Monday, November 30, 2009

gratitude: day 30

Today I am grateful for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

{The Lord Jesus Christ - Heinrich Hofmann}

I'm grateful for this wonderful time of year to celebrate His birth and His life.

I'm grateful that he gave His life so I could return to live with Him, as well as my family, forever.

I'm grateful the He understands all I have gone through, am going through and will go through. He knows my sorrows, my joys, my struggles, my triumphs, my sins, my strengths.

I'm grateful He doesn't want me to do it alone. He waits to patiently for me to remember and re-remember to ask Him for help. And when I do remember, He is ready.

I'm grateful He is so willing to forgive me when I don't behave as He would want me to behave.

I'm grateful for the friends and family He sent to me to brighten my days.

I'm grateful for the guiding angels He sends to me to help me when I need it.

I'm grateful for His perfect example.

I'm grateful for His comfort.

I'm grateful for His life.

I'm grateful for His sacrifice.

I'm grateful for His love.

I'm grateful for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

gratitude: day 29

today i'm grateful for talents and gifts.

and i love that each person's talents and gifts are unique.

some are obvious. i really enjoy playing the piano and i consider myself talented at it. although i have logged many, many hours of practice time for the last 23 years of playing {i started when i was five!}, it really did come pretty easily to me. i think i'm a good sight-reader because i didn't always practice as i should {if any piano students are reading this, please ignore that last sentence} and i would have to kind of b.s. it to my teacher on piano lesson day. now that i'm a teacher, i'm pretty sure she knew i didn't practice, but i will say that some students are better at gliding through a lesson than others, practice or not. ryan has an obvious talent for languages. he picks up on them very quickly and understands a lot about them that many people don't catch onto - tones, accents, etc.

some talents or gifts we have to work really hard for. i love running. i'm not "talented" at it as far as competition, but i can put one leg in front of the other over and over and over...and i consider that a gift. i have to run often in order to keep my skill level up - i lose the mileage much faster than i gain it. leah now has a talent for running as well - and believe you me she had to work hard for it. she continues to work hard for it each day.

others, not so much. i'm very talented at being sarcastic. and i really don't work all that hard at it. hehehe. ryan's really talented at cleaning the bathtub and doing the dishes. phew!

i'm really grateful that ryan and i have different gifts and talents when it comes to interacting with leah. she needs some of what both of us have to offer. and we need some of what she has to offer. i'm beginning to realize her talents and gifts are going to be very different than mine, but i know i can learn a lot from what she has to give.

i'm grateful that my mom had particular gifts that she was able to share with me {and hopefully she passed some of them onto me!} when i was little.

i hope i can continue to grow my own talents and use the gifts i have been given to continue to bless my life and hopefully bless the lives of others.

i'm grateful for talents and gifts.

gratitude: day 28

today i'm grateful for modern medication.
especially: vitamin i, vitamin m, and vitamin, ibuprofin, migraine medication and trazadone.

really, though, i am very grateful.

and this is coming from a girl who has only EVER taken aspirin, tylenol, ibuprofin and low-dose over-the-counter migraine medication her whole life {plus disasters below}. they tried to give me the 'good stuff' after i had leah and it made me feel so strange. so out of control. so i just lied and told the nurse i felt fine. i didn't, but i'd rather feel not fine and in control than feel goooood and have no idea what is going on. i've never had cold medication or allergy medication or anything.

this is coming from a girl who, when her step-dad removed her wisdom teeth, he had to give her nine shots of novocaine on one side. when i could still feel the pain, we just went ahead with the extraction. the other side was given seven shots...and when that didn't work, the tooth was just pulled with pain.

this is coming from a girl who, after throwing up on a car ride to southern california, didn't want to take pepto bismol. everyone assured her it would feel better of she consumed it. she did consume it. she didn't feel better.

this is coming from a girl who, along with her three travel buddies, took a sleeping pill on a 13 hour plane ride to hong kong. aforementioned travel buddies were OUT. that girl was wiiiiiide awake for 13 hours.

this is coming from a girl who gets frequent migraines, but knows {look at that history, folks} that there's a good change high doses won't work magic on her, so she goes with the prescribed amount of over the counter fixes.

you'd think, after all this, i just wouldn't be grateful for modern medicine. but i am.

i do try my best to find a natural remedy {e.g. sleeping off a headache, de-stressing, exercising, eating right}, but when that doesn't work, i'm grateful there are other options. i'm glad i can reduce the pain a little bit after a 20 mile run. i'm glad i can wake up without a headache once in awhile.

i tried my best to help leah stay asleep without medicating her. but when the screams continued and the layton family was on the verge of imploding, i'm grateful modern medication came to the rescue.

i'm actually grateful i've had examples of how too much medication can be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing, so i won't make the same mistakes i've witnessed. but i'm grateful it's there to help us, in the correct dosage, and the correct usage.

and with that, i'm going to bed. and i'm pretty sure i won't wake up until morning. thank goodness.

i'm so grateful for modern medication.

Friday, November 27, 2009

gratitude: day 27

today i am grateful for my body.

i think our physical bodies are an amazing thing. i've realized that even more as i've watched leah's body not work exactly as i had hoped it might.

muscles. bones. blood. organs. nerves. everything has to work together in order to move our bodies. it's so incredible to me.

my body lets me run. i feel so good when i run.

my body lets me play the piano. i love playing the piano.

my body lets me eat. i really love eating.

my body lets me sleep. mmm...sleeping is nice.

my body lets me learn. learning is so much fun.

my body lets me play, rest, jump, spin, dance, twirl, sit, stand, bend, stretch.

my body lets me see, hear, taste, touch, smell.

my body is a gift. i'm trying to take good care of it.

i'm thankful for my body.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

gratitude: day 26

today i am grateful for plenty.

for enough. for all that i need...of everything.

i'm one pretty blessed girl.

ryan has a great job - and it looks like it's pretty secure. we know how blessed we are with this as so many jobs aren't right now.

we have plenty of food every day. we never have to worry about what will be on our table {just who is actually going to have the talent and time to cook it}. we don't have to worry about a roof over our heads. and, although managing is a lot of work, we've been able to save a lot of money.

