annes is 9!

Nov 26, 2016 by

It feels like a gazillion years since my baby was born nine years ago. It also feels like it was such a short time ago that I held her in my arms for the first time. Surreal.

My entire life has changed since she was born. Our family has grown up. There are no more diapers, kids needing help getting dressed, bathed, or fed. There are no more board books, burping, or putting on their shoes for them. They are all big and capable and my role as mother has changed from caretaker of physical things to nurturer of the soul (and let me tell you, soul caretaking is hard for me).

I remember so clearly the fear and faith that surrounded her pregnancy and the joy that came with her birth. She looked at me with her big blue eyes and told me, “It’s gonna be okay.”

And you know what? It has been. The past nine years have been full of incredible challenges, immense mountains of love, poignantly tender miracles, and so many experiences I would never have chosen, but am grateful to have learned from.

Annesley has never had the privilege of having her papa have a schedule where he can spend lots of time with her as he has worked long hours six days a week her entire life until this fall. She doesn’t remember her mama not being sick or broken because the breast lump happened when she was 3 1/2 and right after recovering from that is when the EDS challenges began in earnest. She has had to face hard stuff and she has done it with laughter, love, and light. Annesley’s spirit is huge. She spreads joy everywhere she goes with her big smile and loving heart. We adore her to Pluto and back.

She has been totally in love with Leonardo da Vinci and inventions for months, so her birthday book this year is Cleonardo, The Little Inventor. It is a darling story of Leonardo’s granddaughter and her awesome invention.

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She is still in love with Adventures in Odyssey, fishing, hiking, music of all kinds, playing the piano, drawing, soccer, football, baseball, and Irish Step-Dancing. Her dreams are big and she has endless confidence that she can do anything she sets her mind on. She recently was able to go on a date with her papa to an Irish performance and loved every minute of it. She couldn’t help but dance in the lobby during intermission and I was told she put on the quite the show!

This morning she opened her presents – a tackle box, her first set of Prismacolors, and a doodle book. Keziah and Dallin took her ice skating this afternoon and tonight we will enjoy her ice cream cake creation – Mint Oreos, a layer of chocolate ice cream, and a layer of Breyer’s Mint Ice Cream. She has been planning it for months.

Miss Annes reminds me so much of myself. She looks just like me, has oodles of interests, and is full of zest and sass and sparkles of happiness. She has adopted most of the elderly people in our church congregation. She makes them cards, takes them presents, and loves to go over to visit. They shower her with love right back.

Here are some pics from the last year of her life.

Christmas Jammies from Grandma Dorothy – Star Wars!

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Snowboarding for Homeschool Ski Days

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Annesley is so excited to be in plays like her big sisters some day. Keziah’s January play was so fun!

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Provo City Center Temple Open House in February

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Liberty Girls Icicle Finding

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Liberty Girls Fancy Tea Party for Purim

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Going to General Conference with her dear friend, Olivia and big sister, Keziah.

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Scheel’s aquarium on the General Conference trip.

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Playing the piano and singing at the top of her lungs.

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Swim Camp 2016 – What a great way to kick off the summer!

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Rock Climbing with friends – she’s a natural!

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Smith Reunion and visiting Grandma’s and Grandpa’s graves.

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Reading The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic – our summer read-aloud. Snuggling up and reading for hours was our favorite way to spend the morning hours this summer.

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Camping, hiking, fishing and snakes galore. Oh, how she loves the outdoors!

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Daddy-Daughter Date with her papa at church.

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Fisher’s Birthday Hike at Cave Falls

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Our first ever family bike ride since I was injured in 2012. I rode my Elliptigo and everyone else was on bikes. I only made it about a mile, but let me tell you, it was glorious!

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Climbing trees at Fairy Land – our favorite spot at the greenbelt.

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End of Summer Party at Lava – speed slides are the best!

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Her new Irish Step-Dancing Class – yes, she is the youngest and smallest! She loves it! She hardly walks anymore and prefers to do one-two-threes everywhere she goes.

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Cousins holding hands at the Star Valley Temple Open House in September.

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Thanksgiving sledding with cousins, Easton and Oaklyn.

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Last hugs before we came home yesterday.

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We are so, so grateful for this girl that God sent us at what seemed like the worst time. We need her sunshine! It is so much fun being her mama! She has had a wonderful year learning and laughing and having fun. May she have many more happy, happy birthdays.

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annes is 8!

