Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Family Get Togethers

We did our share of visiting family during Christmas.


Our first stop on Christmas Eve was at Grandma Nancy's house. We joined her, and Greg's sisters and their families for a ham and cheesy potato casserole dinner, a present exchange between the grandchildren, and then Grandma Nancy gave us all some very generous gifts.

Next we went to London's home to celebrate with my side of the family. London set a gorgeous table and we enjoyed a meal of many scrumptious appetizers (recipes from what I contributed are soon to follow). We had a gift exchange among the different families and then Pappy and Grandma Betty spoiled the kids even more.

Christmas morning was all ours. We opened a few gifts with the children (mostly warm clothes). The boys did get one big toy each, Palmer got an Elmo kitchen and Brody got a big blow-up ball that lights up and plays music. Palmer absolutely loves both of them and we are sure Brody soon will as well! I could not for the life of me get a picture of Palmer looking at the camera. He was completely absorbed with ripping wrapping paper and playing with his new treasures. Greg and I exchanged a small gift: he received a poker set, and I received a cookbook.

That afternoon we met at Andrea's house to visit with Greg's Dad and his girlfriend Mary who had driven to Salt Lake from Ely that morning. It was a special treat since we don't get to see them too often. Once again, we all exchanged gifts, and the kids were gifted even more.

Surely, there is no need to ever worry about giving my kids a good Christmas when there are generous grandparents involved who love to spoil them.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Good Movies & Bad Movies Turned Good

Greg and I love Redbox lately. We've been renting a movie a couple times a week, basically since it is a night's worth of entertainment for a dollar. There had seemed to be a dry spell over the summer of good movies that were not rated R, but that has surely not been the case this winter. We recommend the following: Angels and Demons, Star Trek, Julie and Julia, Up, and Four Christmases. The first three were especially great!

Greg and I decided to purchase a combined Christmas present with some of the money we received for Christmas (the rest will be taking a good chunk off our our medical bills; thank you again Secret Santas!). We bought a ClearPlay ($60 at Seagull Book, much better deal than ordering direct). Our friends own one, and we've been wanting one for about a year, ever since we watched a movie on theirs. We are totally loving it! You can pretty much custom filter your movie by specifying to what degree you will allow sex, nudity, profanity, violence, etc. We have already rented a couple movies we otherwise would not have viewed and very much enjoyed the cleaned up versions. Anyone up for a movie night at the Hess home?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Humbled, Deeply Touched and Rejoiceful

As many of you know, we've been having a rough time lately in regards to work situations and finances. I had spent Black Friday happily shopping, purchasing a few gifts with the assumption that Greg was receiving a new job (the recruiter had told us the company was planning to offer him a position) only to find out after weeks of waiting and checking in, that the offer never came. We were also met this month with our medical bills from Brody's birth. We had saved up the money for these expenses earlier on, but with Greg's lay off, having to replace my car, and me being out of work after the baby, the money was long gone. We soon realized we didn't have enough money to cover our living expenses, let alone buy gifts for Christmas. We were in survival mode, living on faith. Little did I know that such a circumstance would lead to the most spiritual and uplifting Christmas I have ever had.

I willingly admit that I am a proud person. I do not like to admit weakness, I have an incredibly hard time accepting help and will do just about anything to avoid asking for help. My will was broken over and over again this season as I had to relinquish my pride. For the first time in my life I truly understood what it felt like to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We knew we did not have enough coming in to provide, but somehow whenever the bills came due, family members, friends and ward members generously gifted the money we needed to get by.

A couple weeks before Christmas after our mortgage and utilities had been miraculously paid, we received a generous gift of cash from a Secret Santa and I was very excited to think we could use it to pay for the presents I had purchased. Two days later Greg's car died and needed a new battery and we had a home repair come up. The cost of both of these items was exactly the amount we had been given. Don't get me wrong, I was extremely thankful that we had the money to cover the unexpected cost, and I knew that Christmas should not about the gifts, but I could not help but be saddened and even a little bitter at not having money for Christmas yet again.

A few days later we went to Temple Square with Greg's side of the family to view the lights. As I listened to the nativity story and President Monson's message I was overwhelmed with gratitude for our Savior and for this wonderful time of year that we have to celebrate his birth and his life. I was humbled once again as I let the true reason for the season into my heart and let go of all the materialism to which I had so desperately been clinging.

I finally had the strength and resolution to return the Christmas gifts I had purchased, and amazingly enough, it didn't bother me in the least. Instead of dwelling on what we were missing, I enjoyed time with my family and friends, I prayed intently, and I pondered the fantastical gift our Heavenly Father provided for us all, the life of his most chosen son, The Redeemer sent to earth to save us all. With this new appreciation Christmas was better than ever before!

And then to top it all off, we were blessed even further. On Christmas Eve we received three more visits from Secret Santas. Each gift brought tears to our eyes and love in our hearts. Amazingly enough, a few of the gifts given to us were the exact ones I had returned. Surely, we are being watched over. We know there are many who are more deserving than we, who have greater needs during this time of year. How humbled we have been by these trials as of late. How thankful I am that these trials bring us closer to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. How deeply touched we are by those who are mindful of our situation, who love us and who gave so generously, and for a Heavenly Father who works through his angels here on earth. He knows us, knows our needs, and despite our weaknesses and our greed, provides not only for those needs but also for some of our wants. And finally how rejoiceful I am that thousands of years ago, Jesus Christ was born, and that today we have the opportunity to celebrate his birth with those we love.

