Lucky Number 7

Dear Cole,
Seven years ago, we joined hands and started on a journey through life. I don't think either one of us understood what we'd encounter in just a few short years.
So young...we didn't even know what was coming!
There have been some really exhilarating highs and really devastating lows, but through it all, we've stuck together. You have been my rock, my support, my anchor when I felt like I was lost and drifting. You never stop making me laugh, even when I'm crying. You never stop loving me, even when I don't feel like I deserve it.

I used to think I knew exactly the kind of person with whom I wanted to spend the eternities. I used to have my life all planned out. However, I thank Heavenly Father every day for being wiser than I am and placing you in my path. You are everything I never knew I always wanted. I know there is no person on earth more suited to be my partner, and I am endlessly grateful for the opportunity to be your wife.

I know 7 years isn't very long in the eternal scheme of things, and for that, I'm grateful. I can't imagine anything I want more than to spend 7 times 70 years with you, and even that's a drop in the bucket compared to eternity.

So, happy 7th anniversary, my love. I can't wait for all we have in store for us.


Happy Birthday, Lucas!

My medium-sized boy turned 3 years old on Sunday.

I can't believe it's been 3 years already! He went from this...

to this...
in the blink of an eye!
There are so many things I love about Lucas:
--When I say he's my sunshine boy, I mean it. Even when days are hard, just looking at his face makes my heart light up. There is something about his smile that is contagious, and his giggles are one of the most heavenly sounds.
--He is the BEST snuggler. I can always count on him to sit on my lap or snuggle up next to me whenever I ask (and sometimes, even when I don't).
--He has the most tender heart. Even though we have tantrums every now and then (he IS 3, after all), they are very short-lived and he's back to his happy little self before I know it.
--He definitely marches to the beat of his own drum. He prefers to play by himself most of the time, and he is not easily persuaded to do anything he wants to do. In fact, he has perfected the art of ignoring anyone he doesn't want to talk to.
--He is FEISTY. If you get in his way, he'll definitely let you know. Matthew and the cat are the most frequent recipients of his ire.
--He is constantly moving. He loves to be outside. He loves to kick a ball around (and he's always been surprisingly coordinated at it!).
--He already loves his baby sister. He likes to talk to her in my belly on occasion.
--He is a creature of habit. He always asks me to read the same book and sing the same song before bed every night.
--I'm his favorite person in the world right now, and that makes my heart so happy.
Lucas brings so much joy and laughter into our home, and I'm so grateful to have him as a part of our family.
We celebrated by having Cole's family over for cake and ice cream (we celebrated with my family in April when my parents were here). It was so fun for the boys to have all of their cousins over to play! Thank you to all of our family members on both sides for their thoughtful gifts. We are so blessed to have such wonderful family.


What I Made Monday: The Home of the Brave

I've always been a pretty patriotic person. I have a deep love for this country and all of those who serve and protect her. I can't make it through any patriotic songs without weeping in gratitude for all of the men and women who went before me, sacrificing their lives in defense of the United States of America. Perhaps that's why I've been so drawn to 4th of July crafts lately. I'm not necessarily a huge fan of the holiday celebrations (I don't really like fireworks--I've had too many close calls because of less-than-careful users), but it is important to me to have reminders of the holiday in my home.

I think what I like the most about all of these projects is their simplicity. I typically have the urge to over-embellish my projects, but this time, the urge was absent. I guess subconsciously I just wanted to let the red, white, and blue stand for themselves.

This is the perfect addition to my piano for July



My Deep, Dark Secrets

Okay, this might not actually be much of a secret, but I feel, in light of recent events, I need to get this out there.

I DON'T LIKE SHOWING EMOTION. Not like excitement or happiness or even anger or frustration. I have no trouble with those. I don't like letting others know that I'm sad or hurt. EVER.

Seriously. I'd rather throw up twice a day, every day, give birth without an epidural, get cavities filled without novocaine, do pretty much anything else in the entire world than let someone else see me cry (incidentally, I have done all of those things, but that's neither here nor there).

