Monday, January 30, 2012

Friday Photo Dump...

I know it's Monday, but give me a break, I had good intentions of getting this post written on Friday, and Saturday, and Sunday, but it just didn't happen--as with so many good intentions I seem to have.  If there is one thing I am good at, it is paving myself a road straight to Hell...Oh well.  Friday Photo Dump had a nice ring to it, and I had to free up some space on my phone, so I dumped a whole bunch of old pictures into my email inbox, put them into collages, and well, here you go...all the things I meant to take my camera to, and didn't (good intentions again...see?), so you get crappy phone pictures!  Hey, at least I got the picture at all right?  :)  I had to get the old pictures off my phone...we are switching from Sprint to something (anything) else.  When you have to go outside in your towel and hold your phone up to the sky hoping to get a magical signal from somewhere in space, just to send a simple text, it's time to switch phone service providers. I could use the landline, but what are we?  Stuck in the 90's?  Text is where it's at people...human interaction is way over rated (just ask your teenagers).  Speaking of teenagers, if you don't text them, you might not get any interaction from them at all!  Anyway, here it is, my great photo dump...
Here are the kids at the Shun the Sun shin-dig back in November with their awesome face paint:
Jack is loving playing dress up--and he doesn't even need a fancy costume if you have a roll of toilet paper handy (the kids used about 3 rolls coming up with this one...oh my.  P.S. Don't you LOVE the boots with the Batman costume?  Awesome.
This is the kids playing Cosmic Bowling...they loved it!  Look at my sweet Erin teaching them how to bowl, and being so helpful!  Teenagers aren't always a pain...I love that kid.
Todd has been super busy business, cleaning out our garage (we finally broke down and got a storage unit so we could actually get our CARS into our garage and get the junk out!), Scoutmaster (that's one of his newest Eagle Scouts & our neighbor, Cameron), and being a FABULOUS hubby by spoiling me with flowers AND chocolate on our 18th anniversary--this guy knows what I LOVE!
When Jack is done playing superhero--sometimes he still even wants to snuggle with his old mom.  Gosh I am going to miss this when it's gone, aren't I?  Yep.  Couldn't he just stay little?  He's so stinkin' cute.  His favorite joke lately?  "Why did the Orange go to the doctor?"  "Because it didn't PEEL very well".  Ha!  Once in awhile he manages a great escape from our house and we usually find him at our across the street neighbors the Tippetts house. Every time he goes over there, they have a king size Hersheys bar for him...oh my.  He might move in.
Emie has had an adventurous time as a new car owner.  Lucky for her, the dings and scratches on her car aren't her fault...yet.  Todd banged it turning into our 3rd car garage & scratching the front end, and this little mishap happened when she was spending the night at her friend's house & her mom backed into her car coming out of the driveway.  Wanna know the kicker?  The friend was our insurance agent's daughter! (They are good friends of ours in our ward)  HA!  She came home asking about our insurance coverage, and I thought she had been in an accident--when she told me what happened, I couldn't help but laugh!  Been there...done that!
 Emie also asked her friend Cameron to MORP, and this is how he answered her...BTW, see the new van in the background...not too shabby!  The funeral home is up and running, Todd is back to work, and it has been such a blessing for our family to have him working again!  YAY!
This was at Amazing Jake's where Todd's mom was kind enough to invite all of us for her birthday!  The kids had so much fun--but I don't know how they can possibly enjoy these makes me sick just looking at these pictures...BLAH!
What have I been up to?  Well, laundry and housekeeping consume my life, and when I'm not busy doing that, I have time to shower and get ready for the day and try to take a decent self-portrait with my camera (which always ends up with me on a diet since my face can't really be that fat, and is that one chin, or TWO?).  I did happen to make it to lunch with some sweet friends a few weeks ago, and I really loved getting out of the house to go over to Last Chance, and Cafe Zupas. YUM!  What can I say?  Life is good!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

4th Annual Favorites Night!...

