And We're Off!

"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money." ~Susan Heller [can I hear a big 'amen?!]

We're on our way to Denver for the Mason family reunion. Mark's parents are the only ones still in that area, but since they don't travel much anymore, all of us [not even sure how many there are at this point, but it's a lot] are heading there to be together for a few days. People are coming from Chicago, Dallas, Austin, several points in Missouri, several Utah locations and probably more that I've lost track of. At any rate, it will be a fun time of getting together with our buddies Seth & Sarah, Mark & Amber, Rosie & Jarom, and so many others. Of course, Chris, Natalie and the kiddoes are going, as well as Chris, Tara and their boys. Math won't be there -- he's not only working but in school at this point and we will miss him. [and he's the designated care-taker of Vida, Maya's fish!]

We'll be back Sunday night with lots of good stories about how great everyone looks, how Casa Bonita is still the same [or better!] after all these years, and what a wonderful time we had with family.

Because that's all that really matters.


Keep your Face to the Sun

"A happy woman is one who has no cares at all; a cheerful woman is one who has cares but doesn't let them get her down." ~Beverly Sills

I suspect we all have cares. Everyone has worries and issues that are very painful. But my goal is to not let mine get me down.

Helen Keller is someone I find amazing and her outlooks are almost consistently upbeat. "Keep your face to the sunshine and you will never see the shadow." ~Helen Keller

Good advice. And Happy Wednesday to you!


Yard Work

I've been reading blogs and seeing what everyone else got done this weekend, and our weekend was a little quiet in comparison. We did [OK, to be fair, Mark did!] get a lot done on Saturday for sure. Our front yard has a little flower bed/box thing right in front of the house. It's been custom done with a limestone surround and as long as we've lived here [3 1/2 years now] it's been this overgrown mess of bushes. For me, the only thing I even liked in that flower box was the crazy rose bush in the corner. It's in full flower pretty much the whole year. Mark cuts it way back every now and again, and even that doesn't slow it down. And I'm a fan of that rose bush. I love the thing. I have always hated the rest of the bushes in that box but love that rose bush.

So Saturday, Mark put on his work clothes and went out to tackle the front flower box. He literally dug up every single bush in that flower bed [and there were many - I don't even know how many there were. That was part of the problem - the original owners way over-planted for that space and it was a jungle for the past little while. Too much foliage!]. He transplanted probably 5 or 6 of them in the back yard [where he did all the work last year] but the rest of what was in front is gone for good. Then we made our 3 [count 'em, three!] obligatory trips to Home Depot [OK, one trip was to Lowe's but I count it as all the same place] and came away with 6 new rose bushes in a variety of colors, lots of soil in which to plant these rose bushes, and mulch to make it pretty once he was done with it all.

And it looks beautiful. My biggest regret is that we didn't take 'before and after' pictures. I can do 'after' but you wouldn't understand what a change it is so I won't. But take my word for it -- it looks great and I am loving it.

Now I can't wait till some of the new rose bushes get crazy like the old one.

**picture is a close-up of one bloom on the crazy rose bush


As God Sees Us

I had to laugh when I read this because I have often commented that others must see me in a much different light than I see myself. ["Who is that old lady in the mirror? Ack!"]

For example: this week, 3 or 4 different people have commented that I must be doing 'something different'. When I ask what they mean, each has said that they can see the elliptical time showing up on my legs, arms, wherever. I like that. But do I see it? No. I still see the flabby legs, the saggy arms and the face that is falling to depths unheard of up to this point in my life.

That thought always leads me to what Heavenly Father sees -- we know that He doesn't see what's on the outside as important. He looks into the heart. [I Samuel 16:7]. That's what really matters to Him.

Being human, of course the physical part matters. [all that elliptical time is paying off! yay!] But more, it matters that I look like Him. That His image can be found in my countenance. [Alma 5:14] That I am like Him. That others will recognize Him through me.

My hope is that as others look at me, they will recognize that I am someone who loves Him. Even more, I hope that He will accept my meager efforts and understand what is in my heart.

Because my greatest desire is to be like Him. To be recognized as someone who loves Him and follows Him. Because I do love Him and am trying to follow His example and be a reflection of His love in my life.


Gas Prices = A Gold Mine for Someone

I drive a very fuel-efficient Honda Civic -- and since the places I generally go are in my neighborhood, I fill up much less frequently than many people.

