Sunday, May 8, 2011

Strong Women

There are many amazing women in my life who have shaped me into the mother I am- all of the good I have in me comes from them: I don't know where all the bad parenting I have comes from....As I started my list of women who have influenced me it continued to grow and grow. Once I hit the 100 women mark, I knew that this could potentially be a very, very long post. I opted to just highlight a few courageous women in my life who I want to be like and who I gather the most knowledge and examples from.

The first on the list is of course, my own amazing mother. Do you know Barbara Mann? If you do, you know she is a pretty incredible mother, wife, friend, daughter, and example. She has always had a strong testimony of being a daughter of God, and I think that makes it possible for her to be such a great mother. She has always nurtured and taught with love, kindness, and affection. She is one of those mothers who seems to do everything "right". She cooks, cleans, works, serves, listens, and devotes countless hours to her children. I love her dearly, and am so grateful for her influence in my life. Did I mention my kids are SO LUCKY to have her as a grandmother, my friends have even commented that they would like to be adopted by my parents.
My Beautiful Mother

Another one of my favorite "Mother's" has never birthed children, nor does she raise any. My sister Karyn lives in NYC- she is surrounded by friends and spends her days working long hours, and her weekends doing things I only dream of (traveling the world, going to concerts, celebrity fundraisers, The Tony's, Broadway shows, and the list goes on and on). And though she doesn't have children of her own- she has influenced families in a positive way more than most women. She has worked in the Social Services field for over a decade and is a fantastic advocate for children. I have seen her fight judges, the foster system, and drug addicted parents to protect the welfare of children. She is the best aunt my kids could ever ask for, she is so good about birthdays and holidays and will spend hours on the phone talking to Avery and getting to know her. She is kind, generous, and loves unconditionally. I am humbled that she is able to help "raise" my children and influence them.
My Kids can't get enough of Aunt Karyn. 

These days I seem to be spending more time with my closest friends than I do anybody else. Grateful does not do justice to how I feel about my friends. I can't imagine my life being as happy or fulfilling without them in it. In high school I had a pretty incredible group of friends and I couldn't image that in my 30's I would be able to find those same connections. Yet, it is not only possible, but as life gets more complicated my friends have continued to lift me physically and spiritually. My wish for all the women in my life is that they could be surrounded with the caliber of women that I am on a daily basis. I pray that I can be as good a friend as the ones I have been blessed with. I don't know what I did to deserve to have these influences in my life and I strive everyday to be worthy of these great friendships.
Madison High School "Friends" class of '95

Some of my "favorite" friends from our annual Favorite Things Party. 

The last amazing women I would like to post about is my ten year old daughter. Avery is not a mother (and if I am able to channel the mothering skills of the other women, she won't be mother for at LEAST another decade)! But she is a great example to me, and is the reason that I am a mother. She was not only my first born but my only daughter. Through her eyes I see the future of women everywhere. I have always believed that women were strong and capable, but now there is a passion in me to make sure that women are treated with respect and kindness. Avery is so tender hearted and confident at the same time. She is friendly to everybody and wants to always make sure that others are treated fairly. She is excited to grow up, but also still loves to be a little girl. Avery is one of my heroes. I am grateful that Heavenly Father has allowed me to raise his precious child during this earth life.

As I look at this list, I feel like my words come close to what my heart is feeling. I love the strong women in my life and today I reflect on one of my favorite quotes. 

Strong Women: 
May We Know Them, 
May We Be Them
May We Raise Them. 

Happy Mother's Day to all Strong Women. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The BIG Apple

I LOVE LOVE LOVE New York City. Every time I go I promise myself I will go more often. My amazing sister, Karyn, lives in NYC and she was my tour guide. Heidi Parson and I left the Pet Show in Atlantic City and we had 24 hours until we had to meet our husbands again in Pittsburgh.  We crammed as much as possible into our day. Here's what we accomplished: 

*Dinner at Vinyl with Karyn and her friend Wade. Fabulous food, fabulous company, and the funnest bathrooms I've ever been in- themes like Elvis, Dolly Pardon, and The Beatles.

