Monday, June 30, 2008

have you ever read the entire book of mormon...

in 2 1/2 days?

The entire group (except me and Brother Parker)

This past weekend we had youth conference with the young men and women of our ward...and we did just that - we read the entire Book of Mormom, from cover to cover, in 2.5 days! We arrived at the cabin in Pinetop, (which was about a three hour drive), around 12:30 in the afternoon. We quickly unpacked, set up our camping chairs, and began our reading session. Each person was given their own Book of Mormon, marking pencil, and bag to keep their goodies in. Every 1/2 hour or so, we had some kind of diversion that went along with what we had been reading. Some of the diversions consisted of having a physical challenge, singing a hymn, getting a treat, and/or answering a trivia question for a prize. That first day we read, (pretty much only breaking for meals), until 10:00 pm...only to have to start again, at the crack of dawn on Friday. Friday was a long day. We had to have mostly the fast readers reading because we got started later than planned, and had fallen behind schedule. We read from 7:30 in the morning until 11:00 PM...once again, only breaking for meals. We finally were able to finish the 3rd day, at about 3:30 PM. I know that at times the kids (and even we, leaders) became distracted, or too tired to follow along (Sis Tuckett and I stayed awake the entire time though), or bored; but there were other times in which the Spirit permeated the entire room, and the hearts and souls of all those who sought it out and had a true desire to feel it. I don't think I have ever had such a powerful experience while reading the Book of Mormom. It was amazing. And wonderful. And really impossible to fully describe the feeling that came over my entire body and soul. The accounts were more real to me than ever before. The pages, and the people, and their experiences, and dealings, came to life for me. The part that especially touched me was when Christ came to His people in the American continent. He taught them, and blessed them, and prayed for (and with) them. I can't begin to express the love that came over me as we read those pages. I know my Savior lives. I love the Book of Mormon, because it teaches us about Him. We can really learn about Him, gain a testimony of Him, and come to know Him as our personal Savior and friend, by reading the Book of Mormon...for it truly testifies of Him. I will never forget the amazing experience it was, the tender mercies that we witnessed, the spirit that we felt, the love that was exhibited, and the things that we learned, as we read the Book of Mormon 2 1/2 days.

Just as the savior has our names graven on the palms of his hands (1 Nephi 21:16), we were asked to write something on our palm (some wrote on their wrists) that would serve as a reminder of how the Savior loves us.

here we are displaying our palms and wrists

reading the second day

Reading Mosiah 18 by the lake (Alma baptizes at the waters of Mormon).

Alma 3: 4-19 The wicked Amlicites marked themselves...likewise a few of us, marked ourselves.

Alma 19:16-29 Abish makes an appearance...and look who was lucky enough to play Abish :)

Just as the Anti-Nephi-Lehies (Alma 24:1-19; 27:28-29) buried their weapons of war and covenanted to never again shed blood...we also buried our swords, and covenanted to give up something in our lives that may have been distancing us from our Savior.

Four boys acting as the Zoramites on the Rameumptom (Alma 31)

Bishop acting as The prophet Alma as he counsels with his three missionary sons (Alma 36-42)

Moroni (Alma 46) also makes an appearance, and holds up a customized Title of Liberty with a challenge for all of us to complete the Book of Mormon over the three days of youth conference.

Everyone covenanted to do so by signing the title of liberty.

Our "end of Alma" party.

More from the "end of Alma" party.

The aftermath of the "end of Alma" party.

Everyone wore blindfolds during 3 Nephi 8-11, to represent the darkness that covered the land for three days.

We did it!

"The Book of Mormon will change your life. It will fortify you against the evils of our day. It will bring spirituality into your life that no other book will. It will be the most important book you will read in preparation for a mission and for life. A young man or woman who knows and loves the Book of Mormon, who has read it several times, who has an abiding testimony of its truthfulness and who applies its teachings will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil and that youth will be a mighty tool in the hands of the Lord."
(Pres. Benson, To the youth of the Noble Birthright, Ensign, May 1986)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

hard day...

If Isaac had lived, he'd be three today. I still can't believe it was three years ago. Three years ago that I gave birth to our first born son. Three years ago that we bathed him, and dressed him, and wrapped his tiny little body in a tiny blue blanket. Three years ago that we held his lifeless body in our arms. Three years ago that we had to said goodbye...
Three years isn't that long, but it seems like an eternity when you have to be separated from someone you love. People always say that life goes by in the blink of an eye, and that this mortal life is so minuscule when compared to eternity; and although I believe these things to be true, they don't make the passing of our son any easier to bear. I still think about him all the time. My arms still ache to hold him. I still wonder what our life would be like if he had made it. I still miss him. And sometimes - days like today - the feeling of longing is ever more present, and evident, and intense, and painful. Days like today - his birthday - are hard. I'm just so grateful for my Savior. I love Him, and know that it's because of Him and His glorious gospel plan that we are able to be with our loved ones again. John and I anxiously await the day that we will be reunited with our sweet angel boy; but until then, we need to continue to do everything in our power to ensure that we are worthy of that blessing.

