farewell 2015

Dec 31, 2015 by

Today is the last day of 2015. Wowsers, it is hard to believe this year of growth and change and pain and joy is gone. We have all learned a lot about doing hard things, giving and receiving, finding hope, enduring, and most of all, deep-down-in-your-little-toes joy.

The biggest change for our family has been Blythe leaving on her mission. She started the process of filling out papers in January, submitted them in April, received her call on May 4th to the California Irvine Mission, received her endowment in August, entered the Missionary Training Center on September 16, and arrived in California on September 29th. What an experience it is to get a missionary out the door! So much time and money and effort and heartache and happiness and precious moments all wrapped up in the same package. The two days we were able to spend with her in the temple before she left are among the most sacred and glorious of my life. I will always treasure seeing her dressed in white as she made covenants with God. And now, 3 1/2 months after she walked out our door into her new life, all I feel is peace and radiant joy. It has been a huge blessing to have my whole being wrapped up in a blanket of God’s love as my baby girl has gone out into the world to share His message of love and redemption.

We have had so many blessings this year: medical treatments and tests, working vehicles (and rescuing when vehicles broke down!), spending time with family, Annesley’s baptism, our long, bumpy driveway covered in gravel, an unexpected change in Richard’s job that gave him the hours he needed, many, many angels both on earth and in heaven who have taken care of me while I have episodes, Keziah’s job, gifts from the heart, magical days at the lake, camping in my mountains, donations to Blythe’s mission fund, and most of all, love. Heaps and heaps of love have been poured out upon us. My heart is full to bursting with the love I am surrounded with.

There is much I didn’t accomplish this year. I didn’t lose weight. I didn’t grow muscles. I didn’t keep a spotless house. I didn’t find a cure for connective tissue disorders (I mean that somewhat seriously…my brain is continually trying to solve the issue of defective collagen.) I didn’t read as many books as I normally do. I didn’t put on a big fundraising event. I didn’t clean out my closet. I cancelled my book discussion group more than half the months of the year. I didn’t write the book I wanted to. I didn’t figure out how to cook on a regular basis. I didn’t figure out how to make our budget work to save more money. I didn’t excel at personal scripture study (or family study either!). I didn’t finish my chalkboard project…or the skateboard swing project. Or stain the deck. Or clean out the garage. Or clean out under the stairs. Or finish the clothing purging project. Or burn the garbage pile. Or remodel the camper. Or defrost the freezer. Or plant a flower. Or beautify my yard in any way. I didn’t create a fabulous training program for the Primary Music Leaders of my stake like I wanted to. I didn’t make it home to my mom’s house even once. I didn’t start a business to bring in more money. I didn’t clean out Blythe’s room. I didn’t blog about Swim Camp, our GRL camping trip, Blythe’s endowment, her farewell, or hundreds of other important and wonderful things that happened. I didn’t do a lot of things.

But I did learn more about love. I did learn more about sacrifice. I did learn more about receiving and giving. I did learn more about grace. I did grow to love my Savior more. I did enjoy lots of snuggles with my children. I did deepen my relationship with my husband. I did serve and love and give my heart more fully to the people who have needed me. I have missed my friends who have moved away fiercely and have learned that love is worth the pain of loss. I have learned, more fully, that the power of God is real. I have connected more fully with my ancestors. I have learned more about forgiveness. I have chosen kindness more often than anger. I have chosen to feel more and build walls less. Somehow, through the grace of God, I have made peace with my body and its challenges. We did spend many days kayaking at the lake. We did have lots of family game nights. We did read beautiful books together. We did spend seventeen days in the mountains. We did float the river in Island Park. We did attend our family reunion at our favorite location. We did have family pictures taken. We did get our daughter on a mission. We did throw a fabulous ice cream fest at our home before she left. We did pray together. We did laugh and we did cry. We lived, in spite of injuries and episodes and pain and heartache, we chose to live. With hope and faith, we lived. What an amazing year!

God has given me thousands of opportunities to learn needed character lessons and while I am certain He has much more to teach me and I have much more to learn, I am grateful for the lessons I have been given and received this year. I failed many times and I hope I learned from the failures to love and give and serve just as much as from the successes. There have been many days of sorrow and loneliness and hopelessness and fear and despair and He has been here with me, teaching me, comforting me, and helping me to choose love over all else.

There is a lot of pain and heartache in this world. Right now, among many of my dear friends and family, there is gut-wrenching, soul-splitting pain. I cannot solve the myriad of challenges they are facing. I have no magic wand to end the suffering being experienced by those I love. But I can take them into my heart and pray and listen and serve and lift. I am reading For The Love by Jen Hatmaker and it is a balm to my soul. In the introduction, she shares her mission. I wish I had written it, for it is my mission as well.

After a friend of hers asks her child what she does for a living and the child doesn’t really have a good answer and says, “Yeah, but she doesn’t have a job where knows about something. Jen decides to write down exactly what it is she spends her life doing.

Besides being obviously esteemed in my own home, maybe I ought to clarify what exactly I specialize in, since is appears very, very unclear to my own child. Certain foks love numbers and columns and reconciled accounts. (I barely even know what this means.) Some of my good friends love organizing and administrating; they are weirdly good at it. I have family members who excel at web design and creative technology and others who are craftsman and builders. Educators, chefs, sports medicine specialists, realtors; all people people in my circle who obviously know about something.

A little closer to my space, some of my girlfriends are true theologians and love the ins and outs of sticky hermeneutics. Others are preachers with fire in their bellies. Some are academics working on graduate degrees in God. Some are social entrepreneurs doing great good with their companies and organizations. Still others give their lives to justice in hard places. This is how they are gifted and this is what they love.

I love people.

It’s what I know.

God has always made the most sense to me through people, His image bearers. I crave dignity and healing and purpose and freedom for me and mine, you and yours, them and theirs. I want us to live well and love well. The substance of life isn’t stuff or success or work or accomplishments or possessions. It really isn’t, although we devote enormous energy to those goals. The fullest parts of my life, the best memories, the most satisfying pieces of my story have always involved people. Conversely, nothing hurts worse or steals more joy than broken relationships. We can heal and hurt each other, and we do.

I’m hoping to help lead a tribe that does more healing and less hurting.

I consider that my job.

Oh my, isn’t that breathtakingly beautiful? I love her words and my goal for 2016 is to more fully live them – to heal more and hurt less.

We can do this. Will you join me?

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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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he’s not boring

Nov 18, 2015 by

Stable.

Boring.

Rock-solid.

Boring.

Patient. Dedicated. Committed. Perseverant. Adorable. Hero of the fridge, plugged drains, and piles of puke.

Boring.

Completely full of love for me.

We go back and forth with this discussion all the time. He thinks he is boring and wonders how on earth someone with my passion and energy and drive could ever be content with someone like him. I think he is stable and is the rock that holds all the crazy people in this home together.

In spite of my absolute conviction that he is not boring, lately I have been making him feel boring and not enough for me. From somewhere deep inside me a need to be swooned has burst forth and since he doesn’t feel like he is a swooning kind of guy, he was feeling like he isn’t enough for me. I think this need is mostly coming from my feeling so terribly broken and undesirable…like the need to be desired and swept off my feet has increased as my own inner undesirableness has increased. I have hurt him and apologized and hurt him again and apologized some more. Oh, how I wish I knew how to be a constant well of kindness and love. Oh, how I sometimes wish I could cut out my tongue!