we have great medical insurance, which has proved invaluable this year with so many tests and draws and appointments. please, government, don't take that away from us.

i have plenty of good health. in fact, i'm probably more healthy than i've ever been. i've never had stitches or a broken...anything...or an ear infection, or strep. i maybe get a cold once a year. i don't have allergies. i've never even had a bloody nose {really!}. i'm really blessed this way.

i have plenty of family and friends who i adore and cannot imagine my life without.

i just have enough. there's nothing i need.

i'm grateful for plenty.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

gratitude: day 25

today i am grateful for leah.hopefully everyone already knows this.

i'm grateful she has made me love someone in a way i never knew was possible.

i'm grateful she has helped me be more patient. more understanding. more nurturing.

i'm grateful she has helped me to slow down {sometimes} and enjoy smaller things in life. to see things as i'm sure i used to see them, and then somehow forgot. to relax and play. to not always worry about messes...and even have fun with them.

i'm grateful she's my little helper. she goes almost everywhere with me. she does almost everything with me.

i'm grateful for her laugh. her smile. her curls. her eyes. her chubby cheeks. her roly-poly legs. her six-pack abs. her ticklish tummy. her bum cheeks. her sense of humor. her love of books. her curiosity. her teasing. her wobbly run.

i'm grateful she was strong enough and brave enough before she even came here to sign up for all of her challenges. and i'm grateful she trusted me enough to take care of her while she is here.

i'm grateful she has helped me remember to fall on my knees to pray each morning and each night...and usually many times in between.

i'm grateful for the ups...and downs...even though i much prefer the ups.

i'm grateful she forgets when i make a mistake. or when i'm not as nice or as patient as i should be.

i'm grateful for her hugs and kisses. and i'm grateful she said, "ma ma" today, even if she wasn't saying it to me. i needed that.

i'm grateful for leah.

oh, bean

i love when i find things in unexpected places.
like a plastic bath duckie in bean's laundry basket. it made me smile today.


ryan went to bed earlier than me last night {i know, shocker, right?!}. i guess this is how he felt about all my christmas gift stuff all over the bed.

a non-grateful post

that isn't to say an UNgrateful post, just a non-gratitude-related post:

that was then:

this is now {yes, i cleaned off and dusted the piano}:
isn't it amazing the difference one year makes? ryan and i have grown up so much!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

gratitude: day 24

today i'm grateful for my education.

i love to learn. i actually liked school. and not just the social part of it. in fact, i was a bit of a nerd {gasp!}. a bookworm. i was the student who marked up her textbooks so much that there was more information highlighted than know, the ones you absolutely wouldn't buy in the used section at the bookstore. you're welcome. i worked hard, but learning came easy to me. it was enjoyable.

i remember loving preschool. and kindergarten. and elementary school. i even loved junior high; it wasn't all that brutal to me. i really loved high school. i wouldn't go back, but i loved it when i was there. i loved college. i worked really hard in college, but i loved it. i graduated cum laude with a 3.9 gpa. AFTER i graduated, when ryan was still in school, he said, "let's have a contest to see who can get the highest gpa." yah, like that's fair...after i'm finished and my gpa is set in stone. but, i was on high ground, so i agreed. i won. barely, yes. but i won.

{college graduation day, april 2004}

i decided on public relations as my major in college. i'm really not sure why. i look at all the other personalities in that major and they were all much more outgoing than me. they were go-getters. many were smooth talkers. they weren't afraid of people. i was. i was a wall flower. a blessing i received a few years before i graduated mentioned that my education would be very useful in my life and that i would love what i studied.

i did love it - mostly the writing aspect. i wanted to be a journalist, but that didn't really coincide with family life too well, so i opted for pr. and i still got to write.

however, i'm still waiting for the part about it being very useful. right now, i feel like i should have learned a lot more about child development or nursing or something. i have a hard time relating to my two-and-a-half-year-old public some days.

but i'm grateful i graduated. with my situation as a young girl, i knew i wanted that piece of paper. i just needed a diploma to ensure that if something happened, i would be able to work...and that diploma was so important to me.

i'm also grateful for ryan's education. he worked so hard in school {even though he didn't beat my gpa} so he could get a good job to support our family. he continues to work hard and learn new things at work so he can excel there.

i'm grateful for leah's education. her teachers are amazing. some days i have a hard time thinking she won't go to kindergarten...or elementary school...or junior high, high school or college. but she will be educated. her teacher is the one who suggested we get her tested for rett syndrome. she figured out today that leah has been having small seizures {i'm such a bad mom...i had no idea that's what was happening!}, but she knows how to help. she has new ideas to help her every time we go to class. and they love her. that's the best part.

i'm grateful for my mom's education. because she was formally educated, she was able to go back to work and get a job to help support our little family when things didn't go as planned. and she was also able to make us some sweet, sweet clothes with her mad sewing skills.

i'm grateful that even though i'm not in school, i can still learn new ideas and skills every single day.

i'm grateful for education.

Monday, November 23, 2009

gratitude: day 23

today i'm grateful for little sisters.

i wasn't always grateful. but i am now.

i have one little sister. her name is kelli. when i was younger, i really wished she could have been a boy. i used to call her brian. she didn't like that very much.

my mom used to dress us in matching clothes. i know, can you believe it!? matching clothes. it made me puke. kelli loved it. my mom loved it. i considered it the worst kind of torture. as if having a little sister wasn't bad enough, she had to go and dress like me too.

kelli considered herself a budding artist when she was little. she covered a fabric basket of mine in yellow highlighter. she decided my pound puppy needed more spots - lots more.

kelli is convinced i tried to end her life multiple times. as an infant, she wandered around the house in a walker with wheels. i left the gate to the basement {read: unfinished basement with nothing but cement at the bottom of the stairs} open. you guessed it: down kelli tumbled, walker and all. when she was a little older, i decided to be daring and hang off the side of her crib. she {of course} wanted to be just like me, so she climbed out of her crib. only she wasn't as good, so she fell...and her bottom teeth went through her bottom lip...and she had to get stitches. when she was a few years older i may or may not have almost poked her eye out with scissors.