Why? I don't know. Maybe it's because I don't want to be the stereotypical girl that cries all the time and gets what she wants. Maybe it's because I've never gotten everything I wanted when I cried. :) Maybe it's because I turn into a sniffling, coughing, red puffy mess when I cry, and no one deserves to see that. Whatever the reason or reasons, it's not something I like to do in front of anyone, even Cole.

Unfortunately, this makes me look like I don't care deeply about important things, even to members of my own family. I'm really good at showing passion, aggression, and anger in the heat of the moment, but I don't cry until after the fact. If something does hurt my feelings, I try to cover it up with sarcasm or jokes until I can get home and fall apart where no one can see me. So, in an argument, I always look like the aggressor, the mean heartless witch, even if I'm falling to pieces inside.

In addition, I care deeply for my friends and family. I spend a lot of my time thinking and worrying and praying about them. But, apparently, I'm horrible at showing that. I'm not sure if I'm extremely socially awkward or if it's somehow linked to my inability to cry, but I constantly find myself wishing there was more I could do to help someone in need or show someone I care. I don't hesitate to tell people that I'm there for them if they need someone, and I'm always very sincere, but am I just not believable? Do I seem too distant, too busy, too self-absorbed?

I have only a handful of people with whom I am truly close, and they are all family members. I do have friends, but my relationships with them all seem more casual and distant. I'm not sure our ties go deep enough that they would ever rely on me if they needed help. And I'm pretty sure any hesitation they'd have is because of some personality flaw I have.

I really don't want this to sound like a pity party. I don't sit around boo-hooing and complaining because I don't have millions of friends. I'm extremely blessed to have the close friends that I have. I'm just looking for ways to become a better friend to others. I want to be the kind of friend that others feel confident asking for help, or a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on.

But, maybe the key to being that kind of friend is needing that kind of friend. Not crying in front of people means I don't often talk about things that are close to my heart. So, I guess I can understand why people wouldn't want to confide in me--I'm not likely to reciprocate that level of intimacy.

So, what do you think, armchair psychologists? I could really use some insight.


Wordless Wednesday: Pretty in Pink

Now Little Miss won't be naked when she comes...thanks, Grandma!


Parenting...to Stay at Home or Not?

This is a topic that has been weighing on my mind for quite some time, and can kind of be considered a continuation of my rant in yesterday's post. I feel like I need to get all of the thoughts that have been churning in my brain out so they stop giving me a headache, so, lucky you for being on the receiving end.

The debate over having a parent stay at home with the specific purpose of caring for children seems to be coming to the forefront right now, even on the secular front. Of course, in the LDS world, it never seems to go away, mostly because we are a family-oriented church and it is an issue that quite often is the center of a family's dynamic. In addition, one can always count on hearing at least one talk about the sanctity of the family in our twice-yearly General Conference...not to mention countless Sacrament Meeting talks and lessons in the various Priesthood and auxiliary meetings every Sunday on the subject.

This is where things get tricky. I don't want anyone to assume that my comments here mean I don't sustain the leadership of the Church or believe they receive revelation from Heavenly Father. I do. The issue is, I don't believe their revelation is a "one size fits all" message. If it were, why would we be entitled to personal revelation? The church is worldwide, and the situations of members in Argentina are going to be drastically different than those of members in Japan, or members in Russia, or members in Utah. In fact, the situations of members that live IN THE SAME CITY are going to be different. Human diversity is what makes life so wonderful! However, because of this diversity, it is IMPOSSIBLE for the leadership of our church to specifically tailor every aspect of their messages to every single member of the Church. Instead, they choose to focus on more broad principles that DO apply to all of us and hope that we seek personal revelation from Heavenly Father on the specifics. I think a lot of the members of the Church fail to remember this. I want to say this is why so many members of the Church apply such harsh judgments against those to whom we should feel the most affinity: our brothers and sisters in the gospel.