Last week, the girls in our family got together for our 4th annual Favorites Night!  (The other years are HERE, HERE, or HERE).  This night is one we look forward to every year!  I got the idea a few years ago from Todd's cousin, and we decided to start our own girls night tradition, where we all give each other one of our favorite things, kind of like the show Oprah used to have where she would give her favorite things to her audience.  For me, I look forward to this night even more than Christmas!  Todd has 8 siblings, 7  of which live here in Gilbert, along with his parents, so that makes 10 of us who get together and exchange gifts.  It's fun to see what people love, and how we change from year to year and discover new things.  It's also funny that almost every person has some sort of food item along with their favorite thing--see?  I'm not the only one who LOVES food!  HA!  This year, we went to Brio at San Tan Mall, and the food and company were awesome (I had the Sweet Potato & Chicken Risotto, which was to DIE for)!  Our waiter was so funny trying to keep up with our drink refills!  He was like, "I have never seen a table go through so many sodas in a night!"  I think I went through 7 myself!  Good thing I don't drink liquor--I think I would probably spend half my life wasted!  I have a hard time doing things in moderation (yes, I am working on that...but still)!  The great thing about Todd's family, is that they all get along.  We all love each other, and if there is ever a problem, it is usually dealt with up front, forgiven and then forgotten.  This family is not one to hold grudges against each other, gossip, or backbite.  In fact, the siblings are all fiercely loyal to each other, and supportive of each other.  I think that comes from their parents teaching them about how important it is for family to stick together and love each other.  They have always been a great example of family coming first, and their family means everything to them.  I am so grateful to belong to such a wonderful family!  I love these girls with all my heart (and our husbands aren't too shabby either, I must say)!  So here they are, our favorite things 2012, ENJOY!:

Friday, January 20, 2012

My Town...

We went for a visit recently to my parent's house in Thatcher, where I grew up.  I always get this sort of melancholy feeling when I drive into that place.  So many memories flood back, and I feel as if I never really left.  Thats what happens when you grow up in a small town, it stays with you.  As we drive through Pima, where I lived until the 8th grade, I rememeber so many friends, so many happy childhood memories.  Things that I tell my kids everytime we pass through, but I have never written them down, so here it goes.  These are some memories of my town growing up...Stupid things, really, but happy memories nonetheless, and if I don't write them, like everything else, they will be fleeting moments, easily forgotten in time.

When I was young, we lived in a house on Alder Lane.  We didn't ever have much money growing up, but we found things to do in spite of that, and I don't ever remember feeling deprived as a child of anything.  We didn't have videogames, or ipods, but we managed to have fun anyway (shocker, huh?).  We spent our days doing crazy things, like criss-crossing in the ditch by our house, or swimming or crawdad fishing in the canal, or finding the mulberry bush in the summer that was always ripe with berries, or playing in one of our neighbors barns on the haystacks.  I remember when they used to crop dust the field by our house, and I would wake up and hear the crop dusters and know that for the next few days I would be struggling to keep my eyes open because I was allergic to something in the chemicals. eyes would swell shut!  But I also remember being grateful at the same time for those stupid crop dusters, since they would dramatically reduce the number of bugs in our house due to the proximity of said fields! Our house was on an acre of land, and we loved all of the animals my dad had.  At any one time we had chickens, cows, pigs, horses, roosters, goats, once, we even raised a duck, who thought he was a chicken, and would try to jump the hens in the yard.  Pretty funny. I remember summers where I couldn't sleep due to the hundred mosquito bites I had from staying outside ALL DAY until it got dark.  Somehow, no matter how long we had been outside playing, we were always upset when mom called us to come in.  Now, I think my kids go days without leaving the house in the summer! We always spent our days outside, even in the summer.  We would get wet, in the hose or the canal, but we didn't like to play inside. I remember finally turning 8, meaning I was old enough to take the bike ride to the public pool, a few miles from our house with my sisters.  What a sense of freedom that was to be able to stay at the pool all afternoon and play with my friends!  I was always so exhausted on the ride home, I could barely make it to the top of a huge hill we had to get up to get back.  Junior high, for me was a turning point, and I started to test the waters, and rebel a bit.  There were a few not so great boyfriends, (one of which was a "skater"--oooh, red flag), some attitude problems on my part, and some bad habits like lying to my parents, sneaking out with my friends, and language problems as well.  My parents recognized this (thank goodness for me--later I found out my mom had read my journal, I was so embarassed by some of the terrible things I wrote in there, man I was a brat!), and much to my distress, decided to move our family to Thatcher in the 8th grade. 

