Monday, December 17, 2012

The big 4!

Happy 4th birthday Tanner bo Banner!!!   Eli and I adore this little guy.  He has such a fun personality!  We love his spunkiness, creativity, energy, and tender heart.  I love his face in the first pic!  I know it's blurry, but it just captures Tanner so well!

Tan had such a fun birthday!  One of my favorite moments was when his classmates were singing to him at school (I switched with another parent so that I could be the parent helper on Tan's birthday), they sang "happy birthday" as cats and dogs.  He wanted so badly to laugh out loud but his shyness was battling with his urge to join in and be silly with the kids.  So he hung on my arm, stroked my hair, and kept making so many different facial expressions as his mental dilemma took place!  Here's a little more about his day:  He shared chocolate donuts with sprinkles with his classmates and loved all the birthday wishes all day.  We napped together and I loved the snuggle time with him!  He chose his special birthday dinner:  chicken nuggets, hot dogs, breadsticks with sauce (toast with garlic salt dipped in marina sauce), kiwi, peppers and ranch.  I think he ate the least out of all of us, but I guess that's normal.  (He hasn't been feeling well recently so his eating drastically decreases during that time.)  He helped make his cake, dyed it blue, covered it in blue sprinkles right out of the oven, and then cut it up and served it to Eli, Kenzie, and I on his own.  He tried to take an entire half for himself, but Eli coaxed him into sharing more equally with the rest of us!  He really enjoyed playing with some of his new toys:  Legos, a big airplane with removable pilots, a sit and spin, and a bike with training wheels!  He never tired of hearing people sing "Happy Birthday" to him all day long!  We watched videos of when he was a brand new baby and he kept saying "that baby is crying," etc, and never really grasped the concept that it was him as a baby.  He will always be my special Christmas baby.  It was so neat to celebrate the birth of the Savior into the world and be able to snuggle my own swaddled brand-new baby boy.  I felt very close to Mary during that Christmas season.  

Today I interviewed him and wil
l make this a tradition every year with the same questions.      

We are so grateful for our wonderful little boy!!

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Gratitude Challenge

The Gratitude Challenge

This is a 20-day project created to help you live with an attitude of gratitude.  I created this from a variety of sources and my own ideas, and they are all simple and doable with a busy schedule.  If you choose to do the challenge, decide before you start what time of the day you will complete the challenge.  For me, that will ensure that I complete it everyday!  Some of the challenges require you to be thinking throughout the day so a good time of day would be in the first half.   I made my challenge into a little booklet for myself and the young women in my ward.    If you do the challenge, let me know what you thought of it afterwards.  And feel free to share it with your friends and family!  Eli and I are going to do this together and I'm excited to fill our minds and hearts with thoughts of gratitude this month.   Enjoy!!!

“My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.

“A grateful heat, then, comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives.  This requires conscious effort—at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude.” 
Thomas S. Monson

Day 1

Use the alphabet as a fun and quick format for making a list of things for which you feel grateful.  Write it in your journal (any form - written or electronic) and share it with a family member or friend.

Day 2

Write in your journal in gratitude for some of the “negative” things or trials in your life.  

Elder Robert D. Hales expressed that, “Gratitude brings a peace that helps us overcome the pain of adversity and failure.”

Day 3

Verbally express gratitude for your blessings throughout the day.  There are so many little things every day to be grateful for.  When you first become aware of a blessing, your feeling of gratitude can be strengthened by immediately expressing thanks.  You could even keep a list of these things on a google document if you use a computer for a lot of the day, on a piece of paper, in a little notepad carried in your purse, or on your phone.

Day 4

Dedicate an entire prayer to your expressions of gratitude.  Don’t ask for anything.  Be specific; go beyond the obvious. See how exhaustive you can be. Discover the truth in the lines “And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” (From the song “Count Your Many Blessings”)

Day 5

Take five minutes to write about how grateful you are for all of the wonderful things that you currently have in your life. Don’t long for what you don’t possess—instead, take stock of all the blessings you already enjoy.  After listing obvious blessings, shift to “smaller” blessings such as running water, a phone call from a friend, and so forth.

Day 6

Eliminate ungrateful thoughts and complaining.  When something happens and you want to complain, immediately find something to be grateful for.

Day 7

Take a picture of one thing, person, place or specific moment that makes you feel grateful. Share it with your family.  If you use facebook, share it with your friends on there.

