Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Surely I will be with thee"

 {Blaine was baptized May 3, 2014}

I teach Gospel Doctrine at church.  That means every Sunday I lead the Sunday School discussion in a large chapel full of adults.  I'm dripping with nervous sweat by the end of the hour every single week, but I really, really love it.  I get to dig into the scriptures and really challenge myself to apply them to the world and life I know.

Sunday's lesson was taken from the book of Judges in the Old Testament.  As we spoke about Gideon, one phrase really stuck out to me and became a focal point of our conversation.  After the Lord has told Gideon that he needs to save the Israelites from the Midianites, and Gideon has responded that his family is poor and he is 'the least in my father's house,' the Lord replies,
"Surely I will be with thee."

Last week was kind of a doozy. We returned from a two week vacation (but let's call it a trip, because traveling thousands of miles with four children in a mini-van isn't very vacation-like, is it?) on Monday evening and I proceeded to jump into trip recovery.  Moms, you know what this looks like.  Laundry galore, vacuuming out the van that looks so disgusting you just want to drive it to the salvage yard, sorting through mail, re-stocking the fridge, all those fun things.  Then right in the middle of that, Roger awesomely flooded our upstairs the night before our hopeful renters were coming for dinner.  Needless to say, I felt overwhelmed, grumpy with my kids, ugly, and a little bit nuts.  I'm pretty sure I told Taylor, "I wish my teaching credentials were up to date and that that job paid more because I should go to work and you should stay home the kids.  I suck at this job." 

Then, one night, the Spirit whispered some very clear instructions.  A formula.  "You need to get up early every morning to read your scriptures, pray, and exercise.  And you need to get out of your head and be social every day."  Plain as day, I had my recipe.  The solution to all the crazy, 'I am terrible at my chosen vocation and my children are going to need therapy' thoughts.

Gideon's tiny army of 300 prevailed over the Midianites.  But it wasn't really them.  It was God.  He was with them.  And they knew it.  He is with me, too.  And you.  And I sincerely believe He cares as much about giving me those mundane, practical instructions as He cared about Gideon and his army.  He and I both know that I can't make my life beautiful and accomplished by myself.  Or raise these children to be outstanding by myself.

And so I remember, "Surely I will be with thee."  And I feel strong.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Young Buck Baby Shower

Several months ago, after offering to host a shower for our cute friend, Lilliana, who is expecting a baby boy this spring, Jessie and I started brainstorming a theme.  The moment the words "young buck" fell out of Jessie's mouth, we knew we had a winner.  We wanted to make it super masculine--from the woodsy decor to the food.  No creme puffs at this shower!  It is the most fun we've had creating a party to date.
There were several natural elements that really made this party amazing--wood stumps of varying sizes, antlers, and gobs of flowers.   Other than that, every single thing you need to duplicate this party is available in our shop.
 {Plaid bunting available here, felt ball garland here}

We happened to procure a lot of antlers.  Wrapping a bit of yarn around them adds an extra pop of color and texture.

We've been using our gray and white chevron tablecloth for a lot of events.  It provides a simple canvas, but with a little more interest than plain white.  We had a ton of fun arranging the stumps as cake plates and tried to arrange the flowers in a super casual, natural way.

We knew we wanted to use giant red balloons to really make a statement, and came up with these fun plaid and chipboard garlands to tie on.  You can buy the entire balloon kit here.

 {Lunch boxes here}

Like I said, we wanted to serve atypical shower food, so we called on our friend, Catherine, who filled lunch boxes with meatball sliders (on homemade rolls!), kettle chips, and an amazing green salad with strawberries, cranberries, parmesan cheese, and a poppyseed/pesto dressing that was TDF.  We also served Henry Weinhard's rootbeer, which just felt perfect!

For dessert we served chocolate cupcakes with dark chocolate frosting and lemon cupcakes with lemon buttercream.  We kept it simple with Betty Crocker mixes, but made our frosting. (Recipes coming soon!)  You can buy the toppers here.

It doesn't get more sweet and darling than Lilliana, and we absolutely can't wait to meet her young buck!

anne & jessie

***photos by Olivia Leigh Photography

Saturday, April 12, 2014


{pretty hard not to love this crew}

I've written a bit over the years about mothering as a mission.  I coined that phrase when I realized that I needed to put the same amount of effort, faith, and prayer into being a mom that I had put into being a full-time LDS missionary.  When you choose to serve a mission, you basically throw your self into 18 months or 2 years of the unknown.  It's a giant leap of faith, trust, obedience, and sacrifice.

