annesley turns 14!

Nov 26, 2021 by

Happy 14th to Annesley! Such a fun day with presents this morning, then I was able to take Esther and Annes to lunch and ice skating. Then we got home to a big surprise – my mama showed up and totally filled all our hearts with JOY! Then cheesecake and games with the whole gang tonight.

This girl has been such a giant ray of sunshine in our lives and we are so grateful she is part of our family. She loves learning, liberty, acting, music, science, inventions, camping, kayaking, laughing, aerial silks, rock climbing, arm wrestling (and winning the boys), snowboarding, and most of all, spending time with her family.

We love her SO much!

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expiration dates

Feb 22, 2020 by

Annesley holding some half-n-half: Mom, is this good? I can’t tell.

Me: What does it smell like? What does the date say?

Annesley: It says April 14, but I don’t know what year.

Me, dying laughing: We may not be totally up to snuff on our kitchen maintenance, but there is no way we would have half-n-half in our fridge if it expired last April!

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annesley’s big heart

May 2, 2019 by

I’ve been sick this week with fever, chills, and a deep, painful cough. It has been miserable. I haven’t been able to read to my family.

But my delightful little girl came into bed with me and said, “Mom, you can’t read to us, so I’m going to read to you.” She proceeded to read me a Billy and Blaze book because she loves horses and Loud Emily because she knows it is one of my favorite read-alouds and she said she’d been working on the voices.

Be still, my heart.

This is the power of family-read alouds. She couldn’t bear to let me go to sleep without a story.

I’m so grateful for my Annesley-girl and the joy she spreads far and wide.

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thankful & blessed

Jan 31, 2019 by

Full heart today. I have made two kinds of delicious soup, cleaned my house, worked on our taxes, sent my kids to the temple, and spent sacred hours with my girl.

Blythe is in labor with our first grandchild. I have been preparing for this day for pretty much her whole life and now it is finally here. During our hard years of me not understanding her or her needs, I didn’t know if she would ever allow me to be at her births. And for me, a doula and childbirth educator who loves being with birthing mamas with my whole soul, that thought was deeply painful. Many mornings I would do a visualization technique where I would picture her in labor and envision our relationship at that future date. Then I would think about what I needed to do in the current time to have a future relationship that would allow me to be at her birth. It was one of the most powerful ways I was able to curb my harsh words and be the mama she needed me to be.

And now that day is here. Right now. And it is glorious.

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the perfect dream

Mar 19, 2017 by

Papa: Wake up Annes. It’s time to get ready for church.

Annes: Oh, papa, why did you have to wake me up? I was having a perfect dream in my dream world.

Mama: Come and snuggle with me and tell me all about your perfect dream.

Annes: Well, I had two horses in the back and I built them a place to live and they loved it here. And you passed out, but you didn’t dislocate any of your limbs. And papa had three days off from work, but he made the same amount of money each day as if he had worked the whole day. It was aaaaammmaaaaaaaazzzzzzzing.

Mama: What a lovely dream.

Papa: That IS perfect!

This little girl of mine is so precious to me. She is full of spunk and joy and courage. She has grown up with my dislocating, passing out body, and wants to fix it. She often snuggles up with me and says “Mama, I wish your body worked better so you could play baseball with me.” or “Mama, do you think you will ever be all better so you don’t pass out and shake any more?” or “Mama, I don’t like watching you shake, it scares me.” She has had to face big stuff in her short life. She is often the one with me when an episode starts and calls her papa to let him know I am passed out again. She hears us talking about money and jobs and the frustration of the whole situation. Her dream world is trying to make sense of it all.

Mine too, baby, mine too.

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bfg

Feb 11, 2017 by

Last night we watched The BFG. With the dirth of good family movies available at Redbox last night, I decided the only one that looked worth our time was The BFG, so I broke my cardinal rule of requiring my family members to read the book before watching the movie. I have such fond memories of the book, but have never actually read it myself. In 5th grade, when my family was falling apart, my teacher, Mr. Longmore, would spend the hour after lunch reading to us. He sat on a super-tall stool and crossed his super-long legs and as he read, he created magic in my heart. One of the books he read to us that year was The BFG and as he was nearly giant-sized himself and took a special interest in me, I easily pictured him as the BFG.

We loved the movie. So much. Annesley even got up at 6:00 this morning to get her Saturday jobs done so she could rewatch it before we take it back today. Total winner.

And when we woke up this morning, Annes had written this note.

Who is your BFG? My BFG is my papa. He is loving. My papa loves me. He loves to fish. My papa’s big fish is big. I love my BFG.

And then a drawing of Annes and her papa, AKA her BFG, with tons of hearts and BFGs all over it.

Ah man, this girl. She is full of love and life and so much delightfulness. I’m so grateful to be her mama. A big thanks to Mr. Longmore for being a BFG in my life at a time I so desperately needed him and to my husband for being an ever-present force of love in my life and the lives of our children. BFGs are all around us!

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eyes to see and ears to hear

Dec 10, 2016 by

Perceptions are a funny thing. They determine how we see things, how we understand the world around us, how we evaluate other’s motives, and yet, they are so often wrong. Last night I had one of those moments when I realized, once again, how incorrectly I can perceive the world.

Last night was our Ward Christmas Party. When I finished eating, my heart rate went up like it usually does, and I leaned back in my chair and tried to relax and think calming thoughts to help it come back down. But all the stimulation of kids running around, people talking to me, and the mass chaos of hundreds of people being in the same room together were too much for my nervous system to process. I tried closing my eyes and breathing deeply for awhile and that helped it calm down somewhat. Eventually Richard left to go figure out a way to get our car right up by the door and I counted heartbeats, willing them to sloooooowwwwww down and tried everything I knew to calm my system. The men were all working hard taking down tables and chairs, but could see something was wrong with me and left my table and chairs alone.

Fisher, my dear son who hates to be an inconvenience to anyone, came over and said, “Mom, can you move?” Barely lifting my head, I mumbled, “No, no I can’t.” I thought, “Oh, my heavens, can’t he see I am on the verge of passing out? Does he really care more about inconveniencing the men putting away tables than he does about my body’s needs?” He asked again, “Mom, can you move?” Again, I mumbled “No” and tried to get him to understand that I wasn’t using the table and it could be put away as long as they didn’t move my chairs or try to move me. Not satisfied with my answer, he persisted, “Mom, can you move? They are playing basketball.” In my nearly unconscious state of mind, I nearly exploded inside thinking, “Seriously! He is wanting to play basketball when I am having an episode? He wants me to move so they have more room to play!” But I couldn’t say anything because I was fighting with everything I had to stay conscious and calm. Finally, he said, “Mom, I’m worried the ball is going to hit you and hurt you. We’ve got to move you because they are playing basketball.”

I opened my eyes and looked around and saw that there was a group of teens playing basketball and I was right on the 3-point line. They were running all over the floor and the ball was flying wildly near me. I had had no idea any of that was happening and the boys had no idea anything was wrong with me, they were just trying to have fun. Grasping the situation, I told Fisher, “I can’t move, so you are going to have to protect me from the ball.” His response, “That is what I have been doing, I just think you would be safer if we could move you away from here.”

Oh, my goodness, the tears of gratitude welled up inside me for this good, good boy of mine. He wasn’t embarrassed of me. He wasn’t worried about inconveniencing the clean-up crew. He wasn’t wanting to play basketball and have more room on the court. He was watching over me and protecting me without anyone asking him to and without me even realizing what he was doing.

So often I respond too quickly, long before I understand the real situation. I am grateful for a body that was unable to speak and lash out in irritation and was instead able to hear his quiet voice, full of love, trying to help me.

Eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand…those are the gifts I yearn for.

p.s. Yes, I did pass out a few minutes later. As we slowly made our way out to the car, my body collapsed in the hallway with Richard and several other men catching me and taking care of me. I am surrounded by angels, both heavenly and earthly ones. Thank you to those of you who so willingly walk this journey with me.

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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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chicks!

Mar 31, 2016 by

It has been awhile since we have had new chicks at our home. They are a lot of work and we haven’t had enough gumption to put in the work the past few years since Fisher’s chicks were all attacked by a fox the summer of 2013. I think losing those 20+ birds took the oomph right out of us. Last year we adopted a flock of adult hens and have been enjoying the brown eggs and rich yolks, but none of us wanted to take on chicks again.

Until today.

A friend sent out an email that they had too many chicks at her husband’s business and were giving them away for free. I asked Richard if he wanted chicks and to my great surprise he said “YES!”

Tonight has been a mad dash of getting things set up for the little fluff balls. After years of getting chicks every year, you would think we would be pros at the whole thing, but we are out of practice, and certainly didn’t know where all our chick supplies were. Richard, the ever handy one, saved us all with his chick skills and got their new home with heat, food, and water set up in no time.

Aren’t they adorable?

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And the joy a little chick brings? Oh my, it is magical how my children’s eyes have sparkled tonight. Don’t we all need a bit more magic in our lives?