The move from Pima to Thatcher, though these two towns are 4 miles apart, was a drastic one for me.  The two towns are rival towns, in sports and everything else.  Looking back on that rivalry as an adult, it seems kind of stupid, but it was all too real back then.  People from Pima hated people from Thatcher, and vice versa.  When I moved, I will never forget the first day at my new junior high.  I had kind of a crappy attitude about the whole move, and couldn't believe that my parents had actually gone through with it.  I was pretty ticked off about the whole thing, and had quite a chip on my shoulder.  I remember walking through the halls, and to me, it seemed as if everyone was giving me a dirty look, and I was saying to myself, "great, they already hate me".  My friends from Pima wouldn't talk to me either, even though I had no choice in the move, they took it personally, like I was moving because I was too good for them or something.  I couldn't open my locker, and after a few tries, I kicked it and swore, pretty loudly.  You should have seen the looks I got then--oh my, apparently, the kids here weren't as rough as the group of friends I had left behind, they acted as if they had never heard that word.  Thatcher was a few miles away, but a different world apparently! Truth be told, that move saved me.  I found a new group of friends who were such a great influence in my life. My attitude changed, my outlook on life changed, and I was able to pull it together and get things straight before high school.

My high school years were spent playing sports, dating a great guy, and making memories that were amazing and priceless.  It's true that in a small town, you have to make up things to do for fun.  That being said, I think me and my friends were pretty good at it.  We spent nights "cruising main street", where you drive up and down the street, hang out the windows, play your music loud, and talk to people who are driving by.  We spent nights playing games, or watching movies at people's houses.  We spent nights driving around town, or out in the desert, too fast, and almost flipping the car sometimes on the dirt roads.  Sometimes I think it's a wonder that I lived through those years--when we did so many stupid things in cars--now that I have a teenage driver, I find myself giving her advice based on the many stupid things I have done, or have seen others do in a car. It's true that when you are a teenager, you feel invincible. I sure did.  All through high school, I did have a boyfriend, but we seemed to keep each other in line, and out of trouble.  Luckily, he was one of the nicest guys I have ever known, and some of my best high school memories were with him.  The best memories, hands down were with my girlfriends though. We spent our summers, almost every night at the church ballpark, where we either played or watched softball games.  I loved going there, and being with all my friends.  It was quite the social event. The school year kept us busy with sports events (which EVERYONE came to--whether you played or not, since it was something to do), and school dances, which we had almost every Friday night. After the dances we would almost always end up at Sonic, staying there until it closed and we had to go home, since it was always the last thing in town to stay open. We had study parties when there were hard tests, where we loaded up on No-Doze and studied until our eyes couldn't stay open, and we had pity parties when we needed them where we loaded up on Chocolate and ice cream.  The best were the slumber parties, where we stayed up all night, and laughed until we cried or peed out pants (both of which have happened to me).  Ha!  Even though I know there are bad things that happen in small towns, as well as good things, it seemed like I was pretty naive about them until I looked back later.  When you're not out looking for trouble--you don't find it.  Sure, there was the occasional broken heart when there was a break-up, or frustration with a coach, or trouble in school, but the majority of my memories of high school are the fun and laughter I shared with good friends.  I will always treasure those memories.

