November 19, 2017

Lily Turns 9. A Simple Lego Party.

Birthdays are simple at my house. We don't spend a lot of money on extravagant gifts. My kids are happy with a small stuffed animal and a wall full of why we love them. 

Lily felt like it had been too long since she had a friend party. So, her sisters and I put our heads together and helped her plan a little party. 
Simple and sweet as a 9-year-old birthday party should be.

Lily has the sweetest friends.
She is a joy. 








Drew's Treasures

Drew saves things.
He will leave on his mission next summer and I will miss finding his treasures around my house. 

Drew especially likes to hide things on my bookshelves.
He makes cool things, like paper airplanes, and he brings home free books. I find old books hiding on my shelves and in random cupboards. He makes me smile. 

Sometimes I want to go through and throw away all his junk. Sometimes I do. He kept an old TV in his closet for years because he wanted to take it apart and fix it.

Today, my book shelves aren't styled like a magazine, but they are full of treasure. I KNOW I will miss his treasures when he leaves home next year.  

I love this kid.

Building With Grapop

This is the cutest story that Eve wrote about building a barn with her "Grapop".
Love these memories.

My Dad Builds Us A Small Barn In Our Pasture

We have a few cows that my kids raise and sell for beef.  

My dad called a couple weeks ago and offered to come and help us build a small barn for them out in our pasture. We are still waiting for it to warm up so we can paint it to match our house and big barn.

It has been so fun watching him work with my husband and my kids. Drew stayed home from school and helped with walls and shingles.
Thanks Daddy! 
It is perfect.

Another Sampler.

A friend gave me a cross-stitch pattern for a sampler that I love. I think it was called Mystery Marquis.  

Here is the sampler that someone stitched on dark fabric...
When I went online I found a blog where another woman took the pattern and personalized it to tell the story of her life. 


I love this SO much. 

I think I'm going to start one over Christmas break.

I love this color palette.
Aren't those bright colors fun? 
I also love these light colors.

Oh, don't you love dreaming up new projects? 


Anna Acts

Anna played a prim and proper wife who dies in the high-school play Blythe Spirits. 

She had SO MANY lines and was darling to watch.

Anna is naturally lady-like. She's lovely and strong.
Anna just got her patriarchal blessing last week. It was beautiful to hear the Lord blessing her. 

She is speaking next week at our Stake Conference, can't wait to hear her speak.

Honestly, SO fun to be a mom of teens. 
Love her. 

Ellie Crochets.

Ellie is always making things, beautiful things. 

I love that about her. I love her. 

This morning, I was running late for church and when I came downstairs Ellie had gotten all the little girls dressed and was curling Eve's hair.

Ellie is sweet and spunky, simple and lovely.
My life is better because she is mine. 


Just Eve.

She has freckles on her nose and is my only baby who had dark hair that didn't turn light.

At parent-teacher conference her teacher said that Eve has a glow about her. She is spunky and passionate. She often slips into her own thoughts and wanders in her own paths. 

She hugs big and puts her hands on my cheeks to tell me often how much she loves me.

Eve is one of my extra-credit kids. Just joy.
Life is good.
I love being her mom.

November 03, 2017

There Is Unity is Diversity


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The truth is that I am weird, I’m not someone who has ever had one best friend or one favorite ice cream flavor. I love people, I have 20 best friends, and I like ice cream. My favorite colors are blue skies, pink cheeks, brown and white spotted cows, gray cats, hazel eyes, purple grapes, deep red cranberries, fluffy yellow baby chicks. You get the picture. My favorite thing about this world is the diversity within it. Buy me a bouquet of wildflowers not one dozen pink roses.

Sometimes I wonder if I am an odd phenomenon. We raise chickens. And, chickens are interesting. They naturally flock together with chickens who look like them. If we buy a bunch of baby chicks a mix of 4 different breeds and raise them together from day one in the same box with heated lamps, as they grow, they will naturally segregate. The brown chicks will sleep in one corner, spotted chicks will sleep in the middle, and the yellow chicks will sleep in another. A chick who looks or acts differently from every other group will be pecked to death by the other chickens. It is so sad. Are humans like this?

