1st Day of Joy School

>> Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Alayna had her 1st day of Joy School today!

She has been counting down the days until she was going to start school again. She's been counting by how many Church Days (Sundays) until she was going to get to go back. :P Every once in a while she'd update us and tell us, "Just 4 more Church Days"..."Just one more Church Day". Sooo cute!

The day finally arrived today, and she was so excited she got herself dressed and ready in record time. She ate her entire breakfast and was staring at the clock until it was time to leave. (Not that she can tell time..LOL! )

I have to admit I was excited with her at first. But then I realized that she was leaving home. I mean, I'm excited that she gets to go and be with her friends and learn and have a great time. But, I'm sad that she's growing up tooooo fast and my last baby is going out into the great big world. It all makes my heart ache a little.

I picked her up after school and she had been crying. I guess there was a 'learning opportunity' about sharing with a few of the girls just before I arrived. Sister Esperson assured me that it was all fine. These are the things I suppose that will make her stronger and ready for next year when she goes to Kindergarten. :)

My heart still aches a little though....

Here she is showing off her art project after her 1st day. Alayna L-O-V-E-S art!!! :D

I love that sweet girl!

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Summer Photoshoot

>> Saturday, August 20, 2011

So.... back in April I took pictures of Eli for his Baptism portraits and swore I would return the next week with Walker and Alayna. Well, it's only been 4 months and I finally made good on my promise! LOL!!!

Enjoy! :D









Ta Da!!! :P

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Twice the Joy!


In just about a week Alayna will be starting her 2nd year of Joy School! :D

We took a few pictures for her window and this was the one 'she' chose to use. The yellow flower was also her idea. I think I have a little photographer in the making. She's growing up too fast!

I'm really excited about this year. I was able to get 6 other moms (so 7 children total) to agree to do a co-op. Our group will be large but the children will have so much fun!

Each mom will take a Unit (which is about a month give or take). I'm not quite sure what I will do with all this new found 'free time'! :D

It will be good for Alayna to have a little bit of time away from home/Mom to prepare her for Kindergarten next year. Did I really just say Kindergarten? Next year? Oh my!!! She really is growing up too fast!! Sigh....

It's going to be a fun year getting to know the Moms and their children.

I LOVE Joy School!

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Summer of Swimming!

>> Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I think my kids became part fish this summer! :P

We participated in every session of swim lessons this year but one. Only because I wasn't aware they started so soon after school let out.

Do you see any gills??? LOL!

Alayna took to the water like crazy! She would have been happy if we let her move in and camp out there all summer long! :P



BIG bonus...The last session most families don't sign up for. Alayna had private lessons!!! :D

Walker and Eli were in the same class. That was pretty nice. :)

Eli's backstroke...looking good!

Walker's backstroke...nice extension! :P

Notice Walker's face is banged up. He tends to forget to put his hands out in front when he dives. Poor kid. LOL!



It was hot out there this summer, but it was so worth it to see each of the kids progress in such a short amount of time. It also was great exercise! It can be a challenge coming up with ideas to keep the kids busy.

Walker loved it so much he's asked to sign up with one of the swim schools in hopes he can get good enough to join a Swim Team. I thought that was a WONDERFUL idea!

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Boys' 1st Day of School

>> Monday, August 8, 2011

Here we are again!! Another school year had begun!

We had a great Summer, but it's back to routines, homework, and poster board projects! :)

Walker is in the 6th grade this year! It's blowing my mind that this is his last year of Elementary School. He's becoming such an amazing young man. I am so proud of him! :) He has Mrs. Anderson as his home room teacher and a new ALP teacher Mrs. Powell. Both seem to be really good teachers, which we are ready for after a 'rocky' year last year.

Eli is in the 3rd grade, and he's really happy with his teacher Mrs. Della Cerra. He knows everyone in his class this year. He's so funny to watch around his friends. He's really developed a new self confidence recently and he struts around like 'The Man on Campus'. LOL!!

I have a good feeling about this year! :)

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Faith in Adversity

>> Monday, August 1, 2011

I had a few people ask me to post the talk I gave on Sunday...so, here it is. :)


The topic this month has been faith in adversity. We’ve heard wonderful talks. Sis. Bartlett and Bro. Brinkerhoff’s in particular stuck out in my mind, on how their faith carried them through extremely difficult times in their lives. I was so moved by their stories and testimonies. They overcame Goliath size trials in their lives. I am grateful for their example and experience, and as I go through my own adversities, I can recall their steadfastness and hopefully apply it when those times arise in my life.

