Wednesday, August 31, 2016

First Day of School for Emilia and Carson

School started on August 22nd for the older two kids. While everyone else at APA (the kid's school) was waking up early, getting their school uniforms on and carrying their backpacks and lunch boxes to school, we were having a completely different type of day in Kauai.

Truth be told, the kids were sad about not playing with their friends at recess, but their situation was nothing to complaint about. Body surfing at the beach and playing in the sand is not what I consider a punishment.

The hardest part was getting ready for school once we were home. The four hours difference between Hawaii and Utah made waking up in the morning a little hard, but the excitement compensated for it. Luckily the kids only had to attend on Friday and then had the rest of the weekend to adjust back to our normal school schedule.

This year both of the oldest kids are in all day school. Carson was so excited to tell me when he got home "Mom, I have THREE recesses!" He hasn't been eating much of his lunch because he prefers to spend his time playing with friends. So by the time he gets home at 4pm, he is starving.

Carson got Ms. Bodily as his homeroom teacher and Ms. Lamoraux as an instructor.  I met them on back to school night and really like both of them. Ms. Lamouraux was Emilia's math instructor last year and Emilia really liked her.

The year before kindergarten Carson did a program called Upstart. For five days a week, regardless of where we were on vacation or it was a holiday, he would spend 20 minutes on-line playing educational games that helped him learned to read and basic math skills.

I know he is a good reader and good at math, but because of the half-day schedule in Kindergarten his reading and math groups were only with other kindergartners. In first grade, he is actually placed with kids at his same level, regardless of age.

For both subjects his group is made up of a few first graders, second graders and in one case, a third grader. All that hard work paid off. He is comfortable in school and likes going because it's right at his level.

Emilia was the most excited about beginning school. This is her fourth year at APA and she has a lot of friends there. She knew who was going to be in her class but was curious to find out who was in her reading, spelling and math groups.

As a fourth grader, she is now part of the older kids in the school. That means she gets to do some fun things in class, like dissecting a cow's heart, has additional responsibilities and gets to wear a different uniform.

Her first day of school was a little rough for her. Her math instructor was unaware she was supposed to be in her group, so she had to sit by herself in the front of the class facing all of the other students. She didn't like that one bit. She also didn't like that she was going to do homework at home.

Last year she was able to complete all of her homework at school, so I knew this was going to be an issue in fourth grade. The goal of the school is to allow students enough time to complete their work in class, but they rarely finish everything.

I on the other hand, am glad she has some work at home because it helps me to see what she is learning and where she needs help.

After a long conversation with Emilia about her feelings she decided to give school another try on Monday. Nothing had changed in math group but she no longer care and was happy to go. So when the teacher rearranged the class on Tuesday, she was sad that she no longer had a table all to herself. Go figure!

Emilia is also an A student and is doing above-grade work in school.

The family we carpooled with last year was unavailable to drive with us this year so we are now carpooling with the Shewells. They live just a couple of miles up the road from our house and are great. They have a daughter in fourth grade who Emilia hadn't really met at school. Now that they have connected Emilia is excited to carpool with someone her age. They also have a son who is in second grade. He is in Carson's same reading group so the boys get to see each other at school. They also seem to share similar interests and in-spite of the age difference play great together. The best part however is that I don't have to drive to school AT ALL!

The Shewells drop of the kids at our house in the morning on their way to work and Todd drives them on his way to the office. They then pick them up from school and drop them off at our house. I am going to love this school year!!!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Andrew is One

This 'little' guy turned one in August! A year ago I would not have imagined the delight he would bring into our family. He's been such a delight to Todd and I, but especially the kids who treat him as their own special baby. They squeeze his chubby cheeks, they constantly hug him and kiss him and take him with them wherever they go.

His appearance has changed so much. There are times when I look at him and see a little boy staring back at me instead of a baby. I love the little dimples that appear whenever he smiles.