As hard as missions are, they've got nothin' on parenthood.  (Talk about the unknown!)  But being a missionary prepared me for this gig in countless ways.

Basically I could narrow down the lessons from my mission like this: 

On my mission I learned to:


Doing those things required work, but honestly, they came naturally.  When you pray dozens of times a day and dedicate nearly every thought to the needs of others, it is easy to love.  And, when you realize just how small and helpless you are, you can do nothing but rely upon the power of God.  You understand what it means to be an instrument in His hands.

I'm ashamed to admit how often I forget to apply these two practices as I parent.

But this week I remembered.

This week every last member of our family got a nasty stomach virus.  For most it was fast and furious, but dear Clara has struggled with it all week.  Today, as stripped yet another bed, washed her barfy hair again, wished my husband weren't gone on a Saturday, felt sorry for the isolation illness brings, loaded the bajillionth load of stinky laundry, and sat and smiled at Clara while feeding her probiotics and applesauce, I remembered.

There was no time for selfishness this week.  This week was rubbing children's backs in the middle of the night while they painfully endured.  This week was holding and consoling and loving and smiling.  It was frustrating not to accomplish more on my list and maddening to be away from visiting relatives, but that's the whole point.  It wasn't about me.

As a missionary, it was easy to love the people of Ohio because I knew this one thing: 
God sent me to them.

And, even though children do plenty of things that don't feel loveable, it's easy to love them when I remember:
God sent them to me.

As all these thoughts came together this morning, as I spooned applesauce into my baby's mouth, I thought: I should feel depleted, exhausted, annoyed, frustrated, just over it.  But I felt renewed, hopeful, even joyous because I knew that I was no longer mothering with my power.  I called upon God's power every minute of every day this week and He blessed me abundantly.  There is so much peace and gratitude in my heart when I feel His strength in me.

I can't think of a clever conclusion to this post and my toddlers need a bath.  Thanks for listening.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Valentine's Day Party 2014

It was perfectly lovely not to be pregnant or have a tiny babe for the party this year!  We decided last year's 'donuts only' theme was THE BEST IDEA I HAVE EVER HAD and repeated it. 

As it turns out, Penny and Tillie and my affinity for parties go together like donuts and sprinkles.  Jessie and I have been planning parties non-stop lately, and we are rolling most of the decor into our shop inventory.  Like this giant heart balloon...
{This was the last year for the Vday party at the Blue House!}

We flanked my buffet with two giant pink balloons which we bedecked with honeycomb balls and some exceptionally glittery hearts we made.  And the donuts make such an impact that you don't need much else!

Best beverage for donuts?  No brainer.  MILK.  Aren't the vintagey bottles the best? 
A few years ago we did chocolate chippers with milk shots.  This year it was donut holes.  Brilliant!

As always, all the guests were darling with a capital Totes magoats. 
Carts and his favorite girl, Zo-Zo
Also: Jessie is a megababe.

Hope you can join us next year!  Viva Cookie and the best tradition ever!

Monday, February 3, 2014

On Balance

{Carts and me, celebrating Vday.  Party re-cap forthcoming!}

You know what the hardest thing is? Balance. And not just in the obvious sense--balancing time with four children, getting all the chores of life done, making time to meditate and exercise, squeezing in service, helping with homework, nagging about piano practice, driving to basketball... That type of balance is a whole series of discussions in and of itself. It would include questions like 'how do you prioritize and fit it all in?' and suggestions like, 'I clean the bathroom and put on my make-up while supervising the toddlers in the bath. Awesome multi-tasking!' But there is another kind of balance that I have deeper worries about.

I am constantly concerned about the balance between needs and the best use of my time. Here is what I mean:
I am an ambitious human being. I always have been. I load up my plate--heaping full-- all the time. I want to learn more, accomplish more, serve more, be more. Even if I had no job or children, I could fill up my whole day, every day. I would run, read, clean, write, cook, bake, sew, photograph, and...and... You get the picture.

If I had the time, I would pour myself into growing Penny&Tillie.  Jessie and I have grand visions and big ideas for our little hobby to become a big business.

But my life doesn't look like that. I have a husband. A dear, hard-working, awesome fun, loving husband. And, as June Cleaver as it sounds, I expect myself to keep the house a beautiful place and put good food on the table, because, dang it, he works hard for me all day every day. I also have four children. Four energetic, loud, brilliant, beautiful, demanding, loving children. And they're not just mine. They are God's. He made them. They come from Him. And, though I highly value the agency--in other words the freedom to choose--that God has granted all of us, I also hold myself responsible to teach my children and give them the tools they need to succeed. And, heaven help me, if one of my children wanders or struggles or feels unloved, and I haven't given him the best of me, I don't see how I can live with myself.  

