If a blog die, shall it live again?

Hi.

Um, remember me?

Of course a dead blog can live again!  It totally can. Right? I checked Google Reader, and some people are actually still subscribed here. It might be an accident, but still…. (Does anyone even use Google Reader anymore?) Plus, whether they actually mean to be or not, there’s still a handful of people that subscribe by email, so hello there long-lost inboxes.

Wow. So where do I start?  I have so much to tell you. Really. Let’s transition carefully back into blogging, shall we? I think I’ll start with a bunch of mini blog posts just so we can all get used to each other again.

Mini-post #1:  Guess What?

Remember how I only occasionally popped in during the summer to beg you to vote for me in that video contest?  Well, I don’t know how to tell you this without a formal plan to compensate you for your goodness, but I won!!!  I’m not even kidding– I won a cruise. Matt and I are going in October and I’m very excited about that. It took a little bit of manipulative creative negotiating to convince Clark that even though it was his story that won the trip, it would still be better for Matt and I to take the trip together.  I’m sure that with the passage of time and maybe a small amount of therapy, he will find it in his heart to not feel completely ripped off. And I will find it in my heart to sit on a ship deck and read books and drink virgin daiquiris.

Mini-post #2: No, Really, Guess What?!?

This part is almost too exciting to say. I’m truly afraid that by embracing it, I may somehow curse it. The reason I took a blog sabbatical in the first place is because I, honest to goodness, felt down in my soul that I needed to write a book. I had never before in my life imagined myself authoring a book, but I felt (select the word that you’re most comfortable with here–>) prompted/compelled/pushed/inspired/obligated to write a book about my testimony concerning motherhood. I have spent a good part of the last decade of my life studying motherhood in a gospel context, and I felt the pieces coming together little by little in ways that gave me new insight and purpose. Motherhood was still hard–it’s always been kind of hard–but I felt like I was starting to get it.  And then I felt like I should write it all down. So I did. And (here’s the exciting part) I recently got word that it’s going to be published. As in, printed by someone else in an actual book that will appear in LDS bookstores next Spring. I’m not the type of person that writes things like *squeeee!* or “yippee! yippee!,” but if I were, I would write that here right now. Other than the fact that I feel a tiny bit terrified, plus an equally tiny bit inadequate, I love the thought and hope that maybe, just maybe, my book might help some mom out there (especially a mom of young children) “get it.” And by “get it,” I really mean get herself–see herself and what she’s doing as she really is and how much it really counts. So, yes, yay for that.

Mini-post #3: In Which a Mom and Her Kids All Grow Up a Little.

Something unbelievably amazing has happened. Perhaps even more amazing than a cruise or a book deal. (I realize that this would be the easy place for anyone who’s having a bad day to hit the delete button real quick before my life gets any luckier, but please don’t. I promise I’m not bragging. And I think this next piece of news just might be some kind of balm for your weary soul. Maybe.) When I started this blog, all three of my children were in some stage of diapers. It is with no small amount of shock that I announce to you that last week, they all started school. All of them. From morning until early afternoon.  Look!  Look at this picture and tell me that they are not the cutest people you’ve ever seen. Just try.

Anyway, I’ve blogged a lot over the years about the stages of motherhood, and how sometimes times and seasons must be endured-slash-appreciated for what they really are. When my oldest went to kindergarten, I felt like I had entered Stage 2 parenting. There were glimpses of my children’s growing independence, and I found random bursts, no matter how brief, of “down” time, where I could choose to read a book, or nap, or hang up my clothes, or nap. Now, my friends, I think I have entered Stage 3. Yes, they are older, and make bigger messes, and more noise, and have developed some snarky habits, but trust me when I say: It is glorious. Do you know what I did yesterday? I did a workout video in my family room and then I cleaned my bathroom. I cleaned it for three and a half hours, and it is a masterpiece. I have not cleaned an entire room from start-to-finish in years. After that, I went to the library by myself and picked out books in peace. Then I went to 3 stores in a row and quickly returned some items, stopped at one more store, and picked up a few groceries. I came home and made chocolate chip cookies. When I got home, my house was just as clean as it was when I left in the morning. It stayed clean; do you get what I’m saying? When my kids got home, I hugged them and gave them cookies and helped them with their homework. I still got annoyed sometimes, but I felt ready to be there for them. I. am. loving. it. I am not trying to rub any of this in your face if you still have small children at home and you feel entirely drained. Nor am I trying to knock anyone who feels terribly sad when their children go to school. Not at all.  All I’m saying is that toddler and preschool mothering were quite challenging for me, and now I feel like I’m hitting my stride. I’m not foolish; bigger kids will mean bigger challenges, but if you are wondering if there’s any light at the end of the diaper tunnel, I’m here to tell you:  Good gravy, there is!  I can hardly believe it myself. Stage 3 just feels like it fits so nicely right now. Carry on, good moms everywhere, the stage that fits you best will come in good time.