*Stood in line at the Lottery to try to get Tickets for WICKED- they were sold out and we didn't win the lottery, BUT we did get tickets and saw Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Even though our seats weren't great- it was a fun show with Great costumes, and fun music! 

After the show we meet up with Paul (another of Karyn's friends) who plays the keyboard in WICKED. Though we weren't able to get tickets for that show, we did get a personal backstage tour. He showed us all the "tricks" to the show, the costumes, props, sound room, effect room, and make up room. 

*Heidi had written a letter and was able to get us tickets to Live with Regis and Kelly. We had to wait in lines to get in and go through security, but it was all worth it. The show was Awesome- Regis was gone that day, but Kelly is the cutest thing I have ever seen. She is funny, professional, and friendly. The studio was much smaller than I thought it would be, there was only about 120 people in the audience! David Arquette was one of the guests that day- he was surprisingly bad. He seemed tired and didn't ever put a complete sentence together. Mark Rutherford was the co-host that day. Next time I'm in NYC I will try to get tickets for some more talk shows like this- great experience. 

After the show we were able to spend a few hours being "tourists." We took the Stanton Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, saw the LDS Temple (didn't have time to do a session), went to Ground Zero, shopping at Canal Street, bought cupcakes from Crumbs, and ate Yummy crepes from a little restaurant in Karyn's neighborhood. My battery on my camera died, so I still need to get pictures from Karyn (however she is in Europe now), so it will be a few more days! 

Modes of transportation in 24 hours: we took a bus (broken seats, smelling, and hot) from Atlantic City to NYC, subway around the city, taxi to Karyn's apartment, bus to Penn Station, train from NYC to Pittsburgh. And of course we used our feet- I'm sure we walked more than 10 miles in one day! 

Thanks to my amazing sister and my friend Heidi for helping to make my 24 hours in NYC amazing. I am not wanting to wait another 6 years until I go back- it will be sooner! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spotz Out

I have had many friends and family asking for more information about what Kirk is doing now, how the product is going, and what the product actually is for.... so here's the post that has been in the "making" for a while.

For the past two years my dear husband has been working with his brother (Nathan) to develop a carpet cleaner specific for pet stains. After lots of time, energy, and money to make sure this product not only worked- but was the best in the industry: Spotz Out was launched!

Two weeks ago we traveled to Atlantic City (and contrary to what I believed, Atlantic City is NOT the Vegas of the East Coast) for a large Pet Trade Show. We were nervous, excited, and anxious to know how the product would be received in the industry. Turns out, people LOVED IT! We wrote several orders at the show, meet with distributors, talked with Sales Reps who want to rep our line, and secured store space for the product in many more stores. Of course, there are lots of products that promise to remove smells, stains, and dirt from the carpet- the difference with Spotz Out is that it actually does what is promised. Rather than just using a "spray and dab" technique, we use an activator that loosens the spot, a brush to scrub the stain out, and a sponge like product that sticks to the dirt/stain/soil allowing it to be vacuumed right up.

Nathan drove all the way to Atlantic City from Lincoln Nebraska so he could haul the booth set up and the product. Kirk and I flew in with Brett and Heidi Parson- Brett is a partner with Kirk and Nathan (and a friend of mine from High School) and does the marketing for the business. We had a great time with them and enjoyed many late nights and great laughs. Heidi and I were also able to sneak away for a day and go to NYC- more about that in the next post!

Since we've been home from the H&H Backer Show, Kirk has been on the phone and computer constantly (when he isn't boxing and labeling products, OR running my business while I was out of town) increasing sales and working hard to make his business lucrative. I am so proud of him and am lucky to be married to such an incredible man!

Highlight of the trip: being able to watch Kirk as his years of hard work and dedication paid off.
Lowlight: staying in THE WORST hotel ever- Atlantic City Days Inn: 1 Star.

Kirk and I on day 1 of H&H Backer show. 

Nathan Stoddard, Brett Parson, Kirk Stoddard

Want more information about the product:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Forward

I LOVE Spring! Mostly because I love that winter is over and summer is coming. I also like the time change- it means that we get to enjoy more sunlight each day- YEAH! However, it means that I can't "trick" my kids into going to bed at 6:00 p.m.....

