Oct 3, 2015 by


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.



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


The Cinderella movie she has been dying to own.



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.


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.


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.


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



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.


After the Prom and back home with her big sister.


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.


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.




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


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





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



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


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.




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.


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


The real family photo of all our cute kiddos.


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

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liberty girls

Oct 3, 2015 by

liberty girls

I love mentoring Scholars. LOVE it. Youth that have their heads screwed on straight, have the tenacity and courage to do hard things, the desire to learn, and the ability to digest and discuss big ideas are my favorite students. So for the past five years I have spent my time (hundreds of hours!) teaching those youth. Reading stuff like The Communist Manifesto, Unbroken, Mere Christianity, The Hiding Place, Animal Farm, To Destroy You Is No Loss, Flag of Our Fathers, and Hiroshima and then discussing them with my students has brought me so much joy. It lights a fire in my soul to be part of a young person’s education, to help them understand the world in new ways and to see themselves with new eyes.

This spring, I knew I needed a break. After the car accident in January, I was barely making it through each day. Unable to use my mouth much, eating liquids nearly exclusively, and being in constant pain wore me out and not knowing how I would be doing this fall, I decided I needed to take a complete break from mentoring. But sometime in April, the quiet whisperings of the Spirit started entering my heart and prompted me to start a Liberty Girls group for Annesley. I don’t particularly enjoy teaching other people’s young children. Loving and teaching my own is one thing, but children who are not mine is a whole ‘nother story. So I kind of rejected the idea. But the promptings kept coming and I kept pondering. Finally in June I decided I really needed AND wanted to go on this adventure with my Annesley.

After lots more thinking and planning, we invited nine girls between the ages of seven and nine to join us, chose our theme for the semester, and selected the books we would read and discuss. Our theme is Finding Courage and we are reading books about girls who found their courage and learning about our ancestors who acted with courage in their lives. We are reading The Courage of Sarah Noble and Understood Betsy…such gems! We meet every other week and have a book discussion, Courage Presentation by one of the girls about one of her ancestors who showed courage, snack & outside play time, and an activity related to the book that is both prepared and taught by the Meeting Mother for that week (because being in charge of an activity is not my forte AT ALL!).

We are having so much fun! We have met together four times and I have fallen in love with my Liberty Girls. They are full of courage, kindness, faith, eagerness, and so much ZEST. They make me laugh and I have been amazed at the thoughts they share during our book discussions.

At our Kick-Off Party, the Meeting Mother taught the girls how to make their very own bags using tea towels, staples, and duck tape. The girls needed guidance, but they were totally able to do it on their own and now they have their very own super cute bags to carry their Liberty Girls books and snacks to each of our meetings. Then we went to a nearby Splash Park to have some wet summer fun and develop strong friendships within our group as they ran around and played games in the water.




At our first official meeting, we had our first Courage Presentation, discussed the first half of The Courage of Sarah Noble, and then went on a hike just like Sarah did in our book. I wasn’t quite up to walking that day, so the girls pushed me in my wheelchair. I was amazed at the insights they shared on the book. The concept of “Keep up your courage” sunk deep into their souls and they shared lots of experiences where they needed to find courage and then keep it up. Sarah’s courage in leaving her mother and siblings to help her father by cooking for him while he built their new home inspired these girls to do hard things as well.





At one point on our hike, one of the girls lost a flip-flop (not even her own flip-flop, another girl had let her borrow them) in a swampy, murky spot of water. It was disgusting! The girls searched and searched for about 15 minutes and could not find the sandal in the water. Then they prayed and asked for help and with courage plunged their sticks and hands in to the sludge one more time. And they found it! They came running back to me sitting in my wheelchair out on the trail shrieking, Miss Tracy, we kept up our courage, we kept up our courage! The water was so gross and we kept searching and didn’t give up! And then we prayed and then God helped us find it!” Oh my goodness, my heart filled up with JOY!

Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the sandal swamp incident since I couldn’t get down there.

The girls found some turtles swimming in the water. You probably can’t see them, but there are about 5 turtles down there in front of them.


Then we found ducks and geese and some kind college kids gave the girls some bird food. They had a blast feeding them and holding the little ones.




As they were pushing me back to the car, we were walking on a road (a hardly ever traveled road!) and the girls were worried a car would hit me in my wheelchair, so they formed a barrier wall and marched in front of me protecting me. Cracked me up! And trust me, if I was actually concerned that a car would be traveling down that road, I wouldn’t have let them walk down the middle of it.



Mentoring these young girls is so much fun. They are alive with curiosity, willingness to learn new things, and so much silliness. They love to play with our kittens, run around our yard in all sorts of imaginary worlds, and share all the excitements of their lives. It is a sacred honor to be part of their character development and to be gifted this opportunity to learn and grow with them.

I will try to get photos from our next two meetings posted soon!

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Sep 26, 2015 by


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.








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.


Her face changed from one of silliness to soberness.


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.


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.






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


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


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.


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







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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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.


Getting ready to open the big white envelope.


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


People cheering with excitement as she read the letter.


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.


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.


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.


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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Apr 22, 2015 by


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.


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



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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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.



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

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

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

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

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

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the story of the precious quilts

Dec 26, 2014 by

the story of the precious quilts

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

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


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.


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!



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.



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!


Can you see the bike design?




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!




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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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.



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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.



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



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



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


Happy, happy birthday Miss Kez!