In the past his stats were barely in the charts (98 percentile). At his one year appointment he was officially off the charts in head circumference and weight for length.

He has been putting on a pound a month and doesn't seem to stop. He weighted 21 lbs in March, 23 lbs in May, 24 lbs in June and almost 27 lbs in August. I can't wait for him to start walking so I don't have to carry him in my arms as much. Although, I have to admit my upper arms were never as toned as in the past 6 months.

The day after his birthday we had a family and close friends get together to celebrate this milestone. The theme was 'little man' so he got a cake decorated with suspenders and bow tie. 

He is still a bit too young to understand the concept of opening presents, but there were plenty of other kids there to help him with that. Which at times also felt a little overwhelming. 

After all the presents were unwrapped we sang happy birthday and let him eat his chocolate face with blue frosting. I'm so glad we held the party outside. It was quite messy under his chair after we were done.

Andrew milestones:

- playing with balls
- playing peak a boo
- bath time (as long as the water faucet is not running)
- being held by Romy
- playing with Stella, Carson and Emilia

- Dada
- Mama
- Stella (although he doesn't know the meaning of the word)

- everything that is placed in front of me. How do you think I got this figure? But if I have to choose...
- milk
- blueberries
- grapes
- watermelon

- wave
- give high fives
- go up and down stairs
- walk along furniture and holding only one hand
- throw really loud temper tantrums ;)

Romy's Talk on Reverence

Today, I gave a talk on the topic of reverence. My scheduled has been so full that I really haven't had the time to really sit down and focus on it until the later part of this week. However, having to put aside my temporal commitments to focus on preparing for this talk has also helped me get right back to my scripture study schedule without delay.

In August 1833, while in Kirtland the Prophet Joseph Smith received revelation instructing him to build a temple (D&C 97:5-17)
“And inasmuch as my people build a house unto me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it;
“Yea, and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God.
“But if it be defiled I will not come into it, and my glory shall not be there; for I will not come into unholy temples.”
Wherever we gathered to worship, whether it be our home, in a chapel, or the temple we are entering a sacred holy place dedicated unto the Lord where, as we just read, His presence and glory dwells.
Every Sunday we have the wonderful opportunity to sit next to those we love most dearly, reflect upon the things that are sacred and divine, and share with them in the spiritual renewal that comes from partaking of the Sacrament and listening to inspired speakers.  
I’d like to share with you some of the things I have come to find most useful to whenever I enter the chapel to get the most out of Sacrament Meeting.
-         - Sitting towards the front helps me focus. I am not tempted to look at what is going on in the rows in front of me if all I can look at is the speaker.
-         - I always start in the chapel. I might end up spending a large portion of sacrament meeting in the foyer due to an energetic or loud child, but my goal is to be in the chapel. And I try to make sure that the foyer or mother’s room is not a reward for the child.
I know it might seem a little embarrassing to walk out with an upset child, but speaking from experience: all you will see as you walk out, are smiling compassionate faces of fellow members who’ve all been in the same situation.
-         - I limit my conversation to the foyer
-         - I allow myself a few minutes of quiet meditation prior to the beginning of the meeting.  As a mother of young children I recognize that sometimes sacrament meetings are not ideal. Asking the Lord in prayer for guidance will help. He loves us perfectly and is anxiously waiting to bless us.
To quote Heber J. Grant: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do. Not because the nature of the task has changed but because our ability has increased.”