We have worked it out. I have been able to narrow down my expectations so he has something to actually work with instead of a nebulous cloud of “I just need to be swept off my feet.” He has taken me on two actual, factual dates where I didn’t have to plan it out or do a single thing to make it happen. Two blissful wonderful evenings my soul desperately needed.

And then, I read this article on The Real Truth About ‘Boring Men’ and bawled my soul right out onto my pillow. Later that night, I sobbed my way through it again as I read it aloud to him. Go read it. Really. Right now. I wish I had Ann’s gift of communication and could have somehow written that message myself.

As we read, we both saw the truth of the situation. He saw himself with new eyes and realized he is not boring, he is purposed. My Richard has purposed his life to following Christ, giving his whole soul to me, and loving, serving and teaching our children. It is a 24/7 endeavor. So, while he may not surprise me with some fantastic date idea or make a YouTube video proclaiming his love, he will be in the trenches with me, cleaning up puke, listening to our children’s nighttime fears, and adoring my broken, soft-around-the-middle body. He is staying. He will not surprise me be leaving, by finding some hot new young thing. He is in this for the long haul and is determined to be kind, patient, forgiving, and serve each of us for now and forever. He has laid down his life for our family.

It is not showy or fancy, but it is real. It is solid. It is exactly what I need.

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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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stuffed potatoes

Nov 16, 2015 by

Something inside my mom-heart has woken up recently and I have been trying to prepare food for my family more frequently. I want my children to eat food I make for them, to feel my love for them in the food I feed them. Unfortunately this awakening has happened at the same time my wrist and forearm are terribly sore from my faceplant on October 30. So, we have some funny moments where I try to do things with my left hand and food flies across the kitchen. Or I spill things – yes, even more than usual – when I try to pour with my left hand. We have discovered it is basically just there to make me look normal as it is nearly non-functional for any cooking or writing activities.

Tonight I made one of our favorite dishes from long, long ago when I used to cook everything from scratch and did so on a regular basis. When Annesley saw what was for dinner, she didn’t even remember eating these before so it must have been awhile ago when I was making these on a regular basis!

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Stuffed Potatoes

  • 5 Large Baked Potatoes
  • 1 C. Plain Yogurt (can substitute sour cream)
  • 1 C. Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 3 T. Butter
  • 2 T. Milk
  • 2 T. Finely Minced Onion
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • Dash of Pepper
  • 1/2 C. chopped cooked bacon (I’ve never put it in and it is super delicious without it.)

Slice potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out centers, reserving shells. Beat potatoes with yogurt cheese, butter, milk, onion, seasonings, and bacon. Stuff shells. Place on baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Garnish with paprika and/or parsley (although I have never put either one on).

From Whole Foods For The Whole Family by La Leche League International

My arm is done functioning for the night. Cutting and scooping out and stirring and scooping back in were super painful, but worth it for the squeals of delight from our kiddos and the smiles my sweetie gave me when he saw what I had made.

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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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twenty-two

Oct 15, 2015 by

I woke up this morning with his lips on my forehead and his tender voice whispering “Happy Anniversary.”

Twenty-two years of being loved by this man. Twenty-two years of being tutored in love’s actions and feelings. Twenty-two years of tenderness.

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I am so blessed. So very richly blessed.

Last night I taught the Music Leaders of our Stake for 45 minutes. For the past several weeks I haven’t known what to teach. Nothing felt right. I didn’t feel like I should teach them anything about the mechanics of their calling or give them a list of things to do or not do. But I didn’t know what I should share. And then, just yesterday, it came to me. I needed to share the power of teaching doctrine to the children and how it changes lives. One part of that message was my sharing a little bit of my story and how the song “Families Can Be Together Forever” gave me something solid to hold on to when my family fell apart. As a young person, I wasn’t at all sure that families COULD be together forever, but this song gave me the courage to try to create a family that would be together forever. Everyone in the room cried. My face and neck were covered in tears as we each felt the power music can have in saving souls.

I am so, so grateful God gave me the courage to say yes to our marriage. Richard’s pervasive goodness, kindness, calmness, and steadiness has blessed me and changed me for the better. Our marriage has given me our precious children and a life of happiness in motherhood I could not have ever imagined. His love has transformed me.

This morning I read all the posts I have written on our past anniversaries and my heart filled up with joy. Oh my goodness, I love my Richard!

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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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the love he gives

Aug 25, 2015 by

Conversation as Richard leaned down to kiss me before he leaves for work this morning.

Me feeling a bit unlovable as I have been more than a little grumpy lately: Is this just a daily duty on your to-do list?

R: No, not a duty. It is my privilege.

Magical words to soften my heart and bind us together. Oh, how I love this man.

p.s. I will try to write soon. Right now I am up to my eyeballs in getting my house purging projects finished so my guests coming to stay in the next few days have a place to eat, sleep, and sit.

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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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lift up your heart, lift up your voice, rejoice, again, i say rejoice!

Apr 5, 2015 by

It’s Easter night and my heart is full to bursting with joy and peace and love and gratitude. Tears of deep thanksgiving have flowed freely throughout the day as I have thought of my Savior’s sacrifice for me and all the rest of God’s children throughout the world who have ever or will ever live.

When I last wrote I was hurting and pleading for some measure of hope. One of the many conclusions I came to was that this whole connective tissue disorder journey is hard, really, really hard, because there are no actual answers, nothing to measure and have charted out. It’s not like I can do x, y,and z and reasonably expect a, b, or c to happen. There is no schedule of treatments, no way to predict what will happen. At one point in those hopeless days of last week I actually screamed out that I would rather have cancer than Ehlers-Danlos because then I would at least know how big the tumor is or what tests could be done or what probability success rates might be. For the record, I DO NOT WANT CANCER. But going down that rabbit trail of thoughts helped me to understand for a moment why this can sometimes feel so challenging – there is no data, no answers for my information-loving brain to rely on. It can feel like I have no control of my situation. Instead I do a lot of waiting…waiting for ligaments to ever so slowly heal, waiting for my nervous system to calm down, waiting for my stomach to digest food, waiting for inflammation to subside, waiting for bones to stay in place, and worst of all, waiting and wondering what the next injury will be. The not-knowing is driving me crazy.

We are at 17 weeks with this knee injury and it is still incredibly unstable and while it doesn’t hurt very much if I lie around doing nothing, the simplest activities like riding in a car, walking, or even crossing my ankles up the pain level dramatically. And really, all I can do is wait. I can’t have surgery, I can’t take some magic pill and get those collagen fibers to knit together, I can’t do an exercise or eat some special food to make it heal. I can wait and pray and hope and wear my brace and ice it down and use my oils and herbs and drink lots of water and give my body good nutrition. It can feel so incredibly hopeless to simply wait.

And this car accident has really done me in emotionally and physically. The pain in my neck and face and sacrum, oh, my goodness, it is constant and it seems as though we are not making much progress. Every week when I see Jeremy, the pain that he works on is either eliminated or greatly diminished, but a different pain takes its place. All the vertebrae and facial bones are so loose from being jarred in the accident, that shifting some of them back into place seems to move other ones right back out of place. I think we are making progress, but it is soooooo sssssslllllllllooooooooowwwwwwww that sometimes discouragement gets the best of me.

