Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
We just celebrated Caleb and Caitlyn's birthday this past Sunday and it was a lot of fun. Because it was Sunday, we tried to keep it a pretty low key, well...at least we tried. As is the custom, we fed the missionaries dinner before the party started. We tried pork chops for the first time and they didn't turn out that bad...Anyway, after dinner, some of the kids friends from the ward came over to join us for some cake and a few little party things. We asked everyone to please not bring gifts because, well, our kids already have too much crap they don't play with.
Caleb and Caitlyn both have been talking about their birthdays for months now. We tried to give them both their own party, even though we were combining them. Caleb's was a Blue's Clues theme and Caitlyn's was a Barbie theme. We had the kids decorate some bags with stickers, crayons, etc, so they would have something to put the candy in from the pinata. After the mad dash for the candy (see the pics), we had the kids blow out the candles on the cupcakes and unwrap the few presents that we had for them.
Anyway, it was fun...enjoy the pics! If you click on the picture, it will open up a larger image so you can see it better.
Here I am with Ellie waiting for the craziness to begin. It is nice to actually get a picture of myself with the kids every once in a while...usually I am the man behind the camera but this time I had one of the missionaries taking the pictures.
Here are the kids decorating their bags before busting up the pinata.
More craziness at the table decorating bags. There was some real art being created!
Joshua just keeps on growing. Even though he isn't quite two yet, he keeps up with all the kids that are older than him just fine.
More action at the tables. I absolutely love the fact that we are able to have the missionaries over every Sunday. I love my kids being able to see them and be around them.
Here is Caitlyn heading to the pinatas..looking a little worn out!
I cannot believe that he is 8 years old....Happy Birthday buddy, you are such an example to me. Thank you for being you and for the joy you bring to our home through you happy spirit.
Here we are preparing to bust open the Barbie pinata. Katie sees something wrong with mercilessly beating the tar out of figures that our children watch on TV...so we get these wuzzy pull-string kind...I guess it is better to pull on Blue's tail until his guts bust open and his entrails (in the form of candy) fall out then beat him till his head falls off...
Here is Blue...with all his entrails still in his body. He has no idea what is about to happen. Poor little puppy.
If you are a dentist, this is what you call job security. I actually had to kick the missionaries out of the fray as they were stealing all the kids' candy. They said they were just getting the bubble gum, but we all know you can never trust the missionaries. :-)
I just took this picture earlier this evening. I think the kids love it when Dad is in charge of dinner. I had a clear strategy. Bring out the pool, make them play in the water and sun for 2-3 hours, order pizza that we would eat on the lawn with all plastic ware, put the kids to bed early and enjoy a quiet evening. Well, the first part went well, the pizza was good, Caleb and Caitlyn went to bed early, but Joshua didn't go to bed until 11pm! He misses his mommy, he kept asking for her (she is in Utah right now for her Grandpa's funeral).
Thursday, June 21, 2007
As I have been thinking about this unexpected event in our lives, my mind has been marinating on the role of challenges and trials in our lives and their refining and humbling role in our time here on earth. So, as is now my custom, I thought I would right some of these thoughts down on this blog.
When I was learning how to play baseball, I remember a moment of truth for me was finally figuring out how to hit a curveball. That slow, bending pitch required a certain discipline to first recognize it for what it was and then react accordingly. While I wasn't successful at hitting it all the time, I hit it more than I missed it...except for the backdoor curveball. The backdoor curveball was my kryptonite, my Achilles heel. As a right-handed hitter, this pitch was thrown by a left-handed pitcher and started outside the strike zone only to break across the outside of the plate at the last minute. It seemed that no matter how prepared I thought I was, this pitch always caught me by surprise and left me feeling frustrated as I walked back to the dugout.