although i would never admit i tried to end her life, i did try to end blue dollie's life. oh man, kelli loved {er, loves} this thing. all i would have to say is, "i'm going to flush blue dollie down the toilet" or "i'm throwing blue dollie away" or "i'm {insert ridiculous statement here} blue dollie" and she would be a puddle of tears.

kelli got away with anything. let's say i'm six and she's three. something happens. i get in trouble because i know better. now, i'm nine and kelli is six. something happens. i get in trouble because i know better. funny: i knew better when i was six, but kelli doesn't? i guess so. once when i came home to visit, my brother and i heard kelli tell my mom to shut up. we waited. boy was she going to get it. ...she didn't. what!? WHAT!? yah, she didn't. i also looked in the pantry after i moved out to see what kelli took for lunches. squeeze-its, capri suns, fruit roll-ups...all sorts of goodness that weren't even spoken of when other kids were in the house. kelli got away with anything.

kelli was always skinner than me. except when she was pregnant. mwa ha ha.

lest you think our growing up years were entirely horrendous, there were good times. kelli was and still is an amazing cleaner. she loves to clean. loves it. and my brothers and i could pay her to clean our things. win. win. she was hilarious when we were sick...kind of our own personal comedian for the day.

as we got older, i became okay with kelli not being a boy. ironically, that's when she started dressing like one. she hated church because she had to wear skirts or dresses. she wore shorts to school every day but one during fourth grade. we lived in utah. that's cold. later, she had a navy blue nike sweatshirt that could have fit two or three kellis inside. she wore that every day. my mom struggled to get her to wash it. gross, kelli.

as we grew even more, kelli took over all my old jobs. when i left for college, she took my job at einstein bagels. in college, she took over my job at the library {after she mistakenly passed up an offer for my job at the copy center}.

but it was during these years we became really good friends. she loved when i came home from byu for a weekend. she was grounded for a month one year {during christmas, new years and her birthday}, so my friend and i came home to ring in the new year with her. when she came to byu, we saw each other all the time. she'd come to my apartment or visit me at work. we ate lunch and dinner together sometimes. we went grocery shopping together...and sang really loud in the car as we drove. when ryan went away for his internships during the summer, kelli was my right hand woman. we often took her to/from her cna classes and her night shifts at the hospital. i'm still not sure how she balanced all of that: school and working the night shifts.

kelli's a great dancer. not everyone knows this. she invented and has perfected what we like to call "ugly dancing." she even gets my mom to do it. we dance in the car all the time. she used to record n*sync and britney spears and backstreet boys concerts and learn the dances. and she's good! i think she just learned miley cyrus's hoedown throwdown. can't wait to see it. count on kelli to know the words to every song on the radio and who sings them.

in addition to her great dancing skills, kelli was also a budding gymnast. when she was going to be placed in my gymnastics level, i quit. she's also pretty good at sports. she played volleyball in middle school. and she always played on our ward young women teams. i remember one basketball game where i had made a few baskets...and no one said anything even remotely encouraging. then kelli gets put in and makes one good move and the leaders squealed with excitement. that was the last young women basketball game i played. i guess little sisters are just better at some things? who knew.

kelli has the most beautiful BIG brown eyes. hehehe.

kelli was the third person we told we were having a baby. she should feel honored.

when i moved to california, kelli cried. so did i.

and right after i left, she decided to be all grown up and get engaged and then married and then move to arizona and have a little girl and buy a house and do all these grown-up things.i guess little sisters grow up too?

i'm so grateful for mine.

a letter FROM santa?!

{we got the following letter in our inbox today!}

Dear Layton Family,

By now I’m sure you have heard on the news that you can no longer write letters to Santa and get an answer. It seems we accidently hired a pervert last year so they don’t trust us this year. Darn ACLU!! Anyway, since you can’t write and tell me what you would like I am writing to you. I would like some gift suggestions for each one of you so I can get my elfs right on it. I look forward to hearing back from you. Santa

PS. Santa really likes your days of gratitude. I think they will help put you on the “nice” list.

{thanks for writing, santa. we'll put together a list tonight!}

Sunday, November 22, 2009

gratitude: day 22

today i'm grateful for sunday.

it's not always a day of physical rest as in sleep and no stress, but it's usually a nice, relaxing day.

i love going to church. i actually always have. i always feel good learning about basic gospel truths. i've always loved my wards {well, almost always}. and i've had some great callings. right now i teach the beehives {12-13 year old girls}. they are great. they're so smart. so fun. so brave. so confident in their own 12-13 year old ways. they're all so different. it's a challenge to teach a lesson to 10 very different girls...that are even that much more different depending on the day and feel like i succeeded. but i love it. one summer i was the primary pianist. that's a great calling. just sit behind the piano with no responsibility for anyone else. play fun songs. listen to hilarious comments. laugh at the silly things kids do. loved it.

i love skirts and dresses. so sunday is perfect for that.

i love naps. we usually get one every sunday afternoon, with the right church time {hip hip horray for 10:00}.

i love nursery. so does leah. win win.

i love singing. i get to go to choir on sunday. ryan agrees to stay home with leah while i do it. that's really nice of him, don't you think?

we often have people over for dinner or go to someone else's house for dinner on sunday. yum.

we usually talk to our families on sunday. yay!

so many good things happen on sunday. i'm grateful for sunday.

gratitude: day 21

today i'm grateful for dried apricots.

and fruit leather.

really, i am.

a few years ago, my step dad dried a bunch of apricots from the trees in our yard. i fell in love. i was a bit obsessed. so much that he had to ration them. i seriously was not allowed to touch any of them. he counted the ball canning jars. counted them, folks. he would have known if i had taken one.

but, he has so kindly given them to me as gifts throughout the years and i am giddy when i receive a jar. he just gave me one for my birthday last month. i'm eating them very carefully. i don't want to be wasteful. i'm not sure when i'll get another jar.

i'm hoping this post will soften him up a bit so he will ship one off for christmas. hint, hint.

however, if i can't have dried apricots, a pretty good equal is one of these beauties:

you can get them from costco. but not here. i know...unfair, right? but they do sell them in utah. i'm not sure what my favorite flavor is. grape? apple? raspberry? apricot? i don't know. i just love them all.

so, if anyone is wondering what i want for christmas. {1} dried apricots from my mom and step-dad's tree. {2} fruit leather.

i'm going to go eat one right now.

p.s. whoever thought to buy these on our trip to st. george this summer was brilliant. whose idea was that?

