Monday, August 31, 2009

Talks in Church

Yesterday, our little family got to speak in church. Our branch meets in an historic building in the park called the Shrine of the Ages. It's small enough that there isn't a microphone or steps for the kids to use at the removable podium so Ethan, Logan, and Thomas just stood at the front of the room to give their talks. There were four visitors and about twenty members of the branch there yesterday. It's amazing how easy it is to talk in front of such a small group! Since this blog is a family journal of sorts, I thought I'd post the talks everyone gave so we can remember our experience.

Ethan's talk:
Since the days of Joseph Smith
Until this very day
We've had a living prophet
We can do what they say

They tell us to be careful
To always choose the right
To try and live like Jesus
And be His shining light

Heavenly Father chose the Prophet
To lead us here today
So we should always listen
And follow and obey

Logan's talk:
My name is Logan and I am seven years old.

I want to talk about baptism. Jesus was baptized when he lived on earth. He was baptized in the River Jordan to be an example to everyone.

When I am baptized, I will follow the example of Jesus. I know that baptism is important. It is something that we should all do to wash away our sins. I will follow Jesus Christ, and on my next birthday I will be baptized and confirmed. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thomas' talk:
My name is Thomas. I would like to talk about John Taylor.

Since the time of Adam, Heavenly Father has given instructions and teachings to the people on Earth through his chosen prophets. John Taylor was a friend of Joseph Smith, an Apostle, and the third Prophet of the Church. At the funeral of Brigham Young, President Taylor taught us that “We are not alone! God is with us.”

Brother Taylor was with the Prophet Joseph in Carthage jail when the Prophet and his brother were shot. Brother Taylor was shot also but survived. After he was shot, he went on to serve a second mission to France and Germany. He relied on our Heavenly Father to help him when he was in Carthage Jail, on his missions and when he was President of the Church. He was required to spend the last year of his life in hiding because of government persecution. Through all his trials, he was happy because he knew that his Heavenly Father loved him.

I am thankful for all the prophets and the things they have taught me. I know that Heavenly Father loves me. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Gary's talk:Our little family has been collecting firewood over the past few weeks. This has been a challenge to us on many fronts. As I am new in my position with the Forest Service, I have been spending more than the typical forty hours a week at work. The two oldest boys just started school and Aironn and the little two are trying to figure out nap schedules and make our new house a home. We are also challenged with our workforce. All five of my helpers are willing and desirous to help. Aironn has packed picnic dinners for after work outings, Tom and Logan have lifted and stacked while I have cut. Even Ethan and Dylan have wanted to be in the middle of it all. But as the hot afternoons and heavy logs begin to wear down my eager family, I find myself taking turns with my helpers, cutting smaller pieces and offering more encouragement and trying to carry a larger share of the load. We have only collected half of what I think we will need to keep us warm through the winter, but I find myself pleased with the individual and collective efforts my family has put into the welfare of us all.

I have found myself reflecting that this must be somewhat akin to the pleasure our Heavenly Father finds when we overcome challenges in our own life and as we work together to accomplish the goals he has established to bring us back to him.

In the hymn by Will L. Thompson Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel, we are told of a struggle and the effort it will take to overcome it. “Then don’t stand idly looking on; the fight with sin is real. It will be long but must go on; Put your shoulder to the wheel. Then work and watch and fight and pray. With all your might and zeal. Push every worthy work along; Put your shoulder to the wheel.”

Those are not passive words. Work, watch, fight, and pray. Those take effort. We will only find happiness and rest if we work to obtain it. We must work for ourselves, and we must work for those we love.

In narrating his family’s exodus from Jerusalem, Nephi discusses the challenges as his family prepares to leave the city and venture to lands unknown. After Lehi has his family safely outside the city, he called Nephi and relayed a dream in which the Lord has instructed Nephi and his brothers to return to Jerusalem to get the plates of brass from Laban. Apparently Lehi relayed the news to Lamen and Lemuel because it is recorded that “they murmured, saying it was a hard thing which was required of them”. But Lehi puts it in perspective saying that it is a commandment of the Lord. To Nephi, he teaches us: “Therefore go my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured.”

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

This is an oft quoted story, because it demonstrates so well the obedience of a loving son to his father on Earth and his Father in Heaven. But I want to point out that not only did Nephi accept the challenge and complete the task—and those are two separate things. How often have you accepted an assignment or calling and then not completed the task? How often has someone you trusted given their word to you that such and such would be done, only to leave you high and dry at the wrong time?

Integrity, honor and duty all require us to complete that which we have agreed to do; Both in a temporal sense and an eternal sense. But it is important to note that Nephi hadn’t murmured at all. Some times I find myself complaining about a task that needs to be done. I complain when I know its coming, I complain when I get the assignment and sometimes I complain while I am completing it. Unfortunately, most of us are guilty of murmuring. But Nephi hadn’t complained. He was in tune with his role in the plan of his Heavenly Father and he was willing to endure hardships, inconveniences and periods of uncomfortableness. Nephi was a great leader and prophet, and a great example to us. Not just in accepting and completing the task, but the humble nature in which he accepted his assignment.

In the November, 1984 Ensign, Elder Bruce McConkie penned this poem: “The church is like a great caravan—Organized, prepared, following an appointed course. With its captains of tens and captains of hundreds all in place.

What does it matter that a few barking dogs snap at the heels of the weary travelers? Or that predators claim the few who fall by the way? The caravan moves on.

Is there a ravine to cross, a miry mud hole to pull through, a steep grade to climb? So be it. The oxen are strong and the teamsters wise. The caravan moves on.

Are there storms that rage along the way, floods that wash away the bridges, deserts to cross, rivers to ford? Such is life on this fallen sphere. The caravan moves on.