Just a little tribute to our dear little Isaac Joshua...until we shall meet him again.

Isaac's Lullaby - Angel Lent To Us was written and sung at Isaac's funeral by our sister-in-law, Leigh.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

i hope she loves her baby brother...

as much as she loves her baby doll.

Ruby has been so darling with her dolly the past couple of weeks. She refuses to go anywhere unless baby gets to come, too. For example, baby sits in a chair across from Ruby during meals, baby comes to the pool with us and watches Ruby swim, baby accompanies us to the grocery store, and to the mall. When Ruby goes down for her nap, baby goes down, too. When Ruby watches a movie on our bed, you can bet that baby is lying right by her side. Ruby makes sure that baby always has her binky at hand, and the other day I even caught her giving baby a drink of milk from her sippy cup.
It's wonderful for me to watch how loving and nurturing she can be as she cares for her own little baby.

Now my hope is that she will employ that same energy and passion in loving and nurturing her new baby brother.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

hi my name is ryan...

This past weekend, John and I were able to take a mini trip to see his brother Paul's documentary entitled Hi My Name Is Ryan, which debuted at CineVegas, a film festival held annually in Las Vegas. The whole experience, for us, was both enjoyable and unforgettable. From the unique, creative, heartwarming, and inspiring film, to seeing Paul and Amy on the red carpet, to the celebrity sightings, to the after-party put on by the filmmakers and executive producer (Paul and his cousins) - held in a penthouse suite at the Palms. The place was exuding excitement and energy. It was such a fun experience to be able to view the documentary along with many of Ryan's family members and friends who appeared in the film. I think they all loved it. We went to both showings, and I loved being there for the Q&A afterwards. It was great to hear all the positive feedback and praise from the other viewers. The entire time I was just beaming with pride to have such a cool and talented brother-in-law. I know that Paul and Stephen have worked really hard on this documentary, which has been almost two years in the making, and I hope so bad that the film gets picked up by one of the buyers who attended the premiere.

Just a few highlights from our incredibly fun and amazing weekend...

Some of the film's cast and crew members

Paul on the red carpet

Paul and Stephen (the filmmakers), with Michael (the executive producer) in the middle...all three cousins

Paul and my beautiful sister-in-law Amy

Some of Ryan's friends and fellow band members from the film

John and I also managed to get an "unofficial" red carpet shot while no one was looking

And some of our celebrity sightings...

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson...notice how he's sort of smiling for our picture :)

Dennis Hopper and some random fan

Robin Leach

and finally last, but certainly not least...

Morgan Spurlock from the documentary Super Size Me. We didn't actually get a picture of him, but he walked right past us as we were sitting at McDonald's in the food court...pretty much stuffing our own faces with french fries. Needless to say, we felt pretty ridiculous sitting there at McDonald's of all places.

Monday, June 16, 2008

missing my girl...

It's amazing how only a day or two apart from someone you love...can feel like an eternity. And it's amazing to me that all the little things that might have previously upset you, or bothered you, about that person - are the very things you would welcome, in a heartbeat, if it meant that you could see that person again, soon. They seem to be the very things you actually...miss.
John and I went to Las Vegas for the weekend to support his brother, Paul, whose film premiered at the CineVegas film festival...(which deserves it's very own blog post). We left Ruby with our friends Ben and Lindsay, or as Ruby would say Ben and Nancy. (It's so funny to hear her say really does sound just like Nancy.) So anyway, I was surprised by how much I missed her and couldn't wait to get home to see her. She was already asleep by the time we got home to pick her up, and as hard as I tried to rouse her, she just wasn't having it. We put her in our bed hoping to get some good snuggle time in with her, but she was in a complete comatose state, and didn't even move or budge until 9:00 this morning. John had already left to go to work, so I was the only one there to greet her when she did finally open her eyes...and then she welcomed me with the biggest, most beautiful smile I have ever seen. There are not words sufficient to adequately convey the love I feel for this little girl.

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder; and that old adage has never rung more true for me, than it did this weekend...missing my girl.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

there was a little girl...

who had a little curl,
right in the middle of her forehead.
when she was good,
she was very, very good,
but when she bad she was horrid.