Friday, November 20, 2009

gratitude: day 20

today i'm grateful for twi-hards. you know: team edward vs. team jacob.
kelli is rolling her eyes right now. ryan is barfing. but hear me out.

twi-hards. pure entertainment, i tell ya. pure entertainment.

i've read the books. i liked them. i didn't love them. i liked them. i did NOT like the 2nd one and i'm not sure how i would feel if my 13 year old daughter was reading the 4th one. but whatever. sometimes you just need a book to escape reality, right?

well, that's what i do.

some people confuse these story lines with reality. i'm friends with some of them. and it's pretty funny to watch. grown women gushing over edward. or jacob. or both.

last year i went to the midnight showing of twilight on opening night. i met some friends there and some of the girls they were with were dressed as blood types. yup. blood types. i'm talking red clothes with signs that said "O negative" or "AB positive" hanging around their necks. as if their particular cullen crush just might prefer their flavor to a friend's? girls were reading the book in the theater before it started. devouring the book. i'm not sure why they needed to bring the book; they had most of it memorized. and that was proven by the trivia game that was played theater-wide. the questions asked were unbelievable. the fact that people actually knew the answers was even more so. my twilight trivia knowledge goes as far as main character's names and if they're human, vampire or werewolf. and even that's hard to keep straight!

but, it was truly entertaining.

this year, i opted out of the opening night showing. but the email invite i got from my friends said they were going to wear all white with glitter on their faces and as many diamonds as they could find. it would have been a sight to behold, i'm sure.

i did, however, catch the 5:00 matinee with two friends {and one of their husbands...i think he got points for going or something} today.

no crazy costumes. not a ton of heart-sick girls. i think the matinee isn't much of a twi-hard magnet. but there were some shrieks in the theater when jacob showed up with his shirt off. and when he almost kissed bella. and when he took his shirt off. oh, and when he took his shirt off.

someone sitting next to me {i will not name names} even said she wished she was taylor swift at that moment.

attractive, yes, he is. but somehow i just can't have a crush on a 17 year old. it's illegal at best.

but, it is entertaining to watch when others have their crushes.

so, today i'm grateful for twi-hards simply for providing entertainment. a smile on my face. some days that's all you need.

magnetic resonance imaging

dear little leah,

tuesday was a first for all of us. on tuesday, you had your first {and hopefully your last} mri. because you're only two and not many two year olds can sit completely and perfectly still for an hour, the doctors and nurses had to put you under general anesthesia.

that's a scary thing.

but you did an amazing. job.

first of all, three cheers for making it through the morning before all this mri business even started. i'm not sure whose idea it was to make a two year old get an mri at 2:00pm, but i'm pretty sure they never consulted anyone with a toddler first. we were under strict instructions to feed you only clear liquids {plain jell-o was also permitted} until 11am and then stop feeding you completely. have they met you? you follow in my footsteps: you love to eat. it was painful for me to not feed you for that long. i decided to not eat as well just so i could feel your pain. you're welcome.
because the mri was at 2pm, we had to be at the hospital at 12:30. do you see a problem here? 12:30. naptime. yah. you don't do well without sleep. that has been proven in the last two months. you were fine when we walked into the hospital. they gave us all stickers to wear. but you quickly lost it after that.doesn't daddy look amused in this picture?

after we got you dressed in your cute little gown {remind me again how i forgot to take it home with us}, your friend kathy joined us. kathy is in our ward and she's also the lds chaplain at stanford hospital. she loves you. and you love her. she calmed you down in three seconds flat. it was incredible!

after you were calm, a really nice nurse came in and explained everything to us. we walked to another room where they got some of your health history and then gave you some versed orally. that means through your mouth. sorry, no big words here. the nurse said versed either makes you sleepy or silly. i guessed you'd choose silly. i guessed wrong. you were one sleepy leah!after you were sleepy enough, daddy carried you to another room where they gave you this "watermelon gas" to put you completely out. that's when i lost it.

i tried to cry quietly. the nurse called me out on it. and then it was all over. she asked if i wanted to kiss you and then say goodbye. um, yes, but not to the latter. it was so strange to see you so still on that bed with a mask on your face. i knew you were sleeping...but not because you were tired. i was scared. even though i knew you'd be okay. i was scared.

good thing you were brave.

daddy and i went to the cafeteria while you endured who knows what. at least you won't remember it right?

about 45 minutes later, they called us back to see you. you were OUT. out i tell ya! i think two months of no sleeping finally caught up with you. when we finally aroused you enough to partake of our popsicles and apple juice, we got you dressed and brought you home. you kept pulling the funniest faces. included this one with your lips:
you sleepily sat on the couch with daddy watching some movies. and then you fell alseep.

daddy and i were amazed with how brave you were. you went under beautifully and came out beautifully.

and the next day you were a dream! so much that daddy thinks you should get an mri every day. not really. he's just kidding. but you ran around like a crazy person all morning - like you were glad we actually let you run around or something. and you ate like a starving monster - like we had starved you the day before or something.

we don't have the results yet, but hopefully they come back with one beautiful looking brain. it makes sense: a beautiful brain for a beautiful girl, right? right.

i love you, you know.

thanks for being brave.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

gratitude: day 19

today i'm grateful for traditions. and today, mostly christmas traditions.

ryan bans all-things-christmas until the day after thanksgiving. i'm a firm believer that thanksgiving is only enhanced by the upcoming christmas holidays. in fact, i feel thanksgiving, christmas and the new year should just be one big fat holiday. love them all. love them.