When it comes to matters of the family, the ammunition most used is definitely The Family: A Proclamation to the World, colloquially referred to as "the proclamation on the family" by many members. Specifically, the section discussing gender roles in marriage gets a lot of mileage.
"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation."
Here, and reiterated quite often in instruction from the general authorities of the Church, fathers are primarily given the responsibility of providing the temporal needs for their families while mothers are primarily given stewardship over the nurturing of children. Now, when one reads this passage it's easy to assume this is a mandatory requirement for having a successful family. Fathers should work, mothers should stay home. END OF STORY. This is the opinion so many members of our Church have, particularly if they happen to have that arrangement within their own families. And, for some unexplicable reason (maybe it's hubris; maybe it's genuine concern for the welfare of others; maybe it's pure nosiness), there are some of us who have deemed it their responsibility to call to repentance those who don't heed this "commandment."
Remember what I said before? The gospel isn't "one size fits all." Sure, the basic principles, doctrine, and ordinances are the same for everyone, but when it comes to specifics, we are allowed to determine our own courses through personal revelation from our Heavenly Father. Those people who criticize and belittle families with different situations from the "norm", whether by necessity or choice, infuriate me. They seem to forget the caveat near the end of the paragraph: "Disability, death, or other circumstances [emphasis mine] may necessitate individual adaptation."
We are only responsible for our own choices. We cannot fully understand the circumstances of others, so we cannot presume to know what choices are best for them.
Cole is one of five brothers, all married. We are all active members of the Church, and we all have very different family situations. Cole's oldest brother and his wife both work full-time. They have 4 children. Cole's second brother works full-time and his wife stays home. They have 4 children. Cole's third brother stays at home while his wife works full-time. They have 2 children. Cole works full-time and I stay home with our 3 children. Cole's youngest brother and his wife are both in school and (I believe) she works. They do not have children yet. The point here? If one based family success on the "cookie cutter" model prescribed by so many members of the Church, only two of these 5 families would be deemed successful. That is far from the truth. I look at our family as a whole and see parents who love their children and want them to grow in strength and righteousness. I don't know every aspect of their lives and what motivates them to choose the structures they have, but I know those choices were made deliberately, with the best interests of their families at heart. They allowed Heavenly Father to guide their choices through personal revelation.
This can apply to families outside of our faith as well. First of all, we cannot judge them by our standards because they don't subscribe to our standards. That's like trying to judge how well chicken is cooked using standards applied to a steak--it'll never measure up. Second, I'd like to believe that the majority of parents are just trying to raise their children the best way they can. No loving parent is "trying" to mess up their kids. If their family situation is working for them, be HAPPY!
There are times where a parent may be in a situation not because they want to be but because they can't see a way out. We were in that situation once. Cole and I both worked full-time, Kyle was 2 years old, and I was pregnant with Lucas. I hated working. I hated dropping Kyle off all day for someone else to watch him, and I didn't want our baby to share that fate. The problem was, we couldn't see how we could survive on one income. I felt stuck. Cole and I were talking on the way home from work one evening, and he cautiously suggested that I stay home anyway, since it was what I wanted. After punching the numbers (which still didn't come out the way we wanted), praying, and pondering, we decided even though it would be hard, the right choice for our family was for me to quit my job and stay at home. We made that switch and never looked back. Sure, money has never been plentiful, but I truly feel our family is happier and more successful because we made that choice.
The take-home message here is not, "choose to have your wife stay home with the kids even if money is tight, because it'll all work out." The message is "seek the Lord's guidance to find your ideal family situation. It probably won't be easy, but everything will work out for the best." 
Whatever your family situation, you as parents are entitled to receive personal revelation from Heavenly Father. He loves each of us and wants our families to be successful, and He'll tell us how to do it if we ask Him. DON'T listen to the naysayers. If you're in contact with Heavenly Father, you'll do what is best for YOUR family.



You'll notice this post has nothing to do with potpourri; however, it is a random, hodge-podge collection of thoughts, much like the questions of the similarly named category on Jeopardy--so the title is appropriate.

