Monday, December 24, 2012

2012 Taft Family Christmas Card - sent with much love!

Dear Friends & Family -

There’s something about this time of year.  Lyricists have put pen to paper, trying to coin the phrase that best sums it all up.  It's as though what separates us mortals from our heavenly home thins a bit.  We’re closer to reaching our true potential because despite our weaknesses, the season brings out the best in us.  As said by one of the aforementioned lyricists, “There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere.”

Here are some moments of “heaven” we felt this year:

Halle loved having a ‘big sister’ for a couple months while cousin Shelby lived with us until she completed hair school.  We all loved having her here!  Halle loves writing – notes, poems, stories – and cooking anything in the kitchen.  She and her friend have even posted some “cooking episodes” onto youtube!  (The Crazy Cooking gals)  Halle is creative, organized, and has a strong desire to succeed.  She loves school and for now says she wants to go to college and get her teaching degree after high school.  While we think that's a great idea and she'd be a fantastic teacher, we're grateful we're not quite to that point yet!

Wyatt enjoyed playing baseball, starting 2nd grade, playing with legos, reading about history, and especially his baptism day!  That was a big one for all of us – we were so proud to see his desire to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  He has a great love for the gospel and bravely shares it with the entire congregation on Testimony Sundays.  He laughs more than any kid I know (good) and rarely puts away his shoes (bad).  He also loves to make sound effects and random noises.  This is good, but also bad.  (Sometimes my ears physically hurt from all the noise in our house! Ha ha)

One of the “lows” we experienced this year was the loss of our beloved Grandma B.  It may have been a time of grief, but I must include it as it truly was a time we felt “heaven” close by.  LaRee passed away in February and while it broke our hearts to be separated from her, we rejoiced that she was no longer in pain and reunited with her eternal companion.  We’re grateful that just a few days before her death she got to hold Charlotte Maree, her namesake (we spelled Maree the same way she spelled her first name).  These photos were taken at last year’s family Christmas party – she is still very much a part of our lives and dear to our hearts.

Carson had a year of two big changes: no longer holding the position as youngest in the family, and starting school.  He loves kindergarten and is excelling, particularly in math.  He also hasn’t minded being a big brother – in fact he dotes on Charlotte every day.  No one can get her chattering like he can!  Carson loves any type of “figurine” and doing anything with scissors and glue!  He entertains himself well and hums the entire time he’s doing it (which can sometimes get old for the rest of us, but we try to enjoy it while the humming lasts).

Ruby has been with us for two years and we still love, love, love her!  Like Mary Poppins, she’s “practically perfect in every way” except for the fact that we could ring her neck every time she slips through the open front door.  If it weren’t for that, we couldn’t complain about one single thing.  Oh, but we can’t forget about the time she rolled around in the bush full of slugs and snails, getting them stuck in her hair.  Mama had to give her a nasty-looking haircut (like a blind man with a butcher knife - see photo on the right) and Ruby knew she looked bad.  The next morning she refused to come out of her kennel.  Ruby’s favorite time of day is riding in the car to pick the kids up from school!
Brett and I have been keeping busy with all the daily tasks of life, but we still find time for some fun.  Brett was recently asked to work with the young men in church through activities and spiritual lessons.  He does a great job with the boys and I think he enjoys it a great deal.  It’s so important for the youth of today to have positive role models in their lives!  Brett has also been busy working several nights a week doing online support, all this in addition to a day-job that he does well, too!  I honestly don’t know how he manages it all, but he does and on top of that is such an amazing daddy and husband.  For Brett’s birthday we took the older kids up to Pineview to swim for a fabulous day!  Brett has his designated chair in the sectional, and if Ruby and Charli decide to join him, they’ve got their “spots”, too!  I’ve had a lot of fun working with church members to provide beautiful music in our meetings and this fall I became a Scentsy Constultant.  I can’t say it’s very lucrative, but man, it’s a lot of fun.  Plus it’s a product I believe in, and that’s played a big part in what’s so far been a positive experience.  Other than that, I spend the majority of my time volunteering at the school, teaching 16 awesome piano students, and chasing a busy baby around the house! 