yesterday christmas music was on the radio. i now officially declare myself UNbanned from listening to it. if you're wondering, i also declare YOU unbanned. let the traditions begin!!

i love the music during this time of year. i spent two years in high school rehearsing holiday music for months and performing multiple times each day in december. and i miss it. i've played sleigh ride as a piano duet with my mom every single year since i was 14 years old. i won't do that this i'm making one of my piano students learn it so i can get my fill. i love the radio stations playing non-stop seasonal music {except when they play what we've dubbed "cheesy christmas song," right, meg? barf.}.

it's more than just the music, though. i love all the traditions each year that remind us of years past. of good times with family. memories with friends. good times. bad times. struggles. celebrations.

i love the little things. tangible things. like the stuffed cloth nativity my mom made. i love our denim stockings...with a pocked in back for life savers {or gum...thanks, dr. hauley}...and i love that i've now made some for my own little family. i love the lights...on trees and houses. glitter-clad popsicle stick ornaments. gifts under the tree. nutcrackers standing guard on the piano. the advent calendar made of incredible '70's-era fabric i inherited from my mom. christmas cards arriving daily in the mail {hint, hint...if you need my address, let me know!}.

i love the snow. i miss the snow. i know in a few months most everyone in and around snow will be sick of it. they'll be sore from shoveling. tired of the slow traffic. shivering from the cold. but i miss it. i miss the cozy nights under a blanket with the fire going. i miss the magical nights as it slowly drifts down. the quiet, early morning runs wearing sweatshirts and gloves. the snowmen.

i love the smells. cinnamon. nutmeg. pine trees. peppermint.

i love the food. pies. treats. turkey. mashed potatoes. ham. cheese balls. wassail. mmm....wassail. ryan and i decided we're starting a new tradition this year to make scones on christmas morning. yum, right? we're excited.

i love my own family's traditions. 'twas the night before christmas read to us the night before christmas. a delicious meal and a heartfelt story gathered around close family. new {sometimes matching} jammies. opening one gift the night before christmas and then taking turns on christmas morning...and i love that my siblings hated me for going so slow. but i love going slow. i love taking my time to unwrap and enjoy the traditions.

i love ryan's family's traditions. thanksgiving dinner with cousins, aunts and uncles. guessing how many football games you'll see on the side of the road on the way to dinner. a yummy, yummy meal the night before christmas. walking through temple square on christmas night to see all the glittering lights. an hilarious new year's eve celebration complete with games, food and costumes.

i love that we can create our own traditions - find things that work for us. being away from family for now three holidays has been interesting. we've missed all the things so familiar from our childhoods, but we've been able to spend time with good friends who are experiences holidays away for the first time as well. i'm giddy for thanksgiving next week with the mcphies. three years running. i love letting leah sit on santa's lap...even if she thinks he's crazy.

i love traditions. and i love hearing about others' favorite traditions. do tell!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

gratitude: day 18

today i am grateful for my mom.the reason i chose her for today is because i got my first mammogram today {tmi? sorry}. my mom has battled breast cancer twice, along with multiple surgeries and treatments that go along with it. and twice she has come out victorious. i know this post won't even begin to do this amazing woman justice, but i'm going to try.

my mom is a constant source of strength for me. i don't want to ever imagine my life without her. she was first diagnosed with cancer when i was pregnant with leah. my tears didn't come for a few weeks. i think i was slowly trying to internalize the seriousness of the situation. but it finally hit me - and it hit me hard - when i realized just how much i never want to be a mother without my own mother by my side. i don't live near her. we don't talk every day {just almost every day}. but knowing i can call to ask questions, to chat, to complain, to share my joys and frustrations is more than priceless to me.

my mom is realistic in that she doesn't take things for granted. she puts forth time and energy into doing things right and well and in a healthy manner.

and, although she's realistic, she is also optimistic. she sees the big picture and doesn't fear. she's so good at this, in fact, that it almost makes you want to barf {sorry, mom}. no whining around my mom. she's there to remind you of the big picture and of all the blessings you have. and...she's right.

faith and fear are opposites; they cannot exist together. she said this once and it has stuck with me ever since.

my mom has faith that, if you are obedient, things will work out as they should and you will be blessed. and let me tell you, this incredible woman has had a life that many people wouldn't think was full of blessings. she's had what i think is more than her share of trials. but then she'd just say that no one ever told her what her share was. she just takes each trial, analyzes it, figures out how to get through it {not over it, not around it, not under it...through it - those are her words} and come out on top.

she has spent countless hours thinking about and praying for leah...and myself and ryan.

she calls me often, texts me, emails me, and sends me letters and care packages. and somehow, it's ALWAYS exactly what i need to hear at that moment. which is funny because she usually writes them after we've talked and i don't receive them for a few days. it's something i've been struggling with at that moment and she helps to calm my fears. or she cries with me. or laughs with me.

my mom is fun. she's a grandma that rolls around on the floor with the kids. she takes me shopping. she runs with me. she cooks with me. she sings with me. she plays the piano with me...even when i make fun of her.

she drove me to and from work every single day because she needed the car to do other things in between. she got me a job at her place of work one summer, so drove to and from work every day together...singing our hearts out. she's got my back when she thinks i've been wronged....and she fights my case to the death. she sat in the back of a crowded high school auditorium to hear the results of a class office race...and when i didn't win, she was there with a consolation prize.

you never ever ever want to get into an argument with my mom. she's always right. always. not just because she's the mom and she thinks she's right. because she has thought out her argument so perfectly and so eloquently, there is just no winning when you're not on her team. and, when she's not right {very rare}, she readily admits it.

my mom is my friend. she always has been. she taught me well and let me fly. she doesn't micromanage. she doesn't ask questions that aren't any of her business. she's interested in my interests. she's proud of me. she shouts for joy when i succeed and she picks me up again when i don't.

in a blessing i received about 10 years ago, i was told guardian angels will be with me to guide me through my Earthly trials. i'm convinced my mom is one of them.

i love my mom.

i am oh so grateful for my mom.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

gratitude: day 17

today i'm grateful for anesthesia.

