Sunday, June 1, 2014

Motherhood and the Atonement

I've been meaning to write this post for quite awhile. In my head it's wonderfully profound, beautifully written, and is something I can look back on time and time again to lift me up during the hard moments in motherhood. This is probably not going to be like that post in my head. But if I keep waiting for the chance to write that post, it's never going to happen.  At least not until all my kids have left for college in roughly 19 years, so here I go, and please pardon my clumsy way of expressing all this.

The other day I was thinking about Sariah from the Book of Mormon. To understand what I'm going to say about her you really need to be familiar with all of her story from the Book of Mormon, but to sum her up, she was a faithful woman of God, a mother to the first prophet we meet in the Book of Mormon, Nephi, and wife to the prophet Lehi. She endured all kinds of hardships in her life, from leaving her home and traveling through the wilderness where she gave birth to at least two children, to sometimes violent relationships between her sons. She was one of the few women mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon, and to my knowledge, the only one mentioned by name that we know was also a mother. And so during my personal study the other day I was looking at her life to find insight into motherhood. Here is what I learned:

Sariah was half of the "goodly parents" Nephi talked about. She was a good woman, and good parent, but she knew what it was like to have her children misbehave. She knew what it was like to have her children not get along. She made mistakes, such as when she murmered against Lehi. And yet she was the mother of not one, but two prophets. She was the mother (and perhaps the surrogate mother, in Zoram's case) of some wonderfully righteous, steadfast men.  Clearly, despite any shortcomings she may have had, the Lord made up the difference.

Of all the lessons we learn in our families, perhaps the most important and often repeated lesson is that of repentence and forgiveness. And maybe one of the major ways our children will learn those principles is to watch how we deal with our mistakes and shortcomings. Do we stubbornly refuse to admit we were wrong or do we acknowledge our fault, ask forgiveness, and allow the Savior to change us into something better? How can our children learn how to use the power of the Atonement of Christ if they never see us using it in our lives? And we can't forget that forgiveness also applies to us forgiving ourselves from being less than the parent we always dreamed we would be. We are all still learning to be that parent, and we learn to do by doing. To paraphrase H. Burke Peterson in "Mother, Catch the Vision of Your Call" from the April 1974 General Conference, motherhood is an art that isn't easy to learn, but you can learn to do it.

Not one of us will be perfect.  We haven't been made mothers because we are angels.  We are fallible humans in the midst of a blessed and joyous, but still fiery furnace--that of a family.  And like ceramic in a fiery furnace, we can either crack and become overwhelmed, stressed out, and bitter, or we can let it refine us into more Christlike beings who rely more on the Savior to get through the day, and less on parenting books and Pinterest.

Jeffery R. Holland, in his talk "Because She Is a Mother" from the April 1997 General Conference, said:  "If you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do."

It's late and I need to get to bed, so I will probably edit this in the morning, but I just wanted to get my thoughts out there.  Goodnight, everyone.  May I be a better mom tomorrow than I was today.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

What Not to Do This Christmas

Lately I've been seeing all kinds of cute Christmas bucket lists floating around out there.  You know, the ones that list all the things you should do this Christmas season like drive around to look at lights, make sugar cookies, go caroling, etc.  They are fun ideas.  And most of them come in convenient printable format so you can print them out and hang them on your fridge and remember, all season long, just how much you meant to do but haven't been able to squeeze into your schedule between the school Christmas concert, work Christmas party, shopping, decorating, wrapping, and otherwise going crazy.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with these lists.  I may have even pinned a couple of them on Pinterest.  I love the idea of setting goals about what you want to do this Christmas to remind you to savor the season, but I've also seen more than a couple of people sharing "Do Less This Christmas" articles via social media and I have a sneaky feeling that some of us are tired of feeling like we need to do more things that just don't really matter in an already crazy busy time of year.  So, friends, I'm here to help.  Just in case you need someone to give you permission to do less, I'm giving you permission to cut out some of the busy-ness this year.  Instead of a Christmas "To Do" list, I have put together a Christmas "Don't List" of some of the things you just don't really need to worry about in the remaining eleven days till Christmas.

*As a disclaimer, I haven nothing against any of these activities individually.  If you have a long standing tradition of doing anything on this list, please don't drop it on my account (unless you really want to).  I'm just giving you a list of things you could potentially edit out of the Christmas hustle and bustle.  And I'm offering it in convenient printable format so you can hang it on your fridge and be grateful for all the things you don't have to do.