Nov 28, 2015 by

Miss Annesley is 8! This spunky, courageous, full-of-life girl turned eight on Thanksgiving Day. It doesn’t seem possible that it has been eight years since I gave birth to her in our birth pool in our bathroom. What a glorious birth it was!

Now she is a grown-up little girl – she is quite the pancake and waffle maker and she has recently learned how to make omelets all by herself. Her face is changing and looking older, the baby cheeks are gone, and her body is getting long and lanky (at least lanky for our house of short people!). Thank goodness she still likes snuggling with her papa and she still comes in to my bed every morning for a back rub and quiet morning conversation between just the two of us.

Right now her favorite books are Little House on the Prairie, Understood Betsy, and The Wingfeather Saga. She loves to listen to Adventures in Odyssey as she goes to sleep at night. Her favorite hymns are “Come, Come Ye Saints” and “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” and her favorite Primary songs are “Book of Mormon Stories, “Holding Hands Around The World”, and “I Like To Look For Rainbows.” Her favorite foods are pizza, pasta, peaches, avocados, carrots, celery, and smoothies. She says her favorite things to do are cooking, playing with Charlie, ice skating, sledding, playing the violin, piano, and recorder, math, and having fun.

Her birthday book this year is In My Heart: A Book of Feelings which is a delightful book about different feelings we have…joy, fear, anger, sadness, bravery, happiness, thankfulness…and how they impact our lives. It normalizes the experience of having feelings and I am hoping will help Annesley as she navigates her way through some pretty big feelings.

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She got her very own CD player! We are pretty big audio book fans and she has been dreaming of having her own for a long time so she doesn’t have to beg, borrow (and not steal!) from her siblings for some CD time. This is the same Sony CD/Cassette with Aux-In we gave Fisher last year for his birthday. It has held up flawlessly for the past year so we decided having another one in the home was a great idea for family peace. During the afternoons, they both like to do art projects or build Legos while they are listening to a story…but they often want different stories or want to be in different parts of the house…so having one for each of them is a fantastic idea.

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When our children turn eight, they are given a knife…IF they have proven themselves to be trustworthy and we believe they will not cause harm or threaten harm with it. It is a pretty big deal around here. As the youngest, Annesley has known getting a knife was a possibility, but not a guarantee, because she remembers when Fisher got his knife and she has heard all the stories of how Keziah did NOT get hers at the age of eight. She also knows she can have it taken away if she is mean, threatening, or does not take care of it.

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Grandma Dorothy gave her her two favorite movies, Dolphin Tale 1 and 2. Such delight! She spun and shrieked with joy. Definitely the winner of the present adoration.

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After all the Thanksgiving meal preps, eating, cleaning up, and obligatory napping, she decided sledding with her Papa was exactly what she wanted to celebrate her birthday. Fisher ended up joining them for some jaunts down the little hill at the end of our driveway.

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Later that night after all the food had digested and we had room in our bellies for more deliciousness we had her birthday cake designed by her with Moosetracks and Chocolate ice cream, Chocolate Oreos smashed on the bottom and making a big 8 on top.

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Grandma Dorothy, my brother Scott, Kez, Fisher, Papa, and Miss Annes.

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I am so grateful for this girly. She has given me so many gifts and helped me see the world in new ways. Her pregnancy and birth were powerful demonstrations of the miracles of God and how He can heal our bodies even when it is deemed impossible. Her birth helped heal my heart and showed me I was stronger than I knew. Annesley lives life with zest…she is so much like me and loving her has helped me fall in love with my little girl self. Here are some of her adventures from the past year.

Tea party with her friend, Olivia.

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Vacuum packing 120 pounds of chicken. She insisted on being the one to pick up the chicken and put it in each bag. That is the most disgusting part of the job so we happily let her take that job.

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Making butter at Liberty Girls. These girls are so much fun!

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Picking Honeycrisp Apples…yummy!

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Saying goodbye to Blythe.

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Driving away from the MTC with some big tears.

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Heap of cuteness before our “real” family photo shoot.

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And our “real” family photos.

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Hiking with her siblings and Grandpa Barry and Cherie.

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Heading out on her 8-year-old hike. Back when Blythe and Andie were turning 8, we started a tradition of Richard taking the almost 8 year old on an overnight backpacking adventure. Since our children turn 8 in August, September, and beginning of October, it seemed like a good plan. Annesley’s birthday at the end of October means she was our youngest hiker when she went on her hike back in August, but she was a trooper and hiked the whole way.

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Swinging on the rope swing at Green River Lakes with Teryn.

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Camping for 17 days at Green River Lakes…this is the life!

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With her 3rd cousin, Jared, bug lovers and dear friends.