what an incredible thing! today little miss leah went in for an mri. and because not many two year olds {leah included} can sit still for an hour while a machine pounds oh so loudly around them, they had to put her under general anesthesia.

the nurses and volunteers were wonderful.

and our friend kathy the chaplain even made a visit to make our stay more comfortable. in fact, she's the only one who was able to calm leah down during the first part.

they gave leah an oral medication to help her relax. and relax she did. it was kind of funny to watch. then they were able to put her out with some "watermelon" gas. that's when we had to leave the room. yes, i cried a little. so strange to see your little one so still on the table and you know it's not just because they're sleepy. when she was all the way asleep, they gave her the iv and performed the mri.

she slept during the entire experience and it even took her more than an hour after that to come out of it. now she's just floppy on the couch with ryan watching some movies.

i'm just grateful she didn't feel any pain - and won't remember any of this after today.

thank goodness for anesthesia.

gratitude: day 16

today i'm grateful for friends.

this could be a really long post. a post that might never end. but that's because i've been blessed with amazing friends my entire life. i'm not sure i've done anything to deserve these friend. i truly consider myself blessed.

when i was really little, my family had some great friends. the augers. i smile when i think of the augers. they were our backdoor neighbors for the first 10 years of my life. i'm sure they thought we were strange. we were strange. they were always the cool ones. they had kids the same ages as us plus one more. we celebrated birthdays together. we had sleepovers together. we played in our adjoining backyards together - the gate in the fence was rarely closed. we went on vacations together. we laughed and cried together. and they've been with us through happy and sad for my entire life.

in kindergarten, jared auger couldn't be my best friend anymore. he had cooties, after all. so, along came tangie. tangie and i were inseparable. i think i owe my high academic standards to her. we were so competitive. i remember in 3rd grade, we TIED for third place in a school-wide art contest. we were always comparing math scores, handwriting, spelling tests, hopscotch records and more.

after fourth grade, i moved. i dind't know a soul. and i'm not the most outgoing person in the world. so, it was just my {great} luck that mindee moved across the street. i had lots of good friends in my new neighborhood, but mindee and i were together all. the. time. we had sleepovers on her tramp and made up our own songs. we made up dances to paula abdul and salt n' pepa. we went into young women together. we were so cool.

then i moved. again.

it just so happened that the super cute, popular girls were the ones who ushered me into their 'group.' even though i was the only one in the group who wasn't a cheerleader, school officer or sports star because i moved at the end of 8th grade, i had a great 9th grade year. i moved onto high school with these girls. they're great girls. they always were and still are...but they started hanging out with some people i wasn't comfortable hanging out with. so i was lonely. i spent a good part of my sophomore year hanging out at home. i immersed myself in school, extra curricular activities and singing.

that's when i found megan. words can't adequately describe megan. she was my salvation. so confident. so smart. so beautiful. so fun. so talented. she still is. she's one of the only people from high school that i see every time i go home. she came to help me when leah was born because my mom and ryan's mom couldn't. she's now a fantastic mother of two of the most beautiful little girls i know. i love megan. we were supposed to be roommates at byu, but there was something else in store for meg, so off to provo i went. alone.

but not for long. morg was there. we quickly switched roommate assignments around so we could be in the same dorm room. i taught her how to study and she taught me how to have fun. freshman year was full of photo shoots, n'sync, 1 mile runs, ditching fhe and cleaning checks...and class. i visited morg and her cute, cute family in nyc last year. the girl is still just as fun and kind...and now she's also a wonderful wife and mother of two...almost three.

college brought lots of other really good friends. i really could write for hours. roommates, friends from our married ward. so. many. friends. running partners. friends from callings. work colleagues.

and ryan. he came in college too. and i'm so glad he's my friend. and he brought lots of friends into my life. he has the greatest friends from high school. {so glad i didn't know them then...hehehe}. but i'm so glad i know them now.

then off to california we went and i swear it only got better. julia was there waiting on that first sunday...she said she liked to run and she taught piano. right. like i'd really meet someone like that on my first sunday. and then one by one, i met more and more girls who have become like family to me. wives of ryan's co-workers, mother's group, running friends, so many people. kristen. lindsey. rachel. sarah. and on and on and on.

and through it all, i've come to love my family more and more each day as friends. true friends. my mom especially. and kelli. and scott. and dan. i wish i had always known how cool these guys were. but, i'm glad i know now.

okay, i'd better stop.

but really, i have the greatest friends.

i'm so blessed. truly grateful.

Monday, November 16, 2009

gratitude: day 15

today i'm grateful for my church. i belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...perhaps better known as the Mormons.
i'm grateful for this Church for a lot of reasons, but today i'm grateful for it because of the network of wonderful people it has provided me in my life. no matter where i go, no matter how far away from "home," the church seems to be the same.

when we went to hong kong last year, we walked into chapels to go to the bathroom or get some drinkable water...and we ran into people we knew...or who knew people we knew.

when ryan and i moved to california, the first sunday we were here, we saw people we knew. we also met people we didn't know and they've become some of our closest friends. it's almost as if everyone knows that no matter how different we are, we have something in common. we have the same beliefs, the same standards for ourselves, some of the same goals, and oftentimes similar pasts.

i didn't go to church today. instead, i was cheering on my fantastic sister in law in a half marathon in san diego {beautiful today, by the way}. and i missed it. i missed those familiar faces. i missed my beehives. i missed the hymns. i missed nursery. i missed it because it is a blessing in my life each sunday to be able to go and covenant and teach and be taught.

i'm grateful for the Church.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

gratitude: day 14

today i'm grateful for naps. mmmm, naps. i love naps, don't you?i haven't been able to take many naps lately...and believe you me, i've needed them.

yesterday, we all took naps. leah, ryan, me and my brother dan's house. leah started to scream. i thought ryan would be nice and go get her. ryan thought i would be nice and go get her. we were both wrong. dan went to get her.

yay dan!

he said he held her for a half hour until she calmed down again. and then he went back to sleep. now that's a nice brother. and it was a nice nap.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

gratitude: day 13

today i'm grateful for "mixtapes" {i looked it up...that's how you spell it!} okay, mix cds. what could be better than dixie chicks, backstreet boys, hanson, neil diamond, carrie underwood and mariah carey all on one cd? yes, i said hanson. mmm bop.

and it kept me wide awake {and singing} while driving to southern california last night.

thank you mix cd. thank you.

p.s. ryan is grateful for books on cd. namely, the da vinci code. you have to admit. mine's way more entertaining.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

conversations with a piano student

this just happened. too funny {to me at least} to not record:

Background: student is learning a recital piece composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. So, we were practicing saying his name.

