have been working on lately too since it's been so long since I've blogged about my latest idealistic goals. I'll also write some updates as I go:

It's been a great and busy summer so far!  I want to get a lot ready for next school year before the baby comes in August.  I've been doing a mom's discussion group at the park on Wednesdays - we read about principle-based education and then discuss how we can apply it to our homes and our Vanguard homeschool group.  It's a lot of fun.  I'm also trying to get my basic lesson plans for teaching the youth next year.  I also took an online writing class and a hiking Hebrew class.  Hebrew was awesome! It's an incredible new world that I got a little glimpse of.  Someday I'll take the time to learn more!

Bazinks's birthday:
 We didn't take a lot of pictures because the camera wasn't charged, but we did have fun :-)  We went to "Get Air" and to Wendy's (because they have a cool soda machine that has lots of flavors to pick from):

End of the year family cultural dinner and dance for our Vanguard youth group:

It was an incredible year.  I sure love those youth and their families!

Our TV broke a while back so this is how the kids watch the occasional movie :-)

Just before a performance of "Comedy of Errors".  They had so much fun and did so great.

Some pictures from our Vanguard Outdoor adventure (we stayed at Heber Valley camp a couple of days after Shakepeare Showdown to do some activities as a group, I wish I had more pictures):

 Ray's birthday:
Waking up to "Happy Birthday" and presents

 Family Party at the Fun Center:

Gem is a big helper

Little Miss is beautiful and amazing.  She takes care of her little brothers so sweetly.  She makes them forts and plays games with them.  Heavenly Father was so kind to send me an angel to help me with all these little boys :-)
Monkeys jumping on the bed
 Gem's birthday:

Sugary cereal is a birthday tradition

What a cute kid

Rock and Bud ran a 5K on the 4th of July.  Their time was 31 minutes flat. Well done!

Breakfast after the run

Parade after breakfast

After the parade we came home for naps, watched "Johny Tremain" and then friends came over for food and fireworks in the front yard.  Did I think to take pictures?  Nope.

The kids like to play with the camera and take pictures of each other - especially action shots when they are up in the air:

Bud is really into bugs and reptiles.  Every spring we have new creatures in the house.  In addition to his pets right now, we have a snake, a salamander, a snail and 2 spiders.  He asked if he could take the camera out to take pics of spiders.  It scared me a little when he came back with some images of big spiders quite close to our house.  I considered calling pest control, but he and Dallin would be devastated if we killed any of the bugs outside.  They can observe them for hours.

Alright, back to life.  The kids are waiting to read what I wrote about them - except Spice - she is at girl's camp this week :-( Though, I didn't write much about her anyway... I'll just mention that she is incredible, an example to many, and a very responsible, amazing girl.  I sure don't like it when she leaves me for a week!  I miss her already.