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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40

May 7, 2014 by

40

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Today is my 40th birthday! For the past five years, I have been looking forward to climbing my favorite mountain to celebrate this momentous occasion, but now that my body is suffering with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, it is not going to happen anytime soon.

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Maybe someday when my body is stronger and more capable of doing hard things, I will be able to climb my mountain. But for now, I have to come up with a new way of celebrating. I like to do big things – I thought of having a big party with 40 of my dearest friends. For a teensy moment I thought about what presents I wanted. I finally decided instead of a party or presents, I wanted to do something BIG for the world – something that would actually make a difference in the lives of those around me. I want to climb a tall mountain of goodness.

I have chosen my four favorite families/organizations that need help and am searching for 40,000 (yes, you heard me right, I am shooting for at least 40,000 people) to donate $4.00 to one of these causes. We can do this! We can bless the world with $160,000 for my birthday.

See, I know there is goodness in this world. As my body has fallen apart the past two years, I have been surrounded by love and service and sacrifice and it is time I spread that love far and wide. My donations to any of these four causes, will not make a big difference, but together, we can make a huge impact. We can change the world by joining my $4.00 with your $4.00 and spreading this post all over Facebook, contacting news organizations, and emailing our friends and family members to join with us in being the good in the world.

My Four Favorite Causes

Let’s make this go viral! I am convinced that through many small actions, we can make a HUGE impact. $4.00 is small, almost everyone reading this can donate $4.00, so do it now, and let’s BE THE GOOD!

Go to youcaring.com/fourbucks to donate today and then please, please, please, share this far and wide.

Does anyone have an in with a news organization? Have a big following on twitter? Please help me get this project out to the world. I don’t know 40,000, but we can reach that many if you will help me.

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oh, how he loves us

Dec 15, 2013 by

God is good. He is so, so, kind. He knows exactly what we need and how He can bless each of His children.

I know this. I know it through and through and yet, even though I know it, He still teaches me this beautiful lesson.

Case in point – the story of the clogging shoes.

My Annesley has decided she desperately wants to take a clogging class at iFamily next semester. She has her whole heart set on it and is so stinkin’ cute about it. Well, she needs some clogging shoes to take the class so I told her we would keep our eyes peeled for some shoes…and then I promptly put that on the bottom of my in-my-head-to-do list because I have till the end of January to find them.

Yesterday we went into town and had just a few short minutes to run errands in between other commitments. I decided to go to a store clear on the east side of town to check out their clearance book and toy section for a Christmas service project we have going on, but while I was driving there, I had the thought I should really drive clear over to the west side of town and go to DI, the local thrift store. I had nothing in mind that I needed at DI and really didn’t want to go over there, but I finally decided to go over there and have a quick visit to DI and then go to the library.

We walked in and I noticed the shoe section. I thought, “well, I should look for some new church shoes for Fisher who is growing like a weed right now.” I had no luck on that search, but I did find some clogging shoes! There was one pair in the whole store and they fit Annesley perfectly. They cost a whole $2.00 and have already brought my girlie bucketfuls of joy.

This kind of stuff happens to me all the time. Seriously, all the time. And I am always amazed when it does. It is kind of like God is flashing a bright pink neon sign in my face saying “See, I know what you need. See, I love you. See, you can trust me. See, I will take care of you.”

Today I say, “God, I know you will. I love you. I am learning to trust you. Thank you for teaching me again and again and again.”

I have no idea how much a new pair of clogging shoes is, but I’m sure we could have found enough pennies to buy her some if we couldn’t find some used ones. We are not destitute, we just have a small budget. This situation was not life or death in any way. And yet, He still solved it for me. He worked out all the details and gave us this beautiful blessing, not because everything depended on her getting clogging shoes, but because of His beautiful tender mercy and His desire for me to know that He is in the details of my life.

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growing up

Dec 5, 2013 by

I forgot to mention my little Annes celebrated a birthday last week while we were at Grandma’s. She has jumped from 5 1/2 (what she has been telling everyone for months when they say she is five – “NO! I am five AND A HALF!) to the ripe ol’ age of six.

Six.

Oh my goodness.

We opened presents that were hidden all over Grandma’s house. Just wait till you see the blue-haired crocheted doll I found for her! She is darling as can be and Miss Annes loves her and has named her Mar-a-dell. I actually have no idea how to spell it, but that is how she says it…with emphasis on each syllable. She designed a mint chocolate ice cream cake with a giant six made out of Oreos on top.