Maren: "Do you know who Mozart is?"

Student: "No. Is he famous?"

Maren: "He is famous. You'll probably play more music that he wrote at some point."

Student: "Oh. Well, I think I know another famous one."

{Pause...he is waiting for me to tell him more famous composers}

Maren: "Beethoven?"

Student: "Yah. I know Beethoven." {Pause} "He wrote about the lion, right?" {Pause} {Confused look on my face} "The lion has a baby." {Pause} "They go on an adventure?"

Maren: "The Lion King?"

Student: "Yah. Did he write that?"

Maren: "Um, no. Elton John wrote that music. But he's famous too."

Student: "Did Beethoven write a movie?"

Maren: "No. Just music."

Student: "But isn't there a movie about Beethoven? I think a dog dies."

And we're done. I seriously was trying to hold in my laughter. I couldn't even answer. We just started his lesson instead. I love the way this little person's mind works and how it connects the most random things.

gratitude: day 12

today i'm grateful for running.

i'm not fast. i'm not naturally adept. my form is atrocious. i basically look ridiculous when i run. my shoulders hunch {i'm workin' on it}, my knees twist and my legs flare. and sometimes i feel horrendous when i do it. but, i love it.

{beautifully sweaty maren at mile 8 of the nyc marathon november 2008}

it's such a great release. a needed one.

and it gives me energy.

like this morning, when i had had less than 5 hours of sleep, i met a friend to run at 5:30am. that's early. and i felt it. i nearly fell back asleep after debating whether or not i should really get out of bed...but i didn't. i got up. i got dressed. and i ran. and 5.6 miles later, i felt great. it was a perfect way to start my day. and i'm pretty sure if i had gone back to bed, i might not have survived this far into today.

i have great friends to run with. it's time to catch up on each others' lives. share our sorrows and joys. and just get our own time outside the house. my friends help push me physically and i've done things i never thought i could do {ahem, marathon} because of them.

there are days {sorry, friends} when i just need me time. all by myself. alone. i've had some of the greatest runs of my life all by my lonesome. i ran my first-ever 16 miler by myself. i still remember some of the things i thought about, some of the songs i listened to, some of the things i saw.

my health has improved because of running.

my confidence has increased because of running.

my relationships have been blessed because of running.

i'm sane {well, sort of} because of running.

i'm grateful for running.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

gratitude: day 11

today i'm grateful for my freedom.

and i'm grateful for those who fought so i could be free and who are fighting so i can continue to be free.

i would never suggest that i know the answers for peace. my religious beliefs are such that peace will not come until after periods of war and unrest. lots of wars. fought on lots of different fronts for many different reasons. but there will be peace.

i'm grateful we can take one day to pause and remember those who fought for our freedoms...our lives...our families. and who continue to fight.

i remember as a senior in high school, i had the opportunity to sing in a veteran's day concert. as we sang patriotic hymns accompanied by a full orchestra, all veterans in the audience stood to be recognized. i remember tears swelling up in my eyes. at the time, i wasn't sure why. i think it was the first time i had really thought about the individuals who had sacrificed for me. then i thought about all those soldiers who weren't in the auditorium because they paid the ultimate sacrifice.
i remember interviewing my grandpa before he passed away. i was fascinated by the stories he told about his naval service in WWII. how they changed him. how they changed his family.

{cannon perry smith, wwii}

i remember exchanging letters with my uncle who served in the vietnam war. physically, he survived. but i think part of him died over there.

i can't completely understand it, but i'm grateful.

for all those veterans and current servicemen and women, i am grateful.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

gratitude: day 10

Today I'm grateful for thoughtfulness.

I wish I was grateful that I was thoughtful, but that's not the case.

I'm grateful that others are thoughtful. And lately, I've been the benficiary. Food, packages in the mail, babysitting, kind know who you are.

And I'm grateful.

Monday, November 9, 2009

gratitude: day 9

today i'm grateful for taylor swift.
and not because i like her music.

i do, but.

i'm grateful because leah likes her music. i put fearless into the cd player a few months ago, and there was no going back. leah is obsessed. obsessed.

the cd has now transferred to the cd player in leah's room. she's in control. first thing in the morning when she gets out of bed, the play button is pushed. then pause. then play. then pause. then play. then forward. then forward. then reverse. then stop. then play. then pause. then play. then repeat. then, after i realize we've listened to the same track for 34 minutes, i un-press repeat and the pattern continues.

actually, there is no pattern. she just likes to push buttons. and she likes taylor swift, so it's a great combination.

today, leah decided to scream bloody murder and shed crocodile tears before her nap. for an hour. we sat for awhile {aprox. 50 minutes} while i held her down {so she wouldn't mutilate herself...or me for that matter}, she started to calm down after these 50 or so minutes. we were listening to "hey stephen." the next track came on and she got a bit agitated. so i turned it back to "hey stephen." and then i did it again. and again. and again. probably 14 times. she slowly started to close her eyes {then open them...then close them again} until she was out. really out. as in pick-up-her-arm-and-drop-it-like-a-wet-noodle out. and then i successfully transfered her to her crib. and then turned off the cd player.


it only happens when leah is sleeping.

but, i was grateful taylor could help me get her there.

i'm grateful for taylor. and stephen.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

gratitude: day 8

Today I'm grateful for Ryan.
I'm usually grateful for Ryan. Even if I don't always tell him. But, today I'm especially grateful for Ryan.