A very merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Sunday

My mother always had us wear matching outfits on Christmas Sunday, and I so hated it growing up. Now I find myself doing the same thing. Ha ha! We look a little rough and messy in these pictures since they were taken late at night (after church, naps, two meals and a fireside), but we do look happy and that's what Christmas is truly about!

Season's Greetings

This holiday season has been a busy one. Last week I sent out our Christmas cards. I made 24 of these babies and barely finished before the post office's delivery by Christmas deadline, but I did finally finish them.


And last Thursday I spent all afternoon in the kitchen once again. This time making 20 yummy miniature loaves of banana bread. Bananas have since lost all appeal to me, but the finished product sure looked cute!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This the Season for Potlucks

I feel as if I have lived in the kitchen these last couple weeks. Every few days there is either a potluck or some other reason for me to make a snack or treat to share. Here are some of the yummies I've been whipping up.

Chile and Cheese Spirals

These were for a potluck held during a craft night at the church. You can serve them alongside salsa, or they are great by themselves.

1 cup shredded cheese
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 can diced green chile peppers, drained
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 can diced black olives
4 (8 inch) flour tortillas

In medium bowl mix cheddar cheese, cream cheese, chiles, onion, and olives. Spread about a 1/2 cup of the mixture evenly on each tortilla. Roll up tortillas and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for 1-4 hours. Before serving, cut off ends of rolls and discard. Cut rolls crosswise in 1 inch slices.

Chocolate Cookies with Mint Frosting


This is yet another variation of my tried and true cake mix cookies. I made 75 of these tasty treats for my Relief Society lesson. There were only 16 woman present... and they all went!

for cookies:
1 package chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup water
1 egg

Mix all ingredients together. Spoon into balls on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Let cool before frosting.

for frosting:
6 tablespoons butter
1 pound powdered sugar (about 4 3/4 cups)
1/2 cup milk or cream
1 1/2 teaspoon mint extract

Cream butter, gradually add half the sugar and blend well. Beat in cream and vanilla and gradually add the rest of the sugar. Add cream if needed. Frosting is best a little thick.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made banana nut bread for our neighbor gifts this year, which meant we had tons of ripe bananas in the house. The perfect ingredient for these tasty cookies. They were my contribution for a cookie exchange this month with my paper craft swap group. I froze half the batch to bake later for Greg's priesthood lesson, and they came out as perfectly as they did when baked fresh.

1 well beaten egg
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups quick cooking rolled oats
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream egg, sugar, shortening, vanilla and bananas until light and fluffy. Stir in baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon until blended. Add flour, followed by oats and chocolate chips. Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for about 10 minutes.

I've also recently made funfetti cake mix cookies (potluck at work), 20 small loaves of banana bread (neighbor gifts), and of course, lemon bars (holiday party). This week we have some family get togethers to which I am bringing treats, so I'm sure I'll be adding a few more recipes to the mix here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Weathering the Weather

Palmer had his first experience playing in the snow this winter. He absolutely loved every second of it! He loves putting on his winter gear; he gets his coat and tells us, "Coat!" whenever he want to leave the house. He exclaims, "Whoa!" when looking outside and seeing it has snowed and cracks up heartily anytime we find ourselves outside while snow is falling. He loves a brisk cold wind; it brings an instant smile to his face. This kid was made for wintertime!

Brody is doing quite well with the chilly weather also. He is getting to be such a smiley boy, just like his brother. He also likes the feel of a cool crisp breeze. We bundle him up thoroughly before going out. He usually falls asleep in the carseat since he is so warm and cozy. The carseat cover that is pictured here has been such a life saver! It is easy to slip on and protects our sweet little baby from the harshness of the winter elements. I am so grateful for London and her hand-me-downs, which is how we received this cover and Palmer's snowsuit. It has made this winter much less frigid.

Temple Square at Christmas

Greg, Palmer and I (Brody stayed with my dad and Betty since it was too chilly out for a newborn) took Trax to Temple Square with Greg's side of the family last week. What a lovely experience it was! As I listened to the nativity story and President Monson's message afterward, I was reminded of the true reason why we celebrate this season. How grateful I am that Christ came into this world, brought with him the truth, lived a life we can all strive to emulate, atoned for our sins and then died for all of us on the cross. He is my savior and I feel great joy in celebrating his birth this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Brody's Two Month Photo Shoot

We had Brody's pictures taken last weekend at JC Penney. He was much happier this time. The sweater outfit was a baby gift from the Jennes. It is my favorite outfit of his. And the little Christmas cocoon and hat he is in was made by the studio manager especially for him; isn't that so thoughtful of her? I was about 20 minutes late to our appointment and had forgotten the coupon. They squeezed us in and even tracked down a coupon for us to use. They really are so good to us!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Crazy Sundays

I know I have been slacking with the blog. I think I was a bit burnt out after NaBloPoMo and now I am just super busy working and getting ready for the holidays, as I'm sure everyone is.

I just wanted to write a quick little ditty about how crazy our Sundays have been. Greg is on a new shift at work that has him working Sundays. He really misses going to his church meetings and we really miss having him with us. I especially miss the help with the boys. Last Sunday Palmer wouldn't stay in nursery and Brody wouldn't take the bottle, so I had two upset crying boys to drag around with me. Many ward members were offering their help, and I still about had a nervous breakdown!

Thankfully, Greg has now worked out a compromise with his managers where he only works a half day on Sundays and gets off at 11:00 AM. This will be perfect with next years meeting schedule at 1:00, and it definitely is nicer to have him for part of church during the last few weeks of this year.

