Monday, October 28, 2013

The Saddest Day of the Summer

For the last couple of years, the Gilbert Temple has been under construction.  I have tried to take my children to the visitor's trailer as often as possible.  Whenever Emmett or Tyson has asked to drive by the Gilbert Temple, I have tried to reroute and make time for it.  I have also purposely tried to schedule moments to eat lunch there, or watch the construction.  We have seen cranes, dump trucks, cement trucks, back hoes, trailers, and heavy machinery of all kinds in action.  We have heard the pounding of hammers & nails, the clanging of metal, and seen the glint of the Angel Moroni in the sun as it was hoisted to the top.  We have acquired more temple rocks than we truly need, and felt the love, peace, and excitement that can only come with this once in a life time experience.  We have been to the trailer & up the ramp so many times that my kids felt like they owned it.  So in the middle of the Summer you can imagine the slough of emotions I felt when we arrived one day to find caution tape on the ramp, and this sign:

I just cried.  I cried because watching the Gilbert Temple being constructed has been AMAZING.  I wasn't really crying because it was over, even though I truly was sad it was over, and my little Emmett's head just hung down when he realized what the sign meant.  I wasn't crying because we missed it, because we definitely haven't.  We have been there, through ALL the stages of construction.  
I think I just cried because it's been so beautiful, and we've enjoyed it so much, that I almost wish the construction didn't have to end, as odd as that might sound.  I know the reason you build a temple is so that it can be opened for work, and to bring people to the Lord as they worship.  But, honestly, truly, the construction phase has been an anchor to my family, a perfect event to interest my little boys, and has brought insights and conversations that we never would have had otherwise.  My heart is full that we've had the last 2 years to anticipate what is to come at the beginning of next year!
The landscaping is still being put in right now.  Fortunately, after the saddest day of the summer when we realized the temple visitor's trailer would be closing, they took down the caution tape, and we got to visit some more.  That eased us into what would come, because now it really is, truly, closed down, and we have to view the progress of the landscaping now from different angles.  But, I am so grateful for that little trailer & for what it's meant to me, Mitch, and our boys in the last 2 years.
Priceless - the kids feel so happy visiting the temple site.

This is what I meant - my kids felt like they owned the outside viewing ramp. :) 
I was always telling them to quit hanging on the railing. Boys!

The Sword of TRUTH!

Look closely - you will see Miles' footprints on the ramp - it was a rainy day & he stepped in mud.

I am so grateful to have a temple in Gilbert, AZ.  I know that saving ordinances are performed there that are necessary to bring us back into the presence of God the Father and the Son.  I know that they live and love us, and that there is a plan for each one of us on this earth, and that the Lord has paved the pathway for ALL of us to come unto Him.  I know that families are central to the Creator's plan for the ETERNAL DESTINY of his children, and that ordinances available in holy temples make it possible for family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.  With all my heart, I pray that my children will FEEL the power of being covenant keepers, and that they will choose to live their lives in accordance with the Lord's plan.  I pray that they will know where to turn for a remission of their sins, and that they will choose to serve the Lord with all their might, mind, and strength, and I pray that Mitchell and I will do what it takes to be covenant keepers all our lives so that we can be worthy of these special children that have come into our home.  With all my heart I pray that we can give them an example worthy of emulating, and that we will endure to the end and have a forever family.  That's the dream. I know that with the Lord's help - in his infinite grace and mercy - that no matter what trials come in this life, He will help us get back to him no matter what weaknesses or struggles come our way, and that the temple is one of His ways of drawing us closer to Him.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Our Pet Crickets Sure Don't Last Very Long!

We have pet crickets!  Aren't they disgusting?!  We even feed them fancy, vitamin based, cricket cubes to ensure they stay healthy in their short lived lives while we harbor them to be devoured by our...

These are technically TYSON'S fire belly toads.  After all he DID work ALL SUMMER LONG to earn them this year.  He had been begging me and Mitch to let him keep a snake that he caught, or a lizard, but we weren't ready to take care of a pet for him.  So we told him he had to prove to us that he could be responsible enough by doing his chores every single day of the Summer.  Well, he did it, and then we realized cages are expensive and that we should have been making him save up for the pets instead.  Fortunately, we adopted these little guys, with the cage and all off of Craigslist.  The look on Tyson's face on the ride home from getting his new pets was PRICELESS.  I've never seen him smile exactly like that before.  It meant so much to him.  Tyson promptly named our fire belly toads Yoda & Darth Vader. 
The Circle of Life is common to all creatures, and within an hour of picking the pets up, Mitch and I quickly realized why the owners were selling them.  It appeared that we actually bought Yodette & Darth Mater.  We haven't seen any tadpoles, yet, and Tyson is still pretty innocent on the matter, so life goes on.