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how i love them

Mar 1, 2016 by

Last night in the middle of an ordinary moment, time slowed down and all of a sudden my entire being swelled with love for these people God has given me. I saw them with new eyes and a new heart and could not believe they are mine. Oh, how I love them!

For our weekly Family Home Evening we went swimming with a few other families. I was too sore and feeling too fragile to get in the water, so I watched the splashing and front-flipping (new skill for Annes off the diving board!) and diving from the sidelines. Afterwards we stopped at the grocery store to grab some essentials for the week. Shopping all together is a pretty rare occurence and it was so fun, I decided we should definitely do it more often. Everyone put in their two-cents over which fruits and veggies to buy (Annesley begged for mangos and who can resist a cute little cherub begging for produce?) and we sent kids all over the store to find items and bring them back to the cart. On one of these runs, everyone ended up together and were walking towards me at the same time laughing and joking as they approached.

Time stood still. The light bounced off their faces and I fell in love with them all over again. These people mean everything to me. And sometimes, I forget. I forget how great my privilege is to love them. In the midst of living, I forget to look into their souls and connect.

So last night was a gift. For a brief moment I saw them as He sees them.

And I remembered.

Here they are all in all their delightful silliness over the past few months.

These two love to take selfies (dualies?) together. May it be recorded that Fisher kissed his sister.

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Meditating with a plunger? She left me a whole string of plunger pictures on my camera.

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Sledding down our road on Annesley’s birthday.

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More sledding.

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First day of snowboarding. Oh, my goodness, they LOVE snowboarding.

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Decorating the Christmas Tree.

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Dancing in front of the Provo City Center Temple on President’s Day.

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All of us (minus Blythe, of course!) in front of the temple.

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annes and the police station

Jan 27, 2016 by

Miss Annes is full of zest. Chock-full of curiosity, stories, creativity, enthusiasm, and is about as cute as can be. Everywhere we go people love her. Except for the few people she drives absolutely banana-cakes with her “muchness.”

Today was the first day of iFamily, our awesome homeschool group. She is in a Community Explorations class this semester where they go out to different businesses and community entities to learn about how they function and what they do to make our community great. Today was the Police Station. Annes gave a Texas-sized shout of “Hurrah” when she found out. Unbeknownst to me, she is a little over the top curious about all things police-y because of her current obsession with Adventures in Odyssey mysteries.

When she returned to iFamily I asked one of her mentors how it went and if Annesely was well-behaved. She gave me a huge laugh and said, “Annesley is the best part of my day, I love that girl! She is FULL of life!” Thrilled with that response, I asked her to tell me all about it.

She reported that on the way in to the Police Station, Annesley said, “Oh no! They won’t let me in! They have metal detectors and look at my boots!” Her mentor said she thought the little piece of metal on the end of her cowboy boots would be just fine. Annesley responded with, “Oh, are they not very sensitive?”

At some point the police officer must have been talking about roadblocks and Annesley asked if there was a robbery because why would you ever have a roadblock without a robbery?

The third comment was “Do you deal with a lot of counterfeiters?” The police officer said no, not a whole lot. Why?” Annesley said, “Well, I know all about making counterfeit money!” She actually has no idea how to make counterfeit money, but she has listened to her Adventures In Odyssey CDs about a counterfeiting ring about a hundred times since Christmas so she thinks she is pretty much an expert. However, I would hope she would be a so-called expert in catching the counterfeiters, not copying their trade.

I’m tickled she has such fun opportunities for learning and mentors that appreciate her enthusiasm for life. I just hope the good officers don’t set up some kind of sting operation to bust us for counterfeiting.

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easing back into life

Jan 6, 2016 by

Recovering from late nights, too much junk food, and lack of commitments.

New scripture study time. (In the morning at the butt-crack of dawn. Actually long before the butt-crack of dawn since it is pitch black outside when Richard gently kisses me and shakes me awake so I can pull on my fleece sweats and slippers and plod out to the family room.)

New schedules.

New goals.

Registration for iFamily was this week and I had to break some children’s hearts because I can’t take more than 16 students in my Math Alive class and nearly 30 applied. I hate breaking hearts.

Homeschool days on the ski/snowboarding slopes is here once again and for the first time since 2008, I am trying my darndest to make it happen for my kids. Long, frustrating story there about how hard I have been trying to magically find all the gear they need for as few pennies as possible and piles of tears that poured out of me when I couldn’t find what they needed at prices we could afford. My heart and their hearts were so set on going this week, but I just couldn’t make it happen. So I fell apart, telling myself all the lies. Something akin to “for crying out loud we live right next to the mountains and have an awesome homeschool program that allows kids to ski or board for hours and hours for $10 and you KNOW this, so what is wrong with you (me) that you didn’t plan ahead and get all this stuff in the summer when it was available or look in Utah or SOMETHING else, for the love. You (once again, me!) made a stupid choice to buy a snowboard when you don’t know anything about snowboards and now you are told it is broken and you can’t find boots and it is all completely pointless.” It was a rough night of tears and irrational thought. (But I am better now, no worries needed about my overall sanity.) And Keziah went since she has her own money and a friend was able to loan her all the gear she needed, so that was super fun, even though the other kiddos were disappointed.

Starting gym again on Friday and not ready to be up on my feet again. This new flare up of my knee injury is frustrating.

Plummeting progesterone levels which equals a weepy, emotions-all-over-the-place mama.

Play practices ramping up for Miss Keziah’s play which is at the end of the month. So, we don’t see her much.

Same girly getting her driver’s license (hopefully this week!) which is exciting and wonderful and will help out a ton, but leaves me with no vehicle whenever she takes the Subaru. (Our suburban runs just fine, but it is not driveable right now because the heater core broke on the way to Swim Camp back in June. Living up here in the frozen tundra prevents anyone with even a wee bit of sanity to drive a vehicle without a heater!)

Fisher finished his math program a few ago and we are trying to figure out where to go next with him. And my brain or spirit or something must be closed off to the heavens (or more likely just really, really tired) because I just don’t know what to do.

I am trying to put together the next semester of Liberty Girls and feeling little direction from on high…which leads to low motivation on my end.

I feel like hibernating right here in my house and savoring the long, winter days with books, warm quilts, hot chocolate, and lots of calm. I don’t want to actually deal with reality and answer the phone, pay bills, run errands, organize anything, or go anywhere. So I am doing that. AND doing a bit of the other because, you know, life.

Lots of changes, so we are easing into them and trying not to cause all-out rebellion (mostly my own rebellion where I throw in the towel and head for my imaginary cabin in the hills, haha!). Yesterday we started reading Stone Fox (love that book!) for the man club Fisher is a part of, Explorer Boys, and ever so slowly started back into our normal school days. I think we will start some geometry today with him and see how it goes.

All the books for 2016 for my colloquia group have been selected and I just might get them posted here, but no guarantees since at the moment my energy level is roughly equivalent to a sloths. Tomorrow night is our first discussion of the year, which means I’ll need to shower…and turn on my brain…but then I can enjoy hearing thoughts and ideas on a great book and it will be lovely.

So this week is going to be slow and calm and full of nurturing…I need the calm. There is plenty of time for the busy later.

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narnia

Jan 1, 2016 by

We started our next read-aloud for 2016 tonight. In the midst of grumpy kids who were tired from late nights, sugar-laden, and about to dddiiiiiieee from taking down the Christmas decorations, magic was created.

Back in November, God whispered to my heart that our next read-aloud was to be the entire Chronicles of Narnia series. At first, I thought, “Our children know these stories inside and out, I don’t think I should take the time to read them aloud to them. I need to use this precious time for something they haven’t been exposed to yet.” But the quiet whispering continued and I knew there was a good reason for it. My excitement at the prospect grew and all through the nights of December Christmas stories, I grew giddy inside at the thought of sharing the wonderment of Narnia with our children over the next many months.

So, tonight, with children annoying one another and complaining at each new task assigned to them in our Christmas clean-up, we started our adventure. Richard made everyone hot chocolate while we finished the last of the clean-up and we welcomed everyone to grab a mug and a blanket and sit down and listen.

Soon calmness prevailed and happiness won out over the grumps. The magic of read-aloud time to bring a family together never ceases to amaze me. I think the world could be changed dramatically if all families spent some time in the evenings enjoying a delicious book together.

At the end of the chapter, they begged, “Please read another! Please, please! Just one more!” I reminded them that just thirty minutes prior they had been saying, “We don’t want to read Narnia! We want to watch Return of the Jedi!” and they grinned and said, “Yes, but now we want you to read more!”

Cracks me up.

The power of story is real. Stories speak to the deepest parts of who we are. They inspire courage, build connection, and create a culture of shared identity. They are the best things I know of to bind a family together.

What are you reading with your family right now?

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read to me

Dec 9, 2015 by

Me: I need to work on the computer for awhile, why don’t you listen to this audio-book from the library.