Mini-post #4: More to Come.

I’ve got fun summer stuff to tell you. I’ve got some giveaways of things I’ve been saving up for you. The September celebration of The Family: A Proclamation to the World is coming up, and that will be epic. Basically, I’m excited to be back. This party ain’t over yet. Please say hi. I missed you.

Brain Damage

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In a homespun version of “Mythbusters,” I have determined that if you go for long stretches of time averaging approximately 4 hours of sleep per night, the result is: brain damage.

I have missed my children’s baseball games, soccer games, gymnastics (all regularly scheduled activities, mind you) while simply languishing in my home or about my business under the influence of said brain damage.  Oh, and everything everyone does bugs me.  I also blame this on brain damage.  I’m working through it.

I’m still in the running to win a cruise at Deseret Book’s “Pretty Darn Funny” Contest.  And by “in the running,” I mean if you go vote for me and push me back into first place, I might actually win.  Voting continues every day until May 31st.  Don’t you think a cruise would cure brain damage?  I sure do.

Vote at this link by simply clicking on the orange “thumbs up” icon under my video. Vote now and vote daily:

“Don’t Tell the Health Department”:  Stephanie’s hilarious story about mothering a small boy.

Also, mother’s day is coming.  I’ve heard rumors that some people hate mother’s day because they feel guilty for not being a perfect mother.  I would like to allay your fears by stating the following:

Mother’s Day is no more for celebrating perfect mothers than going to church is for celebrating perfect people.  We’re all trying, and we should celebrate that we’re surviving so far.

Brain damaged or not.

Carry on.

GCBC Week 1 and contest winners

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Wasn’t general conference absolutely wonderful?  So much to love and feel.  The first week of General Conference Book Club is now up and running over at Becca’s blog, My Soul Delighteth (<– Just click right there.).  Don’t be shy.  Head on over and share your favorite conference moments.  I’m headed there next.

Here are the answers and winners of the questions for the general conference guessing game.  Answers are in red, followed by the winner for each question.  If there was more than one winner, then I shuffled them up and picked a winner using random.org.

General Conference Guessing Game

1.  How many new temples do you think will be announced?  None were announced.  :(  The winner with the closest number was Heidi.

2.  What’s your guess for any auxiliaries to be reorganized? (RS, YW, YM, SS, none)  Both RS and presiding bishopric were reorganized.  Oh, how I will miss Sister Beck!  Eight of you guessed right, but the winner was Becky.

3.  Take a guess at one location of a new temple.  Name a state in the US or a country outside of the US.  Again, none, so no winner for this question.

4.  Barring any absence, 11 of the 12 apostles speak in the four Saturday and Sunday sessions. Who’s your guess for the one apostle that only speaks in Priesthood session?  Elder Bednar.  Allyall was the only one who guessed this right.

5.  Who will conduct the first session of conference (Sat. AM)?  President Uchtdorf.  Twelve of you were spot on, and the winner was Mel.

6.  How many members of the church will be announced in the statistical report?  14,441,346 members worldwide.  Becky’s guess came closest.

7.  What color dresses will the women of the Tabernacle Choir wear on Sunday morning?  They wore purple/lavender dresses.  None of us guessed that right, so no winner to that question.

8.  Who will be the first woman to speak in this session of conference?  Sister Cheryl Esplin spoke first.  Shari won this one.

9.  What color tie will President Monson wear on Sunday?  Well, it looked to me like periwinkle :), so I took the three closest answers.  The winner was Lisa.

10.  Make a guess for a congregational hymn that might be sung at any of the four sessions.  There were four congregational hymns:  How Firm a Foundation, Called to Serve, Rejoice the Lord is King, and Hope of Israel.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but no one got this one right.

