Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Every baby deserves to wake up with a crib full of balloons. This little girl had no idea why mommy and daddy were so excited, but it sure made her excited!

This last year has been so special and yet so challenging. Being a parent is so rewarding and yet half the time I have no idea what we are doing. I feel like once we would learn how to respond to one situation, she would move on to something new.

I made her a cake which she had zero interest in besides squeezing the frosting between her fingers. She preferred an otter pop but only sucked on it for a few minutes. My odd child ha.. She has not inherited my sweet tooth!

My Dearest Lydia,

Happy Birthday sweet Lydia! This past year has been a year of growth and more joy than I ever thought possible. You have been a ray of sunshine to your daddy and me constantly throughout this year.

It is amazing to think that the little girl I held in my arms a year ago is so grown and so beautiful. You amaze me with your trust and curiosity in this world. You love to explore and check everything out. 

We've entered the toddler years more than ever-this month you twisted an ankle which landed us in the urgency care. You split your lip falling down the stairs which was your first real blood, and you have gotten so sick that you've had diarrhea for days. (Going on 5 days today). Through it all you still remain a little positive influence on your daddy and me. 

You love being around people-older kids especially. You think they are sooo funny whenever they do anything-including just looking at you. You have a big bright smile that you give easily. And you are amazing at stealing hearts. 

You sleep 12 hours a night. You take 2 naps a day that are roughly 2 hours each though the last nap is getting shorter and I could see us cutting it out in the near future. You usually eat anything and everything and love your vegetables. You used to love bananas but absolutely refuse to eat one since about 2 weeks ago now. 

You love to have something in your hand at all times-whether that is your puzzle piece of a number 1, a hot wheel car, or a piece of paper you have found-something is always in that fist. You love to chase the cat around and pull on her tail but dogs are your favorite. Whenever you hear one bark you usually try to respond with "uh uh". You can say "uh oh", "hi","mama","dada","kitty", and baba for bottle. You also can say bye as well. You don't always say them with their meaning but you sometimes get it right. 

You still love to sleep on your stomach at night and during naps, but you can usually fall asleep in your car seat just fine and even give us some great snores. You have discovered what your voice can do and will scream every now and then-sometimes with a whine in there and it drives daddy crazy. 

You are speedy at the stairs and if the gate isn't up then you are usually climbing them and hoping we won't catch you-or maybe you are hoping we will chase you since you love to be chased. The silly thing is, whenever we chase you, you will turn around and run right back to us.

Baby girl, as I have thought long and hard about what I want you to know and remember from this life, my mind has been overflowing with emotions. I have adored this first year with you. That first day with you I was amazed that I was holding such a beautiful infant in my arms, but the truth is, I had no idea what I was doing or what the next year would be like.

I want you to always remember that you are a beautiful daughter of a Heavenly Father and Mother. And that you are also the daughter of Brian and Anna Larson. You are of noble birthright and a divine heritage. I hope you come to really understand what it means to be our daughter.

I want you to always remember the testimony that your family has of this gospel and to seek your own. Come to know for yourself about our Savior Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice for you as well as his love. I hope you'll learn and understand your part and purpose in the Plan of Happiness.

I want you to always remember your love for life that I have seen this first year. You enjoy and love the little things. Happiness can be found every day and in every step we take if we but look for it and open our hearts to it. You've taught me that. I hope you'll take a page from your own book and have joy in this journey.

I want you to always remember to learn and seek knowledge. You are curious about the world and the workings of every day things. Don't lose that curiosity and instead let it be a drive to learn all you can and seek the best education.

I want you to always remember how to comfort, uplift, and love others as I have seen you do through your instant acceptance and love for anyone anywhere. You seem to understand that it doesn't matter what someone looks like or acts like-you love them unconditionally.

I want you to always remember that you are beautiful. The beauty inside you is far more important than the beauty the world feels we should be. Your inner beauty will reflect in all areas of your life. Be the little beauty that I see daily.