Yesterday was my first time teaching Relief Society and my first time having to do the programs for Sacrament Meeting (two new callings I've recently received). I was so proud of myself for getting myself, the boys, the master copy of the program, my prepared lesson and homemade cookies for the Relief Society (and during a blizzard I might add), to church fifteen minutes early in order to put out the programs. Seriously, it must be my greatest accomplishment to date. However, the library was closed when we arrived; I quickly found someone to let me in. With no librarian, I had to make the copies myself, which would have been no big deal if I didn't have a toddler with curious fingers right next to me. The little stinker turned the copy machine off three times while I was trying to make copies! So after my great feat of getting to church early and all ready to fulfill my callings, I still failed and got the programs out only minutes before sacrament meeting began. I don't know how other women do church with children alone. Power to them!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Two Months Old

Brody is two months old today. Time really does fly by. I really love this stage. He is still a cuddly little baby but he is also old enough to start interacting. He is such a sweetheart! He loves to be held and snuggled and we love to snuggle with him. Here is what is going on with Brody at two months of age.

Stats: 11.5 lbs (42nd percentile) and 24.5 in (94th percentile)

He has learned: to follow things with his eyes, to coo, to smile at people, and is almost sleeping through the night (at seven hours now)

He likes: cuddling and being held, being swaddled, his bouncer and especially the vibrator function on his bouncer, being rocked, baths, getting his diaper changed and nursing

He dislikes: taking the bottle, being alone, and the swing

Things he does/about him that makes us laugh: little scowls, going cross eyed when he really focuses on things, his chubby cheeks and round belly, big toots, little sighs and cute smiles

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pitties

"Pitty!" is what Palmer says every time he looks at our Christmas tree. I smile and inwardly agree. Yes it is pretty. What a deep love I have for our tree. I find it beautiful for many reasons. It is very much my style. I love all that glitters and glistens. I love the soft, cool, crisp colors of winter. It is decorated with the ornaments from Greg and my January wedding and so it also has considerable sentimental meaning. And of course, I love it because it celebrates this wonderful season that is now upon us.

This evening we took a drive down Winder Dairy Street. Once again I heard a soft, happy, "Pitty," from the back seat as the glow of Christmas lights illuminated our windows. Yes, I thought, it sure is. We stopped at the Winder Dairy store and enjoyed some chocolate milk and scones. Oh, what a pretty sight is a warm, freshly bronzed scone dripping with honey butter. Later this evening a friend arrived to share some crafting time with me, surely another pretty.

As I look back upon my postings this month (one for each day, goal achieved, go me!) I cannot help but see that my life is very pretty. I have a wonderful, loving family: a sweet and thoughtful husband (who coincidentally I find very pretty to look at) and fun, rambunctious, preciously sweet children. I have sisters, extended family and friends who are beautiful inside and out and I am overcome by their, as well as others', thoughtfulness and service. I see a warm home, scrumptious food, the magical escape of literature, the charm of handcrafted projects, well and abled bodies, and life-lessons forever learned. I find evidence of a loving and forgiving Heavenly Father, the gift of a Savior and his atoning sacrifice and the promise of eternity with them, my dearly departed mother, and all others whom I love and adore. Such beauty, such joy, such exquisiteness, so many pretty things encompass my life!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Palmer is sick, and Greg's company is making him work Sundays now (he's still trying to fight this with HR since he was given this unfavorable shift as a result of taking time off when I had the baby), so I am not able to attend church today. I am sad to be at home on a Sunday. My week tends to go better when I start it with church attendance; I need the spiritual uplift.

Although sadly, since I've had children I find it more and more difficult to get that uplift from my church meeting. This is usually the case because I spend Sacrament Meeting desperately trying to satiate a temper tantrum from my toddler or running around the building after him. I spend either Gospel Doctrine or Relief Society nursing the baby. And about half the time we end up leaving early because Palmer is inconsolable since he missed his nap.

With the addition of another child I've realized there are several things I will just have to say goodbye to, at least for the next phase of my life. These include: a clean house, napping, time to myself, extra money, my body, the ability to run a quick errand, a full night's sleep, carrying a purse instead of a diaper bag and general peace and quiet. But it's alright. I do miss and yearn for these things, yet I willingly give them up. My children are worth it, and eventually life finds its way back, right? Well, that is with the exception of my pre-pregnant/pre-nursing body, but that is okay too.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday Joys

I so enjoy the holiday season! With Thanksgiving and Black Friday in the past, I now find myself eagerly awaiting many of the wonders that comes with this time of year. I'm excited for it all, but especially for these holiday delights.

  • Putting up the Christmas tree. I love our tree! It is beautifully winter-esque and very dear to me because it is ornamented with all the decorations from our wedding reception.
  • Holiday baking. I'm sure this is no surprise that I love to bake during the holidays. Actually, I love to bake all year long, but Christmas time gives me the excuse to do so even more regularly.
  • Wrapping gifts. I love a wrapped present. I believe unwrapping a gift is half the fun of receiving one, so each year I put hours making the presents we give to others lovely to look at.
  • The Festival of Trees. It is a tradition for me to attend this wonderful event. I enjoy looking at all the sights, and tasting the yummy treats, but most importantly I love the message and good doing the festival represents.
  • Temple Square. This is another tradition dear to my heart. The beautiful, rejoiceful and peaceful spirit of temple square is only magnified this time of year.
  • Christmas cards. Each year I send out handcrafted cards to friends and family. I feel they carry a little piece of me onto our loved ones. I also enjoy receiving cards and letters from others. E-mails are great but receiving a mailed letter is a little gift in and of itself.
  • Christmas music. I've already been listening to the seasonal tunes this entire month, but I look forward to more of it. Christmas music is the perfect medium to get one into the holiday spirit.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday Madness

There's just something I can't resist about waking up before the crack of dawn, in the freezing cold, making a mad dash for bargains and standing in hour long lines. I love Black Friday! My sisters and I (and anyone who wishes to join each given year) have a long tradition of braving the craze that starts off the Christmas shopping season. We spend Thanksgiving Day scouring the ads and plotting our attack for the next day. We may or may have not been those crazy girls dancing and jumping for joy in the electronics department of Sears at 4:03 AM last year when discovering they were getting the last 46 inch flat screen television. We go every year without fail whether we have the money to spend or not. If the case is not, then we act as line savers for those who can spend. It's always turns out to be a good deal, an exciting rush and a spectacular time!