Twice a year as a child I would attend Stake conference with my family in Mestre, a city in the outskirts of Venice 30 minutes away from where I lived. The meeting was held in the large conference room of a hotel. Our stake was comprised of both Italian members and English speaking members from a nearby air force base.  The wide room was partitioned on one side by sliding padded fabric dividers. 
I remember one time, as a child asking for permission to go to the bathroom. On my way back I ran into some Primary friends playing in the sectioned off area. I was so tired of sitting still on a hard chair, listening to people speak in Italian and then waiting for the interpreter to translate it into English that I decided to stay and play for a while.
Eventually our unsupervised group got a little too loud and my mom came and found me. That day, on the drive home I clearly remember my parents talking to me about reverence.
For many years my definition of reverence was the external manifestation of respect for God and Jesus Christ shown by speaking quietly, folding my arms, not running in the halls, bowing my head and using the appropriate pronouns whenever praying.
Even now, whenever teaching my kids about reverence I begin by demonstrating to them the appropriate behavior to have inside of the chapel.  But reverence is a lot more than that.
Last year the primary children learned a greater definition of reverence when memorizing the simple lyrics to the hymn “Reverence is Love.”
Reverence is more than just quietly sitting: It’s thinking of Father above
A feeling I get when I think of his blessings,
I’m reverent, for reverence is love.
When I’m reverent, it shows in my words and my deeds
The pathway to follow is clear.
And when I am reverent, I know in my heart
Heavenly Father and Jesus are near.
Reverence is more than a behavior. It is an attitude of profound respect and love. Love for God and Jesus Christ. Love for those with whom we worship. Love for those who teach us. Love for those whom we teach. Love for our family. Love for our neighbors and fellow man. Reverence for the Lord leads to serving other people and treating them with kindness and respect.
When referring to God, the word reverence is only found 11 times in the scripture. The word fear is used in its stead. When Moses received the 10 Commandments from the Lord, he received written law by which to live. Four of the 10 Commandments refer to our attitude towards God. After returning to his people he exhorted the children of Israel to keep the commandments: “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.”(Deut 6:13)
In his closing remarks the Preacher in Ecclesiastes sums up his writing with these words (12:13) “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”
Much is expected of us. We have a duty to keep the commandments, but it is also as important that we honor and worship the Lord with reverence.”
If Reverence is love, how could it also be fear?
Elder Ballard gave the following explanation: Reverence may be defined as a profound respect mingled with love and awe. Other words that add to our understanding of reverence include gratitude, honor, veneration, and admiration. The root word revere also implies an element of fear. Thus, reverence might be understood to mean an attitude of profound respect and love with a desire to honor and show gratitude, with a fear of breaking faith or offending.
Any time you find the word “Fear of God” in the scriptures, you may substitute the word “reverence” in its stead.
Sister Lifferth, former 1st counselor in the Primary General Presidency explained:  “if reverence is rooted in love, so is the teaching of it. Harshness in our training begets resentment, not reverence. So begin early and have reasonable expectations. A toddler can learn to fold his arms and get ready for prayer. But it takes time, patience, and consistency. Remember that we are not only teaching a child his first lessons in reverence, but the child may be mastering his first attempts at self-discipline. This process of teaching and self-discipline continues line upon line and precept upon precept. Thus a child learns to be reverent during prayers and the sacrament. He sits by his parents during the meeting. Then he grows in lessons of self-discipline as later he learns to fast, to obey the Word of Wisdom, to make good Internet choices, and to keep the law of chastity. We each grow in ability as well as understanding. We bless our children and youth as we exemplify, teach, and encourage them through this process because self-mastery is not only the root of self-respect, it is essential in inviting the Spirit to teach, confirm, and testify.”
When encouraging reverent behavior we are teaching our youth an attitude of self-discipline that transcends sacrament meeting and applies to all of God’s commandments.  As we strive to live in accordance with the commandments, we will grow closer to our Heavenly Father.  Our behavior shapes our attitude and our attitude determines our eternal destiny.
Just as the Primary hymn describes. “When I’m reverent it shows in my words and my deeds.”  “Reverent behavior includes prayer, scripture study, fasting, and payment of tithes and offerings. It includes having wholesome thoughts, wearing modest clothing, and using clean, wholesome language. The depth of a person's reverence is evident in his or her choice of music and other entertainment, in the way sacred subjects are spoken of, and in the way the person dresses and acts when attending church services and worshiping in the temple.
Reverence also includes making righteous choices even when no one is watching.”  The scriptures remind us that the Lord looks at our hearts, not just our actions. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. (Matt 6:2)
Little by little, our profound feeling of respect and love for God will elevate our daily behavior and decisions and we will “know Heavenly Father and Jesus are near.”
By living a reverent life we invite the spirit to be with us and by so doing we open the way to personal revelation. Helaman said of that voice of revelation, “It was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul.” (Hel. 5:30)
It was Nephi who reminded his brothers that an angel “hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words.” (1 Ne. 17:45)
I can testify of countless times when I’ve received answers to the question “What lack I yet?” during Sunday service, and most often during Sacrament meeting, even though I am sitting next to four young children who vie for my attention.