--We'll start with the most exciting news in our house this week: Lucas is potty trained! Potty training is seriously the bane of my existence. Why? I don't really know. It's not like I have a particular aversion to cleaning up messes from my childrens' nether regions; I've no trouble changing diapers. Maybe the difference is one can throw away a diaper, and a mess in underpants is not so easily disposed of. Maybe it's because potty training ties me up in knots made of anxiety and anticipation (not the good kind) and pessimism. Or maybe it's my fear of failing (like one accident makes me an unsuccessful potty trainer and mother).

But enough about my neuroses. Lucas is a rock star, basically. We had one semi-rough day, and after that, he started taking himself to the potty when he needed to go. I really can't take any credit for his success beyond taking the diapers away. Don't get me wrong; we still have accidents every now and then, but for the most part, he's good. Plus, he stays dry pretty much every night and through his nap.

Underwear bums are the cutest.
I think part of what made it so easy was, in fact, my extreme procrastination (score one for my neuroses!). With both Kyle and Lucas, I put off potty training until a few weeks shy of their third birthdays. This meant I had to change more diapers, yes, but it also eliminated any night-time/nap-time training because they both stayed dry while sleeping. Plus, they were both independent enough to go potty by themselves without my help. And, they had the motor skills necessary to pull their pants down and up without too much assistance. Heck, they almost trained themselves! :)

*DISCLAIMER: This doesn't mean I think my way is best. It worked for us, and that's what I care about.*
--Speaking of disclaimers, why do we feel like all of our parenting choices need to have disclaimers, in case someone else thinks we're judging them for doing things differently? Around Mother's Day there was a flood of OP articles on various sites praising stay-at-home moms for their efforts. While I'm always up for gratuitous praise for a (generally) thankless job, I thought it was excessive and one-sided. Plus, it brought out the haters: people who hate kids; people who think stay-at-home moms are lazy, self-centered (for making their husbands work so hard to support the family, because "no family can survive on one income in this day and age"), or whiny and entitled (because they expect recognition for a choice they made); people who are unable to have children ("they should be grateful they get the experience--I'd kill to be in their shoes!"); and the (mostly justified) single moms, moms who choose to work, moms who have to work, and single dads who deserve recognition too.

The point is, did I choose to stay home with my children? Yes. Is my job important? Yes. Am I more important, more valuable, more noble, more ANYTHING than any other parent who is just trying to make the best choices for his/her family? NO.

I know that's not what these articles are trying to say, but when all you see is praise for stay-at-home moms, it's easy to assume the underlying message of all of them is "stay at home with your kids, or you're not a mom worth mentioning." I don't understand why there can't be articles about moms who balance their work/school with being an awesome mom, or about single parents who have to do the jobs of both a mother and a father, because both of those situations require just as much commitment and effort. Don't even get me started on the lack of articles about good dads.

This isn't even the only issue that gets moms finger-pointing and full of self-righteous indignation! I dare you to name one choice we make as mothers that doesn't incite fighting. I'm so tired of people assuming I think they're "doing it wrong" if they do something in a different way than I would do it. For future reference, for anyone who knows me, this is my mantra:

Seriously. If what you're doing isn't causing emotional or physical harm to your kids, I assume you're reasonable enough to make choices that will best benefit them, and I don't judge. Okay, I might judge for a second (because I think judgment is hard-wired into our brains, unfortunately) but I won't hold it against you, and I certainly won't say anything unkind to you. It's what I'd want people to do for me when the situation is reversed.

--In less ranty, soap-boxy news, we're still trying to wrap our heads around having a girl. We've known for two weeks now and it's still not any more real. It's probably because it's so far outside our realm of expertise that it doesn't seem possible. Cole and I both get a little thrill when we refer to the baby as "her" or hear the boys talk about and pray for their "baby sister." It's safe to say we're more than a little excited.

--In the same vein, the thought of having a girl FREAKS ME OUT. There are so many more things I've had to think about that never occurred to me. For example, I actually have to have a real discussion about modesty. That concept is pretty straight-forward with boys. With a girl, it's a whole different ball game. I have to worry about raising her in a world that objectifies women and tears down their self-esteem if they don't look a certain way or choose a certain path in life. I hate to admit it, but the world is still a much harder place for a girl than a boy. How do I prepare her for that?