Yes, I grew up in a sleepy little town.  But it was my town.  My people.  Even after living in the valley for almost 20 years now, there is a part of me that will always be that small town girl.  And even though I have become quite accustomed to the convenience, and busyness of city life, a part of me when I drive through that town, longs for the slower pace, the friendly atmosphere that a small town brings.  Almost 20 years ago, I left my town, to move on to bigger and better things, but I'm not sure if my town will ever leave me.  It will always hold a special place in my heart, and a thousand more memories that I haven't shared here (some of which I probably will NEVER share, haha!).  That's what happens when you grow up in a small stays with you.  It's part of who I am, who I will always be, and for that, I'm grateful.

On a lighter note--here are some pictures of our visit to said town, we sure love it there!:

 I did Abby's hair the last day--it looks quite awesome I think!
 Here he is--Koda is still alive and well!  Those boys sure love him, and everyone wanted to bring him home, but my parents would be lost without him.  My dad shares his Oreos with that dog--now THAT is love.

Erin's Room Makeover...

Since we moved into this house in September, Erin has been begging for a room makeover.  In fact, it was one of the things she asked Santa for at Christmas, with the disclaimer that she would be allowed to approve of the design before he brought it to her.  Santa didn't bring her a new room, so after Christmas, we went together and picked out the stuff for her new room. We went with black & pink, with zebra accents.  The frame with the E in it was a mirror, but while we were hanging it on the wall, it dropped, and broke--oops!  We hollowed out the frame, blinged up a big letter E from Hobby Lobby, and voila!  I think I like it better than a mirror! Most of the things are from Hobby Lobby, the candle holders are from Kirkland Home.  The violin I got at Ross a few years back, and it was in her other room.  We spray painted it black, and glittered it.  The picture frames are from Target and Hobby Lobby, and the bedding is from Target. All of it came in at under $200, since most of it was either 50% off , or I had a coupon for it, which I thought was pretty good.  We are renting right now, so we can't add color in paint, (which is driving me nuts by the way--white walls make me crazy), but we added a lot of color using accessories, and even a little bling.  I think it turned out cute--and best of all, it got Erin off my case for a little while, until she thinks of something else she really NEEDS!  Take a look:

Friday, January 13, 2012

12 Goals in 2012!...

So, the last few years, instead of New Years Resolutions, I decided to choose a "Word of the Year", just something general to work on, instead of choosing specific goals.  While that has been a great experience, I have also found that I have been pretty lazy when it comes to setting goals for myself.  Even though we don't always keep our new years resolutions--I think that we should continue to set goals for ourselves, and try to improve ourselves consistently.  I have gotten pretty lazy the last few years when it comes to setting goals.  In fact, I find that I had plenty of excuses--but not much in the way of accomplishments!  I want this year to be about improving myself, and doing hard things.  I always annoy my kids when I tell them, "Did Justin Bieber say he couldn't do something--NO--he said Never Say Never!"  (I loved that movie!  HA!) Annoying right?  But I think he has a point.  Sometimes the only person holding you back is you!  In my case, I think it happens quite often-- I consistently sell myself short.  There was a quote by William Shakespeare that hung in my home growing up, on the wall in the dining room.  I remember reading it several times and not really understanding what it meant, until one day in high school, it finally clicked, it said:  "Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose;  the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt."  So many times, I don't even try to set a goal, because I am so doubtful that I can actually achieve it.  So many times my doubts get the best of me. This year, I am going to try a little harder to attempt to do something good, to achieve something, and even if I fall short, at least I didn't let my doubts get the best of me.

When I was thinking about the goals I wanted to set for 2012, I thought that setting 12 goals would be perfect, one for each month of the year.  Don't worry--there won't be anything earth shattering here.  If I have learned anything about myself over the years, it is this:  I am easily overwhelmed, and when I am overwhelmed, I tend to give up altogether.  If I am going to set goals for myself, I need to keep them specific, and not too general.  If you set a goal to "help bring about world peace", the odds are you are going to be frustrated with the result.  Maybe setting a goal to "yell at the kids less" is a little more reasonable, get my point?  I also need to pace myself, and not try to work on too many things at once, so I don't get overwhelmed. Also, I thought if I posted these goals on my blog, and blogged about my progress through the year, it would add some much needed accountability to the mix since another one of my huge weaknesses is that I tend to give up easily (or just forget what I was supposed to be working on in the first place--I know.  I am ridiculous, but it's true)!