That leads me to what I’m confident everyone else in the family would agree was the most heavenly moment this year, and that was the destined addition of a sweet spirit to our home:
Miss Charlotte.
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced twelve months go by faster than these with her.  By child #4, I hope I have learned a few things and am a wiser, more loving mother.  For starters, I have tried very hard to treat each moment as precious and to treasure it in my heart; to not rush anything and just savor it all.  I’d known for two years prior to her arrival that she was waiting to be with us, so you can imagine what a sweet moment it was to finally hold her for the first time and know our family was what it should be.  We were all in love instantly!  (Halle was especially delighted to finally even the numbers between boys and girls, and she has proven to be a valued babysitter!)  Charli had lots of dark hair and the sweetest little lips.  You can see in the “Then and Now” pictures above how much she’s changed!  Her hair has turned blonde and she’s now on the verge of walking.  Her beautiful round eyes will beat anyone hands-down in a staring contest, and at least for now, she’s a “mama’s girl”, which I’m enjoying for as long as it will last. 

She’s a good sport with the kids’ games, including the time they dressed her up for a little movie they made.  She was the villain, a tough cattle rancher from Montana named “Baby Face Charli”.  If you have 4 minutes to kill, check it out – they did a pretty bang-up job!  Click here

Like everyone, 2012 had lows and highs.  However, we feel very fortunate to say that this year had many more HIGHS than lows.  It was a blessed year for us and one that we’re a bit sorry to see end.  It’s hard to imagine 2013 will top it! 

We know part of what makes our lives so happy is having dear friends and family in our treasured circle.  Our wish for you on this Christmas Eve is that you’ll feel a little bit of Heaven in your hearts! 
Merry Christmas with love,

P.S. Yes, I know this is possibly the longest Christmas Card ever.  But you aren’t surprised, are you?  When have I EVER been short-winded?  (Thanks for sticking it thru to the end…)  J

Sunday, November 4, 2012

2012 Fall Catch-Up

I've been so swamped trying to get my new Scentsy and Velata businesses off the ground, I have regrettably neglected my family's blog.  This is our "journal", so to speak, and although I tend to use my blog too often for my own philosophical thoughts or my soap-box rants, my family IS, in the end, what I want this blog to be all about.  It's what makes me such a lucky gal!

Here's what October looked like for the Taft family:

 Carson and Wyatt were our star baseball players!  

 Evidence that our children do receive a bath, once in a while!

 Ruby rolled around somewhere outside that apparently was a nightclub for slugs, getting seven of the slimy things stuck in her hair.  Having just paid for a trip to the beauty salon a week earlier, she had to settle for a home-done haircut by me.  She looked bad, and she knew it - the next morning she didn't come out of her kennel until 9:30!

Witches Night Out at Gardner Village with Grandma Dixie and Aunt Ashlee!
But stop at the mall for dinner and getting some eyebrows threaded!  

 (Speaking of Klopecks, soon I'll post pictures of our trick or treating adventure, and how we live in our own 'Burbs!  The good DocTuh Klopeck lives in our neighborhood (or at least someone who suspiciously looks an awful lot like him!)

 Ouch!  Threaded hurts a bit!  
Hope Sig1

Don't let your mortality get in the way...

My friend, Gena, shared a conversation she had with a friend with a terminal illness.  This friend knows she is dying and that her remaining time on earth is short.  And yet, she looks forward with an heart full of faith.  She knows where she is going.  She knows the body that is failing her is not "her".  It is a sacred temple, which houses her spirit, which is eternal and part of a Heavenly Family.  As she referenced what it will be like as time goes on, her health getting worse, and the distance between this life and the next narrowing, she wants the transition to be welcomed, as uncomplicated and as smooth as possible.  She said, "I'm not going to let my mortality get in the way."  This woman knows that inside of her body rests a spirit that will continue on long after her mortal shell has expired.  She knows this is not the end and therefore does not think with her mortal eyes, but her spiritual eyes.