He's done the dishes probably 8 times this weekend (translation: he's done all the dishes this weekend...and we don't have an automatic dishwasher). He has changed 9 out of the last 10 diapers; most of those weren't pleasant.

He cleans the laundry rooms/parking lots of both complexes that we manage. And he does it well.

He brought a flower home for me on Thursday.

He helped me paint our room on Friday.

He watched Leah while I took a much needed nap {migraine induced} on Saturday. Then he helped me fold 6 loads of laundry.

He started dinner for me today while I was at choir practice for longer than expected.

He works hard all day long at his paid job and then comes home and works hard here. And lately he's been working hard at night to try and keep Leah calm, quiet...and asleep. This usually means long drives for him at night.

Then he wakes up and does it all over again.

And ladies, don't get any ideas. He's taken.

He's a catch if I do say so myself.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

gratitude: day 7

today i'm grateful for melatonin.
we love you melatonin. those 10.5 hours last night were simply pure bliss.

really, they were. thank you.

Friday, November 6, 2009

gratitude: day 6

today i'm grateful for the backyardigans.not only are they excellent dancers who sing very catchy lyrics, they keep leah {okay, and me} entertained for hours. the only time i let her watch the backyardigans for hours is during the middle of the night. her whole body gets excited when she hears the very first notes of the intro play and pablo rises into the screen. and she gets sad the second she sees them running into their houses for a snack. she really knows that means it's ending.

my mom and i used to watch the backyardigans on saturday mornings after we would run. not together. we'd each watch it by ourselves. and then we'd call each other and say how funny that morning's episode was. we often use the songs in our daily conversations. "eureka!" i have one of their songs on my running playlist: "racing day, it's racing day. it's not doily lacing day. today's the day we race." uniqua and I have eerily similar pilot costumes.

and i'm not even ashamed.

we love the backyardigans.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

gratitude: day 5

today i am grateful for big brothers. i have two of them. they're pretty cool. i didn't care much for them when i was little...mostly because they sat on me or chased me around the house with knives when they were left in charge {although this backfired later on when i was left in charge of them...mwah ha ha}. they told me a watermelon was going to grow in my stomach because i swallowed a seed. they cut my jump rope and bent my hula hoop.

but i like them now. and i miss them. and today is one of their birthdays {happy birthday, scott!!}.

i remember when i was little they also hated each other. in fact, i still consider it a miracle that they talk today. but they do. they're actually great friends today.

my brothers are two of the most different people in the entire world. sometimes i wonder how we all came from the same family. but, then i realize how cool it is that we're all so different and still such good friends. i think we all add such a great mix to the dysfunction and craziness that is our family.

i'm grateful for big brothers.

but i'm not grateful for goatees. gross. both of you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

gratitude: day 4

today i'm grateful for bad days.


bad days?


today was a bad day. but, it helped me to reflect upon my feelings. i cried a lot. a shared a lot. i thought a lot.

and it will help me appreciate tomorrow...which will be a good day. i can feel it.

p.s. i'm also grateful for the above-pictured book. if you haven't read it, you must.
p.p.s. i'm not sure what ryan is grateful for because he is stuck at work. i'm not grateful for that.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

gratitude: day 3

today i'm grateful for teaching piano. i have the funniest students. they are all unique. they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. they all have good weeks and bad weeks, but it's so great to see their faces and eyes light up when they master a hard piece or concept. it has been a fun challenge for me to figure out how to successfully teach each of them to learn how to play the piano. some just get it - they have this innate talent and don't have to try very hard. others have to work so hard just for a regular piece. but they all do it! it's been a great thing for me to have something in my life where i can put forth an honest effort and actually see results. i love watching these kids {ok, and adult} fly through their books or look at a recital piece for the first time thinking there is no way they can learn it and then watching them perform flawlessly just months later. i love it.

so, i'm grateful to my mom for making me practice {there mom, i said it}. i'm grateful for my teachers. and now i'm grateful for my students and the opportunity i have to teach.

p.s. ryan is grateful for abraham lincoln.

Monday, November 2, 2009

gratitude: day 2

today i am thankful for technology, namely, the internet. i just spent a loooong time researching all about our family's new companion and the information at my fingertips is amazing. i kept thinking how awful it would be to not have this information {and therefore, understanding} about bean's recent diagnosis...and that would have been the case just years ago. i'm able to keep in contact with so many friends and family members through the internet. i'm able to keep an up-to-date 'journal' of the goings-on of my family because of the internet. i was able to watch various sessions of my church's general conference streamed live on the internet just weeks ago.

i taught a young women lesson a few weeks ago on avoiding degrading media influences. i think sometimes we focus so much on the bad that can come from the internet and other more recent technologies {and oh how much bad there is}, that we tend to forget the good that can come from them. heavenly father has given us incredible advancements in technology to be used for good - and i'm so grateful for that.

p.s. today ryan said he is grateful for cake. mmmm....cake.
p.p.s. ryan also said, after reading this post, "thank goodness for al gore."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

gratitude: day 1

{30 days of gratitude...1 for each day of november...}

Today I'm grateful for the Spirit. I'm grateful for the guidance I receive personally in my life from the Spirit and I'm grateful for others who listen to the Spirit and are guided to bless the lives of others.

I have been the recipient of many acts of kindness lately - and most were just because people had a feeling they thought I might need help. A family in our ward emailed us on one of Leah's worst sleeping nights and wondered if we were okay {they had no idea of anything going on...just felt we might need something}. Another woman in our ward called up and asked if I wanted dinner one night last week - a night I planned on making dinner, but so many things got in the way and we were probably going to have cereal. The testimonies that were born in church today were pretty much meant for me. I think someone passed around a little 3x5 card saying, "Hey everybody. If you're going to bear your testimony today, please mention one of the following...{insert list here} will make Maren one big puddle." And they did. And I was.

I'm grateful for the calming effect the Spirit can have in my life. Sometimes I think I should feel like my life is filled with turmoil...but I don't. There are those brief moments I'm able to see the bigger picture or see beyond the trial of the moment and feel true happiness...and I know that comes from the Spirit.

So, I'm thankful for the Spirit.

a picture a day: october