She has been such a silly kissy, cuddly, snugglebug lately. In the past few weeks, as her warm body has lain against mine, I have been brought to tears quite a few times. My little girl is growing right up and I almost can’t bear it. It looks like I will never be a mother of a five year old again. Or a four year old. Or a three year old. Or a two year old. Or a one year old. Or a tiny precious newborn.

I want to savor these moments that are slipping past me ever so quickly – these long days of reading and teaching and cooking and cleaning and repeating myself five gazillion times. I remember the day Blythe was born in crystal clear clarity. And now I hardly see the girl. She is so busy with her studies and music lessons and performances. It is wonderful to see her blossom and grow into herself as a young adult, but boy howdy, is it hard.

And not just because I know our time with her under our roof is coming to an end…but because I can see what the future holds. All of my little babies are going to grow up and get busy and move on. There isn’t any way around it.

It IS a beautiful thing. Mothering these children has been the work I have dedicated myself to for the past eighteen years. My goal has always been to raise happy, capable, emotionally healthy adults who love God and serve His children.

I just thought it would last longer. I thought I would have babies forever and ever.

And now there are no more babies. And no more toddlers. And no more preschoolers. Good grief, I have graduated out of three whole phases of mothering! I really didn’t see it coming. I somehow thought I would always have a baby on my back, a little one in my bed, and a toddler asserting his independence each moment of the day.

But those days are gone. And it is good, it really is, but it is also bittersweet. I can’t help but cry every time I am shopping for clothes for my children and realize I don’t need to go down the baby and toddler aisles. Sometimes I hold up a little romper and hold it close to my heart trying to remember what my children felt like when they fit into that size.

My little one has been six for over a week and she seems so much older. Bigger. More capable.

All I can do is let her fly and become the person God created her to be.

And cry.

And cheer her on.

p.s. Someday I will find my camera so you can see these little cuties. I lost it the night of the one-inch undoing and am desperately hoping it turns up somewhere!

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grl 2013

Aug 16, 2013 by

grl 2013

Snuggling with grandma in the hammock is the perfect way to spend an afternoon, don’t you think?

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Sixteen days of being completely cut off from phones, computers, stores, and busy-ness was exactly what I needed. I was able to lounge around in my magic zero-gravity chair, read six whole books, do a lot of thinking, pondering, and planning, and spend oodles of time with my husband, children, siblings, and mama.

Heaven.

My mom and I and three of my children went up five days before anyone else and we had a grand time relaxing, eating simple meals, letting the kids play in the lake all they wanted, and getting an afternoon rain shower every day. At night we all slept together in my tent because my mom’s tent poles didn’t make it to camp with her.

Here is our dishwashing station.

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And here is my tent on one of the less messy days.

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On one of the first few days we had quite a bit of rain around dinner time. We all hunkered down in the tent hoping it would stop soon and we could go out and make dinner, but it never stopped and our stomachs were growling, so we covered up in all our rain gear and made dinner. I didn’t want to get my boot wet, so I put Richard’s huge rainpants on and tried to make an umbrella over the boot with the pant legs…it was more than hilarious looking.

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Fisher all bundled up for dinner.

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Finally the rain stopped and he took his hood off.

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Then the family started arriving, a different group almost every day. Scott on Wednesday, Richard and Keziah on Thursday, Mikelle and Logan’s family on Friday, Andie on Saturday, Cameron and Nicole on Monday, Stephen on Tuesday, and Leonard on Thursday. Thursday was the only day we were all there at the same time so we rushed down to the lake to take some pictures before a rain storm hit. There were several cameras snapping at the same time, so we are rarely all looking at the same camera, but we still got some fun shots. The last time we were all together was Summer 2009, so this is a pretty rare event and needed to be recorded for posterity, ha-ha.

All the grandkids in our fancy pyramid pose. It took approximately fifty pictures to get one where most of them were looking at the same camera. The poor girls on the bottom were dying by the time we took the little ones off.

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Trying to get Annesley to stop posing for our family shot.

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Fisher looking backwards while the rest of us look at the camera…completely typical.

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Finally one where we are all facing the camera and looking somewhat normal.

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Then we thought we would get creative…hilarity ensued.