--I started feeling baby girl move consistently in the last week or so. It's possible that I felt some movement earlier, but it was hard to distinguish. Plus, the only time I'm still enough to focus on baby movement without having children climbing in my lap is at night, and it usually takes 0.05 seconds for me to pass out. I started to worry a little bit about it, because I started feeling both Lucas and Matthew around 15 weeks. Maybe the little miss is just dainty. Cole says it's probably because she can hear her brothers and doesn't want to make any sudden moves to alert them to her presence. :)

--Oh, by the way, we do have a name for baby girl. Her name will be Hallie Jo Christensen. No, not like Halle Berry. My siblings and I lived in CA when we were young, and both sets of our grandparents lived here in UT, so we didn't get to see them very often. However, we lived near quite a bit of my dad's extended family, including a set of our great-grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa Tanner (incidentally, Matthew is named after them), and my dad's aunt and uncle, Hallie and Ken Hodnett. We frequently spent Sunday afternoons with them and they stepped in to fill the grandparents role for us. I don't remember a lot about my great-aunt Hallie, but I do remember always feeling like she loved us just as much as she loved her own grandchildren. Ever since she passed away I've wanted to name a daughter after her. Jo is my mother's middle name, and it's short and sweet and perfect for a little girl.

--Matthew is SO.NAUGHTY right now. He's most commonly referred to as "naughty baby" in my family because he seriously is trouble. He's already perfected the art of tormenting his older brothers. He'll watch them carefully, and when they're not paying attention he'll take their blankets or toys or whatever will get the most rise out of them and take off. Screaming usually ensues. He is going to be the child I have to worry about when I'm occupied nursing a newborn. He's extremely loving, though. His favorite thing right now is to give kisses. Sometimes, he'll even close his mouth for them! One of my favorite parts of the day is rocking him to sleep for his naps or bed, because he'll let me snuggle him. Most of the time he's "too big" to let me snuggle him. He's at that point where he stopped smelling like a baby and started smelling like a boy (anyone with sons will understand that little boys have a "smell"), which has made me a little bit sad. Now that Lucas is potty trained, our next task is to move Matthew to a toddler bed and then into his brothers' room before the baby comes.

This picture scares me. Who gave that kid a knife?!?
P.S. It's not real, obviously.
--Besides being potty trained, Lucas is still my snuggle buddy. He's the boy that most frequently climbs in my lap and gives me hugs. He can always melt my heart with one of his smiles. He is pretty excited about the new baby and talks about "Ha-yee" in my belly all the time. His third birthday is on Sunday, and I can't believe how fast it came!

--Kyle is the most excited about his baby sister, probably because he understands what's happening the best. He's going to be the sweetest big brother to this little girl. He's kind of going through a bossy phase and gets pretty upset when Lucas doesn't follow his instructions. :) He still loves to draw and color and now writes words to accompany his drawings (little kid spelling is the best, btw). He's already a great helper and does an excellent job of fetching things when I ask him to (which is way more often than I'd like to admit).

--Cole and I are working our way through Arrested Development on Netflix right now. We've both seen many of the episodes, but we decided to get a refresher before watching the newest episodes. It's a great way to fill in the days when we don't have Hell's Kitchen, Master Chef, or Rookie Blue to watch (we live for Wednesdays and Thursdays!).

--Cole got a replacement door for our basement (after our last one was destroyed--Kyle accidentally locked us in the basement a couple of years ago and kicking it open was our only way out). Since our house was built in the 60s and I'm pretty sure our doors are original we realized they all need to be replaced. Fortunately, it's not too expensive and it will make our house look remarkably more modern and fresh. Unfortunately, no two doors are the same size so it will require some careful measuring. Maybe we should replace them one at a time so we don't get any mixed up. :)

Before. Note the destroyed knob hole and photobombing Matthew.