Spring time in Idaho only lasts about 5 minutes, we usually have snow on the ground until May and then Summer is here. But, Avery was so excited to come home from church last Sunday and be able to go outside on the deck without shoes on.

We jump on the trampoline every day, I love the location of it- right off the deck so we don't even have to climb up to it. I still have some mad trampoline skills and do back flips and ariels all the time. I love to challenge the kids friends to trampoline contests. Wyatt shovels it during the winter. This year the snow was higher than the trampoline from November-March. Last Sunday it was level with the trampoline but a few days later it was a foot lower! Here's some of my favorite pics of Avery celebrating a few moments of Spring!

Seriously So Blessed

How do you express thanks, when so much has been done for you? I think the only way to really show your appreciation is to "Pay it Forward"- so, I guess I owe BIG TIME! 

Surgery is over, and I am back to "normal" life.... whatever that means. I have gone back to setting my alarm clock for 4:55 a.m., but this is the first morning that I have actually been able to get out of bed and get to the gym (of course, the gym's always easier on FUN FRIDAY). My rib is actually still sore, but I am thinking that will heal soon. The results of the biopsy came back last week- it was a benign tumor, so- I'm cancer free! Which is exactly what I thought, but it was so nice to have it confirmed. 

The support, love, and friendship that I was shown over the last two weeks has been absolutely incredible. I so much appreciated every comment, phone call, card, and meal that was given to myself and my family. I actually felt guilty about how much time others were willing to give to us. It reconfirms my commitment to serving others and makes me strive to be a better person. Here's some of what I was given last week: 
My sister flew in from NYC to take care of me and my kids while I was down. This is pretty awesome considering that when she had open heart surgery, I wouldn't even visit her in the hospital and when she came home, I yelled and screamed at her for wearing my jeans! She took the kids bowling, to the movies, to the arcade, and had a sleep-over with them. She also picked up my favorite frozen yogurt! 

Cathy Birch brought me a book that I have been waiting patiently to get my hands on. Granted, it was a book from the library, but it's the thought that counts! Cathy regularly called and checked on me and continues to ask how I'm doing. Cathy seems to have an energy that draws people to her, I want to me like her when I grow up! I am lucky for her friendship. 

My dear friend Darby drove to Rigby, Idaho to get me my FAVORITE TREAT EVER! I carmel apple from Heidi's Fudge. YUMMMMMMY

April Dummar brought the most amazing meal ever! Chicken Strips, tortilla shells, corn, lettuce, salsa, chips, and dessert! She certainly sets the bar high for bringing meals to people! I've got to step up my game. April has also helped me with using essential oils and supplements that I am in need of. 

When Nancy Hopkin called to ask what she could do I told her I was fine, but that she was welcome to come over and visit. When she got here, she wanted to do something and totally cleaned out my fridge! Can you believe that? Next time I have a friend who needs something- I'm cleaning out their fridge! 

My Best Friends Angela and Darby were willing to do anything for me while I was out. In addition to helping with the kids, returning business calls for me, and listening to my fears- they also brought me a great meal! Homemade rolls & jam, rice, and meatballs. Darby and Angela are also teaching me how to cook- they are both A.M.A.Z.I.N.G

Our neighbors (and horse friends), Tom and Dottie Toone brought some delicious Sweet and Sour Pork.  It was perfect. 

Tara Derricott brought dinner over on Sunday. I was feeling much better by this point, but she insisted on  helping for one more night. She is the Relief Society President of my ward and I don't know how she does everything she does (AND she always has a smile on her face). What an example she is of being a true follower of Christ.

Kellie Esplin also brought a meal in the night before surgery. I wasn't around, and didn't get a picture of the incredible chicken enchiladas that my family ate before I could even see them! Kellie has 5 kids under 10 and is pregnant- how is it possible that she is always doing things for other people? Last week I went over to her house to pick up Mitchell (Mit and her son Spencer are BEST FRIENDS) and she had 15 kids over to play!!!!! I want to be like her too.