F: Mom, it’s SO MUCH better when you read the book.

Me: Really, better than a professional narrator?

F: YES. I want you to read all the books.

I can’t even tell you how much this warms my heart! My eleven-year-old boy still loves to snuggle up on the couch under a blanket and have me read to him for hours and hours – I hope it never ends.

Oh, how good it is to be so adored by your children. If only my face and voice could keep up with their insatiable desire to be read to!

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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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annes on injuries

Nov 17, 2015 by

My little Annesley has decided she is a speech writer. Keziah is in the middle of writing two speeches that she has to give this week and I guess Annes has caught the bug. Yesterday she presented her Anything Is Possible If You Have Love speech and today she gave us this speech on injuries. This is word for word what she said.

Warning: grab a tissue.

My name is Annesley and I am writing about injuries. You can fall off a skateboard. You can fall off of a tree. My mom has injuries, but even if I am sad she can’t do the stuff most mothers can, I am still happy I have a mother who takes good care of me and loves her family. I love her, too.

Injuries don’t mean it’s the end of your life. Injuries can sometimes help you to realize what is ahead of you in your life. When you have an injury or when you have a family member who has an injury, it doesn’t mean that she or he won’t take care of you. It means that you will be able to fight trials and you will have to get used to those trials because it will happen.

My mom is suffering through a tissue disorder. She has been passing out, but this week she has been doing okay. I like that I have a loving mother who takes good care of me.

My mom has an injury and I love her. She teaches a good homeschool group and she teaches gym. She doesn’t actually do all the tricks, but she has people do it for her. She has Grant and she has my sister, that is technically all.

Injuries might make you feel like you need to stay in your room all the time, but that is not true. You should try to help the people in your family who are injured. You should get used to having a family member who is hurt. Once I had an injury. I did a front flip into the pit and hurt my back. It hurt so much, but then it calmed down. But that is not what happens with my mom. When she gets hurt or passes out, she shakes for about two hours or maybe three. I do not like that, but I try to help her as much as I can.

Even when you get hurt it doesn’t mean you will never, ever be able to walk or look behind you again. It means you are hurt. Just plain hurt. It might seem like everything is aimless, but anything is possible with Jesus Christ. He will heal you.

Oh my, the tears. This precious girl doesn’t even remember me before I was injured. This has been her life. She sometimes wistfully says, “Mom, I wish you could run around the yard with me.” Or, “Mom, tell me what you were like before you were like this. Tell me about how you would ride your bike. Tell me about how you would played baseball and volleyball.” Oh, how I love her. I remember so clearly the feeling I got the first time I looked in her eyes. She told me spirit to spirit, “Mom, it’s gonna be okay.”

And now, it is time to trust her message.

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anything is possible if you have love

Nov 16, 2015 by

Annesley “wrote” this today. She actually dictated it to me from her writing notebook, but she didn’t really write all these words – her paper is full of lots of scribbles and lots of love words. She did, however, say them all. This is her message to the world, word for word as she said it, completely unedited by me except for the punctuation.

My name is Annesley and I am writing about love. Love can build families. Every time you are kind, love grows in your family. Love can build houses. Love can build people. Love can build buildings.

People might say you do not have love, but that is not true. You have love every time you are kind. Even if you are sad, you can still have love. You can share love. Love can still grow.

I am so glad that I have a sister on a mission. Even though I am sad, I can still send love to her.

I share love when I go to people’s houses. I give love. When I am naughty, I am not sharing love. When I am kind, I am sharing love. Every time I make a choice, I am trying to make a good choice.

You can share love with a friend, with family members, or even with someone you don’t know. You can share love, it’s just like a plant. When you are growing a plant, it is just like you are building love. Love is growing in your heart, your mind, and even your friend’s heart. You can build courage with love. You can build courage by asking someone to play with you even if you don’t know them. When you are going somewhere with your friends, you should always spread love.

When you don’t believe you have love, Jesus is sending it down to you and you should use that love to build families, make friendships, and be kind. Jesus sends love down to everyone.

Love can grow in your heart. You can build love, you can share love.

Anything is possible if you have love.

Pretty wise words from this almost 8 year old. Next week is her birthday and her baptism is the week after. A little part of me has been wondering if she is truly ready to make this covenant with Jesus. Although she is naturally joyful and full of zest, she struggles with honesty and kindness. We have spent the past many months preparing her for this time of covenant making and while there have been glimpses of this deeper, more thoughtful side of her showing up, it wasn’t until today when she read me this paper on love that I knew she was ready.

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because towers are fun

Nov 15, 2015 by

First day of my period + Friday gym + Friday church party + Friday night at Kat’s = exhausted mama. I spent all of Saturday in bed. Literally. I believe I got out three times to use the bathroom and that is all – I never even left my room. After sleeping soundly for hours on end while my children did their Saturday jobs, schoolwork, and played games together, I found these on my phone.

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I’m so glad these bendable, hilarious kiddos are mine. I guess when you are super bendy, this sounds like a good idea. In fact, I can even remember when I thought things like this were super fun. But now? Now, not so much. And my mind can’t help but jump to the future and wonder what damage they just caused to their bodies. I don’t like being in that frame of mind – and I certainly don’t want to pass it on to them. I want them to live fully and without a care in the world. Carpe diem all the way. So, I am trying my darndest to stay silent about the possible repercussions of these kinds of moves and let them enjoy their fun.

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squares and mazes, wahoo!

Oct 12, 2015 by

If you are anything like me, you pin things and then never do anything about them or flat out forget about them. Recipes, learning ideas, and home cutification ideas get pinned and forgotten on a fairly regular basis.

BUT, there is hope! I printed out two of my pins and introduced them to my children last Monday and they were both a huge hit! Then I took them to my Math ALIVE! class on Wednesday and my students gobbled them up and begged me to let them take the games home with them. So, now that I have tested them with nearly 20 children, I can say with absolute confidence that your children will love them as well…at least I am pretty darn sure they will! With the goal of creating more math lovers out in the world, I must share these winners!

The first is a spin-off of the dots/complete-the-squares game with multiplication problems added in. My dear boy did about 400 multiplication problems CHEERFULLY while we played the game. And his speed increased dramatically. The totally awesome Mathified Squares Game can be found here. My math students would have happily played it all hour if I would have let them. Instead, I taught them about Eratosthenes and blew their minds with how he measured the circumference of the earth within 200 miles of the measurement we have today.

We printed out lots of copies, grabbed a pair of dice, a cookie sheet, and two different colored pens, and dove right in. Now that I know my kids love it bunches and bunches, I might laminate them and use wipe-off markers, but I am a bit worried we would accidently erase some of our lines with our wrists as we move across the page. The same woman has several other different versions – addition, subtraction, factors, and more, but I am pretty sure those games need to be paid for. If she has a multiplication sheet for 12 sided dice, I will buy it, if not, I am going to make my own, so we can practice up to 12 x 12. (Fisher just told me he wants me to make one up to 20 x 20!)

The second is a large set of Skip-Counting Mazes. Annesley worked through about twenty of them in one sitting and pulled them back out today to do even more. Fisher discovered an error on one of the counting by 5 mazes, but even that error added to his learning as he triple checked all the numbers and possibilities before declaring with confidence that there was a mistake and the number 245 was missing.

Both of these activities are wonderful for cementing in those basic math skills we all need while not making it seem like the drill-n-kill approaches that so often shut little ones brains down.

We are on a math roll around here lately. Annesley finished her math book last week and started a new one today. She decided she wants to do 11 pages a day! And today she did it! I decided to introduce a new game to them today and it was a huge hit as well. Corners is from the RightStart Card Games Kit and is a fabulous game for working on multiples of 5 and addition. I wasn’t sure if Annes could handle it, but with a little bit of help once her score got into the 200s she did just fine.

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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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mtc

Sep 26, 2015 by

mtc

Wednesday, September 16 was the big day we have been looking forward to for the past many months. Before that day came we had to have purchased a gazillion things, packed it all up, had her set apart by our Stake President, had her final dates with her siblings, parents, and grandparents, said all of our goodbyes, and emptied out her room so Annesley could move in. Most of those things happened…but not all of them.

The last few days before she left were full of lasts. Last date with each of her siblings. Last date with Madi, her best friend. Lunch with her grandparents. Last movie night with us a family. Last time playing her favorite music on our piano. Last time taking a llllooooonnnnngggg shower. There were also lots of firsts. First time packing suitcases instead of duffle bags. First time being set apart as a full-time missionary. First time sharing her testimony of Christ as a missionary. First time being gone from us for more than a few days.