 After about a week, we realized how much the tank stinks, and how much work it is to clean it, so we bought a filter & jazzed everything up with seashells and plants to make it look like a jungle!  Tyson is still unsatisfied with the jungle. He wants bigger & better.  He also wants a room full of reptiles, and that's not happening any time soon.  He just loves animals.  Maybe he can take his love for animals and turn it into a professional endeavor someday.  In the mean time we're just forking out dough to buy more pet crickets ALL THE TIME.  They sure don't last very long!  :)

But it's worth it!  :)  Especially because ever since Tyson's pet snail "Flippy" died and he asked us, "Can't we just get something better than a flippin' snail?"  Mitch & I have been trying to make it up to him.  I think these awesome little toads really are a blessing to our family, and it reminds me of my little brothers when they had pets like this in their room.  They're fun to feed, they jump really high, sometimes they croak, Tyson likes to get creative to design their tank, and they're a lot less maintenance than cleaning up after a larger animal.  The only down-side is that I'm friends with the people at the Pet store, because I have to show up every time I turn around to buy more crickets.  Oh, well!  That's how it goes, I guess this is how I learn to turn into my mother - these are the things that moms do for their little boys.  What an adventure!  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

$0.98 Pajamas

Sometimes you get what you pay for.  You know it's true.  Our stupendous neighbor gives us extra coupons that she finds, like $10 off at Kohl's.  She's so generous & we'll love her forever.
With one of my coupons, I bought pajamas because I needed some new ones.  I found a pajama set on clearance for $10.98, so with my coupon, I only paid $0.98.  Unfortunately, tonight I tried them on and discovered I can only wear the bottoms with a different top, or the top with different PJ bottoms, because if I wear them all at once, I just look like an unflattering blue butterfly blob!  That's when I realized I shoulda used my coupon on something more expensive.  Haha!  Every bargain has it's price. 
At any rate, Mitchell saw that I switched my shirt for one of his T-Shirts, and for whatever reason this affects him the same way it would affect a sibling who stole a shirt from the other without asking.  Imagine the outrage.  Don't worry - he eventually got revenge on me. Later tonight I found him looking like THIS:
He's soaking his foot in epsom salts, because he had a poisonous thorn in his toe from work that's made his big-toe all swollen (he got it at the DUMP of all places, and the thorn went THROUGH his shoe to stab him in the joint of his big-toe.  Sometimes you just can't win.)  Doesn't he look awesome with his plaid pants & blue butterfly shirt?

Take 1:  Blurry

Take 2:  What a joke!

Take 7:  Finally got one right! :) 
You know it's true love when your man isn't afraid to wear your pajama shirt to exact revenge!
You got me, Honey!

Monday, October 21, 2013

We've Been Booed!

Normally getting "Booed" isn't a good thing, but at Halloween time it is!
Much to our delight, at the end of a no-kidding, long & stressful day last week, our family happened upon some treats left at our doorstep! 
Miles is growing more mobile & independent every day, so of course he would pick up a cupcake & immediately shove it in his face. 

Look how happy these boys are! 

This is why I love the holidays!

Emmett fell asleep on the ride home the night we got BOOED, so he found the treats in the morning - can you guess what he had for breakfast?  It was unwrapped & partially eaten before I even made it into the kitchen.  Don't ask me why he took his shirt off.  :) This boy has a mind of his own!  It's like his little brain thinks, "I should swing outside in the brisk air at 8am with my shirt off while eating a carmel apple...yes...that would be the perfect way to start my day!"  And then he does it.

The fun still lasts - we got to share the love of getting booed with others, and my baby boy likes to point and giggle at the monster every time we walk inside our house.  It cracks me up!

Thanks, Halloween Phantom!  We sure love you!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When Something is Finally Right in the World - Thank You Bank of America!

Dear President Brian Monaghan,

You did it, Bank of America!  I didn't think you would prove me wrong, but you DID!  I can't tell you how thrilled I am that the "Big Ole' Corporate World of Banking" is actually tossing out a flicker of love to the little guys!