I think when we go through hard times it is easy to be consumed by ourselves. It’s easy to give into sulking, feeling picked on and in some cases become depressed. I know I have succumbed to all three of those things. It’s hard to be patient and accept the Lord’s will as he refines us into whom he wants us to be. Living as the ‘natural men/women’ we are, we want what we want when we want it. And for me I wanted it about 10 minutes ago! When we don’t receive what we feel is our just dues we sometimes begin feeling entitled, which is when the tiny crack begins to take form.

Here’s an example. We went on a family vacation this summer. Moms you know what that means. You make the lists and check them twice. You wash the clothes you pack the clothes. Make sure the coloring books, toys, floaties, beach gear, dvd player and appropriate dvd’s are packed. Leapsters, DSI’s, and tablets are charged and ready to go. Everyone’s favorite pillow and blanket must not be left behind so throw that in too. You make a menu, shop for the food and then prepare and make all the meals that you can that will fit Jenga style into the ice chest. And that’s just getting ready to leave. Hmmmm…someone remind me why we vacation?? LOL!

So after all the fun times were had on our trip we are about to pull into the garage back home. I turn to my ‘sweet’, ‘darling’ children and remind them that Dad and I will need help unloading the car. Now I figured that little reminder would do the trick. I mean, I have taught them over and over again to be hard workers, to look for things that need to be done, to show respect to people who have taken care of them.

I was all prepared for them to jump to work with smiles stretched across their faces. Because after all I just planned the perfect family vacation and surely they want to show their gratitude by doing their part.

Then, I hear one child from the back of the van say (with a whine), “You know I’m tired when we get home from vacations.”

Well!!! You can guess that that little comment ruffled my feathers. Which lead to a full on lecture about how blessed we are to have been able to go on vacation at all, and how I’ve worked so hard to even make this happen and the least you could do is bring in the luggage. Which lead to some serious back pedaling by said child.

I like to think I’m a pretty good parent. Jared and I try to teach our children to have integrity, and help others and to be kind. But when it comes to certain areas such as feeling entitled, expecting to be waited on hand and foot, perhaps we need a little more work. Now I know that this is an isolated incident. I know it's not the end of the world and that this particular child really can be a good worker. But this along with a succession of other instances lately have really made me think about how entitlement can be so detrimental and how I don't want that feeling in our house.

I know there are so many other parents out there who want the same thing. Polls suggest that a feeling of entitlement among kids is one of the single biggest worries of parents in our society today.

Let me take this a step further… Don’t we all feel entitled? Not just our children. We as adults have these same feelings and thoughts. We are not exempt just because we are no longer under the age of 18. We hope we are further along in the process… but certainly not exempt.

Maybe we are accepting of the burden of packing and unpacking from vacations. Maybe we can help our neighbor without whining about how hot it is outside. And maybe we’ve learned it’s ok to share our toys. But… have we learned to be patient? Have we learned to endure to the end? A friend of mine’s mother has a saying, “Life is Long.” I know I feel like enduring to the end seems like a huge task. And enduring to the end well seems monumental.

Have we learned to give in to God’s will? Does our sense of entitlement during adversity diminish the lessons we could or should be learning to improve and perfect us as children of God? Do we let the trials in our life weaken our faith or strengthen our faith?

Elder John K. Carmack said in the March 2002 Ensign Article, “Too often we allow ourselves to think or even say words like these: “I don’t deserve this setback. You’d think after all I’ve done, it would not have to be like this. Why must I prove myself over and over again? This is my time to rest from all this responsibility. I’ve done enough.”

Perhaps the Savior is teaching us that if we are serious about desiring greater faith, nothing short of maintaining a constant eternal perspective will do. If we place any condition on our willingness to serve the Lord with all our hearts, we diminish our faith. If we have complete trust in Him, our faith will increase, and that means the strength of our belief and our power to act will increase. We will not think we have done our duty and that is enough. We will continue with pure intent and total commitment the rest of our lives. Maintaining such an attitude is the way to increase our faith.”