I once sat on a design team for an interfaith dialogue committee. One man, a former Interfaith founder, and director said, “Nobody thinks they are racist. But, when was the last time you had someone that was a different race or religion from you over to your house for dinner.” This quote shook me a bit. Since then, I have made it a point to fill my home with colorful, unique, diverse people. Diversity and I are not just talking about race, gender or sexual preference is my favorite thing. Diversity is so much more than the skin we are in. We are all different. I think we spend too much time focusing on how we are all the same and not enough time celebrating the fact that we are NOT the same!  Differences make us beautiful!

Families are the first places where we learn to love people who are different from us.


I may be a bit biased, but believe me when I tell you that my first child was perfect. He was adorable. He was good. He potty trained before he was one. He said please and thank you and spoke in complete sentences before he was one. He was kind and obedient. If I told him not to go in the street, he wouldn’t even step one foot on the driveway because it was the same color as the street. Honestly, once my mother in law was babysitting him for me, and when I came home, she was crying because she thought Jakob was so perfect he would die young. I love that kid. From the day he was born, he has always tried so hard to do what was right.

And then, I had another little boy, only sixteen months later. My little Drew Bear as we called him, was very different from his older brother. If I told Drew not to go in the street, he would run, laughing across the street with a cute, maniacal giggle. Drew had a hard time getting along with other kids. He would push them over at the mall playgrounds and scratch their faces in the 3-year-old Sunday School class. Drew ate dirt. He made big messes. And, he potty trained early, but he would do things like walk into the bathroom and pee on the bathmat. Once his dad saw him do that and asked, “Drew, what are you doing,” To which Drew replied, “Oh Dad, sometimes I do that.” Drew was tough.

You might think that as a mother it would be easier to love my perfect Jakob than it was to love my independent Drew. Tis not so. They were both quite easy to love, and I LOVED that they were so different. I never let anyone label Jakob, the good kid and Drew the bad kid. Drew was Drew. Powerful, strong, and independent. Jakob was Jakob, disciplined, orderly, and obedient. Both boys have grown up to be inspiring, amazing teenagers. Jakob graduated third in his class. He played the French Horn, started on the Varsity Soccer team, ran track, is an Eagle Scout, was voted “most likely to succeed” and had a room that was always clean. 

Drew was voted “most opinionated” and is the senior class president. He started his own business selling beef, he wakes up at 4:30 am every day to go milk cows at a local dairy. Drew is strong and passionate. He is by far my easiest, kindest, most hardworking teenager. I have eight children, and every one of them is beautifully unique and equally endearing. My favorite part about being a mom is by far, getting to know eight very different, equally beautiful souls. We all have different strengths, but we all have strengths. Our goal in life should not be to create an ideal person. Our goal should be to investigate each person we meet to find their hidden talents. It is our differences that make us great.


Religious differences teach us to love a universal God.


I am a very devout Mormon girl. I met my husband (who is currently a Mormon Bishop) at BYU where I graduated with a degree in Human Development, taught Mormon seminary classes, and was a stay-at-home mom for twenty years to eight children. I didn’t find my fullest religious identity until I joined Interfaith Works of Central New York, right here on James Street in Syracuse? I didn’t fully appreciate prayer until I knelt next to my Islamic friends and prayed during Ramadan. I didn’t fully know what it meant to love my neighbors until I heard the stories of the Unity preachers. I saw Heaven at a world harmony day when my family sang “families can be together forever” to a room full of beautifully diverse Interfaith friends. I facilitated an Interfaith Dialogue in the basement of a little church in the Northside of Syracuse, and I confronted my fears and strengthened my love for good people like my friend Nebraski Carter, preacher at the Church of God in Christ.  I feel God as I study his word. I see God as I love his children.

Different cultures add richness and beauty to our lives. 


