December 28, 2008

Christmas 2008

We had a great Christmas Holiday. Admittedly, it was a little lonely at first. But shortly after the Christmas festivities Ashley & Mike arrived and then James & Erin arrived on New Years. Hurray! I love when my home is filled with my children. We enjoyed staying up late, playing tennis, eating out, going to the movies, playing games, etc...

Jaren and Michelle were excited to find keys to a car in their Christmas stockings! It will be great to have a third car they can share. Jaren will turn 16 in Feb. Michelle will have to save her keys for a couple more years. : ) We missed Justin, Marin and this adorable little Santa elf!

We had lots of fun on our horsback ride and cowboy steak dinner with Grandma & Grandpa Litta. We were so glad that it worked out that the big kids could be here and come with us. The more the merrier! Gma & Gpa always do such fun activities. We sure appreciate all the fun things we've done over the years.

December 22, 2008

Carden 11.2009

Carden is getting so big and cute!

Beach 2006

A Family Favorite ~ The Beach!

Here we are in Newport CA. We had lots of fun with everyone. Boogieboarding, building sandcastles, swimming with dolphins, deep sea fishing, and sun tanning. Life doesn't get much better than that.

December 20, 2008

Christmas 2008 cont..

December is always full of Holiday Festivities, Christmas parties, family gatherings and... Chorus Concerts and Orchestra Recitals. Here is small sampling from Jaren & Michelle.

Christmas Concerts Cont... 2008

Christmas Concerts Continued...

I wish you could see better ~ the boys all inserted those big, ugly, rotten, fake teeth. It looked so funny. They were hilarious.

Wow! Look at her fingers go!

We are so thankful to have such wonderful and talented kids.

November 30, 2008

A Pie Per Person 11.2008

Some Thanksgiving fun...

We all headed down to the Mortensens in Tucson. It was a full & noisy house, but we ate well and had lots of fun.

We were so glad to have Ashley & Mike and James & Erin come down!!

And, as usual, I think we had a pie per person! : )


Fun times playing football...

and jumping on the tramp.

November 20, 2008

Carden 11.2009

Carden is getting so cute and big!
Justin finished his first semester of Law School. We are proud of him. He said it was TUFF, but he liked it. I'm so glad we have such smart kids.

August 09, 2008

Day 13 East Coast- Johnson Farm & Amish

East Coast Trip: Day 13

Our last day! We are sad that our trip is over.

Today we went to the John Johnson Farm. The Johnsons were new converts, a successful family and very generous. Joseph & Emma lived here for about a year. And the Johnsons graciously hosted many, many guests throughout that year. It was a busy and full house. But a house filled with love and the Spirit freely dwelt in abundance.

In the upstairs office Joseph Smith received the marvelous vision of the 3 Degrees of Heavenly Glory (D&C 76). And now we were there ~ in that very room where such important, sacred and eternal doctrine was revealed. Where our Savior and Heavenly Father appeared again to the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon.

It was also from this home that the Prophet Joseph was drug from his bed by a mob in the cold winter night, beaten, tarred & feathered and left for dead. He miraculously crawled back home and the last several hours before the sun came up was spent painfully picking the tar and feathers from his flesh. The next morning was Sunday and Joseph insisted on preaching to the Saints who gathered for Sunday worship. And so with bits of tar still clinging to his skin, bruised & bloody, with scabs and sores he stood on the porch and gave a powerful sermon on forgiveness.

And because of that horrible fateful night the Smiths baby twin boy died. It was a tender moment at the Johnson Farm as we tried to imagine all the suffering and sacrifices Joseph & Emma endured. My heart got just a glimpse of the heartache they must have surely felt on occasion.

How thankful we are for the Prophet Joseph Smith ~ for his courage and undying loyalty to the Church and to his Savior. We was willing to endure whatever the Lord needed him to do. Surely it was the enabling power of the Savior that gave him the strength to fulfill his great mission. I love this powerful testimony from the Prophet:

"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all which we give of him: That he lives!
"For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father ~That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God

That afternoon we drove to Dutch country~ Amish country. We got some yummy old fashioned, homemade root beer, candy, jams and maple syrup. Then we ate a home cooked dinner at a little restaurant. It was fun. I think they are good people and we could probably learn a thing or two from them.

We had an incredible, wonderful and amazing trip! From D.C. to Philadelphia and all kinds of inspiring American History... to the lights and crowds and smells of New York... to the sweet & sacred church history sites in New York & Ohio. Our minds have been enlightened and our hearts have been touched. We have gained a greater appreciation for our country & founding fathers & early colonists and for their courage and loyalty. And for how wonderfully and miraculously the Lord was and is involved. And our testimonies of the gospel, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon have been strengthened. We have a deepened appreciation for the early saints of the church and for their faithfulness and devotion. We better understand how blessed we are ~ beneficiaries of all those great men and women who came before us. How thankful we are for them. How thankful we are for this country and this gospel. How thankful we are for a loving, very personal and involved Savior.

This trip will forever inspire our hearts and minds.

End of Day 13 ~ End of Trip!

August 08, 2008

Day 12 East Coast-Love Kirtland!