Not only do I have the best friends, I also have the BEST parents. I've had friends ask several times if they can be adopted in my family. The answer is NO, I already have to share them with Karyn and Kyle- and there's not too much of an inheritance to go around. They both took time off work to do whatever I asked them to! My mom came with me when I went in for surgery and was asked all the right questions. And of course, when the news that the tumor was benign came back my dad was happiest of all (because now he doesn't have to cash in his 401k to support me). 
I never thought that I would LOVE living in Burton Idaho. It really is the most incredible place on earth. To be surrounded by such great friends and families is a blessing. I do believe that it takes a Village to Raise a Family and I am honored to be able to have this village surrounding me. 

btw: Kirk was also pretty dang incredible over the past two weeks :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Camper I am NOT

Kami (Larsen) Webster, me, and Heidi (Erikson) Arave

I live in Idaho- I see no reason to have to camp. Growing up here I only went camping once a year- that was during Young Womens Girls Camp. It was always a great experience, but I never really LOVED camping. As an adult I would rather sleep in my own bed than on the ground, I would rather order take-out than cook over a campfire, and I would rather take a warm bath than be cold and dirty.

Eleven years ago while living in Utah I was asked to be the ward camp director- that was in February 2000. I was willing to serve, but was not looking forward to camping. As soon as the bishop left the house I told Kirk that we had to get pregnant (it was the only way to avoid camping). My plan worked, and Avery was born 3 weeks early in October 2000. I still organized all the camp events, made the banners, wrote the skit, did the all the pre-certifications with the Young Womens, and planned the food.... I just didn't have to camp!

So, you can imagine my surprise when this year I was called again to serve as the Young Women's Camp Director- I am not prepared for another baby, so I willingly accepted the calling. I am actually very excited about this calling and am looking forward to serving with the Young Women in our ward (Burton 2nd ward has the most AMAZING girls and INCREDIBLE leaders). Of course, before I said yes to the calling I asked two questions:
1. Where do we sleep? GOOD NEWS- this year our stake has cabins!!!!!
2. What is our budget? When they told me the budget, I told them it was a good place to start.

If anybody has some great Young Women's camp ideas (blogs, websites, etc...) please send them along. I really don't know where to start and I eagerly looking for help!

Friday, March 4, 2011

The lump has been removed

Twenty-four hours ago I had a lump in my breast. Now I do not! I wonder if I lost weight? It was bigger than the doctor anticipated that it would be..... almost the size of a golf ball.

The worse part of the entire day was when the nurse tried to locate a vein for the IV. I have terrible veins and with my already heightened nerves I was a basket case. She tried two times and both veins collapsed. Another doctor came in and tried twice and then found one that worked. After that I was asleep. My last thoughts as I was being wheeled back into the surgery room was realizing the husband of a friend of mine was the anesthesiologist and I was a bit embarrassed that I was going to be all exposed to him.

After being woken up (what seemed like 10 seconds later) all I did was ask questions. Here's the list of the questions I asked at least 10 times each:
*Am I naked? Because I feel naked.
*What time is it? I was pretty good at asking this every 5 minutes on the dot.
*Who is picking up Mitchell from pre-school?
*Did Avery get a sack lunch brought to her? She has a field trip today.
*Did somebody get a present for the B-day party Avery is going to after school?
*Who's in the room with me?
*Is the surgery really over?
*Do I need to get dressed?
*Can I take this IV out of my arm, or can somebody else do it for me?
*Did anybody call for me?
*Do I have any emails?
*Can I eat something now?
*I really can't shower for two days?
*Can I see the lump that was removed?
Kirk thought it was funny that I could get through my list of questions in about 2 minutes and then I would start over again. So he recorded it.... maybe someday I'll post it on youtube- it was pretty funny.

I was home by mid afternoon and spent the rest of the day in bed. I should have been sleeping but a friend  had brought me a great book I had been waiting to read (Room by Emma Donaghue). So I stayed awake and finished. I am still on lortab so the pain is manageable. My sister came home from NYC to take care of me- she's been amazing. She took the kids to The Craze, Sammy's, the movies, and then to my parents for a sleep-over. My mom has also been here and spent the night. I have been extremely blessed with great friends and neighbors, I'll post more about all that later.