So here we go--My 12 Goals for 2012!

1. Exercise! Work out at least 4X per week, and run the Shun the Sun 1/2 marathon in Nov.  I chose this goal instead of quitting junk food, or sugar, or soda, because quite frankly I like my food too much to give it up--so I MUST exercise consistently!  I can work on eating a bit healthier, however--at least a bit LESS!  :)
2. Organize. I want to organize one room every month, and fix the things in that room that need to be fixed.  I get so overwhelmed when I think about organizing my whole house...but I think I can handle one room every month!  I am starting this month in my kitchen, and it is coming along quite well actually!
3.  Listen. I need to be a better listener, and try to let someone else talk once in awhile.  I am not promising anything here, except maybe to take a breath once in awhile, and let you get a sentence in before cutting you off.  That is one of Todd's major pet peeves with me, (and I'm sure my kids as well) is that I don't listen very well, since I LOVE to talk.  So sorry if that's your pet peeve too...I am working on it.  If you see me doing breathing exercises during our conversation, I am practicing this new skill.
4. 1 on 1 time.  Take one child on a "date" with mom and dad each month.  We have 6 kids, and with such a large family, I worry that we don't spend as much 1 on 1 time as we should with them.  I want to take the time to get to know each of them, and listen to them more.  This just doesn't happen magically--you have to make it happen, and we haven't been great at it!
5. Read.  I hope to read at least one good book every month.  What's your favorite?  Any suggestions?  A few months ago, someone in my ward started a book club, and I started reading the book for it.  I really forgot over the years how much I love to read!  I haven't been good at making it to the actual book club, it seems like my life is still a little hectic, no matter what night, but I have been reading a book every month, and it has been so nice to take that time to myself to get into a great book.
6. Date Night.  Todd and I have been slackers lately in this department, and we need to get back to it.  I think when you have teenagers that fight you about babysitting, it doesn't make it easy to get out yourselves. Lots of times, we end up staying home so that they can go out and play--but c'mon, it's important that we take time for ourselves, away from the kids every week.  I love the time that we spend together and it makes for a happier marriage.  The kids are going to have to take turns babysitting, and suck it up.
7. Read Scriptures Daily & Temple weekly.  My friend started a group on Facebook, Book of Mormon Chapter a Day Challenge 2012.  She is posting weekly excerpts from the Book of Mormon manual.  We should be done reading it in August if we stick to a chapter a day--or sooner if you do more!  It's a great way to help you stay motivated & a pretty easy goal, as a chapter a day should only take 10-15 min.  The link to her FB group is HERE.  I have been going to the temple on Thursdays when I take Jack to preschool, and it is amazing how much it helps me to focus my priorities.  I love that place, and the peace it brings to my life.
8. Weekly Dinner Menu.  Some months I am really with it when it comes to dinners in this house--and some months, I really slack off.  Whether I have freezer meals ready to go or not, I need to stick to a dinner menu.  I spend a lot less money, and I go to the store less, and lets face it, if I am trying to stay in shape, why sabotage my efforts with Little Caesars? ( Even though I'm telling you, there's no better deal out there!)
9. BLOG.  Twice a week.  Truth is, I kinda slacked off on my blogging effort last year.  Yes, it was a stressful year, and I didn't want to be Negative Nancy on here, so I didn't post as much, but it's a new year, and all the years, bad and good need to be here.  Someday, I will have a wonderful record of our family, good times and bad for my kids to look back on and laugh or cry.
10. Shower.  I bet you didn't see that one coming!  No really, I do shower.  I just need to get my butt into the shower before I start my day.  My goal is to be showered and ready before the kids go to school so that I can do more with my day.  I find when I wait until the kids are all gone, I get into the shower at 10 or 11, and half the day is gone before I get out of my PJ's.  I have a major problem getting out of bed over here--must be cause I'm getting so OLD!
11. Budget.  Todd will laugh out loud when he sees that 4-letter word on my blog--but we really do need to be better at sticking to one.  With a fledgling new business, and a lawyer bill bigger than my house payment, (I love lawyers..they're awesome) we really need to budget our money and make it stretch this year.  I know how it feels to get down to your last dime (literally), and that was NOT a nice feeling.  We need to buckle down & make a budget work.
12. PLAY.  This one should be easy right?  Not always.  Sometimes, I am so busy doing the aforementioned things, that I forget that it's okay to leave the laundry piled up, and snuggle with my Jack to watch TV, or leave the house a mess, and go on a 3 day weekend with the family.  Life is short--we need to live it to the fullest!