A few days before September 9th--the day my life was going to be forever changed and impeded by the closing down of all Bank of America drive through windows--I quit going to the bank.  It's true.  I bent over backwards to get the deposits made without the kids in tow.  Sometimes I sent the babysitter, sometimes my sister, other times I waited until the work crews were in and I could send my boss to do my job.  *Awkward* My life was moving forward in a very inconvenient way.  But then one day... I was able to leave the kids with someone while I ran errands. I found the courage to walk in the doors of the bank and to face all my teller friends at what had formerly been my favorite banking location.  I was stripped of my banking pride, defeated if you will, but I slapped on a smile despite the internal gloom telling me that I didn't do enough to keep the drive-thrus open.  I didn't do enough to stand up for moms with little kids like me, and the employees at the branch didn't, either.

That's when the friendly teller said, "I haven't seen you!  Did you know that we're able to keep one lane of the drive thru open?  For now, we're only putting ATM's on the 2nd lane over!"

I was so happy, I couldn't believe it - you really proved me wrong!

Today, I had one of my little guys in tow while I was making a deposit.  As I sat at the drive through window having my banking needs met by a friendly & courteous teller (as opposed to a cold & impersonal ATM), I felt that life was as it should be.  I didn't have to disrupt the tranquility of my sleeping child and I could still complete the tasks I needed to, and all the while I gleaned 3 minutes of adult interaction at the teller window. The conversation ended as the employee offered me our usual lollipop at the end of the banking adventure.  I declined the lolly, because my son was sleeping, but  life was fabulous. 

Truly, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you!  My sleeping baby thanks you.  The people who were in line inside the bank thank you that I didn't have an angry toddler screaming in line.  Even though the country seems to be in complete disarray right now, as I drove away from Bank of America this afternoon, I felt nothing short of PEACE and LOVE!  Finally, something is right again in the world!  Gotta love my drive-thru banking!

Miles sleeping in the drive-thru line at the bank, today.
My gratitude must also be extended to you for two more reasons:
  • Because you chose to listen to the needs of your customers, I was able to channel my efforts and energy into something more valuable (those underlined words were a link) than picketing outside of your banking institution and scheduling a mass-drive-thru day...which I truthfully was considering.  As strongly as I do feel about the importance of drive-thru banking for young mothers, I am grateful for the time I was able to give to young women in the community who are trying to "Be their Best Selves", instead of exhausting my energy to rally local support and media coverage to save banking drive-thru windows.  
  • Also, because of my outrage at the original decision you made to close all of the drive thru windows, I found myself unable to sleep one night.  The same fateful night I sent you a scathing letter (click on the underlined "scathing letter" to go to the post) into the cyber-world was ironically the same night I was able to stop a thief in his tracks.  It was about 2:30am.  I couldn't sleep, and amid the fast and furious clickety-clacking of the keyboard at my fingertips, I heard a quick honk from my husband's truck.  When I went to the window to see why he was outside, I pulled on the door handle and realized the house was still locked.  That's when it sank in that it wasn't my husband I was looking at rummaging through our vehicle!  I quickly opened the door, and scared the weebie-ba-jeebies out of the thief when I yelled at him in a morning voice that made me sound like a man, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!?!?!?!"  Amid all of the action with the police report and the adrenaline rush, I realized that had I not been awake, the thief would have taken much more from us.  My dad made me sound like a heroine, "Debra Jo:  Blogger & Thwarter of Thieves!"  But, truthfully, if I didn't have something worth blogging about, I may have ended up jipped of drive-thru banking services, AND hundreds of dollars worth of work supplies & tools that had been in my husband's vehicle on that particular night.  So, thank you for the outrage, I guess - and thank you for fixing it, too! 
Once Again a Happy & Loyal Customer,

Debra Jo

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Distinguished Young Women of Arizona

I had an amazing experience this Fall, participating with the Distinguished Young Women of Arizona program.  Back in the day, it was called "Junior Miss".  Being 11 years past that stage of my life, it was nice to not be competing for anything, except for hits on the DYWofAZ blog (Go check it out!  After only 11 posts, we've had 4,550 hits--let's get to 5,000!).  One of my favorite posts on that blog includes this "inspirational message" I shared with the girls before their interviews & main performance.    One of my favorite bloggers called this a "Summer Anthem" at the beginning of the Summer, and I turned it into a "mandatory" lesson for the girls in the program. :)  Thank you, for helping us be brave, Sara Bareilles!