Day 8

Express gratitude to at least 2 people who deserve a little recognition.  For example, parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, teachers, coaches.  You can call them on the phone or write a thank you card or email.  Be specific about the details of kindness toward you and how it affected you.  This will lift both you and the person receiving the gratitude.

Day 9

Think of your talents and spiritual gifts and list them in your spiritual journal. Pray with gratitude for these gifts and ask for ways that you can use one or more of them to bless the lives of others.  Heavenly Father has given you these gifts for a reason and will use you to bless lives.  

Day 10

Pick one of your five senses to focus on  today. Take note of how many gifts come to you through that one sense. Write about this experience.

Day 11

Pick three friends or family members you see regularly. View their actions and gestures through a positive lens, assuming their goodness and witnessing their best intentions.  Write them a note of gratitude for who they are and write in your journal about why you are grateful for them in your life.

Day 12

Open your arms in service to others.  Pray to Heavenly Father throughout the day that He will use you to bless the lives of others.  Then look for opportunities to help and lift those around you and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  We render thanks to God by loving and serving those around us.  The blessings that come from opening our arms to others are among the choicest this earth has to offer.

Day 13

Take the time to focus on yourself. Appreciate and give thanks for your unique personality, skills and talents.  Share them with a friend/family member or write them in your journal.

Day 14

Stand in front of the mirror for five minutes and focus on at least five things that you love about yourself. Write them down in your journal.

Day 15

Write about something you feel grateful for in your life today.  Don’t just say what it is; include details and emotions about why you are grateful for that experience, person, or thing.

Day 16

Read scriptures about gratitude.  Use the topical guide or bible dictionary to help you search for these scriptures.

Day 17

Read a talk or speech by a religious leader about gratitude.  Go to and search “gratitude” in the search box at the top of the screen.  Or search  There are so many very great speeches and talks on both of these websites.    

Day 18

Look back at your life and write about an experience or moment that you are grateful for.  It could be a moment that helped you become a better person, gain a stronger testimony of the Gospel, help you get to where you are today, etc.  

Day 19

Choose a challenge from any of the previous 18 days and do it again!

Day 20

Think about how the gratitude challenge has helped you gain an attitude of gratitude in life.  Reflect on what this process has meant to you.  Write your thoughts in your journal and share them with a family member or friend.  

To go along with this, I also listen to gratitude songs throughout the month of November.  Here's what's on my playlist: (I'd love more suggestions if you have any!)

"Thankful" by Josh Groban
"Thankful Heart" from the Muppet Christmas Carol
"Simple Gifts" by Hilary Weeks
"Simple Gifts" by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
"But Thanks be to God" from Handel's Messiah
"For the Beauty of the Earth" - a few different versions

Finally, there are so many talks and speeches by religious leaders about gratitude available for free download on the internet.  Last year, I uploaded these speeches and talks to my ishuffle and listened to them as I ran, drove in the car, and cleaned the house.  It really brought the spirit of gratitude into my heart!  See Day 17 for where to find these talks and speeches.

Bonnie D. Parkin taught that “[God] has commanded us to be grateful because He knows being grateful will make us happy. This is another evidence of His love.”

I'm excited to do the gratitude challenge this month and really reflect on how incredibly blessed I am.   Having an attitude of gratitude most definitely makes a person happier! Happy Gratitude Month!!!!

Monday, August 27, 2012

"I'm BIG!!!"

How do Eli and I have a preschooler already?  In a way, it seems crazy!  But in a way, it seems like just the right time for Tan to start preschool.  We've been talking about preschool for a few months now, so he was really excited to start today.  In preparation, his teacher came to visit him at our house a couple weeks ago.  He showed her all his toys and they built mormon temples together with blocks, topping them off with a miniature statue of Moroni.  So cute!  I don't know why he chose to do that with her, but it was cute to see him as a mini missionary.  Ha ha!  And then we've spent time there a few different times getting the grounds ready for school to start (weeding, mulching, spreading out mini rocks on the playground, etc).  The school is a co-op and we are the co-chairs of the buildings and grounds committee.

This morning when we were finally ready to get in the car and go to his school, I said "Ok!  Let's go to preschool!"  And he screamed "YAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!" with his arms out in front of him and his hands shaking with excitement.  So cute!  We chatted during the 15 minute drive there about his new friends and his teachers.  He let me take pictures of him in front of his sign before meeting his teacher, Lorie, on the playground.  He was a little shy at first, but he went inside with her to find his cubby.  They talked about his elmo backpack and about the little picture on his backpack of him, wes, gra gra, and papa.  I gave him a big kiss & hug and headed to the car.

