Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lamborghinis or Camaros

Today the boys were arguing in the car about the number concept of infinity.  Emmett says it's a number, and I pretty much agree with him.  Tyson says it's a word, and Mitch agrees with him by explaining that 'infinity' is a concept.  Both are kind of right for the way my boys use the number/concept infinity, like when Emmett told me yesterday, "Even though you love me, I know I love you more, because I love you infinity space infinity times!"  Could a mother's heart be any prouder?  I LOVE MY FOUR YEAR OLD!

At any rate, 4 year olds can't really understand the kinds of things that 6 year olds do, and plus for brotherly affection they need something to disagree on anyway, but Mitch and I couldn't handle their back-seat debate for more than a mile, because Emmett was getting upset about Tyson's intellectual retorts.  I changed the subject completely in the only brilliant way I knew how - with a debate I actually like.  

We all used to LOVE Lamborghini's.  Even my boys.  Until my nephew, Caden, told them that Camaros were better.  (WHAT?  No they're not!  But of course, the boys will choose Caden's opinion any day over Mom's.)  Until today the last monumental experience we had with Camaros happened in the Michael's parking lot on Valentine's Day. 

(Gotta love that cool, tough-guy face!)
We pulled in and Emmett spotted the Camaro from a mile away.  
 "I think that's a Camaro," he said. 
"Well, let's go check and see." 
Finding the words on the side, I thought he'd be impressed. "Look Emmett!  Let's sound this out - what does a 'c' say?  What does an 'a' say...." We read the word CAMARO.  But he wasn't convinced. 
"Hmmm...let's check the tail lights."
Running to the back of the car he sees the tail lights and nods with CONVICTION,
"YEP!  It's a Camero!!!"
Silly boy!  Apparently that's how he always identifies his favorite car - I can't tell the difference between cars with only the tail lights and I'm 29, but a 4 year old boy certainly can.  WOW!
Going back to our conversation in the car (I have to document this so I have proof when they're older).  I asked the boys, "Which one of you is going to be a super hard working and successful businessman who will have so much extra money that you'll buy me a Lamborghini when you grow up?"
They both thought for a minute without answering, and Emmett WISELY responded:
Only if you buy us a Camaro.
You got it, Buddy!  I have no problem with that! :)
Tyson said, "They're A LOT of money, so if you buy one, you can't afford a house."
"That's okay," I said, "You can live in your Camaro if you want."
Here's to dreaming about our future cars:


Saturday, March 29, 2014

It's So Emmett

Emmett, you only have one more year left at home with me before you have to go to school all the time.  What do you want to do?
Play Legos!

I love this little boy - he won't let you cut his hair, and he doesn't want it fixed.  He won't wear clothes that fit him. He likes the pants with the holes in them.  And he loves Legos.  Of anything we could have chosen to do in this world, he wanted to play with Legos.  We're living the dream!
It was Grandpa Tenney's birthday TWO WEEKS AGO.  The "day of" happened to also be a Sunday.  After church we were planning to go to my parents for my dad's birthday and to watch my youngest brother open his mission call.  Unfortunately, we told Emmett about our plans for the day BEFORE church, and he made it clear (imagine tantrums and tears) that he WASN'T GOING TO CHURCH.  He wanted to celebrate Grandpa's birthday and see Heber open his mission call RIGHT NOW.  It was all we could do to help him see logic and understand that we had to wait, but it didn't work.  After frustration on all sides, Mitchell had a miracle happen - he took a deep breath and began thinking from his frontal lobe - that's why he's a great parent...he was doing this naturally....I have to consciously tell myself to breathe in order to get similar results.  At any rate, we told Emmett that we could wrap Grandpa's present before church, and Emmett got his mischievous thinking cap on - "Let's wrap it in Christmas paper."  Don't be fooled - he was still being a stinker about church, and he wasn't cracking a smile quite, yet, but the distraction was slightly promising - that's when Mitchell was brilliant and let Emmett know that there was princess wrapping paper in the garage.  The deal was sealed, and Emmett was focused completely on playing a joke on Grandpa by wrapping his gifts in girlie princess wrapping paper.  And yes, he smiled, just enough to forget briefly that we were still going to church.  Mitch helped Emmett meticulously make sure the princesses were exactly on the package so Grandpa knew it was GIRL wrapping paper.
We made it to church and he loved his Primary class, even though he didn't want to go at 8am.  Then we went to my parent's house.  Heber opened his call to Tampico Mexico.  Then the neighbor's had the cops trying to make an arrest.  I had a meeting after that.  My dad finally cooked his own birthday dinner.  We ate at 8pm. Emmett tried to be sneaky and he told Grandpa, "You're going to like your presents; they're NOT ties!" (Which of course gave it away, because we gave him ties!) And somehow by the time presents and cake were happening, Emmett had fallen ASLEEP!  So much for the wrapping paper joke!
Well Grandpa was nice and he only opened one of his ties on his birthday.  He saved the other one for when Emmett would be awake and around.  Emmett got to enjoy watching the present get opened today, and the look on his face was priceless!  He was so pleased with himself for the joke he played on Grandpa, and it made him feel special that Grandpa waited to open it when he could see.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Published by Anna - The Greatest Honor!