However -- I am watching the gas prices with fear and trembling. I filled up on May 19, only a few days ago. The cost? $3.65 a gallon. I was pretty outraged. But I drove by the same station yesterday [May 22] and the price is now [gasp!] $3.79 a gallon. My little car, that used to cost me around $25 for a fill-up, now runs over $40 to fill that same little tank. My sympathies to those of you with families and larger cars.

To me, that's outrageous. The worst part is that there's not one thing I can do about it. And I know that our prices are significantly lower than in other places.

What's it costing you where you are at for a gallon of gas, anyhow? I'm thinking it's time to bust out the bicycle!


Up or Down?

I give Mark a lot of credit because, to be honest, he's very good about remembering to put the seat back down on the toilet when he's done. But there have been times, generally in the middle of the night, when I have found myself in this position.

I didn't laugh then but this sure cracked me up today.


Kids are the Best

One of our Primary boys [just turned 10] spent the past week in the Dell Children's Hospital here in Austin. He was diagnosed with a severe bone infection (osteomyelitis) in his foot and had to come home with an IV, through which his parents will administer antibiotic treatments 5x a day for the next month or so. I hear these treatments last about an hour each time. Needless to say, their lives changed pretty quickly and dramatically.

He is doing well but there will be no more school for him this year, no sports, and lots of care needed. He has 2 younger brothers [one is 8 and the other is 3] and I feel for all of them. So I decided to address it with the children in Primary.

I had the 8 year old tell the Sr. Primary about what had happened to his brother, describe a little bit of what he's gone through and will continue to deal with, and then I talked with the children about remembering both the boy and his family in their prayers. When it came time for the closing prayer, one sweet little 7 year old boy offered the most loving, tender prayer I've heard in a long time. He was specific about asking for blessings for the boy and his family and it was clear he had listened and heard as we talked about it. I know Heavenly Father had to be touched to be approached by a loving little boy who cared so much about one of his Primary friends.

Later, at our presidency meeting, my secretary told us that her son [age 10] had come home and talked about it too. At dinner time, he came down and announced that he was going to fast "because he needs me to fast for him more than I need to eat dinner." And he did. They remembered him in their family prayers later on as well.

Once again, I'm overwhelmed by these children. These are such strong, valiant children who really want to do good and to be good. And they are doing so much good.

I'm proud to be even a small part of their lives. Can you imagine how Heavenly Father must feel?

*picture via flickr



This week I've had some good visits with Primary teachers and it has filled me with gratitude for the guidance I know I receive in this calling. There have been several people express to me how grateful they are for the love that the Primary children feel from us as they attend our Primary and someone else let me know how they appreciated the inspiration that led us to place them with their class. Yet another told me of the love they have for their calling and for the children they teach.

Hearing these things means the world to me, and it inspires me to try harder to make sure I let people know how much I appreciate the things they are doing. The things I've heard made my day and I need to make sure that I do the same for others.

I felt it again on Sunday as I conducted in Primary -- I looked out at the children and their teachers and just had a wave of gratitude for all of them wash over me. I love the children dearly and I expected that with this calling, but I have to admit that I was surprised that I feel the same love for their teachers.

They are all precious to me and I'm so thankful for the little boosts that I've gotten lately. It makes it much easier to keep on going.

Which is exactly what I plan to do -- only better.


Typical Week

How accurate is this? I love it. Although I love Sundays so much that it does carry over to Monday -- so for me, Monday is still a pretty good day.

I have plenty on the schedule this week -- a dentist appointment, a Primary presidency meeting [despite what you might think, these are a blast], several piano lessons to teach, a trip to Costco, [whooppee! But I have to admit I do love my Costco time], and always exercise. I'm proud to announce that I'm now up to 46 minutes on the elliptical 5 days a week. I think there needs to be a pedicure scheduled in there somewhere too.

What's on your schedule this week?


Pres. Monson's Talent

This is classic -- don't miss it!


Fred's Wisdom

It's not news that I love every second I get to spend with children. I love their enthusiasm, their wit, their humor, and their innocence. They make me smile, they touch my heart and make me want to be a better person. I think it's also common knowledge that I love teaching. When you put those two things together, it becomes a gift [for me, anyway] that lifts me and changes me for the better.