In spite of all of this, I woke up on Friday and my heart leapt with joy. It was Passover and I could tangibly feel the joy of being delivered and redeemed and loved by God himself. My feet had a bounce in their step that hasn’t been there in months and my heart felt light and happy. Kate, my new gymnastics assistant, said she had never seen me like that and Grant, my long-time assistant smiled a huge grin and said “I have, but it has been a long time.” The joy of the Lord is real – I know because it filled my heart and took me out of that place of despair.

We had a lovely Passover dinner on Friday evening with my dear friend, Jennifer, and her four daughters, three of my Worldviews students, our friends, the Cardons, with five of their children, and our friend, Paula, who jumped in at the last minute to fill Jesse’s (Jennifer’s husband) spot. Then on Saturday and Sunday we watched General Conference and my soul was lifted and strengthened even more with the messages of faith, the great love of God, and the hope the atonement and grace of God can give to each of us.

After Conference, I decided I had to completely ignore the vice-grip pain in my facial bones and read the last 32 pages of The Wingfeather Saga on this special Easter Sunday. I have been so incredibly frustrated at my inability to read more than a couple of pages to my family since the car accident before the pain in my face is so excruciating that I have to stop and ice it down, but today I realized it has worked out perfectly. I knew (since I have read the ending of the series twice already) that the last few chapters are a type of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice and resurrection and that the story would touch our children’s hearts and help them to see the atonement with new eyes as they learned the fanged monsters could be changed back into humans devoid of the anger and cruelty of their past selves. I have known for months that these chapters contained beautiful messages of God’s grace, sacrifice, and love that would reach deep into our children’s souls and give them truths they need and I have been hungry to give it to them, but I couldn’t make that happen very quickly because it hurt so much to read aloud. But now, with perfect timing, we have spent our Easter Sunday evening crying our eyes out as our hearts were broken with the sacrifice offered, the healing of the fangs, and the price of blood that had to be paid to bring it about.

Oh, my heart! It is so full with the love of God and love for God. I love Him. I trust Him. I rejoice in Him.

This song by Charles Wesley (the son of my beloved Susannah Annesley who Annesley is named after) captures the feelings of my heart tonight.

Rejoice, the Lord is King!
Your Lord and King adore!
Mortals, give thanks and sing
And triumph evermore.

Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

The Lord, the Savior, reigns,
The God of truth and love.
When he had purged our stains,
He took his seat above.

Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail;
He rules o’er earth and heav’n.
The keys of death and hell
To Christ the Lord are giv’n.

Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

With Christians around the world, I rejoice that Christ was willing to come to earth and make it possible for each of us to return to our Father and become like Him as we learn to love and serve and sacrifice.

I know more dark days will probably come, but tonight, this glorious Easter night, I want to savor these feelings of peace and joy and gratitude for all He has done.

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three years of family history

Mar 29, 2015 by

three years of family history

Treasured days.

Sacred days.

This week is the 3rd year anniversary of the epic trip to Utah in the invalid mobile in which Kat and Jessica took me to Utah, insisted on me getting an MRI of my non-functioning hip joint, and we laughed and cried more than I ever thought possible. March 27th was the day Jessica’s dad gave me a priesthood blessing and God invited me on a precious journey of family history work.

A large group of friends and ward members joined us at the temple for a night of sealings. I spent almost all of the evening leaning/laying on a small couch with my knee propped up and beaming with joy. I could not stop smiling as I thought about the past three years of doing family history work and falling in love with my ancestors. We were able to complete 261 ordinances…which is a ton. A ton. My heart was full to bursting as family after family was joined together with priesthood ordinances.

There really are no words to describe the exhilaration and peace that came to me last night.

I am a different person than I was on March 27, 2012 – my body is more fragile, my muscles are weakened, my emotions are closer to the surface, I have less capacity to do what I want to do and more desire to do what God desires for me. I am more somber, less spontaneous, more prone to tears, more prone to grumpiness, less able to think clearly, more able to see clearly, more able to cope with pain, and less willing to want to do so. I feel things. More. The good, the bad, and the ugly feelings pile up inside me and I don’t always know what do with them. Crying is often the answer. While I am not at all sure I like all the changes, I am grateful for this journey. It has been hard, climb Mount Everest kind of hard. It has been beautiful and sweet and powerful and sacred and joyful.

I have not undertaken this journey alone. There has been an army of friends and family cheering me on from the sidelines, taking care of my body, helping me with the ins and outs of daily life, and showering me with love. Piles and piles of love that have been a lifeline to my soul. I have learned how important the love and support of fellow human beings is in getting one through hard stuff.

And then there is Richard. Richard, with his patience, rock-solid stability, faith in God, great ability to forgive, soft-heart, and willingness to do whatever he can to ease my burdens has been a fortress of strength. He has shown me again and again what love is. How love acts. What love looks and feels like. He has taught me what marriage can be. He has shown me what the love of a good man can do for a woman.

There has been a multitude of heavenly help as well. Angels have been by my side, lifting and protecting. I have been guided on my journey by God – He has often planted ideas in my heart, surrounded me with His comforting arms, and given me new perspectacles to see a situation with His eyes.

No, I would not give back these three years if I could. I will keep them and savor them and try to allow God to mold me into what He wants me to be.

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

I am still a run-down beach shanty with holes and leaks and all manner of building code violations, but I can feel God working in my life, making me into something else. It is painful and beautiful all at the same time. And today, I am grateful. Grateful that He cares enough about me to transform my life with His love and the things He has asked me to do.

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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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helping them find their way

Mar 10, 2015 by

Living with a genetic disorder is hard. I don’t care what the condition is or how life-altering it is, it is hard to face the reality that one’s genes are messed up.

It is even more difficult to realize and then go on living with the reality staring me in the face that I have passed this on to my children.

On Sunday we had a family council and explained hypermobility and what it looks like and what it means. Our children have always known they were more flexible than their peers and that I was super flexible and, of course, they have lived through the past three years of my nearly constant injuries, but amazingly enough, they didn’t really know they were at risk for these same type of injuries. We tried to present the information in a “Let’s all work together and get super strong and take care of our bodies” sort of way, but that message only goes so far with children who have their brains turned on to evaluate the message and can see right through the rah-rahs to the grim prognosis. Responses varied to our rousing cry of “We are going to start an exercise plan to build super strong muscles! When people are flexible like we are, they need more muscles to hold them together. Does anyone have any suggestions to build our muscles?”

Fisher: Are you saying my hips are going to break like moms? (For the record, my hips are NOT broken – the labrum on the right side is torn.)

Blythe: But we aren’t as bad as you are, right? Right? We won’t end up like you, right?

Keziah: I AM NOT EXERCISING WITH THE FAMILY!

Annesley: When can we start? Do I get to do DDP Yoga with Papa? I am so strong and now I will be EVEN stronger!

Fisher: Am I going to start passing out like mom?

Fisher: Why did this happen?

Blythe: Just because we are so flexible, that doesn’t mean we have to end up like you, right? You were more flexible than us, weren’t you?

Keziah: I am FINE.

Annesley: I will get super strong. Look at my backbend, look, look, I can almost touch my feet with my hands. LOOK!

Fisher: Are you saying my ligaments are like mom’s?