Okay, so there ended up being SEVEN question winners.  When they were all entered into a separate drawing, the grand prize winner was:  Mel.  Congratulations!  Send me an email (look up by my profile picture to get the address) and I’ll send you a copy of this great book that includes a couple of my very own essays:

Okay, what are you waiting for?  Head on over to GCBC.  Have a great week, everyone!

General Conference Guessing Game and a few more ideas

I usually do a post-conference trivia contest, but I thought it might be fun to shake things up a little bit and do a pre-conference guessing contest.  This might be fun to duplicate in your own family and play with each other.

For the sake of the blog, go ahead and make your guesses in the comment box below.  Since it’s all random guessing, I don’t think there’s any advantage or disadvantage by seeing each others’ picks.  I will pick the winner for each question (by drawing if there’s a tie), and then those 10 winners will go in a drawing for the “Grand Prize,” which will be a copy of the book I was proud to be a part of:

Tell Me Who I Am: Stories of Faith, Family, and Identity

So here goes:

General Conference Guessing Game

1.  How many new temples do you think will be announced?

2.  What’s your guess for any auxiliaries to be reorganized? (RS, YW, YM, SS, none)

3.  Take a guess at one location of a new temple.  Name a state in the US or a country outside of the US.

4.  Barring any absence, 11 of the 12 apostles speak in the four Saturday and Sunday sessions. Who’s your guess for the one apostle that only speaks in Priesthood session?

5.  Who will conduct the first session of conference (Sat. AM)?

6.  How many members of the church will be announced in the statistical report?

7.  What color dresses will the women of the Tabernacle Choir wear on Sunday morning?

8.  Who will be the first woman to speak in this session of conference?

9.  What color tie will President Monson wear on Sunday?

10.  Make a guess for a congregational hymn that might be sung at any of the four sessions.

I acknowledge that this is just for fun and has no true spiritual benefit other than to maybe make us pay a little more attention while we watch.  All entries recieved by 9:30 a.m. MST on Saturday morning will be in the running for the prize.  :)

Other ideas:

I’ve shared tons and tons and tons of conference preparation in the past, especially for the kids.  This year, I decided to do a little variation on the tradition “packet” idea.  Sometimes my kids just flip through the packet and pick a few things to do and then don’t seem to pay as much attention to it as I would like.  So I’m trying a new approach, based loosely on this idea I saw on Pinterest:

I printed out a list of the names of the First Presidency and 12 Apostles and then cut them out.  One copy for each child. (You could also use pictures instead of names.)

I skimmed through all the different packet versions I’ve seen over the years (there’s a good collection here) and printed out pages of specific activities I knew would engage my kids based on their interests, reading level, etc.  Then I stapled each apostle’s name to one activity (a crossword puzzle, a cut-and-paste of apostles in the red chairs, a Friend magazine to cut up and make a collage, etc.).  Not all of them are conference related.  There are one or two that are just stickers or stencils and crayons to keep their hands busy.  Some of them are just stapled to a piece of paper that says:  “Get 3 popsicle stick puzzles and play with them” or “Play the Apostles Memory Game

The idea is this: Whenever an apostles or First Presidency member speaks, the child finds the speaker’s name and can do that activity during his talk.  There will still be ongoing bingo and traditional packet items with notetaking, etc. (see below) for them to do during all the other speakers, but it helps them to pace out different activities and change focus often.

So other than making food and gathering up snacks, I’m ready to roll!  I hope it’s helpful to someone.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Bring on Conference!

CD Winner

Congratulations to the winner of the drawing:  Wendy

Answering the question, “What has motherhood taught you about Jesus Christ?,” Wendy answered:

On those hard days, I always think about “opposition in all things”, like if we don’t experience the hard times, we can’t have the good times. I have been touched as I have had promptings about different children. I know that it is a sacrifice to have children in some ways, but I also know that if I was living a different life, I wouldn’t be who I am. I wouldn’t be as nurturing. I wouldn’t be as sympathetic to other moms. I couldn’t be as Christ-like. I am in no way perfect, but I am on a journey of working for it!

Thanks to Wendy, and to all of your great and uplifting comments.  Thanks also to Mercy River for sharing their music, and especially to Whitney who wrote that great post and helped us see our role in new ways.

Wendy, send me your address and you will receive a copy of Mercy River’s new CD, Higher, in the mail.

To everyone else, pick up your own copy at the store or turn on some of your favorite uplifting music and have a great week.

Mothers: Symbols of the Savior (+CD giveaway)

What has motherhood taught you about Jesus Christ?