The school is in an amazing location with a sledding hill, perfect for preschoolers, right behind it, and a trail through the woods next to a fun river to play in across the street.

Kenz wasn't too happy about not being able to stay and play at the school!

His favorite moment of the day was playing with legos!  That's about all I could get out of him about his day.  Ha ha!  He's excited for Thursday when he goes back!

I have to thank Amy Madsen for really making this happen for us!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I am smitten.  The past few weeks with these three people have been wonderful!

Saturday, July 28, 2012


These two are the best!  They adore each other and I adore them!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day to my daddio!  I think he is the best dad and I feel so blessed to be his daughter.  He truly personifies what Elaine S. Dalton said about father's in her General Conference address in October 2011:

You are your daughter’s guardian in more than the legal sense. Be present in your daughter’s life. Let her know your standards, your expectations, your hopes and dreams for her success and happiness. Interview her, get to know her friends and, when the time comes, her boyfriends. Help her understand the importance of education. Help her understand that the principle of modesty is a protection. Help her choose music and media that invite the Spirit and are consistent with her divine identity. Be an active part of her life. And if in her teenage years she should not come home from a date on time, go get her. She will resist and tell you that you have ruined her social life, but she will inwardly know that you love her and that you care enough to be her guardian.

Fathers, you are your daughter’s hero. My father was my hero. I used to wait on the steps of our home for him to arrive each night. He would pick me up and twirl me around and let me put my feet on top of his big shoes, and then he would dance me into the house. I loved the challenge of trying to follow his every footstep. I still do.
Did you know that your testimony has a powerful influence on your daughters? I knew my father had a testimony. I knew he loved the Lord. And because my father loved the Lord, I did too. I knew he cared about the widows because he took his vacation to paint the home of the widow who lived next door. I thought that was the greatest vacation our family ever had because he taught me how to paint! You will bless the life of your daughter for years to come if you will look for ways to spend time with her and to share your testimony with her.
I know that my dad loved the Lord as well and he always was my hero growing up!  

I know that Eli will be the same to Makenzie.  He is already an incredible father!  Kenz and Tanner adore him and he truly is the best dad for them.  Some of my favorite moments everyday are watching him interact with the kiddos.  He is fun, spontaneous, happy, adventurous, creative, loving, and so good at teaching them new and cool skills.  He is an amazing dad and I'm so grateful to be married to him!!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Marchy March!

After Eli's week off, things got back to normal in our lives.  Eli started his 3rd year of medical school, which means that he began rotating through specialties.  His first specialty has been Pediatrics and he seems to really like it.  His second day into rotations, he turned the big 3-0!  I was going to throw a big surprise party bash for him, but I couldn't keep it a secret and he chose to go swing dancing instead.  I'm totally more of the party person anyways, but it was nice to not have to plan a big party for him and he be ok with that!  We went out to lunch at the Firebird Cafe as a fam.  The weather was nice so we ate outside, which the kiddos loved.  After dinner, we played outside in the 65 degree weather - it was gorgeous, especially for mid-March!   (Last year we were buried under 2 feet of snow on his birthday!)

The kids and I got back into our normal routine of preschool, storytime, playgroups, etc.

 These were leprechauns - can't you tell??!!  Ha ha ha!  We had a preschool day about Leprechauns so Jack stayed for a leprechaun lunch afterwards.

Just like everywhere in the country East of the Rocky Mountains, we had a heatwave for a week.  Of course, we took full advantage of it!!  I went running a few times, we played at the park A LOT, we went to the beach a couple times, and we took the ferry across the lake to go to Target.  It was fun watching Kenz explore the outdoors because it was like a whole new world to her!  She hasn't been outside much since learning how to crawl so she didn't really explore when she could just sit in one place.  She pointed at every animal and tree she saw, she wasn't sure about the feeling of grass on her barefeet (it was still crunchy and brown), and she was skeptical of sand until I gave her tools to dig and then she loved it.

  This is at Lake Iroquois Beach in Williston

Tan really wanted to touch the water and it was hard to explain to him why it was so icy cold still!

Getting to the lake was an adventure!  Because the temperature had warmed up so drastically and quickly, the road to the beach was extremely muddy.  I had to scope out each muddy spot (some lasting for probably 75 feet or so), and then get a head start so that I didn't risk getting stuck in the mud.  The first time through the muddy spots, my adrenaline was pumping near the end!  On the way home, I was scared and held onto the steering wheel with an iron grip as I navigated through the mud.  I didn't get stuck, thank goodness, but that was totally luck and not really because of skill.  Ha ha!  My friend, Erin, did get stuck and had to get towed out.  It was quite an adventure for us!

