Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

What a year it has been!

 In 2012:

That's what we did this year! And we can't wait for 2013. :)

Making the resolutions for my Happiness Project

Hi everyone! Okay, remember how yesterday I told you that I'll be doing a happiness project this year? Well, I'm still pumped up about it and today I want to explain what exactly that means.

In a nutshell: a happiness project is a project to boost your personal happiness. (Surprise!)

You identify the things in your life that make you happy and the things that make you unhappy, and then you do the things that make you happy and stop doing the things that make you unhappy.

So simple! And yet so brilliant.

A writer named Gretchen Rubin thought of the idea several years ago while riding home on a city bus. She created a plan, did her own year-long happiness project, really realized that you can work on making yourself happier, and wrote a book about the whole experience. It's a great and inspiring read.

In "A Note to the Reader" at the beginning of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin explains: "A 'happiness project' is an approach to changing your life. First is the preparation stage, when you identify what brings you joy, satisfaction, and engagement, and also what brings you guilt, anger, boredom, and remorse. Second is the making of resolutions, when you identify the concrete actions that will boost your happiness. Then comes the interesting part: keeping your resolutions."

Obviously, it's essential that you keep your resolutions. Gretchen emphasizes several times in her book that a key part of keeping her resolutions was reviewing them daily and keeping track of them with her "Resolutions Chart." I'm planning on making a chart tomorrow on Excel, printing it up, and putting it on my wall where I can see it.

If you'd like to do a happiness project, either big or small, I think that'd be awesome. I agree with what Gretchen Rubin says at the end of The Happiness Project: "Each person's happiness project will be unique, but it's the rare person who can't benefit from starting one." If you do decide to start one, either with your New Year's Resolutions or sometime later in the year, let me know! We can be like running buddies, except resolutions buddies.

When making my resolutions for this next year, I used Rubin's very helpful tips at the end of The Happiness Project.  She says: "To decide what resolutions to make...answer the following questions:

- What makes you feel good? What activities do you find fun, satisfying, or energizing?
- What makes you feel bad? What are sources of anger, irritation, boredom, frustration, or anxiety in
  your life?
- Is there any way in which you don't feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change your
  job, city, family situation, or other circumstances? Are you living up to your expectations for
  yourself? Does your life reflect your values?
- Do you have sources of an atmosphere of growth? In what elements of your life do you find
  progress, learning, challenge, improvement, and increased mastery?"

She continues: "Answering these questions provides a good road map to the kind of changes you might consider. Once you've decided what areas need work, identify specific, measurable resolutions that will allow you to evaluate whether you're making progress."

Using Gretchen's questions, I made a list of the things that make me happy and make me unhappy. After I had all my answers, I was able to sort them into twelve categories (one for each month of the year) and make concrete resolutions to follow for each month.

My monthly themes for the coming year are: Spirituality, Health, Attitude, Books, Friendship, Appearance, Marriage, Nature, Family, Family History, and Study. Each month I'll be adding the resolutions from the previous month to the new resolutions, so that in December I'll be doing all of them. Woot!

So that's what a happiness project is! A solid, laid-out plan of making and keeping resolutions that will increase your personal happiness.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Gearing up for the New Year

You guys, I'm pumped.  2013 is right around the corner, and I think it's going to be a great year.

Usually when January 1st hits, I have the realization: "Hey! It's the New Year! I should make some resolutions. What do I want to do this year?" And I make a list and it's a good one and I'm excited to do the things that are on it. And then I forget about it, and my year passes in much the same way it always does.

But this year is different.

This year, I began thinking about my resolutions weeks ago. This year, I have a plan. This year, I have a system for keeping track of what I do every single day.

Do you remember a very long time ago when I posted about these books that I wanted to read? Well, I did read them all. It took me forever, but I did eventually post reviews of both the Beyonders series and The Kane Chronicles. But even though I read it at the same time as those other books, I still haven't posted a review of The Happiness Project. Why haven't I? Well, it's certainly not because I didn't like the book. (Sorry for the double negative.) I really liked it. There was tons of insightful stuff in there and I wanted to share it all with you - and I think that's where the problem was. I couldn't remember everything I wanted to share, so I wanted to read it again to mark it all down so I could remember, and then...Ellie was born. And I had a newborn. And we moved. And I forgot.

Buuuuuut.....the time has come! My old roommates and I, although we're now spread out across the country, have decided to start a book club. We're going to read one book a month and then discuss it with each other through Facebook. And our first book is...The Happiness Project! We thought it would be a good one to kick it off with since it can help us make goals for the new year.

For our book club, we're going to be discussing the book at the end of January, but I wanted to get a head start so I could start my own Happiness Project on January 1st. So, I reread the book over the last couple of weeks. I took lots of notes this time, marking anything I thought was particularly insightful or cool or got me thinking, so I'll have a lot to share and discuss with you over the year. And I'm so excited! I can't wait to start this project and have these goals for myself and increase my own happiness and the happiness of those around me.