This made me think about my own life.  Do I let my mortality get in the way sometimes?  No, I am not terminally ill.  But at times does my spirit - the eternal part of me, the part that existed before this life and will continue to exist in the next - want to shout at my mortal being, "Stop getting distracted with these temporary things!  Mortality is temporary!  It's only a part of your eternal experience!"  Will my spiritual eyes look back on this life here on earth and realize I focused too much on what was here, on things (possessions, hobbies, busy-ness) that would remain HERE, instead of focusing on what I CAN take with me (love cultivated for others by serving them, a testimony built unshakable by seeking the good, acquiring better understanding of God's word, applying the Atonement in my life and recognizing that my Savior's sacrifice was for me, personally).  The things of mortality that I am seeking and centering my energy on are not wrong.  They are all good things and serve a purpose.  But good doesn't mean they are better, and it certainly doesn't mean they are the best.  I'm so grateful that Gena shared the conversation with her friend.  It was a tender mercy and a gentle reminder that while seeking the good, I need to reserve time for the better and the best.  I must serve my spiritual ambitions as much or more than my mortal goals.

I mustn't let my mortality get in my way.

Hope Sig1

Friday, October 5, 2012

"We're sorry we can't come to the phone right now..."

 This weekend my family and I will be unavailable for activities or phone calls on both Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to Noon, and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.  During those 8 precious hours, we will be eagerly listening to prayerfully-prepared words of wisdom delivered to us from the mouths of the Lord's servants here on the earth.

There was a brief period of time after I graduated from high school that I wasn't making the best choices in my life.  And, like many teenagers, I began to question some of the doctrine and principles of the religion in which I'd been raised.  And yet I could not fully separate myself from it, because there was one thing that I knew I absolutely could not, and would not, deny: that the President of the Church truly was a man of God, and that the men who serve with him, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, truly were men of God also, set apart and devoted to further His work on the earth.  I could not see these men - whether in person (as living and working where I did at the time, I occasionally I would have the pleasure of bumping into one of them), or on a television broadcast, without feeling overwhelming love and an increase of the Spirit.  I know that was the Lord's way of saying, "Hold on.  Don't give up.  The answers will come."  And they did.  Because I was able to cling to my faith in a modern-day prophet, in time my faith was restored in other doctrines and principles as well.  Now I can say that I do not question the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I do not fully understand every little detail of it, but that doesn't bother me.  I don't expect to be an expert on it until well after this life is over!  I am comforted that I understand all that I need to know at this point in time and that if I continue faithful on the right path, more knowledge, enlightenment, and comprehension will come as I'm prepared for it.

Some say Divine Revelation is an ancient tradition, and no longer applicable to us in these modern days.  My heart (and my mind) tell me this is not so.  Why would a loving Father in Heaven only speak to His children from days past?  I tell you that the hand of the Lord is in our lives today and that He speaks to us - through prayer and personal revelation, scriptures, even beautiful sacred music, and most He definitely continues to speak to us through Prophets and Apostles, just as was done in ancient times.  Our God is unchanging and unwavering, and for the great blessing of modern-day leadership, directed by Jesus Christ, I am so very, very grateful!

Friday, August 10, 2012

more than just sticks and mud

Something significant happened at our house last week.  
A night of furious winds knocked a small nest out of a tree in the front yard.  
All that remains is a messy pile of leftover mud and sticks.

This wasn't the first blustery night the nest had endured, as it had been there for over a year.  My only guess is that it's perch in the tree had weakened because it had been vacant since spring and thus not been reinforced.  

When the nest's occupants were there, you could see the mother bird flying back-and-forth, back-and-forth, collecting twigs, grass, and mud to strengthen her home.  These two pictures above were taken last July.  You can see the baby bird's beak reaching up above the nest.  It was such a delight to hear their little chirps, begging for food.  When we took these photos, the mother was very still and you could tell she was on alert.  She was wary of us and what we were doing so close to her home.  I'm sure if we'd tried to cross that sacred threshold in an attempt for a closer look or to touch the birds we would have seen a fearsome side of her!