We tried to be reassuring. We tried to calm fears and give hope and help them understand, but they couldn’t. All they could see was the string of injuries their mother has become and see themselves on the same path. Some of them tried to reject the whole thing, insisting they are “fine,” some of them got scared, some of them tried to solve it logically, some of them just aren’t willing to look it square in the face yet.

I understand all of that, having felt all those same emotions myself. It will take some time for them to figure out how to deal with it. It is going to take lots of encouraging words from us as parents and lots of real, deep, heart-to-heart listening.

At the same time, we do not want it to be a focus of their lives – we want them to run and play and laugh and live without a constant worry hanging over their heads that they will end up like me.

And that is what I don’t know how to do. They see me everyday. They see me shaking, passing out, crying in pain, taking piles of supplements. They see me unable to lift my arms up to drive, unable to carry things, sitting in my special chair, and going to endless physical therapy appointments. They see it up close and personal. They have helped dress me, cleaned up my vomit, pushed me in wheelchairs, called out for someone to help me, taken my heartrate and so much more. We have tried to protect them and I often put on my very bravest face when they are around, but our talk on Sunday took off the last of their blinders and they started to really internalize that this is not just about me. It is about them and their children and their children’s children. It is real. It is not something we can just wish away or grow out of.

How do I help them balance out the plain facts in front of them with a huge dose of hope and optimism and free spiritedness? How do I help them build muscles without it being done in a spirit of fear of what could happen if they don’t? How do I lead them in developing habits that will lead to a lifetime of strengthening activities when I cannot participate myself? How do I look in their eyes and see their fear without it breaking my heart?

It is time for courage.

Against all odds, God gave me these precious children and He expects me to teach them how to deal with the life they have been given, not the one they wish they had. None of us wishes to have something wrong with our bodies, but the reality is something IS wrong and it is time to learn how to thrive.

On top of the exercising they are doing, I think they need a host of stories planted deep in their souls of people doing hard things. I want them to know they are part of a plucky family so we are going to be sharing more family history stories. They need to hear and hold in their hearts more stories of bravery, sacrifice, service, compassion, duty, and love. I plan to fill them up with stories of American patriots, fellow Christians serving God with full-purpose of heart, and stalwart men and women from all over the globe. They need to know that even though their collagen may be made of weak materials, they are made of tough stuff that can and will do hard things.

I have learned that while the physical challenges of this disorder are great, the emotional, spiritual, and mental battles are far more critical to my well-being. If I can stay in a place of mental toughness, open-heartedness, gratitude, commitment, and peace, I can function well, regardless of what state my body is in at the moment. When I give in to hopelessness, fear, anger, self-pity, or try to close myself off from the world, that is when I am really in trouble.

So, building their muscles is essential. Absolutely. But far more important is building their spirits to know who they are, what they are made of, and the nature of their God.

Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for The Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. – Joshua 1:9

Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. – 2 Kings 6:16

Therefore now let your hands be strengthened, and be ye valiant. – 2 Samuel 2:7

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. – 2 Timothy 1:7

And they were all young men and they were exceedingly valiant for courage and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all – they were men who were true at all times in whatsover thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and sobernes, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before Him. – Alma 53:20

They need to know that when hard days (and weeks and months and years) come, for we all have them in various ways, they can and must turn to the Lord and He will strengthen them. He will infuse them with power to keep trying and courage to choose to do so. He will pour down healing that cannot be explained by medicine and He will wrap them in His arms of love during the pain. He will love them with a love that is pure and precious and sanctifying.

And as this knowledge grows within them, they will be able to face EDS and all the other challenges that this life will give them.

I guess that is my answer…rely on The Lord, courageously fight my battles, share stories with my children of brave men and women and children doing hard things, and trust that they will turn to Him.

Small marching orders, eh?

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let’s build muscles…not mine yet

Mar 5, 2015 by

I have known I was hypermobile my whole life…not in a diagnosable sort of way, but in a “look, how cool I am, I can bend in half” sort of way. I knew my ankles rolled really easily and were sprained more often than not. I knew that to compete in gymnastics or play volleyball or basketball, I needed my ankles to be taped. I knew when I had shoulder surgery 20 years ago that the surgeon had to cut off 90% of the ligament before it would hold my shoulder joint in place properly. I knew he said I would never be able to have children because of my unstable, hypermobile pelvis. I knew he diagnosed me with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease with Ligamentous Laxity. But I didn’t really know what a big challenge hypermobility was until the past three years.

And maybe I still don’t.

Even though I am living this experience of constant sprains, tears, broken bones, nervous system dysfunction, and pain, I still don’t really know what is coming or what this really means for me or my hypermobile children.

A few days ago, I had to drive myself to PT because Blythe was at work and I didn’t feel like I should bother ask any of my friends to take me, so I decided to take Fisher with me and have a little date with him (big mistake…driving still hurts a whole bunch…but it was lovely to spend some on-on-one time with my boy). While we were there, I asked Fisher to sit in butterfly position so Jeremy could see how flexible his hip joints are. Then Jeremy asked him to W-sit and upon seeing Fisher’s legs flop flat on the floor without pushing or straining in any way, he agreed with me that he is extremely hypermobile as well. I already knew that – I have eyeballs and can see my children walking with their toes folded underneath their feet and their hands and feet touching during backbends – but it was interesting to hear it pronounced from a medical professional.

While I know that my super-strong-gymnast muscles were my strongest defense in preventing injuries and the only reason my body was able to carry and birth our four beautiful babies and make it to 37 years of age before I started falling apart, I didn’t really know deep down in my little toes ENOUGH to do something about it. I have certainly thought about it a lot and hoped my children were getting enough exercise at gymnastics and riding bikes and running around in the yard and going to Irish Dance classes, but I didn’t think about it enough to make a plan to build their muscles.

But now I know and we are making a plan to give them the best shot at holding together for long past 37.

Jeremy said “Tracy, from what I have seen of your children, they all have it and they all need muscles. Lots of muscles. Way more muscles than they currently have. You need to start a family exercise regimen to build their cores with lots of stability exercises, muscle control, and muscle building.”

His words have been playing in my mind for the past few days. I can’t stop thinking about them and what we need to do. When I think about how many sit-ups and push-ups I did as a gymnast and how much good those thousands of exercises did for me, my eyes well up with tears. I am positive that the crunches, laps, sports, running, biking, and hiking that I used to participate in are what gave me the last twenty fairly injury-free years of my life. My children need at least as much muscle strength as I had so they have a good shot at life as well.

Now that I know, really know, deep down in my toes, I am brainstorming ways to build their muscles on a daily basis. Today Kez finished her two trimesters of seminary for the year, so our daily schedule is about to change again and I am working on a great plan to use that early morning time to build muscles.

We will be utilizing our awesome Elliptigo and our DDP Yoga videos as well as my balance pads and resistance bands. I am still on a no-exercise protocol until the inflammation from the car accident calms down some more (How on earth has it not calmed down????? I have even given in and am taking 2400 mg. of ibuprofen every day!) so I cannot exercise with them, but I am hoping Richard will be able to or they will be able to do it with one of the big girls directing them.

Jeremy strong recommended martial arts, so I am thinking about that, and also considering a weekly swimming trip, trying to figure out family bike rides (again, I can’t ride), and trying some exercise videos from the library.

I don’t know why it has taken me three years to think about this enough to actually do something about it, but it has. If you have some kid-friendly muscle-building tips, send them my way!

