Oct 30, 2011

A Beautiful Sunday

The air was crisp when I left for church this morning, but the sky was a brilliant blue.  I love fall and Sunday, so it's a perfect combination.  Such great meetings today, just what I needed.

I loved exercising this week.  The leaves are falling and I got to crunch through beautiful red and yellow leaves all week last week.  It made my day every day.  And the smell!! I love the smell of fall.  Don't know exactly how to verbalize it, but I love it.

Can't believe it's Halloween tomorrow.  I don't love Halloween, but I love what it precedes.  Many people have the fake cobwebs and spiders on their porches.  My spider webs are real, complete with nasty gnats that are stuck in them.  I may or may not clean them up after Halloween.

My oldest with some of her friends, dressed up for the Youth Conservatory Carnival at USU. (She's the one with the tiara.) Tony hates dressing up.  I think the last time I wore a costume was when I was in college.  
This week I went to my 9th graders concert.  His Madrigal group was actually quite good. Even if my son is a punk. :) The group was singing a song where a few of them were supposed to sit.  So he sits down puts his legs out and pulls his "look at how attractive I am face" without even cracking a smile.  What is a mother supposed to do?
Ready for the concert

We went to a Mexican restaurant last night.  The food was excellent, but the flan was to die for.  I haven't had really good flan since leaving Brazil, so this was definitely a treat for the taste buds.

End of the first term of school on Friday.  Wow! That went by fast.  November starts this week, which means it will soon be the most wonderful time of the year.  I love November and December.  After Halloween we start listening to Christmas music, it is my favorite.  Nothing like Karen Carpenter singing Christmas tunes.  (other favorites include the Osmonds (yes Donny and all the others), Bing Crosby and White Christmas are essential, Andy Williams, and so much more.) 

Oct 26, 2011

Middle of the Week

Have you ever been glad that it was Wednesday because that meant that the week was almost over so you could enjoy the weekend?  Yeah I think we all do that...I was thinking today that maybe I should be grateful for every day that I am given, instead of just the weekends.  Some days are better than others always, but my attitude about each and every day is always in my control.  So I am, at least for today, going to be grateful for every day! 

I wonder how many people think I am strange when they see me tearing  up while exercising and listening to my iPod.  Just in case you were wondering if you saw me today-I was listening to General Conference, and I just couldn't help it. 

I have been thinking about our trip to Zion's still, and thinking how the experience we had contained so many metaphors for life.  I have thought of many, but I will bore you with only one...Jared and I hiked the narrows.  It was cold and the water was even colder.  The initial pain I felt stepping into the cold water was intense.  My desire to see what there was to see made me push on through the pain and the cold.  My efforts were rewarded, as I was awestruck by the beauties that I beheld.  I felt so insignificant and small gazing up at the towering rock walls around me. Soon I forgot about how cold it was and was just drinking in all that there was to see.  I was thinking this was kind of like life.  Often we give up when there is pain involved or at least think that we can't go on.  Trials and challenges are constantly before us, and we have to learn to live through the pain.  Sometimes the rewards are not as immediate in life as they were on this hike, but the rewards are there, and our pain is or will be swallowed up in Christ.  As I was listening to Elder Uchtdorf's talk from conference, and thinking about my experience in the Narrows-this paragraph stood out to me.
And while we may look at the vast expanse of the universe and say, “What is man in comparison to the glory of creation?” God Himself said we are the reason He created the universe! His work and glory—the purpose for this magnificent universe—is to save and exalt mankind. In other words, the vast expanse of eternity, the glories and mysteries of infinite space and time are all built for the benefit of ordinary mortals like you and me. Our Heavenly Father created the universe that we might reach our potential as His sons and daughters.
Perhaps this is why I love nature so much-I feel like when I am out in nature I have a direct and unhindered connection to my Heavenly Father.  

Just FYI-try pumpkin bagels from Einsteins. Oh my goodness! So yummy.  Now I am just trying to figure out why I haven't had one before. (Be careful with the box from Einsteins though, cuts from cardboard hurt much worse than paper cuts.)