I grabbed some dinner at the City Market Coop, picked up Eli from the pediatric clinic, and we headed to North Beach. I locked the keys in the car when we got there, so Eli waited for Triple AAA to come while the kids and I walked the mile to the beach since the parking lot wasn't open for the season yet.  The beach was FILLED with partying high schoolers and college students, but there was no one on the beach in front of the playground, so we had our own little experience on the beach away from the partying.  It was lots of fun!  Kenz insisted on walking back the whole way while holding Eli's hand and so many teenagers commented on how incredibly cute she is.  We agree!!  She smiled and giggled every time people walked by her!  (Our cell phones didn't take very high quality pictures here - sorry!)      

I love her face - she is so happy and proud of herself!  She has always LOVED to walk and has the biggest smile on her face the whole time.

Riding the car ferry to Plattsburgh, NY

Oh Target, how I love thee!

Tan's new carseat only fit in the front seat

Two more random pics from March:

Kenz eats SO much more than Tanner!  In fact, even when she is done with a meal, if someone else is still eating, she will go beg for their food.  Thus, we call her "our little beggar."  It would be nice if the two kids met in the middle because Tan won't ever eat and Kenz eats constantly.  Ha ha ha!

Monday, April 30, 2012

A week with daddy!

Eli studied like CRAZY for a board exam during January and February and we hardly saw him during those two months.  He took his exam on Friday, March 2 (Kenzie's 1st birthday) After his exam, he had a week off so we spent the whole week just playing together as a family!  It was heaven!  On the evening of his bar exam, we headed to Church Street to eat dinner at Panera Bread and participate in Burlington's monthly Art Walk.  

We saw some neat/beautiful items in the art and boutique stores, and had fun as we wandered from store to store.  We ended the night by visiting a bulk candy store and eating lots of treats on the way home!  

On Saturday, we played at home as a family, Eli went to help a friend paint his house, and then we met our good friends, Brian and Nicole Groves, for lunch to celebrate Eli's birthday (which was the following week).  We ate Hibachi style at Koto Japanese Steakhouse and it was super yummy!  The kids weren't so sure about the big flame at the beginning  but they did enjoy, though with uncertainty, watching our chef cook right in front of them.   At the end of the meal, I asked our chef how to say "thank you" in Japanese and he said that he was Chinese.  I wish I had known that sooner so that I could speak a little bit in Chinese with him!  (emphasis on a LITTLE bit - ha ha!  I don't remember much from my few months living in China!)

After lunch, we went to Oakledge Park to let the kids play in the sun that had been hiding from us all week.  Tan ran and ran and ran in all the open space, and Eli and I got to chat with our friends as we leisurely walked around the park.  After that, we went to my favorite grocery store, Shaw's, and while I shopped, Eli watched closely as Tan rode up and down in the 2 story elevator over and over again.

On Sunday, we went to church and fulfilled all of our church responsibilities for that day (Eli meetings, me teaching Young Women's and conducting the ward choir).  That night, we celebrated Kenzie's birthday with friends (more on that here!) by having a Ben and Jerry's ice cream party.  MMMM mmmm GOOD!

On Monday we had a lazy morning playing at home (and I played "dress up my cute baby in her new birthday clothes!").  It was just so nice to have Eli around!!  We went to a gymnastics place nearby for their open gym time where the kids had a blast running, jumping, balancing, somersaulting, scootering, foam pitting (yep, I made that up!), and climbing.  (The lighting was not so great for pictures so they all ended looking better in black and white.)  Afterwards, we went to the European Market nearby to buy some Russian Pelminis to make for dinner.

On Tuesday, we had a little photoshoot at home for Kenzie's 1st birthday (pictures later once Eli can find time to edit them!).  Following that, we headed up to Bolton (a ski resort 30 mins from us) to eat lunch slopeside and watch the "skier guys" and snowboarders as we ate.  The kids had fun playing in the snow at the bottom of the slopes!

That afternoon, the kids had a babysitter while we test drove some minivans.  That began our hunt for our new minivan!  More about that in a different post!  We had a casual dinner with our good friends, the Ellis's, that night.  