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three years

Feb 20, 2015 by

I remember the snow lightly falling on my nose as I warmed up my body with lunge walks, butt kicks, and grapevines. I remember feeling strong, capable of doing anything I set my mind to, and full of excitement for a summer full of races with my girlie. I remember running on Friday, the 17th, down at the greenbelt, with the sun shining – I ran further and faster and could actually see myself as a runner instead of just a mother of a runner.

I remember the take-my-breath-away pain deep in my groin as I brought my right leg forward. I remember feeling like an at-the-hip amputation would be better than the pain I was feeling. I remember hobbling back to the Suburban bringing my leg forward with my hands. I remember Richard carrying me to bed that night when I couldn’t put any weight on my leg at all.

I remember the weeks spent in bed covered in ice packs and the neverending pain of both body and spirit. My children fighting, crying, whining, unable to cope with mom spending day after day in bed. I remember sobbing myself to sleep many a night and being completely frustrated at my body, my situation, and my children.

I remember the first Priesthood blessing and how the heavens opened and poured love, light, and power into every fiber of my being. I remember the beginning of my family history journey and how insatiable my desire was to find each member of my family.

I remember the army of friends who brought in meals, cleaned my house, drove my children to activities, sent me cheer-up notes, prayed for me, and surrounded me with love.

I remember Kat, Jenn, and Jess taking care of me – gently helping me see reality, laughing, driving me to appointments with doctors, holding my hand as needles were inserted, holding my whole body as I sobbed all the pain and frustration out into a pile of snot. Kat and Jess went the extra mile and cleaned up my very stinky, post-MRA pee.

I remember the patient, calm, nurturing of my husband. I remember spending my days alone in my bed feeling completely broken and like a burden and failure. And then he would come home and give me that look. And my heart would fill up with a little bit of hope and a pile of love for this man who loves me more than life itself.

So many memories of those first few months, I want to remember forever – those were hard, hard days – too precious to forget.

Now it has been three years since that first day of pain and injury. Three years full of hundreds of little injuries and lots of big injuries. Three years full of more pain than I can describe. Three years of our children learning to be self-sufficient, run a household, take care of each other, and take care of me. Three years of learning to rely on God and submit to His will for my life. Three years full of the miracles of God, prayers answered, blessings poured out upon us. As hard as it has been, I am grateful for this experience – the pain, despair, and agony of soul AND the love, service, and joy. It has all been a powerful blessing for our whole family and many others as well.

Last night I showed this movie to Richard and with tears in my eyes, thanked him for all the work he does both behind the scenes and in full view that allows me to stil have a somewhat independent life. Tonight we are celebrating by watching Unbroken…for that is what we are, unbroken, full of faith, and determined to make it through.

I sent this thank you out to hundreds of people this morning. I share it here so that all my blog readers can know how grateful I am for you as well. Thank you for walking this journey with me and sending me so many words of encouragement. They have lifted me more than you know.

Dear Loved Ones,

Today, February 20, marks the 3-year anniversary of my original hip injury. I could spend today mourning all the freedom and body functions I have lost, but instead I want to celebrate and focus on the many blessings that have come from that injury. I want to pay tribute and give thanks to each of you – the many family members and friends whose support has meant so much during the last three years. We are surrounded by an army of goodness!

As our family has been called upon to make significant changes to our life, we have been held in God’s keeping. We could not have made it through these past 36 months without you. You have truly been God’s hands and you have spread His light.

Some of you have given generously of your time. Some of you have driven me to appointments or taken me shopping. Some of you have given us money or paid for therapy, equipment, and medical appointments. Some have given food, cleaning, and other acts of service. Some of you have held my hands through painful treatments. Some of you have held me during seizures. Some of you have prayed for me and with me. Some of you have given smiles and hugs. Some of you have written notes full of faith and encouragement. Some of you have cried with me. Some of you have given Priesthood blessings. Some of you have helped me with my family history work. Some of you have listened. Some of you have carried my zero-gravity chair all over Timbuktu. Some of you have taken care of our children. Some of you have repaired our home. Some of you have been the support team for Richard and our children. Some of you have worked in our yard. Some of you have put my body back together again. Some of you have picked me up off the floor and carried me. All of you have lifted burdens. All of you have loved.

Today our hearts are full of gratitude to you and for you. Thank you for walking this journey with us. Your service has made all the difference.

In the past three years, I have had a labral tear in my hip, a broken left foot, a dislocated right foot, dislocated ribs, dislocated jaw, dislocated shoulders, nearly constant pubic bone issues, stretched MCL, torn LCL, torn meniscus, hundreds of seizures, thousands of passing out episodes, and many more injuries I am forgetting. I have been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that means my collagen is defective and my ligaments do not hold me together very well. As a result of my injuries and the subsequent damage to my nervous system, I have also developed POTS, which is Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, and Dysautonomia, which are just fancy ways of saying my body has a hard time running the automatic functions of my body, such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, temperature, and blood flow.

Two weeks ago I was in a minor car accident and we have yet to see the full results of these injuries as we are still in the figuring-things-out-stage – all I really know is my face, neck, shoulders, ribs, spine, and pelvis are in a world of hurt.

I have absolute faith in God and know He can heal me. While a complete blessing of healing has not come, many dear and precious blessings have been poured out upon me. At the same time, He is teaching me how to live in this oft-injured state. I never know how my body will function from day to day and am learning to be grateful for the really small things in life.

There are not sufficient words to express my gratitude for your kindness and generosity to me. Thank you for everything you have done and will do in the future.

Your presence in my life and your generous service have filled this difficult journey with light, love, laughter, and most of all, faith, hope, and peace.

I love you,
Tracy

Richard, Blythe, Keziah, Fisher, and Annesley also say THANK YOU!

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what can i do for you?

Feb 9, 2015 by

Sometimes I am a prickly porcupine to live with, sometimes I am more like a fire-breathing dragon. Often I am cheerful and fun and loud and spontaneous and caring and all sorts of other good things, but far more than I like to admit the grumpy monster comes out of me.

One of the things that brings out the prickles is pain, which has been in abundance for the last three years, but has seemed to be all-encompassing since the car accident last week. It feels like I cannot deal with another ounce of hurt added. Last night after 6 hours of church meetings, my face and neck and ribs were DONE.

Another thing is our tinsy little budget that changes all the time based parent’s forgetting their child’s therapy appointment or their vacations or having a sick child. We never know from month to month what our income will be and since our income is small to begin with there is not a lot of room for Richard to lose money when people don’t show up for appointments.

Put those two situations together and you get a giant, prickly, fire-breathing BEAST, which is what I was last night as I tried to make a budget for the month and the year and my physical therapy and Blythe’s appointments with doctors and dentists before her upcoming $400 a month mission. All of which seems like an impossibility.

And instead of continuing to pour over numbers and use my creative little brain to problem solve or think about how to bring in more money or how to cut costs or how to have more faith or how to simply give it all over to God who is endlessly showing me He is taking care of us, I opened my mouth and spewed out toxic sludge on the person I love most.

“Why was your check $600 short?” and “How on earth am I supposed to make this work?” and “Isn’t there something YOU can do to get more hours?” and on and on and on.

And he said, “I’m sorry. I’ll keep looking for a different job.” Then he went and cleaned off our bed (which was piled with my stuff) and came out and asked if there was anything he could do for me.