Where do I begin?  Isn't that always the question?
Even when the message you need to share is engrained in your heart, mind, and spirit, the obstacle still remains.  Can I get it on the page like I see it in my head?
When it all comes out, it's still not perfect.  You read and analyze and over-analyze, until you don't like the concept anymore, or until you finally put it away and nothing becomes of it.
But once in a while your thoughts come out the way you'd like them to, and once in a while, you find a friend - someone like Anna - who sees more in yourself than you do.
About a year ago, I attended a chapter retreat for the ANWA Writer's Club.  I asked a few friends for critiques and advice on my writing.  With a tip from the wise (Cindy Williams), I was led to Anna's room.  She paused what she was doing, and in an instant focused on me like I was the most important thing in the world.  In that special moment, I found myself tutored for an hour by the poetry MASTER!  We discussed meter, rhythm, rhyme, how to read poems like prose, how to NOT sound "contrived", and also how to work through the problems with her computer's software.  In our time together that day, Anna asked me permission to publish the poem I was working on, "In My Baby's Eyes", in her poetry book called "Just a Woman - Romping through Poetry with Anna Laurene Arnett".  I immediately felt a lump catch in my throat!  I was shocked, humbled, honored, and a little nervous.  Before I submitted the final draft, I wanted to run my poem past a few more trusted friends and family members - like my Aunt Linda, the famous columnist for the East Valley Tribune, and my friend Cindy Williams, and my parents - so I didn't hand it over right away.
And then we went swimming - the woman with the most darling swimming suit of all was almost 89 years young; I left the retreat hoping to be more like her someday.
Fast forward.  It's now 2014, and Anna has completed "Just a Woman".  It's a compilation of many of Anna's original poems - chalked full of the divinity of womanhood and motherhood, the joys, the struggles, and the laughter.  In it, she shares who she is, explains how to read and write poetry, and also shares poems of authors who have written messages that resonate with her principles, with who she is and how she feels.  On Friday night, her son hosted an Ice Cream Social to kick off the celebration of this great adventure.  I saw the digital flier and knew I couldn't miss this.  Mitch and I took the kids and our neighbor Devin to the enchanting house in Tempe.  Truth be told, it's been a while since I've corresponded with Anna, I wasn't 100% sure if she actually included my poem in her final manuscripts.  On the drive over, Mitchell asked me if I was going to ask Anna, "So, did I make the cut?"  Well, I didn't even have to ask!
Upon my arrival, Anna GAVE me my very own signed copy of her poetry book with a personally crocheted bookmark because I'm "one of her authors" (you can find me on page 152, to be exact). 

I tried to tell her what it means to me to be included in this, but for someone who loves words, I just couldn't seem to find any that really fit.

After the signing, there was a poetry reading.  When it comes to poetry reading, Anna is the queen!  She is vivacious, funny, enchanting, and completely at ease on the stage.  She is confident, thoughtful, endearing, and kind.  She is always teaching, and sharing, and loving - even as she performs. 

Anna invited me to participate in my very first poetry reading that night.  I asked Anna for a pointer beforehand.  In her grace and mercy, she announced before her own personal renditions that "the hardest poems to recite are the ones you've written yourself!"  I believe that's true, because I still have thoughts swirling in my head of all the changes I've made or thought of making in my writing.  But Anna didn't fool anyone.  She's been reciting poems for 85 years, and I believe she just held her poetry book in her hands FOR ME to feel more comfortable, because that's who she is.  She is so classy and so sweet!  As you can see by the pictures, my book was OPEN as I recited, and hers was CLOSED.  Even so, it was an adventure, a privilege, and an honor that Anna would care enough to include me and that she would invite me to share my poem on her special night. 
In an effort to further explain - this special evening with Anna means MORE to me than any other academic or literary achievement I have ever had and more to me than any others I might achieve someday.  To be included by Anna and published by Punkin Roller Publishing simply takes the cake.  It's more monumental to me than graduating college with honors, and means more to me than if my other writings were to ever be picked up or published by ANY other company (no matter how large) at some future date. 
I was so humbled to be a part of this night with Anna and it means SO MUCH to me!  I will always love and adore this amazing lady! 

Bridget, Anna, Debra Jo, Miles
Bridget is the darling 11 year old author, who was only 10 at the time she wrote the poem, "Animals" that Anna also published in "Just a Woman".  I was so excited to hear Bridget recite her poem and to have her sign my book, too.  I wanted my baby Miles be in this picture, because he was the one that inspired me to write "In My Baby's Eyes". 

I happen to have children's books in the works that have been inspired mainly by my other boys, Tyson and Emmett - hopefully sooner than later, I will also make those dreams become a reality.  Thanks to Anna, I have more confidence that I really will be able to make those dreams come true!

Now I'm back to working on my writing.  Where do I begin?  That's always the question.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Skin Cancer Removal Party