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The Three Muskateers

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I don’t know if I was falling over or what, but we sure look like we are living through an earthquake. Good thing my little sis is super-buff and could hold me up.

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Then we decided to get a bit crazy with Mom’s picture of herself with her children. Why not toss her up in the air against her loudly voiced protestations…I mean there are five of us, we can do what we want, right?

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Mom and Grandpa Leonard with all the grandchildren.

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And finally all seventeen of us together.

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My Aunt Carol’s family and my Aunt Diane (Camille’s mom) came with cousins to play with, but we didn’t get many pictures of them.

My little family went on an overnighter backpacking trip, sans Annesley and I. I think they went 10-12 miles. Fisher walked the whole way and didn’t complain a bit. He and his papa are already planning their next backpacking adventure. Here they are setting out.

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Love this boy…he doesn’t stop looking at me until he is past the tree. He felt so bad to leave me at camp far away from their fun.

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One final wave.

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Making a loaf of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches is pretty much a daily camping occurence.

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Of course, we spent a lot of time kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and jumping off the bridge. We had kayak races around the island which Scott won with a time of 54 seconds. Logan came in second with 56 sec., Mikelle third with 1:03, and me fourth with 1:05. My legs may not work, but my arms still have a little umph left in them.

Nicole learning how to kayak.

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Cameron and Nicole kayaking out to the lake.

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Annesley loves to ride on the back of the kayaks…so far she hasn’t fallen off!

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Here is cousin Marcus in one of our kayaks.

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Blythe, Annesley, and Fisher out on the lake.

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Annesley jumped off the bridge all by herself this year! Usually someone holds her over the edge and drops her, but this year she mustered up her courage and jumped herself! Cameron, Eve, Samuel, Marcus, Scott, Logan, Caleb, Blythe, Andie, and Keziah all jumped as well. It is an annual feat of courage that we have to keep doing over and over again to prove we are still made of toughness. Unfortunately I didn’t jump. I promised Richard I wouldn’t and I kept my promise even though I really, really wanted to break it.

Keziah jumping.

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Cameron’s splash into the river.

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I have no idea what my mama is thinking. It seems like every year she does some pull-up-the-shorts-to-the-sternum-pose and makes us all laugh our heads off. I think this year was the best yet.

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We played lots of card games, laid in the sun (I have my darkest tan of my life!), and read and read and read. Here is Miss Oaklyn snuggled up in her daddy’s jacket watching us play cards.

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Lots of fish were caught and returned to the river and a few were brought back to camp to be eaten devoured. One night Annesley skunked everyone and she was proud as punch to be the only one to catch one.

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Mikelle and Andie kept up their workout schedule and ran around the campground. Here is Mikelle at the top of the hill.

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One day Scott planned a big adventure and took everyone to Clear Creek Meadow. Some of the group kayaked across the lake, others canoed, and the ones that were left hiked the three-ish miles to get to the tranquil waters of Clear Creek. They fished, floated the very lazy river, found hundreds of caterpillars, got attacked by a rash & swelling inducing plant, and had a great time. I stayed at camp and finished Perelandra.

Setting out.

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Here is Fisher heading out for the adventure with his bug jar in case he found anything interesting. Luckily Annesley discovered the huge pile of caterpillars and he was able to fill his jar up. They are now in their cocoons and getting ready to emerge as butterflies.

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My little brother, Cameron, came clear out from Wisconsin, and he brought his sweetie, Nicole, with him.

Cam and Mom.

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Cameron and Nicole

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They brought their Pudgie Pie Makers with them (I had never heard of these things, but boy, howdy do they transform egg sandwiches into something divine!) and spent a whole evening make the whole group Campfire Calzones, Roasted Chicken Salad sandwiches, and all sorts of other crazy sandwich combinations. I definitely need to get me one of them so I can eat the magical egg sandwiches all year long.

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Cooking in the fire, two sandwiches at a time, for our big group took awhile, but it was sure delicious.

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My Campfire Calzone (named by Andie after she thought Pizza Pie Thingy was too boring).

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Mikelle and her two babes.

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Oaklyn has us all wrapped around her little finger. She is so, so busy. So, so cute. She makes me grin with delight.

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Easton is a hoot. He has a huge vocabulary and loves to share his thoughts on everything. He wants to be big and do everything the big kids do. Here he is trying to break the wood in half (notice the headlamp?).