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At the Splash Park.

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Swimming with Olivia

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One of our last days at the lake before the cold weather set in.

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Learning about different cultures through dance.

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Making Fried Rice with her protective goggles from the onion fumes…cracks me up!

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Swim Camp adventures and saying goodbye to her dear friend, Paige, before she moved to Connecticut.

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Searching for frogs at our family reunion in Wyoming.

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Playing soccer at Paula’s and Cameron’s neighborhood soccer league.

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Going to The Little Mermaid play at Hale Centre Theatre…she LOVED it!

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Playing with one her dearest friends who moved away…yippee for visits!

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Snake joy.

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Climbing trees in our backyard. She loves climbing all the way to the top and hanging out there with her thoughts.

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One of her many clay creations.

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Waiting for her dentist appointment…love this picture of her and her cute little braids.

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Reading Little House on the Prairie with her Mama. We need to finish the rest of the series!

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Happy Birthday Annesley Aliyah…may you know how much we love you and how much God loves you.

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15!

Oct 3, 2015 by

15!

Miss Keziah turned 15 today! Last night I was up at 12:36 (the time she was born) working on a family newsletter. The house was dark and quiet. Richard was snoring on the couch as he waited for our sheets to finish drying. Everyone else was sound asleep and I was able to have a few minutes to think. I don’t know if all mothers do this, but I replay my children’s births in my mind on the anniversary of those births.

I went into last night feeling a bit less than. A bit like I am not measuring up. A bit like I am not giving my family my best and even if I am, my best is simply not sufficient – chores and meals and patience are so incredibly challenging for me even when I am on top of my game, and let’s face it, I am not on top of my game. Often when I feel like that, I push people away instead of draw them in. And so, even though I hadn’t done anything very prickly, I was feeling grumpy inside.

And then midnight rolled around. And I started to remember that middle of the night labor so many years ago. And my heart welled up with so much gratitude for my Richard and our Keziah and what an amazing girlie we created together and have raised together. I thought about how he pushed on my back and whispered in my ear and filled the birth pool and was a rock of strength and courage and love. I thought about how quickly she burst upon the scene and how he stayed calm. I thought about how good he is and how blessed I am to have such a kind, patient person to be my companion and how blessed Keziah is to have him for a papa.

And I stopped working on the newsletter just moments before her birth anniversary and went upstairs to hold him in my arms at the moment our amazing girlie was born and tell him “Thank you.” For everything. And I cried.

This morning we opened her presents and laughed with this hilarious girl who is so full of vim and vigor. Yes, some of the pics are blurry…shrieking with delight does that.

Fifth book in the Michael Vey series.

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Piles of pancake mixes for birthday dream of eating pancakes for breakfast, french toast for lunch, and waffles for dinner.

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The Cinderella movie she has been dying to own.

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Her birthday book this year is What Do You Do With An Idea? You feed it and grow it and let it soar! Keziah is full of good ideas and I want her to know we believe in her ability to turn those ideas into reality.

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This girl, oh my, this girl. Kez is one of my favorite people. It is quite fortunate that I am her mother and get to spend oodles of time with her. She is full to the brim with awesomeness. She works faster and harder than anyone I know, she is smart as a whip, tough as nails, beautiful, determined, and kick-butt hilarious. We love her to Pluto and back. She has excellent taste in movies, fantastic fashion sense, works and plays equally hard, and makes me laugh hard every single day. She still doesn’t wear make-up as it takes too much time, has lovely, thick beautiful tresses, and is surrounded by gobs of friends who love her. She recently purchased a bike with some of her summer earnings…a real bike…from a bike shop…so she can work on building her leg muscles and possibly start running again next year (she has been battling a knee injury due to hypermobility for over a year) and I love watching her cycle away down our road. This girl is so full of determination and awesome sauce, it is my job to simply love her as she grows and matures into a young woman ready to take on the world. She makes her school/work/play schedule up every week and then she does it. I don’t have to remind her or nag or wake her up or anything. She goes and does what she sets out to do.

Oh, how I love her!

Here are some pics of her over the last year.

One of my favorite pictures of her…she looks so sweet and innocent.

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Being crowned Emperess in her Shakespeare class. She had to do a ton of work to earn this award – vocabulary, memorizing soliloquy, writing papers, AND reading, watching, or listening to 47 of Shakespeare’s plays and other writings.

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As Puck in her Shakespeare group’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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A big group of her friends all got ready together for the Homeschool Prom back in April. She is the one on the far right in the front in the white dress.