Printable Version

1. Don't Make Sugar Cookies:  Seriously, is there anyone that sits back after Christmas is over and thinks, "I really wish I had eaten more sugar this year?"  You'll probably get more sweets than you know what to do with as neighbor gifts, anyway, so why make more yourself?  This is especially one to cut if you are already building a gingerbread house.  Both are sugary, messy, time consuming activities, so why do both?  Make a gingerbread house (if you want to) and save the decorating sugar cookies for Valentine's.

2. Don't Make Reindeer Food:  I'm not sure when Santa's reindeer started needing magical oats mixed with glitter sprinkled on the lawn to eat, but you can skip this one.  Last night my kids and I visited Santa and he asked us to leave a carrot or apple to feed to his reindeer.  That's all.  And if the Big Man says that's enough, that's good enough for me.

3. Don't Go Caroling to Your Neighbors:  I love singing.  I also love Christmas carols.  I am generally a pretty cheesy, sappy person.  But even I feel awkward when a group of carolers comes to my house and stands on my doorstep singing to me.  I'm always unsure what I'm supposed to do.  Sing along?  Invite them in for cocoa?  Pay them?  So instead I stand there in the doorway freezing while they sing to me.  If you really want to go caroling, skip the neighbors and go to a care or assisted living center instead.  I know from experience it's hard to find a more appreciative, sweet, lonely audience.  And you can be inside while you sing. 

4. Don't Go Ice Skating:  The same goes for sledding, making snow angels, having a snowball fight, or any other snowy, wintry activity.  If you want to go or your kids have been begging you to do one of these with them, go for it.  But don't try to squeeze it in just because you think you need it to have a merry Christmas.  Remember January and February?  Those horribly dull, depressing wintry months?  These activities were created to help us get through them.  Pull them out next month when you need a pick-me-up.

5. Don't Stress About Gift Wrapping:  I know presents can be beautiful all color coordinated and tied in pretty bows, but like it is with books and people, it's what's on the inside that counts.  Will your presents still look presentable under the tree if they're wrapped in basic wrapping paper with nary a bow in sight?  Absolutely.

6. Don't Make a Popcorn or Cranberry Garland for the Tree:  Do you really want to end the night with popcorn bits all over the floor and sore fingers? 

Alright, I'll stop now lest I sound even more Grinch-like than I already do.  I really do love Christmas and all the Christmas activities you can do this time of the year, just don't go so overboard that you stress yourself out, okay?  If you find yourself getting so caught up in doing stuff that you find yourself snapping at your kids or fighting with your spouse, do this: drop everything and go snuggle and read a Christmas book or watch a Christmas movie, and remember that all it took to make the first Christmas meaningful, holy, and the most wonderful event the world had ever experienced, was a very important baby who came to a simple stable.

Wishing you joy, peace, and love this Christmas!


Friday, May 17, 2013

Honey Lime Chicken

Man, this nice weather has got me in the mood for grilling.  How about you?  I love how fast you can throw together an amazing tasting meal with the help of the grill.  This is one of my go-to recipes during the grilling time of the year.  My family loves it, and the chicken comes out moist and flavorful every time.

Honey Lime Chicken
Printable Version

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 lime
1/2 c. honey
chopped cilantro for garnish, if desired.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.  Mix together in a small bowl: garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder, kosher salt, and cumin.  Zest the lime and add it to the mix.  Trim excess fat off chicken breasts.  Drizzle vegetable oil over the chicken and rub it in with your hands.  Rub the mixed spices into the chicken breasts.  Grill for 3-5 minutes on each side.

While chicken is grilling, warm honey in the microwave for 15-20 seconds.  Remove from microwave and juice the lime into the honey and whisk to combine.  Reserve 2 tablespoons of this glaze and set aside.  Brush the rest of the glaze onto the chicken in the final moments of grilling.  Remove chicken from the grill and drizzle reserved tablespoons of glaze over the chicken.  Garnish with chopped cilantro if desired.

Recipe adapted from Spicy Honey Chicken recipe from Our Best Bites

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Well, she's here!  The newest, most cuddly, good-smelling, and sweet member of our family, A!

Alright, well she actually arrived here three months ago, but then we had the holidays and then we moved, and then the stress finally hit me in the form of some bad baby blues, so I am just now getting around to posting about our lovely little girl.  Be patient with me, friends.