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He and Annes get along pretty well, but sometimes they drive each other crazy and need some alone time. Luckily, we caught a few pictures of them having a ball together.

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One day all the girls washed their hair and we had a braiding party.

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A few days later, the curls were lovely.

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Foot washing is even more important than hair washing. Here is Annesley having one of her many dirt removal sessions while Blythe and Andie are disgusted with how dirty the water is from Annesley’s – they refuse to put their feet in it.

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Annes and Grandma soaking the layers of filth away.

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I made it through six books while my family went on their adventures, but thanks to my mom delivering me right down to the water’s edge, I was able to go on several adventures myself. My mom and I went kayaking one day and then Mikelle and I went a few days later looking for my hikers to come home. I love kayaking. I love how easily they glide through the water, how strong I feel as I paddle, and how I can stop and let the waves take me where they want me while I relax and stare at my mountains. I think I am ready for own kayak that I don’t have to share with my children. If the lower half of my body is going to continue being so gimpy, I can at least use my upper half to see the world.

Reading in my chair – I think this is book five.

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Fisher learned how to play Spades and now he wants to play it everyday. He even won one game by a landslide – taking nine tricks on one of the rounds helped him out quite bit.

We celebrated Blythe and Andie’s 17th birthdays with cakes, presents, memories of their lives, and lots of fun.

The girls’ Charlie’s Angels pose.

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Blythe’s cake complete with baby Snickers.

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Eating the cake…yes, they are goofballs.

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Searching all over camp for her hidden presents. Is there one in the wood pile?

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Richard was in charge of presents this year because I couldn’t go do any shopping with my broken foot. He thought throwing knives were the perfect idea…super cheap AND our girlie loves all sorts of weapons. They were put to good use by Blythe and all the guys of the camp.

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More knives.

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Andie just got home from a trip to Nepal. She brought these adorable gloves home for Blythe. I can see Blythe copying the design and whipping up a pile of them for her friends.

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Camping wrapping paper = a hat, rubberband, and a flower for decoration.

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Andie’s cake complete with oreos.

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Andie requested a special piece of Blythe’s artwork. Andie told her what she wanted on it and Blythe spent hours making it for her. Here it is all completed with the girls shouting “I made this for you!” – a line from some movie? Song? Something? I don’t know what exactly, but they giggled hysterically every time they said it.

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Rubik’s Cube and freeze-dried ice cream – who could want for anything more?

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New nightgowns from grandma.

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I can’t believe I have a child this old. I feel like life is slipping away. Soon she will be off on her own, living her own life. This could be the last summer she is with us at Green River Lakes for awhile and in some ways that cuts my heart in two. But I am trying to keep my big girl panties on and be strong and convince myself that my job as a mother is to prepare her for a healthy, fulfilling life outside my home, not to keep my little family together in this stage that is so lovely.

The girls in their matching “I will not moose-behave” birthday shirts from Grandma.

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See these rocks? They are magical.

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When we were little, all the cousins would play on these rocks for hours. Jumping and racing from one to the other. There are six rocks, perfect for playing tag, having a picnic lunch, or holding secret club meetings. We had so much fun on these rocks as we were growing up. This year Annesley mastered jumping from the frog to the pig (yes, they all have names!).

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Andie and Grandma on their tube mountain.

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Kez and Fisher hate their pictures being taken – I have oodles (really, hundreds and hundreds) of shots just like this where they are hiding, closing their eyes, being absolutely silly, covering their faces, etc. Maybe if I post them on here they will start opening their eyes and smile more often for the camera?

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This girl, however, loves the camera. She is usually posing in some dramatic move or another, but here are some with her arms down and her camera smile on.

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And with poses.

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Sunbathing?

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Filthy, tired Sadie.

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With Andie’s help I made it out to the rock in the river…wahoo for me!

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Annesley and Easton loved climbing to the top of the big rock in Aunt Carol’s campspot.

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Annesley insisted on a picture of her alone on the big rock.

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About a week into our trip, several fires stared from lightening strikes. This one was on Osburn Mountain, right above our camp. We wondered if we would be evacuated, but it all worked out with the winds and we were able to stay and watch 500 of our favorite acres be burned.

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It was smokey and sad and sometimes frustrating, but by the time we left, it looked much better. We couldn’t see the backside of the mountain to know how bad it is over there, but I am hoping it isn’t too terrible.