If any of you would like to join us (in either our book club or in doing a Happiness Project), let me know!

Friday, December 28, 2012


Christmas was awesome! I've got to say that it's my favorite holiday (I think, in big part, because of all the fun and happy and cozy weeks leading up to it) and this year was great.

We woke up Christmas morning at the Thomas household. Michael, Shelley, and Emily stayed the night Christmas Eve, and Michael, Jason, and I were up pretty early with the baby girls (about six am). Jason made us all a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon, rolls, hashbrowns, and orange juice, which we ate when everyone was all awake about eight o'clock.

We opened presents, and the girls played with each other and their new toys. Then Jason, Ellie, and I drove James and Diana to the airport. They were taking a flight to Texas, to see Jason's sister Tiffany who was having a scheduled c-section the next day (the 26th). (They got to Texas safely, the delivery went well, and both Tiffany and her beautiful new daughter Brynn are doing great!)

After we dropped them off we went to my dad's house, where Ellie was delighted to see and play with her Grandpa. We opened more presents, assembled a couple different things, and played with more Ellie toys.

After a couple hours of hanging out and having fun, we headed over to my grandparent's house.

It was so fun to see everyone. Ellie loved playing with her (second?) cousins Jake, Brooklyn, Aubrey, and Cameron. She kept following them around, watching them intently, and imitating what they were doing.  I really loved being able to see my own cousins and catch up with them. (And play basketball with them. And fly their miniature helicopters.)
The traditional line through the kitchen to get your food.
Unwrapping presents in the living room. :)
My cousin Ashley's son Cameron, whom Ellie loved. She kept following him around and copying everything he was doing.

We hope you had a Merry Christmas, too! 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Our Christmas Eve

Hey everyone! I hope your Christmas week has been a great one for you. :) We've had a nice week that we've been able to spend together and with family.

On Christmas Eve, Ellie and I were able to hang out with my dad all morning and afternoon. Then on Christmas Eve night, Jason's family (Michael, Shelley, & Emily, Tyler & Sarah, his grandparents, his uncle Mike, his aunt Patty, and his cousin Emily) all came over and we had a Thomas family get-together. We had dinner, opened our traditional Christmas Eve pajama pants, and had a white elephant game. It was really nice to be with everybody. :)

Here are the girls taking a bath together:

And Emily and Ellie opening their pajamas:

Ellie got really excited by all the attention, and just starting walking around yelling "Aaaaahhh!" at the top of her lungs.
Emily enjoying her pajamas, Ellie yelling some more.

Here's all the girls in our pajamas, and all the boys:

Diana (Jason's mom), Ellie, Me, Emily, Shelley, Sarah, and Emily (Jason's cousin)
Jason, James (Jason's dad), Tyler, and Michael

And here's some more pictures of the general merriment:

It was a really fun night. We always love it when we get to spend time with family!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! I hope you are all enjoying happy and wonderful times with loved ones today. :)

It can be easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas with all the fanfare that follows the holiday. At its heart, the holiday is about Jesus Christ. The twelve apostles and first presidency of our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, issued this beautiful statement on Christ a few years ago:

"As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.

He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3. Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.

He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.

We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.

He rose from the grave to “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered among His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10).

Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:

“I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:3–4).

Of Him the Prophet also declared: “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” (D&C 76:22–24).

We declare in words of solemnity that His priesthood and His Church have been restored upon the earth—“built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).

We testify that He will someday return to earth. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.

We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son."

- The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I want to add my testimony to theirs that I know Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior. He has come to redeem our sins, if only we will follow him. To learn more about Jesus, check out this page or this one.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Smith Family Christmas Party

On Sunday night Jason, Ellie, and I went over to my dad's house for the annual Smith family Christmas party. It's such a great party. We do it every single year.  

 First, we all socialize and have dinner.

Some of my Smith cousins: Holly, Callie, Grant, and Shelley
I told them I was taking a "candid" picture
My dad with my cousin Brittany and her son Jake
This was a very serious discussion about casseroles.
Ellie and her Grandpa having fun

After dinner, we dress all the kids up (my cousins and I used to get dressed up when we were younger, too) and have them do the nativity while someone reads the story of Christ's birth from Luke, chapter 2.

My cousin Ashley's adorable girls
Our super organized nativity. Do you see Ellie as a wiseman? (Hint: she's wearing red and riding a "camel.")

After the nativity we do two white elephant gift exchanges: a candy exchange for the younger kids, and a silly gift exchange for all the adults. It's the best. I love the white elephant exchange; it's been my favorite part of the party since I was a little kid. Everybody brings such funny things and it's such a blast to open them all.

I love our family's annual Christmas party. It's so fun and such a great tradition that we all have together. I love this time of the year, and I love my family. :)