Sunday night I could hardly sleep.  I was exhausted from several months of non-stop activities, but because of my surgery scheduled for 6:45am on Monday the 10th, I couldn't force myself to hit the sack.  What was it going to be like?  Would I see the scalpel coming in to slice my face?  The skin cancer spot wasn't extremely large, but it had been growing.  The flaky, pink colored flesh was circular in shape and on the left side of the bridge of my nose.  If the surgeon cut too deeply, would it affect my eyesight?  Would I come out of this operation blind in my left eye?  Had 5 years been long enough for the basal cells to grow into my cartilage like my friend Carrie who had to have almost a complete nose reconstruction when her skin cancer spread like fire through the cartilage on her nose?  I was glad this wasn't melanoma, but what did this mean for me if I'm only 29 with skin cancer of any sort?  The answers would only come in time, but my mind demanded the unanswerable.
So much for putting the kids to bed early - it didn't buy me any extra shut-eye before the procedure.  Finally I sat to read; the words calmed my racing mind enough to help me conk out around 11:30.
In the last moments of consciousness I felt instant relief that my mind and body was relaxing - I planned to get 6 straight hours of sleep before the alarm went off.  But the tension was back at 12:30. I dozed back off. At 1:30 I couldn't sleep comfortably because one of my boys crawled in my bed.  I moved.  Strange dreams woke me up at 2:30.  At 3:30 I was eyeing the clock to make sure I didn't sleep past my alarm.  At 4:30 I was relieved I could catch one more hour of rest before the alarm.  Finally the alarm came and it was time to go get all the answers to the previously unanswerable questions. 
I tried to make myself look as cute as possible without make up, but I couldn't wipe the worry off my face or erase the bags under my eyes.  A little bit of rest would have fixed that problem!
We rushed out the door and Mitchell dropped me off at the Desert Cliffs Surgical Center.  I kissed my babies good-bye and Mitch rushed off to take them to my mother-in-law and then he planned to rush back.  I remembered the reassuring words my boys had for me the night before.  Tyson gently said, "I'm sorry you have skin cancer, Mom."  I told him I was sad, too, but that I would be okay.  Emmett said, "You might cry."  That made me laugh, and then Tyson grimaced as he imagined the cancer getting cut out of my face, "You might scream like a little girl!"  I love that they said everything no one else would say - sometimes you need the frankness of a child just so you can laugh it off.
When I opened the door to the surgery center,everyone in the waiting room had the same grim expression I did.  We were not looking forward to this.  I vocalized what everyone else was thinking, and a kind man named Jack smiled.  He showed me a spot of skin that had cancer just 2 weeks ago, and now I couldn't even tell it had been cut into.  That was reassuring.  Andy kept reading his book across the way, and Tom still couldn't crack a smile, but his wife was at peace (of course she was, she wasn't get sliced up today).  The other patients were still worried, and so was I.  In fact, where was my husband?  I texted him:  "Hurry, please!  You'd better be back here before they take me into that room!"
My name was the 4th one called, and I made the long trek back WITHOUT my husband.  I bravely shared all my personal height & weight information with the assistant, and Mitch showed up a couple minutes later.  I rested in the comfy chair that gave a false sense of security and after Mitchell pushed all the hydraulic lift buttons out of curiosity & sent me hovering higher than his head, we finally quit acting like kids and listened to Jerry Seinfeld over the intercom.  We were in good spirits when the surgeon came in.  She put purple dots on my face around a spot she said could be a new skin cancer location that we'll need to watch.  She was a kind, pretty, and happy lady, so I could focus on what I liked about her instead of what she was about to do to my face.  I zeroed in to what her melodiously accented voice was saying and closed my eyes as I processed the words that flowed out of her mouth: I could get two black eyes.  Numbing fluid was coming.  Did I feel anything? No.  I wasn't breathing, I needed to breathe.  I wanted to hold Mitch's hand, but couldn't tell him, because I was supposed to be breathing - he must have sensed it, because he reached over and "held" my ankle.  Oh, how I love him!  They were taping my face.  The tape was too close to my eyelid, could they fix it?  Tough noodles. And it was over.
I entered back into the waiting room with the old men who had been there before.  People were actually smiling this time - even Tom!  It wasn't all that bad for any of us!  The previous tension had literally been cut by a knife, and the irony is that the knife made everything better.  Who knew?  Not to mention, we all looked funny - in my head I was giggling at these real-life snowmen with pointy white noses.   We chatted up a storm and encouraged each other.  We should have been worried as the medical staff looked at our cancer cells to see if they got everything, but no one was upset this time.  Tom got his news first - they got all the cancer and he could go straight to the plastic surgeon!  We cheered!  Andy was next - sorry, Andy.  Like a little boy going into detention, he shuffled his feet back.  Tom said there was a 40% chance of not needing a second layer of Moh's surgery.  I told him that meant I would be heading back in.  I wasn't being pessimistic.  And I wasn't upset.  I just knew.  Sure enough, my name was called for a 2nd round and I said good-bye to all my friends.
Andy, Tom, Debra Jo, Dan

The second round wasn't as bad - the surgeon just needed to go deeper & not wider to get the remaining clusters of cancer cells.  I wasn't breathing well enough again, and when the assistant asked me if I was okay, Mitchell acted like he was hyperventilating while he said, "I'm (gasp) fine (gasp)."  That's when I remembered where my little boys got their "tactful" tendencies in their comments the night before - FROM THEIR FATHER!

Darlene, D-Jo, Kelly
After the second round, I met some more friends as we waited for the results - I saw Jack leaving the plastic surgeon's office, and was happy for him that he was done.  We reunited with our first friends of the day.  Dan's nose looked PERFECT, and he said good-bye with his son-in-law, Al.  I couldn't believe how amazing his stitching looked when he walked out without a bandage.  Andy left with a bandage, though.  Kelly was one of 3 people in the office that morning that DIDN'T have her nose worked on, haha.  She had previously lived in Hawaii, and has had skin cancer removal surgeries done every other year since the early 2000's.  Darlene was the sweetest thing - she was bubbly and bright, and actually acted like she was happy to be there - she acted like this was an adventure.  I felt like since I was paying a pretty penny to be there, I might as well enjoy it, too!  For the same price as an amazing vacation, Mitchell and I are getting 3 separate medical experiences this month, so we decided to live it up.  We looked at the aquarium, we enjoyed the complimentary snacks, and Mitch and I got excited when we saw the putting green for patients!  We played 3 rounds of golf and it was such a fun date!