Ahead is the celestial city, the eternal Zion of our God, Where all who maintain their position in the caravan shall find food and drink and rest. Thank God that the Caravan moves on!”

This is one of my favorite poems. It describes the challenges that we all face. Sometimes we feel like the weary traveler. We know loved ones that have been claimed by predators when they have fallen by the way. It is a hard path we have chosen. There is no easy route back to our Heavenly Father. We are challenged in our homes, at school and work. We are challenged when we are with friends and family.

Aironn and I fasted and prayed about the opportunity to move here to the Grand Canyon. We felt like we had received a positive answer to our prayers, so we followed the promptings. This move has not been without its challenges. But it had also had its rewards. And we look forward to the continued blessing as we follow the promptings of the spirit. The comfort that Aironn and I find is that we are not alone.

During his conference address in October 1972, President Lee said, “There has come to me in these last few days a deepening and reassuring faith. I can’t leave this conference without saying to you that I have a conviction that the master hasn’t been absent from us on these occasions. This is His church. Where else would he rather be that right here at the headquarters of His church? He isn’t an absentee master; he is concerned about us. He wants us to follow where he leads.” These are reassuring words from a prophet of God!

As we put our shoulder to the wheel, and as we work and watch and fight and pray to push along, we will become stronger. We will find our reliance on the Lord becoming greater. We will find our faith in Him growing and we will find it becomes easier to push along.

President Eyring gave a talk in the last General Conference in April entitled “Man Down”. President Eyring taught the principle that those around us have challenges and we can be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to aid and assist them. He said, “You will need bravery and you will need boldness because you are enlisted in the Lords army. This is not a time of peace. That has been so since Satan arrayed his forces against our Heavenly Father in the premortal existence. We have seen it intensify. The scriptures suggest that the war will become more violent and the spiritual casualties on the Lords side will mount.

“Almost all of us have seen a battlefield portrayed in a film or read the description in a story. Over the din of explosions and the shouts of soldiers there comes a cry, “Man Down!”

When that cry sounds, faithful fellow soldiers will move toward the sound. Another soldier or medic will ignore danger and move to the injured comrade. And the man down will know that help will come. Whatever the risk, someone will run low or crawl to get there in time to give aid. That is true of every band of men joined in a difficult and dangerous mission which they are determined to fulfill at any sacrifice. The histories of such groups are full of stories of those loyal men who were determined that no man would be left behind.

“Such a feeling of responsibility for others is at the heart of faithful priesthood service. Our comrades are being wounded in the spiritual conflict around us. So are the people we are called to serve and protect from harm. Spiritual wounds are not easily visible, except with inspired eyes.”

I think this is where President Eyring’s message is directed specifically at us in the Grand Canyon Branch. We are a small band of brothers and sisters. We are fighting a battle. At times we feel we are isolated or alone. We have spiritual wounds. We have social and emotional wounds that need the love and care of inspired and called Disciples of Christ. Collectively, we are those disciples!

President Eyring continues: “There are countless examples of priesthood holders who shouldered that grave responsibility as you and I must. This is how Jacob in the Book of Mormon described his sacred trust when he moved in difficult circumstances to give aid: “Now my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, according to the responsibility which I am under to God, to magnify mine office with soberness, and that I might rid my garments of your sins, I come up to the temple this day that I might declare unto you the word of God.”

“Now, you might object that Jacob was a prophet and you are not. But your calling, what ever it is, brings with it an obligation to “Lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” of those around you. You are the Lords servant, covenanted to do for others, as best you can what He would do.

“You’re great opportunity and your responsibility are described in Ecclesiastes: “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to lift him up.

“From that, you will understand the true and sobering words of Joseph Smith: “None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.” As Jacob believed, the woe of any fallen man or woman he could have helped and did not would become his own sorrow. Your happiness and that of those you are called to serve are bound together.

In discussing the young mans role in home teaching, president Eyring teaches us all a lesson in actions and blessings. He says: “Your contribution during a visit may seem small to you, but it can be more powerful than you think possible. You will show by your face and manner that you care for the people. They will see that your love for them and the Lords makes you unafraid. And you will be bold enough to bear testimony of the truth. Your humble, simple and perhaps brief testimony may touch the heart of a person more easily that that of a more experienced companion.

“Whatever part you play in that visit, your desire to go to the people for the Lord to help them will bring at least two blessings. First, you will feel the love of God for the people you visit. And, second, you will feel the Saviors gratitude for your desire to give the help the Savior knew they needed.

“He sent you to them because He trusted that you would go feeling responsible to urge them toward Him and toward happiness.”

And like my little family gathering firewood. We will find success. We will keep cutting and splitting and stacking until we have what we need. I think our Heavenly Father finds himself cutting smaller pieces and shouldering more of our load. He knows us. He knows our abilities and gives us tasks to help us learn and grow. He has organized us with captains of tens and captains of hundreds. Is there a ravine to cross, a miry mud hole to pull through, a steep grade to climb? So be it. The oxen are strong and the teamsters wise. For us, our branch is the oxen. We can and must pull together to ensure that our little caravan moves on.

Are there storms that rage along the way, floods that wash away the bridges, deserts to cross, rivers to ford? As Elder McConkie reminded us, Such is life on this fallen sphere. The caravan moves on.”

Let us accept his challenges with an open heart and without murmuring. He will bless us in ways we have not even imagined. Is my testimony, in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Aironn's talk:
I thought I’d start today first by telling my boys how proud I am of them for giving their talks and also, by introducing our family. Gary and I met almost twenty years ago in high school but had some living to do before we got together. He went to Utah State University before serving a mission in Edinburgh, Scotland and then returned to finish his schooling in Forestry at USU. I also attended Utah State before serving a mission in Copenhagen, Denmark. After finishing my mission, I returned to Utah State where Gary and I began dating and later married in the Mount Timpanogos Temple. After finishing my degree in Technical Writing and Gary’s degree in Forestry, Gary and I moved to Layton, Utah where we lived and worked for several years. Tom and Logan joined our family while we were living in Layton. A great job opportunity with the Forest Service in fire management presented itself in Pocatello, Idaho and we moved north. While in Pocatello, Ethan and Dylan were born. We were in Pocatello for about seven years before moving South and joining the Grand Canyon Branch.

