Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Power of Goals

For as long as I can remember, I've been a goal-setter. I'm not sure if it started back in Primary when we used to have these little books we would set goals in we would try to meet, or if my parents taught me about goal-setting, or if it didn't really become a huge part of my life until jr. high and high school when sports became really important to me. Whatever the case, I have a long history of setting goals and working really hard to meet them.

I was blessed to have been tutored over and over about how to set goals; between my parents and my coaches and other inspirational people I met along my path, I learned how to effectively set goals that were difficult but attainable, that were specific, written out and measurable and that would stretch me and help me become closer to the person I hoped to be. I didn't always reach my goals, but I sure accomplished a lot more because of them. Therefore, I became a huge believer in them.

Now that I am a mother I have the desire to pass on this valuable tool to my own children, to help them learn the amazing potential effective goal-setting can have in their lives, and to help them be motivated to set their own goals and work hard to achieve them. This, I have found, is not that easy.

I've started by setting an example throughout the years, showing my children some of my own goals and explaining how important it is to me to constantly be striving towards something so I can keep improving myself in different facets of my life. I think that might have seemed somewhat interesting to them, but I realized not long ago that they were getting old enough that something more needed to be done.

So, last year, I decided to expand things just a little. I bought white 2" binders for each child (except Berkley, since she was only a year old) and printed out a cover for each of my children to decorate.

Then, I got really excited about motivating my children and I printed out quotes on goal-setting and stuck them in everyone's binders, just sure they were going to read these fabulous quotes over and over and over again:). Here are just a few examples.

This is my absolute favorite one of all. I put it in the front of each binder so my children would see it every time they opened their books, which I envisioned would be, like, every other day or so (NOT!:).

Not sure why this is sideways. I totally took the picture normal, but I can't seem to fix it. Sorry.
Then I put tabs in each binder: current goals, 5-year goals, 10-year goals, and 20-year goals. Oh yes, baby, I was very serious about this goal-setting business. Now, I did have a talk with myself before I presented these binders to my children. I told myself that my children might not share my enthusiasm about all of this, and also that it might take them time to grasp the entire concept of goal-setting, especially my younger children. I've had talks like this before with myself. They usually aren't super effective. The practical, realistic side of my brain understands the concept, but the irrational, emotional, excited part of my brain usually takes over anyway. I'm afraid that might have happened once again in this situation. Anyway, here are the tabs. Aren't they quite beautiful?

Not sure why they are upside down. What is the deal here? Anyway, you get the picture.
The next step was having a big family goal session. The idea was to sit my children down, explain to them the ins and outs of proper goal setting, get them excited to set their own goals, get them dreaming and motivated, present them with their amazing goal binders, and . . . Bam! The children grab the binders with the gusto of a child at Christmas and pencils start shaking.

That's not exactly how it all went down. It was more like children rolling their eyes, taking a lot of deep breaths and asking when the meeting was going to end. Finally, I gave them each their binders and coached them through the steps of setting some goals for the year. "Now you may want to take a few minutes to really think this through," I said. "You want to set some goals that are very important to you, not just write any old thing down. And keep it simple for now." I encouraged them all to set goals in different areas, such as spiritual, emotional, academic, family or sports--whatever they felt was most important to their personal development right now in their lives.

I challenged Boston and Regyn to think of three things to work on. Regyn completely ignored that little piece of advice. She said her favorite number was eight and she was going to have eight goals, and that was that. This is what she came up with:

She basically did not follow any of the proper steps of goal-setting since none of her goals are measurable or specific and they are written out in paragraph form, but that is simply Regyn for you. I had to laugh right out loud at goals # 3 and 7. Number three says, "Convince my mom to sleep on the couch." And number seven: "Try not to be a couch potato." This girl is the funniest ever!!! What do you do when your goals contradict each other? That's one I didn't cover! Ha!

Her 10-year goal also surprised me, as she tells me adamantly all the time that she is not going to play volleyball like Hallee!