Maybe he helped me cheat a smidgin', because I was having a hard time getting the golf ball in the holes!

WHAT is that from?  Someone is totally IMMATURE!
About 4 hours into the experience, I finally met the plastic surgeon.  Besides myself, he was the youngest person I'd interacted with all day.  He was kind, but Mitch wasn't allowed to come with me.  I wasn't scared anymore, though, so it was okay with me that he stayed in the lobby.  And then they really got me ready for a real surgery.  I felt like they wrapped me up in a body bag as they covered me with blankets, covered my hair with a net, placed smaller towels on my face.  They told me to close my eyes, and I started to get really nervous.  They showed me my wound with a mirror before they stitched it up.  That was a bad idea to look.  Imagine a penny sized, gaping red hole in your face between your eyes.  The surgeon and assistants talked to me throughout the whole surgery.  I could tell he was snipping and tugging and stitching.  Then I felt like my eyelid wouldn't close properly and I was afraid he stitched me too tightly.  Come to find out, it felt that way because it was swollen.  Come to find out I would have swelling for up to 5 days.  Come to find out, I wasn't allowed to bend over or exert myself physically for a while.  They handed me a mirror, and come to find out, I LOOKED LIKE THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN!  I chastised the surgeon, "I look like the bride of Frankenstein and that's exactly what I didn't want to look like!"  But then I had a change of heart and before I left the room, I was thanking him sincerely with a lump in my throat - my emotions were all over the place.  I marched into the waiting room and my friends told me I looked great, but I knew they were lying.  I gave them a forced smile, said good-bye, and Mitch consoled me the whole ride to my in-laws.
I texted this picture to Erin and she promptly responded with kind words that made me cry even harder.
I cried the whole ride.  Mitchell asked me, "Aren't you glad the cancer is gone?"  I responded, "No!  I just wish it never happened!"  I was a MESS!  I was grieving over my FACE!  I didn't look the same!  It wasn't me!  I was swollen and had an inch long incision, and to me it looked HORRIBLE!  I didn't want to see ANYONE, but Mitch made me go inside to get the kids.  I had a flashback to the night before, when I had told a friend of the family who was spending time with us that when you go through hard things, it's not good to withdraw and take yourself away from people who love you.  I listened to Mitch, took my own advice, and made the long walk inside to see my Borden family.  I must have looked pretty bad, because Brian was SO NICE to me - no punk jokes or anything of the sort.  They gave me ice packs and my father-in-law consoled me with "Just remember that chicks dig scars...oh...wait."  Now I know where my husband gets it from - HIS FATHER! 
Needless to say, the morning was fun.  The aftermath was not.  The morning was like a party.  The afternoon felt like coping.  I got a nap and woke up with a better attitude, but my poor hubby was exhausted from the day-long ordeal, too:

Once I got a little rest, I really was happy the cancer was gone.  Even when I was upset about the way my face looked, deep down, I was still grateful that we live where we do, and that we have the medical advances and technology available to help us catch problems early.  There are people in the world who live for years with problems that never get better, and their medical issues cause them to have a decrease in their quality of life, and many times die earlier than they would if they had been able to have access to the same kind of care we have in the States.  But even with that in the back of my mind, I just needed to sleep off the stress of the entire ordeal.

After I slept, everything really did get better!  My sweetheart, Tyson told me he loved me and that I was the best mom so many times.  He brought me a blanket from his bed.  Mitch brought me ice packs and made food.  My friend Tory & piano student Audrey brought me a delicious chocolate Chex mix desert that was AMAZING!  Tory told me, "Wow!  That really does look great! I thought I would have to come here and lie to you and tell you it looked better than it did, but REALLY, your surgeon did an amazing job!"  After she said that I started to wonder whether or not she was lying, because she had planned on lying to make it better for me!  :)  I do believe her, though, because I have seen worse pictures of my friends & family who have had skin cancer - my cousin Melissa, and my friend Carrie take the cake with their pictures.
And after my nap, I felt good enough to go to my nephew's party and I'm so happy I didn't miss it.  Tyson even gave me a band-aid and thoughtfully explained, "Here Mom!  Here's a band-aid so that no one will laugh at you."

All in all, I'm grateful for the experience (what doesn't kill you makes you stronger).  I am also so grateful for the support of friends.  I have had so many personal messages from friends on facebook, and have had personal emails from friends and family, and that has helped me tremendously.  My Aunt Kathy is going through the same thing right now, and it helps to know I'm not alone in my recovery as we've shared our experiences with each other.  At the end of the day, my friend Melissa brought me flowers & gourmet chocolate, and who can't help but feel happy with chocolate and flowers?  Even if you'd rather not experience something like skin cancer surgery, life is so good, these experiences are actually meant to bring us joy in the end, and we are so blessed to be here experiencing life and living. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Miracles From the Gilbert Temple Open House

There are many tender mercies or little miracles to share that made the Open House experiences special for us.  Here are some snippets:
THE MIRACLE:  All of our boys held still and payed attention during the 12 minute video.  Even Miles was transfixed - I felt the Spirit so powerfully, and even though their attention spans didn't hold up for pictures, they were reverent in the temple.