I want you to always remember that you are loved. No matter how many goofy disagreements and craziness that happens throughout life, I never ever, ever, EVER want you to forget that you are loved.

Happy 1st Birthday love bug.

]  Mommy 
   & Daddy

You were born on your Grandma Larson's birthday. You two share a very special bond already. I hope you will take after your grandmothers and all the great women in your life. You are surrounded by wonderful examples of righteous women and I hope you will always look up to them and take after them.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Carnival of Life

Growing up one of my favorite mutual activities at church was Standard’s night. It was usually because it was a fun event that I walked away learning a lot about the church’s standards for the youth and why it was important for me to use them in my life.

When we moved to Chicago and I was called as Young Women president, I knew this was something I wanted to have for the youth in my ward. After talking with my bishop and my counselors we decided to have it be a Tri-ward activity where we combined with 2 other wards in our building. This added a lot of needed numbers to the activity but also added the complication of communicating and involving a lot more people.

My counselor Jess had an idea from her youth that had really hit home to her and after sharing her idea… Carnival of Life was born.

The idea was this: As leaders we were to hype up this huge upcoming activity and start a few months in advance. We wanted the kids to make it a priority to be there. We wouldn’t tell them what we were doing, just that they didn’t want to miss it.

Everyone involved was told to not speak to any of the youth about it so as to have the desired spiritual effect and lessons learned.

Carnival invitations and posters were printed and distributed. Parents were reminded and we got the kids talking and excited.

On the night of September 16 (Which also happened to by my 24th birthday) the youth gathered in the foyer at the church. They stood in line and were each given a Ziploc bag with 20 tickets. When they walked into the gym, it was set up as a carnival.

We had booths for food such as hot dogs, nachos, funnel cakes, lemonade, etc.

We had booths for games such as balloon popping, donut on a string, face painting, cake walks, etc.




We had a selfie booth with props as well.

And there were prizes.. Lots of awesome prizes.. From Xboxes, cameras, games, movies, music.. All of the prizes were displayed on the stage in the gym where everyone could see them.

In addition to the game booths which all cost a certain number of tickets, there were spiritual booths that were run by the missionaries in our wards. At these booths the youth could learn about different standards and pass of scripture mastery, etc. At these booths they could earn tickets. But only at these booths.

We let the youth play around for about 45 minutes. They were allowed to do whatever they wanted.. play games, eat what they wished, etc. 

We then had the lights go out and the sliding doors to the chapel open. The kids were to stop playing games, put down their food and line up and walk up to 3 tables where the bishops of the 3 wards sat. Each youth would hand the bishop their tickets to be counted.

All prizes were forfeited before entering the chapel and the number of tickets each youth had determined where they would sit in the chapel. The pews were divided into sections, Celestial, Terrestial and Telestial. The youth were assigned to a section of pews depending on the number of tickets they had – the more you had the higher the kingdom. Typically it went the more church activities you did, the more tickets you had and the higher kingdom you achieved.

Usually the kids who only do the church activities to get tickets to use on games and food end up in the lower kingdoms. 

Once everyone had passed from the carnival into the chapel, we had our Stake President speak about the importance of the choices we make in our lives and how that affects our eternal outcome. 

During the carnival we had assigned a man to act as Satan. He was to tempt the kids to spend their tickets on the games and save up for prizes. (This was Adam's role on the top left)

But we also had another man assigned to act as a prophet. He was given extra tickets to hand out as he saw fit and encourage the kids to learn about different standards. (This was Gary's job, bottom far right)

We revealed these men’s roles in the evening and things really started clicking for some of the youth. Some were very upset when they realized they didn’t get to keep their prizes but the purpose of the evening really came to light after the Stake President spoke.

Our choices are important and they help determine our future. President Thomas S. Monson said, “May we ever choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.” Our goal is Celestial glory and our choices will determine whether or not we get there.