So there you go.  Easy peasy, right?  Let's hope so.  I will check in once in awhile and let you know how it's going!  I hope your resolutions are going well...if not, start today!  Happy 2012!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Happy Birthday Ash!...

Last week, Ashlie Sue turned 7!  Can you believe it?  I can't.  Seems like yesterday that that girl was just a little fussy thing, a permanent attachment to my hip, a hindrance to all of our sleep, and a constant assault to my ear drums.  Looking at her now, you would never believe that this perfect child would have ever been the baby from he!!--but you know what?  She was.  By the time I reached baby #5, I thought I had this whole mothering thing pretty much down to an art.  I had enjoyed each of my babies more than the last--(toddlers, well, that's another story--I am way better at babies than toddlers), then along came miss Ashlie Sue.  She was born into this world feisty, crying when she emerged from my womb, crying while they weighed and measured her, and crying pretty much the whole first night of her life (I sent her to the nursery a few hours into the night--but they assured me she was not a happy camper there).  Ashlie was a just a sensitive little thing.  Fussy about noise, fussy about nursing, or being held a certain way, fussy about being handled by all of her siblings (and trust me, they would NOT leave her alone), she was just NOT a happy camper for the first couple of years of her life.   I brought her to the doctor several times, just concerned that there HAD to be something wrong with my child--she was just never very happy.  They looked and looked, but found nothing.  I was worried that this sour disposition would last into adulthood, and then suddenly, around the two year mark, when my love/hate relationship with my children usually starts...Ashlie decided she was okay.  She's funny that way.  Ashlie decides what is right for her, and when.  She is more cautious, she takes her time, and she makes her decisions her way, always has.  She ended up being the best toddler I have ever had.  Never a tantrum, never a problem.  Naptime?  No big deal.  Potty training?  A breeze.  I wondered if an evil spirit had possesed her body for the first few years or something, that's how big the difference was!  But boy, was I grateful, and I continue to be grateful for the special spirit that took its place!  Ashlie is such a joy to have in our home!  She keeps everyone on task, and makes sure that all of us are staying in line.  She is the biggest helper, and is always willing to do what I ask her to.  I am so grateful to Heavenly Father for the chance I have to raise her, even though those first few years, she gave me a run for my money!

For Ashlie's birthday, we started the day with her QT donut cake.  Todd floated the idea of doing something different this year...maybe something healthier, but our kids quickly let him know that wasn't going to fly, so Dad did his duty & got the donuts!  I let him know that I'm pretty sure that the fat around our middle isn't coming from the 8 times a year that we eat donuts on our's probably the other 357 other days of eating a bunch of crap that does it!   Anyhoo--she ate her donut, then opened her presents, her favorite was the Silly String we bought her--which was quickly used to blast her brother while he was playing Wii!  Then her and Jack headed outside for a real fight!  That night we took the family to Peter Piper Pizza, and they had a great time playing games together.  The next day was not so joyful, as they all had to go back to school.  I think the saddest one was me!  My house is a disaster when my children are all home on break--but I am willing to put up with that for the luxury of sleeping in until 10 a.m.  (My secret joy--being lazy!)  The kids all had a hard time this year getting back into the routine, especially my Erin, who is taking an A hour class this year with Emie that starts at 6:30 a.m..  She told me that she cries, pretty much every morning before school because she is just SO tired and doesn't want to go!  Poor thing.  I feel her pain (and I don't get up until 7).  Ashlie was lucky to be the student of the week in her class for her birthday week!  We made a cute poster--I love her faces!  Here are some pictures of my Ashlie...