That last week there were so many things that still needed to be purchased. A blazer, a robe (never actually found one that would work!), scripture marking pencils, nail care set, sewing kit, shampoo and conditioner, highlighters, a navy blue cardigan, static guard, SD card, a curling iron, skirt hangers, a watch, luggage tags, and a gazillion other little things. Some angels in disguise came to our rescue and sent us money or sent stuff via Amazon Prime so we could get all those last minute things. My heart wells up with tears of joy every time I think about the help we have been given to get her out the door. A year ago when all this started in earnest, I remember saying, “I have no idea how we will be able to pay for her mission, much less get her all the stuff she needs to serve.” and my mom said, “Well, you need to trust. As she works hard saving money, God will help all of you to be able to do this. If a mission is where God wants her to be, He will be in the details.” And she was right. He has been with us and has sent many hands and hearts to help. Thank you to each of you who have blessed us with love, encouragement, and money – you are being God’s hands.

The Friday before we started packing in earnest and tried to figure out the best way to first, make everything fit, and second, make it most efficient for use. Since she will be flying to California, she had to abide by the airplane rules of a 50 lb. weight limit and nothing larger than 62 dimensional inches. And if she would have been flying straight to California, that would have been pretty easy-peasy. BUT she has a two week stay at the Missionary Training Center, MTC for short, before she flies out. And she hates packing. So I decided it would work best for her if we could make everything she would need for the two weeks at the MTC fit into one suitcase and everything else fit into the other two bags. Kat came over for several hours on Sunday helping us figure things out. It was pretty hilarious for her super organized packing brain to be in the same room with our scatterbrained non-packing brains – good thing she has a heart of gold and was able to be patient with us. We didn’t successfully get anything packed, but we got most of the stuff ready to be packed. We also figured out lots of things that wouldn’t work.

Monday morning Blythe left to spend the day with her grandparents and running last minute errands and I utilized the time to get the packing thing completely figured out with no interference from her or anyone else. I watched a few packing videos online and got to work implementing all my brainstorming ideas that had come in the night while I tossed and turned. As the morning progressed, it appeared my brilliant one MTC bag would work! I was able to get her MTC bag packed with everything she would need for two weeks and get everything else to fit in the other two bags. Throughout that day I packed and unpacked everything several times, weighed, adjusted, weighed some more. Then our neighbor came over who is about to leave on her mission and wanted some ideas from us (as if we know what we are doing!), so nearly everything got unpacked again. By this time, I was a pro. I quickly got it all packed back up and ready to go. And I went to bed that night feeling pretty darn accomplished. Then I realized I still hadn’t solved the shampoo and conditioner problem, made her a rice pack, made copies of her mission call, found some hair serum, found a robe, packed her last minute odd and ends, etc. Tuesday was spent finishing up all those last minute details and Blythe and Keziah went on a date to see “Once I Was A Beehive” and then late that night Kat came over again and helped us finish up the last of the packing using all her mad packing skills to solve the last few challenges. She also made Blythe an adorable rice bag since I never got to it…superhero is all I can say about Miss Kat. When all was loaded, her two checked bags weighed in at 47 and 48 lbs and we were ready to walk out the door!

Now the emotional side of all of this is a whole different story. From about the time my dad left on the 3rd clear through to the 14th, I was a grumpy mama bear. Deep sadness entered my soul and no matter how I tried to reason it away, it would not leave. The thought of our family being forever changed by Blythe’s leaving was so overwhelmingly painful. The realization that my phase of mothering my little children in my home was ending and a new phase beginning hit me as a gale force wind and I needed to grieve the ending before I could welcome the beginning. I was easily irritated, then frustrated with myself for spending these last precious days with my girlie in such an unpleasant state of being, then sad all over again. We were all trying so hard to be loving and to savor these moments together and yet I was miserable at the thought of her leaving. And then on the 14th as I folded her laundry, God reached out and gave me a gift. He wrapped me up in his love for her and filled me with gratitude that I have a daughter who loves Jesus so much she is willing to go and share His message of redemption and happiness with complete strangers.

Late Tuesday night, Blythe was set apart as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The six of us plus Richard’s parents attended this special blessing and it was a beautiful, sacred experience to feel the Spirit so strongly and to hear powerful blessings pronounced upon my daughter’s head.

Wednesday morning we left bright and early to make the 4 hour drive to Provo. My heart was full of joy. Full of happiness. It was quite miraculous to experience so much joy when for the past many days I had been mired in grief. The rain poured down all day and at times we could barely see the road, but we were able to get to Provo with just enough time to take her to lunch at our favorite place, The Old Spaghetti Factory. We didn’t know if we would be able to do that or not, but I was able to squirrel away enough pennies to make it happen, so it was super fun to surprise her with one last fun outing – may the delicious Spinach Tortellini fill her up with our love for her for the next 18 months. Then we had just few minutes to get up to the Provo temple to take the obligatory temple fountain picture. We still needed to pack her makeup and hair stuff she had used that morning into her suitcase, so we sent the 4 kiddos up to take pictures while Richard and I made sure everything was completely ready in her bags.

At this point, everyone was still laughing and smiling. We were about 6 minutes from dropping her off and everyone was super happy and taking silly pictures.

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Then the moment came. We entered the MTC parking lot and came to the drop-off line. We were quickly directed to our drop-off spot and started unloading her things.

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Her face changed from one of silliness to soberness.

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I was filled from head to toe with peace. Indescribable warmth and joy and glorious peace filled me and I knew we were in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. God wrapped me up in His peace. What a feeling! I have heard other people describe this peace when a loved one has died or some other tragic thing has happened, but I have never experienced such a powerful feeling of tenderness from my Father in Heaven. I think He knew I needed this extra measure of comfort. The amazing thing is, it is still with me.

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Then Keziah jumped out of the suburban and gave her big sister the hug of a lifetime…so much tenderness and love in that hug.

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Then Annesley jumped out and ran into Blythe’s arms.

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Fisher couldn’t bring himself to get out, so Blythe went over and gave him a tearful hug goodbye.

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And then with courage, faith, and determination, she walked away into her new life as a missionary. So proud of her! I always said I would have served a mission if I hadn’t been married beforehand, but seeing how much courage it takes, boy howdy, I don’t know if I would have actually had enough.

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And this is what our faces looked like as we drove away – lots of tears and sadness. Somehow, I didn’t cry. My joy at that moment was too great for tears and as I had been crying for weeks, it was time for me to bask in the truth of John’s wise words.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

3 John 1:4

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None of the kids wanted to do anything fun on our way home. They were all full of sadness and deep thoughts. We tried to go to Scheel’s to ride the Ferris Wheel thinking that would cheer the kiddos up, but the ride was closed for maintenance. We went and visited Jessica for a bit, but even seeing our dear friends didn’t cheer the kids up. Then we stopped at Tami’s where she fed us a delicious dinner of Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Such a beautiful day!

My heart is full of joy and I am so grateful to have had the privilege of raising this daughter who loves goodness and puts God first in her life. She is my hero!

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a heart full of love before she leaves

Sep 14, 2015 by

a heart full of love before she leaves

Having our girlie leave for her mission is hard. Really hard. My emotions have been all over the map in the past couple of weeks and I have been grumpy more often than not. But today my heart has swelled up with gratitude. As I put her clothes in the washer today to clean for probably the last time, the past 19 years of memories swept across my mind’s eye and I started weeping with joy that I have been privileged to be this special girl’s mama. I am so grateful to have her for our daughter. I am grateful she is worthy and able to serve a mission. I am grateful she loves God. I am grateful she believes in and relies on the atonement of Jesus Christ. I am grateful she chooses good, uplifting, life-giving pursuits. I am grateful she loves and creates beautiful music. I am grateful her soul is drawn to stories of courage, sacrifice, liberty, and love. I am so grateful for the thousands of hours we have spent learning, reading, and discovering together. I am grateful, oh, so grateful for this precious time I have had her in my home.

Blythe in field

Further up and Further In! It is time to grow ever closer to her Father and Savior, to learn to truly love her fellow man in her heart AND her actions, and to do hard things. I am so excited for her!

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six days

Sep 10, 2015 by

Six days left with my girlie. It is hard to believe we are at this point and she is about to walk out of our home and embark on her adventure of serving the Lord as a missionary preaching the gospel and loving and serving the people of California.

I want to savor these last few days with her, but the truth is I am grumpy and overwhelmed at how much we still have to get done. I’m not that much fun to be with right now – every day I tell myself I am going to be cheerful and kind and helpful and every day this week I have failed. Every day I pray for help, pleading with God to help me have a soft heart and kind words and even with His help, the grumpiness comes out.

Part of me is grieving. This is the loss of our family unit as we know it. I know the next phase of life is going to be wonderful in its own way, but I am still grieving the loss of this time, this sacred time I have had to be a homeschooling mother of four precious souls. Earlier in this mission process, I mistakenly thought we wouldn’t really miss her, that since she has been working so much the past year and not in our home for many hours each day, we would be fine without her. But I was wrong. My heart is aching with pain at the thought of her being gone from our home. Giant alligator tears pour out of me every single day. Our family is changing. Forever. It will never be the same again. And while I am so, so excited for her and for the future, I am also deeply sad.