Sometimes, when the unexpected bumps in life come our way, we say that life is throwing us curveballs. Being a baseball fan, I like and really appreciate this analogy. I think that life's curveballs are a vital part of our probationary time here on earth and are critical to our progress. I believe we grow the most through our trials as they stretch us and pull us to win our battle with the urges of the 'natural man'. These curveballs are often the salt of life, the things that, while not always pleasant, build character, develop self-confidence, and teach us lessons through necessary experiences. Just like my experience with baseball, when we have this understanding, I think we can learn to how to handle these types of curveball trials when they are thrown at us. We understand what they are, we can recognize them when they come, and eventually, we are able to successfully go through them more than we let them beat us.
But then...one of those freaking backdoor curveballs of life comes our way.
Sometimes they come out of the blue; sometimes they sneak up on us, and sometimes they come as a result of the accumulation of several smaller of life's curveballs we may have missed. Regardless of the reason, when we are in life's batter's box and one of these backdoor curveballs comes our way, it seems like no matter how prepared we are, it catches us completely unaware as it is aimed directly at where we are the weakest. These are the monster trials of faith that attack our testimony, that weaken our resolve, whose shockwaves resonate in all areas of our live and whose tremors can be felt by those around us. They instantly make a sunny day cloudy, a positive outlook turn pessimistic, and erode self-confidence.
For each of us, these backdoor curveballs are different as each of us have unique weaknesses. Unfortunately our older brother, Satan, knows us well. He understands what our weaknesses are and just how to throw it at us to try to bring us down. Overcoming these trials can take days, weeks, months, or even years. Personally, I believe that we all have a certain number of backdoor curveballs we will face in our life, and that we agreed to stand in the batter's box and face them before we came to this earth. We knew that we would have to face them and overcome them to achieve our ultimate goal of returning home to live with Him once again.
These trails are necessary, they expose our areas of greatest weakness with the ultimate goal of "making weak things strong" for us (Ether 12:27) and to help us understand that we are our strongest when we humble ourselves enough to keep our will in line with the Father's...how quickly we tend to forget that his goal for us, his entire purpose for us, is to bring to pass our eternal progress (Moses 1:39).
From my own experience with these backdoor curveballs of life, I believe it is critical to always have this eternal perspective if we hope to handle this type of trial. We have to understand why these types of things happen and have the faith to believe that our job isn't:
- to question why and demand an answer of Him
- to curse god and question His plan for us
- to feel like a victim
- to feel sorry for ourselves
- to spread misery to others
- to distance ourselves from the things we have always known to be right
- to use it to leverage sympathy and pity from the world
- to hide and hope it all goes away
In fact, when we do this, we are fulfilling the aims of the 'pitcher' who throws those curveballs at us. He wants us to cower, to retreat, to complain, to sour ourselves and to breed distrust in our hearts. If he can do any of these things, he knows he can get at our testimony, at our faith, and if he can get at that, he can erode our understanding of our relationship with our Father in Heaven, of our reason for being here and our ultimate goal. If he can do this, he can destroy your family, your relationship, and bring misery to you on all fronts. It doesn't happen all at once, but if you let him get his foot in the door and keep it there...this will ultimately be what happens.
When we catch ourselves in the throws of one of these trials, keep in mind why we go through them here, remember that you knew you would be going through it here before you got here, and have faith that if you stay strong in your testimony and weather the storm, in the end it will all be for your gain. When the skies get dark in these moments, remember our Savior who suffered all and take comfort in the fact that he knows you and has been through what you are feeling. He has promised you that if you stay true to what you know to be right, he will always provide a way for you to come through it (1 Nephi 3:7).
Does this make these backdoor curveballs any easier to handle? Not really, but it should bring a measure of comfort as you understand that there is a purpose, a reason for it and that in the end, it is for your good.
Thanks for reading...I know it was a lot. Grandpa, we will miss you, tell Grandma that we love her and remember that we will always love and honor you.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
I just returned home from a quick trip to Arizona where I had the chance to spend some time with Grandma Christensen. I had hoped to spend about fifteen minutes, but ended up chatting with her for almost two hours. I will never forget the stories she told me about our mom, about her challenges of raising a young family, of the challenges they had to overcome, of their successes and their struggles. She spoke with an easy pride about her family, about the people they are and who we have become.