Oct 22, 2011

Time spent in Zion

Since Tony was called as Bishop, I have found that he needs a little time away now and then.  So, since the kids had two days off from school, we decided to make a quick trip down to Zion National Park.  I think I have mentioned before that I love exploring national parks.  I love soaking in the beauties of God's creations.  Zion's did not disappoint.  (We went once before, but it was only for a couple of hours.  It was so hot, that that's about all I remember.) This time I left feeling grateful, and wanting to go back so I could explore some more.
Entrance to the park. Everyone but Alexis was able to go.  We missed her, but still managed to have a great time.
First day we climbed up to Observation Point.  An 8 mile round trip hike going up 2100 feet.  This is the view from the bottom of the hike. 

The leaves were just starting to change.  So beautiful!

Jared just being himself.

Part of the Echo Canyon part of the hike.  Spectacularly beautiful hike worth all 8 miles.

More of Echo Canyon.  The kids had so much fun yelling and hearing the echo.  My personal favorite was when Ashley sneezed and that echoed.  My other favorite was when Grant yelled Echo when were on an open spot on the trail.  And a kid ahead of us yelled Echo back.

This friendly creature climbed up on Jared's back.

This picture is for Tony's Mom.:)  Yes there is a dramatically long drop off behind them.

We made it to the top!  Breathtaking view!  So incredible.

View of the canyon.  We could see the people climbing up Angel's Landing.  Maybe we will try that next time. :) I thought the four miles back down was harder than climbing up.  My right knee and I were having a fight.  I think the knee might have won.

Jared of course has no fear, even if there is 1000 ft drop off right behind him.

They all love climbing the rocks.

Cool 1 mile long tunnel we drove through.  We tried to hold our breath, but we couldn't make it. 

This is the nice and easy 1 mile Canyon Overlook Trail.  Incredible views without too much effort.

Enjoying another magnificent view!

Temple of Sinawava trail. 

Getting ready to step into the 50 degree Virgin River, when it was only about 60 degrees or less outside.

Turns out that the water and temperature were just too much for most of the family, so only Jared and I did any real hiking in the narrows.  It wasn't that bad once your feet went numb. :) 

More narrows pictures

The views were stunning.  I felt so insignificant walking between the towering walls.  Loved the pockets of sunshine where we could warm up and stop shivering.  We only went about an hour and a half of the way and then turned around because we felt bad about leaving the rest of the family behind.  (Well I felt bad.  I think Jared would have gone as far as they would let us go.)  We will be going back to finish this hike someday!  
Fabulous vacation.  I love watching my family interact when it is just us, with no outside distractions.  We had some very interesting conversations, some in depth, some ridiculous, but that is life in the Benjamin family.  We tried to channel Lexie, because we missed her witty remarks.  Only Lexie can be Lexie though.  Even traveling in the car was enjoyable, as we all belted out with our favorite songs-current and oldies.  Ending up with American Pie as we arrived home.

Oct 18, 2011

Things that make me happy!

So I substituted for a kindergarten class today.  They were a very talkative bunch, but so cute.  I love how little kids can just love immediately.  They don't care what you look like or how you talk or dress.  We were walking around the track and two little girls came up and took my hand and we chatted while we walked around.  I think little kids are awesome.  Which made me think about things that make me happy.  So I decided to make a list of things that make me happy.  This is not an all inclusive list, and is subject to change without notice-but at this moment in time these are my top 10 (please note these are not in any particular order).

1. Fall colors and cool fall weather. -I love looking out my kitchen window at the colors on the mountain.  It just warms my heart.

2. Traveling-I love to see new things and new places.  My list of places I would like to see just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

3. Planning trips (closely related to #2)-I love researching about a place that I am going to visit and reading the history.  I love finding out all the things there are to do, and then trying to decide how to pack the maximum amount into each day.  Or finding out where the most beautiful beach is so that I can relax the whole day.

4. Watching my children grow up. -I always loved babies, but I was worried that I wouldn't handle teenagers well, and sometimes I don't honestly.  But I love having serious and not so serious conversations with my older children, even if it is when I really should be sleeping.