Gary is currently the Fire Management Officer for the Forest Service on the Tusayan Ranger District and I get to stay home with our great kids. Thomas is nine years old, Logan, is seven, Ethan is four, and Dylan is two. They are all loving life here and are constantly bruised, scraped, or covered in band-aids. This is the perfect place for four boys to grow up and is one of the reasons we were attracted to this job.

As I was reading the Conference Ensign in preparation for this talk, I was struggling to find the topic that I needed to talk about until I read in Michael A. Neider’s talk, Revealed Quorum Principles, a quote by President Thomas S. Monson. He said, “teaching fundamentals is urgent.” I would like to base my talk today on this quote and focus on some of the basics we have been commanded to do.

President Faust, in an address in the Priesthood session of the October, 2001 General Conference said, “The work of the Church depends upon basics such as paying tithes; taking care of family and priesthood duties; caring for the poor and needy; having daily prayer, scripture study, and family home evening; home teaching; participation in quorum activity; and attending the temple. If called upon by the President of the Church, we would be ready, able, and willing to do “some great thing,” such as working on the Nauvoo temple, but many are not quite so anxious to do some of these basics.”

We all get busy in our daily lives and sometimes, our family included, some of these basics slide through the cracks. President Faust hit the nail on the head when he said we would jump if the Prophet asked us to do something great. The Prophet has and each Prophet before him has. They have all emphasized the need to focus on the basics.

I have chosen four of the fundamentals listed by President Faust to address today, namely: Family Home Evening, scripture study, prayer, and temple and church attendance.

I would like to start with Family Home Evening. Family Home Evening has been around since Adam and Eve began having children. They brought their children around them and taught them the gospel. Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, begins his account by saying he was born of goodly parents who taught him. Enos begins his book in the Book of Mormon by telling us he was also taught by his father.

In 1975, President Benson outlined what a Family Home Evening should contain when he said, “Prayer is offered, hymns and other songs are sung, scriptures are read, family topics are discussed, talent is displayed, principles of the gospel are taught, and often games are played and homemade refreshments served.”

He continues by telling us the blessings that are promised when we hold regular Family Home Evening. “Now, here are the blessings promised by a prophet of God for those who will hold weekly [family] home evenings: ‘If the Saints obey this counsel, we promise that great blessings will result. Love at home and obedience to parents will increase. Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influences and temptations which beset them.”

L. Tom Perry has said, “Family home evenings are for everyone, whether it be in a two-parent home, a single-parent home, or in a single-member family unit.”

In our family, we seem to go in spurts. For a while, we are terrific at holding weekly Family Home Evening and then we allow something to get in the way and we get out of the habit. We have started to hold them once again in our home and in the last month, I have noticed a difference in our children. There is more obedience, more love, more playing happily with each other, and less overall contention. I have to admit, we are not the most on-key, musically gifted family so I am usually hopeful that we don’t have neighbors walking by when we are doing the singing portion of the meeting. I’m not sure how well that would help our missionary work!
Elder Perry continues with a promise that helps me to be more committed to holding weekly Family Home Evening. “We encourage each of you to follow the counsel of our prophet. In all the family units throughout the Church, evaluate again the progress you are making in holding regular family home evenings. The application of this program will be a shield and a protection to you against the evils of our time and will bring you, individually and collectively, greater and abundant joy now and in the eternities hereafter.”
Next, I would like to talk about scripture study. This is also something we have been terrific at for a while and then, for some reason, we stop for a while. When Tom and Logan were quite small, we began reading the Book of Mormon to them each night. They were young enough that they couldn’t read yet and we often wondered if we would make it through that verse for the night or that page or that chapter. The “love” in our home wasn’t always as present as we wished because we were constantly telling them to sit down and listen! We were doing this for them and they weren’t even getting anything out of it. Gary had the inspiration to involve them more in the reading process. Even though they couldn’t read, every time the phrase, “and it came to pass” would come up, he would point to either Tom or Logan and they would say it. They were involved and began to pay more attention because they never knew when their next turn would come up.

I still wondered if they were actually understanding or retaining anything though. There were two experiences that put those doubts to rest. The first was at the playground when Tom or Logan had climbed to the top of the slide and, holding both sides while standing tall, shouted, “For behold! And it came to pass!” At least he was getting that much out of reading! He was getting familiar with the language of the scriptures and that would help him to understand more and be able to read more easily when he began opening the scriptures for himself.

The second experience happened while on a drive from Idaho through Utah. As we passed Lehi, Utah, they started asking why the city had the same name as the prophet in the Book of Mormon which led to a discussion about other cities with names from the Book of Mormon and why Utah had so many. Gospel discussions coming from reading the Book of Mormon with our small children shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was.

We have been taught by every prophet the importance of scripture study. President Monson, during the last General Conference said of scripture study, “Crash courses are not nearly so effective as the day-to-day reading and application of the scriptures in our lives. Become acquainted with the lessons the scriptures teach. Learn the back-ground and setting of the Master’s parables and the prophets’ admonitions. Study them as though they were speaking to you, for such is the truth.”