I loved Boston's goals though. His little 6-year-old mind seemed to grasp the concept quite well. The best part is, when we got these binders out this year to review our last-year's goals, he realized he had come a long way. He hadn't scored two goals in soccer, but he had stopped talking like a baby and had started being very kind to Berkley. Now that's progress!

And I'm very excited about the goals he set this year. The best part is--he is already making his bed all by himself, which he has been sure he couldn't do all these years. The power of goals!! I'm telling you, it's amazing what can happen when a boy decides he can do something. (My favorite goal happens to be goal number one, however.)

Now, here we are a year later. Unfortunately, we didn't get the binders out monthly last year like I hoped we would and my children haven't memorized the amazing quotes I have stuck all over in them. But, those goals were written down, and I have to believe they were written in their hearts somewhat as well, because these darn kids did make progress in all of their goals last year. I'm sure it helped that they typed them up and printed their goals out and stuck them to their bedroom doors where they could see them often. There's nothing like a constant reminder of something staring at you daily to keep you a little focused.

We sat down for a new goal session last month. It was fun to see the kids talk about what they had improved on and what they hadn't. It was even better to see them realize that they did want to set goals and that they did believe these goals could help them. So, they got to it. They opened up to a new page and wrote down some new aspirations for 2014. They truly bring tears to my eyes.

Here are Regyn's goals this year. She decided to slim down her goals and focus on just a few. I absolutely love goal #1!:) It says, "Stop telling my mom she's mean." Ha! Maybe if I stopped being mean, she could stop telling me that. At least, that's what she told me.:)

Here are Nate's goals this year. I probably shouldn't share something so personal, but I have to tell you, I didn't know he had set these goals until I sat down to write this post and I decided to glance at their books. I only know, the first Sunday of this month, which happens to be Fast Sunday in our church (meaning members of the ward can go up during Sacrament meeting and share their personal feelings and testimonies), Nate hopped right up after the sacrament and was the first to share his testimony. I couldn't believe it! This is not a normal practice for him. It was wonderful hearing his simple, yet personal feelings about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I couldn't help but look at him and wonder what was up. Now I know--he had set a goal to share his testimony every Fast Sunday this year. We will see if it keeps up, but he's off to a great start! Again--the power of goals!

This is really a neck exercise, first to the right, then to the left. Ha! So sorry about the pictures this time. I have no idea why they keep posting all different directions.

Hallee's goals always make me stop in my tracks. Now that she is getting old enough to really have dreams and aspirations, she is beginning to understand how goals can help her get there. And that is an amazing thing to see. I'm sure she will have failures along the way, and I'm sure she won't reach every goal, but I have seen how setting high standards and working hard to attain them have made her so much better. She is becoming a great volleyball player. Nearly two years ago, she started on the ninth grade team as a seventh grader (not very easy to do, and not very common). That was her goal and she worked hard to make it happen. Now she has a goal to make the Davis High School volleyball team as a ninth grader this Fall. It won't be easy, and she knows it. But she also knows that with a lot of hard work and dedication, it is possible. And the best news is, even if she doesn't make it, she will be a lot better for all the effort in trying. That's the miracle and the power of goals.

Right now she plays on a 16 Power Club team, although she is only 14 years old. She knew playing with this older team was an important step in reaching the goal of making the high school team. She is learning so much and improving every week. And that's what it's all about. I am so proud of her for that. It's not the easy way. In fact, her school counselor told her to stay in the jr. high and enjoy being a super star because that would be a lot easier than taking summer classes and trying to make her schedule work so she could play high school volleyball next year. Hallee and I just looked at each other, and then kindly told her advisor, "Thanks anyway, but that just won't work with her long-term goals." I thought to myself how great it is to have long-term goals so you know what to do in the short-term.

Here is Hallee working on her setting before practice.

Love her intensity during matches. She's the one with the lime green headband, btw.