5. Smells - OK I don't love all smells, but I love how a smell can instantly transport me to a memory.  Like musty smells take me back to Brazil.  The smell in nursing homes reminds me of  caroling every year at Christmas time.  The smell of cinnamon rolls baking reminds me of Christmas mornings.

6. Nature- Aren't you just blown away by the majesty and beauty of God's creations.  I feel so at peace when I am outside and away from all the worldly distractions.

7. Movies- Last night we watched Rio.  I loved it.  It was animated, but it looked so much like the Rio of my memory.  I love watching movies with the family, snuggled up under blankets. ( I like most kinds of movies, all though it is harder and harder these days to find one that isn't trashy.)

8. My parents-They just celebrated 57 years together on Saturday.  Amazing!  Love them!  When I grow up I want to be like them.

9. Being together as a family. -We were just pulling flowers last night, but I loved doing it together.  I love laughing with them at Breanna's antics or Grant's talking to angles (scripture time you got to love it). I love when my kids just sit around and talk for hours, especially because they use to fight all the time.  I love vacationing with them.  I love watching my husband wrestle with his sons, and teach his daughters about football and car maintenance.
I mean wouldn't these faces make you happy?
 10. I could go on and on, but we'll stop with this one.- SUGAR- disguised in chocolate, cookies, candy and many other delicious treats.  I have always had a sweet tooth, and it is so satisfying.

Oct 15, 2011

My Week

I guess you could say my week was summed up by an experience I had the other morning.  I had downloaded General Conference onto my iPod so I could listen while running.  I put my headphones in my ears and waited to hear the sounds of conference. Nothing happened.  I checked to make sure that it wasn't paused, it wasn't.  So then I am trying to figure out what the problem was when I looked down and realized I never plugged my headphones into the iPod.  Yeah that was a good moment...I could spend some time worrying about my sanity, or my early onset dementia, or I can just laugh.  I choose to laugh. 

Really though the week wasn't all bad.  I read the Book of Mormon issue of the Ensign.  It 's great.  I loved reading and remembering Pres. Benson's talk.  I was a senior in high school when he gave that talk, and before I finished my senior year I finished reading the Book of Mormon all the way through on my own.  Coincidence that I did that after I heard Pres. Benson's talk-probably not.  I love the Book of Mormon, it has been a source of strength to me, and been a source of many answers to prayers.  I love how no matter what my problems are, I can find answers within it's pages.

I have also started on my conference quote calendar.  Love reading conference.  I have almost read through the first three sessions.  Here are just a few of my favorite quotes so far-

These prophecies about filling the world and being known world over: Preposterous? Perhaps. Unlikely? Undoubtedly. Impossible? Emphatically no. It is happening before our eyes.

It is not expected that you go through life without making mistakes, but you will not make a major mistake without first being warned by the promptings of the Spirit. This promise applies to all members of the Church.

The Lord doesn’t care at all if we spend our days working in marble halls or stable stalls. He knows where we are, no matter how humble our circumstances. He will use—in His own way and for His holy purposes—those who incline their hearts to Him.

How sad it would be if the phone and computer, with all their sophistication, drowned out the simplicity of sincere prayer to a loving Father in Heaven. Let us be as quick to kneel as we are to text.

Experience has taught me that if we, like President Monson, exercise our faith and look to God for help, we will not be overwhelmed with the burdens of life. We will not feel incapable of doing what we are called to do or need to do.

Whatever the cost of repentance, it is swallowed up in the joy of forgiveness.

In this battle between good and evil, you cannot play for the adversary whenever temptation comes along and then expect to suit up for the Savior at temple and mission time as if nothing has happened. That, my young friends, you cannot do. God will not be mocked.

In other news-I got a new calling again.  I was the Beehive Advisor, then the 2nd counselor in the Young Women's and now I am the 1st counselor in the Young Women's.  I feel happy and sad.  I loved working with the Beehives.  My sweet Breanna is a beehive.  That is why I am sad.  I am excited to get to work with the MiaMaids.  They are wonderful girls and I look forward to getting to know them better.  Strange stuff, but I feel at peace with it.  I have loved working with the Young Women though.  It's my first time, and it's great.  I have been doing my Personal Progress (I want the new one-I like it better than my one from when I was in Young Women's-and I can always use help being better).  I am amazed by the youth and their strength, and my heart aches for those who are struggling.  Oh if only you could just help them see the true path to happiness is God's path.

