Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Compassion Experience

On Friday night, we went to The Compassion Experience.
The website didn't provide a lot of information, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but it claimed that the event would allow us to experience life in a third-world country.
I was intrigued and thought it would be a good opportunity for the kids.

It turned out to involve a lot more soliciting money through their sponsorship program than I had anticipated,
but it was still really eye-opening and I'm glad we went!

We entered a small, tent-like structure and were each given an iPod touch and directed to go up some stairs to the first room and press play. From there, we went through a series of rooms and listened to a recording from a real person named Kiki from the Philippines. The recording was really well done with background sounds to bring things to life. It told her story, from her devastating beginning, through her childhood with an alcoholic father and desperate mother, to her involvement with the Compassion program, to her adult life including college and physical therapy school. Each room depicted a different area of her life, like the hospital where she was born, her home, the marketplace, and her school.

There were two different "experiences" available in the structure, and the boys really wanted to see the other one as well. The workers kindly let us go through again, this time to experience the life of a boy named Jey, who lived in one of the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.
(Amazingly, my sister was actually IN Nairobi for work on Friday!)
His childhood was completely heartbreaking. His mother sold "moonshine," which was filthy water mixed with chemicals such as battery acid to give it a "kick" in order to scratch out a tiny amount of money. The name of the drink means "kill me quickly," because it often did just that.
When the police caught his mother, he turned to a life of theft to survive and was imprisoned when he was just 9 years old. He shared a prison cell with many other children.
Eventually, he was able to get out of jail and became involved with the Compassion program.
He went on to become a musician who was well-known throughout the country.

The boys were sobered by the stories.
It is challenging for me to know what to do with knowledge.
In some ways, I feel knowledge is useless if it does not drive one to act in constructive ways.
I struggle to come back to my own comfortable, happy life when I know that so many in the world are suffering beyond my level of comprehension.
I become more anxious about using resources to do fun and unnecessary things and I critically evaluate my decisions more, which leads to a lot of hard questions.

But awareness does open doors and helps us as we seek opportunities to act.
It is my prayer that I will know how I can best use my life to bless others.

Monday, April 29, 2019


We had various conflicts throughout the week with meetings, Scouts, and other activities,
so we decided to celebrate Benson's birthday on Saturday.
We kept things pretty simple with a few presents and some cake,
but he was excited and so darling to watch!

 My mom sent him a little hedgehog with little pegs that go into holes all over its back.
Benson was so intent on getting the pegs in the holes and would give us the cheesiest smiles when he would get one in!
The older boys call the hedgehog an "ouch mouse," which Talmage apparently saw on a T-Shirt.
They think they're hilarious, and I do, too!

We gave him pretty simple gifts like a ball, a toothbrush, and a new fork and spoon.
His main gift from us was a little backpack full of musical instruments (from Amazon).
All the boys were super into it!
Benson loves music, so I fully expected him to shake the maracas and bells and dance,
but the instruments actually had really good sound quality and all the boys had a great time playing!

After presents, we let him dig into his cake.
Sam is convinced that our boys have been very "selective" eaters beginning at age 1 due to introducing too much sugar too early, but I was set on having the traditional smash cake.
So I found a recipe that used sweet potato and avocado and real maple syrup and whipped up a semi-healthful cake.
It actually tasted a lot better than I expected, but Benson HATES sticky things.
He spent most of the time trying to shake it off his hands and nibbled on it just enough to get some good pictures.
When he began putting gobs of frosting into his ear, we knew it was time for the tub.


That last picture shows off his gremlin smile pretty well.
He has gotten into giving us that part cheesy/part evil smile lately and I bust up laughing almost every time! That nose scrunch just gets me!

Happy ONE YEAR, Benson Boy!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Kindergarten Round-Up

Yesterday was Kindergarten Round-Up.
Where has the time gone?!?
Lincoln is SO ready for Kindergarten.
It is always a little bittersweet to send kids off to school, but this time around feels more sweet than bitter, mainly because I can see that he is SO READY.
Here's hoping his teacher is ready for him! He races through chapter books, constantly recites scientific facts about animals, and loves me to make up multiplication story problems for him to solve!
I hope he gets a teacher that will embrace his boundless enthusiasm as the asset it is.
Can't you see it just gushing out of those pictures??

It was the sweetest thing to see Wesley show Lincoln the ropes at the school.
Since Wesley was in Kindergarten here last year, he introduced him to teachers, showed him the caterpillar farm and the treasure chest and the reading corner and the play-doh supplies, and confidently strolled around the school explaining things left and right.
It made my heart so happy.