Here is a blurry picture of her team after one of the tournaments. They won the Silver bracket. They are pretty awesome.
 In the end of life, when everything is said and done, there is really so little that matters. Volleyball championships and such won't be what makes up the most important part of the journey. But, I do believe that what we learn from setting goals and trying to use our gifts and abilities to become something more is of immense value and something that will stay with us always. I don't think I could possibly measure the tremendous effect goal-setting has had in my personal life, but I do know my life would be very different without the consistent guidance and direction goals has given me. And so, I believe in the power of goals.

I know my biggest goal of all was to become a mother, and not just a mother, but a very good mother. And so I set a lot of little goals along the way when I was younger to help me prepare. I knew I had to marry a good man to help me parent the children we would have together so I tried hard to become the kind of young woman that man would want to marry. And when I got off course a little, my goal would remind me to make the necessary corrections to get back on. Man alive, was that ever worth it! Keeping focused on that goal kept me from making some big mistakes along the way, and I can't be thankful enough for that.

So, I just have to say, I definitely agree with Zig Ziglar:

"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals."

I truly hope to pass that on to my children . . . and to get our binders out a little more often this year.

Friday, February 21, 2014


This year our family decided (OK, I decided) we were going to focus on learning a lot more about Jesus Christ and trying to become more like Him. Since the Young Women theme for the year is "Come Unto Christ," we decided to make it our family theme as well.

We started by talking about some of the Savior's attributes. Here is a list we came up with:

Then we decided to each take turns teaching a Family Home Evening lesson on one of the attributes, our goal being to try to develop these very attributes ourselves. Not long ago, when I was feeling (as I often do) weighed down by some of the struggles my children were having and by the fact that I felt our home was not the peaceful, loving place it should be, I was desperately seeking answers. In my mind, I was constantly reviewing what I had read in parenting books and what past experience had taught me. But I was coming up with nothing that really seemed to help, and I was quickly becoming frustrated. That's when I did the smart thing--I turned to God and really listened for answers. I expected some great parenting technique to come to my mind or to be inspired to start some revolutionary family system that would fix everything, but that is not what happened. Instead, the answer came and completely caught me off guard.

It was simple but so profound and it humbled me immediately. It was this: Bring them to Christ. Bring your children to Christ. 

That's it. No fancy schmancy parenting hoopla with charts and systems and rewards and consequences. Just plain and simply: Teach your children about the Savior--bring them to Him even (which implies I must take the journey as well), and they will become like Him and your home will become full of love and peace, because that is what He is full of.

It was a great teaching moment for me. And one I vowed to never forget. But my next question was this: How? I still don't really have the answer to that, but as I pondered it over and over, I decided to just start somewhere. So we made our list of attributes and we've started our lessons, each taking a turn.

This past week was Nate's turn. He wasn't sure which attribute to choose, but I did. Humility. It's not like I was trying to hint that he needed it or anything:) but with a kid like Nate, who tends to be good at everything he tries, I worry that humility will be something he struggles to have and maintain, and I know how absolutely vital it is if he is to be close to the Lord and serve Him. So, I strongly suggested he choose that attribute and then I hoped and prayed he would really learn something from giving a lesson on it.

And boy, oh boy, were my prayers answered! This kid gave the best lesson ever! Dan and I sat in the living room with our jaws wide open, trying not to look as shocked as we felt. He researched the topic and shared scriptures and quotes from modern-day prophets. He even had a hymn for us to sing that went along with it! Then, we sat and watched a talk Elder Uchtdorf gave in a priesthood session of General Conference last year about pride, and it was amazing! I was reminded of so many things I needed to hear. As I listened to my 12-year-old son share his final thoughts and testimony, I realized how grateful I was for the inspiration from God to study the life of Jesus and work to bring my children to Christ.