The ability to study the scriptures is the reason Nephi, Sam, Laman and Lemuel risked their lives to go back to Jerusalem, twice. That instance alone should reinforce the importance of studying the scriptures for us. Saints across the globe hunger for the scriptures. Even with the translation department working feverishly, there are some versions of the Book of Mormon that only contain a portion of the entire book. When I served my mission in Denmark, the saints there still spoke with gratitude of the completed translation of the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. It wasn’t too many years earlier that they had to rely on their knowledge of the English language to learn from those books of scripture. Are we grateful that we have at our fingertips the complete standard works? Do we take advantage of having these sacred pages in our homes daily or do they sit on a shelf and collect dust until Sunday rolls around again? I personally want to teach my children to love the standard works, not just tolerate them. I also need to do a better job of personally reading from the pages and learning the lessons the Lord has in store for me within each of the books.

Third, I’d like to talk briefly about prayer. We all know that prayer is our communication with our Father in Heaven. I’d like to talk to you about my own father. Some, my husband included, would say that my Dad and I are cut from a similar mold. The good and the bad. When I was younger, we didn’t always agree and would often butt heads. These days, we have a different relationship. I know I can call my Dad and get advice on anything I need and he will give me the advice I need, not necessarily the advice I want. When we decided to move here and I called to let him know, he was incredibly supportive. I don’t often get to see my Dad because, when we lived in Pocatello, he was four hours away but it was only three hours to my Mom’s house and almost all of Gary’s family in the other direction. Family events took us the other direction more often than not and there wasn’t much time left over to travel to my Dad’s farm. Although I know that he would love to have us come and visit more often, I have never had my Dad complain. Now that we are even further away, I know that we will probably see each other even less. We talk on the phone every few weeks and catch right back up where we left off, though. Even though he is incredibly busy and often traveling, he always answers or calls me right back. I know I can reach him whenever and where ever I am.

To me, this is similar to our Heavenly Father. He would love to have us closer to him but he knows that we need this experience. We have a direct line to Him any time we want to talk and he will pick up on the first ring. It is up to us to make the phone call and ask our Heavenly Father for advice. He, like my own Dad, will give us the advice we need, not necessarily the advice we want. We just need to listen. It is easy to be the hard-headed teenager that doesn’t want to listen. It is then that we need His guidance the most. When we feel the least like praying, we need to be praying more. He is just waiting to bless us if we will only come to him in prayer.

When Jesus visited the Nephites after his resurrection, he commanded them to pray. In 3 Nephi 18:21 it says: “Pray in your families unto the Father; always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.”

Finally, I’d like to address church and temple attendance. Why do we come to church each Sunday and why do we strive to attend the temple regularly? As Gary said, “Because it’s a commandment!”

In Alma chapter six, the Church in Zarahemla was cleansed of the wickedness that had entered into it. Alma then told the church in verse six, “Nevertheless, the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God.”

In our day, the Lord gave us instructions in Doctrine and Covenants 101:27 when he said, “Behold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together, and stand in holy places.”

Not only do we strengthen each other when we meet together through our sharing of testimonies, but we come to church for a sacred purpose, to partake of the sacrament and renew our covenants with our Heavenly Father. It’s easier for me to live according to the commandments during the week, if I have been to church the previous Sunday. If I miss a week, it gets a bit harder. Two weeks, and it’s even harder to keep the Sabbath day holy. We need to meet weekly to help us hold tight to the Iron Rod.

Temple worship is just as important. We enter the temple, first to make our own sacred covenants and then, to help those who have gone on before us. When I lived in Sweden, we would take youth temple trips to Stockholm to the temple. It was about eight hours on the bus but no one complained. The trips were carefully scheduled with the temple because several weeks during the year were set aside for the Russian Saints. Church members from Russia didn’t have a temple closer than Sweden at that time. They would travel great distances, at great cost, to attend the temple. The temple workers would tell stories of these Saints packing their temple garments in a separate suitcase because they were so sacred to them. Do we take temple attendance as seriously? We live three hours from the temple but do we make the time to attend regularly? Regularly may mean different things at different stages of life. For me, when I was attending Utah State University after my mission, it was realistic to attend weekly. When I began having children, it would vary from monthly to several times in a year depending on the ages of our children and the child care that was available. What regularly means in your life is between you and the Lord. We have been promised blessings with our regular temple attendance and I have seen these blessings in my own life.

In closing, I would like to challenge each of us to recommit to the basics of the gospel. Read, pray, attend our meetings and the temple, and have a meaningful Family Home Evening. I know we will each see the blessings the Lord has promised as we do what He has asked.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Is It Bendy?

Gary is very good growing plants. In Idaho, we had quite the collection on our plant shelves that I didn't touch - for their own good. We loaded them all into the back of the car and made the long journey to Arizona babying them along. During the last month, they've started to come out of their shock of the move and started to grow again, thanks to Gary's love. He waters them, checks them daily, and I think, wakes up at night to talk to them so they will grow again!

One of our favorites has been living in the kitchen and had finally greened up and stopped dropping leaves. It was coming around. Then this:

We questioned each of the boys who were all in denial until we threatened bed without dinner. That's when Ethan said, "It was probably me." Probably? Is he taking the fall for his brother, just hungry, or trying to be cute?

When we asked why he would do such a thing, he told us, "I wanted to see if they were bendy." Apparently seeing if one of the three were bendy wasn't enough. I laugh every time I see the sad plant. Do you think it will recover? Gary has the tops in water hoping they will grow roots to replant. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Firewood 101

Firewood is more than just something you get so you can have the ambiance of a real fire when you live in the Grand Canyon. It is the main source of heat for your home for the entire, long, cold winter we've heard. Sure, houses have a regular gas heater that runs on propane but we've heard countless stories about the evils of the price of propane. Most people just use their wood burning stove and don't even turn on their furnace. So, we've been scared into stocking as much wood as we can gather during the next few months. We are half way through our free four cords that they offer and then we'll have to start buying permits for additional wood if we think the four cords aren't going to cover us. This top picture is the pile of wood that Gary has been splitting at night. The front pile has been split and the back still needs to be split.

