I have neglected to mention my family in these gratitude posts. This is not because I am not thankful for my family, but because I write about my family most of the time, and they are the thing I am most grateful for. I have tried to notice more of the little things that I am thankful for. The things that I might not notice all of the time. But I am truly so thankful for my family. I am thankful for a wonderful husband who works hard to support our family. He makes me laugh. He has done a great deal to support me as I serve in my calling. I had not really given it much thought until about a week ago when we were talking to someone, but I recently realized that we have never paid anyone to do any home improvement projects. Since we bought this house 11 years ago, Alfredo has redone the roof, done lots of planting/yard work, redone the bathroom (but not the tub/shower or toilet), put new flooring in the kitchen/living room/hall/stairs, painted nearly every room in our house...some of them twice, and probably other projects I am forgetting. Currently, he is turning Gabby's room into Michelle's room. He has repainted, removed the old floorboards and put new ones, and he may even pull out the carpet and put new pergo flooring. He has replaced the old swamp cooler with a newer one. He's done other small repairs as well. He has gotten help from friends with many of these projects, and in return he has helped friends with many of their own projects. He is also a really good cook. I cook more often than he does, but he nearly always cooks if we have company, and he usually cooks lunch on Sundays. I am thankful for all that he knows how to do, and the many ways he helps and blesses our family. I am also so thankful for my children, but I think I will dedicate an individual post to each of them.
Today I am thankful for Brooke and my Relief Society Presidency, in particular. And I am thankful for my wonderful ward. We had our Relief Society Christmas dinner and program. Brooke was recently called as the leader for our additional Relief Society meetings (activities). Brooke met with us as a presidency and planned the dinner and program. She came up with a wonderful idea for a gift for each sister, and we offered to help make them, but she said she'd take care of them. She did a wonderful job on the program. Everything turned out beautifully. It was a wonderful way to be reminded of how much I have to be thankful for, and to start the holiday season off with joy. I am so thankful for Brooke. It was so wonderful to see so many sisters at the program. I love our ward, and I feel thankful to be surrounded by so many good people.
And I am thankful that the dinner is over before the real busy-ness of the holiday season begins. :)
I am thankful for good friends. We were able to go on a double date with our friends, Mike and Jami. We went to The Sweet Spot, a Brazilian restaurant and had their yummy pizza buffet. So many delicious types of pizza. We talked, we laughed. We had a great time. It is wonderful to be surrounded by so many great friends.
I came home from our double date and found a gift for me. A friend brought me a beautiful porcelain statue of the Savior with a thank you note. She adopted a premature baby, and I have helped organize service for her family. It has been so heartwarming and touching to watch the ward lovingly and unselfishly help others during times of need. The gift, but especially the note, really touched me. I am blessed so much more than I can possibly give. The verses in Mosiah 2 have really stood out to me these past few months:
20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
I am also thankful that the Lord trusts me as much as He does. I recognize that my trials and challenges are small. But my responsibilities often feel large. My challenges are more about organizing my time and finding time to do all the things I need to do and knowing how to best help others when they face challenges. And in the midst of this to make sure my family knows and feels my love for them. Some weeks that feels overwhelming. But when I begin to feel stressed and overwhelmed, the Lord strengthens me and things somehow work out. I often start to worry that I can't do as much as I should or that I don't know HOW to help someone facing a particular challenge or that I can't possibly accomplish my many responsibilities, but somehow it does work out. I often doubt my own abilities...and so I feel very grateful that despite my own doubts, worries and fears, The Lord trusts me. He trusts me with three of His precious daughters. He trusts me to teach 25 of His precious children, many of whom have significant challenges in their little lives. And He trusts me to love and serve the women in my ward. That is a lot of trust...and I need to do better at remembering and trusting Him. If he trusts me with these responsibilities, then He will help me and strengthen me.
I am thankful for Gabby. She is so sweet and funny. She makes us laugh nearly every day. She just says the funniest things. I need that. She is very loving. She gives big hugs and kisses and often tells Alfredo and me that she loves us.
Lately she has been saying "oh my gosh" a lot...anytime something surprises her. And she kind of drags the gosh out in this singsong way. It makes me smile every time she says it, not because of the words but the tone of her voice.
She is finally loving school, for which I am indeed thankful. She is learning to read. She is understanding and using Spanish more and more. And she was chosen to be honored in an awards assembly earlier this week for being a hard worker. She has happily shown many people her certificate and pencil from the award assembly. She also proudly tells people that she hasn't had to move her magnet this year. (Her teachers' discipline method...students move their magnet when they misbehave and then get consequences.) She has not had to move her magnet at all.
Everyone remarks on her curly hair. Both Afredo and I have some wave in our hair. But not curls like hers. But my sisters and my dad and a couple of my cousins have super curly hair, so it comes from my side of the family.
Gabby is a kind friend. Gabby loves to sing and dance, although she doesn't like to sing or dance in front of people. She is a precious, beautiful little girl, and I am so thankful she is mine.
I am thankful for Mirielle. Ella is my most cuddly child. Even at 8 years old, she likes to sit on laps, be hugged, snuggle up to me or hold my hand. She is very sensitive to others' feelings. (This is both a blessing and a challenge.)
She has a great desire to do what is right.
She is very good with animals, and she is definitely Prince's favorite. He listens to her better than to the rest of us, he loves to be near her and he usually sleeps with her. Personally, I do not tolerate dogs licking me on the face at all, but she doesn't mind.