The air was truly thick with the spirit and with love, and I have learned to really soak up moments like that because they do not happen all the time. They must be appreciated and locked in the memory and in the heart. I also realized how much I needed the lesson on humility for myself. I had hoped Nate would learn a lot from it, but as I sat there, I realized how easily I forget my dependence on God as a mother. I so often try to battle everything on my own. I work hard to teach and guide and discipline my children and to constantly try to solve problems that arise, and sometimes I rely way too much on my own wisdom, which is so inadequate, and my own strength, which is so small. But when I finally humble myself and turn to God for answers and really rely on His wisdom, then I become the parent I truly want to become. Then I become wise. Then I am able to find solutions and parent my children with love.

I remember before I ever became a parent, I thought about it often, and I so naively thought I would be such a good mother. There have been so many humbling moments--so many humbling days and weeks--since then, when I have realized how terribly inadequate I am in every way, and yet God allows me this sacred privilege, and He is oh, so patient with me. I'm ever grateful for that patience. And grateful for that word humility and that it reminds me that I will never have all the answers or be able to solve every problem on my own, but that if I trust in God and turn to Him, He can truly help me as a mother to know the needs of my children and how to best help them.

Anyway, it's Regyn's turn next week for our Family Home Evening Lesson, and I simply can't wait to see what she comes up with!

Monday, February 17, 2014


Warning: the first part of this post is about how much I hate Valentine's parties, so if you're not interested in hearing that, simply skip to paragraph 10:)

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate parties?

Oh right, I think I may have said something about that little fact in the post just before the last one when I was talking about Nate's birthday. Well, it just so happens that I not only dread birthday parties, but I also deplore school holiday parties. I know. I know. I sound like a total lame-o, but I simply can't help it. Let me tell you why.

Think. Think. Think. Ok, I've got nothing good. But let me tell you about what happened this year for Valentine's Day, and maybe then you will understand just a little.

Thursday I had a Valentine's Party for my preschool class. It's not my favorite thing to do as I am no party girl, but of course I do it for my darling preschoolers because I know they love it and I love them. A mom came to host the little party, and she was fabulous, but I must admit when her idea was to paint all of their feet red for the craft, I realized it might be a long party:).

Ok, I must admit these turned out pretty cute. Thankfully, some of the kids insisted on painting their hands, rather than their feet. Are these kids the cutest or what?
The next day I found myself at the elementary school for two hours doing activities for Regyn's and Nate's classes. Now, for many moms, this would be super fun. Many moms are very good at coming up with fabulous ideas for activities and crafts for such parties, but this mom happens to not be good at that kind of thing at all, and even though I spent hours on Google and Pinterest trying to figure out what in the world to do for a craft that 12-year-olds wouldn't find absolutely juvenile and ridiculous, I still had nothing great by party time on Friday.

By this time, however, I was tired from a long week and frustrated that I had spent so much time (not to mention money for the supplies and treats--and let's not forget the Valentine's all of my children insisted they needed) on activities and crafts for these darn school parties. Still, I put on my happy face and ran up to the school to try to make everything as fun as I could. That's when the kids, one after one, scoffed at my game, then at the treat I offered for winning the game, then at the craft I had them do, and so on and so on. By the time I left the school, I couldn't help thinking, "Why on earth did I spend so much time, effort and money on kids that had no appreciation for it?"

Nate's class. They are cute kids, I just have to say. 

 The worst part about it all was that in doing all of that to fulfill my responsibility to the school, I had no time left over to do anything for the people that really matter in my life--my own children and husband. I realized how absolutely unacceptable the whole scenario was, and although Regyn was as happy as a peach in a pie that I had helped in her class party (and I do love to make that girl happy), I felt pretty sick inside that I had done so little for these people in my home that I love so very much. And I decided right then and there that the school is not going to control my holidays any more (now don't get me wrong--I love our school and I do love holidays--I just don't like the social pressure of doing everything the way everyone expects us to).