Warning:  The following is excessively detailed and maybe a tiny bit graphic, but I want to record the details before I forget them.

First off, the answers to the usual questions:

What were her stats?  She was 18 inches long, and her recorded weight was 7 lbs. 15 oz. which would have made her my biggest baby yet, but we found out later they weighed her wrong.  Yep.  The following evening in the nursery she weighed in at only around 5 lbs. 15 oz.  Since she was otherwise perfectly healthy and eating well and had NO reason to have lost that much weight that quickly (as well as the fact that everyone was thinking she seemed awfully small to be nearly 8 lbs.), our pediatrician figured out that there must have been a mistake in weighing her.  I think the nurse that weighed her may have been a student nurse and maybe didn't know how to work the scale right, who knows.  We aren't too bugged about it, but we just have to guess at her actual weight which we think was somewhere around 6 lbs.

How did everything go?  Really well, but really fast!  I have gone early with all my kids now (hallelujah!), so it wasn't a huge surprise when I went into labor six days early, but it progressed really quickly, which wasn't so expected.  We got to the hospital around 12:30 a.m. and they checked me in and my nurse hooked me up to the monitors and stuff, then she disappeared, promising to come back and check me in an hour to see if I was really and truly in labor and if I was going to get to stay at the hospital or be sent home to wait.  I know that's standard procedure, but really?  This wasn't my first rodeo or anything.  It's not like these were little contractions--they were the real deal, squeeze-the-blood-out-of-your-husband's-hand type.  It's probably because I said my pain level was a 7.  I should have listened to Brian Regan ("Say eight!  Say eight!"). 

Anyway, about fifteen minutes later the contractions were getting really, really bad, like dig-your-nails-into-your-husbands-hand type, and the nurse came back because the monitor that was supposed to be registering my contractions wasn't working.  I don't think it ever really worked the whole time I was in labor.  I mentioned to the nurse that the contractions were getting really intense, but she just said she would be back in 45 minutes to check me. 

After the longest, most painful 45 minutes of my life she came back and checked me, to find me dilated to a five and my water about to break.  So they called the doctor and the anesthesiologist because I'm one of those girls that doesn't care about proving she's a woman by going natural--bring on the epidural, baby!  About one minute later my water broke, and the nurses started to bustle around pretty darn fast, like they knew things were going to start happening soon.  The anesthesiologist arrived shortly thereafter and said he wasn't sure if there was time to get the epidural working before I delivered, but did I want him to still try (absolutely!)?  He was just cleaning my back in preparation, when I felt that urge to push I had heard about but never really understood until then.  I announced my need to push calmly (o.k., I might have screamed it), to the nurse who then hurried over to catch the baby, and the anesthesiologist quietly packed up and left, having not had time to save me from experiencing natural labor in all its glory.  About one and a half pushes during that one contraction and our little girl was out!  My doctor was on the elevator at the time and managed to arrive just in time to sew me up since I tore a little.  Once all was said and done, I went from being dilated to a five to delivering my baby in ten minutes.  Yikes, and ouch!

What is she like?  She is absolutely, seriously and without bias the best baby I could have asked for.  She is so sweet, and chill, and smiley!  She has been a great sleeper from the beginning, although she grunted and made so much noise in her sleep when she was brand new that we couldn't have her in our room.  The boys all love her so much, they can hardly leave her alone, even to sleep.
Here's C, "reading" to baby sister.

J holding her for the first time. 

Daddy holding his baby girl. 
I am so grateful that everything went so well, and that I have these three beautiful children in my life.  I make so many mistakes as a parent, but they love me in spite of it all, and we are figuring out this whole thing together.  Here's to being a family of five!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Conference Coffee Cake