The first time they asked me to pick a refugee family up from the airport, I was really scared. Because I have eight children, I drive a ridiculously large, white, 15 passenger van that was needed to transport a family arriving at the Syracuse Airport as Muslim refugees from Afghanistan. We waited anxiously for their plane to arrive and then watched in anticipation as a large, refugee family came through the rotating doors into the lobby where we were standing with an interpreter. The children were excited and energetic. The parents were concerned and wary. All that they owned was in their bags or in a few, heavy, plastic shopping bags that they clutched close to their bodies.

While the interpreter filled his car with these luggage bags, I smiled and acted out charades encouraging them to follow me, to get in my big, white van, and to buckle their seatbelts. This particular family had a few, younger children that sat in my own children’s car seats and boosters. They looked up at me with big eyes and smiles as I talked away in English that they did not understand, and clicked them in, just like I have done hundreds of times to my children. At that moment, these children were my children. My heart opened up and sucked them right in. I have worked with many, many refugee children since that first day. My fear is gone, and my heart overflows with love for these people. I don’t love them because they are like me. I love them because they are different from me and still so, so good. Goodness transcends ethnicity.  

Differences can be just as unifying as similarities.



Yes, diversity is unifying. Our world is better because every one of us has something different to add. Think how limited we would be if we were all the same. When I was little, I always order vanilla ice cream with wet walnuts at Baskin Robbins, just like my mom. Today I know that my favorite ice cream is a new flavor that I’ve never tried before. Diversity is my favorite. Audre Lord said it best when he said, 

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” 


Celebrate the differences in your families, in your communities, and in the world. 

November 02, 2017

Going to School With the Professor

The best part about going back to graduate school at age 40, is spending ALL DAY with my favorite professor. 
He carries my messenger bag even when his arms are pretty full. 

Love this old cat.

October 31, 2017

Moss Halloween 2017

I love my gang.

Today, I started crying as I took a picture of Drew during the costume parade at the elementary school. 
The custom here in Tully is that the Seniors dress-up and march in the elementary school costume parade. Drew and his friends were lucky charms. 
On the way out, I held up the parade for 20 seconds while I snapped a few pictures. When Todd mentioned that I was holding up the line, I told him this was the last Halloween EVER that I was ever going to take his picture at. 

Oh man, that just stabbed my heart. 

Today was hectic and loaded with mom-guilt for me. For 20 years I have really celebrated these dumb holidays and this year it was a bit thrown together. No themed Halloween lunch (like I've done in years past). No beef stew with mashed potato ghost and pea eyes. 

Leah wanted to be a wizard from Hogwarts. She ended up being pretty happy with her black ninja/the if costume even if she told me it "wasn't a real costume." 

I had cute accessories for all my little bandits. But, the masks were annoying, the hats were SO ITCHY, the tool belt was too big, and the dollar signs were peeling off the money bags. Even Todd complained about wearing a black hat as we walked around the neighborhood. 

Honestly, this was a really nice Halloween. We only went trick or treating to one nearby neighborhood, our two closest neighbors, and their piano teacher.

The kids really were SO exited tonight. And, that's why we do what we do,
I am tired. Good night.







Sassy Teen? Pray!

(I wrote this last summer but debated whether or not I should post it. Today, I just am. It's real. My kids are sassy and I love them still. A lot. I'm sassy and imperfect as I deal with them. And, God loves me still. This is life.) 

Here is my trick for dealing with teenagers (or toddlers) who are brats sometimes.

We currently have four teenagers and five daughters. They are all really great kids, but as a sassy mother I have created kids who are also sassy at times. 

Each child has their own individual strengths and weaknesses, but any child will, at times, talk back or respond harshly. In my experience, the more sensitive a child is, the more defensive they become when they sense displeasure. The kids who have the highest, happiest highs also have the lowest, crankiest lows. I LOVE these sensitive kids because I am one.

I don't always handle bratty kids well. There have been (too many) times when I have slapped the mouth of a rude child who was yelling at me. It is almost instinctive. I don't believe acting like a tantruming child yourself is the best way to handle a child who is hurting. But, I am as quick to apologize afterwards as they are and I think that, at least I hope, that my parenting failures mix in with my parenting successes.