This poem perfectly describes my sweet - yet defiant - two year old, who, quite literally entered the "terrible twos"...the very day she turned two. Sometimes she's so sweet I can hardly stand it. Like when she prays. Just this morning, after thanking Heavenly Father for the food, and asking Him to bless it, she then (all on her own, and in the most irresistible little angelic voice) said "bwess Rae mission...bwess baby Jesus Christ...amen". I couldn't believe that she said the entire prayer all on her own, and that she remembered to pray for such important things as her aunt who is serving a mission in Minnesota, and her new baby brother who will join our family in August. So it goes without saying that it was completely mind boggling to me how in just a matter of minutes, she turned into a loud, whiny, demanding, exacting, impolite and impatient, little turd (for lack of a better word)...begging and crying (screaming, rather) for more cereal.
One minute she's happy, laughy, cuddly, cooperative, and as polite as ever...and then the next, she's spitting, or attempting to tear her shirt off, or punching herself in the face, or kicking her flip flops off, or chucking her binky across the room, or trying to pull my hair out, or throwing herself on the floor...and then banging her head against it. I try not to laugh when she acts this way, but sometimes I just can't help it because it's beyond ridiculous, and doesn't even seem real. However, the laughing just intensifies everything, as does my reproving, and protesting. I've found that it's better to just walk away from her, and know that within a minute or two, she'll have her arms wrapped tight around my legs, and then she'll reach up and ask "hold you mommy?"...after which I'll pick her up in my arms, she'll plant a big ol' kiss on my lips, wrap her arms around my neck, and finally, while gently patting my back, she'll say, (again, in that irresistible little angelic voice of hers) "love you, mommy"...

happens nine times out of ten :)

Gotta love those horribly horrific, yet terribly terrific...twos!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

she'll never be one again...

John and I decided that we probably wouldn't have a party for Ruby's 2nd birthday. Mostly because of the work that goes into having one, and also because she's still probably too young to really appreciate it. We decided, instead, to just take her out to some of her favorite places, let her eat her favorite foods, and do some of her favorite things...just the three of us.

The first thing we did was greet her in the morning with the very special, and very familiar, Happy Birthday song. I think she was a little confused in the beginning, but it didn't take her too long to absolutely love being the birthday girl. She was so excited to see the decorated table, which was loaded with presents, and couldn't wait to get her little hands on the bite-size cupcakes that mom had been baking for the occasion. She really loved all of her presents, but as one can often expect with children, it's usually the least expensive, afterthought of a gift, that turns out to be their favorite. Such was the case with Ruby. It wasn't her new Tricycle, or her ladybug sandbox that generated the most excitement, but her very own set of keys which dangled from her very own, neon-green key chain! Lately, if we go anywhere, she always insists on carrying our keys for us. I usually don't have a problem with her holding them, but it always turns into a problem when I need to get them back to be able to start the car. So needless to say, the idea of finally having her very own set, was a total hit. In fact, she carried them around with her the entire day.
After John left for work, my friend Diana came over. She brought her beautiful week-old daughter Emaline, and Ava - who just so happens to be Ruby's best friend. These two were out of control. It was fun for me to watch them run, and scream, and chase each other, and sing songs together, and play with balloons, and drink from matching sippy cups. I'm so grateful that Ruby has Ava, and that the two of them were able to play together on her special day.

At lunch time, we went to John's office, where Ruby relished in the fact that she was the center of attention. She opened her birthday card from Grandpa Jerry, showed off her new keys, gave everyone hugs, and even sent uncle Rob to his "room" (office). John and I then took her to McDonald's for lunch, where we watched her play on the playground, and also ordered her her very coke!

After she took a nice nap, we were off again. We headed out to Scottsdale, and made our first stop at Sprinkles, where Ruby got to pick out two for now & one for later. We then took her to the Railroad park that my friend, Celeste, introduced us to a while back. It honestly, couldn't have been more perfect! We were literally the only ones in the entire park, and the weather was absolutely beautiful. It was warm, but not too hot; and then there was this most refreshing breeze that blew through the valley. It was there that we let Ruby enjoy her first cupcake, then rode the train twice, went on the carousel, and relaxed on the grass under a beautiful tree. It was perfect. Just perfect.

We then went to Barro's Pizza for dinner. Ruby loves pizza, and we love Barro's, so it was really a win-win for all of us. Plus, they have a really cute little kid's play area that Ruby was able to benefit from.

After dinner, it was back home to open her Birthday gifts from Grandpa and Grammy, aunts Angie, Erica, and Kim (uncle Christian and Lincoln), and Amber, who stopped by with her sister, and brought Ruby a baby doll.

We again sang Happy Birthday to her, let her blow out her candle, eat her final cupcake, and then it was time for the event that I had anticipated all day. The dance.