That's why I was so taken with this quote by Fred Rogers: "Learning and loving go hand in hand. My grandfather was one of those people who loved to live and loved to teach . . . He'd help me find something wonderful in the smallest of things, and ever so carefully, he'd help me understand the enormous worth of every human being."

It touched me to read that his grandfather had such an influence on him. The concept of human worth is something we all need to understand and I have known for years that learning is accelerated when love enters the picture. Once again, I am reminded of the importance of these family relationships, on many levels.

I have children in my life both at home and at church and this is my goal: that I can help those little ones understand their enormous worth and to surround them with love.

Because love builds people.


Fun & Games with the Kiddoes

So tonight, with the custody of Maya and Mason relinquished to their parents [who had a wonderful time on their cruise], my house is way too quiet. We had such a good time and enjoyed every second.

I know you have to be wondering how we did with Maya's List -- here's a rundown:

  • Disneyland -- we didn't get there. Sigh. I wish.
  • Sea World -- ditto. I wish we could have but with 95 degree temperatures here on Saturday, I think it was better that we just couldn't squeeze it in.
  • Camp out in the back yard -- again, nope. I'm starting to feel like a loser grandma!
  • Buy a backyard pool/slip-n-slide -- yay! We did and they had a ball with it. It's an inflatable and neither of us wants to blow it up again so it's sitting upstairs, ready to go, in our guest room. Good thing the bed isn't in there right now, huh?
  • Sno-cones -- again, yay! Grandpa actually took them out to the park, hiking, and then for treats on Saturday while I was playing for the wedding -- and not only did they get sno-cones, they had donuts along with it for lunch. What a guy he is!!
  • Sleep under the stars -- again, no. But we did look at the stars and Grandpa started a water fight when they went to water their hanging flower baskets. That counts for something, right?
  • Get a library card in Maya's name. Didn't get done -- although it was on the list for today but it just didn't happen. Nap times for Mason cut into my time for fun.
  • Ride bikes in the driveway -- do scooters count? That's a check. We did that a lot, all over the house too.
  • Do puzzles and build big towers -- oh, yeah. Lots of them. Mason builds great towers and Maya and I are good at puzzles.
  • Go hiking, swimming and to the park. Done and done. Grandpa hiked their little legs off while I was doing wedding duties and I did swimming several times. We made it to two different parks -- variety is good.
  • No snowflakes were made -- I don't think anyone even thought of snow [except with longing] because it was so dang hot.
  • Pretend it's Christmas -- yup. We had a blast at Academy Sports and both kiddoes picked out several 'Christmas' presents to keep. Fun times!
  • We didn't make colored cookies but we did make small heart-shaped cakes and cupcakes. Pink. And yummy.
  • No tire swings. But we sure did swing - I pushed Mason and cheered while Maya pumped her own swing [a recently acquired skill] at the parks.
  • Watch SpongeBob. Done. And done. And done. Also a little Backyardigans [Mason's personal favorite], Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Bunnytown, and even a little bit of Max and Ruby. Fun times. Lots of snuggles in bed first thing in the morning too.
  • No movies -- nothing really struck our fancy. I think we're holding out for the Karate Panda one I've seen ads for. But we did read a lot of new stories and Maya was especially taken with our Tacky the Penguin book. It cracked her up.
All in all, there was a ton of fun here over the past 5 days. I think we had two happy little people with us the whole time -- I know they missed their parents and were so happy to see them and be back in their own home and family atmosphere, but I also think they felt safe, happy and at home with us. We did a lot of laughing, playing, cuddling, singing and loving, and it reminded me again of what a great blessing grandma-hood is to me.

And tonight, as I felt the emptiness of the house, I missed the excitement, the mess, the busy-ness, the noise and the fun of having children living with me again. If I could say anything to young moms who still have time, it would be to make sure you enjoy every second you can with your little ones. I know I spent too much time worrying about things that [I know now] really didn't matter.

Just get to know them, teach them and love them.

[photo by Greg Olsen]


Maya's List

Some of you may be aware that Chris and Natalie are off on a cruise, celebrating their 10th anniversary. That means, their two little ones, Maya and Mason, are spending the next few days with us.

As Natalie was prepping Maya about what was happening and how things would go, Maya got excited about spending the time with Grandma and Grandpa, and came up with a list of things to do while she and her brother are with us. She even had her mom write it out and Natalie brought it along when she dropped them off this morning. Either that girl has higher hopes than I thought possible, or she thinks her grandparents really love her. [and we do!]