I recently visited a beautiful tropical waterfall. From its highest point the falls plunge 173’ into a punchbowl of emerald green water below. The stream that feeds the waterfall runs on ground constructed by layers upon layers of volcanic lava flows. The bottom layers of lava, also known as pillow lava, cooled off quickly upon reaching contact with sea water creating a solid crust that cracked and oozed allowing additional lava to flow forward. The upper layers were made by lava flowing much more slowly and fluidly creating a gradual smooth surface.
Because of their nature, the pillow lava is a lot more subject to erosion. The rocks near the bottom of the falls erode quickly causing slabs to break from the undercut lava changing the appearance of the falls over time.
It is the same with the consistency of our reverence. If we see reverence as a quick and sporadic external demonstration of our devotion we resemble the pillow lava flows: solid on the outside but easily abraded by the loud and persistent flow of secular messages.
On the other hand, like the upper layer of lava, a steady and unwavering devotion towards Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will mold us into the sons and daughters he wants us to become.
In truth, both manifestations of reverence are important and together they create a magnificent sight in the eyes of the Lord.
We are promised that blessings will be ‘poured upon those who shall reverence’ the Lord (D&C109: 21).

May we be partakers of those blessings by choosing to be reverent on the Sabbath and in our daily lives, it’s my humble prayer.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

We sold the family car

Almost five years ago we purchased a 2010 Buick Enclave CLX. We had been driving a Toyota 4Runner Limited but we were expecting Stella and needed the extra seating space the Buick provided us.

After five years of driving our family everywhere across the United States on it - from California to South Carolina; from Texas to as far north as Idaho - we decided it was time for a new car.

We've been eyeing the 2016 Honda Pilots since February and talking to dealers trying to get a good price on them. Unfortunately for us, they are so popular that there is little negotiating room and hardly any in stock. They sell before they even hit the lot. Case in point, the only one we saw was at an auto show. I have been to Larry H Miller Honda twice and they have never had one in stock to show me.

Todd spoke to the sales representatives at three local Honda dealers and found out there were a few coming in that match our criteria so we decided to get the Buick appraised at CarMax to know how much the trade in value would be.

CarMax was a great disappointment. They low balled us an offer that was three thousand below the lowest trad-in price on  Kelly Blue Book. They were not very interested in our car because they are so ubiquitous.

So I decided to clean the car real well. It really needed it after our trip to Riffle and Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

I spent a whole day vacuuming sand and dirt, picking up trash, wiping down surfaces and cleaning stains off the leather upholstery. After washing and detailing the exterior as well it looked pretty darn good so I snapped some pictures and posted it on and on some local yard sale Facebook websites. I also recorded a virtual walk-through video of the exterior and interior of the car that I posted with the ads. I think it gave people extra confidence about their purchase and differentiated our car from the other ones listed on the site.

We priced the car at the KBB value for a private party sale of a vehicle in very good condition - which was 75% more than what we had been offered by CarMax.

I expected we'd get some inquiries and it would take a couple of weeks to sell, which would allow us time to decide on another vehicle.