Here is Tom, the main labor force. He's in the backyard at the wood pile we've been stacking. Notice how it's leaning forward? I'm guessing we'll be restacking it soon. Tom is tireless in his efforts to bring the split pile around back every day before Gary starts splitting again that night.

Here's Logan with one of many wheelbarrow loads for the day. I can't believe how big these boys are and how much they can lift! Load after load they still race the empty wheelbarrow up to the front of the house after they've dumped it.

Ethan and Dylan can't quite carry as much wood so we've finally found the charger for the tractor and then we've taught E to drive. YIKES! Dylan rides shotgun most loads. It can carry four or five pieces a load so they do actually help and he hasn't run anyone over yet. Dylan isn't required to wear a helmet to ride, he had just jumped off his bike.
So, there you have it. Firewood 101 courtesy of the Bishop family!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nap Time at O-Eight Hundred

Yep, it's nap time and it's only eight o'clock in the morning. Since we've been here, Dylan and Ethan have had a hard time sleeping past six in the morning. Most mornings they are up before that, especially Dylan. We've tried sending them back to bed. We've tried putting them in our bed to hopefully finish sleeping - which never, never works. We've tried running them like crazy all day so they will be exhausted and sleep a bit more. We've tried black-out curtains so the light won't wake them up. We've tried keeping them up late at night. We've tried and tried. Honestly, I'm not sure what else to try.

So, this morning at 7:15 they were already whining and tired and fighting with each other. I put them in bed. I am fully ready to have them nap right now. I'm not saying that either of them is asleep yet but, hey, I'm trying! I think a lot of Dylan's behavioral issues are because he is running on empty. The poor kid is exhausted so he is cranky and needy. If anyone has any ideas, please, please, please share! Gary and I are at our wits end here!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Shopping with Mom is Hard Work

My two companions didn't make it out of Flagstaff after a hard day shopping. The chocolate around Dylan's mouth was from the package of Rolo's he started eating in the checkout at the grocery store. He ate through the tin foil wrapper and was into the chocolate before I saw what was happening. Ethan was great the entire day so I let him pick a new movie at Target. He was way excited to watch the Berenstain Bears and if it has this great of an effect, we may watch it every day! Thank goodness the seat belt holds his head up now so it doesn't do the bob the entire way home.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chopping Wood

We have been on a couple runs for firewood in the last week. Apparently winters here are not the sunny, mild ones you think of when you think Arizona. Everyone says we need to stock WAY up on firewood. I think we are about 1/3 of the way there now but it still needs to be split and stacked.

Gary is really breaking in the new chain saw he bought right before we moved.

This is Dylan showing us all his muscles. The kid was lifting logs just like his brothers.

Tom is the hardest worker! He was lifting stuff that was probably half his weight but he was loving it.

We found this swing at the place we were getting our firewood. Logan's face says it all. After a hard day loading wood into the truck, everyone needs a break!

Ethan, always the cheeser, was quite the hard worker. He and Dylan went alone with Gary for a couple of loads and he said they were actually a bit help.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Land Lines

We've been in Arizona about a month now trying to survive without a land line and relying solely on our cell phone. Coverage varies depending on if it's dark, cloudy, you aren't holding your tongue just right, you get the picture. I've ended about 99% of my conversations by hanging up on whomever I've been talking to and seeing the fatal words, "Call was lost" on my screen. I finally have had enough of the isolation and called Qwest to hook up a land line.

I've hooked up service before and it's been a fairly uncomplicated process. Lengthy at times but uncomplicated. Why I thought this would be the same, I'll never know. After about 20 minutes on the phone - all the while not moving on my end so I wouldn't lose the call - the nice young man told me he couldn't find me and wouldn't be able to continue. Then he asked me if he had given me exceptional service and answered all my questions. Oh the irony. If you mean answered the question that we have truly moved into the abyss of the Grand Canyon where no man has gone before, then yes. If you mean that telling me my home and address that has been here since the 70s doesn't really show up on any civilized address book companies use to find you, then yes. If you mean, we have moved somewhere that people don't use things like home telephones or UPS or home mail delivery, then yes. Honestly.

So, I can call them back and ask their address finding staff to actually find us and then maybe, just maybe, they will hook up a land line to our home. The funny thing is, many, many people have lived in this house in the past - all with home phone service. Maybe they used smoke signals instead and the phone jacks in the house are purely decoration.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Finally, A Day Off!

Today, Gary is taking his first complete {knock on wood, knock on wood, knock on wood} day off since he started on July 20th. He's had a couple near misses already but always seemed to get called in or needed to just go to the morning briefing or the nightly planning meeting or, or, or. Today, he's home. Wooo hoooo!

We have about six days worth of stuff to do in the six hours until the boys get home from school. There are closet organizers to customize and install. There's the frog toy holder in the bathtub to glue firmly into place. There's laundry and recycling and four cords of wood to find, cut, and bring home {that's several truck loads for those of you who haven't hauled firewood!}. Right now he's off with Dylan and Ethan to the recycling dumpster to get rid of all our boxes that the movers "are on the way to pick up." We've been hearing that story for almost three weeks now. It's time to just get rid of the rain soaked cardboard filling the back of his truck!