Alma 39: 14 “Seek not after riches nor the vain things of this world; for behold, you cannot carry them with you.”

Matthew 19-21 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

It was an incredible activity and the spirit was so strong I feel like we could have sliced off a piece to take home with us. (Hopefully most of us did)

But most of all. I hope we all learned--even those volunteering-- how important our choices in this life are and that we need to do our best to make the right ones.

This last quote from President Monson, “As we contemplate the decisions we make in our lives each day—whether to make this choice or that choice—if we choose Christ, we will have made the correct choice.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

To the First Years

Each August a fresh wave of excited and anxious medical and podiatry students move into our area. 

As I was playing with my daughter at a splash pad, a new student's wife asked me if I had any advice to the incoming medical student families.

At the time I was caught off guard and probably laughed my way through a silly response, but when I got home I couldn’t stop thinking about the question. In fact, in the days since that playgroup I have had many thoughts swirl through my mind.

To the medical student and family:

Congrats! You have made it into medical school. You. Are. Here. In the first few weeks you will be pushed, stretched, and stressed and wondering if this truly is what you want to do.

The answer is yes. And the solution is hang in there.

You thought you were great at studying and time managing in your undergrad, but medical school is going to teach you a whole new way to do things.

You thought going to class would be simple-but sometimes the teachers have thick accents. Then mix that with Latin medical terms and you will feel like you are in a different country.

You thought being a doctor would be great pay. If you are in it for the money--go somewhere else. 

Your new cologne will be formaldehyde-and your house will smell like it too. You will have to set yourself a "bedtime" because there is always more to do and study than can be done in one day. 

As a student adjusts to the time and effort put in to this part of one’s education, the spouse will sit on the side lines and wonder how they can help-because they truly want to help and make themselves useful. She'll apply to jobs all over, she'll clean the house 3 times in one hour, and she'll watch a lot of TV while glancing anxiously at her phone for a text saying “I’m on my way home”

This, my people, is my advice for surviving medical school:

1. Make time for God. This is and should be number one.  If you aren’t a religious person then now is the time to start. 

I watched as many students would go the opposite route and become “too busy” for church and God. The person they are really hurting is themselves. 

Who better to help you know and remember what you are learning then the all-knowing teacher?

I heard people say many times that they would have time for religion after medical school. There is never a time that you need religion more! If it’s medical school now, it’ll be intern year later, then the start of the a new career, etc.

There is never enough “time” for anything. Religion is not something you do if you have the time, it’s what we have been given time to do.

2. Family matters. And I mean it. 

Make time for your family and make sure they know when that time is. Whether that is coming home for lunch for a quick 45 minutes just to kiss your wife, scarf a sandwich and wrestle the baby. It’s worth it. 

If that means that you are done studying every night by 9 pm and spend an hour before bedtime on a quick walk with the spouse or snuggling on the couch snacking on buttered popcorn. Make it matter.

3. No study Sundays. Say what? You read that right. No studying on Sundays. 

This is something we started from week one of medical school. Was it hard to do? Yes. Was it worth it? Heck to the yes. 

This piece of advice helped to combine #1 and #2. By not studying Sundays it meant that Sunday was open for worship and it was also open for family time. Brian knew that no matter what was going on in school-even if he had a test Monday morning- he would have to be completely ready by Saturday night or get up early Monday and review. 

I have felt the blessings pour upon us from this seemingly simple rule. If I didn’t see Brian all week I knew that I had Sunday to look forward to-to go on a walk together and get my alone time in. We never went to church alone, always together as a family.

4. Manage your time. This is huge. It's about prioritizing what is most important. You can still live your life and do things that are important to you.

Say you study 6 hours at a time. How much of that time is actually devoted to study? Do you take a break every so often? What do you do in that break? Did you browse Facebook? Fantasyland? Buzzfeed? How much time did you waste on those?

If you have set apart time to study make sure that, that is exactly what you are doing-studying. 