What happens if we allow entitlement to weaken our faith during times of trial? For me, I see it as that tiny little crack I mentioned before. With this tiny crack our foundation becomes less strong. It doesn’t necessarily mean we fall to pieces right then and their but we aren’t as solid and sure as we were before. What is our foundation? Our foundation is our faith in Jesus Christ. In (Alma 44:4) it says: Now ye see that this is the true faith of God; yea, ye see that God will support, and keep, and preserve us, so long as we are faithful unto him, and unto our faith, and our religion; and never will the Lord suffer that we shall be destroyed except we should fall into transgression and deny our faith. This scripture tells us we are promised that if we hold to our faith we will be supported and preserved by God. That is music to my ears!

But is that easier said than done? There have been many times in my life I haven’t fully understood why a trial has been placed upon me or my family. I always miscarry a pregnancy before I can carry a successful pregnancy. I suffered postpartum depression after my 2nd son was born. Later that child at 1.5 years old was hospitalized for 2 weeks and at that same time my husband had hand surgery and his boss came to the house and told him the company was downsizing. After having my daughter I was hospitalized with a severe kidney infection for a week. My extended family chooses to be inactive and most have left the church. My husband suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. And more recently, you may have noticed me hobbling around in a super fashionable black boot that I know so many of you are so jealous of.

I injured my foot 7 months ago and until recently no one has really had any clear answers as to why an injury that should take about 6 weeks has taken about 5 times longer than anticipated. I have received two blessings over this time frame, and the eternal optimist in me felt pretty good after the 1st blessing was given. It was straight forward and it felt pretty promising. Fast forward 5 more months and there was still no big improvements. I asked for a 2nd blessing. Before the blessing was given I had all of these GRAND thoughts about what the Lord will have to say. I had visions of being miraculously healed. I envisioned myself running through fields and being able to dance in the streets! I felt I’ve carried this burden long enough, surely He will say, “Vanessa you’ve suffered enough, be healed.” Well, long story short He did not. Instead I was told that some trials are placed upon us for our own good and so that we may grow. The blessing then continued on to list things I needed to improve on.

Well….that was a tough pill to swallow! My heart sank and my faith was absolutely tried even further at that moment. I felt I had endured all that I could handle already. I was at my breaking point. But here the Lord was telling me, “Sorry Charlie…I’m not quite done with you yet.” My feelings of entitlement were bursting at the seams. I had to take a step back and allow the words of that blessing sit and stew in my mind a while. It was hard…really hard…but I had to soften my heart and put my pride aside to be able to accept that Heavenly Father wanted even more from me. We all have adversities. I’m sure mine probably pale in comparison to those that you may have to endure. But commonly, these trials can make us or break us. No one leaves this life unscathed.

A lot of times we find ourselves asking the ‘why’ questions. However, the ‘what’ questions give us something to ‘DO’ and are typically more productive and less likely to drive a person mad. What am I supposed to learn? Or what is the best solution to this problem? What is thy will? I have a ‘doer’ personality. I see a problem and I want to fix it. But as we all know sometimes nothing can be done and that is when the biggest test of our faith during adversity comes, as we must rely completely on the Lord. When answers don’t come the way we want them to or in the time frame we want, doubt enters and we begin to feel like our prayers aren’t being heard. Feelings of loneliness creep in and our faith begins to waver.

Satan sees that little crack again, that imperfection, and little by little picks at it. And what started out as a small crack becomes a crevasse. If we aren’t careful he will continue to pick and dig until finally the damage is irreparable.

We can fortify our faith and keep Satan at bay by trusting in the Lord. We can keep strong by not allowing our feelings of entitlement to stand in the way of what will help us to become humble, meek, and submissive to our Father in Heaven’s teachings. Just as we try to teach our children lessons that to them, don’t always feel is fair, or lessons that seem too hard, or lessons that at times seem redundant, we have to be teachable as well. In Doctrine and Covenants 8:10 Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not ask for that which you ought not.

In the July/August edition of LDS Living Magazine there was an article about Attorney Keith N. Hamilton who joined the Church in 1980 and served as one of the first black bishops. His example of faith through adversity in his life are certainly noteworthy. He talks about his great-grandfather, a slave freed by the Emancipation Proclamation while living in what is now known as West Virginia. His great-grandfather became a Christian minister, as did his Grandfather, he affectionately called ‘Granddaddy.’