The biggest part of this day off is that he will have all the boys by himself this afternoon! The District Ranger, i.e. his boss, wants to have a big end of summer BBQ. Since I have a Costco card and we will be needing Costco quantities, the two of us are headed to Prescott for a Costco run this afternoon. I have to admit, I'm excited to go sans kids but still a bit nervous for a four hour car ride and shopping trip with someone I barely know. I feel like I've lost my ability to communicate and relate to educated adults. She is great though. A beam of light with this move. She's really gone out of her way to help us feel at home and welcome here and I really appreciate all she's done. I'm sure I'll be able to get out of four-year-old and two-year-old mode soon enough. Hopefully Gary can also get a lot done today. And hopefully I can get all the laundry done or at least on the line before I leave!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Sometimes, at night after the sun is down, Gary and I take a stroll around the loop. Our loop is about 1/3 of a mile and lined with the homes of people who work with Gary or the FAA, or a local sheriff. It is so peaceful. There are no street lights and no traffic. Every once in a while we will see some of the seasonal Forest Service employees sitting on their front porch with a guitar but for the most part, it seems like it is our own private little world. We talk about the day and about our plans and about our kids. It's just a nice way to end the day.

Last night the stars were phenomenal. They were brighter than I can remember seeing them in a long time. You could easily pick out the Milky Way and several constellations. I wish I could take a picture that would do it justice. There aren't any city lights for miles and miles so it's like you are camping in the wilderness when they all come alive. As the days get shorter, we're planning on taking the boys outside to point out constellations and show them just how beautiful Heavenly Father made this world for us to enjoy. It's just one of the benefits of this slower paced life. We can walk together at night and enjoy nature at it's finest.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

President's Visit

Okay, so I need to preface this post with a confession. I am not the best photographer. I thought I had the entire motorcade procession as it passed our house on video. Apparently I missed the whole thing because my camera wasn't on video yet. Go figure. Maybe the camera isn't a Democrat. There were tons of police cars, with sirens, and then just two or three black SUV's, one of which was carrying the President and his family. I guess I was anticipating a much larger procession or something. I don't know. Maybe I'll walk out to the road again this afternoon when he is leaving and try to get more video. His plane flew right over our house. Boy is it HUGE!
Flying right over our house. It is a big plane for our neck of the woods.

Thomas pointing at the motorcade coming. Actually it was one of two last checks the secret service and local law enforcement did before the motorcade came. Even our driveway had a dedicated policeman blocking access to or from our little neighborhood.

The motorcade is in the background behind the boys. Even though we may not be Democrats, it's still a historical event for these four boys! When would a President of the United States drive through Chubbuck?
The beginning of the motorcade. This is where I thought I was filming and had the entire procession on film. Whoops.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Our Nightly Routine

Every night after dinner and baths, we've started reading the Book of Mormon again. OK, so it's only been about a week but hey, habits have to start somewhere. In the past, we would read through a chapter and then say prayers and go to bed. Gary and I would do the reading because, at that time, Tom and Logan weren't very strong readers yet. It's been a while I guess since we've been doing this. This go around, we are trying something different.

It all started because the boys have been having a hard time listening to us lately and I figured we needed to get back to basics. I was also a nervous wreck about school starting and sending my boys to school where they would most likely be the only kids in their grade with the same beliefs. I knew that one thing that could help was getting back to reading the scriptures as a family again.

Now, we read a chapter but I stop every few verses and explain what we've been reading. The first few chapters, Gary was working late and wasn't home for the reading. When he came home for the fourth night, I started as I had been by asking the boys if they remembered where we left off and what they thought was going to happen. We've also been asking who they want to be like, Nephi and Sam, and who they don't want to be like, Laman and Lemuel. Since we have four boys, it's been pretty easy so far to relate the actions of these four to our family. Gary was amazed at how well they could answer the questions.

It's fun to see them get excited about scripture study and not have it be one more thing that they have to sit still and be reverent. It sometimes takes all I have not to tell them to just be quiet after I've explained something and they are asking what seems like the ten thousandth question about it. It helps when I hear things like what Tom said the other night at the end of the chapter. "Can't we read one more chapter? It's just getting to the good part!" Hopefully we can instill a love of the scriptures in our boys and help these wonderful books come alive for them. I am also relying on the promises of the prophets that, by reading regularly from the Book of Mormon, we can have an added measure of the Spirit in our home. Heaven knows we can all use an added measure!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Jiffy Pop

When we first moved to Arizona, I was in the grocery store and saw the always fun Jiffy Pop so, knowing our gas stove would be a perfect compliment, I picked up a couple. I've been hiding them until we would all be home for Family Home Evening or some other great event. With all the fires going on right now, it's taken a few weeks for us to all be home and awake at the same time. Sunday night was the night.

I remember Jiffy Pop on our outings to the cabin up American Fork canyon. I loved it. As a kid, it is so fun watching the tin foil grow and grow while the popping sound mixes with one of the best smells in the world - popcorn. I always wondered why it didn't just explode!

It was fun giving my kids the same memories. They have never watched the process of Jiffy Pop on a stove. Tom and Logan got to pop it with Gary standing behind them and Ethan and Dylan sitting on the other counter watching and waiting almost patiently. I wish I would have had the camera on video as Logan's eyes grew along with the tinfoil. Then his laugh. We all love his laugh. It is totally uninhibited and from the depths of his soul. True delight. Tom's started about the time Logan's finished and his smile said it all. He was in heaven. He's at that stage where he wants to be grown up but still enjoys some of the fun kid stuff and every once in a while, if we are really lucky, that kid smile comes out. I love watching him try to hold it in and finally just giving in to the joy of being young.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Of Course You Want to See the House

Our realtor, Kim, told us that our house would sell, "when you leave you underwear out and there are dishes in the sink." Our house sold when not only the underwear was out but everything was out and being put in boxes. I think this tid-bit of wisdom applies to more than just selling your house.

We have been in Arizona for about a month now and there are several things that needed attention in our new home. Living in Forest Service housing is a bit different than owning your home. Not only is it not yours, they are suppose to take care of the things that are falling apart or in need or some love. A lot of the time, they will pay for the supplies and you do the labor. When we moved in, the first thing we wanted to take care of was the paint colors. They are incredibly dark and not our style either. Well, a month later, and we are still dark. Gary found out the other day he can use his purchase card and buy the paint once his purchase card gets approved in the Washington office. There are also holes in the screens so the bugs have free range in the house. The windows and screen doors have to be open because there is no A/C here. It gets cool enough at night, if you leave your windows open, to keep the house comfortable as long as air is moving around.