My little miracle:  My skin cancer surgeon wasn't available until March 10th, so all of my Open House pictures are free of scabs and/or stitches on my face.
Tyson's little miracle:  At the top of the stair case on the 4th floor of the temple, he looked down, and "just happened" to see his Primary teacher, Bro. Vandegraff standing at the bottom.  They looked at each other in the swirling staircase at opposite ends and waved.  It was a special moment for my son, and definitely not a coincidence.

The miracle:  We got to see the temple constructed, and we have memories from this location of what it looked like over the years.  What a blessing, and we love the reminder in the road sign - don't turn away from the temple.

The miracle:  All the boys were able to wear their Gilbert Temple tie pins through the end of the open house before we lost one and broke another. :)

The miracle:  That this day has finally come.

Another miracle happened as we were driving to the temple.  Tyson asked me, "Mom, didn't we have to take off our shoes or something at that other temple open house that we went to?"  I had to think long and hard before I realized he was recalling a memory from the Gila Valley Temple Open House, and I got a lump in my throat - he was such a little tyke at the time, I couldn't believe he could remember!  We talked about how in the scriptures, people like Moses took off their shoes when they talked to God, because it was holy ground.  We also talked about how the temple is a holy place, and that you should have reverence for God when you go there.  For the open house, you don't have to take off your shoes, and they put shoe coverings on to help protect the carpets, but that it's still a special place.  Within our conversation, we ended up talking about times that the kids have felt the Spirit.  I asked Tyson if he had ever felt the Spirit and he said he wasn't sure.  He thought that he just has a really good memory with the shoe memory at the other temple, and then we talked about how the Spirit calls to remembrance things that you need to remember at times that they will make a difference for you.  Then I asked Emmett if he had felt the Spirit before and immediately he responded, "Yep!"  I was so surprised, because he's only 4.  When he explained where he felt it, he said, "At that church building that was already build-ed."  I wanted to know if he felt good inside in Primary, or walking on the grounds, or something, and he said, "In that place where we take the Sacrament."  I was so grateful for this day that we had the chance to go to the temple, because it gave us the chance to talk about significant moments in my kids' lives where they felt the Spirit, and it was important for us to recognize those and to help us be more spiritually minded as we entered the Gilbert Temple.  It helped them with reverence and with focus, and it helped me to know more surely that every effort it takes is WORTH it to take your kids to church every Sunday, and to special places like the temple even if they are young, because they can feel the Spirit and know of God's love for them at an early age.

Diana's miracles:  Throughout her entire tour, she kept saying in regards to the ushers, "I just don't get it.  There are no ugly people here.  You all must be taking beauty pills or something."  She also loved it so much that she scheduled another tour of her own and took friends who she told HAD to see it for themselves  MomMom was also cute, because she said that she was sad she wasn't able to see the Salt Lake Temple, but she was glad to go inside the Gilbert Temple, because "apparently, now I'm worthy." 
The miracle:  On this morning tour, Miles became transfixed on the large painting of Jesus Christ.  He stared past the usher and pointed to the painting. Even as I walked, his eyes stayed on the picture.  We felt the Spirit strongly, and the brother standing there said, "It looks like he knows Him better than we do."  It was such a special moment and it really did grip my heart that this little person could pause amid all the commotion and people at the open house and FEEL the love of Jesus Christ.  I do believe that these little children are CLOSE to the Lord.

The MIRACLE:  Sometimes a little caution tape can make you feel closer to someone you love thousands of miles away, "Cuidado!"  We love you, Taylor!
The miracle:  I had another tour scheduled with my friend, and because I was early and because Dale & Myrna's tour with Shea took a while to get started, I was able to hop in line with them after the movie and enjoy the temple with my Borden family before my tour with Lindsay made it inside the temple.  When I was done with the family tour, my friend's movie was ending and I was able to hop back in line with them to finish out my reserved tour.   Also, while we were in the temple, we had some wonderful conversations about what temples are for, and Shea brought up that her Grandpa has his temple work done for him, because her Grandma Judy gave permission to my father-in-law to do his brother's family work.  It means a lot to us that Aunt Judy & Shea and her family are open to letting the family do temple work because it means so much to us to give Uncle Don the opportunity to accept or reject the temple work in the after-life.

Seriously Brielle is so cute! 
On this tour, I was able to share the experience with friends, and also answer questions for some guests in line behind us.  The two girls behind us were 7th Day Adventists, and they had many questions.  One was writing an article about the temple, and the other was there for moral support and curiosity.  They asked all kinds of questions, about choices & agency and where life leads us, and how we feel about others who may have made large mistakes, but who might receive the same blessings in the end, and if we thought temple work was really a fair thing to help others receive the blessings of the gospel if they weren't living it in this life.  It was an interesting conversation, but because I know that WE ALL have many sins that Jesus wipes away, and because I know that the Lord knows everyone's hearts, I am not upset or worried about who is going to end up where in comparison to me and my choices.  I am just trying to focus on what I need to do to follow the Lord, because that is a hard enough job.  I know that the Lord will deal justly and fairly and as mercifully as He can on the judgement day and I am not jealous or envious or afraid of where anyone else will go in comparison to myself or in comparison to how long I had the gospel, even if they only had it for a short time.  It's like the parable of the workers in the field to me, and what matters most to me is following the promises I've made with Heavenly Father. 