Enough rambling...it really was a good week. 

Oct 8, 2011

Date Night

Since we were first married 21+ years ago we have tried to have a date night.  Back in the early days when we couldn't afford a babysitter, date night consisted of watching a movie after we put kids to bed.  Not to exciting I suppose, but it was time for just the two of us.  We traded babysitting with my sisters some too so we could go to the temple or if we were being extravagant we might go get a hamburger and catch a dollar movie. Then the glorious moment arrived when Ashley was old enough to babysit.  Since that time we have gone out almost every Friday.  The kids just know it's date night.  It is a time I look forward to, especially now with Tony so busy with his calling.  I love knowing that I have those few hours with him all to myself.  Usually our dates are not fancy, or extravagant, mostly it is about just being together to talk and usually laugh too.

Tonight we splurged a little so Tony could get Sushi.  He LOVES Sushi.  Sometimes I think he might love Sushi more than anything else.  I on the other hand do not love Sushi.  I think it looks beautiful, but I have adopted the line from Finding Nemo-"Fish are friends, not food."  I tried Sushi once, at first I thought it wasn't too bad, but then I tried a piece that had the big chunk of raw fish on top.  I swear that raw fish was trying to swim it's way out of my throat.  It was just sitting there deciding if it should come back up or go down.  Gratefully I got it down, but that was enough for me.  I am just not a fish person.  Gratefully at Sushi places they serve chicken too, and amazing tempura vegetables.  Oh they are so delicious.  I am all for Tony getting Sushi so I can have tempura vegetables!
It's pretty too, and goes down so much easier!

After dinner we drove around for awhile listening to XM radio-80's on 8.  They were doing the top 40 countdown for this week in 1983.  Now that was some nostalgia for you.  This week in 1983 I was still trying to figure out Portuguese after having lived in Brazil for about 3 months.  We were having so much fun listening to the countdown that we ended up listening to the whole thing.  Oh the memories that can be associated to a song. "Every breath you take" by the Police will always remind me of Biology 100 at BYU.  We listened to Air Supply, Spandau Ballet's "I know this much is true,"  "Safety Dance", a little Michael Jackson, even some Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.  My favorite was the #3 song-Tell Her About It by Billy Joel.  The number one song was "Total Eclipse of the Heart."  We had fun listening, singing and just being together.

Oct 6, 2011

Thursday's Thoughts

Last week it was almost 90, today it is 42 and raining.  Wow, what a change.  I like the rain actually, but I would like a little bit of weather in the 60's please.  Fall is my favorite season, I don't want to skip it.

Steve Jobs-an interesting man.  My life has definitely been affected by him.  I remember using the Apple II at school and we had one at home in Brazil.  My two oldest daughters love their MacBooks, and iPods are used daily in our home.  Three members of my family couldn't survive without their iPhones in hand, and my husband uses an iPad to keep all his church stuff organized and at his fingertips.  For me personally though, I'm not necessarily a gadget girl.  I don't have an iPhone, I only use my iPod about once a week maybe, and our home computer is just your regular PC.  All that being said, I do recognize Steve Job's genius, and am grateful for his contributions.  (I love PIXAR movies!)

Just took my son to the doctor with an infected toe.  Obviously he had an incredibly high pain tolerance that he didn't even mention it to me until his toe was all red and swollen.  Crazy kid-and yes he is still running on it as well.  Man, he's tough!

You know how as a mother it is so easy to be critical of yourself, to wonder and worry that you aren't doing all the things you need to do to raise your children.  Some days are just hard, and you wonder if anyone even notices or appreciates all your hard work.  But every once in awhile you get what I call a payback moment.  I got one of those yesterday from my 18 year old daughter.  It made me cry.  I am pretty sure I don't deserve all the really nice things she said about me, but I am grateful and just want to let her know that she made my day, month and year at least.  I really do love being a mother even on hard days, but it is nice to know you have made a difference every once in awhile too.