I already go rogue when it comes to Halloween, and I think I might do the same thing for Valentine's Day. Doesn't that sound kind of exciting? I mean, can you imagine NOT buying valentines and giving them out? What if you did something completely off-the-wall and you took your kids out of school and had your very own family-date day instead, doing all kinds of simple but wonderful things to show your children and husband how much you really love them? To me, that sounds so much more wonderful than designing boxes (hoping to have the best one in the class--which we don't even do anymore, btw), filling out silly little valentine papers, and exchanging candy notes. I know that's what society tells us we must do for Valentine's Day, but seriously, WHY?

If Valentine's Day is really about love, then by golly, I'm going to start really spending that day with the people I love doing the things we love--and that does not include school parties. Not for me. Now, I realize many of you may read this and think I am one crazy lady because you love school parties and Valentine boxes and cards, and that is fabulous. That's what makes the world so great. I just feel like for too long I have conformed to doing things just because. Next year I want to do things my way.

I did happen to get up early and pull off an amazing Valentine breakfast for my kids, which I was pretty happy about I must say. I was exhausted all day from such a busy, busy week and from getting up early, but it was worth it.

Berkley was very happy about the candy on the breakfast plate.

Kinda a goofy picture of Dan, but I sure love this guy

Ok, so now that I've talked way too long about school parties, let me get to the real meat of what I want to say. I've been thinking a lot about this word LOVE. I always thought it would be the easy part of parenthood. I mean, love comes so naturally and loving children is an especially instinctive and simple thing to do. From the first time I felt life inside of me, I felt love for that life. It was amazing! And then she was born, and I knew I would never be the same. I had never understood love on that level before.

Now here I am, four more children later, and I find myself sometimes wondering if I am loving enough--wondering if I am loving more than I am nagging, reminding, scolding, and so on. In this fast-paced life we have come to live, it is easy to become hyper-focused on getting things done and getting people where they need to be on time. It's about schedules and routines and to-do lists. And sometimes at the end of the day, I lie in bed and wonder if I loved everybody enough. I wonder, Did each one of my children feel love from me today? Did my husband feel love from me today? In the midst of the chaos and the scheduling, did I take time to simply make them feel loved? Because at the end of the day, what else really matters?

Sometimes our children go through difficult stages and our love gets tested a little bit. Actually, I think our love for them doesn't change--it's our "like"for them that may waiver a bit:). Depending on a child's particular attitude, I find I still love him tons, I just don't particularly like him at the moment! Truthfully, it's just his behavior I don't care for, not him personally, but it definitely can become difficult to distinguish the two at times.:) Anyway, I have found my children--all five of them--go through painful growing stages at times and they test their boundaries all over again, and they become belligerent and difficult to manage. It is easy to want to withhold love during these moments out of frustration and hurt and anger. But the truth is, love is what they need most (along with consistency and boundaries and many other things, of course).

I read something recently that said this: "When the going gets tough, love harder" (That is from the Power of Moms book called Peace, Order, Purpose and Joy--awesome book!). I love that thought. Love harder. When your child is consistently naughty, love harder. When your teenager is grumpy all the time and not talking, love harder. When your husband is stressed out and irritable, love harder.

That is what I am going to do--Love harder. Love longer. Love more. 

Because this family of mine deserves all the love I have. They are everything to me. They are the reason I get up every morning and smile (and then take a deep breath:). They make me feel loved on so many different levels. They have taught me what it truly means to LOVE.

Here are my children in the car ride home from Wyoming this past weekend. Not even sure why I snapped the picture, but I turned around and looked at them and just thought of how much I loved them, and then I snapped a picture of the moment. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Nate the Great Conger

This is the time of year my blog gets filled up with simply posting about birthdays because that is all that goes on around here for about eight straight weeks (with Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years sneaking in in between). I'm not sure that was good planning on our part (if there was any planning at all) because I have to be honest and say, it wears me completely out. Birthdays are not my forte.