The miracle:  Lindsay was the one who sent me a reminder text the day that the reservation line opened for the open house. It was a 10 minute reminder.   This tour with her was scheduled for a week into the open house, but if she hadn't reminded me, I wouldn't have been able to get tickets for a long time, because in only 30 minutes all the tours were reserved for the 1st weekend.  Fortunately there was a standby line, and fortunately they opened up more reservations, but until people knew how it would work, a lot of people were apprehensive about just showing up to the temple for a tour, and I give Lindsay credit for helping me and some of my friends and family have better temple tour experiences since we didn't have to wait so long.

The miracle:  Miles is the youngest of my children, but he got to go through the open house the most of all my kids.  He went through the temple 5 times, and each time he was good.  We still quote him on his first time through when he saw the baptismal font and pointed at the oxen, "Oooooohhhhh!"  That was his favorite part.  He is so cute and sweet, and I was happy I got to share these moments with him because my older boys have had more experiences watching the temple be built, it was fun for me to share this time with Miles as he was an easy baby to tag along on the tours.  I don't know if he'll remember it, but it's never a bad thing to provide these experiences, just in case it leaves an impression for the better on your kids.

 Oh my gosh!  They are SO CUTE!

The miracle:  We became tour guides for several people on this night.  The group we were with was HUGE, because our ROCK STAR friends, Mike & Marinda invited like 14+ people. The way the group split up because of a baby who needed tending, we just happened to be there to take over the questions for the guests in the group at the front.  I was most impressed by the questions of the 13 year old boy who came - he wasn't afraid to ask direct questions that he wanted to know, and whenever he would ask a question, others would listen, because they wanted to know, too, but were afraid to ask.  He asked things like, "What are the rules you have to follow to come to the temple?",  "Are you Christians?", "What is this room for?"  "Do you believe in God and the trinity?" 
I loved it - it was so good to see this young man ask questions with confidence.  He actually inspired me by the way he approached the tour.  I feel that if we were to all ask direct questions, and truly seek to know God's will for us in our lives, that we will all find a better definition of self & find our personal purpose so much sooner than if we don't jump to the nitty gritty questions that make us decide for ourselves what we believe and don't believe.  I felt like he was demonstrating faith through his questions, if that makes sense - whoever this young man is going to turn out to be, is someone who searches out all the tough questions for himself, someone who ponders them, and someone who has a sure definition of who he wants to be, what he believes, and where he is going to go with his life.  He seems like a person with direction, and I wish him the best in all of his endeavors, and I expect great things from him - I believe this particular young man will enact a substantial amount of good in the world around us.

The miracles: We met up with Uncle Warren for lunch before his temple tour. Julia's boyfriend is a recent convert and wanted to see the temple - we "just happened" to have perfect timing for lunch before their tour, and Uncle Warren sent me an encouraging note after this lunch with him.  Also, at the restaurant, we ran into Tina, Caden, & Brian.  Tina was able to be in the temple with her mom that day, which was a very special, once-in-a-life-time experience for them, and we could all feel the Spirit of the hearts that were being brought closer to God and family through this experience.

The miracle:  It was a Friday night, we barely made it home in time from a crazy day to change our clothes & hop in the car - OUR FAMILY CHANGED CLOTHES & GOT IN THE CAR IN ABOUT 6 MINUTES...that is a MIRACLE!!!!  We were unable to feed our children before our tour with Chad & Robin, and on the way over, we prayed that we would still have a good experience.  We had to wait in the stand-by line for about 20 minutes, and our total tour time from start to finish was about 2 hours, because it was a busy night, but our prayers were answered & our kids were really good - they didn't start to get restless until we were outside after the tour.  So we all headed to Chick-fil-a and life was great again when they had full bellies.

Another tender mercy associated with this tour is that these people have become dear friends to us, and we really love them. 

 The miracle: Devin and my boys act like & play around like brothers.  It is good for all of them.  We are so proud of Devin, because he is trying to make good choices no matter what life throws his way.  He has even received the Arrow of Light award in cub-scouts - that is no small feat, and we love him so much!

The miracle:  I haven't seen Najae for years, and we connected thru a facebook post.  Her schedule and my schedule "just happened" to align perfectly for each of us to go on the last Monday of the open house.  Najae knows the church is true and she is going to join someday - she loved the tour & got chills - she is going to come back.  She brought her grandma, Bonnie, and we had a wonderful morning together.

The miracle: 
This is what David, Mitch, & Chris call a "Wild Guys Night" 
The miracle:  On the last Thursday of the open house my neighbors Norm & Barb had a temple tour planned with me.  We literally pulled in the parking lot and could not see an end to the line for the temple.  My neighbors honked at me because they were going to leave and I "just happened" to see two parking spots TOGETHER despite the busiest day I'd ever seen at the temple.  I pulled in and they pulled next to me and through our windows they told me, "Thanks, you've been so nice, but we are NOT staying."
I was like, "WHAT?!" 
First of all, before they were invited to the open house, they had read about it and KNEW the dates by heart.  Second of all, that was the ONLY day they could go, because they had been gone on vacation for a month before - it's not like we waited until the last second because we procrastinated - that was literally the first day they could go.  I had found a sitter for my 4 year old, I rearranged preschool plans, I got my baby ready, I reserved everyone's tickets, and we were FEET away from the entrance.  I had to show the temple to them myself - we couldn't be this close & leave. 
Barb has recently had knee surgery, however, and truly could not stand in long lines, and they didn't have time to wait in line because they had appointments.
What do you think we did?
We went to the front of the line.
Oh yes, we did!
We skipped the movie because it was too far away and had too long of a line, and I found an usher on a golf-cart who I "just happened" to hear telling another usher, "I'm taking these ladies to a tour at the front of the line."  I couldn't believe it and I told her, "That's where we need to go!"
In no time at all, we were at the handicap entrance, Barb got shoe coverings on her feet and on her cane, and I was able to give my neighbors the tour of a life-time.  I told them everything they missed in the video, and we rode the elevators, and I showed them all the rooms, and gave them every fact I could ever think of.  They LOVED it, and Norm told me, "That's one h*** of a temple!"  It made me smile.  Every time they'd look up at the ceiling, or see a new chandelier, or see the workmanship on the walls, Norm would say, "Look at that craftsmanship!"  "This is INCREDIBLE." 
I love Norm & Barb, they are fantastic neighbors, they are always sweet to me and Mitch, and we learn a lot from them.  I am so glad they came with us to share the experience.  They thanked me after and offered to pay for the tickets in case I had purchased them, but IT WAS FREE, and being a personal tour guide with a girl who won't take no for an answer was just a bonus!  (And yes, they made it to their appointment in time, too.)