Oct 4, 2011

Braces Off!

Jared got his braces off!  His teeth were such a mess and his jaw was not aligned, but now 18 months later you would never know it.  3 kids done with braces, 2 more to go.  No I was not blessed with any children with even somewhat straight teeth.  I could have gone to Europe twice already with what we have spent on dental and orthodontist work.  Oh well...Jared's teeth look great!
The day he got braces-April 2010

Braces off-Oct 2011

Oct 3, 2011

General Conference

Don't you just love Pres. Monson's smile? (Photo from Deseret News)
I have to say that my two most favorite weekends of the year are General Conference weekends.  Ever since I can remember life stopped in our homes so that we could  watch General Conference on Saturday and Sunday.  We would gather together as a family and listen to the words.  I was taught as a small child to honor and respect and most importantly follow the prophet's counsel that we would receive.  My Dad would quiz us on who the apostles were and I also knew who most of the quorum of the seventy were.  I loved listening to LeGrand Richards.  I remember him covering the little light on the pulpit that was telling him his time was up. I loved the sparkle in Mark E. Peterson's eyes.  I loved Pres. Kimball's scratchy voice.  I remember my life being changed as a teenager by Bruce R. McConkie's talk on the Savior right before he died.  I always looked forward to Thomas S. Monson speaking because I loved that he told stories that even a young child could learn from, plus he was so young.  Now as he is old, and I have grown up with him, I still love him.  Although I feel he has changed since becoming the President of the Church, I  love the way he teaches in parables.  I love his sense of humor, his facial expressions, and I feel of the love he has for all of Heavenly Father's children.

When I was still young, my oldest sister was coming home from college for conference.  My Mom made her a special dinner of homemade noodles, rolls and orange jello with whipped cream and mandarin oranges.  That became a conference tradition that is still served every conference now with the extended family.  Each one of my children is as excited for conference weekend as I am.  We gather our kids together and watch conference together on Saturday and Sunday.  We try to avoid scheduling anything that would prevent us from watching the sessions live.  The kids come home from college to join us because this is such a big deal to us. (lest you think we are perfect or anything...there is usually some kind of fight going on or, this conference my 18 year old daughter and 14 year old son were writing on each other, often someone is napping as well).

We have established some traditions associated with conference, I already mentioned the delicious meal, but we have a few more.  On Saturday evening, all the son-in-laws, the grandsons that are old enough and my Dad attend Priesthood then go out to eat together at Robintino's after the session ends.  This is grandpa's treat, and the boy's anxiously await their 12th birthday so they can join the group.  Grant told my on his birthday, only two more years and he can go.  The girl's and young boys get together for a light meal and visiting while the men are gone.  On Sunday after the second session we have the delicious noodles at my Mom's house.  Then we all gather in their basement and share our favorite part of conference, or something that we have learned.  All the children participate, and it has really helped so that I don't even have to tell my kids to listen, because they are already listening for something to share.    I am often surprised by what they like or what stands out to them.

This conference was just the spiritual uplifting that I needed, and the first talk given in conference addressed one of my concerns that I had.  Amazing how these inspired men and women through the guidance of the spirit can speak directly to us-give us our own personal epistles.  So many great talks-can't wait to start reading them when they show up online later this week.
The girl's enjoying noodles last April conference (photo by Mike Schouten)

Oct 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Grant!