He is a lucky boy to have two great brothers watching out for him at school,
and we are lucky people to have this bundle of energy in our family.
Here we go, Class of 2032!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Year of Light

Shortly after we learned we were expecting Benson, a darkness descended upon me and life took on a bleakness I had never before experienced.
All throughout my pregnancy, I struggled to see light and to feel hope.
I knew it was probably a result of hormonal changes but wondered if there was more to it than that.
In addition to the darkness, I was filled with fear that the despair would not go away with the birth of my baby and that I would remain in a state of inexplicable gloom for the remainder of my life.

When Benson was born, the switch that had been flipped with my pregnancy was blessedly flipped back to normal. I spent the first few days of his life primarily cuddling him in bed, healing both my body and my spirit.

I have struggled to understand and process the complex array of thoughts and feelings that came from that experience, and I will not even begin to attempt to give words to them right now.
But suffice it to say that I learned that my perspective of the world is so very limited.
My eyes were opened to a walk of life I had never seen, and one I had previously prayed to better understand.

Benson, you brought into my life a great deal more depth and understanding.
You helped me recognize how little I see.
Your development initially filled me with darkness and then, overnight, cast it away with light.
You left me a little more somber but also more wise.
Your existence has most assuredly changed me eternally for the better.

You see the world with wonder, curiosity, determination, and innocence, and you open my eyes to that which surrounds me.
Happy birthday, baby boy!
You shine so brightly.
I couldn't love you more!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Temple Open House

We had a great visit with Sam's sister and her family
and a happy Easter Sunday.
Yesterday was catch-up day (aka about 27 loads of laundry day...).
We've almost got our feet back under us, and we are ready to knock out the last month of school!

(This photo was on display at the open house. I loved it so I snapped a picture of the photo with my phone.)

The past couple of weeks have been filled with activities surrounding the open house of the Memphis Tennessee temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I felt so blessed to be able to participate in the open house as a volunteer in a couple of different ways. It was amazing to be able to see and learn about a little of the behind-the-scenes events that took place.
Originally there was no open house scheduled but then, just weeks before the open house would occur, it was announced that there would be an open house.
This meant that construction time was reduced by more than a month.
Weather was not cooperating as the rain poured down, day after day.
A week before the open house was to begin, the area surrounding the temple was still dirt.
Members of the surrounding area were asked to fast and pray that the temple would be completed on time and that the weather would allow the necessary work to move forward.

Due to inclement weather and other issues elsewhere, temple construction crews in other locations ended up suddenly being unable to work and they were sent to Memphis. Essentially overnight, the crew grew from about 50 people to over 200.
Concrete was poured and landscaping was completed and everything came together beautifully!
It is truly a magnificent building and the hearts of many were touched.
Civic leaders commented that they had never felt the way they had felt within the temple before, and one former mayor even expressed his desire to come back regularly.

I'm so grateful for the temple and for the blessings it brings into our lives!
You can see the inside of the Memphis, Tennessee temple here,
or view a detailed video with explanations of the Rome, Italy temple here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Hammock

When I was about to meet Sam's family for the first time,
I was a little intimidated.
He had told me about his six siblings and the line-up of wow-worthy traits was pretty long:
-astrophysicist (who now works for Google)
-geologist saving the coastline of the Eastern United States
-Harvard graduate
-Washington, DC social worker and marriage therapist
-world traveler
-multiple graduate degrees
-fluent in several languages
-missionary in Guatemala

They were so accomplished...what would they think of me, the 19-year-old baby who was about to marry their brother??
Thankfully, they all welcomed me with open arms and it turned out that they were super-nice as well as super-accomplished!
We are excited to spend the next few days with one of his sisters and her family. 
This year for Christmas she sent us a hammock! I set it up inside with the intention of moving it outdoors when I was finished but...it was cold outside
and the hammock was so fun
and the boys were loving it
and I realized it was a great way to help with the Winter stir-craziness
and we had an open area in the house
and so we left it indoors.

The kids have had SO much fun swinging in the hammock for the past few months!
They have all kinds of tricks they can do with it,
they make Benson belly-laugh SO HARD when they swing him in it,
and on the rare occasion Sam or I get to use it we're pretty happy campers, too!
It is seriously comfy.
Plus, it all collapses down into a little carrying bag so we can take it camping or whatever and literally be happy campers. So fun!

I think my favorite thing, though, is to see boys absorbed in books in it.
It's a really frequent sight.

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