This was one of my FAVORITE miracles!
I texted my most awesome cousin, Tiff, and told her if she came to the open house with her family, that I would meet them down there and bring them cookies.  Well, they already had tix for Friday, VALENTINE'S DAY - the day before it ended.  I didn't know what time their tour was or anything, and life was so crazy that I forgot about my promise until Friday afternoon.  I didn't make heart shaped sugar cookies like I had planned, but guess what?  There "just happened" to be cookie dough in the freezer.  I got a text from Tiff, who was just joking and said, "Brandon wants to know if our cookies are ready, yet."  I was making cookies at my mom's house, and they were on the 202 headed to the temple.  I pulled out the cookies from the oven & had a Valentine's candy bag made up, and tried to meet them at the temple around the time I thought they'd be arriving.  WOULD YOU BELIEVE that as I pulled onto Greenfield Road into the turn lane, I looked in the rear view mirror AND THEY WERE BEHIND ME?  Like immediately behind my van!  They followed me and I guided them past the full parking lot, on over to the other "secret" premium parking side that most people didn't try to park on - that way they didn't have to park in the dirt lot half a mile away with all their millions of children, and I was able to deliver them their treats as promised, give them a hug, be their photographer, and send them on their way.  IT WAS AMAZING! I was shocked at how it was SO MEANT TO BE!  I love all of her kids - they are always so nice to me, and I wish I could remember all of their names all the time, but I mix some of their names up, but what is awesome is that they are family I love and adore and cherish, and the good Lord let me see them that day before they went on their way.  It was so perfectly perfect!

The miracle:  My hubby did a Valentine's Date with me at the temple - this was his cute gift to me.  It was a bag that he picked with impeccable taste.

The miracle:  Our dreams came true!  We've waited our WHOLE LIVES to wear reflective vests, hold special light-saber flashlights, and direct traffic!  We felt so special!  The other miracle was that we didn't get hit by any cars, and we were still able to walk at the end of the evening - our feet & backs were SO SORE!

The miracle:  We ran into Elder Swensen that night - so awesome!  Aaron & Lisa Fowles carpooled with us, and we had a Valentine's desert after our temple shift.  It really was a super date.  While we were at "The Keg", within the same 5 minutes, the restaurant lost power & we ate by candle-light, a glass got shattered & police cars went zooming by. It sure was exciting.  We also learned that soft-spoken, sweetheart, Lisa is also competitive and that she's punched a referee in the mouth before, but he really deserved it. :)

This was taken on the very last day of the open house.
The first miracle is that I met my friend Lauren, and her friend Danielle BECAUSE of Story Time at Barnes & Noble.  We were total strangers who met by trying to provide out of the house experiences for ourselves & our kids, and in the process have now become dear friends.  Another miracle is that Danielle is expecting a baby and she has tried FOR YEARS, and it has been a long & difficult process.  I am so happy for her!
The miracles:  The Disneyland-sized-line to get into the chapel was a 2-3 hour wait and it wrapped around the building and utility room and by port-a-potties - it was CRAZY!!!  I went earlier than our planned time, but only 30 to 40 minutes, so my efforts to get dressed and leave my house early didn't really help much. :(  When my friends got there, I was amazed that Lauren & Danielle weren't deterred by the long lines and that they were happy to stay and chat with me and still go through.  The line seemed to speed up and slow down.  After about 1 1/2 hours, I walked to the ticketed line, and I found our family friends, Jamie & Brad Porter and their kids & parents.  Guess who "JUST HAPPENED" to have extra space on their reserved tour?  I'm telling you it was AWESOME!  I ran back to get my friends, and we joined the faster-moving line to fill up those empty spaces in their reserved tour.  Lauren told me, "See!  It always works out the way it's supposed to in the end."  We got right in, because that line moved fast and they were towards the front of it.  We sat in the chapel, talked about everything from if Mormons can had facial hair to worthiness requirements for temple recommends, and had a fantastic temple tour!  Throughout the tour, I explained the significance of families in God's eternal plan for His children.  I also shared some personal feelings I've had in the temple about feeling close to my family who has passed on, and that I know the family is meant to help us learn & grow in this life so that we can return to God's presence together.  They really enjoyed the Celestial Room & we all wanted to stay in it longer.  As we left the temple, we had a sister missionary take this picture of us.  She "JUST HAPPENED" to be from a teeny tiny town in Washington that Lauren had lived in, I believe.  Also, as we walked through the gardens, Lauren noticed that some of the flowers were poppies and she said, "Poppies are my grandpa's favorite flower.  How fitting!"  We could all see the blessings in the small things.  I wondered if those poppies were placed in the garden specifically so that my friend could feel close to her grandfather that day.  God is definitely in the details of our lives, and I was uplifted by my friends because of their optimism and their ability to recognize the blessings in the small things that others could call coincidences, but we know that the Lord loves all His children and that it's in the seemingly small things that He speaks to us.