That’s the question I asked Whitney Permann of MERCY RIVER because it’s the central theme of my blog– finding the divine among the daily details of motherhood.  MERCY RIVER is a musical trio of LDS women (Brooke, Whitney, and Soni).  With thirteen kids between them, they understand how busy a mother’s life can be, and they also juggle being recording artists and inspirational speakers.  Check out this video for a peek of them rehearsing and entertaining seven kids at the same time.

Here is Whitney’s answer:

What has motherhood taught me about Jesus Christ?

Motherhood has taught me many things. I’ve learned that patterned shirts hide snot and spit up better than plain shirts. I’ve learned that cell phones don’t work correctly after they’ve been sucked on too many times. And I’ve learned that I should always check for stray pull ups before I throw a load of laundry in.

I’ve also learned about polar bear habitats, all five signs of strep throat, and the name of every member of the BYU football team.

But most importantly, motherhood has taught me a lot about Jesus Christ. As a mother, I’ve learned about justice and mercy, faith and prayer, joy and sorrow, and deep, intense love. Each of these things connects me to Him.

We are taught that as mothers, we are “partners” with Christ. We offer ourselves as vehicles through which spirits can come to earth. But perhaps we are more than just “partners” with Him.  Take a look at Moses 6:58:

“As ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit…even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten.”

Isn’t that stunning? Physical birth (from a mother) is symbolic of spiritual re-birth that will take place later in life (from Christ). So, as mothers, not only are we partners with Christ–

We are symbols of Christ.

We offer our physical bodies in pregnancy and childbirth to provide life for our children. Jesus Christ offered His physical body in death, to provide life for God’s children. And both involve water, blood, and the Spirit.

But it doesn’t stop there. A mother’s offering does not begin or end with her body. Yes, a mother offers her body through sleepless nights, weary arms, a well-worn lap, an aching back, and a listening ear. But what a mother offers most is her heart. Her entire soul. And isn’t that what Jesus Christ has offered us as well? Just as we see it symbolized in motherhood, He offers us His body, and His heart and soul.

So I ask, how does this knowledge–that we are symbols of Christ–change the way we view motherhood? Does it change the way I see myself or my children? Should it? And what is the meaning of it all? Why has He chosen to use mothers in this beautifully symbolic way?

I think it means He thinks we’re pretty special.

I think it means that mothering should be reverenced and protected.

I think it means that by daily nurturing, loving, teaching, and sacrificing for my children, not only am I coming to know more about Him, I am coming to be more like Him.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I love that, Whitney, and I absolutely agree.  Perhaps no other calling on earth can give more opportunity to become like Christ than the calling of a mother.  Thank you!

MERCY RIVER has just released a new album, “Higher,” and they are offering a free copy of their CD to one lucky reader.  There are some beautiful songs on this album.  I think my favorites are two songs I was already familiar with from the Christian radio station I like to listen to:  “Blessings” and “Better than a Hallelujah.”  This is great Sunday music, but it’s also upbeat enough for any day at home or in the car.

If you want to hear a song from this album, you can go to their Facebook page here and listen to “Beautiful Life.”  You’ll also find more information about their current blog tour and any upcoming performances.

So, you wanna be a winner?  It’s simple really.  In just one or two sentences, answer the same question Whitney did:  What has motherhood taught you about Jesus Christ? (Your answer doesn’t have to be original, just true to you.  It can be longer, too, but no pressure.)  Each person who comments before midnight on Friday will be entered in a drawing to win Mercy River’s new CD.

General Conference Trivia Answers and Winners!

Reminder:  If you haven’t added your voice to General Conference Book Club: Week 1 yet, you still can.  Don’t be shy.  :)

Well, you people deserve little general conference trophies or something.  Man, you were good listeners!  There were 28 questions.  Everyone who answered at least 27 questions correctly was entered into the prize(s) drawing– also known as Random.org.  (There were 11 people in the high-scoring category!)  Rest assured that I was not a tyrant grader; there was plenty of wiggle room when someone obviously had the right idea about an answer.  All the talks are available online to watch and listen to, so if you have issues with any of my questions and answers, feel free to submit a complaint form through the mail.  (All complaint forms must be accompanied by a handling fee of one bag of peanut butter M&Ms.)  Anyway… the winners!