Here's a few of the items on her list:

  • Go to Disneyland [yup, Disneyland]
  • Go to Sea World [much more possible, but not very likely as I have a wedding to play for on Saturday]
  • Camp out in the back yard. I'm not such a fan of that kind of stuff but I will tell you that I'd do it for her if I thought it would make her happy.
  • Buy a pool and a slip'n'slide for our back yard and put them into use. [you can pretty much count on that one happening tomorrow.]
  • Go to the Snow Shack for sno cones. [Another slam dunk there]
  • Sleep under the stars. [see #3]
  • Get a library card in her name. Probably will get done, I think.
  • Ride bikes in the driveway. Easy.
  • Do puzzles and build huge towers. Again, easy. Grandpa's an expert at the tower thing.
  • Go hiking, swimming and to the park
  • Make snowflakes [Grandpa is good at this -- I'm thinking it will happen.]
  • Pretend it's Christmas [what?? But maybe . . . ]
  • Make colored cookies - lots of cookies. This one sounds easy.
  • Buy tire swings. Umm -- probably not although it's a great idea. But we have no big trees so . . .
  • Watch SpongeBob. Already done. And no doubt will happen again.
  • Go to the movies. Is there anything good out that I could take her to? Ideas, please!
And there are more items on the list. She's very creative, isn't she?

I love it. I really do. That this amazing, funny, bright little girl can make lists like these and know that her Grandma and Grandpa will do whatever they can do do as many things as they can to make her stay with them fun.

So here's to a fun time with the kiddoes!


Oh, Yeah!

No comment necessary!



These pictures might not seem too remarkable until you take a closer look and realize that they are all made out of food. Every bit.

Then they seem amazing. Who does this? Really. Who?

Not me. If you want a closer look, let me know and I'll email it to you.


Dreams and Faith

"You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith." ~Mary Manin Morrissey.

There's a good lesson in this quote. All of us have dreams. But most of us [I think I'm talking about myself here] are filled with fear about our capabilities, our talent and our ability to stick to something long enough to succeed. That's where faith comes in.

C.S. Lewis said that we are "never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." The big problem for me is that first step into the darkness. You know, that space where you fumble around in the dark hoping to find a light.

What I have learned is that we have to take that step. And it will be dark. But the light is just around the next corner, and we have a Heavenly Father who is brighter and stronger than any darkness we may find ourselves passing through.

That's faith. And I believe that you find your dream through the power of your faith.


I Shall Not Want

I spent this morning in rehearsals for our Stake's production of "Savior of the World" and came home feeling uplifted, refreshed, and filled with new resolution to do better in my life.

I finished my morning by rehearsing the song "The Lord is my Shepherd", one of my favorites in the entire play. It's sung by [who else?] a group of shepherds who are waiting for the promised Messiah to come. They talk about how He will come as the root and offspring of David, and that He will come to lead His sheep. That's us.

As the boys sang their song and rehearsed their lines, I was covered with goosebumps and tears filled my eyes as the Spirit told me that the words I was hearing were true. The Lord is our shepherd. He really is.

And if I trust in Him, I shall not want.

This I knew, but it was such a blessing to have it re-confirmed to me this morning, in the midst of a group of teenage boys.

I really shall not want.



"Be there for your children. Sit on the bed and enjoy the late-night talks -- try to stay awake! Pray for the Lord to inspire you. Forgive often. Choose your battles. Testify frequently of Jesus Christ and of His goodness and of the Restoration. And most of all, let them know of your trust in the Lord." ~Bonnie D. Parkin

Oh, how I love this quote. Why? Because it's all true. It's full of good advice: prayer, forgiveness, choosing your battles. I especially loved her comment about trying to stay awake. For us, some of the best communication we had with our children came when the lights were out and they were sitting on the end of our bed [and we were trying to keep our eyes open].

The most important? That your children know that you trust in the Lord.

Try it out. You'll find that it works.


Thanks, Guys!

Look what I found on my doorstep this morning! Love, love, love it! Chris and Tara warned me that there was an early Mother's Day surprise on the way -- and it made my day. It's beautiful.

Thanks to all 4 of you -- Chris, Tara, Daniel and Ben! Love you guys. Now I just need a teeny-tiny pic of all of you to put inside.

You're the best.