He goes on to say, “I cannot remember a time when I did not believe in God. Some of my earliest memories involve going to Shiloh Baptist Church in Norfolk to see and hear Granddaddy preach his sermons. He died in February 1962, and his passing was the first time I experienced the death of a close loved one…. To my dismay, I soon became much more familiar with death, viewings, and funerals than I would have liked, as over the next 10 yrs. I attended the funerals, in chronological order of my mother, maternal grandfather, my paternal grandmother, and my father. My maternal grandmother and all my great-grandparents had died before my birth; thus, shortly after my 14 the birthday, I had no living forbears.

Growing up when I did, and where I did, was not coincidental either. I lived all of my days prior to leaving on my LDS mission in either Virginia or North Carolina. As a product of the Civil Rights era, I remember experiencing segregation, prejudice, and overt acts of racism as a child and teenager. Throughout my entire life I have witnessed the struggles of my people, in person or through the various forms of media.

…”I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in August 1980…..Two missionaries “tracted” me at my off campus residence and two weeks later I got baptized. I chose to become a member of the LDS faith following a divine response to my sincere prayer, and because of the truthfulness of the Church’s doctrine, but certainly not because of any social or cultural benefit or advantage I expected to gain…

He says: “In order to qualify to return to our Heavenly Father’s presence after our mortal probation, every person must pass through the trials and tribulations of this life. So, too, it is, and was, for many nations or groups of peoples. The scriptures are replete with evidences that at times the Lord’s people must pass through severe hardships, due to no fault of their own, in order to serve as instruments in demonstration to others of His love, mercy, compassion, power, and divinity. Should it have been, or be, any different for us of this dispensation?

In Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet there is a writing entitled “On Joy and Sorrow” wherein he eloquently describes the relationship of opposition in all things, saying:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises
Was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being,
The more joy you can contain.


….Those of us that have experienced trials, hardships, and adversities have a greater capacity to recognize, receive, and contain the joy of the gospel than some others because of the deep sorrow carved into our souls by past experiences.

Adversity, through its many forms and faces, has dug a deep well of sorrow-and thereby created the potential for greater joy in the lives of many peoples, not just blacks of this dispensation. Early LDS Church members suffered great hardship in establishing the Church in the Eastern states, as did the pioneers who crossed the plains into the Rocky Mountains. Twentieth-century Jews experienced horrendous atrocities during the reign of Adolf Hitler. Trials and adversity have been the lot for all for God’s peoples in all dispensations, including this dispensation…”

ELDER JOHN K. CARMACK Of the Seventy (Lord, Increase Our Faith March 2002)
We do not increase our faith by following a formula, although the ingredients of fasting, prayer, and righteous living are part of that process. Increasing our faith requires trusting the Lord with our whole souls. We cannot say, “We have done enough and deserve to rest.” Nor does the increase come through definitions, logic, or philosophy. Rather, we must:

• Do what is right and serve the Lord because we know, trust, and love Him with all of our souls.
• Harbor no thought that we deserve a reward or thanks for what we do, although rewards will surely come.
• Humbly ask, seek, and knock.
• Never demand anything of our Lord, because we are always in His debt.
• Leave to Him the final decision in all things, having the attitude “Not my will, but thine be done.”
• Be prepared to sacrifice, even unto death, for our entire mortal lives.

As members of the Lord’s Church, we can increase our faith, if we desire, by going beyond the minimum requirements of the gospel and developing complete trust in the Lord.

I want to bear my testimony to you that as much as it seems ideal to go through our lives as if everything is butterflies and rainbows… it is not God’s plan. He has to stretch us and take us to places we would never go on our own. These experiences are what shape us and make us who we are today and who we will become tomorrow. Each one of us will be tested in one way or another, multiple times throughout our “Long Lives.” He will allow us to fall to our knees and plead our case before him; He will hear us as we cry out His name as we feel frustrated, scared, panicked, lost, concerned and even when we feel we are all alone. When we become humble, meek, teachable, patient and faithful, He will come to us in the very hour of our need. But in His timing not ours….ELDER CARMACK also said, “Increasing our faith requires trusting the Lord with our whole souls and striving to act as He would in all circumstances.” We should not question the Lord’s will or allow our feelings of entitlement to stand in the way of being able to grow in our faith and sainthood. I just want to close with two quick scriptures on this subject…. (Ephesians 5:20) says, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” and in (D&C 98:1) “Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;”

I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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