In all honesty, volunteering with the program brought me a new found love and appreciation for all the leaders who put the program on when I did it (namely people like Aimee Patton, who ran the Gilbert Junior Miss Program for many years with little kids at home).  How many nights did they stay up late?  How many trips did they take to the store?  How many phone calls did they make, or meetings did they attend?  How many times did they bend over backwards just to make it all come together?  Now that I've seen a glimpse of the sacrifices they made, I understand more clearly how much those leaders really cared about me (and all the other girls involved).  Now I know how deeply important it was to them that all of us could internalize the message to "Be Your Best Self".  "Be Your Best Self" is an invaluable message and life lesson--it helps young women rise above challenges, recognize their own worth, find confidence in who they are, and know that it's okay to be unique (not some cookie cutter model off of a magazine cover).  When you can teach a girl to be her best self, she begins to feel something more inside - happiness, excitement, hope, life, and truth.  The truth I speak of is that she has God-given attributes, talents, and gifts - when developed these gifts enrich her life purpose and meaning.

One night I went to Costco to get food for the DYW girls.  While I was busy catching a picture of my cute baby using the watermelons as foot rests, I handed the Costco man 1 receipt for pizza.  I'm sure he was wondering how we thought we would get out of the store.  Fortunately, I remembered Costco isn't a photo studio, and I pulled out the other 2 receipts from my wallet. Sometimes when you buy food from Costco for DYW, you feel the urge to bring someone else along & they feel the need to make a purchase, and then you see something that you know won't be there tomorrow, so you buy it on the spot, and before you know it, you're explaining why you have 3 receipts and act like a ditz to the guard at the door so he'll let you out! :)

I was so fortunate to be part of the committee; not only did I meet and learn from the incredible women running the program, and feel the vibrant energy of the contestants, but I got to wear an official name tag, too!  I'm telling you every single girl who participated in the Distinguished Young Women of AZ program this year was beautiful, talented, friendly, gorgeous, intelligent, and had so much to be proud of. 

On the night of the competition, I enjoyed the program more than most, because I was so happy to see that all the hard work paid off--each girl gave it 110%, and performed their talents better than I'd ever seen before.  They all demonstrated their best selves.  I also had a difficult time watching the competition, because I had come to know all the girls on a personal level.  So even though every single one walked away from the program a better and changed young woman, I wished they could have all walked away with scholarship money, too.  I was so excited & happy for the girls who  won scholarships, sad for the ones who didn't, proud of all the teenagers for being supportive of each other, grateful I had the experience to learn from Jesika Harmon, Becky Mills, & Liane Carmichael, and bummed that the program was over (until next year).   That's a lot of emotions in one moment!  But it was still AWESOME!

Coral is in, by the way.  Miss Katie Wilkinson (The Distinguished Young Woman of 2013) wears it!  Cheryl & I were happy to be matching her at this particular rehearsal.

This is Jaylia Yan - the vibrant, talented, intelligent, well-rounded, and beautiful Distinguished Young Woman of Arizona for 2014.  She will be a great representative for the State of Arizona this next year, and I'm so happy for her!  Now green is in, but I didn't get the memo for the night of the show.  Good thing I still have time to spend around Jaylia. :)