Anyway, there are lots of these little things that need to be looked at and fixed. All repairs go through a facilities man who is also new here. In fact, he started the same day Gary did. Gary talked to him today and then said he would stop by later. Later was this morning.

This is the morning that I decided to do Ethan's homework, take the boys for a little hike, write down the receipts in the checkbook, anything and everything but housework. Living in these slightly smaller quarters means that the housework has to happen each and every day. There are dishes piled high on the counter tops. The living room floor was cluttered with cling-stickers the boys had taken out of a book. My computer desk had papers on top of papers. The school lunch stuff was still out on the other counter and the garbage was completely full. UGH.

George and his wife, Mary, seem really nice but I'm just totally embarrassed that our first meeting was when the house was a W - R - E - C - K! I guess houses sell and get repaired all when your underwear is hanging out!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First Day of School

I love this picture from this morning. Tom and Logan are the only kids that get on the bus in our neighborhood so they have this little bus stop all to themselves. It's pretty nice to have a bench to wait and a roof to keep the rain out as long as it isn't blowing in! They were horsing around as usual while we were waiting for the bus to come. I was surprised that the bus was not only full-sized, but pretty full!

Tom by the tree in our back yard. He is such a great kid and I think he is really excited about another year of school starting.

Logan by the same tree. I think he is a bit more apprehensive about the first day of school. He asked me to make sure they made it to class so I drove in this morning right after the bus left and checked. As soon as he saw me looking in his classroom, he looked away and gave me the shake-off. Too funny that he is so cool already after fifteen minutes.

It seems like I take a picture in these chairs every year. I'll have to dig out years past and see how they've grown. I know Tom is growing. We can almost wear the same shoes and shirts!
Logan is also growing. At least Logan's hair is growing. It is still a process each day making sure it is just right for him but he does it himself and I think he really likes it different from his brothers. He is the kid that doesn't act like he cares what everyone else thinks is cool!

Monday, August 10, 2009

School Eve

Today is the eve of the first day of school and I can honestly say that I am more nervous than the boys are. A new school, new routine, new friends, teachers I know nothing about; it's like the first day of kindergarten all over again but this time I'm sending two kids to different classes and I don't really know any of the neighborhood moms to console me. Today we are going to Costco to stock up on lunch supplies because I learned Saturday night at the Branch BBQ how horrible lunches here are and that the portions are so small even the little kids are still hungry. Great. Packing lunches every day. I know some moms do this but honestly, it was not on my agenda. I guess I'll get into the habit soon enough. Phoenix here we come today!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

For All the Hunters Out There

Last night we had a Grand Canyon Branch picnic/BBQ at the rec center in the park. I was amazed at the turn out. We had about 50 people there which is about double the amount at church any given week. It was so much fun and the kids got to play with all the other kids that are moving soon. They had a riot. Just as it was getting over, a herd of elk came through on their way to the grassy fields of the school right next door. I am always surprised at the elk here. They are huge and plentiful. Almost every ride into the park or Williams or Flagstaff is full of elk or deer sightings. The bull elk and buck deer are HUGE! Big enough that they scared the living daylights out of me on a ride home from Flagstaff the other night. Gary has been trying for years to get me to go hunting - or at least get a tag and walk with him while he shoots. As soon as I got home from Flagstaff that night, I became a hunter. I will put in for the draw in February for sure and, believe it or not, I'm pretty excited to do it. Scare me like that once in the dark on the road and I will forever be hunting you I guess. I did tell Gary that I couldn't shoot a cow elk but a bull, well that's a different story.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

What the Heck?

Driving to the market the other day, this is what I ran into in the parking lot. What the heck? Someone had a bit too much time on their hands with the old Christmas greenery and a glue gun. Yikes! The elk don't even run here it seems like when tourists stop or cars are driving by so I'm not sure why anyone would need this much camo.

On an unrelated note, I just heard on the news last night that we are getting a very special visitor to welcome us to our new home. President Obama and his family are coming next Sunday to Grand Canyon National Park. Yipeee. Can you sense the sarcasm? As if one million tourists thinking they are the only ones on the road on the way to church aren't enough. Now we get to deal with the Secret Service. Do you think they will cancel our church? Really, doesn't he want to visit somewhere like Disneyland on his vacation?

We woke up this morning to the cold of the mountains. I think it was suppose to get to 34 degrees last night and it is still cold in my house! If I didn't think we'd be hot this afternoon, I'd be looking for some wood for a fire or cranking up the heater. Seriously, freezing. The boys are all in sweatshirts or jackets and I haven't changed Dylan out of his warm jammies yet even though it's almost noon. I may be baking bread or cookies or something to start heating the house up a bit!

Friday, August 7, 2009

What's That Smell?

I tried and tried to figure out what the horrible stench was that emanated from my oldest two boys. They shower every night. They wear clean clothes every morning. I bought deodorant that they are way to excited to use. I cleaned their rooms. Still, with the stench. It was bad enough that I had a hard time being by them.

And then I figured it out. While Logan was trying on new school clothes I had bought him, he took off his shoes. I almost passed out. Ewwwww. Didn't seem to bother him at all.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Family Photos at the Rim

We finally made it as a family to the rim of the Grand Canyon for a picture. It was quite an ordeal fighting for a spot in prime tourist season to take one and then the lighting isn't the best but hey, we made it at least!