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After the Prom and back home with her big sister.

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Love this pic of the girls sticking their heads through an inner tube on their way to float the river on the 4th of July. The whole Suburban was full of tubes and towels and food and people and the only way I could get a pic was to have them bend way down and look through the opening. I think it is my favorite pic of these two precious girls of ours.

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Fancy hair while camping. Andie did everyone’s hair most of the days we were there and since Keziah’s is the longest and thickest, it is the most fun to work with. Behold Andie’s creation.

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Hiking with Blythe and her cousins from Tami’s clan.

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She is a pro at making silly faces. She was disgusted with something gross while we were camping.

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Swimming with her bestie, Courtney, big sister, Blythe, and dear friend, Emily.

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At Blythe’s mission farewell with lots of friends…and one of her signature silly faces.

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My dad came out for Blythe’s mission farewell and stayed for a few days to visit. He took the kids on a hike up to a really awesome cave.

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Playing Ticket To Ride for one last time before Blythe left and showing off her squeezable water bottle that she is so in love with.

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All of our kiddos being silly before our real family photo shoot.

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The real family photo of all our cute kiddos.

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Miss Keziah, Happy Birthday! Thank you for being such force for good in this world!

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miss kez turns 14

Oct 6, 2014 by

miss kez turns 14

Miss Keziah celebrated her 14th birthday in style. She is pretty tired of our simple birthday celebrations and decided to take matters into her own hands. She spent all afternoon and evening on Thursday blowing up hundreds of balloons and hanging up streamers. Then she insisted we all wake up at 12:36 to open her presents at the exact time she was born. Although we didn’t get much sleep that night it was totally worth it to make her dreams come true.

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This girl is such a delight to me. Since the night she was born, she has been passionate and full of vigor and vim. When she was little, her temper tantrums were intense and long-lasting and often more than we thought we could handle, but her fierce determination has grown into a great work ethic and we as parents just need to support her in helping her achieve her long list of goals.

She is a huge Michael Vey fan and since the new book just came out, we gave her book four, Hunt For Jade Dragon.

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She has been asking for a new CTR ring so Richard made her a giant cardboard ring.

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She also loves highlighters, so a new pack of fancy retractable ones showed up for her birthday.

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Her birthday book this year is Girls Who Choose God which is so fabulous I need to do a whole post about its awesomeness, but let me tell you, it is so, so lovely and everyone needs to buy a gazillion copies.

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Keziah is a list maker extreme – She has entire notebooks of packing lists, song lists, book lists, future dog name lists (for her 47 dogs she is going to eventually have), she even makes lists of lists – so when I saw this list making notebook at TJ Maxx a few months ago I snatched it up to save for her birthday.

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But her big present, the present she has been hoping and praying for for years is a second dog. We have told her at least a thousand times, “We are a ONE dog family!” but she has continued to beg and plead and search for another dog. Well, about a year ago, I started looking for a dog for her. It had to be a well-behaved dog that all of us, even the non-dog-lovers, could live with and not lose our minds. It had to be young enough to be Keziah’s running partner, but not so young that we would have to endure an endless puppy/toddler stage of accidents, jumping, chewing, barking, etc.

A few weeks ago we found what we hoped was the right dog. She was down in Utah so we made arrangements to pick her up on our trip down for General Conference. Last night we picked Harley up from her adorable family and made the long and squishy drive home with our new family member. Keziah has renamed her Charley (from her list of future dog names!) and is thrilled to pieces to have a dog that loves to play fetch, go running, and has plenty of energy to keep up with her.

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Sadie wasn’t so sure she liked this new addition when she met her in the middle of the night. But we worked with both of them and by this afternoon they were getting along quite well. A trip to the lake for a family walk helped Sadie accept her as one of the clan.

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Charley pulls on her leash too much for Miss Annesley’s muscle strength, but Sadie is a perfect running partner for her.

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Charley loves the water and it seems will swim for sticks all day.

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We hope this first walk together is the first of many happy days at the lake.

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Happy, happy birthday Miss Kez!

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i should’ve bought stock in puffs plus

Sep 21, 2014 by

Yes, it has been a week since I last took the time to write. Goodness gracious, this has been a bat crazy week. I went into it having not slept a wink for days. My bad dreams and the fear of having them has kept me tossing and turning for weeks now and last weekend really did me in in the no sleep department.