Congratulations to KIMBERLY T. who won the temple print and SIERRA A. who won the Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD!  Send me an email with your mailing address by Sunday, and your prizes will be in the mail by … well, definitely by the next general conference.  I’ll do my best.  Thanks also to Lesa at Notes About Music who helped me host all this conference craziness and donated the CD for the trivia contest.  (If you don’t remember what these lovely prizes look like, go back here to peek.  I’m feeling a little too lazy to upload photos today. It’s been a busy week on the blog, people.)

Would you like to see the answers now?  Drumroll………..  Ta Dah!

GENERAL CONFERENCE TRIVIA CONTEST

 SPOKEN WORD

When President Monson addressed the congregation for the very first time in this conference, what was the first thing he said?            HELLO!

How many new temples were announced?  And which one does President Monson want to dedicate himself?      5-6: (PROVO TABERNACLE,COLOMBIA, SOUTH AFRICA, CONGO, WYOMING, +PARIS);  STAR VALLEY, WYOMING.

Finish this clever rhyme from President Uctdorf’s talk.  “The Lord doesn’t care if we work in marble halls or      (?)     .      STABLE STALLS

What kind of bird did President Packer refer to when teaching youth to learn from their elders?       CROW

Elder Perry spoke about the Church in the media.  He asked us to share the church and the gospel with the outside world the same way that volunteers do at what kind of event?      TEMPLE OPEN HOUSE

What did Elder Scott give his family as a Christmas gift in 1991?       AUDIO RECORDING OF HIMSELF READING THE BOOK OF MORMON

According to Elder Scott, what endeavor/achievement is “like forging a new friendship”?      MEMORIZING A SCRIPTURE

Elder Bednar suggested that young people are gifted in technology for a purpose.  What does he encourage them to do instead of video games, Facebook and surfing the Internet?            FAMILY HISTORY

Elder Christofferson said that we should smile when we speak about what principle?      REPENTANCE

Which apostle quoted a mommy blogger who said, “Motherhood is not a hobby; it is a calling.”?      ELDER ANDERSEN

 In Sister Thompson’s talk, she told the story of a woman during WWII who was asked how she kept a testimony through all her suffering.  Complete the woman’s response:  “I didn’t keep a testimony, …….”      A TESTIMONY KEPT ME.

Elder Whitney L. Clayton was able to go into the presidential palace that he had once taught in front of on his mission.  In what country?      PERU

Elder Ian Ardern gave a great talk about managing our time.  Finish this wise piece of counsel:  “Let us be as quick to kneel as we are to _______.”      TEXT

Elder Carl B. Cook found himself riding in an elevator with President Monson when he was feeling very discouraged.  What was the prophet’s advice?  IT’S BETTER TO LOOK UP.

What did President Monson lose as a child that helped him gain his testimony of prayer?      $5 BILL

What are the three points that President Eyring reminded us are part of our baptism covenant?      1. BE CHARITABLE   2. BE A WITNESS  3. ENDURE TO THE END

According to Elder Ballard, what 9 words explain exactly who we are and what we believe? THE CHURCH  OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS

According to Elder Tad Callister, why are there so many Christian churches?  THEY INTERPRET THE BIBLE DIFFERENTLY

On Sunday morning, we were taught about fatherhood in one of the best talks on the matter I’ve ever heard.  Who was the speaker?      SISTER DALTON

Elder Russell M. Nelson said that the greatest compliment that can be given in this life is to be known as a    (what?)   ?      COVENANT KEEPER

 Brother Richardson told a story about mountain hiking with his children.  What did he do when they wanted to know how much further they had to go?      THEY TURNED AROUND AND LOOKED HOW FAR THEY CAME

  What happened to Elder Randall K. Bennet when he ignored a warning sign?      HE ALMOST DROWNED

When Elder Cornish wanted to eat a piece of chicken, how was his prayer answered?      HE FOUND A QUARTER ON THE GROUND

 MUSIC

Where was the children’s choir from?      PleasantView and North Ogden, Utah

What primary song did the Tabernacle choir sing during the Saturday morning session?      I am a child of God

During the Saturday morning session we were asked to sing the congregational song with full hearts. What was the name of the hymn? Redeemer of Israel

The women in the tabernacle choir wore two dresses during conference.  What colors were they?      BLUE AND PINK

What Hymn did Sister Dalton refer to in her talk?            RISE UP, O MEN OF GOD

Thanks for participating.  It was fun!

In case you missed it, the general conference photo contest winners are up now, too.  Go here to vote for your favorite.