For those of you who don't know, this weekend The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds its semi-annual General Conference.  It is held twice a year on the first weekend of April and October, and for many of us who belong to this church, it has become something like a twice-a-year holiday with its own traditions surrounding it.  And my family being a food loving sort of family, these traditions are usually centered around food.  For example, on Saturday evening during conference, the men 12 and older go to a meeting while the women of my family get together for pizza and to talk each others' ears off.  My husband and his brothers always go to this meeting with their dad, and afterwards they have root beer floats.  My very most especially favorite food-centered conference tradition, though, is this coffee cake. 
Every year my mom makes this for Sunday morning breakfast and everyone pieces on it the rest of the day until we barely have room for Sunday dinner that afternoon.  Yes, it is worth spoiling your dinner for.  And yes, I do see the humor in the fact that we're Mormons eating something with the word "coffee" in it while we listen to our church leaders.  Have no fear, this doesn't contain any coffee, but I'm sure if you are of the coffee-drinking sort it would go great with that beverage.  I prefer mine with a big, cold glass of milk.
Conference Coffee Cake
For the cake:
1/2 c. oil
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1 tsp. salt
3 c. flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
For the topping*:
1 c. brown sugar
4 Tbsp. flour
4 tsp. cinnamon
4 T. melted butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Mix oil, eggs, and milk together in a medium bowl until combined.  Add salt, flour, sugar, and baking powder, and stir until just combined.  In a separate bowl, mix topping ingredients together.  Gently stir half of the topping mixture into the cake batter, just mixing until it has a slightly marbled appearance.  Pour batter into a greased 9x13" pan and sprinkle with remaining topping mixture.  Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
*If desired, you can cut the topping recipe in half and skip the part where you marble half of it into the cake batter and just sprinkle it all on top.  I highly recommend the version above, though.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Coming this Fall...

This may be old news to some of you, but it's high time that I announce this formally on my blog.  (Cue the movie preview man voice:)  Coming this fall to a Where It's Green family near you...a baby unlike any other to come to this family...

That's right, this fall we're expecting baby #3 and it's going to be a girl!  Special thanks to J for doing the artwork on this.  In case you can't tell, that's me on the left holding baby girl's hand.  And even though it looks like I have a huge bum, I'm actually wearing a dress in this picture.  I think.

Now, I've got to be honest with you guys.  I'm super excited about having a girl, but I'm also a bit nervous.  After living in all-boy world for the past nearly-five-years, I'm not really sure what to do with a girl.  And our playroom is already pretty darn packed with toys for boys.  I'm hoping she really likes tools and cars and superheroes.  Now to answer the usual questions:

I'm due toward the beginning of November.

I'm feeling fine, though I was definitely sicker toward the beginning with this one.

J is so excited to have a new baby in the family, especially a baby sister.  C is just confused why I can't just take the baby out of my tummy right now and show her to him.  And he thinks he has a baby in his tummy too.

Peter is excited too.  And a little nervous since he knows even less about baby girls than I do.

I will post some pregnancy pictures as soon as I actually start to look pregnant and not just awkward.  You see, I carry all my babies really low.  So low that I never get that cute little pregnant bump thing going on--I just sort of get thicker somewhere around my waist area.  Oh, how I envy the cute pregnant bump, but I'll take what I can get.  It's a very small price to pay for a healthy baby.

We are so excited!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lindsay's Amazing Chocolate Cake

I can't take credit for this dessert.  This comes to me by way of my fantastic sister-in-law, Lindsay.  It.  Is.  Delicious.  We all drool over it whenever she brings it to family get-togethers.  The recipe was created by her dad who played around with different versions of chocolate cakes and came up with about seven different ones.  This one is really called "Denise's favorite cake," and it may very well be my favorite chocolate cake I've ever eaten.  It is dark and moist without being one of those that you have to down a gallon of milk just to swallow (although a glass of milk does go very well with it).  It is also nice and easy since you start with a basic devil's food cake mix which you then doctor up with ingredients you probably have on hand.  If you're looking for an idea for a dessert to finish off your Valentine's dinner, this is the cake for you.

Lindsay's Amazing Chocolate Cake (aka Denise's Favorite Cake)

1 box Devil's Food cake mix (I use Duncan Hines)
3.9 oz. box instant chocolate pudding
2 cups sour cream
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
5 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips (mini ones work best, but I use regular sized ones all the time with still great results)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix first 6 ingredients together (all but the chocolate chips) in a stand mixer* on low speed for 1 minute.  Increase speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes more.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Pour batter into a greased bundt pan and bake for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in cake comes out with only a few crumbs on it.  Cool on a cooling rack for 20 minutes, then remove cake from pan and allow to cool for 20 minutes more.  Frost with chocolate icing (recipe below).

*I do not recommend using a hand mixer for this cake.  I tried it once and burned out the motor on mine.

Chocolate Icing
1 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat sugar, butter, and milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil one more minute or until sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.
Add semisweet chocolate chips and stir until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate has melted.  Spread or drizzle icing over cake.