This year certainly did not disappoint. Even though I actually woke up at 2:45 AM in order to nurse Brody before leaving, I am still somewhat functioning by 3:00 this afternoon. I think all the lack of sleep with a newborn must have conditioned me to be one hard core Black Friday shopper.

Me, London, Cami, Susan, Sariah and Tammy breaking for breakfast at Village Inn before continuing our assault.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful

Here are the top ten things I am thankful for this year.

1. My immediate family. What a wonderful, fun, kind, spiritual man I am married to, and my boys could not be more perfect in my eyes. I love them all more than I can put to words!

2. The gospel. The gospel shapes who I am. I would be entirely lost without it and without the love of my Heavenly Father and the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

3. My extended family. Oh how I love my sisters! They are my closest confidants. I can go to them for anything. My boys are blessed with wonderful grandparents who love them and love to play with them. Today we are celebrating Thanksgiving with Greg's side of the family. How lucky I am to have not only one wonderful family, but two.

4. My friends. Sometimes there is no substitute for a good girls night. I am blessed to have many amazing women in my life who I could call up anytime for a fun time or nice talk.

5. Financial help. It's been a struggle since Greg's department was laid off. Every week we sit down and do the bills and wonder how we will make it, and every week we have been given unasked for help from a family member or friend. We are truly watched over.

6. Health. I am thankful to have my health and for the good health of my family. I have a difficult time staying positive when my body is ill or mending. I don't know how my mother dealt with it for so long. I am also grateful for our health insurance and I am grateful for the helpful doctors we see and their sound advice.

7. Work. I am so happy to be back at work. I am grateful to be able to subsidize our income without having to leave my kids. I am grateful that Greg's company offered him a position. Our situation could have been much worse and much more depressing if he were without a job and without benefits.

8. Home. It may not have the newest accommodations, but it is cozy, warm and more than sufficient to our needs. We talked about if we would move if Greg were to get a new job in another city, and I could not help to be saddened at the thought. I love being near family. I love our ward. And I love living in my mom's house and all the memories that entails.

9. Our country. I am grateful for the freedoms we enjoy and for those in the military who fight to keep those freedoms intact.

10. Talents and hobbies. It's so nice to have an escape once in a while. Whether it be crafting, cooking, or for Greg playing music or Nintendo, I am convinced that the act of doing something you enjoy can have an astounding impact on one's well being.

I could go on and on. We are so blessed!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Koondis

Brody has been growing a little friend atop his head the past few weeks. It started as a very small pink dot. We assumed it was a birth mark, and we were planning on getting it checked in a couple weeks at his two month doctor's appointment. It started to get bigger and bigger and changed size and shape almost daily. It is now a quite noticeable raised red bump. I decided to take him to the doctor this week to make sure everything was alright.

Up to this point we have been calling it a koondis (any Friends fans out there?). Today I found out it is actually a strawberry hemangioma, which is a benign cluster of extra blood vessels. It is harmless. It will continue to grow rapidly until he is about six months, then will stop growing and eventually fade away. So now I have a response when people ask me, "What is that!?"

I'm glad that he is healthy and that this birth mark is just that, a mark. It's also nice to know that no matter how big it gets now, it'll eventually disappear (the majority are gone by the time the child is school age) and that he won't be subjected to other children making fun. Kids have a hard enough time as it is.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Eighteen Months Old

Palmer is eighteen months old this month. Hooray for nursery! He is like a sponge at this age, sucking up everything new word/skill/behavior that he sees or hears. He is a very active toddler. He runs everywhere and he climbs on everything. He learns quickly and says around 50 words and signs several words. He is still very tall, three feet now to be exact. He has a mouthful of teeth and finally has gotten some hair, which is always sticking up, atop his head. He is such a fun kid and he has adjusted so well to having a baby brother and thereby no longer having all the limelight (although he still has a lot of it). This is what is going on with Palmer at eighteen months old.

He has learned: to walk forward and backward/run/climb/jump/dance, to point to all his body parts, to communicate what he needs (most of the time), to get into trouble faster than I can get him out of it, high fives, kisses, to help change Brody's diapers, to clean up spills and throw away garbage, and something new just about daily.

He likes: going "bye-bye," playing with other children, the park, baths, computer animated cartoons, when Daddy comes home, being a big brother and helping with the baby, playing with his cousins/aunties/grandparents, eating (especially fruit and fruit snacks), candy, books, music, being tucked in and climbing

He dislikes: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, being alone, staying at home all day and having to sit still

Things he does that makes us laugh: he walks bull-legged whenever naked, he pretends everything is a phone, calls all cartoons and red items "Elmo," talks nonstop and only gets louder until he is acknowledged, silly giggles, big hearty laughs and sweet smiles

Monday, November 23, 2009

Male Humor

I've never really understood male humor. Fart and poop jokes just aren't my thing. You will never find my girlfriends and I joking about being homosexual. And while I might crack a smile at Adam Sandler's unwarranted acts of physical violence, my reaction is nothing compared to Greg's out loud, enthusiastic roar. My lack of savvy in this department is probably amplified by the fact that I grew up in a household comprised of three sisters and no brothers.