--I've been looking for baby girl bedding recently, and I HATE everything I've seen that's in my price range. Everything is way too fussy for my taste--I don't want flowers or butterflies or animals or characters. I LOVE the bedding we have for Matthew, but it's a little too masculine. So, I guess you can see why I haven't found anything I like: it has to be girly, but not TOO girly. Plus, anything that comes close is pink and brown, and I don't really like the pink and brown color scheme. I just want something in a simple pattern, preferably pink and black or pink and gray. Pottery Barn Kids has a perfect line of bedding, but I want to be able to continue feeding my family. I'm almost desperate enough to find patterns and take a stab at making bedding, but this is scary because the only sewing experience I have was in 7th grade home economics. Yikes.

--I'm going to have to get a job to support my baby girl clothes habit. There are so.many.things I want/need to get for her.

--The weather has been nice lately, so the boys have gotten to play outside more. Cole busted out the water table a few days ago, and it's a huge hit.

For Father's Day we had a barbecue and ate dinner outside. It was fantastic. I made barbecue sauce from scratch (YUM) and we grilled turkey burgers and hot dogs, had watermelon, corn on the cob, and some fabulous baked fries with rosemary & parmesan.

Well, my kids need lunch, so I guess that's enough potpourri for one day.


What I Made Monday: I Wish I Had a Watermelon

For my family, watermelon is an essential part of summer. There's no greater joy than slicing into a big, juicy melon and discovering you "picked a winner." One of my most valuable skills is the ability to (generally always) pick a good watermelon (thanks, Mom and Grandpa Fernelius!). This watermelon trio perfectly sums up my childhood summers, with one exception: no REAL watermelon would be sitting out this long if my family were around!

I've really begun to enjoy more intricate projects, probably because they require more time to finish them (finishing a craft is bittersweet for me--it's nice to have a new decoration, but then it means the crafting is over!). This one was particularly time-consuming and required most, if not all, of the different crafting skills I have. Now that it's finished, it creates the perfect accent for my piano.


(Not So) Wordless Wednesday: Guess What!

I had a prenatal check-up yesterday. I'm 17 weeks, and my doctor always offers to take a peek at the baby's gender around this time, even though our official midterm ultrasound is in a month. Of course we jumped at the chance. I was pretty "sure" I knew what it was going to be, but to my surprise...

F'real guys...I asked the tech twice if she was sure. 

Yeah, I'm posting her lady bits online...but hey, I have to be fair.
I DID post the ultrasounds of her brothers' manly parts.
Apparently, that's a pretty clear indication that it's a girl.

I didn't even sob uncontrollably! I teared up a bit, but that's all. Cole just grinned. He told me later that he wanted to do the "I Told You So" dance (from Scrubs) in the ultrasound room, but he thought it would be a bit much.

For the record, he really has been saying it's a girl almost from the beginning.

I also realized why I love my doctor so much. After we finished the check-up with him and headed into the ultrasound room, he snuck in behind us because he wanted to see what we were having, too (he's delivered my last two boys, so he's well-acquainted with us). It was awesome to see just how much he cares about his patients and how invested he is in their lives.

We, of course, had to do a little shopping.

Now she has something to wear home from the hospital...and that's about it. Guess I have a lot of shopping to do! *squeal*


What I Made Monday: Welcome Summer!

I'm not a summer weather girl. If it gets much hotter than 80 degrees, I whine and moan about how it's "so hot." I anticipate it will be worse this summer since I'm pregnant...

Anyway, even though I'd rather fast-forward through the next three months temperature-wise, I sure do love to decorate for summer! The colors are bright and happy and, in July's case, patriotic. I went on a crafting binge the last few weeks, so I cranked out several different decorations for summertime. I'll probably break them up into a few different posts, mostly so I can feel more productive as a blogger. :)


I got this beach ball door hanger on clearance at The Wood Connection. I'm not a huge fan of the yellow I chose; I wish I would have used a lighter shade. Also, the ribbon across the front is crooked, which makes me a bit crazy. But, I'm leaving it the way it is for now. If I get really desperate for projects, I'll sand the paint off and do it again.

I love flip-flops, so this project called my name as soon as I walked in. I love the sparkles and the fun colors...

and I love the polka-dot accent ribbon on the sides. I can't take credit for the idea, though--the sample at The Wood Connection did a similar thing with washi tape.
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