Instead, we had a constant stream of inquiries and three people who came to see the car that evening. We had some additional people contact us that night, but I didn't see their calls until later that evening.

The first couple was really interested and asked to schedule a time to take it to a mechanic. The second was a neighbor who was not quite ready to buy. The third was a family of five all crammed into a little white car. They were in the process of adopting a foster child and needed a vehicle that seats at least six people.

After taking the car for a test drive and looking at it, they offered us cash on the spot. How could we turn that down? We absolutely needed the car the next day.So we agreed to let them have it the following evening.

Then our roles were reversed: they drove off with the big car and we were the family all crammed into a little white car. Except we couldn't fit our whole family in it. ;)

Here is the KSL ad:

One of a kind, fully loaded SUV for a great price. This deal won't last long!
Virtual video walk-through at
Features include:
All Wheel Drive
Premium BOSE speakers
DVD Entertainment System
Heated/Cooled Leather Seats
Tow Package
Luxury Package
Remote Start
Back-Up Camera
Parking Sensors
Spacious Captain Chairs
Third Row Splitbench Seats
Satellite Radio
Dual Zone A/C
Rear air
Power Liftgate
Sunroof/ Dual Moonroof
CD/MP3 playback
All weather mats
Auxiliary audio jack which enables plug/play connection of all auxiliary audio players
And much more…
More pictures and information at

Stella's First Day of Preschool

On Monday, August 8th Stella began attending a new preschool for the year. She will be going to Ms. Jean's three days a week. She also began the web learning program UPStart offered for free by the state of Utah and administer by the Waterford Institute.

Her older brother, Carson did upstart the year prior to entering kindergarten. I attribute his confidence and success with reading and math to the program. It's a commitment: 20 mins a day x 5 days a week (no exceptions for holidays or vacations), but like everything that is worth doing it takes work.

Upstart is actually a fun web-based system that teaches the kids through games and songs, so I hope I won't have to work too hard to motivate Stella to do it. So far she's been willing to get on the computer without problems.

I have my reservations about Ms Jean. Everyone raves about how great she is, but I am not sure that her school alone would be sufficient to prepared children to attend Kindergarten. Maybe a public school, but not APA. 

Stella however was super excited to attend school with her good friends Caitlin and Everett and I get to carpool, which is a great time saver. And more specially, it means that I don't have to wake Andrew up from napping to pick her up three times a week.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pie-oneer Day Celebration

This year the Primary presidency decided to elevate our annual Pioneer Day celebration from a kids bike parade into a ward activity.

As we discussed the theme for the party we came up with having a Pie-oneer day celebration. One of the things I have found is how hard is  for people to accept change. Why put in the work to have a ward activity when we could just have an activity for Primary children? Well, let me tell you... there is no reason to leave out half of our ward simply because that's how it has been done in the past.

Our ward has a goal to have a ward activity every quarter. We have only had two this year, so this was a chance to bring everyone together. In the end we kept what the kids loved - the bike parade,added a water melon eating contest to engage the youth and brethren, a pie-baking contest to involve the sisters and better food than what's been served in the past.  It was a roaring success!

The greatest compliment I could have received came from someone in the ward who told me: "My family and I stopped by to drop off the food we signed up to bring. We were going to go out to dinner with our teenage boys but ended up staying. It was so much fun visiting with fellow neighbors and ward members. Is this an annual tradition?"

The missionaries were able to meet some of the families in the ward who don't come out to church. The event itself was held on the property of a part member family. Two of the winners of our pie baking contests are sisters in part-member families.

It was a lot of work to pull off, simply because it hadn't been done before, so we had no idea what to expect. How many pies do we need to feed everyone? How many watermelons to buy for the contest? How many tables and chairs should we set up? How many will attend?

The afternoon of the event we had a rainstorm cool everything down. It was heaven sent. No doubt!

Some of the neighbor kids came over earlier in the afternoon to decorate their bikes, scooters and roller-blades.