Now, with a husband and two boys, I know I am in for it. I just assumed I'd have a little more time to prepare my acceptance into a life filled with testosterone, at least until my oldest son was able to carry on regular conversation. But in the past couple weeks I've realized that is not the case. My eighteen month old toddler now finds it absolutely hilarious when he farts. Each and every toot brings a surprised and hearty giggle from his lips.

I do have to admit though, that when he cracks up at his own flatulence, I can't help but chuckle myself. Oh no, this strange sense of humor must be catching!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Recipe - Apples and Sweet Potatoes

We had Thanksgiving with my family this evening. It was delicious! As always, we all took a turn saying something for which we were thankful. Greg said he was thankful for my cooking; what a sweetie. This is how my side of the family prepares our sweet potatoes each year, and I must admit, they are just scrumptious.

Apples and Sweet Potatoes

2 large cans sliced yams
3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons margarine
¾ cups sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt

Layer potatoes and apples in a casserole dish. Dissolve cornstarch in a small amount of cold water stirring continuously to prevent lumps. Combine water, margarine, sugar, cornstarch and salt in sauce pan. Cook on medium heat stirring in pan until sauce is thickened. Pour sauce over potatoes and apples. Bake 350 degrees 30-40 minutes until bubbly.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

More Paper Crafting

I meet monthly with a group of ladies to swap paper crafted items. The group was put together by a friend I met at Scrapbook Heaven (a previous place of my employment, the most fun job I have ever had). She invited myself and my sister to join. Every month we get together for a treat, a make and take, and a swap. This week we made gourmet caramel apples together. It was a blast!

These women were actually the first to receive the family home evening pails that I have pictured below. All those involved do such amazing work! It's so nice to be in a group where everyone puts time and care into their projects. This last month I made a bag, tag and card trio, embellished with gold metallics, buttons and hand stitching. And the month before that I swapped hand stamped recipe cards.





Friday, November 20, 2009

Family Home Evening Pail

Tonight our Relief Soceity is holding what we call Festive Friday, or in other words a crazy fun activity that involves a progressive dinner and then crafting until midnight. I designed this pail for the event and have been busily putting together about 40 kits this week for the occassion. Each pail holds a year's worth of Family Home Evening ideas. Cute and of spiritual value, how can you go wrong?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rough Day

I just don't have it in me to write a clever post today. It's been rough. At Time Out for Woman, Sister Nelson talked about Christmas letters she received each year and how they made her want to throw up when she read them because they were so fake. It hit me for the first time that there is a difference between being positive (which I try desperately to do) and being fake. I always try to look on the bright side, especially when I am documenting things. I want to remember the good things. I don't want to seem ungrateful for all that I have. I don't want to be a bummer to my family and friends. But today, I've got to be honest, sucked.

I have the stomach flu. I woke up with awful cramping and just figured it was something I ate and that it would go away before work. It didn't. At this point I was still thinking it wasn't the flu and decided to try to work since we desperately need the money. When I got to work I found out my coworker called in sick. I got sicker and sicker through the day, I had to man the children alone, and no one was available to relieve me. Then Greg called to tell me the better shift we have been patiently waiting for at work is not going to happen, and more likely than not, it will get even worse (having to work Sundays, mid-day and only having Tuesdays and Wednesdays off). The job was already such a step back and for such little pay to begin with. We're not sure how him getting a part time job will fit into the new schedule, if it even will. And to top it off, I am worried sick because someone very close to me received some very upsetting medical news.

Please don't get me wrong, I truly am thankful for what we do have, and that is a lot. I realize we are blessed. But I also have to be honest and say that sometimes things are really hard, that sometimes it seems the trials just don't stop and that sometimes, even though I try to stay positive, it does get me down.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Recipe - Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

I hosted our monthly paper swap at my house today and made this delectable treat to share. I love this cake, especially in the fall and winter months. It's a nice substitute for the regular seasonal pumpkin pie, and as a bonus, it looks pretty!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups oil
15 oz. can of pumpkin
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecan chips

Beat eggs. Add sugar, oil and pumpkin. Stir in flour, soda, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Pour in a well greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.

I like to top mine with Satiny Chocolate Glaze (I also use this glaze on my Chocolate Lovers Cake) and sprinkling of more pecan chips.

Satiny Chocolate Glaze:
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine chocolate, butter, and light corn syrup in a double boiler over hot, but not boiling water. Stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth, then add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. Spread warm glaze over top of cake, letting it drizzle down the sides.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Back to Work

Today was my first day back at work, for which I am very grateful! I am thankful that I have a job I can bring my children to (how many woman can say they get paid to watch their kids?). I am thankful for the outlet the daycare provides for Palmer. He loves to go and play with his friends and all the fun toys. I am thankful to have coworkers to talk with to give me some adult interaction during the day. And in two weeks I will be very, very thankful for the paycheck!

Each day there are a few moments of absolute mayhem, ones that make me realize the craziness at home with just my two is not that bad. I am a bit worried about exposing little Brody to so many germs during flu season. And unfortunately, the city put a freeze on raises the month I was due for my one year increase, but for the most part, my job is pretty great. Today I am a bit tired and worn out, but nonetheless happy to be working hard for the money. Well, actually I don't work very hard, but it's alright because I don't make much money either. :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Funnies

Greg was telling me about some computer system he was setting up between our computer and his work computer. To be completely honest I usually space out the moment I hear the word computer come out of Greg's mouth. He was going on about this setup for quite awhile; continuing to talk about how he was mounting something to something else. All this time I just stared at him blankly, thinking that he must know I have no idea what he is talking about. When I realized the dazed look in my eye, and my scrunched forehead was not giving him the slightest clue of my utter disinterest, I replied, "Greg, you really shouldn't go around mounting stuff, especially at work."