On Wednesday, we spent the afternoon test driving cars, but this time we took the kiddos.  We just took turns driving the cars and watching the kids.  Tan and Kenz were entertained for hours by climbing around the inside of our car while we were parked at dealerships.  Simple pleasures!  Oh and eating lots and lots of snacks!  We got salads at Shaw's (my fav grocery store) for dinner, which is something we do probably once a week for either lunch or dinner.  Eli and I love a big salad for a meal, and the kids have so many options of things to eat from the salad bar, with Tan's favs being croutons and carrot strips.  I helped serve the youth at their mystery dinner activity that night.  We ended the night by watching one of our favorite tv shows, Psych.  If you haven't seen it, watch it!  You'll love it!

On Thursday we drove an hour and a half north to Montreal, Canada for a one night getaway.  We walked around the medical school there, McGill University, and I felt like I was walking around Hogwarts!  Not that it was magical or anything (that would be awesome!), but it was old and castle-like. 

We were crossing the street to go back to our car, when we saw a building that really did look like a castle.  So we went to check it out and discovered that it was a hospital!  So neat!  It was updated inside, but the outside was beautiful and it is right at the base of a big hill in the middle of the city, Mont Royal.

We drove around the hill and saw more neat houses and buildings.  We wanted to go to the big park on Mont Royal, but it was cold and icy/slushy all over.  So we drove around a cemetery across the street instead.  This was the biggest cemetery I have ever seen!  There was an entire Ukrainian section, and other nationalities as well, though we didn't look closely at those.  There were many big statues, and lots of tombs built into the peak of the hill.  

On our way down Mont Royal, we stopped at an overlook and saw how big Montreal is.  The kids enjoyed feeding a super fat squirrel.

Eli and I drove around Montreal while the kids napped in the car.  We headed back into the heart of downtown and checked into our hotel, the Hyatt Regency.  We went to the swimming pool which both kids LOVED!  Tan liked floating around on giant flat foam animal-shaped rafts and Kenz splashed up a storm.  My favorite part of swimming was just being in the pool room because 2/3 of the walls were windows so it was just a beautiful, relaxing place to be.  We explored the sauna and steam room before heading back up to our rooms.  We didn't have much time for dinner so we just ate at the mall foodcourt next to our hotel.  I hopped in Momo and braved my way through the rain and unknown downtown streets to attend a session at the Montreal LDS temple.  The peace I felt the second I stepped into the temple was palpable and calming.  I had a wonderful experience there.  Eli put the kids to bed all by himself- go Eli! 
Eli is standing in the center in a red shirt

On Friday, we ate cereal for breakfast and then Eli went to the temple to do a session.  While he was gone, the kids and I walked around downtown.  It was sunny and crisp - such a gorgeous day!  We walked through Chinatown and then through the Old Quarter where there is a street that makes you feel like you are in Europe, lots of cute shops and restaurants, beautiful government buildings, and a cathedral called Notre Dame.  

I checked out of the hotel, Eli picked us up, and we went to the Biodome.  It was packed because it was Montreal's school vacation week.  But we braved the crowds and enjoyed walking through different habitats:  tropical, maple forest, antarctic, a coastal region.  Kenzie's favorite animals were the fish and she pointed and called out to them like crazy!  She also loved the little penguins that came right up to the glass the she was standing up against.  

The leaning tower on the left is the Olympic Tower from the 1976 Olympics.  The biodome is the building on the right.

 Do you see Tan and Eli through the waterfall?

We didn't know that porcupines sat in trees!

Then we went to the Insectarium and saw lots of (dead) bugs, spiders, and insects.  After that we went to the Botanical Gardens and walked through the greenhouses.  We ended up in the butterfly room where the butterflies flew all around us and one even landed on my head!  Kenz had the little pointer finger out and she was jabbering away about the butterflies the whole time!  SO cute!  Eli sat down on a bench and fell asleep (the line was moving really slow - like I said before, it was PACKED), and we had to keep moving with the crowd since I had the stroller.  I guess that when he woke up like 15 minutes later, one of his classmates was standing in line right next to him.  Ha ha!  They had a good laugh about it!  

 This tree is about 3 feet tall and at least 50 years old!

Montreal was fun!

On Saturday, Eli helped run the blood drive at our church and then we test drove cars again.  That evening, we got a babysitter and went swing dancing to celebrate his 30th birthday!  We had some friends meet us there:  Dahle's, Fellows, Groves.  Eli and I both love to dance but we don't ever go.  We had a blast! 

It was such a fun week filled with lots of adventures, time with family and friends, and yummy food!