Part of me is worried…is she really ready? Will she be able to handle all that is thrown at her in the next 18 months? Have I failed her by not teaching her better? Will she get along with her companions? Will she turn to God? Will she thrive?

Part of me is overwhelmed. We still have so much to do, to buy, to find in our home, and to figure out how to make do with what we have. I think getting a missionary out the door is an expensive, stressful experience for everyone who does it. I think it has been a bit more challenging for us…but I could be totally wrong on that since I have no idea what it has been like for anyone else.

Challenge #1

We have a small and quite limited budget and we haven’t spent much of that budget on Blythe’s wardrobe for the past several years. She has survived just fine with hand-me-downs, thrift store finds, and the occasional super cute outfit bought by her grandma. But when we inspected her existing clothing options, none of it was mission appropriate, especially for the wealthy, professional area of California she is serving. Her clothes were faded, worn-out, looked like something a fourteen year old would wear, or were simply unattractive. She needed all new clothes, not just dresses and skirts and blouses, but everything. Her only pajamas were heavy, warm fleece, which is not quite what she will need in sunny California. Her exercise clothes were men’s basketball shorts which were once again not long enough to cover her knees while both standing and sitting, a mission requirement. Her robe was falling apart and not long enough to meet mission standards, her jeans were too tight, her bras were lacking in the support department, and her shoes were filthy, holey, and stinky. So she needed new everything. Quite the task to completely outfit her for her new life.

Challenge #2

Blythe has never lived on her own, so she didn’t have any of her own stuff. We all share clothes, curling irons, straighteners, makeup, hairspray, socks, etc. We have had to get all of that stuff for her. Well, to be honest, we still have to purchase some of it and some of it I am just sending with her from my things and will have to live without for awhile until I can afford to replace those items.

Challenge #3

Another budgeting challenge is that we have been getting her ready for her mission during the four months of the year that Richard doesn’t get paid from his regular job and we have to live off of savings and the small check he gets from his part-time job. There isn’t room for extras in our budget, so anything we have bought for her has to come out of our grocery budget and anything she has bought (which is the vast majority of the purchases) has had to be bought as she has earned the money. She didn’t go into this with a huge nest egg of money, so she has had to work hard earning the money she needs to outfit herself and to save a big chunk to pay towards the $400 monthly fee required of missionaries. So, she wasn’t able to just go out and purchase what she needed as she needed to earn a little, shop a little, earn some more, shop some more. I think if we could have just had a week of big shopping days, we could have kicked this out of the park back in June. For the things we are purchasing, we spent everything we could back in June and then have had to wait until now to get the rest of her things because we chose to take our annual camping trip in August. We survived on eggs for the entire month of August so we could save grocery money to buy items on her supply list and throw her an Ice Cream Fest the day of her farewell. This little bit at a time approach is working, but it is harder than just having a big list and checking it off. It’s all good and I am proud of her for working so hard to earn the money she needs, it’s just that our lack of ability to help much has complicated things.

Challenge #4

Between her work schedule and my body’s limited ability to shop for very long, it has been difficult for us to go shopping together. Endless phone calls, sending pictures back and forth, buying things and then returning them when one or both of us vetoes an item has been our life for the past 4 months.

Challenge #5

Blythe has many strengths, but getting stuff done in a timely or orderly fashion is not one of them. I really do wonder if I will be sane by next week as the packing and room cleaning jobs have been put off till the very last minute. I am much the same way and must have driven my mother absolutely bonkers with my procrastinating ways. Being the one waiting on the procrastinator is about the most frustrating experience ever and is playing a huge part in my grumpiness.

Somehow we will get it all done…or maybe we won’t and she will end up in California without the things she needs and will figure out a way to survive without them. Today is clean the room and make the list of anything we still need to beg, borrow, or buy. In the meantime, I will be singing hymns and trying to remember to smile and laugh and enjoy this girlie I love so much.

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opening the call!

May 5, 2015 by

opening the call!

Blythe’s mission call arrived on Monday, May 4th, which is an odd day since they usually come on Thursdays or Fridays. We weren’t expecting it to be in the mail that day and when I sent Fisher to the mailbox in between math and reading, I wondered, but didn’t really think it would be there. When he walked in the house and said in his deadpan voice, “Blythie’s mission call came,” I didn’t believe him.

But he was right!

She was hurriedly getting ready for work and quickly called her friends and grandparents to see if she could get everyone here that night for an “opening party.”

Around 9:20 p.m. many of our dear friends started pouring in and my heart filled up with gratitude for the love we are surrounded with. Ward members, former Young Women leaders, Richard’s parents, Amy and Sheri’s families, the other Sherry, Jada, and about forty of Blythe’s (and our’s – we love these youth!) friends all squished into our home.

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Getting ready to open the big white envelope.

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Starting to read. We had seven family members on various phones and are holding them all around her hoping they could all hear.

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People cheering with excitement as she read the letter.

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Here is the link to the video of her reading her letter. I can’t get it to display here, so you’ll have to click the link and watch it yourself.

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Love that hug at the end!

If you didn’t watch the video, she has been called to the California Irvine Mission! She reports to the Prove MTC on September 16 which is wonderful because she could have left as early as August 12 and we are really grateful for the extra month she has to work to earn money for her mission.

Here is what we know so far about her mission. It is tinsy…looks like about 10-15 miles wide and 20-30 miles long. It has great weather in the 60s to low 80s year round and the area is hilly, humid, and beautiful. From what we can find online, the area has a high percentage of Asians (40+%) and is safe, busy, and densely populated (3 million).

The California Irvine Mission is a relatively small mission with great weather and great people. The mission is filled with affluent people who are willing to speak with missionaries about the gospel. Southern Californians are generally professional people with a large majority of people who are successful in their jobs. However, there are many people in this mission who are middle- to lower-class.

Missionaries stay active in the Irvine Mission. The Newport Beach California Temple is now included in the mission boundaries. The temple was dedicated by Gordon B. Hinckley in 2005. There are many active members who are strong in the gospel and willing to help missionaries with whatever they can. Members frequently like to have missionaries over to their homes.

Taken from Mission Home.

We are so excited for her and so, so grateful for the journey we are embarking on.

Now we start the process of outfitting her with everything she will need in sunny, Southern California. She is such a hot-blooded person, her priority is to find some nice, breathable clothing that will work well with the humidity!

Miss Annes is super excited about this whole process, but she is also needing some extra snuggles and nurturing. She knows this is good and wants Blythe to share the message of Jesus Christ’s gospel, but she doesn’t really want her sister to leave. I keep finding her squished up against me or Blythe or Richard.

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All of us in the midst of the excitement. Yes, Richard’s eyes are closed and Fisher isn’t looking at the camera, but hey, it’s a better pic than the ones we often get when we are actually trying to have a family photo taken.

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Afterwords we stayed up super late (it was already late when we started the whole shebang!) and read everything we could find about the Irvine area, poured over her call packet, and talked and talked and talked. Such a special night!

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gearing up

May 3, 2015 by

Ready, set, GO!

It’s play week which means piles of FUN!

It also means meals on the run, late nights, little sleep, long days, concessions out the wazoo (I have been the concession manager for almost all of my children’s plays for the past six years), a messy house, loads of laughter, and everything in between.

Miss Keziah is Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and though I haven’t seen a single rehearsal yet, those who have tell me she pulls Puck off splendidly. Her costume, made by my dear Jennifer, is fabulous and her moss make-up is full of win.

In addition to all the play busyness, Blythe’s mission call should come this week, it is my birthday – WAHOO!, Fisher has a Space Derby for Scouts, and we have several family members coming into town to watch the play.

A wee bit of craziness is before us, so I better get some sleep tonight while I can.

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savoring

Apr 22, 2015 by

savoring

Blythe is playing the piano with passion and power, Keziah is throwing sticks to Charley in the yard, and I am reclining on my chaise savoring these moments. My girls are growing up so quickly and I feel these moments of pure joy are coming to an end. Somedays I honestly don’t know if I can bear it.

Have I written about Blythe’s mission? I don’t even know if I have mentioned it on here since I have been so full of whining health related news lately. Well, if I haven’t, I am hereby giving notice…my girlie is going on a mission to serve the Lord. Her application papers have been submitted and we are waiting to find out where she is called to serve. We were told we could know as early as next week, but I am guessing it will be the week after. We have been busy for the past several months getting all the paperwork filled out and necessary medical and dental appointments taken care of. Soon it will be time to assemble her wardrobe, purchase luggage, put herbs/oils/supplements/first aid supplies into a kit, and a gazillion other things I don’t even know about yet.

These are exciting days for our family and we are entering a new phase of life. As I contemplate our oldest leaving home, I find myself speaking more tenderly to all of my children and trying to draw them close to my heart.

Last week Blythe attended her last Homeschool Prom while it was Keziah’s first. This is a non-date formal where hundreds of youth from all over our area spend the night dancing and having a blast. It is a completely different experience than a high school prom and is a favorite event of both the homeschoolers and many of their public schooled friends who say the homeschool dances are the best dances they have ever attended.