We had to close some of the roads for 15 minutes for the kids to parade through so we had to stick to our schedule. Sister Wang, my first counselor, led the kids with a flag around the block.  Afterwards, Emilia's primary teacher, Bro. Harvey was our MC for the evening. Even though we had a microphone and speaker, the area was so large that the sound did not carry over conversation at the opposite end of the yard, where people where lined up for food so by the end of the night, his voice was gone.

Our good friends the Davis' opened their house to the ward for this event. They have been slaving over their huge yard for weeks to get it into good shape. It looked really nice. Kevin and Todd manned the grills, while Sally oversaw the judges to the pie baking contest. We had 15 contestants and they were all excellent.

I just ran around making sure things were running smoothly and snapping pictures whenever I got a chance.

Sally's niece Amanda was visiting from Colorado. She too was a heaven sent. She didn't really know anyone aside from Sally's family, who were all occupied with the event, so she spent the evening playing with Andrew who loved all of her attention and her cell phone.

 Both Emilia and Stella participated in the watermelon eating contest. Stella was so persistent she didn't care her time was up. She kept eating until her entire wedge of watermelon was eaten to the rind. I couldn't believe she could hold that much watermelon in her little stomach.

That night at 2 am she came to find us to tell us she threw up on her bed. I wonder how many other contestants had the same problem.

Emilia told Todd that she didn't eat too much of her watermelon because she didn't want to beat her friends and make them feel bad.  That's a good friend for ya!

2016 Summer Activities: Hiking and Geocaching

This summer our family took geocaching as a new family activity. We downloaded an app on our phone that indicates geocaching sites on a map with exact coordinates, clues and comments from other geo-cachers who have previously searched for the hidden treasure. They are all different levels of difficulties. Our first geocache was at Holt Farms, across from the Jordan River Temple. It was a really hard one to find. Luckily, by reading some of the comments we identified the approximate area and Todd found it.

The city of South Jordan had a geocaching challenge for its residents. There were six locations across the city. We had to collect a token at each place and turned them into the utility building for a geocaching bug. The geocaching bug looks like a dog tag and has a unique number identifier that allows a person to track its movement.

The idea behind geocaching is to locate a hidden object based on its GPS coordinates. You can trade the object with one of your own and place your new found object in a different geocaching site. That is how the geocaching bug travels.

The city's objects were not hard to locate, so the kids really got to participate and help find the token. It is fun to go to places like our local library and know that a hidden treasure is located on our path- something most people don't even realize is there.

My second goal for the summer was to hike with the kids. To keep me motivated I organized a neighborhood family hiking group. So most of my hikes were during the week with other moms and kids my children's age. On a couple of occasions, Todd also joined us.

We have been hiking regularly as a family so I thought for sure we would just be going to the same places we'd been before but we actually discovered some new hikes.

The hikes I completed with the kids this summer were:
1. Rocky Mouth Falls Trail (0.9 miles)
2. Donut Falls (3.7 miles)
3. Ghost Falls x 2 (3.5 miles, each time)
4. Hidden Falls (short walk)
5. Mary, Martha & Catherine Trail (3.5 miles)
6. Bald Mountain (2.6 miles)
7. Silver Lake loop (.9 miles)
8. Riffle Falls loop (2.1 miles)

Each hike had its own adventures. In one a friend of mine twisted her ankle badly and had to be carried piggy back part way down. On the ghost falls hike we came across a truck stuck in a ravine overgrown by vegetation at the end of the hike. None of us could figured out how it had gotten there.

I carried Andrew in a pack on most of the hikes. That was at least 33 lbs of weight. He was a good sport and didn't complain very much. I had to teach him not to pull on my hair while on the pack. He loved yanking at my ponytail, which was probably the only think in grabbing distance while on the pack. 

I still have a list of hikes that I would like to do before the weather starts turning too cold. If not, there is always next year!