We were watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The movie was just wrapping up and I turned to Greg and said, "Poor Cedric!" His reply was fast, "It's alright, he comes back as a vampire."

My sisters and I were out to dinner celebrating my late mother's birthday. When the cake arrived we all sang happy birthday to Mom (or Nana, as the grandchildren call her). Once the song ended my nephew Trevor pointed above us and said, "I see Nana." We all sat there dumbfounded, not knowing how to respond. He repeated excitedly again, "I see Nana!" Goosebumps made their way over my entire body as I was convinced this innocent child was able to see past the veil and knew that my mother's spirit was present. My sister London's stunned face suddenly broke into a huge smile as she to gazed in the direction where Trevor was pointing. Amid hearty laughs she exclaimed, "It's a crate of bananas!"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Time Out for Me

Thanks to a dear friend, I was able to attend the Time Out for Women event in downtown Salt Lake this weekend. The theme this year was sweet assurance, the certainty that comes when you know life's truths. It was absolutely amazing! I could not even attempt to write everything I was inspired by, so I'm just going to document one powerful thought from each presenter.

Friday Night:

Wendy Watson Nelson - She quoted Howard W. Hunter: "I suppose you would say it is a man’s viewpoint to throw a burden upon a woman to maintain the stability and the sweetness of marriage, but this seems to be her divine nature. She has a superior spirituality in the marriage relationship, and the opportunity to encourage, uplift, teach, and be the one who sets the example in the family for righteous living. When women come to the point of realizing that it is more important to be superior than to be equal, they will find the real joy in living those principles that the Lord set out in his divine plan.” She then went on to say they she often hears women complain that their husbands will not initiate family home evening/family prayer/etc. Her response to this was, "Stop trying to turn your husband into a girlfriend. Enjoy that he is a man."

Sheri Dew - The Lord knew what we would be up against in these last days. He knew what the adversary would be doing and he wanted us to be here now to fight against it. He saved the strongest for the end of the race. We need to focus on the finish line.

Jenny Oaks Baker - This woman was the most phenomenal violinist! Every note was stirring. She talked about being prompted to retire from the National Symphony to spend more time with her children. She was worried about not being able to perform anymore, but she had faith and retired anyway. The same day she was contacted to tour and perform for Time Out for Women and has since been given even more opportunities. The Lord waits for us to take a leap of faith and then he rewards us.

Saturday Day:

Mary Edmund Ellen - She discussed the importance of being an optimist and how we can find a piece of heaven no matter the circumstance. She told a story of a woman who awoke to find she only have three hairs on her head. She thought, yay, I think I will braid my hair today! The next day she woke up with two hairs and thought, yay, I think I will part my hair in the middle today! The next morning she awoke to find one hair and thought, yay, I think I will wear a pony tail today. The next morning she woke up with out any hair and thought, yay, I don't have to do my hair today!

Hillary Weeks - She discussed having difficulty writing a song about the second coming which she had entitled "Will He Know My Name." She realized she could not write the song because she had a strong testimony that he did know her name. She retitled it "When He Calls My Name," and the song practically wrote itself.

Michael Wilcox - True worship is imitation. If we try our absolute hardest to by like Jesus Christ, he will not be concerned when we fall short of his perfection.

Emily Watts - "By their fruits ye shall know them." She took this analogy farther and said when parenting you plant the fruit and you care for the fruit. When does it ripen? It depends on the son/sun.

Kris Belcher - This woman was phenomenal! She was born with a rare eye cancer, and had many trials as a result. She recently lost all her eye sight. She says we can get through trials with the assurance of three principles: the grace of Christ, hope in the resurrection and by finding laughter and joy. She was a shining example of these conventions. As she spoke I, as was the rest of the audience, was moved to both laughter and tears.

I came home utterly exhausted, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but very, very uplifted and with a desire to be more diligent in the work of the Lord.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eighteen and One Month Photo Shoots

We took Palmer in for his eighteen month photos and Brody in for his one month last weekend. I'm actually amazed they were able to get some good shots at all; it was a rough session. Brody was super tired and crying most of the time unless I was holding him and Palmer was running around like crazy. I told the photographer to go ahead and take the next customers while I calmed my children down. The second try worked a bit better after I got Brody asleep and Palmer took a walk with Greg. You have to admit though, even though they are a handful, they are cute!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dear Sleep

Oh how I've missed you this past month! You make me a better person, more kind, more patient. Since you've been gone I have trouble just getting through the day. I can't keep up with the housework. I can barely get myself showered and ready in the morning. I have no motivation to do anything physical. More often than not, I find myself fighting the urge to just lay down and cry. I even struggle through activities I used to enjoy such as cooking, crafting and shopping. Please come back. I didn't realize what I had until you were gone. I know this sounds cheesy and trite, but I have to say it, you complete me!

Sincerely,
Bags Under Her Eyes

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom

Sixty one years ago today my mother, Valerie May Nichols, was born. She was surely a gift to this world! I miss her so much. Today I am commemorating her birthday by going out to dinner with my sisters at her favorite restaurant. We have carried on this tradition for three years now, starting the first birthday after she passed away.

Since this is also the month of giving thanks, I can't help but reflect on how grateful I am to have had my mother in my life. So much of who I am today is because of her example and teachings. From her I learned to push myself, to give generously to others, to follow the teachings of the gospel, to have a sense of humor about my blunders, to make friends, to enjoy sweets, to keep busy, to be thankful, to offer advice, to listen, to shop for a bargain, to be honest, to love and to live life to its absolute fullness.