In my frustration at how much pain my face was in and my anger at our budget for the month, I almost spouted off that there was nothing he could do for me except earn more money, but I took a breath and let his kindness fill my heart. Then I looked in his eyes and let it all melt away.

This is why we are still married. Because he serves and loves and forgives. He shows me on a daily basis what love does. What it looks like. What it feels like. Ever so slowly I am learning to love and serve as he does. To put his needs before my own. To sincerely and actively seek to improve his life.

An article by Richard Paul Evans is circulating around the interwebs about marriage. It is excellent advice and I know first-hand how effective it is because my Richard lives that style of love every single day.

The pain may be an on-going part of my life, most likely, the budgetary challenges will be, but those things are not what really matter. Our marriage is what matters. Our treatment of one another and the love we bless each other with is what matters. The people we become as we serve one another is what matters. The covenants we keep are what matters.

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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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such a silly ditty

Dec 24, 2014 by

My mom came to visit the past few days and brightened my spirits immensely. She helped me get all the odd and ends done for Christmas and brought presents! Most of all, she gave my children some much needed love. It hasn’t been a very fun month for them because we haven’t been able to go many places and I haven’t been the most cheerful mom on the planet. She just drove away and this silly little ditty poured out of me…it isn’t good poetry or anything, but she’ll like it.

‘Twas the day before Christmas when all through the home
My mama is working herself to the bone
The dishes and laundry and cooking up treats
Are her gift to me as I sit on my seat.

Took kids to the movies and had lots of fun
She sure can keep up even if she can’t run
Her knee swelled up huge as she hobbled around
Taking us all out for fun on the town.

She took me shopping for stockings and groceries and stuff
We almost got hit, TWO TIMES, it was rough!
We giggled and laughed as I burped through the day
Oh, how I wish she could come here and stay!

Now mama must return to her quiet house
Where creatures aren’t stirring, not even a mouse.
She brought us some presents, some help, and some cheer,
We hope she’ll come back before the new year!

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welcome december

Dec 3, 2014 by

We have had a long Thanksgiving week at my mom’s house. All my siblings came and it was really good to spend time with everyone. I haven’t been home since January…too long. There is something special about going home that fills up my inward parts like nothing else can.

We were able to attend church in my old, growing-up ward. Oh, the joy! Those people are my people. Although I have told them repeatedly, I’m sure they don’t really understand what an impact they had on my life. Their example of loving Christ, trusting Him, and being His hands in my life taught me much about discipleship. About service. About forgiveness and love and standing for truth. Two of my favorite people said the prayers…I loved hearing them give thanks to God. The whole three hours of meetings were full of happy reunions, hugs and smiles, and lots of beautiful messages about coming to Christ. My heart was filled to bursting.

The rest of the week was spent with my siblings and mama. We played Rook and Spades, cooked lots of yummy food (I actually don’t think I cooked anything, but everyone else did), took kids swimming a few times, and celebrated Annesley’s birthday. Mikelle spoiled us all with new haircuts. One day she did seven haircuts and two colors!

I was also able to go see my Jessica THREE times! Wahoo! She has moved to Wyoming and lives fairly close to my hometown, so of course, we had to take advantage of the close proximity and hang out a few times.

Now that we have been home a few days we are slowly getting our home ready for the month of Christmas. Our Christmas books are out and our tree is up, but not yet decorated. We are waiting for a time when we are all here together and (it is not the middle of the night!) to decorate and put out the nativities. I think the next time we will all be home when it is not sleeping time is Sunday. Ridiculous, but it is all for a good cause. This week is Blythe’s Symphony Concert and she is working two jobs on top of attending play rehearsals AND symphony rehearsals. She is leaving in the morning and getting home every night after 10:00. Long, long days for her.

I need to write a big ‘ol gratitude post and a post about Miss Annes’ birthday and I should probably post about today’s crazy shaking/passing out/puking debacle. (I really needed Jessica here today to witness the whole thing so she could write up a hilarious description and have us all laughing our heads off). Anyway, I may get to those posts or I may not. I don’t know. There is just not enough of me to go around.

Either way, welcome December. May this month bring peace and love and greater connection with God.

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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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delightful moments

Nov 18, 2014 by

After a lazy day of puttering around the house, getting letters sent out for next month’s baptisms for church, working on a big book order for the new Tuttle Twins book, and having learning time with the children dragged out over a long, extended afternoon, we had the surprise of a delightful evening.

Fisher, who is currently in an I-hate-doing-math stage, surprised us all by solving some tricky puzzle math problems and giggling while he did it! Then I read with Miss Annes our FIAR book of the week, Ferdinand, while we snuggled up together. Then I quizzed Keziah on all of her questions for her Sword of Freedom test coming up tomorrow and we laughed ourselves silly while naming all the battles, soldier numbers, acts of Congress, generals, landmarks, and all the other factoids she needs to have solidly placed in her brain by tomorrow. She keeps saying she is going to flunk her test and I, thinking she is an honest child, believed her. But she is not! Lands alive, that girl has this stuff down. She knew it up and down and inside out and would shout her answers with sass and absolute silliness. The answers she didn’t know inside out, she said such ridiculous things at the top of her lungs that I peed my pants a wee bit.

Oh, this girl. I love her. She reminds me so much of myself and what I would have been like if I hadn’t been living in my own childhood home of chaos.

We finished off the night with two chapters of the Wingfeather Saga…we are on the fourth and final book and I am so excited for the next few weeks of reading!

Some days as a homeschooling mama are long and hard and frustrating, but then there are moments like tonight that feed my soul and light my fire all over again.

Tonight was one of those moments.

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7670 days since we said yes

Oct 15, 2014 by

Twenty-one years since we knelt at the altar in covenant making.

Fierce loyalty.

Tender love.

Breathtaking kisses.

Safe snuggles.

Hilarious inside jokes.

Patience.

Patience.

Patience.

That look in his eye that tells me he adores me.

When I first looked at him back on the evening of June 4, 1993, my spirit was overcome by the feeling of stability and security. I have been safe in his arms ever since. He loves me just the way I am and he anchors me to all the good things. Don’t you think this song was written for us?

Anchor
by Mindy Gledhill

When all the world is spinning round
Like a red balloon way up in the clouds
and my feet will not stay on the ground
You anchor me back down

I am nearly world renowned
As a restless soul who always skips town
But I look for you to come around
And anchor me back down

There are those who think that I’m strange
They would box me up, and tell me to change
But you hold me close and softly say
That you wouldn’t have me any other way

When people pin me as a clown
You behave as though I’m wearing a crown
When I’m lost I feel so very found
When you anchor me back down

There are those who think that I’m strange
They would box me up, and tell me to change
But you hold me close and softly say
That you wouldn’t have me any other way

When all the world is spinning round
Like a red balloon way up in the clouds
and my feet will not stay on the ground
You anchor me back down

Oh, how I love this man God has yoked me to. Thank you honey…for everything.

p.s. I had to edit the post title because I forgot about the leap years. Five more days.

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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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some victories

Sep 30, 2014 by

It’s high time we focus on some victories, wouldn’t you say? Even in the sludge of what I am experiencing right now, I can see the goodness around me, the blessings of my life, and for that I am grateful. If I was in this sleep-deprived, grief-laden state without being able to see the good, I think I would go completely bonkers.