Saturday, October 5, 2013

May It Ever Stand

Have you ever been "From Sea to Shining Sea"?
Have you ever prayed that your children would grow up to be leaders who stand up for what's good & right in this world?
Have you ever stood in the halls of greatness?  Have you FELT the passion and love of America started by our Founding Fathers?
Do you remember what America was like in the 1990's - before 9-11 & terrorist extremism - before you feared that every plane you were ever on could be hijacked?
Have you ever seen a bald eagle at the National Zoo, and FELT the pride of America?
This 6-year old felt it so strongly, that he donated his coins to the fund at the exhibit.  "This guy is in charge of the Zoo.  I am NOT leaving, until I help him out."
Have you ever seen the ripples of hope, promise, and inspiration caused by the Wright Brothers?
Do you know the full potential Americans could achieve if they were just allowed to grasp it?
Have you TASTED it?
Have you seen the creativity of a people who are allowed to be who they want to be? 
Have you seen a business flourish and turn into something sweet because hard work paid off?
Have you ever been at a National Monument, where the signs ask for REVERENCE, and the RESPECT on the premises is so TANGIBLE it makes you cry? 
In these places there are TRUTHS etched on the walls - principles that have changed the course of this blessed land and that have affected the world.  Within these pillars and walls is the SPIRIT that has guided a Nation and preserved the UNION.
Have you ever gone to pay respect to the Great Americans of the past, met the Great Americans of today, and seen the Great Americans of the future?
Have you met a Capitol policeman, whose blood runs so red, white, and blue, that he treats the youngest of Americans with the same protection & respect that he would give to a Congressman, or even the President himself?
Every day of this week, my heart has been heavy for my country.  With the "Government Shutdown" enacted by the actions of the President, Senate, and House of Representatives, the "little guys", the civilians, are the ones who are being punished.  While the elected officials are still drawing their paychecks, all the government workers won't be able to get paid until the budget is resolved.  We're talking about people like my brother-in-law, people like my friend's husband, people like our favorite Capitol policeman, DQQKY. 
The crisis has been going strong for 5 days, and there is no end to the shutdown in sight.  The President is removing himself from ALL responsibility and blaming the GOP - he also speaks out of both sides of his mouth - I heard him say that he's willing to make negotiations, but that there can't be any negotiations until the government is back up and running.  The Republicans are also pointing the fingers at the Democrats.  WHAT on EARTH is tagged on to the issues being voted on that is making the Speaker of the House so uneasy about putting the budget to a vote?  The tragedy of our government system is that when an issue is at hand, it seems nothing is allowed to be passed unless another unrelated issue is piggybacked on the bill.  It's not clean anymore.  It's always messy. 
And there are too many American people who quit paying attention, they're too busy living their free lives to care, and they make fun of the people who do care.  And so what happens to the rest of us?  We get to deal with this (the following pictures were taken from Bing Images): 
I've decided that those people who make fun of the rest of us for caring, are the ones who don't truly understand the PRICE that was paid so that they could have the right to be apathetic.  Freedom isn't free! 
There are certain places in this country that should NEVER be shut down.  They are places like the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Monument, the Lincoln Monument, the Statue of Liberty, etc.  They are the places where the Spirit of America inspires all who come. They are the places where you feel the truth and the resolve to be a better American and contribute to this great land.  Because of the budget crisis, our country is paying (or will be when the budget passes) security to close off the monuments instead of security to stand by them like they usually do.  We're paying for fences, and signs.  By the way, just how long have some of these signs been printed?  That Statue of Liberty sign looks pretty fancy.  Has this crisis been planned?  Maybe it has.
The message I'm reading from all of this, is that our government is yelling loud and clear to the American people, "These are not YOUR monuments or National Parks.  These are OURS, and WE are in control.  Not the people."
The other day I posted the following on facebook:
The America I knew—just 2 weeks ago—still gave SOME respect to the principles our country was founded upon.  I’m outraged that these memorials & other symbols of America are “shut down” & “fenced off” today.  Can you feel the shackles?  They’ve been coming on slowly, but they’re squeezing the lifeblood out of our Nation!  It’s a sign!  Freedom isn’t free!  And when we sit back as citizens & let our elected officials rule over us like a King and His Court – squandering our tax dollars at will, pointing fingers of blame at everyone else, and then punishing the citizens for it—they DEGRADE what’s beautiful, hopeful, and blessed in America.  Even during the Civil War, President Lincoln continued the construction on the Capitol building.  He KNEW that to continue building it was a SYMBOL that would INSPIRE the people to believe again that the UNION of the States would prevail.  And so it did!  Shutting down the symbols of our rich American history at the Nation’s Capitol is a message in and of itself: the sacred, inspired Constitution & laws of the land are being trampled under foot.  Wake up, America!
My sister-in-law's grandfather was a WWII Vet, and he said Tuesday morning, "This is not the America I fought for."
That comment made me the saddest of all.  What a disgrace. What a disservice to the "Home of the Brave."
To anyone who cares, please remember that "The world is RUN by those who SHOW UP." 
Start showing up!
Be involved in your communities.  Start caring again!  Show up to PTSO meetings, to HOA meetings, Town Council meetings, attend 4th of July Celebrations, contact your representatives, V-O-T-E, sign petitions, teach your children the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the National Anthem, visit the places that are rich in American history (when you can again), and most of all pray that we will be "One Nation Under God", and that Capitol Hill will once again remember the mantra of "E pluribus unum" - out of many, one.  Bring back the America that was bought and paid for by blood!