Today, amid the usual chaos of lunch (Brody screaming in his bouncer while Palmer is yelling for more food and then proceeding to throwing it on the floor and me trying to get at least a bite of my food in before I have to clean up Palmer and then nurse Brody) I decided to stop stressing and to take a moment to think of my mom. The day had been quite crazed up to that point and although I knew it was her birthday today, I had yet to reflect upon it. I rocked Brody and I sang to my boys a song my mom had always sung to me when I was a little girl. I began, "When I was a little bitty baby my momma would rock me in the cradle, in them old cotton fields back home..." The boys quieted down and listened and my eyes began to water. I do not know the significance of this song and why my mother used to sing it to me. I actually have no other reference to it at all; I have never heard it played on the radio or from an album. I've only ever heard it sung in my mother's strong and clear serenade. I do not know why it was written, who sang it or even to what it refers. And yet, this little tune is an integral part of my life. For this precious memory of my dear mother and for so many more, I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cartoons These Days

I realize the title of this post makes me sound like an old fogey, but honestly, I don't know what is up with cartoons these days. Palmer isn't really into any cartoons yet. He does like Baby Einstein and will sit through about two minutes of Sesame Street, and like every child alive has an intense fascination with Elmo (in fact every cartoon or red object he sees is "Memlo") but that is about it. After watching some of these cartoons myself, I can't really blame him for not having any interest.

There's the cartoons that feature characters with incredibly annoying voices, so annoying they make me want to claw at my ears. Included in this category would be Spongebob Squarepants (strangely enough I know many adults who love this raspy voiced cleaning supply), Ed, Edd and Eddy, and then there's the dog on Martha Speaks who surely must be voiced by a 90 year old woman.

Then there's the whole anime epidemic that has been sweeping Saturday morning television such as: Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh and Dragonball Z. I've never gotten anime, the picture is stagnant, the dialogue poorly written and the storyline usually doesn't make any sense. I am bewildered by people's adoration of it.

I'm also at a loss when I watch Word Girl. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for educational children's shows and I see merit in teaching vocabulary (World Word, Super Why and Sesame Street are about the only cartoons I can stand to watch with Palmer), but the humor in the show is extremely dry. I personally enjoy dry humor, but it is definitely an acquired taste, one that does not appear in individuals before the age of twelve. And then there is The Grim Adventures of Bill and Mandy, which not only has extremely dry humor, but humor that is also quite dark. Doesn't dark/morbid humor come along a little later into life and not during the innocence of childhood?

I'm just about ready to end my rant, but I have to bring up a few more ridiculous programs: Fairly Odd Parents, Dragon Tales (Org is another contestant for most annoying voice), and of course the so-repetitive-it-makes-you-want-to-bang-your-head-against-the-wall Teletubbies.

Sorry if I've offended any avid cartoon watchers. I guess I am becoming an old fogey because I just don't comprehend the appeal in today's cartoons. I can't help but miss the charm and simplicity of Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, Smurfs and Rainbow Bright.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Five Boys

I can distinctly remember my father's hearty laugh when I informed him he was expecting his fifth grandson. He had all girls, and now his girls are having all boys. Yesterday I took Palmer and Brody over to my sister's house for lunch. The cousins really love each other and love to play together. This afternoon was no exception. They played hard; we finally got them to take a break to eat a little bit and then they played hard some more.

London and I were having a nice talk inside when she realized we could no longer hear the yelling/laughing/screaming that usually accompanies our rambunctious guys. Anyone who has children knows that when they are being quiet it is usually because they are being naughty. She went to investigate and found this...


What do you get when you combine the Riding boys, the Hess boys and a shed full of dry concrete? A HUGE MESS!

Just to let everyone know the boys were stripped naked and washed off immediately and poison control was called as a precaution. All is well.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cop Out for Me, Lucky for You!

Today I am going to send my readers on over to my sister's blog, Rie Pie, who is also doing NaBloPoMo. I willingly admit that she is doing this challenge far better than I am. This particular post, The Many Emotions of Winter, is especially well written and beautiful! Her posts this month have been fantastic, so creative, so poetic, so enjoyable to read; she is amazing! I love my little sister and am so glad to have her, as well as her clever blog, in my life.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Peacegiver

Our Relief Society book group met this past week to discuss our most recent book The Peacegiver: How Christ Offers to Heal Our Hearts and Homes by James L. Ferrell. This book was absolutely amazing! It literally changed my life, and from the discussion I had with my fellow sisters, I know I am not the only one who feels so. It helped me deal with pains I had not realized I was still holding onto through a more in depth knowledge of the atonement. The title of the book rings true, I now feel peace instead of hurt and anger. What's even more amazing is that the book was a gift given to me at the same time the trial I've mentioned began. I'm not sure if I would have been open to its message if I had read it then, but for sure it was an inspired gift.

Greg and I attended the temple last night and I was able to feel more peace there than I have in a very long time. I believe this was so because I have since been able to forgive, more fully accept the atonement in my life and let my heart heal. I'm sure I will be revisiting the doctrine it teaches many times in the future. I cannot recommend it enough, such insight, such truth, such power, and its even presented in an easy to read fictional format.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Post-Pregnancy Brain

After giving birth to Palmer I reflected on that fact that in many ways I still felt pregnant. Many of the same not so fun sensations have continued on after this pregnancy as well. This is especially true in regards to pregnancy brain; in fact, I believe it is worse than ever! I'd always heard women refer to the strange state of being where an otherwise intelligent individual, after conceiving, no longer can remember her own telephone number. Now that I've gone through it myself, I not only attest that it truly exists, but will adamantly argue that it is worse than a person can imagine.