I am not a good party mom. I have finally gotten to the point where I can say that without feeling guilty. I am not a good party mom, and that's ok (I've had to repeat that little sentence over and over to myself over the years to remind myself it really is ok). I know there are a lot of mothers who go all out for their children's birthdays, and I am just not one of them. I used to feel quite worthless about this little fact, but not anymore. Thankfully, I've grown up just a little bit (I think--I hope). I've explained to my children that they did not luck out in the "Birthday Party Mom" department, but not to worry because their dear old mom has other amazing qualities that made up for that. When they rolled their eyes and looked at me with doubt, asking just what those qualities might be, I must admit it's taken me years to come up with anything substantial. But the point is . . . I do have skills--they just don't include great birthday parties.

Now, back to Nate's birthday (because I realized I skipped right over it and blogged about Regyn's first). Nate turned 12 on January 8th. This was a very big deal. Twelve is a very important birthday in our home because we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which for a boy means he will get the Aaronic Priesthood. This is something we had worked to prepare Nate for diligently over the years, and especially this past year. Dan and I felt it was important for him to understand what the priesthood really is and what it would mean to be ordained to it and have the opportunity to serve. This being our oldest son, we weren't very good at it, let me tell you. And as Nate went to get interviewed by our bishop, I felt we had pretty much failed him. The most amazing thing about the Gospel of Jesus Christ though is that we are all just learning. Of course no 12-year-old understand thoroughly everything there is to know about the holy responsibility he holds in being a bearer of the priesthood of God. That is what I love about God's plan for His children--He provides them with opportunities to learn and hold callings and responsibility when they are young and eager to learn and pure so they can be tutored by His spirit along the way, rather than waiting until they are older and more influenced by the ways of the world and harder to instruct.

Anyway, the highlight of Nate's 12th birthday for me was definitely watching him pass the sacrament for the first time, hearing him share his testimony in sacrament meeting and seeing him immediately rise up as a young man and take on the responsibility of a priesthood holder. It's absolutely amazing to me how quickly this influences these young people. I literally see a transformation in him every Sunday when he walks into church and sits with the rest of the young men, preparing to do that service each week. I'm so grateful for that. I pray it will help to humble him.

Does he look handsome in this new suit or what? Believe me, he needed it! He grew 4 inches in the past 10 months and his past church pants were definitely getting short. 

Too bad the sun is in his eyes and you can't se them, but his eyelashes look pretty dreamy. 
 Nate opened presents early on the morning of his birthday. This is the part the kids love the most. I was most excited about his new suit. He was most excited about the fact he got money and could buy a used iPod from one of his friends. Since he can now text me (the one thing I do like about the device), I put him in my contacts as "Nate the Great Conger." I had to come up with something original since Hallee was in there as "Sweet Hallee." All of my children want to be known as something besides just their names; thus he is now Nate the Great, and to me, he is definitely great--not perfect by any means--but absolutely great!

Berkley loved being part of the gift-giving process.

Is it just me or does this kid look an awful lot like his dad?

That is a fake hug if I'v ever seen one.

Dan and I wanted to make the day special by taking him out to a nice dinner, so we took him to the Olive Garden. We told him how very much we loved him, how proud we are of him and the young man he is turning into, and we brought out that technology contract we had just used with Hallee (this time with a slight variation that included time limits each day--something we had to revise with Hallee's very quickly). I had also written a letter to Nate that he opened at the restaurant. It was really nice to be there with just the three of us. I hope it's a memory he will keep forever.

Here he is reading his letter over his salad and breadsticks.

Ok, now to the part about his birthday I didn't love so much. The party. Yep. I promise my children when they turn 5, 8, 12 and 16 they get a party. Thus, it was Nate's year for a party, and boy was he wanting to make it big. When Hallee turned 12, she invited about 5 friends to go bowling. Nate invited 14! And he would have invited more, but I told him the list was capped. Thankfully, he was willing to hold the party at our church so I didn't have to pay a lot for a venue. Unbelievably all 14 boys were available that afternoon and came to the party. It was 2 1/2 full hours of complete noise and yelling. I had a headache after 15 minutes. I'd never seen anything like it. These boys were intense and were not afraid to speak their minds. They played basketball, dodgeball, lightning and more basketball. I tried to intervene at times to avoid fist fights (just kidding) or hurt feelings and to make things more fair, but it wasn't easy to get their attention, that's for sure.