Happy Birthday princess!  We love you!

Monday, January 9, 2012

2011...A Year of Change...

I feel like I need to write some things down after pondering what it means this week to start a new year, and turn over a new leaf, a new chapter in our lives if you will.  I would be remiss if I didn't write down my feelings about this past year, and first and foremost make sure that if anything, my children can look back and remember this year for what it was, a year of change for our family, both good and bad.  The beginning of this year brought many challenges, trials, and frustration.  At the same time that the owners of the funeral home stopped paying us on an almost million dollar note that we carried back on the business, the store that we had started in the mall was failing miserably, and the lawyers were counseling Todd that it was just too risky at that point to get back into the funeral business.  We were left seemingly without options, and sometimes, for me, it seemed as if we were left without hope.  It was then that we knew that we were going to have to make some major changes if we were going to survive this trial.  Some of those changes, looking back, were not changes I was ready to make at the time, but were necessary nonetheless.

Most of the changes were made for financial reasons.  We had put so much money into the house, and trying to get out of debt, that we were left with very little savings, and no clue how long those savings would have to sustain our family.  That meant, that everything we owned outright, had to be on the table.  At first, I thought we could sell some little things, get by for a few months, and hopefully the lawsuit would come to a speedy and just end.  So, we sold the boat, a timeshare, and traded in my newer car, and Todd's new truck for two junky, but drive-able cars that would get us by, and give us some cash.  I will never forget trying to explain to the car dealer what we were trying to accomplish, and him looking at us like we must be stupid.  I got the better end of that deal, since with 6 kids, I still had to drive out of there in a used Suburban.  Todd, on the other hand, drove into that dealership with a year old gorgeous Toyota Tundra, and drove out of there with a 6 year old Chevy Cavalier with 50,000 miles on it.  For $5K, though, it was a smokin deal, and we knew it would be a great 3rd car to have someday for the girls to drive!

As the lawsuit dragged on, and our store closed, we were hoping that we would be able to at least get back some of what we lost on the store in our tax return.  But the way the taxes were structured, we could only receive a tax credit, and couldn't get any money back.  Not only that, but as the lawsuit was getting more involved, lawyer bills were totaling as much or more than our house payment each month.  It was then, that we knew that we were going to have to put the house up for sale.  I would be lying if I said that I was okay with that.  At first, I was very frustrated, and very angry that we were going to lose the house that we had put so much work, and so much money into.  I felt very embarrassed when I would talk to people about it.  Once the sign went up, I felt like hiding in a hole.  It was humiliating to me.  I was afraid of what people would think, what they would say about us, but I also knew that we had no choice.  Because of the down payment we had put on the house, we had equity in it, but because of the state of the economy, we knew we were never going to make back the money we had put into it.  It was heartbreaking also to have to tell my kids we were going to move again, after I had promised them we were staying in this house forever.  My teenagers threw that one in my face over and over, as if I was doing it just to torture them.  Again, we listed the house at such a low price that we thought it would sell quickly--but it didn't.  As I saw our savings dwindling during the last part of the summer down to nothing, I started to panic.  Throughout the year, we had always been able to do something to stay afloat, but it seemed we were at the end of our rope.  Then, again, a tender mercy.  The month our savings ran out, we got a full price offer on our home.

Again, the blessing was bitter-sweet.  We were relieved to be getting some money out of our home, but left again not knowing what we were supposed to do, or where we were supposed to go.  When I realized that there were very few options available in our ward, I was heartbroken.  I hoped to at least save the kids from another rough move.  I thought if we could find something in our ward, even to rent, it would make it easier on all of us.  Again, the Lord was aware of our family, and provided in our time of need.  My sweet friend Tonya talked to a neighbor who had just moved out of his house a month before in our neighborhood, and asked him if he would consider renting it to our family.  He agreed, and even said he would rent it for a reduced price, much lower than what we had been paying in our other home.  Even better, it was smaller, and the electric, gas, and utility bills would be much more manageable since we would again be living on our savings from the proceeds of the house until the lawsuit was cleared up, and Todd was able to work again.  The move was fairly easy, as far as moves go, and no one was left bloody or bruised this time (see that post HERE), and it was such a blessing to my family to be able to stay in the ward and have that consistency in our lives when we needed it most.