I have been having hair woes for a few weeks. My last haircut was back in June and my locks desperately needed some attention. My sister decided she would come to my rescue and come to visit me on Tuesday-Friday. Hallelujah! But also, CRAP. Where to put her? Which of my children’s rooms could possibly work for her and her two little ones who are busy, active toddlers? We have completely moved out of those stages and my children’s rooms are full of their creations, projects, pets, and who knows what else. There isn’t really a good place to put a mama with two little ones in my house.

My sister also brought my mom – WAHOO! But again, where on earth shall I put her to sleep? She recently had knee surgery after slipping on a log on our camping trip. She broke her tibia and tore a dime sized piece of meniscus. I knew she would need to be on the main floor and the only beds there are mine and Blythe’s. Blythe’s wasn’t an option as it is too high off the ground AND it is currently in a state of disaster. So I decided she would have to sleep in my bed with me.

Sunday night my cousin Tami decided to come and visit. I think she was worried about me and my ridiculous lack of sleep and thought she would come show me some love. Which is super lovely. But also, where would I put her? And how would I find any time to see her when my current homeschooling schedule is pretty jam-packed?

All these visitors and challenges of sleeping arrangements were a tad stressful and I had to quickly figure out some solutions. I tried my best, but in the end Mikelle’s accommodations in the sewing room were FAR less than desirable and she didn’t get much sleep while she was here. My mom didn’t go for the idea of sleeping with me and ended up sleeping on the couch. And poor Tami stayed here one night and then left to find better accommodations at Kat’s.

I ended up abandoning my schedule almost completely and spending some much needed time with all of them. I wasn’t as prepared as I normally am for Worldviews and my children didn’t have their normal homeschooling days, but we got lots of haircuts done, ate delicious food, and had some good chats.

And then I got sick. Sicker than I have been in a long, long time. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I have been sick since the gnomes visited my intestinal tract back in 2011. This sick started with allergy like symptoms and I thought that was what it was. But when I laid down Wednesday night, my lymph glands swelled to enormous sizes, my ears and head started throbbing, and my lungs filled up with fluid. I have now been in bed coughing for four days straight and SO ready to move on. The mucous coming out of me makes me gag and my nose is full of ugly, painful fever blisters that make me look like I have a pig’s snout.

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Yes, this is a picture of me in my current state of pig snoutishness. It is awful and I am more than a bit mortified to share it with you.

I currently have a small mountain of tissues (Puffs Plus, of course. They are the ONLY tissues worth anything.) on my bed and a throw up bowl nearby to spit out the mucous that keeps shooting up from my lungs. Gross, I know.

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Oh my. What I wouldn’t give to wave a magic wand and make this all go away.

Thursday was my little boy’s tenth birthday. I was not even functioning that day. I am so grateful Mikelle and my mom were here to take him to the lake and give him some lovin’ because I was out of completely out of commission. Trying to raise my head felt like heaving bowling ball in the air with fishing line and just the simple act of breathing became a task laden with serious effort. I am so, so sad to have not been able to celebrate with him and make it a special day. When I am feeling better, the two of us need to go on a belated birthday date.

I think the lack of sleep, the deep emotional pain I am in right now with these dreams, and the sadness I have been feeling over the car accident ten years ago, all contributed to my body’s takeover by bacteria. This is some nasty stuff and I hope Mikelle, her kiddos, my mom, and Tami don’t get it.

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four bucks for ainsley

May 11, 2014 by

four bucks for ainsley

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Ainsley Smedley is one of the recipients of my Four Bucks to Change The World campaign to celebrate my 40th birthday.

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Ainsley is the daughter of my cousin Jenny. Jenny is really my second cousin, but in my family we are close-knit. I grew up attending a big reunion every summer with all my second cousins and third cousins and thought of them all as first cousins. Tami, my dear, dear friend, is actually one of those second cousins as well. Jenny’s dad, Winn, was always one of my favorites – he would play with the young kids as if he were one of the gang.

Jenny and Bryan, are the parents of five children, Meili-10, Rhyan-9, Ava-7, Ainsley-5, and Hudson, born about 6 weeks before Ainsley’s diagnosis, is now 1.

Aren’t they the cutest thing ever?

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I remember the first week of Ainsley’s diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and reading this post from Bryan, her daddy. It broke my heart that within a few short days their entire world had been turned upside down. Ainsley had just turned four years old and started having bruises appear on her legs. Jenny was concerned about another issue altogether – constipation – and was able to get her into the doctor just a few days later. Those bruises started spreading and her lymph glands swelled up. The next day, the doctor called and said he was fairly certain Ainsley had leukemia and needed to be admitted to the Children’s Hospital that very day. By the end of that week, Ainsley underwent surgery, had a chemo port put in, and started on the 2 1/2 year chemotherapy regimen. Can you even imagine your world changing that much from Tuesday to Friday? Add in a 6 week old to boot and a dad in medical residency and you’ve got the makings of one rough ride.