For Valentine's Day I had bought Kirk a ticket to the Jazz Game- my friend Angela Rydalch bought one for her husband Russell so they were able to spend their Valentine's surprise together. I take full responsibility for scheduling things on the same day- BUT last time I had surgery (tonsillectomy March 24, 2005)- I got pregnant. I wasn't taking any chances this time! So, Kirk left late afternoon and went to SLC for the game.

The most fascinating thing to me was the way that the tumor looked when I was able to see it. Somehow I imagined that it was be a small, round, gray looking thing- like a marble. Instead it looked like a piece of orange chicken! I took a picture of it- maybe I'll post it later.

The results of the biopsy will be in on Monday. I'm confident that it will be fine!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's Great To Be A Madison Bobcat

I loved High School, is that weird? I'm not saying it was perfect, but I feel like Madison High School class of '95 was about as perfect as a high school experience can be. I had such a great group of friends and I still cherish so many memories. 
Here's my Top 10 List of things I loved about being a Madison Bobcat: 

10. Taking Drivers Ed with two of my best friends and driving past the houses to all the boys we liked. I was a terrible driving (still one of my weaknesses), but we had so much fun and never stopped laughing. 
9. Powder Puff Football- all four years. Our Motto: "Pain is Temporary Pride is Forever." However, I don't think we won as many games as we would have liked. Surely, the other teams must have cheated. 
8. Pushing the car down the road when we would sneak out at night. This only happened a few times and I'm sure our parents knew. We really wouldn't go anywhere.... except the night we drove to Utah! 
7. Spying on boys- all the time. Hiding in cars, houses, under decks, etc.... 
6. Dances: however, I didn't date until I was 16 and I was one of the youngest in my graduating class so I couldn't even go to Homecoming my Jr. year. 
5. Assemblies. The planning and the participating. 
6. Making Posters- I think I missed 25% of my regular classes because I was always in the library making posters to decorate the gym/ school. 
5. Jr. Miss pageant. I didn't win, but had a great time with all 37 other girls. 
4. Sleeping over on the football field the day before the first day of school my senior year. (or was it the day before our last day of school....?) 
3. Seminary. How lucky to grow up in Rexburg and be able to participate in Religious study during the school day. Seminary certainly helped me to learn the gospel and grow my testimony. 
2. Cheerleading. So many of my memories are focused on cheerleading and I am forever grateful for the opportunity I had to cheer for a school that I was so proud to attend. (this a whole other blog post). 
1. The Friends. I literally had 20 best friends and will be eternally grateful for their influence. I am still  in awe of these amazing women I am friends with and their strong influence in my life. I hope for my daughter to have the same examples in her life.  

Mud football at the dry farms- coldest day of my life.  

Mandy and I at powder puff football. 

Helping to sand the bleachers when they were redone. 
Decorating for the Sweetheart Ball (until 2:00 a.m.), after a basketball game. 
Cheering at a football game during an Idaho winter. 
One of the MANY posters in the halls. 
105 foot bonfire- complete with road signs, pallets, posters, and Rob Frisby's old shed. 

Cheer camp in Pocatello 1994. Thunderbird Hotel- worse hotel ever! 
After the last home football game- win over Hillcrest. 
The Friends. That's a lot of denim, and bangs! 
Graduation Day.
One of our assembly routines, Homecoming 1994. 
Lagoon Trip at the end of high school, too bad it rained all day.  
These were the good old days when my toe touches looked like that.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Found a Lump

     I don't know the easiest way to share my feelings right now and a blog seems so impersonal- and quite frankly, it feels a bit uncomfortable to write about. But, I am just going to give the details and answer questions as they come. 
     Two weeks ago I discovered a lump on my breast that is about the size of a large marble. I went to the doctor last week to have it "checked out." The doctor was hoping that it was a cyst and tried to drain it.... unfortunately it was not cystic and had no fluid. 
     So- I am having surgery on March 3rd to have it removed. I am nervous and anxious about surgery, but am calm and relaxed about the way I feel about the outcome. As I've talked to friends and family the first concern I hear from others is Breast Cancer. Luckily, there is no history of cancer in my family, I am only 32, and I show no other symptoms of cancer. The doctor who I visited with the second time also put my fears at ease by letting me know that he has seen nearly 1000 breast lumps like mine, and only 2 have resulted in cancer (and the two that did have cancer were treated and cleared). 
     I have blood tests currently "in the works", and results will be back from those soon. After the surgery a biopsy will be done and then (hopefully) all fears will be put to rest. The recovery after surgery should be fairly quick- a few days of "rest" and then just a week or two of some tenderness. 
    Thank you to those of you who have given me so much support and encouragement this week. My family and friends have been amazing and I can't believe I am so blessed. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Can't Wait Until I'm 8