This past week I've literally lost my mind, and unfortunately I can no longer blame it on pregnancy brain as I have thus so far been doing the past nine months. I start sentences I do not know how to finish. I rev up a good story by saying something like, "You'll never believe what happened today," and seconds later not know to what I was referring. I sometimes spend a whole minute trying to think of a word, and usually end up settling for a word that doesn't really describe what I am trying to say. This NaBloPoMo challenge has proved to be increasingly difficult for me with my lack of available vocabulary. Last night I went out with my sister and a friend. I was driving like an idiot, getting in the wrong lanes and having trouble merging on time. I stopped to get gas and could not figure out how to get the gas cap off my own van. Once we arrived at our destination I struggled finding a parking spot; even after physically waiting on a vehicle to vacate its spot I continued on and drove right past it. At least I gave everyone a good laugh, right?

Friday, November 6, 2009

One Month Old

Brody is one month old today. How time flies! He is such a sweet little boy. We are so happy to have him in our family. Here is what is going on with Brody at one month of age.

He has learned to: lift his head (it's still pretty wobbly, but he is getting there), nurse and burp afterwards (the nursing came quickly and easily, the burping took a while) and smile

He likes
: eating, being swaddled, being held, binkies and baths

He dislikes
: being alone, the swing (I so wish my babies liked the swing! Oh well, I'll keep trying), being put in the carseat

Things about him/he does that makes us laugh
: his "rockstar" hair - it's so blond it looks bleached and it sticks up all over the place, his chubby cheeks and baby fat rolls, a high pitched squeaky cry he does when he's tired, pursing his lips, loudly smacking his lips after he takes his vitamins, and long, very adult-like loud toots

Yeah, he's pretty darn cute!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NaBloPoMo

I found out a couple days ago that November is National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo (try saying that three times fast). Many bloggers are taking on the challenge to post once a day during the month to commemorate. I realized I have thus far been up to the task, so I am going to try and keep it up.

Recently I've realized that I have a problem with overdoing things. I've always secretly known this about myself, but with the addition of another child in the home and an incision from a surgery that continues to reopen after healing (going on day 12 now with an open incision, when the doctor said it should only take about 4 days to close again), I've realized I may need to take things down a notch. Posting daily sounds like a lot of fun to me and I'm hoping it'll stretch my blogging topics a bit so that I'm not always just writing about the boys. Don't get me wrong, I could go on and on about my children, they are the center of my world. But, I started this blog to not only chronicle the day to day events in our family life, but also to be able to exercise my writing skills, something I have been missing since I have been out of the classroom. So, for these reasons I am going to try to post each day. I emphasize the word try because I'm not going to set myself up for failure and don't want this to become a stress. Yes, I am growing... I am doing my best to not over commit. I even sent out store bought thank you cards (gasp!) in response to the gifts our friends and family gave to Brody this week.

So here's to NaBloPoMo. Perhaps now that you are in the know you might want to join me and provide me with some fascinating reading material. For sure, you will be hearing from me!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Recipe - Cheese Soup

One of the things I love most about the change of seasons, is the change in foods we eat. I love when spring and summer come along and we are chomping down hot dogs and hamburgers off the grill and enjoying crisp, refreshing salads. Now, I am excited for the debut of fall and winter as our home is filled with warm soups and breads. And from the looks of these pictures, I'm not the only one overjoyed by the emergence of this favorite comfort food.

This is one of the soups I make fairly often during the cold winter months. I made it this past weekend for Brody's blessing luncheon and received some very good reviews.

Cheese Soup

1 c. butter
1 c. flour
2 cans chicken broth
2 c. milk
2 t. salt
1 cube Velveeta cheese
5 carrots, sliced
5 stalks of celery, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 c. water
5 oz. frozen peas (1/2 a small package)

Place carrots, celery and onion in 1 c. water. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add flour and stir until smooth. Add chicken broth and milk and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Continue stirring until thickened, about two minutes. Remove from heat. Add salt and Velveeta and stir until well blended. Stir vegetables into cheese mixture. Just before serving add frozen green peas and heat through briefly.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Brody's Blessing Day

Our little baby boy Brody was blessed this passed Sunday by his dad. It was a lovely experience. He was given the name he would be known as on the records of the church, Brody Edwin (after my father) Hess. He was blessed with discernment among the many trials that he will face and a desire to seeks out the truth. He was blessed to be a great missionary. He was blessed to have many talents in his life. And he was blessed with great love from Heavenly Father, his parents and his siblings.

We had a lot of support from our family and friends. The blessing circle consisted of Greg, the Bishopric, my father, our brother-in-law Aaron and Greg's cousin Keith. All of Brody's Aunts were in attendance, his Grandma Nancy and his Pappy Ed and Grandma Betty. Our friends Susan, Kendall and Shannon also joined us. We met at our home afterwards for lunch: soups, breads, and desserts. Yum! We all had a great time visiting and Brody was in heaven being held all day long by our loved ones.

I am so thankful for our sweet little boy Brody. He came into our lives as a bit of a surprise, but I am positive that our Heavenly Father knew he was supposed to be in our family at this time. I already can't imagine our family without him! I am humbled that our Heavenly Father has entrusted me with the care and raising of his sweet children. I pray everyday that I will be a good mother to them and raise them in truth and righteousness. I am also so very grateful for my husband Greg and the wonderful companion, father and worthy priesthood holder that he is. My family is truly blessed!