But the Smedleys have stuck together. They have learned to love and serve and sacrifice for one another in beautiful, heartbreaking ways. Last Mother’s Day, Jenny shaved her head when Ainsley’s beautiful red locks fell out in clumps.

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They have sold Ainsley’s Army bracelets, made sure to laugh as much as possible, and have nurtured their faith in God’s miracles.

Since that fateful week in February 2013, Ainsley has been fighting with all she’s got. She is sassy, determined, and has more oomph than I can imagine. She has hollered at nurses one minute and thanked them the next. She is full of love and spice and just the right blend of humor. The Smedleys have a favorite phrase, “Cancer picked the wrong girl!” and Ainsley likes to finish it by saying “I’m gonna kick its butt!”

Cancer has changed their family forever, as it does everyone who faces it. The three girls have had to grow up quickly, baby Hudson has had a far different babyhood than his four older siblings – he’s been well-loved, but has had to get used to lots of different situations and helpers, and everyone has had to learn to survive on much less sleep. They have dealt with endless doctor’s appointments, puking children, lumbar punctures, steroid rage, five little children needing more time and attention than is humanly possible to provide when one of them has cancer, and so much more. They have also been surrounded with supportive family and friends who have walked this journey with them.

Bryan is often the one who writes the blog updates on Ainsley’s condition and I have come to love him through his words of pain, heartache, faith, and hope. Here is one of his posts and here is another one that show you the caliber of man he is.

I love this picture of Jenny and Ainsley! They both have some spunk!

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Living in the land of make-believe and dress-ups are some of Ainsley’s favorite things.

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Look at all that hair growing back in!

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I haven’t seen Jenny for years, but I have always loved her parents and siblings and now, through the sharing of their journey through cancer, I have fallen head over heels in love with her husband, children, and especially Ainsley. My little Annesley is just one year older, has nearly the same name, and has the same zest for living, passionate emotions, and courage that Ainsley is kickin’ cancer with. I often hold my Annes a little closer and snuggle her a little longer because of what her cousin Ainsley is going through.

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Let’s all chip in our $4.00 to help them with the medical bills that are piling up! If we each do a little and spread the word to help others do a little, we can make a big difference in their lives! Click here or go to youcaring.com/fourbucks to give Ainsley four bucks today.

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four bucks for dando amor

May 11, 2014 by

four bucks for dando amor

change-the-world

Dando Amor is one of the recipients in my 40th birthday celebration, Four Bucks To Change The World. Dando Amor is a local Idaho organization whose mission is giving love.

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Dando Amor is a non-profit charity dedicated to blessing the lives of children throughout the world. Serving in Ecuador, Burkina Faso, and Haiti, Dando Amor takes regular service trips to all three countries. All are invited to join the Dando Amor team, whether on a mission trip, or helping fundraise at home, volunteers are always needed.

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Dando Amor was founded by Travis and Jennie Gugelman and Lori Nordstrom. After going to Ecuador on a photography assignment and visiting many orphanages, they realized the orphanages backed by American organizations and businesses were far ahead of those that were not. The children living in orphanages who received funding from outside organizations were healthier, more educated, and happier. So they decided to make a difference by both supporting existing orphanages and starting their very own.

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In 2013 Dando Amor opened their own boys’ orphanage in Quito, Ecuador. Boys over the age of twelve are no longer allowed in the normal children’s orphanages – they are seen as a possible risk. Most of them have no where else to go and end up living on the street. Travis, Jennie, and Lori decided to open their own orphanage for these older boys. This was and continues to be a very big undertaking, but the Dando Amor Team knew the time had come and they needed to do something to keep the children they loved off the streets.

We have been donating to Dando Amor for awhile now and are incredibly impressed with how they use their funds to save both lives and hearts. This year we didn’t give Christmas presents to each other and instead sent that money to Dando Amor. Our friends, Jen, Paula, and Lisa, have all gone on Dando Amor service trips with their families and all have been changed forever by the work Dando Amor is doing to Be The Good. My daughter, Blythe, is planning on serving with OSSO or Dando Amor soon. My goal with this Four Bucks Campaign is to help Dando Amor open a girls’ orphanage for the older teenage girls this summer. They need every penny we can send them. Check them out on Facebook or on their website.

Click here to give four bucks to Dando Amor.