Opening presents

Thanks heavens Hallee was there with me to at least provide me some solace:)

I just kept watching the clock and telling myself I could make it until the end of the party. But that's when the unexpected happened. . .

They all came home with us!!!!


That's right! Before I knew it, they had all piled in cars and were driving to our home to play longer. This was not a good idea, and I knew it but had no idea how to stop it. Let me remind you that we live in a basement that is very crowded so playing inside is out of the question, and that it's winter (January) so playing outside is out of the question, so what was I supposed to do with the 12 boys who came home with us?????

This is exactly why I don't do birthdays!!

The good news is that I did survive. It took at least an extra 6 months off of my life, and I told Nate it will probably take me at least four more years to recover, but I love that kid so much, he was worth it anyway. And I do think those boys had fun. And they are darn cute 12-year-old boys, I just have to say.

But boy, am I glad it's over!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

An Unexpected, Sacred Service

Two nights ago we had an unexpected reminder of how fragile life can be.

We loaded up and hustled to the church to fulfill our family's cleaning assignment for the month. Usually we help a bunch of families clean on a Saturday, but our Ward Cleaning Specialist really goes the extra mile and also schedules two families to do a "quick clean" on Monday evenings as well. This was our responsibility this time. Dan was scheduled to work really late Monday, so it was just my younger four children and me, as Hallee was home swamped with homework.

We had been asked to show up earlier than the normal scheduled time because another ward was holding a viewing in the Relief Society room and they, of course, hoped to have the room cleaned and all of us out of there before the viewing began. So, we bustled up to the church, hopped out and started the cleaning routine.

After doing a few basics, we realized the Relief Society Room was pretty crowded with folded chairs along the side. Since the funeral directors had arrived, I asked them if it would be helpful if my children and I removed some of the chairs to allow more room. They agreed this would be a good idea, and we started taking chairs across the hallway to lean against the coat area outside the Primary room.

The next thing I know the casket has been brought in and opened in preparation for the viewing. I didn't even think about the fact that my children would be exposed to a dead body while we were doing this little service, but even then, I expected the viewing would be for an elderly man or woman. I was wrong.

We took some chairs out and walked back into the room, and right there at the front was a little white casket, opened up to reveal a beautiful little girl. I gasped. This was something I was not expecting, and I certainly was not prepared for my children to behold this sight. I mean, here we were in street clothes with intentions to run up and do a quick cleaning job on the church, and suddenly we were taking part in a sacred, holy service. I grabbed a couple of chairs and walked quickly back into the hallway to catch my breath.

"Oh my goodness, that is a child!" I gasped. My children, of course, had noticed the same thing.

"What happened to her?" they all seemed to ask at once. I told them I didn't know and to just keep working. So we did. They seemed to know it was not appropriate to really ask.

All except Berkley, that is. Her little two-year-old mind had no idea it was not kosher to blurt out blunt questions about the situation, so she went up to one of the funeral directors and said simply, "What happened to that girl?" I was so embarrassed, but on the other hand, I really wanted to know the answer. I was amazed that Berkley seemed to understand that this little girl was dead. I don't remember much about anything when I was two, but I'm pretty sure I had no idea what dead meant.

The sweet woman gently said, "She got really sick."

What?? Seriously? My mind and heart felt immediately ill. This beautiful little child simply got sick and died? "How old was she?" I couldn't help but ask. The answer was difficult to swallow.

"She was barely nine."

Regyn's head jerked towards mine as she cast me a look that I immediately understood. Regyn would be nine the very next day. A solemn reverence settled in our hearts as we continued carrying chairs out. What had begun as a desire to quickly get our church responsibility finished and get home had turned into a sacred opportunity to serve a family who had just lost something--someone--very precious.