Wyatt has been looking forward to his 8th birthday for many years. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, children are baptized after they are eight years old. Wyatt has always been such a leader and has always had a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. He reads his Book of Mormon on a regular basis and knows that Jesus Christ died for him and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. After being interviewed by the bishop and making his own decision he was prepared to enter the waters of baptism.

The day of his baptism was a very special day indeed. Wyatt was awake before 6:00 a.m. getting on his suit. However, we couldn't find his white shirt so Kirk ran to the store to buy him a new one. As the bishop was giving last minute instruction he said that Wyatt would be baptized first.... with that being said, Wyatt was out of his seat and we heard a SPLASH. He was in the water before the curtain was even opened! I have never seen a child so excited and anxious to partake of the blessings of baptism. I hope that Wyatt always has that energy and zest for life. Kirk did a great job baptizing him and confirming upon him the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Here's the invitation we sent our for family and friends:
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Discover the Oasis

For the past five years I have been able to earn a FREE trip courtesy of Heritage Makers. I work my business all year long and love what I do, but Kirk really loves that I am able to take us on a luxury vacation every January. Just as it starts to get unbearably cold in Rexburg, we get to pack up and take off for a week in the sun. This year we cruised on the Oasis of the Seas- the largest and best cruise liner on the ocean. The cruise line was amazing: two flow-riders, a zip line, 14 restaurants, swimming pools, a carousel, a Broadway production of Hairspray, dancing, kareoke, entertainment, room service, mini golf course, a rock climbing wall, and SO MUCH MORE. And, although the "extras" are nice, by far the best part about the trip is being surrounded with friends. Here's some of the highlights:

The best part of the trip was during our first stop. It was Sunday morning and we stopped in the Bahamas on the island of Naussau. We only had a few hours on the island and a few Heritage Makers wanted to attend church. We taxied to the LDS church and were able to visit with the amazing saints in that area before the meeting started. After sacrament meeting most people went to Sunday School- Nancy Hopkin, Darby, and I wanted to go to Primary.  When we went into the room the Primary President asked if we could help with Sharing Time. We were excited to be able to work with the sweet children in that room. Nancy and Darby (who have taught music for as a career), took over teaching primary songs. The kids learned them so quickly and the leaders were so incredibly grateful for the talents of my dear friends. I on the other hand, have no musical ability: BUT I did have a bag of swedish fish in my bag so the children still loved me. As we were leaving we received hugs and kisses from the children. The church is true all over the world, and I am so grateful for the experience of that Sunday.

I grew up with Heidi (Erikson) Arave and now I am so glad to be able to work with her. Our husbands get along great and we spend a lot of time with them on the cruise. Every year Heritage Makers has a game card and points are awarded for attending shows, winning games, participating in activities, etc... Kirk decided to play hard this year. He won mini golf and won overall highest points of all the spouses. He earned $100 cash and 200 TAC points for next year. I was so proud of him!                                                                    

Our next stop was the Island of St. Thomas. It was an absolutely perfect weather day so Heidi, Darby, Nancy, Penny, and I (along with our husbands), went by bus to the beautiful beach of Megan's Bay! It was the most perfect day. Walking through the white sands, floating on a mat in the ocean, and getting a tan in the middle of January!

This year the theme for our HM costume night was TV characters. Kirk and I dressed up with Tod and Darby as Justice League heroes. We didn't even win a prize that night, but there were certainly some amazing costumes. We got stopped a few times from our rooms to the event by teenagers asking if they could have their pictures taken with us! Wonder Women was played by Tami Vega. 

As our week came to an end we were sad to be leaving by anxious to get back to our families and our "real life"..... only 11.5 more months until we are back on the Liberty Of The Seas!