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four bucks for maggie

May 11, 2014 by

four bucks for maggie

change-the-world

Maggie is one of the four recipients in my Four Bucks To Change The World project to celebrate my 40th birthday. I have been dear friends with Maggie’s mom, Jodie, for the past 10 years. We have worked together in various education endeavors and spent time in each other’s homes. I love Jodie dearly. She has taught me much about living with purpose, loving deeply, and seeing infinite possibilities in the world and people around us. She is a woman of vision and determination.

Here is their story as told by Jodie:

Maggie was born in the early morning hours of summer. She would be my first, my daughter, and the culmination of a dream I had once thought might never come true. Of course, we anticipated our babymoon would be spent counting her perfect fingers and toes, kissing her little pink body and taking in the scent of that beautiful newborn head.

We were blindsided by the unexpected. When she finally arrived she was non-responsive. Our limp little girl was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). We felt like deer staring into the headlights of a MAC truck.

Maggie had brain damage. The news came quickly and horribly. Doug and I entered the NICU and saw our tiny baby wired, tubed, and needled. She lay limp, her little lips quivering, and black eyes frighteningly empty. How could this be the rolling ball of life that filled my womb just moments before?

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From her very first moments here, we committed to give Maggie everything she needed to blossom. We used music therapy, cranial sacral therapy, homeopathy, brain gym, kangaroo care and good ‘ol breast milk. Surrounded by babies that had been in the NICU for months, those dark eyes quickly filled with life and Maggie was released only three weeks after sustaining a traumatic brain injury.

It’s been seven years since the MAC truck of brain injury hit our family. Maggie’s days have been filled with trillions of hours of feeding, endless trips to therapy sessions and specialist appointments, with little brothers and sister in tow from office to office to office. AND . . . thanks to donors like you, Maggie’s days have also been filled with birthday parties, swimming, hiking, beaches, snowshoeing, horseback riding, biking, movies, playing games, friends, learning to read way earlier than her mom even knew, loving math, freedom in an electric wheelchair, finally sitting up in the bathtub, doing chores, speaking with the iPad, and calling friends on the phone.

What of the next ten years? Well, that’s just the Magic of Maggie. When you’re told that you’ll never be able to walk, or talk, or feed yourself, or have a family of your own then, really, the door of possibilities just swings wide open! Dreams, belief, determination and opportunity are the four pillars of a miracle. Maggie has the dreams, the belief, and the determination. You can help Maggie access opportunity.

Maggie’s Month was inspired to help fund the opportunities Maggie needs for her miracles to happen. The opportunities that your donation will support are:

Eagle Eyes: a program that would allow Maggie to communicate her own thoughts using the movement of her eyes. Here is a video describing this awesome communication system.

The Upsee: A standing mobility system that would allow Maggie to participate in play, work, and learning in ways that she has never been able to before. Here is a video by the mom who invented the Upsee showing how it works.

Horse (Hippo) Therapy: “In riding a horse we borrow freedom.” says Helen Thompson. Hippo therapy has a host of benefits such as strengthening core muscles, relaxing hips, and encouraging better speech therapy results, but more importantly it brings confidence, comfort and joy to the rider, not to mention sweet, sweet freedom. Watch this video to learn more about hippo therapy from the National Ability Center’s Equestrian Program. Here is a Maggie riding her horse – get a tissue, I always cry when I see her on the horse.

Anat Baniel Lessons (ABM): ABM is a method of helping the brain re-pattern and organize itself through specific movement of the body. It has helped individuals develop body function that they previously didn’t have. The sessions are called “lessons” rather than “therapy” and the participants called “students” rather than “patients” because of the learning the brain does during the session. This has become our preferred therapy because of the remarkable results we have seen in Maggie in comparison to the hours and hours we’ve spent in traditional physical and occupational therapy. Here is a video showing the effectiveness of ABM.

Through the gift of her disability, Maggie has become a teacher of love, ability and healing. She has inspired people across the globe to live better and more fully, and to reach out in small and simple ways to make the world a better and sweeter place for all through family philanthropy. She is a bridge builder, a We Sherpa.

We hope that your family will be inspired to provide Maggie the gift of opportunity as she pursues miracles in her life. But even more importantly, we hope Maggie will inspire your family to regularly take up causes of good to support. Regular people, honoring the principle of giving have, do, and will make the greatest impact for good in the world.

Click here to give four bucks to Maggie!

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four bucks for aidan

May 7, 2014 by

four bucks for aidan

change-the-world

Raise your hand to help Aidan! Then jump over to my Four Bucks To Change The World page at YouCaring.com/FourBucks and donate your $4.00 to bless Aidan’s life.