A rude retort is not the best response to a rude child. Learned that the hard way too.

So, what works?

LOVE.

For my younger kids, a hug works better than a lecture.

Usually sassy little kids are tired or hungry.

Sassy teens usually have something else they are worried about. I would guess it relates to their self worth, feeling overwhelmed with life, or friend troubles.

When words don't work well and your teenager needs a hug but is too proud to accept one, PRAY for them with your whole soul (in your mind), and ask them questions instead of giving them answers.  

I used hypnobabies to help me through my natural childbirth with Eve. I loved that they told me what to think when my natural reaction was to panic.

Prayer is the way that you can listen to a teen say things that are harsh and unkind without saying things harsh and unkind back. Prayer gives you power AND calls down the power of heaven to bless, comfort, and teach your child. 

It is easy to see the loud, sassy teenager. It takes help and divine perspective to see the eternal and inherently good being  that is learning to navigate physical and emotional ups and downs of mortal life. 

Prayer works. 
Being a mom is the hardest, best thing I have ever done. 
Good thing I have the first few kids as guinea pigs so that I can have things all figured out by the time we get to our second shift of teenagers. 

October 30, 2017

It's like riding a bike

On Monday, my classes start at 1 p.m. and end at 8 p.m. It's a long day. When I got home, Ellie said she had picked out costumes for her 4 younger siblings. 

She's great.

I'm trying to be more disciplined with this blog journal, kneeling daily prayer, personal and family scriptures. Two for two! 

I'm skipping my class tomorrow so I can watch the Halloween parade at my kids' school.

Here is a small thought from Jakob's letter this week:

I hope you all have a great week this week. Stay safe. Ration your candy a little bit, and look for ways God is blessing you. If you happen to feel like He isn’t there, or that He doesn’t really care, I encourage you to pray and ask Him if He is there. I promise each one of you, that if you will ask him he will answer. There have been times when I felt like he wasn’t there. That no matter how much I prayed, or how much I believed he would answer my prayers, he just wasn’t. I had a friend show me recently a scripture that I wish that I would have found then. It is in 1 Nephi 21:15-16. It says,

15 For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.

16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

I know that no matter how much you feel like God wouldn’t want you. Like you're pocket lint and all you're good for is to be thrown away. I know that God is next to you. He is waiting, with his hand outstretched, saying, “Please take my hand. Allow me to help you. Accept the gift that I am trying to give to you”. If you will ask God with an honest intent to know, He will answer you. I promise you this.


One of my best friends from married student housing at BYU, ran into Jakob at Winco today. She knew him when he was one AND she has a son named Todd. I love that!! He's in good hands. Thanks Utah! 

Life is good my friends. 

October 29, 2017

Journaling The Home Stretch

I got pretty sick last week. There was an afternoon I thought I had the mumps (it is going around SU). I don't have mumps and I'm finally feeling better! Yay!!
I made these posters for our interfaith Christmas Festival of Nativities. It was really hard for me to do, I'm using programs I've never used before. But, I'm learning and remembering skills I used to have. It feels good and stretching.
Eve begged to come to the band concert with Todd and me. She hugged Drew the moment she saw him. What would it have been like at age six to have a brother who is a Senior? 
They love him. 
We all love him. 
Oh, how we will miss him.
I LOVE school because I could NEVER give my children all that they get by the good people they are continually surrounded by.
Bad picture, lovely girls.
Eve just didn't make it all the way through the concert. (She is an angel.)
Neither did Todd.
Statistics is HARD. It is also surprisingly addicting and fun. This problem is wrong.  I divided by a standard deviation of 10 but the SD was something like 4.063 or something. I can't remember but I fixed it. My life is blessed because I have good friends that FaceTime me and help me with my homework. 
CONFESSION: My mom, my husband, and my little kids cleaned my barn ALL DAY Saturday and I did homework ALL DAY. I barely left my bedroom. I did not allow myself to feel guilty about this, I just focused, and it felt SO good to feel prepared for this next week. 
Anna and Ellie both had parties they wanted to go to on Saturday night. I told them they could not go unless they were completely caught up on their seminary lessons. Ellie was 30 lessons behind (or something like that.) They are doing online seminary. Worked well for my boys who woke up at 5 a.m. every day. Doesn't work so well for my girls who wake up at 7a.m. to leave by 7:30 a.m.