Monday, June 11, 2007
I was in Target with my family. As usual, Caleb ran directly for the books section and, as usual, we all followed him there. Not wanting to dissuade Caleb from such a noble pursuit, I decided to let him peruse the amazing world of Wiggles and Blues Clues books and waited a few minutes. As I was waiting, I saw it. There it was, plain as day. It was almost like it was waiting for me, like it was destiny...plus, it was on clearance. I knew, right then and I there, I couldn't resist anymore. So I took it, and my world hasn't been the same since.
I am officially addicted to 24. Yeah, that's right, the TV show 24. It just finished its sixth season and I had never watched one episode before I purchased the complete first season on clearance at Target for $14. That was about a month ago, and since that time, I have gotten my online Blockbuster account setup and have stayed up late way too many nights wondering how Jack Bauer will save the day yet again.
Unfortunately, it is taking its toll on me. Now, one month later, I am almost done with Season six. I have been on a non-stop 24 binge for the whole month. It has gotten to the point where I am now having a hard time telling the difference between Jack's world and my own. I am living in two parallel universes and I go from one to the other without even realizing it...I am losing my mind! Even the sub par acting doesn't bother me anymore...I don't know what it is about that show, but it is like visual heroin! My sleeping patterns are all messed up because once I start a four episode DVD, I can't stop until I have watched all four 45 minute episodes...unfortunately, I don't start watching them until 10pm!
So, let this serve as a lesson to all you kids out there...beware of highly addictive TV dramas, even if they are on clearance at Target.
Ok, I gotta go now...I have 5 episodes left of Season six to watch before I go to bed. You may be wondering how I have Season six since it isn't on DVD yet...well, don't tell Katie, but I paid $40 to iTunes and downloaded the entire season (13 gigabytes!) last night because I couldn't stand the thought of waiting for months to get my fix. I am a sad case, but after these last episodes, there are no more until this fall...I am not looking forward to the withdrawals.
Friday, June 8, 2007
Also, in case you were wondering...the heat in New York is A LOT different than in Utah...it may be only 85 degrees, but when it is at 90% humidity it is suffocating! Of course, it doesn't help that I am fat....
BTW, I have been listening to a band called Fall Out Boy a lot lately...I just purchased the CD they released last year (I already have their most current one), and I have to tell you, these guys are freaking AWESOME! I have a hard time not just cranking the radio everytime I put on their CD. I would highly recommend checking them out...speakers beware!
Anyway, here are the pictures
Here is Ellie and Taylor (Sterling and Stephanie's little boy) sitting on our couch after Sunday dinner. They were born 11 hours apart, but Taylor definetly is the bigger of the two! Ellie is looking festive in her Memorial Day outfit that Katie got for her from Children's Place.
What would summer be without time in the pool. The kids love to have the slide go right into the pool. Truthfully, I have no idea how they don't break bones on a daily basis, but somehow, they get through it unscathed and they love it. We love it because it completely drains all their energy and they go to bed early...it is a win-win!
Joshua and Caitlyn are both so fair skinned, we have to cover them in spf 50 sunscreen...BTW, in case you hadn't noticed, Joshua is a freaking rock!
Caitlyn doing a half-gainer off the slide...Joshua is overseeing the entire performance and making sure there is ample water in the pool. Gotta love cooperation!
Summer Saturdays are full of swimming lessons and trips to the park. I am trying to find a park without any swings as they only serve to make me tired (from pushing them for an hour) and not the kids (who just scream, "Daddy, push me!"). This is one of the Saturdays when I was actually home!
Joshua and Ellie, after all the fun in the sun, getting ready to go to bed. To say that Joshua is a fan of Elmo would be an understatement...
I love this picture of Ellie. It really illustrates her personality! She is such a fun and good natured little girl (unless she is hungry).
Caleb is a great big brother. Ellie just loves him and he loves to play with her and make her smile and laugh.
Katie and the kids at a local zoo...again, another fun summer thing to do. The kids are all at the age where the zoo is a total blast for them (except for Ellie). Personally, I only go to the zoo to watch the kids get excited...