Ella does well in school. She seems to pick up on Spanish more easily than her sisters. She loves to teach FHE. She loves to hold and be around babies and young children. She is a little nurturer.
She is definitely my daughter (although more emotional than I was as a child.). I love her so very much! She adds so much to our family, and I have learned more about myself and about parenting from her than from my other two children.
Day 18: Michelle
A decade and a half ago, I became a mother to a beautiful little baby girl. Michelle is still beautiful, and she is smart, talented and energetic. She is very responsible. She works hard to do her schoolwork/homework in two different languages, practice violin and piano, and help around the house. She helps me in so many ways.
She is very full of energy, and she loves to be outside, to climb, ride bikes and run. Michelle is also very organized. She likes her room clean and things neat and tidy. She takes after her dad in that way.
She is a good friend, and she is good with kids that are older and younger her. I am grateful she is my daughter.
Day 19: a day off from work, getting things done
I get two personal days a year. I usually take them to go on field trips with my children or to be involved in some other activity for my children. But I have been so busy lately, and I never feel rested or caught up. It was starting to get to me. So I took a personal day. I took all 3 kids to school, and then I had the day to myself. I am weird, I'm sure. I didn't go out to lunch with a friend or go get my nails done. Here's how I spent my day: I went grocery shopping, I rented a carpet cleaner and cleaned the carpets in the whole house. I cleaned out the fridge. I did some laundry. I did a tiny bit of Christmas shopping. I listened to a book on CD during some of these tasks. I picked up my children, helped them with homework, supervised music practice and cooked dinner, read to my kids, and did some schoolwork of my own. By the time I went to bed, I was exhausted...perhaps as tired as I would have been if I'd gone to work. But I also had a clean house (minus the office) and a lot of things crossed off my to do list. It helped. At least a bit.
Day 20: my new haircut
I have not had a haircut in over a year. It was past time. So far past time that I have been putting my hair up in a bun every day for two months now. I like getting my hair cut, but it always gets relegated to the bottom of my to do list. But my friend Liz said she would come to my house and cut it for me. She cut off at least 4 inches, and it feels so much healthier now. I am so grateful for a new haircut. Ella got a haircut also, and it is so nice.
Day 21: book club, honesty of kids
Kids are funny. They are so honest and sincere. When I went to school on Thursday morning, lots and lots of kids noticed my haircut. Some of them said they liked it. But a few looked shocked and a couple said, "Why did you cut it?" Or "What did you do?" I feel good about it, so it didn't offend me at all, but I just laughed. They really tell you what they think.
Thursday evening was book club. I love my book club. I love to read, and I enjoy talking about the book we've read. I enjoy reading books that I might not find otherwise. I enjoy eating the yummy treats. But mostly, I really love being with the great women in my book club. Most of them I would never have met otherwise, but I really feel grateful to know them. A couple of them in particular are such dear friends. I need that release once a month, a chance to get away from my responsibilities, to laugh (boy do we laugh!), to discuss good books, and to be with other women.
Day 22: opportunities to serve and to be served
There was a funeral luncheon on Friday. It meant a lot to the family that we provided a luncheon for them, and I was grateful we were able to. I occasionally have a less than stellar attitude about providing service, but I am always so glad after I am finished. I feel good. It helps me recognize how blessed I am, and I feel closer to the person I have served and feel better about myself.
I was also served by several people on Friday. I feel so thankful for the goodness and unselfishness of so many people who do so much to help me...whether it is saying a kind word, telling me I am doing a good job on days when I feel like I am not, watching my children for me, or helping in another way. The most amazing thing is that most of the time when people serve me, I have not asked them to. They serve me either without realizing it, or they do it just because they had a feeling I needed it or they recognized a need and stepped in to fill that need. So very thankful for that.
Day 23: stores nearby, good food, great people
We've been learning about the Pilgrims this week at school. We learned a song about the First Thanksgiving and we talked about why the Pilgrims ate deer, turkey and fish at the first feast. This was a tough question for second graders to process, but eventually we helped them understand that there were no grocery stores and so they could only eat what they could grow, fish or hunt... I am thankful for grocery stores that are so close to my home. Although I make lists when I grocery shop, inevitably I forget to put something on my list or have an item on my list and still forget to buy it. Just today, I went to the store to buy items for a dinner at my home and got home only to realize that while I purchased cups, plates, and plastic utensils, I did not buy bowls...and we were eating soup. So back to the store I went. (Much of this forgetfulness is explained by the fact that I usually grocery shop between 9-10 PM when I am tired. But not today.) But regardless, I am thankful that there are grocery stores close to my home and that I do not have to rely on only what I can grow, hunt or fish.
I am thankful for good food. I am thankful that I have plenty to eat, and I have a variety of foods to eat. I have access to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, meats, treats, and other foods.
And I am thankful for good neighbors and great people in my life. When I was at the grocery store, two different people asked if I was having a birthday party (based on the foods I was buying and the 4 Christmas gifts in my cart, I am sure.) I said no, I was having a dinner for some people in my neighborhood. Both people looked surprised and then said, "Wow! You must really get along with the people in your neighborhood." I smiled and said yes, I do. And it is true. I know nearly every person on my street (which is a long circle), and most of them I know well. I know many, many other people in the surrounding blocks (one advantage to living in Utah is that my ward is only a few streets big and so I know many, many of the people in the surrounding streets). My street has an annual Christmas party. On the 23rd of July, the whole neighborhood was invited to set off fireworks on our circle. People are friendly and helpful and I feel like my children are safe playing outside. It is a great neighborhood. A great place to live. A great place to raise my children.