These two sisters had so much fun together. I didn’t see them till they came home, super happy and beautiful, and my heart filled right up with joy.

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Keziah spent the day doing hair and makeup with a big group of friends.

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My guess is the house needed to be fumigated and sanitized from all the hairspray, makeup, and estrogen spewed out during the day!

I am so grateful for this time of my life where my girls are happy and healthy and doing good things. We work and work and work as young mothers to raise our children to be competent, capable, contributing members of our families, and then POOF they are and they move on to bless the world. This is what I want, absolutely, but I want to lengthen these days, to stretch them out so I can enjoy them longer.

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first snakes of the year

Mar 20, 2015 by

first snakes of the year

Meet Rattler and Lucy.

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Yes, they are snakes. My two littles loves bugs, snakes, lizards, frogs, and all the other creepy-crawlies in the world. There was a time in my life when I was terrified of all the small, slithery creatures, but having bug-lovers for children has helped me be able to overcome much of the fears.

Fisher especially loves snakes (actually he especially loves *all* the creatures, but seems to be some sort of snake whisperer). He finds them fairly frequently and makes each of them his new best friend. Now Annesley is following suit.

They found these two garter snakes at our friend, Jen’s, house yesterday. Rattler spent the whole day in Fisher’s pocket enjoying the warmth and seclusion. Lucy’s favorite spot is wrapping herself around Annesley’s neck and laying her head on Annes’ shoulder to spy on the happenings around her. Full of rainbows in Annesley’s mind.

They brought their snakes to gym today and most of the children had a great time watching, touching, or holding them. There were a few kids who were terrified, but most of them enjoyed the experience.

I don’t know how long Rattler and Lucy will be part of our gang, but for now they sure are spreading smiles and we all need more of those, don’t we?

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the story of the precious quilts

Dec 26, 2014 by

the story of the precious quilts

I usually tell people, “I can’t sew!” The truth of the matter is I can sew, just barely. Sewing is really, really, REALLY challenging for me. It doesn’t make sense to my brain. I can’t sew straight. I mess up back-stitching, have to unpick lots, and my projects leave a lot to be desired in the sewn-well-looks-pretty department. But for some reason, I love making homemade, home-sewn things for my children. It feels like I am wrapping up all the love in my heart for them and handing it to them on a silver platter, fabric platter, of course.

Jessica’s mom has been making birthday quilts for all of her grandchildren this year…and they are gorgeous. When the first one arrived at Jess’ home back in October, I swooned over it. But I didn’t even think about making one because Debbie is a quilter and I am not. At all. It seemed way, way, way outside of my abilities.

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Then when I saw the second quilt at Thanksgiving, I nearly died over it. I could not stop staring at it and touching it. Excuse the blurry pic, it is the only one I have and you must see it so you can see what inspired me! It is made with the Miss Kate jelly roll and I was so tempted to use it for Annesley’s, but in the end chose a different one.

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I loved them ever so much and in spite of the facts that I don’t sew well normally (certainly not well enough to make a quilt like this!) AND cannot sew at all right now because I cannot sit due to my hip injury AND haven’t sewn at all since the hip injury occurred in February 2012 AND knew I could not afford the fabric needed to make one quilt, much less four, I COULD NOT stop thinking about making these quilts for my children.

The whole drive home from Thanksgiving had my brain going round in circles trying to figure out how on earth I could make these for my children. I especially wanted to make something for my children because it is Blythe’s last Christmas at home before her mission. We always make something special for our children and we weren’t going to this year because we decided to put all our Christmas money towards a TV. We also didn’t last year because we adopted an orphanage in Ecuador instead of buying presents. So even though I loved the TV idea, my whole soul was longing to make my children something from my heart. The more I thought about it, I realized there was just no way. I could not come up with any solutions. None.

On Tuesday, December 2, Sheri took me to physical therapy and afterwards I asked her if we could stop by the fabric store so I could price out fabric. As we walked through the store I became more and more enamored with the idea and at the same time, realized it was going to be far too expensive to even consider it.

Late that night, Sheri showed up at my door with a plan to get me the fabric. I thought she was crazy, but after lots of laughter and tears, I agreed to her plan…she would buy the fabric in exchange for future gymnastics lessons and work with my husband. We checked with Kat about the possibilities of using her fancy machine with a start/stop button instead of a foot pedal and how she thought it would work for me to sew standing up at an elevated table. She thought it would work, so we stayed up for hours looking at online fabric stores and got the jelly rolls ordered and I started brainstorming what I could sell to earn some money to pay for the quilting.

The next day was the big passing out/shaking/vomiting episode and I had to spend several days in bed. Friday night I felt well enough to go pick out minkee and Sheri, Jen, and I headed to the fabric store and were blessed to find a big table of minkee on sale for $7.88/yard! We were able to find stuff to coordinate with the tops, pick out the binding fabric, and make it home without any vomiting.

Then on Sunday, the 7th, I fell at church and injured my knee. And I continued to throw up almost all my food. It seemed there was no way I would be able to continue the project because I felt so terrible with the stomach issues and there was no way I would be able to stand to sew with my knee in so much pain.

But once again, my awesome friends helped me. Kat figured out how to put the sewing machine on a table over top of my zero gravity chair so I could lay back with my knee elevated and wrapped in ice packs and still reach the start/stop button and guide the fabric. Every few days, in between vomiting episodes and usually late at night after our children were in bed, Kat would come and get me, set me up in my chair with her sewing machine on top of me, and mentor me through each stage of the project. It was amazing! Each time I finished a top, I would shriek with joy and cry big tears of happiness at how fabulous they were turning out. I just could not believe my very limited sewing skills could produce something so beautiful. Even though I sewed all the stitches, it was Kat’s awesome tutelage that made them turn out so well.

My aunt owns a quilting business in Wyoming, so the next step was to get all the tops to her. We sent some of the tops on the 16th with a woman from my hometown who was up here visiting her daughter (thanks Lori!), then finished the remaining tops at about 2 a.m. Wednesday, the 17th, and sent them to Wyoming with our friend Tamia who was taking her boys to visit Jessica’s family for a few days. Then my mom got them from Jessica and took them over to Angie.

Angie worked her magic and then got them over to the fabric store to be bound. They were all done by Saturday, the 20th. But my mom was down in Salt Lake for the day and couldn’t pick them up. She had to leave early Monday morning before the store opened to come up here to deliver them, so she started calling all sorts of people to see if someone could go get them. She finally found someone (thanks Karen!) and we were one step closer to getting the quilts into my arms before Christmas morning.

Meanwhile I was here fretting about them, wondering if the quilting turned out well, if I had chosen the right designs, the right color thread, if the binding was working, and a million other things. I could not sleep Saturday night for fear I had completely ruined the whole project by choosing something wrong.

Also, that day I sold my beloved Singer 301A to finish up earning the money to pay for the quilting. It is my favorite machine to sew on and an incredible workhorse. I sewed my first and only quilt (until now) on it back in 2011. It was one of the things I knew could bring in some money and I since I can’t sit to sew, I can’t use it anyway. I have been holding on to it with the hope that someday I will be able to use it again, but I decided it was time to face the reality that I may never sit again.

Then on Monday, the 22nd, my mom showed up with her presents for our family and the all-my-hopes-pinned-on-them quilts. After she took my kiddos to a movie, I unwrapped the quilt package and burst into tears. They were so, so lovely. I could barely breathe, I was so in love with them.

Christmas morning my children opened one and only one gift from their parents – the quilts! They love them and have been snuggled up in them ever since.

Thank you Sheri, Kat, Jen, Angie, Lori, Tamia, Jessica, Karen, Charla, and mom. Thank you so much for helping me make this dream come true.

Annesley’s ray of sunshine quilt made with the Bloomin’ Fresh jelly roll. Hers is stitched with pink thread in a design of hearts, flowers, and stars. So cute!

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Fisher’s bold quilt is made with the Mixed Bag jelly roll and has orange zigzag binding. He loves, loves, loves lime green, orange, and red – this is so perfect for him. It always cracks me up that such a quiet boy is drawn to such loud colors and fabrics. His thread is blue and is quilted in a chevron design. His is the only one I wish I had done differently. I should have chosen a bug or airplanes design, but the chevron looks great.

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Keziah’s is done with the Girl Crazy jelly roll. She loves old cruiser bikes, so we did the quilt design with bikes and Scotty dogs (dogs are perhaps her biggest passion!) with turquoise thread and the binding is bikes too!

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Can you see the bike design?

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Blythe loves hot pink and other bright colors and I think the daisy quilting design goes with her fabric perfectly. It is made with the LOL jelly roll and has both hot pink binding and thread. She loves it!