I know many of you worry about me going on these adventures, but trust me, I need it. I need to spend time in my mountains each summer so I can reconnect with the deepest parts of who I am, so I can remember my grandparents and the lessons they taught me, so I can feel my grandmother’s deep love for me and try to see myself as she saw me. I need to swim in the waters I have been swimming in my whole life. I need to see my mountains. I need this each time every year…and especially this year. I may look like I am holding it together pretty well, but some days, this morning included, I fall completely apart. I am sometimes scared that my body will never heal and that I will go from one injury to another. I don’t know how to keep on functioning in all my many roles as wife, mother, teacher, friend, disciple, citizen, board member, mentor, and chauffeur when my body is so unpredictable. I don’t even remember what it feels like to be out-of-pain. But this time in my mountains rejuvenates me in a way I can’t explain. It give me strength and hope and calm.

I love this place.

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some birthday presents

May 20, 2013 by

some birthday presents

My birthday was almost two weeks ago, but I am so behind on life I am just barely getting around to uploading pictures of my birthday presents. My mama gave me two adorable yellow signs to brighten my days. I cleaned my room and made a place for them to hang so I can see them the minute I wake up each morning.

Isn’t this what we all need? A little encouragement to be awesome?

My nickname when I was little was Sunshine and I love this sign she made me oh, so much. It takes me back to a less complicated time when my parents both doted on me, my body moved like the wind, I was a superstar on all my sports teams, and I was surrounded by a community of people that loved me.

Jennifer gave me this darling pillow she sewed up for me. Through this long journey of hip injury and subsequent pain, she has reminded me again and again that “Calm seas do not strong sailors make” and she made matching pillows for Jessica and I to remember we are being tried and tested, but in the end, if we depend on Christ, we will be stronger.

Kat gave me a huge bag of chocolates. Sadly enough, I ate them all in a few short days and had no time to take pictures!

Richard gave me some darling stoneware that matches our Fiesta Dishes, but I am taking it back so I can get some cycling shoes. Someday soon I will be riding my bike! Right? Right?

Jessica and Ames brought over Gator Bites and Moose Tracks – two of my favorite foods. Sadly, no picture of those either! We consumed them way too fast.

When I saw this sign, I knew I needed it and I gave it to myself. Brad Wilcox’s talk His Grace Is Sufficient changed my life when I heard it a few years back. Living in His grace is a way of life and one I am trying cultivate more and more in my life.

Now, my mom’s birthday is coming up in two short days and I haven’t figured out a thing for her!

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thirty-nine

May 7, 2013 by

Today I am thirty-nine years old. That feels like an awfully long time to be alive on this earth, but I still feel like a little girl in so many ways that it must not be that long at all. Or maybe I will always feel like a little girl even when I am kickin’ 100. I fully plan to live to be 100, you know.

I love my birthday. I love the cards and presents and hugs and joy and newness of a new year. I love celebrating and wish I was at the park right now with five gazillion of my friends.

Instead I am having a quiet day at home. Jess and Amy came over and brought me birthday lunch – Gator Bites and Moosetracks, my favorites! Now I am taking care of Sadie and washing dishes and mopping the floor. My children are all gone. Blythe is applying make-up on the actors for tonight’s debut of Two Gentlemen of Verona put on by iFamily’s iShakespeare Live acting troupe. Keziah is on her way home from the other side of the state where she has been visiting cousins the past few days. Fisher and Annes are at the lake (sans water) with friends playing in the dirt and looking for critters.

I am at the stage of my life where daily sacrifice is necessary for my home to run well. Sometimes it feels good, sometimes it is so normal I don’t even notice I am sacrificing – I have been doing it for so long it has become part of who I am, and sometimes it bothers me. My new goal for this year is to sacrifice for my family more often and more joyfully. I want to not begrudge them their joys. They have been taking care of me for what seems like forever and it is time I take care of them more completely and with more happiness while I do so.

My birthday gift to myself (I fully believe in giving myself a birthday present!) is to do 39 things to make a difference in the world. One of those 39 things will be to donate to Jessica’s birthday gift to herself – a project to provide clean drinking water. Another one will be a big act of service for my sweetie and each of our children. That leaves 33 acts of kindness for me to do for the greater world. I am not going to be my crazy self and try to get them all done today. I am giving myself the whole month of May to do these 39 things.

Want to join me? I would love to hear about your 39 things.

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