You can see the point that I'm trying to make here is, time after time, when I thought that things wouldn't work out, when I thought that there wasn't a way to fix things, when I thought I had lost HOPE, (my word of the year last year, remember THIS post), a loving Father in Heaven let me know that He was in charge.  Even though sometimes I fought against Him, even though sometimes I thought my way was better, even though I didn't understand, and sometimes was ungrateful and even selfish, He was there for me and for my family.  If there is anything I have learned this year, it is that He knows me, He knows my struggles, He knows my pain, and even though He doesn't always fix things, and He can't always make things go the way we want them to go, He will NOT leave us comfortless.  He will NOT leave us alone.  He will provide a way if we are trying to do what He wants us to do. There were times this year when I left Him, but never a time when He left me.  Each time I was ready to humble myself, each time I was ready to ask, He was there to answer, and oh how grateful I am for the tender mercies the Lord has shown my family this year.  In my trials I have realized that not only do I have a testimony of my Savior, not only do I believe in Him, but as I have suffered, I have truly come to know Him in a way that I never thought could be possible.  My pea-sized brain has a hard time comprehending HOW He knows me, how he knows my struggles, but he does.  Each time I have had doubts, each time I have questioned, each time I have agonized, whether in my heart, or even aloud, whether God cared, or whether he even knew our struggles, I have felt that quiet reassurance that indeed He was there.  He cannot save us from trials, they are a part of life, but He can carry us through them, and I have also come to believe that He suffers with us, just as we do when our own children hurt.

Lastly, one of the most powerful lessons I learned through this year was this:  weakness is NOT sin.  So many times, when I would question, when I would have doubts, when I was suffering, and I didn't understand why things were going so horribly wrong for our family, I would feel like God must be angry with me.  I would feel like I was being punished for having these doubts, for not being faithful in every moment, for not being as good, or as faithful as I should be.  In all actuality, those thoughts, those feelings of discouragement, and despair were coming from the adversary.  He is an expert at getting good people to feel bad about themselves, and if he can succeed at making a good person feel bad enough, he can make them give up all together, and it is then that hope is lost.  As I studied the scriptures, as I learned about trials, and tribulations, I realized this:  Many of the greatest men and women in the scriptures had moments in their lives when they had doubts, when they didn't think they could do what they were called on to do, when they didn't think they were good enough.  Many of them, in their tribulations cried out to Heavenly Father, and the Savior to help them, to comfort them, and to succor them in their time of weakness.  We are mortal.  We are going to have times in our lives where we are weak in our faith, where we doubt, where we question God's plan.  In the garden of Gethsemane, even Jesus himself cried out for His Father.  He needed comfort, He needed to know that He was there.  If your trials are such that you feel like giving up, you feel like they are too much to bear, hang in there, and cry out.  When I have done that, I have felt peace.  The trials were still there, but I have felt peace in my heart knowing that God would not leave me to face them on my own.  And this year, for me, that has made all the difference.

2012 will be another year of changes I'm sure for my family.  It's like the song that says "The only thing that stays the same is everything changes". Though Todd is finally back to work, the lawsuit is still ongoing, and who knows if there will be an outcome anytime soon, if at all.  I have learned that as much as I would like to, I cannot control everything that life brings.  I am slowly learning to let go, and let God.  I am slowly getting better at turning that control over to Him, and just trying to let the spirit guide me.  The nice thing about a new year, is we have a clean slate.  There are memories to be made, and stories to be told, and I just hope that I am around for another year to write them.  One thing is certain, our life will be usual, and I will be here to share it all.  Happy New Year!
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