East Coast Trip: Day 12

We love Kirtland. Many significant events in church history occurred here. There were more heavenly visitations and more revelation given in Kirtland than any other place in the early years of the church.

While still in New York the Lord told the prophet Joseph Smith

"... go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high." (D&C 38:32)

I imagine Joseph didn't completely realize the powerful and eternal significance of what was to come in Ohio.

The Newel K. Whitney Store~ the Whitney's were a wealthy family and new faithful converts to the church. Joseph & Emma lived here for a little over a year. It was here that Joseph received about 20 divine revelations. The School of the Prophets was held in a small room upstairs where many sacred events and heavenly visitations occurred. It was a very reverent place to be.

Jaren & Michelle enjoyed playing around in the Chagrin River where many of the new Kirtland saints were baptized. It made them thankful for the warm water filled baptismal font they were baptized in. It was such a beautiful area. No wonder the Saints gathered here.

The temple is also beautiful. Although our church does not own or operate the temple there is a sweet spirit there but nothing like the other church history sites. It is interesting and sad to us that the reorganized church has merged with another church and in so doing willingly sacrificed many important church doctrines and scripture.

But this temple is a sacred place. At the temple dedication, on April 3, 1836, the Savior appeared, as well as ancient prophets, restoring priesthood keys and sacred sealing power.

From Kirtland we drove south to the Morley Farm. The Smiths lived there for about 6 months and the Prophet received many revelations. It is a beautiful, peaceful and quiet place~ surely an easy place for the Lord to speak and the Prophet to listen. We walked up the path through the woods. It is like another Sacred Grove~ sacred, indeed, as Heavenly Father and the Savior appeared here also. It was here that Joseph Smith prophesied "Brethren.... you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and Kingdom than a babe upon its mother's lap. You do not comprehend it... It is only a handful of Priesthood here tonight but this church will fill North and South America ~ it will fill the world."

We reverently sat on a log at the site of the small log school house where many priesthood meetings were held and such sacred events took place. It was a humbling experience for us as we sat amongst those trees. Just as the early Saints could not comprehend the future of the Church, I am sure we do not entirely comprehend our future~ as Saints, members of His Church. I am sure we do not fully comprehend the Celestial potential and Glory within us and available to us if we live worthy. In this busy world we live in it is challenging to keep that eternal perspective. At times we may find it difficult to remember who we really are and the great blessings that are promised us if we are steadfast and faithful. That is why I love this trip! That is why I love bringing my children to all these places. Places that are sacred and powerful and remind us of our great heritage AND our great potential and destiny.

August 07, 2008

Day 11-Wow! Wet & Wild Niagara!

East Coast Trip: Day 11 Wow ~ Niagara Falls! What a fun day. What a fun and wet and wild day! We had a blast. "I have seen the falls and am all rapture and amazement!" Henry James

Our sentiments exactly.

The Maid of the Mist: an exciting boat ride to the foot of the falls. I hate to admit, but at first Jaren & Michelle weren't impressed- only because they have been to Iguazu Falls in Argentina. However, they soon discovered the thrill and beauty of Niagara.

As we approached the Falls, the river treacherously swirled about the boat, the massive water plummeted over the cliffs and the wind & spray & mist ferociously beat upon us. We were laughing hysterically as we tried to keep our blue "protective" ponchos in place. So much for that idea. We were wet!! : )

Niagara invokes a feeling of awe and a little fear. We stood right at the edge of the falls with the raging river just inches away and watched as the water plunged over the edge crashing on the rocks below.

Hey Michelle ~ what happened to the "invoked fear" I was just talking about!? Jaren didn't like this idea at all. He was tightly holding on to his little sister!

The Wind Caves Hike. This was our favorite part. We took an elevator down through the cliffs to the bottom of the falls. We wore big yellow ponchos this time and they gave us sandals to wear. "Why do we have to wear these goofy sandals?" ~ "You'll see." It was so fun. We got sopping wet in spite of our ponchos! We "hiked" along the paths, across the bridges, through the water falls, up & down the stairs screaming and laughing and getting drenched! When we got to the end the kids wanted to go again so we did. We ran back & forth, up & down through the gushing water.

What a fun and exciting day. We went to Hard Rock Cafe for dinner then headed to Kirtland Ohio.

End of Day 11.

August 06, 2008

Day 10 An Answered Prayer-Palmyra

East Coast Trip: Day 10

After spending over a week at so many incredible American History sites; where so many great events & sacrifices & miracles took place, now we were here, where we would see why those things occurred. We recognize that the Lord, did indeed, influence the course of events so that this country was established in such a way that the Gospel could be restored. And not just restored, but where it could grow and flourish.

We started our visit in Palmyra at the temple. We were able to go and do baptisms again. And again had
a special experience.
The temple workers gave us a little tour and showed us the large window inside that overlooks the Sacred Grove ~ the window that will forever be fondly referred to as the "Hinckley Window."

This is the Smith "frame" house. They moved into this home when Joseph was 17 years old. Joseph lived in this home when he received the Golden Plates. We saw the places where he often hid the plates as mobs barged into the home, turning over tables and breaking chairs insisting that "Joe give up the gold"! But the plates miraculously stayed safe and hidden.