I love, love, love this picture of Tom. It shows his playful smile that doesn't come out often for pictures. He has been such an amazing help since the move. I couldn't have survived without his help with Dylan especially. Tom is Dylan's best friend and at times he would rather be with Tom than either Gary or myself!

Logan is going through a fun stage of life with missing teeth. He isn't sure about his smile lately but when he smiles, you can't help but smile with him. He is loving the exploring he does every day in the neighborhood. He's constantly hopping on his bike and riding off to some new place to explore.

Ethan's face says it all. There was no prompting to smile. The kid never needs a prompt. He is excited about life and everything it hands him. From having oatmeal in the morning - "This is the best breakfast ever!" - to looking over the rim of the Canyon, he loves life. I think we could all follow that example a bit more.

We put Dylan on the trail right here and Gary was about 12 inches to the side while we took this picture. Of course, the way the night was going, he took one step back and started to slide and from the gasps from the other people around, you'd think he was right on the edge! He is really in a mischievous stage right now and has to do everything by himself from pouring milk to hiking the trail. Will we survive another two-year-old stage? Tom, Logan, and Ethan's two-year-old experience was cake compared to what this sweetheart is giving us! We love him for everything he is though.

And, last but not least, my favorite men. I love these guys and can't wait to explore the area more with them!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I woke up this morning thinking the boys had been playing with matches or the microwave or the oven. The smoke was THICK in our neighborhood. These pictures don't do it justice.

This one is the view out the back door. Usually the sun is shining and it's blue sky but today it is just smoke.

It's coming from the South. This shot is looking South to the neighbors house.

Another look out the backyard way. I called Gary a bit worried that I should be trying to find the things we didn't want lost in the fire. He started laughing and told me that in the morning when it is as cold as it is here at night (in the 40s) that the smoke will settle in the lowest area. I guess we are a bit lower in elevation than the fire itself. If the sun can burn through, we will lose the smoke, until tomorrow morning at least. Later this week, it's suppose to be windy so we won't have the same problem. The fire isn't too close to our house though so don't be too alarmed. It was really a wake-up call for me though!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Training Wheels? I Don't Need No Stinkin' Training Wheels!

Ethan, like his two older brothers, has been riding around our loop since the day the bikes came off the trailer. They spend countless hours out on their bikes riding around and around. He's been riding with his training wheels since we got here and, I've recently noticed, the training wheels are getting higher and higher and bent at weird angles. I don't know if this is because of the wrecks or his brothers but, after we got home from Flagstaff today, I realized that he was barely using them.

Gary and I have been putting off removing them because our road isn't pavement. It's chip-seal or sealed and then chipped. Rough landing that gives a bad case of road rash. We were chicken. After watching him this afternoon though, I had to take them off. I prepared myself for an hour of crying, ending in band-aids across every part of visible skin. Silly me.

I needed to remind myself it was Ethan we were talking about. I held the back of his seat and off he went. I didn't move. I didn't run behind him. I didn't push him. I did nothing but hold his seat so he could get his little feet on the pedals. After one loop, he was starting himself and around and around he went. The loop is about 1/3 of a mile so it's pretty far for a four year-old to ride over and over. I guess when the excitement of riding like his older brothers, he could care less how far it was. I'm so proud of my latest bike rider! Way to go Ethan! I'm just sad I didn't have my camera. It was with Gary at work today. Boo hoo.

Monday, August 3, 2009

School is Right Around the Corner - Yipee!

This morning, I took the boys to their school for a tour. The secretary I had been working with told me it was impossible for her to show them their classrooms or even the elementary school building but we have an inside connection. The secretary for the school superintendent, Barb Shields, is also our neighbor and the boys Primary President/teacher. When she heard what I was told about the first day, she said to come on over and she would show them around. I just didn't feel comfortable sending my 9 and 7 year-old on the bus the first day with high school, middle school, and elementary school kids and not have any idea where their classes were. I was told by their secretary that usually if there is a new kid on the bus, the other kids will ask what grade they are in and show them the way. Yeah, right. Like I'm going to send the boys off on their own and hope that someone asks them where they want to go.

The tour today was great. I had been told earlier that there were about 25 kids to a class here but she let me know that they usually cap a class at 15 to 17 students. That in and of itself is amazing to me. My kids will have so much one-on-one attention that there will be no excuse not to thrive. Logan has a teacher that is new to Grand Canyon School this year, Ms. Marshall, and Tom has Mrs. Kelso who has been teaching here for years. Barb showed them their rooms, the lunch room, library, and we ended by playing on the playground for 30 minutes. It was a unique experience dodging elk poop on the playground! It is the only place I have seen real, true, actual lawn and the elk love it apparently.

School starts in one week and I can't wait. The boys are to that stage of the summer where they are constantly bugging each other and the fighting and yelling are getting to be too much to deal with every day. I think they are ready to make some new friends and be away from me for a few hours a day at least. With our house being so much smaller than our old home, we are on top of each other at times and it will be good for them to get out and experience a new side of living here. Waking up early for the bus won't be easy though. They've started to sleep in every day and Tom, for one, enjoys his sleep!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Closing on the House

Yesterday our realtor called to tell us the paperwork was filed and the house in Idaho was no longer ours. I wasn't expecting the emotions I experienced. Sure, I was happy it was done and there was no more waiting to make sure everything worked out. I was happy a check would be deposited into our account. I was happy a nice family would be moving into our home and making it theirs. At the same time, I was really sad to see it go. I miss living there already! We made so many great memories there and that is where we brought Ethan and Dylan home from the hospital. Tom was baptized there and Logan worked through his speech issues, all under that roof. It is amazing how an inanimate object can evoke such feelings. I'm sure as we continue on this big project of making our new house into our home that I will feel less.......hmmm.....what exactly is it? sad? homesick? a sense of loss? Who knows! I hope everyone will welcome the new family in and make them feel right at home.