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You can see how to make this Jelly Roll Race quilt in this video tutorial. This quilt pattern is called a one hour top and maybe it is for someone, but not for me. I’m about as slow as molasses. I sewed Blythe’s top first and it took me nine hours. By the time I got to the last one, I was down to about three or four hours. If you are a beginner quilter, this is an excellent project. It is technically easy, comes together quickly, and turns out beautifully. I would guess if you have any sewing skills at all, you can make the top easily in two – three hours.

I still can’t believe we got these done in three short weeks…and not three good weeks, three really, really hard weeks for my body to do much of anything. Pretty much a Christmas miracle!

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goodbye lina

Nov 20, 2014 by

Our oldest is an animal lover. She has rescued and tended animals since she was a wee lass. At the age of three she started rescuing injured birds (and I can’t even count the number of birds who owe their lives to her care). The Christmas she was 3 and 1/2, her beloved cat, Spike (Spike the 1st, as she would later have a string of cats, rock babies, and actually dolls named Spike), got caught in our engine on our way to a Christmas Eve party. I thought the cat needed to put out of its misery, but she dutifully and lovingly nursed it back to health with a variety of herbal salves and lots of prayers. At the age of five she would sleep outside with her chickens in fancy party gowns from the dress-up bin. She could tame wild, scratchy, claw-your-eye-out cats and love even the most reluctant ones into becoming her ardent admirers. A few years back her Sarah developed a blood clot and died. Blythe hand-fed her and cancelled all out-of-the-house activities for two weeks while her favorite feline companion slowly passed away. She has been able to bring chickens, kittens, and puppies back from what seemed like certain death over and over again.

But last night she couldn’t.

Last night, this animal-loving girl, ran over her own cat, Lina. Lina tried to get to Blythe and dragged her body over to the house before choking on her own blood and passing away right in Blythe’s arms.

My heart is hurting for Blythe, my strong, brave girl. She has had to bury many animals in her short life. Somehow, she keeps opening her heart to love another. I am so, so proud of her and her courage in dealing with the harsh realities of animal ownership. She is made of some tough-stuff.

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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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annesleyisms

Sep 26, 2014 by

Today on the way to gym, Annesley burst out with the declaration, “Mama, you are a hard woman.” I could barely contain my giggling because she sounded so happy about it and yet, being a hard woman doesn’t seem like something positive. This is how our conversation proceeded.

Annesley: Mama, you are HARD woman.

Me: What? A hard woman?

Annesley: Yes! I mean you started iFAMILY. You started gym. You are a hard worker.

Me: Oh! I see what you mean.

Annesley: That took a lot of effort! I mean look at how hard you have worked to create iFAMILY.

Me: Hmmm, why do you think I worked that hard?

Annesley: To help children learn and have fun?

Me: Yep. And because I love you. So, so much.

Annesley: Yes! And you wanted your kids to get exercise. And you too. But you don’t really get much anymore, do you?

I guess our many talks on effort, process, and determination (instead of results) have made it into her psyche.

Tonight for prayer she said, “Dear Heavenly Father, thank thee that we can be together as a family. Please help us to be guided. Please bless my mama to be healed. And my grandma. And please help us be kind and do what we need to do. And please help my cough. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Ahhh, so precious. I love this girl. So, so, so very much. She cracks me up, reaches the deep places of my heart with her happy, joyful spirit, and reminds me of the good things in life.

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all i want for cwissmuss

Aug 25, 2014 by

all i want for cwissmuss

Remember Miss Annes’ loose teeth back in July? Well, just a few days after this pic was taken, she lost three teeth and has had an adorable missing-two-front-teeth smile ever since.

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She lost two on the top and one on the bottom. She has five more loose ones and we are hoping at least the bottom middle one falls out soon so her tooth that came in behind all the rest can get some room to straighten out.

First she lost her bottom one.

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Then her top two.

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There is no sign of any teeth coming in yet and it has been nearly two months! Who knows, she might be sporting this toothless grin for awhile.

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the tooth fairy is coming

Jul 7, 2014 by

the tooth fairy is coming

Goodbye little girl with a smile full of baby teeth.

She lost a bottom tooth on Saturday night and her top two front teeth are super loose, they will be coming out soon. I actually have no idea how they are still in there – the one on the right can twist clear around in circles.

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Every single milestone brings a big sigh of bittersweet emotions from my soul. Seeing her lose her baby cheeks, her teeth, and her little girlness is so stinkin’ hard. I never thought I would have a home without a baby or a toddler – and now I am full blown into the lose-the-teeth stage for the last time. I want to ask the tooth fairy to hide piles of money under her pillow – surely having Annes hit the jackpot will assuage my heartbreak?

I was supposed to have a gazillion children and while I am so grateful for my four, each “last-time” feels like a knife wound.

It seems silly to cry over teeth, but I think I might.

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math=life lessons

Apr 21, 2014 by

Our little man has what I lovingly call the “leave me alone and let me build things and find bugs and for heaven’s sake, don’t make me sit still and do workbooks syndrome.” He does love me to read to him and he will sit for hours while I do so. He also sits still whenever he is focused on something of his own choosing. Lately it has been learning to draw bugs, race cars, and space ships.

He is really good at math. His minds gets math. I love watching the wheels turn in his mind as he ponders something and figures it out. But he doesn’t really like doing math. He especially doesn’t like to be cheerful as he does it. I was about to pull out my hair with all his grumpiness and flat out refused to help him whenever he turned into a whiney mess of “I can’t do it, I hate math, why can’t I go outside?” Richard talked to him. I talked to him. But nothing really helped for more than a day at a time. I thought about it. I prayed about it. Then I put a plan into action.

About four weeks ago I made him a deal. I told him if he could cheerfully do math with me and get done with his current math book and the next math book by the end of April, I would buy him the remote control rat he had been dreaming about since last fall. He had me count up all the pages in both books and help him figure out a schedule of four pages a day, three days a week.

But then I went to California with my dad…and then my mom and sister came…and we got behind on his schedule. We had to revamp it to seven pages a day, four days a week. And he cheerfully worked hard and learned a gob of new information and increased his skills and wowed me with how smart his little mind is. Somedays he got through eight pages, sometimes nine, but usually seven tuckered him out.

This morning he woke up and came and snuggled in bed with me and asked “How many more pages do I have in my math book?” I said “I don’t know, let’s count them up.” Well, he had 28 more pages so I said “You are doing great buddy! You are going to make it to your goal, I am so proud of you!”

He thought about it for a few minutes and then asked ever so sweetly, “Mom, can we do all 28 pages today? I want to finish today.”

“Of course! I will help you out and put in the time if you are willing to put in the time.” And so we started.

Nearly five hours later we finished. He was exhausted, but quite pleased with himself. He almost gave up a few times, but he stuck it out and pushed himself to do hard things. When he finished the last page, he gave me a heartfelt look with his big blue eyes and red eyelashes and said “Mom, thank you for helping me.”

He immediately called his papa and told him the good news and asked him to go pick up the rat. We found out a few hours later that the rat was only available at Halloween time and had been gone from the store for months. The poor boy! He was so disappointed. I found one online and offered to get it for him and have it arrive sometime next week, but in the end he decided to get a little lego set he found on clearance at our local variety store with his papa tonight.

I don’t believe in bribing children. I DO believe in helping them learn better skills and behaviors by occasionally creating a plan with them that involves a tangible reward. Fisher didn’t have to do x and then he got y. He had to overcome his desire to complain about his math book for weeks on end, treat me respectfully, learn a lot of really tough stuff, and stick with it day after day. In my mind, that is totally worth $14.

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full to the brim

Apr 20, 2014 by

Have you ever felt full to the brim with gratitude? With joy? Right in this moment I am…and I want to savor it and soak it in like those warm August days of summer that we like to take into our souls to get us through the long months of winter cold and dreariness.

Right this moment, the sun is shining through my window, casting a warm, yellow glow through the trees of our yard. The sky is a beautiful deep blue. My children are happily talking and laughing with one another while they hold the squeaking puppies.

Yesterday I was blessed to make a dream come true for my oldest daughters. Two years ago when Hale Centre Theatre announced they were doing Les Miserables in 2014 I promised them I would take them. Of course we had no idea what these two years would be like and didn’t know how hard of a promise it would be to keep. We especially didn’t know that nine weeks ago my foot would be so badly injured and make it very difficult for me to drive or do much of anything. But yesterday the blessings poured down upon me and I was able to take my girls and two of their friends on a lovely adventure. We had so much fun laughing and singing and loving together. My girls have been taking care of me for the past two years, but especially the last two months and it has been really, really taxing on their spirits. They see me as the taskmaster bossing them around from my bedroom which has been pretty challenging for our relationships. We haven’t had any girl fun for quite a while and it was wonderful for all of us to get away from laundry and dishes and schoolwork and broken bodies for awhile.