  • Blythe is working! Wahoo!
  • We get to go to General Conference this weekend! Big Wahoo!
  • Keziah is running cross-country and loving it. Yesterday she clocked her fastest time on a 400m at practice and came back to the car full of confidence and satisfaction.
  • Even though I was sorely tempted, I did not take up residence in the land-of-everything-is-awful-and-Richard-needs-a-new-wife. I thought about buying a ticket, but I refused to put out the money and did not board that train. And it was even in the midst of my progesterone dropping! This is huge folks. Huge. I would have fully expected that in the midst of these sleepless nights and awful dreams, I would have jumped on board that train, but through the grace of God, I was able to stay here and hold onto his (and His) love.
  • This case of pneumonia is doing much, much better! In fact, I think I will try to ride the Elliptigo for a few minutes this afternoon and see how my lungs handle it.
  • After years of Keziah begging with every cell of her body for another dog, we have finally decided to get her a cutie pie named Harley. Kez will promptly rename her Charley and we will all live happily ever after as a two-dog family. Right? We pick her up on Saturday when we head to Utah for General Conference.

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  • I am cooking meals for my family…not every night, but more than I have in months. Kat’s lentil tacos and this delicious fried rice recipe (I don’t even put chicken in it and it is still so, so delicious! I think the sesame oil must be the secret ingredient I have been missing all these years.) have become once-a-week standbys.
  • Fisher and I finished reading Iron Thunder today. It is a story about the Monitor vs. Merrimac battle in the Civil War. He is doing a presentation about the battle in a few weeks at iFAMILY. He also just finished listening to G.A. Henty’s book With Lee in Virginia.
  • Speaking of listening to books, that birthday boy is listening up a storm on his new birthday CD player. We looked for weeks for just the right one. We wanted it to play CDs, MP3s, and cassettes if possible. We finally found the right one and as a bonus it has an aux-in line as well. When the rest of us get to be too much for this quiet, peace-loving guy, he can go to his room, build with his legos, and listen to fabulous stories.
  • Keziah’s 14th birthday is on Friday. My little fireball is growing up. She is louder than ever (and if you knew her in person, you would know that is saying A LOT) and though we all tend to breathe a sigh of relief when she is gone for two hours each morning to seminary, we wouldn’t change her hilarious, spirited, hard-working, obnoxious, goal setting (and achieving) self for anything.
  • We have consistently held 6:00 a.m. scripture study for 6 weeks. Oh my goodness, never in a million years did I think I would be able to say those words. We are rocking this! Every single morning I lie in bed and decide I am NOT going to get up and every single morning I do anyway and by the time I get out to the front room, I am grateful.
  • My room is cleaner than it has been for a long, long time.
  • Fisher has earned a couple of dates (one for finishing his set of reading books and one for filling up his Happy Jar with Warm Fuzzies) with me and Annesley has almost earned one, so we are going to get to spend some lovely one-on-one time together in the next few weeks.
  • Even this grief has good points. It helps me see the stark contrasts of life and cling to the beautiful and precious even more fiercely. It has reminded me why I do what I do…why I mother and love and work to strengthen families.

Life is good. This may not last, but at least today I can see the light and can feel a real, genuine smile on my face.

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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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together on a quiet morn

Sep 22, 2014 by

Early morning scriptures.

Snuggling in bed with my little ones.

Reading about Harriet Tubman’s escape with Fisher.

Doing math with Annesley.

Stillness in my trees after a night of gentle raindrops hitting my roof.

Quiet.

Calm.

Learning.

Routine.

Gentle excitement in their eyes.

Just what I needed today.

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i should’ve bought stock in puffs plus

Sep 21, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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who knew the hammock was the answer?

Sep 14, 2014 by

Late in the afternoon, I looked at my trees and I looked at my yard and I looked at my Annesley who was busy entertaining herself by trying on every fancy dress-up in the house and twirling around, and I said “Do you want to meet me in the hammock for some snuggle time?”

Her eyes lit up and she stripped out of her layers of taffeta and rushed outside to the hammock. I grabbed Blueberries For Sal and went out for my very first hammock swing in our yard.

We snuggled for awhile, then Rosie-Tigris, Annes’ kitten, joined us for more snuggles. We read all about Little Sal and Little Bear getting lost on Blueberry Hill while their mothers were picking blueberries. I talked to her about Aidan and his soon-to-be-occurring death. She asked me all about the car accident and if I was in an accident when she was in my uterus. We snuggled and laughed and kissed and connected. Connection was exactly what we both needed. After a long while, I asked her to go get some hummus and pitas for a hammock picnic.

Yesterday was a hard day. I spent much of it crying and not accomplishing much from my very long to-do list. But the magic of a hammock turned it around. Rubbing my little one’s back while her cheek rested on my shoulder filled my aching heart up with just the right amount of love.

And filled her up too.

Connection, it makes all the difference.

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ten years later

Sep 13, 2014 by

Ten years ago today I took Blythe and Keziah to their Kindermusik class. It was a lovely September afternoon, just like this one. My very round, 40 week pregnant belly was barely able to fit behind the wheel of our 1989 Suburban, a metal tank we loved dearly.

On the way home, an 80 year old man ran a stop sign and T-boned into me going about 50 mph. The hood of his car was smashed into the backseat of his little Honda Civic. My suburban was dented, but still drivable. It’s size and strength totally made the difference that day. Our girls were fine. The car hit right into me and I didn’t fare so well.

My already extremely loose pelvis was injured. We didn’t know what was wrong yet, but we knew I was in horrific pain. I couldn’t walk.

An OB visit revealed that the uterine ligaments were torn, my pelvis was a hot mess of shifted bones, and my baby was in good condition.

A few days later I gave birth to Fisher. I cannot describe the pain of that week. It is beyond words.

The pain of the next two years took my breath away and broke me down to tears over and over again. Slowly but surely, through chiropractic care, lots of patience, supplements, and exercise, I was able to get my life back. Eventually I could vacuum, sweep, walk up and down stairs, and ride my recumbent. Thinking I was doing pretty well, I closed the claim with the man’s insurance company and moved on with life.

But my pelvis never recovered. It has never been the same. Scar tissue. Pain. Dislocations. All of it became a normal part of life for me. But I could still function well. Do back handsprings. Ride my bike. Swim. Run. Jump on the trampoline. Play volleyball. Richard got really good at putting my hips back into place and it seemed like the pesky little things were totally livable.

But the damage to my pelvis came back to haunt me when my labrum tore in February 2012. As the months wore on and more and more injuries occurred and we started dealing with the adhesions from the car accident, I could feel my anger from the accident growing. “Why did that man run that stop sign?” “Why did he lie about it?” “Doesn’t he have any idea how he has changed my life forever?” “Why, oh why, did I close the case? I should have settled for piles of pennies to pay for all these medical bills that I should have known were coming!”

God has blessed me with a lot of emotional and spiritual healing during this whole journey. The anger is gone…at least mostly, there are days it still flares up, but my heart has stopped asking “why” and has accepted what is.

But today on this 10th anniversary of the car accident, I am filled with tears. I can’t stop crying. Parts of me are so, so grateful for the past ten years of learning, of pain, of blessings and parts of me are simply devastated for the path my life has taken. Devastated that my little children can’t even remember a mother who was capable of running with them in the yard or going on a bike ride with them. Devastated that so much of the past ten years has been spent taking care of me. Devastated that “I” cost so much to take care of. Devastated that that beautiful, beautiful sunshiny September day ended in an accident that has had such far-reaching consequences.