The Sacred Grove truly is a reverent and sacred place. We found our own secluded spot, read our scriptures and shared testimonies. It was a sweet spiritual experience for us.

I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.” (Joseph Smith History 1:25)

We loved the Hill Cumorah. They have a beautiful new Visitor's Center now and like other temple Visitor Centers there is a large Christus. At the temple Visitor Centers the Christus is always surrounded by a mural, on the walls and ceiling, of the universe with stars & planets & swirling solar systems. Which is completely and appropriately perfect. But here in Palmyra the Christus is surrounded by a mural of trees, a grove of trees. It was a touching reminder that our Savior is not only the God of the universe, who created the heavens and earth and all things which are and He is all powerful and all mighty but He is also a very personal and loving God who came to this small grove of trees in upstate New York to answer the prayer of a humble 14 year old boy. He is a loving and personal God who can and will answer our prayers as well.
We read some scriptures from the Old Testament that prophecy of the Gathering of Israel and the 2nd Coming of the Messiah. I absolutely love how wonderfully and incredibly everything is
perfectly connected. It is reassuring to know that when the Lord promises to do something, He not only does it, but He does it exactly the way He said He would. I love that our Heavenly Father is indeed in charge and He does fulfill His promises!

Big, fat, juicy Burgers at the Chill & Grill for lunch and the yummiest and biggest scoops of ice cream we have ever seen for dessert!

Next, the Grandin Printshop where the first edition of the Book of Mormon was printed. We found President & Sister Pinegar there. Ed Pinegar~one of my favorite BYU professors! I just love him. It was so fun! We had an
absolutely delightful tour and visit with them. We laughed and talked about all kinds of things for a long time. He had some great basketball stories. But then he put his arm around Jaren and said "As great as basketball is, and it is great! Nothing is better than being a missionary!" Then he told us some great missionary stories. He took our address and promised Jaren he would send him a copy of his newest missionary book which arrived shortly after we got home. We could have stayed the rest of the day and just visited with them but we had to go on...

Great things occurred here, at the Peter Whitmer home. Most importantly on April 6, 1830 the church was officially organized. It was humbling to stand in that little log cabin and imagine that small gathering of Saints and to think how from such humble beginnings the church has grown into 13 million members around the world today!

How blessed we are to have been here and to feel the great spirit that permeates each of these sacred places. Our testimonies of our Savior and of the restoration of this Gospel have truly been strengthened.

End of day 10

August 05, 2008

Day 9 NYC

East Coast Trip: Day 9

Before we could leave NYC we had to visit Carnegie Deli for a deliciously Kosher bagel ~ Doug's favorite, and some scrumptious cheese cake! Mmmmmm...

Most of the day was spent driving north through New York state. I think the New York state countryside is beautiful.

Jaren & Michelle managed to get some napping in between my pointing out old red barns and black and white spotted Dutch cows. : ) Much of the eastern part of the State of New York was settled by the Dutch who brought their sturdy and productive milk cows. And they, the Dutch and the cows, are still there today.

End of Day 9

August 04, 2008

Day 8 Lady Liberty & A Phantom

East Coast Trip: Day 8

The Statue of Liberty

One thing that has been very different on this trip compared to our last trip is all the security. In DC and New York all the tourist sites have very tight security; police officers in full gear, long lines, check points, metal detectors, x-ray scanners, etc... And now, no more climbing inside the Statue of Liberty.
But she still stands tall, proud and majestic overlooking New York Harbor eagerly welcoming all to our great country.

We took the Ferry out to the Island to visit the great Lady Liberty. She was a gift to the United States from the French to commemorate our 1876 Centennial Celebration.

She stands, both literally and figuratively, as a beacon of hope and freedom from oppression.

Our view of Manhattan from Liberty Island.

The biggest change on this trip compared to our last: The New York City Skyline

James, Justin & Ashley 1999

On the Ferry ride back to Manhattan

Jaren & Michelle in 2008

Same Ferry ride...

this time a stark difference with the obvious absence of the Twin Towers.

From the Statue of Liberty we walked around South Sea Port Village, Wall Street, took the Subway to Grand Central Station...

the NBA Store ~ Jaren loved it.

And the United Nations.

That night another Broadway show: A classic ~ one of my absolute all time favorites: The Phantom of the Opera! It was supurb.

I love the old yet beautiful and ornate theaters in New York and the talent is incredible.

Phantom is the longest running show in the history of Broadway. I have seen it many times and still, every time, it makes me cry.

This was our last night in New York. The kids can't imagine how people actually live here and put up with all the noise & crowds & smells. I told them they just get used to it. Jaren said "I could never get used to it." I told him he better be careful, if he said too much he would jinx himself and would get called to Beijing or Hong Kong on his mission: someplace even more crowded, noisy, & dirty with the smells of raw fish like Chinatown! :)

In spite of the crowds, noise and smells ~ or actually, maybe because of them and all they represent; the different cultures, different foods, different people... I will always love New York.

End of Day 8