I met Aidan and his family a few years ago when God guided me into their lives. I was in the middle of doing a fundraiser for Make It For Maggie and knew in my heart there was a family in our local area we needed to support, but I didn’t know who it was. I kept praying to be guided to the family we were to reach out to and bless. Then God told me about Rachel and Lincoln Lear and their three precious boys.

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I called Rachel up out of the blue (here is her beautiful perspective on the whole thing) and told her we wanted to raise money for her boys’ needs. As shocked as she was that a complete stranger was calling her, she graciously accepted my plan to make a difference in the life of her family. We have been dear friends ever since and I count them as one of the great blessings in my life. Aidan teaches me how to love more purely and more deeply. His heart is huge and he shares his love abundantly.

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Here is what the Lear’s neighbor, Mary, said about them.

“I believe that some people need challenges and trials in their lives in order to turn their hearts toward God, and I believe that some people agreed to have certain challenges and trials in their lives and praise God through it all in order to turn other people’s heart to Him. Rachel and Lincoln Lear, along with their precious boys are just such people. Rachel and Lincoln are two of the most humble, kind, gracious and self-less people you will ever meet. They have been given tremendous mountains to climb during their journey on this earth. They have been blessed to be the parents of four beautiful boys, one of which is waiting for them in heaven.

Their other three boys have serious health problems. Aidan, the oldest, is 9 years old. He has been diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, which is the most severe form of childhood epilepsy. It is extremely rare, with one retrospective study estimating the annual incidence of LGS at 0.002%.

LGS is characterised by daily, multiple seizures of varying types, larger than any other epileptic syndrome. The wide range of seizure types can include Tonic, Myoclonic, Tonic/Clonic, atonic, atypical absence and non-convulsive status seizures. 78% of children with LGS have an underlying cause such as brain lesions, genetic abnormalities, hereditary metabolic disorders, encephilitus, meningitus, brain injury or history of infantile spasms (West Syndrome). In 22% of cases, there is no known cause. A cause has not yet been determined in Aidan’s case.

The onset of seizures usually begins between 2 and 6 years of age, with an average onset of 3 years. Over time the child will have multiple seizures that are resistant to treatment. Multiple anti-convulsant medications are usually needed to decrease the frequency of seizures, but complete seizure control is very unusual.

The combination of multiple medication side effects and multiple daily seizures take their toll on the child and causes a progressive decline in cognitive, physical and social development. The prognosis of these children is very poor. There is no known cure for LGS and a future free from seizures and normal intillectual and/or physical development is exceedingly rare, leading many Neurologists to identify Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome as a catastrophic diagnosis.

Aidan’s health has been declining over the past years and in January of this year, he contracted pnemonia in both lungs. There were many complications due to his already fragile state. He had a tracheotomy done and is now on a permanent ventilator as well as a permanent feeding tube. After over 2 months in the hospital, he was able to come home in March and is currently on hospice care.

The Lear’s second oldest, Jacen is 6 years old. He has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy with a seizure disorder. He has not been diagnosed with LGS, although his behavior and decline in health is mirroring what happened with Aidan.

Their youngest, Damon, is 4 years old. He has been diagnosed with epilepsy.

All three boys have varying degrees of developmental delays and regressions. They also all have a body temperature dysfunction, where they can’t regulate their body temperature so they cannot play outside, or over-exert themselves in anyway. The specialists haven’t fully diagnosed any of the boys, but they do say that they are dealing with a genetic disorder, that all the boys have the same thing and are just at different stages.

On top of it all, their angel mother Rachel, was diagnosed a few years ago with epilepsy herself. So she has her own migraines and seizures with all the side-effects to deal with on top of pouring every ounce of energy she has into caring for her boys and all of their needs.

Despite having more challenges than most people, the Lears are happy, grateful, giving, and positive people. They are most deserving of any and all good that could come their way. They need help buying medical equipment to improve the boys’ quality of life, medical expenses, and possible funeral expenses for dear Aidan.”

An artist painted this picture for Aidan last week – he loves it!

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I can’t paint and my body isn’t strong enough to take care of him, but I can still show my love for him by raising money for his needs. I want to make a difference in Aidan’s life and the lives of his family members. Let’s get them the equipment and funding they need so they can focus on living and loving without the huge stress of “how do we pay for this?” hanging over every decision.

Go to youcaring.com/fourbucks to donate today. Then spread this far and wide. Let’s get 40,000 four buck donations.

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