So, today I reached out to my friend Rachel whose son Aidan is dying. His spirit will leave this life today or tomorrow. I took her some food and went and held her in my arms as we both cried. I held Aidan’s hand for the last time and did my best to surround her with my love and the love of her Father.

I stopped at some little ones’ lemonade stand and gave them my nickels for a tinsy cup of lemonade and a bucketful of joy.

I stared out the window at the blue, blue sky and marveled at the gift of peace my trees give to me.

And I cried.

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success

Sep 11, 2014 by

We are settling into our new routines and it doesn’t seem quite as painful to get up at 6:00 in the morning as it did two weeks ago. Learning time has been going really well this week and my “life is terrible” child has made some attitude adjustments. Now I just need to figure out how to get all my study time in for my Worldviews class, find some time for long soaking sessions in the tub, get a haircut, find some time to get ready each day (I certainly don’t want to get up any earlier just to get ready!) and we will be set. I also made two yummy meals this week, brown butter spaghetti and Kat’s Lentil Tacos. Super duper amazing for me.

This new routine is not a minor adjustment, it is a monumental shift in the operations of our home. It is going to take some time for all of us to be really good at getting up and being cheerful, but we are doing it and I want to shout from the rooftops how proud I am of us. Especially my Keziah. She has had huge adjustments in the past few weeks. She walks out the door for seminary at 6:25 which means she has to get up (all on her own, cause I am sure not waking up to wake her up!) at 5:30. By the time scripture reading happens at 6:00, she is dressed cute as a button, has her hair done, and is participating in scripture reading better than she has for the past several years. On top of all of that, she has pretty massive amounts of schoolwork, violin practice, and either cross-country practice or a meet every day. She spent the entire summer babysitting for a family in our town and now moved right into a busy fall schedule with even more being expected of her. I couldn’t be more proud of how well she has stepped up to the plate – she is being kinder, more cheerful, and getting her long list of to-dos done every day. Her sassiness is becoming a bit less caustic and a bit more humorous. Hallelujah! Her love language is gifts so I am going to start looking for some small presents to surprise her with on those days she knocks our socks off with awesomeness.

So give us some high fives when you see us, we are actually making progress.

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first day

Sep 3, 2014 by

Today is the first day of iFAMILY. We have had morning scripture study in the dark at 6:15. Whoa. This is a big change. The last week or so has been full of changes: revamping our mornings to have morning scripture study and prayer (and MUCH less sleep), revamping our nights with MUCH earlier bedtimes, Blythe’s new job started on Monday, Richard started back on his school schedule on Tuesday AND he is at a new school this year, Keziah starting seminary this morning, and now iFAMILY starts today.

We also have been switching up things in our home. We have been needing to reorganize our books and learning area and for months I have been pouring over classified ads for a used 5 x 5 Expedit. They are not made anymore and most of the used ones for sale are either in terrible shape or exorbitantly priced due to the whole supply and demand thing, so we have been searching all summer for one in good shape AND reasonably priced. Friday I scored and found one in near perfect condition for only $100. Wahoo! So Richard and I spent all day Monday traveling to Utah to pick it up and get it home in one piece, which let me tell you is far easier said than done. Let’s just say it is no longer in near perfect condition.

Yesterday the three youngest and I moved bookshelves, hundreds of books, and reworked our learning area to fit our needs for this year. We gained about 150″ of shelf space with the Expedit, then gained a whole lot more when I removed all the board books from our shelves to put away for safekeeping until I have grandchildren who will need them. Then we gained even more space when I purged several large stacks of books we don’t need or use. Right now I have over 100″ of shelf space left to work with in the school room, 45″ in the sewing room, and 48″ on the kitchen bookshelf. Over the next several weeks I am going to figure out how to best use this new space to meet our needs.

We were also able to move Fisher’s (ugly as heck, but totally useful) building table back into the school room (it has been in his hallway, blocking much of the entrance to his room and not been very usable). He needs a space to build while I am reading and having a table makes it so much easier and contained than him taking over the whole floor each day.

Anyway, back to iFAMILY. I am excited to get back into the swing of things and our children are over the moon excited to dive into learning with their friends. I am excited to take my Worldviews students on a journey of hard work and deep thoughts. I am excited to share all my math games with a new group of young people. This year is going to be fun and rewarding and full of great things.

BUT I AM NOT READY FOR SUMMER TO END.

I am not. I need a few more weeks (months?) of sunshine and relaxed schedules and my sweetie. I need early morning sunrises and warm afternoons. I need to go camping a few more times and see my little ones reel in a fish. I need to have snuggle time with Richard in the morning.

But it is time to move into fall with its shorter days, crisper nights, and a pretty tight schedule for all of us. Hmmm, how to wrap my heart around these changes and move forward with gladness instead of clinging to the joy of summer?

Clinging or not, it is time to shower and get ready for this long-awaited day.

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belle

Aug 27, 2014 by

I did something yesterday that felt like me…the old me that is getting harder for me to remember.

May came and went and it never came to my corner of Idaho. June and Jult came and went as well and the closest it ever got to me was 3 1/2 hours south. I tried desperately to figure out a way to see it in Salt Lake or Boise, but every possibility I came up with would not work out. Then we went camping and by the time we got back it was long gone from the few theaters it played in.

I looked up its DVD release date and found out it was August 26. I knew I wanted to see it on the big screen, but decided I would have to settle for watching it on my computer.

That lasted about one second. I couldn’t BEAR to watch it on the computer! So, I started calling all the theaters within an hour radius to ask beg them to rent me a theater. I found one that said they would do it for $250 +$3 admission. I decided I would go with that one and would have to get 100 people to attend and pay $6. Hmmm, seemed a bit challenging, but I was completely determined to make it happen. Then I found a theater that would charge me a $30 rental price and no admission if I did it this week. Huzzah!

Just one problem. Well, two actually. I didn’t actually own the movie yet since was being released that very day. And two, I needed to do it that very night, in just a few short hours, if I wanted Richard, Blythe, and Keziah to attend…which, of course, I did.

So, I got to work and called all over the place and luckily found the movie for sale. Then I started inviting basically everyone I knew. Richard went and picked up the movie and I called. emailed, and Facebooked everyone in the tri-state area.

And people started responding which made my heart sing. It can be scary to organize an event and take the risk of no one catching your vision and joining in.

Piles of joy, my friends. We had 54 people come and party with us with heaps of popcorn, a few tears, and lots and lots of hugs.

It felt good. Really good. I love bringing people together and making the world a better place. I used to do this kind of thing all the time, but have drastically scaled back since I was injured.

It’s nice to know the spontaneous, fun-loving party girl is still inside me somewhere.

Favorite lines? YES, so many of them.

What is right can never be impossible!

My greatest misfortune, would be to marry into a family that would carry me as their shame.

How can I be too high of rank to dine with the servants, but too low of rank to dine with my own family?

You are above reducing yourself for the sake of rank.

Laws that allow us to diminish the humanity of anybody are not laws.

You break every rule when it matters enough, papa. I am the evidence.

If you haven’t seen Belle, watch it…because oh my, it is so, so good. I loved it and so did everyone else at my party. Now available on DVD or instant download at Amazon and probably a bajillion other places.

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