Yes, I let Ellie stay home sick on Friday to catch-up. I think I did the right thing. She feels so much happier with seminary completed and with a clean room. They both had fun at their parties Saturday night.

Things I take from my kids during church sacrament meeting...
Love those letters.
Leah sneaks and folds her program into origami planes, cootie catchers, and whatever else she thinks of. I don't really mind, but she IS eleven years old. I always ask her to stop if I see her, I think this helps her keep her folding small and unnoticeable. 

Guests were sitting right in front of us in our small church meeting today.

When I tried to take the chicken Leah was flinging around, she didn't want to give it to me. I insisted. I whispered, "Give it to me now, please. That's one. Two. Three." She was still arguing. I laughed at myself saying "Three. I said three. I'm serious now." 

She said "fine!" Too loud. And gave it to me. Really, I didn't think these little things were too distracting. But, we spend enough time arguing about dumb small toys and I never have to worry about big distractions. I guess my church philosophy is that if I draw my line ahead of what I really do think is too loud for church, they never get there. 

My kids are pretty good during church. We have no toys or books, but I do give them a piece of gum or a mint halfway through. Sometimes I give Eve or Ben a pen and a program. The teenagers are harder than toddlers because they tease the toddlers and make them scream. 

We take a whole row at church. I ALWAYS wanted that.

I love sitting with my kids and watching Todd on the stand.

Today I taught all the 12-18 youth second hour and then taught 12+ third hour (a Stake PA Just Serve presentation).
A mom from Midvale texted me this picture of Jakob and his companion at church today. Her daughter, Sister Johnson (pictured on the plaque), is serving here in the Utica, NY mission. I can't wait to see her and text a picture back to her mom! 
Isn't he adorable?
Man, I miss his face.
I miss his JOY. He brings joy. 
Oh, I love that kid. 
Can you believe TWO moms from Midvale texted me pictures this week?
He doesn't feel that far away when I see pictures. Look at those good, good young men. God bless them. 

Be kind to the missionaries you see.
Listen to the message they have to share.
I thought this was a funny costume for Todd and I to wear at a couples party. 😂

Kidding.

But, I'm NOT kidding that Halloween is on Tuesday and I still do not have costumes for my kids. I'm thinking 
Not too hard.
I have already decided that all black will work if I can't find black and white stripes at Walmart tomorrow. 

I've got this.

Oh friends. We went to a fireside tonight about journaling and I am committed to journaling again. I do write a private journal at times. But I think I miss this space, to think and record.

I almost sent Ben to bed early tonight because he was running laps in my living room, I sent him to count to ten on the bench, and he did not listen. I dressed him in is green and white pjs and he stood with his hands on his hips pleading not to go to bed. "Please Mom," he said in his calm, sweetest voice, "I will count for you. How many? One? Two? Three? I will do that. No problem mom." I said twenty. He said. "Okay, that's fine mom," and he went down to the bench. Ellie was beside me cracking up. 

I love that my kids love little kids.

My mom has been staying with us. I can't even tell you how nice it is to have her folding my laundry, caring for my kids when I'm gone, cooking dinner, and working in my yard. She amazes me. She does so much. There is nobody in the world that tries harder.

It has been such a blessing to have her here. And, it has been hard having her here too. I'm snotty sometimes. I'm also protective and defensive. Her ways are often different than mine. 

Honestly, I want to figure out how to live with my mom. I want to learn how to listen without feeling defensive and how to speak without being offensive. 

It is good to learn these lessons. 
Grad school, grandma, Halloween, missions-- I guess the theme of my life right now is that life is good, even as it stretches us.

I'm not quite sure why I am someone who is always stretching. I do know that there is joy in the journey.

Thanks for listening to my deep thoughts on a Sunday evening. 

Good night. 


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