I've said before: I don't believe in being a martyr mother. I have to have my own interests and identity. But I don't want to look back at this mortal life--this amazing, beautiful gift of a life--and realize, 'I wasted the best days I was given on selfish, secular, mundane interests.'

And there it is. The balance struggle. How to give everyone (including myself) enough of me. I doubt I will ever really feel like I'm winning the balance battle. But I am constantly reevaluating my life. Like every single day.

I hope to the heavens I am getting it at least sorta right.

{This has got me thinking today.}

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


2014 is looking good. It's the first New Years in three years that I didn't ring in with a virus, so that's always helpful. More importantly, after a long, chaotic summer and a lot of autumn days that left me feeling flat, weak, helpless, and exhausted (parenting is hard I tell you. HARD.), I feel more refreshed and hopeful than ever. I have energy and faith for the new year. And, as per usual, I have about 9 billion goals and resolutions. One of which is to blog more often.


I have reflected over and over again in the last couple of years that the negative, skeptical voices online seem to outweigh the positive, faith-promoting ones. I am going to try to do my part to help with that imbalance. But that is a scary goal. Not because I'm scared of promoting faith or telling my story. But because I am tender-hearted. I don't do well with confrontation or mean-spirited criticism. I can hardly stand to read hateful comments on any comment thread, let alone MINE. So, will you do me a favor? If you don't have nice things to say, maybe just don't read my posts on faith/religion. And if you don't agree with me, will you at least promise to be gracious and courteous? I will do the same.

With that, here are two things that have been on my mind and in my heart:
1. For Christmas last year, my sister gifted us with a print of Brian Kershisnek's Nativity. (If you have the chance to see the original (BYU Museum of Art), TAKE IT. Breathtaking.) For Christmas this year, my mom had it framed for us. I can't stop looking at it. I adore that Mary is nursing the Christ child and that Joseph looks absolutely overwhelmed. I love the presence of the midwives and the symbolic mother dog and her puppies. I love the bold blue sky. And the angels. Oh, the angels!  I love them--individually and collectively.  I'm going to hang it in my home all year round. Celebrating Jesus isn't a once a year thing for us. I believe God is my Father. And I believe He sent His son to save us.  I believe that makes each human being on this earth my brother or sister. And my job is to love them all.

 2. Yesterday I was in my van a lot. Running errands, schlepping Roger to Kindermusik, etc. Though I'd heard it many times, I listened to an Alison Krauss song, 'There is a Reason,' with new wonder. I played it over and over, until I had it all memorized. I love every word and it sings the feelings in my heart at this time of renewal.

Happy New Year, friends!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Nine Years Grateful

I was doing a stellar job of writing in my journal every day this year.  Just a couple of sentences, but that was a huge improvement in my journaling over the last ten years.  Then one day I realized I had missed two months.  And that is basically the story of my life.  It's a circus!  I am in a constant state of motion.  Swirling around my house, picking up toys, discarded clothing, and general mess made by two toddlers.  Driving around town, dropping off at school, piano, Kindermusik, etc.  Laundry and dinner and planning and holding whiny babies and breaking up fights and (unfortunately) nagging.  That is to say nothing of church service or Penny & Tillie.  And then there is the motion in my head--the constant wondering if I am doing things right enough or if my kids are going to need therapy.  The trying to be patient and calm and to lighten up.  The striving for balance between my needs and their needs.  The self talk to stop being so worried about our mainly first-world problems when there are people in the Philippines truly suffering.  The anxiety about each child's various traits and needs--wanting to empathize and understand more and help them be successful, loving, kind, bright, faithful people.  It is a lot. 

I think an insane amount about my various hopes and dreams for my life.  It's hard to know when to say, 'don't be absurd--give that up,' and when to say, 'go for it!'  It's difficult to evaluate what will be the best for our whole family.  I don't believe in being a martyr mother, but I do believe that 'mother' is the most important of all of my titles and that raising these four children is of far greater importance than anything else I'm doing.

This week Taylor and I are celebrating nine years of marriage.  Nine!  And we feel so grateful.  Grateful we still like each other so much and laugh so hard together and feel so united on all fronts.  Grateful we have four beautiful children to love.  Grateful we have warmth and comfort and security.  Grateful we have so many people in our life who support us and teach us.  Grateful to know that God is real and that He loves us, even when we don't act super lovable.  Grateful for the faith that defines us and informs every decision we make and makes us truly, genuinely, wholly happy.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Blue House, y'all!

Love you,