Growing up, we had a tradition in our family with my dad and his girls. Sadly, my mom thought of the idea long after my second birthday, but at least I was able to witness what a tender thing it was for my dad to take each of his daughters, at the close of their second birthday, and lead them in a dance. It was always to Alabama's Never be one. The birthday girl was always given a new dress for her special birthday dance with her daddy.

I asked John if he wouldn't mind carrying on this family tradition that was always so dear to my heart, especially because it was something that came from my mom. He was a good sport about it, which meant so much to me, mostly because I know he doesn't love to dance.

We put Ruby in her new birthday dress, and I got teary eyed as I watched John pick her up and twirl her around the dance floor. She wanted to get down pretty fast, which was really okay, because I loved watching them run, and laugh, and chase, and scream, all while the song was playing. Not exactly what I had envisioned, but it ended up being a perfect moment for me...and hopefully for John and Ruby, too.

That probably should have been the culminating event of the day, but we decided to really stretch out the celebration by watching the movie Enchanted together in our bed. It was after 10:00 at that point, so we were sure that Ruby wouldn't last more than 15 minutes or so. Contrary to our assumption, however, it was actually John and I that fell asleep, and our little two year old who stayed awake the entire time! By that time it was past midnight...and we couldn't get her to finally settle down until close to 1:00 am! Boy did I ever feel like a lousy mom for encouraging her with all of that sugar.

Even though we're all paying for it today (Ruby's sick with a cold, the house is a mess, and I'm exhausted), I still don't think I'd change a thing about yesterday. All day today Ruby has been talking about presents, and cakes (cupcakes), and candles, and singing the Happy Birthday song...and still carrying those keys around. That's really all that I wanted. I just wanted her to be able to laugh and smile, and do the things that she loves...and it's my hope that she'll continue talking about her birthday, for days to come.

Here are some highlights from her special day. (Played to Alabama's Never Be One, the song that Ruby and her daddy danced to.)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

she takes my breath away...

Two years ago, and almost to the exact hour, I met my little gem for the very first time. I'll never forget the feelings of overwhelming and indescribable love that came over me the very second the delivery nurse laid Ruby on my chest. I remember how big her eyes were, and how alert she seemed, as she became familiar with this new and strange world. I remember that she didn't make a peep. She was tranquil and serene as she took her first breaths of life. I remember peering into her eyes, and she into mine, and then getting the feeling that we had known each other forever. I remember wondering what she was thinking, and wishing she could tell me, and then getting the sense that there was so much more to this baby snuggled in my arms. It was as if she had a wealth of knowledge, and the only thing stopping her from sharing it, was that the grandeur of her spirit was trapped in a tiny, helpless body. I remember feeling such a connection with her, and wondering how I could have previously lived so many years without her. In those first, quiet, solemn moments, she took my breath away.

And still, to this day, she takes my breath away.

These two years have truly been the best of my life. I never imagined how wonderful motherhood could be. Ruby makes me feel whole and complete. She makes me smile and laugh. She has taught me so much about life and love. She is happy, and lively, and cheerful, and innocent, and pure...and so full of love. In fact, everything I desire to be, my two year old daughter is.

John and I surprised her (first thing this morning) by barging in her room and busting out in the birthday song. I think it was a little overwhelming for her, not to mention a little confusing. We were bummed to find out the the disk in our camera was full, and that we weren't able to capture her excitement as she opened her presents. It truly was a sight to behold, and reminded me just how exciting birthdays are for kids. I took plenty of pictures though, which I will post later, but for now, here's what we have of the Birthday girl on video...

Happy Birthday - my precious little gem!

Monday, June 2, 2008

unforgettable moments...

I love photography. I don't really know the ins and outs, and I haven't learned many of the rules, but I have always loved to take pictures. I have owned dozens of cameras over the years, and have gone through countless rolls of film...all in an effort to capture life's moments. The moments that otherwise might be forgotten forever. There's something special about a photograph. Like almost nothing else, a simple photograph has the power to take you back...back to that perfect, magical, unforgettable moment in time.

I was so happy to have captured this magical moment shared by Ruby and her daddy. This picture really embodies the essence of their relationship. I love watching the two of them together. Simply put, they're crazy about each other.

John actually took this photograph as he arrived home from work. Ruby and I had been playing together on her bedroom floor. We got out a giant blanket to lie on, and played with her dollies and stuffed animals, and then read almost every children's book that we own. We laughed, and snuggled, and gave kisses, and sang songs...truly another of those beautiful life moments.

I'm so grateful that we have our little Ruby. I enjoy the time that we've been able to spend with just her. I anxiously await (and welcome) the addition of more children; but when that happens, life as we now know it -with just the three of us- will be gone forever...and we'll have nothing more than the sweet memories - provoked by hundreds and hundreds of photographs.