First Birthday

First day of school 2011
10 years ago today I went in for my weekly check up still almost two weeks from my due date.  I knew I had been having contractions, but they had stopped, and I was so uncomfortable.  At 6 months in this pregnancy people started thinking it was time for me to have the baby.  I was huge!  I only had one dress I could wear the last month or so.  I lived in a pair of stretched out sandals.  It was the hottest September ever I am sure.  So I was ready to have the baby, but expecting no news when I went in for the check up.  As the doctor was checking me he was very surprised to find out that I was dilated to a four already.  Then as he was checking the baby's position, he got a very concerned looked on his face, and told me he was sideways.  I thought it felt like he was swimming in there.  I am sure there was plenty of room, and much more movement than I had experienced with any of my other pregnancies.  Anyway, he didn't want me to go home, he told me to go straight to the hospital.  Labor was imminent and life threatening complications possible.  As I am there with my my two toddlers, I asked him if I could at least take them somewhere before I went to the hospital.  He finally gave me permission, but told me to call 911 if I had even one contraction.  So I quickly took my kids to my sisters, called Tony and went to the hospital.  At that point the choice was to have a C-section or have the doctor try to change the baby's position by pushing on my stomach.  I didn't want the C-section, so we went for the other option.  Not fun!  Zero fun!  However it worked, baby turned, water broke, and pitocin worked almost immediately, and only a couple hours later I had a healthy 9 pound baby boy in my arms.  Piece of cake.  Good thing he didn't go the extra two weeks he would have been 10 pounds! 

After four kids, I felt really tired, overwhelmed and exhausted most of the time.  My youngest was a handful-cute as can be, but so feisty and always into something.  I thought I couldn't even consider having more children until Breanna was older.  I just kept feeling like someone was missing from our family though.  I knew we were supposed to have another baby, but I couldn't put my mind around it.  It was just too much I thought.  So I ignored the promptings.  So, then Heavenly Father started working on Tony.  When Tony said he felt like someone was missing from our family, I knew I just needed to have faith, but my faith was seriously lacking.  Tony gave me a blessing that said that this new baby would not bring me any physical or emotional stress...so we both tried to have the faith necessary.  When we brought Grant home I just assumed he would be an angel, and during the day he was.  Night time was a different story.  He would not sleep.  Not uncommon for a newborn, so I tried to just deal with it and assume it was just a short phase that he would quickly outgrow.  The weeks went on, and night after night I was up many hours with him crying.  I was mad!  I felt betrayed, tricked and mostly exhausted.  I prayed and told Heavenly Father that Grant was causing me stress, and that I couldn't do this.  Not to mention that Breanna was extraordinarily jealous of her baby brother.  If I was holding Grant I had to hold her too.  If I was feeding Grant she would do things that would demand my attention.  I was at a low point to be sure.  The next day or so as I was reading the Book of Mormon, I was reading in 1st Nephi 17.  As I read about Nephi building the ship and his amazing faith, I had the distinct impression that if Heavenly Father could help Nephi build a ship, then surely he could help me raise 5 children, even one that stayed up all night.  I was still confused, but decided to go forward with faith.  Grant did not start sleeping.  He was so good during the day, but every night he would cry.  If I would hold him and rock him though he would just whimper and hold still.  So every night after everyone else was in bed Grant and I would watch movies and rock.  I was averaging about 3 hours of sleep a night, but funny thing was I realized I really wasn't that tired.  I was able to do all that I needed to do.  The kids didn't seem to upset me and I just felt an inexplicable peace.  Soon I started to enjoy the time I had with Grant with no interruptions.  I almost started to look forward to those quiet hours when the house was quiet and Grant and I were bonding.  He was such a sweetheart with such a calm disposition. Even with what was obviously colic, he didn't scream and wail like my oldest did.  He just needed to be held.  After a few months, he started sleeping and reality set back in.  I started to feel tired if I didn't get enough sleep, and the kids antics started trying my patience again.  I wasn't blessed in the way I thought I would be blessed, but truly I was blessed in a way that I now treasure.

I can't imagine what life would be like without Grant now.  His toddler years were relatively uneventful (except the time he put toliet paper in the washer, and then the time he cut several of Tony's shirts), mostly he just followed me around and played with his toys.  He didn't have to be entertained, he just wanted to be in the same room as me.  I am sure I spoil him, but when a kid comes up to you multiple times a day and gives you hugs and tells you he loves you, what are you supposed to do?  He is so loving, naturally grateful, gentle and only occasionally obnoxious.  He has a bond with his older brother that I love to watch.  He idealizes Jared, and Jared is very patient with him. All of his siblings love him, even Breanna most of the time.  He loves sports, especially basketball.  He collects cars and still plays with them for hours.  I am so grateful that Heavenly Father sent him to our home!