The miracles:  First of all, it's a miracle that I met Rachel to begin with.  My son, Miles, had a speech delay, and I was looking for Signing Time videos on Gilbert Friends.  Rachel responded to this public facebook post.  A while after I figured out my DVD plans, I felt like since I knew she was deaf that I should let her know I happened to be rusty with my ASL skills, but that I could sign, too.  She was willing to meet me & have a new friend to chat with, and we have found so much in common and have had so much fun together.  She is so patient with me, and I've been really proud of myself for picking sign language back up, even if I'm not as good as I used to be in college, and Miles is picking up the language well, too, and showing more interest in making sounds as well.  I have found he is a visual learner, and he lives for Signing Time - just the other day I was counting - he knows at least 20+ signs...probably more, but that is a post for another day.  At any rate, on the last day of the Open House, with the Disneyland lines, she invited me to join her on an ASL tour & we got RIGHT with NO WAITS. :)  Deaf people do get SOME perks.  Haha!  I joined her little group, and watched the video - I'm so glad I did - I learned that I really don't know sign language as well as I thought, hahaha!  We had a great time, and I loved seeing Rachel & her cute kids, too.

Yes.  Those ARE Girl Scouts selling cookies across the street from the temple.  The miracle?  There used to be protesters there.  I'll take Girl Scouts any day! 

Last, but not least, I got to take Jolly Old Saint Nicholas through the temple.  We were invited to serve a temple shift again on Saturday, and we were happy to have the chance to "close-out" the open house.  My mom watched our kids, because we spent all our money on the sitter for our Valentine's dates.  And we had the time of our lives.  Mitchell drove golf-carts, and I pushed wheel-chairs.  I loved giving tours to people in wheel-chairs.  This kind man NEVER told me his first name, but his last name really is Nicholas, and he is from California.  I turned out to be the lucky one that night.  He is an artist and truly appreciated all the original artwork in the temple.  I also learned neat things from his daughter & wife.  Apparently his daughter did shoe-coverings at the San Diego Temple Open House.  I told them that I went to that open house as a kid, and I wonder if his daughter did my shoe-coverings.  Maybe now I was returning the favor by taking them through our new temple. :)  You never know.  We had a delightful time, and I felt the Spirit that St. Nick carries with him - this sweet man also invited me back to California & said Mitch and I could have a place to stay there if we wanted - this man truly has a HEART OF GOLD if I've ever seen one!
After just 1 week of temple tours I made this post on facebook to my friends:
"I would just like to say that in the last week I have felt so uplifted & inspired. It has been such a pleasure to be able to share the Gilbert Temple with the community. I have been impressed with the way we've been treated by the other religious groups in the area - overall it has been a very positive experience. I've heard of large groups of Lutherans visiting the temple (as in 40+) - and our neighbor Trey went before we even had the chance to invite him. The Catholic priest over the closest parish by the temple voiced his support of us on the ABC15 special, and my Adopted/Catholic/Italian Grandmother Diana not only loved it, she's taking friends to show it to them herself. Yesterday I showed some friendly Seventh Day Adventists around the temple, and I have heard wonderful thoughts that a Jewish rabbi shared. I cannot adequately express what it means to us to have such kind acceptance and support as we share the most important parts of what we believe - that Jesus Christ is our Lord & Savior, and that he has provided a way for families to be united eternally. Everything about temple worship re-emphasizes to us, the importance of families and our responsibility to help each other return back to live in God's presence together. The craftsmanship & building of a temple also symbolizes for us that we want to give our very best to God in all that we do. With all of the inter-faith interaction, even though we may find differences in theology in our respective religions, I have felt so much camaraderie and unity this last week. I believe that one day the Lord will come to the earth again in His power & glory, that there will be ONE fold and ONE Shepherd, and we will all be in it together! I feel like this week I have felt a glimpse of how wonderful that day will be. Thank you so much to everyone who has come & who will come - thank you to everyone who has added to that feeling of love. It means so much!"
Participating in the Gilbert Temple Open House has changed my life - I have loved being like a missionary, and have loved having the opportunity to share what I believe with as many who want to know, and I have been uplifted by the faith shared by friends and family of both our own religion and of other religions and have felt closer to God because of it.  This temple has been a blessing to all the people in the Valley of the Sun, and it is a tribute to the faithful lives of the early saints who settled Arizona and to the strength of everyone who has continued strong in the faith.  I feel bad for everyone in Mesa and the surrounding areas who didn't get to participate with being IN the Cultural Celebration and preparing for the celebration, because they were a huge part of making this Gilbert Temple happen as well - truly, though, it was a major feat to include the youth of just our Gilbert Temple District (12,000 strong) - My! How the church has grown out here! All of these amazing experiences have endeared me to the Gilbert Temple, and have strengthened my faith in the value of God's Eternal Plan of Happiness, and I know that He loves all of His children and wants all of them to return home to heaven.  I love that the temples are being taken to the people in the latter-days.  It is a wonderful time we live in, and I am thankful for the truth and knowledge we do have.  I always want to live TRUE TO THE FAITH!