The girls and their friends were able to explore Gardner Village, chase snakes at the pond, ride the Ferris wheel at Scheels, eat lots of cookies, eat a delicious meal at our favorite place, Old Spaghetti Factory, get some awesome ballons from Matthew the Balloon Guy, AND thoroughly enjoy Les Mis. I was the chaffeur for the day and though my foot was throbbing by the time I pulled in to our driveway at 1:00 a.m., it was totally worth it to have such a memorable day with my daughters and their friends.

While we were gone, a friend snuck into our home and left a check for a month of physical therapy for me. Oh my, there is so much goodness in this world! This foot injury has set me back so far and I have worried and wondered how to make my Moola For Muscles funds stretch far enough to make it through this year that is supposed to be focused on muscle building, not foot healing. God keeps sending angels to help me keep going to therapy and getting put back together.

This morning I took some time to write a letter to each of our children a letter about Jesus, His death and resurrection, and shared some of my thoughts about their lives. We have never done Easter baskets or egg hunts or anything like that, but yesterday I felt prompted to get each of them a little present to help them in their spiritual walk with Christ. Then I called them into my room individually and had a resurrection talk with each of them with lots of hugs and kisses and gave them their present.

Today at church we sang “Christ The Lord is Risen Today” two times! It is my favorite Easter hymn and I love to belt it out at the top of my lungs. I felt sorry for the young couple sitting in front of us! I don’t have a very good singing voice and when I sing lying down in my zero gravity chair it is even worse, but I couldn’t restrain my joy at singing those words I love so much. Charles Wesley, the son of Susannah Annesley, wrote those words and everytime I sing it I fall in love with Miss Susannah all over again.

Life is full of bounteous blessings – good people surround me, rich experiences teach and sustain me, and my precious family is always here for me. Most of all, God lives with His arm outstretched to me in love and because of His love I can be both resurrected and redeemed. And so can you.

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a reading adventure

Mar 4, 2014 by

Annesley and I are starting a new adventure together – learning to read! She has been playing with our moveable alphabet, writing her letters, and playing alphabet games like the Bob Books and the lovely Montessorium apps on the iPad for quite some time, but last week she decided she was ready to put in the time to learn to read. I decided to start out with the I See Sam app and see how she responded to it. I have dozens of reading curricula here in my house and different programs have worked with different children, so I thought we would just try it out and then adjust as necessary.

Well, she loved it! Each book starts out with a few sounds to master. Then the next page lists the new words that are in the book. Then the story with those very few words. By the end of the 17-20 page story, those words are pretty darn cemented in the child’s mind.

So, we started out with /I/, /s/, /S/, /long e/, /a/, and /m/. Her words were I, see, and Sam. The first time was pretty challenging for her to put those sounds together and she wanted to look at pictures and tell her own story. But then she made all her words with the movable alphabet and wrote them down and they started to make it into her mind.

Yesterday we opened up I See Sam and this time it clicked! She could put the sounds together and make sense of them. She read all of Book 1 to me. Then she read it to her grandma. Then she begged me to allow her to read Book 2. To my great surprise, she read the whole thing with a giant smile on her face, high fives after each page, and a big hug for me at the end.

We have used Jolly Phonics, Happy Phonics, Reading Without Tears, Learning to Read with the Book of Mormon, The Writing Road to Reading, Bob Books, Phonics Games, Explode the Code, and several others I can’t remember now and while I think they all have their merits, I really love the I See Sam app. I love how simple the books start out with just five sounds and three words. It builds success quickly for the child and focuses on mastery of just those few components before moving on. There are not any sounds in the words that you haven’t been taught. So many early reading programs expect sight words to be known right from the get go and that has always frustrated my children. Annesley’s favorite part is the microphone. You can hit the mic button and record yourself reading a page or the whole book. Last night after she completed reading Book 2 for her papa, she went back and recorded herself reading it and then giggled herself silly while listening to herself. Then she added in all sorts of emotion and shouting to bring the story to life and recorded it again. So fun!

Then we made Annesley’s Reading Book, a notebook with all the words she knows. We are putting one word on each page and then she can practice writing that word all over the rest of the page.

Today we will be writing her known words on index cards, hanging them up on the wall, and letting her throw a ball at the word I say. Along with our moveable alphabet, we are also making up a little activity box with magnetized Bananagram letters and a small cookie sheet.

I am convinced that helping a child learn to read can be magical. I am really hoping that with this fourth child of mine I can take all the lessons from the past three and put them to good use so it is magical. So far so good!

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more of that miss annes

Mar 2, 2014 by

Our Annesley is growing up. I keep noticing all sorts of little things that say my baby girl is entering a new phase of her life. For one thing, she looks older. Her face is changing. I don’t really know how to describe it except to say it isn’t quite as cherubic as it used to be…thinner, a few more freckles, a look of seriousness in her eyes that never used to show up. Her body is lankier, getting longer and gosh, I don’t know, just different. Her legs seem stretched, her forehead seems bigger, and her hands are girl hands, not chubby, round hands.

She still comes in to my bed every morning and snuggles with me. It is our favorite part of the day. She tells me all about her nighttime dreams and I rub her back and clean out her eyes and smother her with kisses.

My body’s injuries have been hard on this wee one. She doesn’t really remember a time when my body wasn’t hurt. She keeps saying things like “I wwwwiiiiiiiiiiiiisssshhhh you didn’t have to be in bed all the time!” or “Why do you have to keep getting hurt? I want you to be all better and no one to ever hurt your feet again!” or “Mommy, do you think you will ever be better?” She is also very concerned for me with questions like “Mama, will that hurt your hip?” “Mommy, do you want to rub your neck?” This whole slew of injuries has sobered her. It hurts my heart for my little one’s childhood to be so different from her older siblings. No bike rides with me pulling her behind me, no hikes with her mama, no airplane rides on my legs or standing in my hands and balancing in the air. She is getting other memories and while I know I am loving her and nurturing her wondrous spirit, I sometimes wish I could wave my magic wand and give her back the last two years of her life with a functioning mama.

Annes and Fisher are best buddies, spending almost all of their time together. They love to explore our property, catch bugs and snakes, build their fort, sled all over the yard, and ride their bikes up and down our road. I am so grateful they have each other. Right now she is learning to read, loves writing her letters and playing games, dances around the house practicing her moves for her clogging class, and snuggling, snuggling, snuggling with anyone who will hold her. Her need for touch is enormous. I don’t know if it is possible to rub her enough. The other night all the children were gone to a play and Annesley was left home alone with me for the evening. We played Spot It and Battleship and she told me all sorts of stories. When it was time for bed she didn’t want to go sleep alone in the basement, so she climbed in bed with us and I held her just like when she was a baby. As I painted her face and rubbed her legs as she drifted off to sleep my heart welled up with love for this precious, precious, girl whose presence in our family is such a miracle. Sometime during that night of holding her it occured to me that there might not be many more of those kinds of nights left. There will come a day when she doesn’t need to sleep in my bed when her siblings are gone, when perhaps she won’t ask me to rub her and won’t start moving my hand across her back when I stop. And I will cry.

That night before she settled down in bed, she bounded over me to get my pills for me from my bin.

Me to Annes as she leaps precariously across my bed: Watch out for my foot!

Annes: I did! I was staring right at it!

Papa: What mama means is stay away from it, not look at it.

Annes: Oh!

She says all sorts of crazy things in the course of a day.

You are the best mama in the whole, whole, wide world.

Her phrase of choice when she doesn’t get what she wants.

You hate me!

Keziah won’t let me rub her anymore unless I pay her, so now I just have to rub myself.

I love Jesus sooooooooo much. He is my bestest friend.

Fisher says I can’t be a chicken owner if I don’t help him feed the chickens! Harumph! I don’t wwwwaaaannnnnttttt to feed them today and now he is taking my chicken back! Why can’t he just do all the work?

Mommy, I love you. I’m so glad Heavenly Father gave me to you. Your belly is sure fat, do you think he is sending us another baby? I wwwwannnnttt a baby. I will take care of the baby all day long just like I take care of Oaklynn. You can stay in bed.

Oh, how I love this girlie. She reminds me so much of my little girl self. So much confidence, so much life, so much joy.

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fiar: humphrey the lost whale

Jan 14, 2014 by

fiar: humphrey the lost whale

Annes and I started our FIAR adventure again this week. We took December off and just got into the swing of things with FIAR again. I wanted to read All The Places To Love, one of my all-time favorite books, but she chose Humphrey The Lost Whale

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This is the endearing, true story of a humpback whale who made a mistake and traveled under the Golden Gate Bridge, into San Francisco Bay, and up the the Sacramento River in 1985. Scientists, the U.S. Coast Guard, and people from all over the world worked together to help Humphrey get back out to the deep waters of the ocean.

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Miss Annes thoroughly enjoying this book. The whole time we were reading it she kept asking, “He doesn’t die does he? He makes it back to the ocean, right?” Today we talked about salt water vs. fresh water, the Golden Gate Bridge, blowholes, different types of bridges, whale sounds, and the maps in the book.

Great times with my little one – so grateful I have this time with her.

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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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