I picked the abandoned nest from the ground but something inside of me couldn't throw it away.  I felt like I was holding something almost sacred.  As I examined the craftsmanship from one of God's beautiful creatures, I was in awe of all the effort this mother bird had put into creating a place of refuge for her young.  How does a creature void of reason present such evidence of intelligence, design, and responsibility?  I imagine her decisively scavaging for just the right materials.  I can see in my mind's eye how determined she is as she carefully weaves twigs and grass, even the occasional treasured find of twine or yarn.  Holding it all together is a mortar she has made with mud and saliva.  She takes it step further, adding insulation to her work of art with feathers and more grass.

As she consciously selected her materials, I'm sure it must have taken time to find what she knew would best strengthen her nest.  Was she tempted to pick up the first twigs that she saw or was she enough aware of her purpose that she knew she must be particular?  Were twigs that at first glance seemed good enough but upon further examination discovered they would not benefit or fortify the kind of home she desired to build?

Parenting humans is not so different than mothering baby birds, I've decided.  We're working towards establishing a home of refuge and peace.  We yearn to create a place where our children feel confidence, acceptance, and love.  We desire to instill within them the knowledge that HOME is a tool they can use to progress in their goals, to achieve success.  So what kind of home are we building?  Unlike birds, we are creatures of reason (and opposable thumbs!).  Are we building our home with a focus?  To what end is our purpose?  Are we consciously weaving our refuge with materials that strengthen, fortify, and move us forward?  What kind of branches are we using as a foundation - are they strong, sturdy, sheltered from the elements?

I'm reminded of a story I read online about a woman  who delighted in a nest a bird had built in a tree just outside her door.  She checked on it often and one morning she saw four eggs had appeared sometime that week.  Eventually she heard the sweet sound of chirping baby birds.  Robin Van Wagenen, the author, continued her story:

"As time passed the chirping subsided, so I decided to check on things.  My heart sank when I realized tragedy had struck.  The danger had come not from without - but from within.  Two of the four young birds had grown up and flown away, but the other two had died, tangled by their feet in some plastic strands in th enest.  They had struggled to pull themselves free but could not do so.

I realized what went wrong.  When th emother bird had built her home, she used the usual twigs, branches, grass, and reeds.  But she had also been attracted to some colorful plastic strands that she wove throughout the nest.  They looked similar to natural materials, but they were a little flashier, a bit more shimmery.  They were not the same, however.  The plastic had no give, and when the two remaining baby birds had tried to get free, the articifial materials only pulled tighter."

The world assaults us daily with claims of bigger, better, newer.  The need to keep-up-with-the-Joneses and the mentality that we just "have to have it" in order to function and survive pushes us to place materal wants ahead of family necessities, financial peace, and even our time.  We're pushed not just towards products and distractions, but ways of thinking and standards of living.  Traditional standards, regardless that they come from scripture and a God that is unchanging, are considered "outdated" and old-fashioned.  All these things are presented in pretty boxes wrapped with shiny ribbon and bows.  How often do we let ourselves be drawn to the glitter and shimmer, tempted to weave them into our nest?  On the surface they seem harmless, but in the end will those be what restricts and holds us back?  Will they latch onto us and weaken our minds and resolve?

Holding this beautifully-woven structure in my hand, I recommit to a new awareness of what I am using to construct my own family's refuge.  I want my every-day-decisions to be focused on strengthening our family unit, creating a home of peace and confidence, and inspiring us to reach our divine potential. I'm motivated to make a more conscious effort to weave into our lives strands of courage, forgiveness, hard work, humor, testimony, and love.  Something that will withstand the gusts and blows life throws at us and insulate us from the elements of conformity and judgment that comes from those who find us old-fashioned and misunderstood.  I've a desire to be more selective about the things we bring into our home and ultimately into our hearts.

Each day I want to wake up and ask myself, 

Hope Sig1
"The democracy will cease to exist when you TAKE AWAY from those who are willing to work AND GIVE to those who would not."

Thomas Jefferson