And when you take a break-because we all know it's needed every so often. Put a limit on it, 10 or 15 minutes. We watched too many students get on Facebook or Buzzfeed for a break and next thing they knew 30 minutes had passed, then 45.. and so forth. 

You will have time for the things you love if you manage your time well.

5. Take turns with your spouse planning date nights. Take a 15 minute break from studying and plan a date night with your spouse. Rekindle the fire in your relationship. 

We often would joke that Medical School was the other woman in our relationship. Don’t let her get all the attention. Make sure the right woman is getting the right attention.

6. Your job is to worry about what YOU need to do to succeed. Do NOT worry about what everyone else is doing. 

I repeat: Do. Not. Worry. About. Anyone. But. YOU! 

Each student is smart. They wouldn't be here if they weren't. But you are too. Remember that you are part of this same elite group of medical students and you deserve to be here as much as the others.

Comparing will steal you of the joy you will have in your personal successes. Do the best you can do. It will be enough.

To the Spouse:

1. Encourage, encourage and encourage some more. Even when you don’t want to.

2. Keep yourself busy. Before having a baby, I worked 7 am to 7 pm some days just to stay busy like the hubby.

Join a book club or learn a new skill. This keeps you busy and learning. 

Sometimes Brian would study at home and I would drag a pillow to wherever he was studying and camp out on the ground with a good book. 

At least we were close in proximity. It made it easier.

3. Make dinner-even if he doesn’t show up-left overs make great lunches.

4. Get yourself ready for the day. Especially on the weekends when the hubby is studying. You feel better when you feel clean and ready.

5. Find a support group and stick together. Meet other medical student’s spouses, church friends, or neighbors and get together-often!

It's great to have family at home cheering you on from the sidelines and praying for you, but life and medical school get ten times better when there are friends nearby to help and rely on. 

The best way to have friends is to be a friend right? That means getting out of the comfort zone and inviting people over for dinner or games every once in a while. 

In the beginning, we rarely had a Sunday where we weren't feeding some new couple or family.

The first year of medical school the wives of the students would get together the night before the test when the husbands were all studying and we'd each bring a pot luck item to share. Then we'd pack up the food and take it to the husbands so they'd have some nutritious and delicious goodness to fill their stomachs while they filled also their brains.

6. Don’t wait around. If you want to do something, do it. 

This one was my hardest. Out of everyone that I want to spend time with, I want to do everything with Brian. I want to have the memories of doing something with him. 

In the beginning I wouldn’t go to the museums and events if Brian couldn’t make it. But then… it meant that we didn’t do anything because Brian could never really make it. After a while it made me become a hermit and that just wasn’t working either. 

Not waiting around means that even though you want to go to ice skating with your hubby or pick apples together, sometimes you just have to go by yourself and understand that they can’t make it.

It means packing up the baby and leaving to visit family-alone because there is no "vacation days" from medical school. You still have to live your life while they are living theirs.

Medical school is sacrifice.

And being married to a medical student means even more sacrifice.

It means waiting. It tests your patience, when you are waiting in bed at 11 pm just to hear the car door shut outside and know that he is home.. finally. It means that some birthdays go without gifts because food is more important. It means some anniversaries are celebrated months later because it fell on test day. It means learning to live on loans and pushing away pride to get government help and not buying that shirt even though it'd look cute, and it also means a lot of time alone.

It means getting over yourself and your loneliness and getting out to do things. You will make many sacrifices in your years of medical school-not only monetarily, but emotionally as well. 

You will see many of your high school and undergrad friends living it up as you are peering at them from behind a large and boring medical book. 

You will miss events, funerals, and family vacations that are really important to you and watch Instagram and Facebook for the updates from family on what you are missing.

It will be harder and it will be easier than you think. At times you'll breeze through it and at other times you will be brought to your knees. 

But it's worth it. You can do this. Stay strong.

] Anna