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
With all the increased attention coming towards members of the church as of late because of Mitt Romney, the way that Jet Blue CEO David Neely handled the recent problems his airline faced, and BYU sports, it has been interesting for me to see the media attention that has been given to the church.
As you would expect, a lot of it focuses on the sensational and mostly erroneous points that make for an interesting drama, but offer little in the way of accuracy or truth. While not all the reports are negative, in fact, quite a few are very positive, I found myself deciding to focus on the not so positive and feeling frustrated at the information being "reported" as facts. This information is offensive to something I hold very dear to me and so it is expected that I would feel frustrated at it. While I would imagine that most of these reports are not by people who have an axe to grind with the church, I do wish they would consider the source of their information and be more balanced in their reporting.
Last night I started to feel really frustrated about it and made it a point of prayer. As I pondered on it, I realized something that I am sure all of you already understand. That, in spite of being one of the quickest growing religions in the world (in my opinion, illustrating the truthfulness of the message), the church is relatively unknown on the world stage. There are a considerable amount of misunderstandings about us and what we believe and as more and more people become aware of us, hear about us, and investigate us, there will be more and more written about us. While we would love for all of it to be positive, this isn't realistic, so we have to take the good with the bad. The members of the church aren't perfect (hence, the reason to have a church in the first place, to perfect the saints and learn) and sometimes bad behavior from one of us reflects badly on all of us...although it is interesting to note that this doesn't seem to apply to most other religions. However, before our Savior returns more and more people will have the opportunity to hear his gospel and seek him, so the increasing visibility of the church is inevitable. Even more, it is a very positive thing! Already, I have had more opportunities to discuss our beliefs and who we are as a result of this increased attention in the media.
I believe, as time goes on, we will become a more unique and peculiar people as our beliefs and standards will grow farther and farther away from what is accepted by society in general. This is something that will be difficult, but necessary as there is less and less gray area in terms of living a life that follows the teachings of the Savior compared to the teachings found in our increasingly secularized world where there is no room for Him.
We will need to be courageous and steadfast in our faith and our standards. There will not be any room for us to try to have it both ways, we will have to decided whose side we are on and act accordingly. This isn't supposed to sound so bleak, in fact, it is full of wonderful opportunities. If you haven't read President Hinckley's message this month, it is absolutely wonderful and deals with exactly this very topic. Check it out here.
So, as the church gets more visible, we need to be ready to answer more questions that people will have about us. We need to be ready for people to misunderstand us and believe incorrect and inflammatory information and respond thoughtfully and explain the truth without getting defensive. Remember, what one person or group may report doesn't affect what we know to be true nor does it put in question the validity of those things that have been confirmed to us through the Spirit.
Wow, that was more than I anticipated writing, but it feels good to get some of my thoughts down on "paper".
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
It has been a crazy month, full of ups and downs. My young family is growing and it is amazing to watch my children come into their own personalities. Caleb will turn eight in a month and I can't believe it! Caitlyn really is becoming her own person, she has an opinion about everything and is as stubborn as her mother (in a good way of course). Joshua is a ball of energy and is reminding us what it is like to have a two-year old running around the house and getting into everything. Elizabeth is a beautiful little girl who smiles a lot when she isn't screaming :). We are anxiously looking at her development and are happy to see the progress she is making. Katie continues to amaze me. She is a great mom and a great wife and truly makes marriage easy. I don't know how she can put up with me, but I am not complaining.
Anyway, I have to get back to work...I have wasted too much time already! Mom and Dad, here are a few pictures for you to enjoy.
The kids at the Brooklyn Aquarium. We were watching the sea lion show...truthfully, it wasn't that impressive, but the kids really seemed to like it, not that you could tell from their faces!
Katie and Joshua on a ride at Coney Island. It was on the ride home from Coney Island that we got the phone call from the doctor informing us that Ellie didn't have Fragile X, so it really was a very, very good day all around!
More fun at Coney Island. The tea cups always make me think of Disneyland and dad making us feel sick from going around so fast...
If you can't tell, he is a pretty happy kid...