It was not long until the girl's family showed up. We were still carrying chairs out (there were a lot of chairs), but I encouraged Nate to ask what else they might need since we knew the building well and could help get tables or anything else they desired. They responded with ideas and we immediately met their requests, grateful for the opportunity to help. Finally, they thanked us for what we had done, which seemed like nothing, and we realized it was time for us to go.

With one last glance at this beautiful nine-year-old girl, all dressed in white, lying in a casket, I blinked back tears, told the father--whom I did not know--how sorry I was for his loss, and ushered my children down the hallway to the chapel to finish our cleaning assignment. But my heart was not the same as it had been when we began. And neither were my children's. I could sense a difference. We had no idea when we piled out of the car that evening that we would have the opportunity to witness such a sacred scene or be able to serve in such a meaningful way, but as we climbed back in to go home, I thought to myself how grateful I was that we had fulfilled our simple assignment to clean the church that night. Not because that family needed us to move those chairs or get those tables for us--I'm sure someone else would have done that for them if we hadn't--but because we had an opportunity to be the Savior's hands and hearts for just a little while, and it humbled us and brought us closer together for a time. My only sorrow was that Hallee and Dan had not been able to be with us to share the experience as well.

The thing is, life is so unexpected. You really never know what is around the next corner. I believe opportunities to love and serve are truly all around us, and truthfully, I am not very good at finding them. It's something I have felt our family needs to do a lot more of because serving brings happiness. Serving is what Jesus Christ spent His whole life doing, so if we are really going to be followers of Him, and if we are really going to be like Him, and if we are really going to come unto Him, we simply must serve.

As we drove home from the church Monday evening, there was a different feeling in the car. I told my children how proud I was of each of them for the reverent, respectful and loving way they had helped that night. I also told them how very much I loved each of them. I reminded them of how fragile life is, that loving each other and serving each other and forgiving each other is what life is about. I didn't know all the details about that family or the events leading up to that little girl's death, but I wanted them to remember that life is fragile and that it is so vitally important to love each other today because no one knows what tomorrow will bring. I don't say things like that to scare my children, and they know that. It's a mantra I've shared many times because events in my life have proven it to be true. And I think it's important to remember.

I hugged my children a little tighter that night. And when I woke the next morning and still had my nine-year-old, I was so grateful to celebrate her birthday with her! I tried to think for a moment what my life would be like without her bright smiling personality and constant (and I mean constant:) chitter chatter, and I couldn't even go there. I decided instead to simply love her and soak her up every minute I have her, which hopefully is for a long, long, long time.

This is Regyn--so full of life. I love it!

A little closer look. Man, I wish my camera wasn't so blurry. That's what you get for using a phone camera all the time, I guess. Doesn't she just look sweet and innocent. She really is (most of the time), I'm telling you. I love this girl!

Boston gave her this adorable outfit she is wearing in the pictures above. She was pretty thrilled. Not as thrilled as in the next picture, however, when she got a . . . 

. . . kindle fire!!! Oh man, am I a stupid mother! Seriously. What am I doing getting my nine-year-old a kindle for her birthday? I'm blaming this one on her Martinez cousins who all have one. Ok, that's totally lame. I can blame no one but myself. She was so excited, as you can see. Now she just has to share with everyone, including me, since I don't even own one of those puppies. I am so jealous!

Here she is with her lame birthday cake. She wanted a funfetti birthday cake with fun dot frosting. But, the fun dot frosting was nowhere to be found. Dan and I searched four grocery stores and couldn't find the stuff. Four stores! Did they stop making the delectable stuff or what?? I finally had to settle for taking Regyn to Fresh Market to pick out a cake. She chose Snickers. It looks a lot better than it tastes, let me tell you.

One last picture of this beautiful girl that I absolutely adore. So glad she's mine!