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all i want for cwissmuss

Aug 25, 2014 by

all i want for cwissmuss

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

Photo on 7-7-14 at 3.41 PM #4

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

First she lost her bottom one.


Then her top two.



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

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the tooth fairy is coming

Jul 7, 2014 by

the tooth fairy is coming

Goodbye little girl with a smile full of baby teeth.

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

Photo on 7-7-14 at 3.40 PM

Photo on 7-7-14 at 3.41 PM #3

Photo on 7-7-14 at 3.41 PM #2

Photo on 7-7-14 at 3.41 PM #4

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

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

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

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four bucks for ainsley

May 11, 2014 by

four bucks for ainsley


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


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

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

Aren’t they the cutest thing ever?

smedley-1 copy

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


Look at all that hair growing back in!


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


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

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four bucks for dando amor

May 11, 2014 by

four bucks for dando amor


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


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


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


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

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

Click here to give four bucks to Dando Amor.

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four bucks for maggie

May 11, 2014 by

four bucks for maggie


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

Here is their story as told by Jodie:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to give four bucks to Maggie!

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four bucks for aidan

May 7, 2014 by

four bucks for aidan


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

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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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May 7, 2014 by



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


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

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

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

My Four Favorite Causes

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

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

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

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fiar: humphrey the lost whale

Jan 14, 2014 by

fiar: humphrey the lost whale

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


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


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

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

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Jan 14, 2014 by


Last night for Family Home Evening, or FHE as it is often known in Mormon land, we had a short spiritual thought from Sermons in a Sentence, my new favorite get-me-thinking book, and then family game night. We love playing games together, but rarely have we had this much fun. We laughed ourselves silly.

Drumroll : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Blythe played with us! I know those of you have played games with us before are shaking your heads in disbelief because she usually refuses to play any games and prefers to draw over in the corner, but I pinky swear, it is true!

AND SHE WON! Yes, she beat me! 288 to 256! Go Blythe GO!

This girl that says she “hates math” played not only a board game with her family, but a math game! This, my friends, is a banner day to be recorded in memoriam forever!

I bought Sumoku a few weeks ago as the next step up in Fisher’s math game progression. He learns best by playing games so I am always on the lookout for games the two of us can play together. I thought it would be perfect for him. It turns out it was a little confusing for him last night, but I think if just the two of us play without the crazy loudness of the girls it will be a great fit.


It is kind of a twist of Qwirkle (another huge favorite here!) and Scrabble and is chock-full of heaps of math! Best game ever!

There are tiles with numbers on them with six different colors and each row or column can only have one of each color in it. At the beginning of the game a die is rolled and whatever number turns up is THE number for the whole game – all columns and rows must add up to a multiple of that number. Then your score is the sum of all the numbers in the row or column you played on. So much calculation! I, being the number lover, expected to love it, and I did. I wasn’t so sure how my children with less of a number affinity would enjoy it, but they did as well so as Kat would say, WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER!

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some new favorite books

Nov 12, 2013 by

some new favorite books

Enough hip, connective tissue, and passing out talk! Let’s talk books! Anyone who knows me at all knows I am book lover. We have found some fabulous gems at the library recently. Annesley and I are loving our FIAR books and yet, I haven’t taken the time to blog our adventures. Along with all the reading with the children, I am in the middle of choosing books for next year’s colloquia group and trying to make them all dovetail with the books I am reading for the scholar class I will be mentoring at iFamily next semester.

Here are some of our recent library finds. Alphasaurs is absolutely delightful! Each page sports a dinosaur made up of the first letter of its name.


Scattered around the page are facts about the dinosaur’s size, weight, eating habits, and other behaviors. Fisher and Annesley love, love, love this book.


It is definitely going to be one we purchase and we added the author’s other books, Bugs By The Numbers, and Alphabeasties to our wish list as well.

Fisher and Annes love this cute little book, Little Owl Lost.


It is a similar story to Are You My Mother, but the illustrations are much more adorable and have my kids giggling the whole way through.


The Circus Ship is super cute as well.


It is a rhyming story about a mean circus owner and his animals that escape his violent temper in a storm off the coast of Maine. They find refuge in the town and the townfolk hide the animals when he comes looking for them. The finding of the disguised animals is fun, especially for Annesley. She cracks up every time she sees the monkey in the baby carriage.


I have been mentoring a WWII class this fall. It has been loads of work and loads of fun. Some of the fun has been learning more about the stories of men and women who did what had to be done. We Die Alone is fabulous!


I am not done with it yet, but I am amazed at the human spirit. We have more courage than we know.

My co-mentor, Jenn, read Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon in preparation for her lecture on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and she has been raving about it. It is definitely on my must-read list.


Last night we discussed the story of Tito Momen, a man who was imprisoned for 15 years in Cairo for converting from Islam to Christianity. We read this fascinating news article and are looking forward to reading his book, My Name Used To Be Mohammed.


We discussed taking Christ’s name upon us and how that doesn’t always look the same in different parts of the world and different eras of time. We talked about having enough conviction of your Savior to be willing to give up your whole world and even your life if state publicly that you believe in Him. Doesn’t the book sound amazing? I definitely want to read this one in my adult book discussion group.

In my scholar class next semester we are studying John Brown, Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther, and we would like to study a great woman, but don’t have her selected yet. We need to read one biography and study one document about each of these people. Do any of you have any suggestions?

Any suggestions for my adult group? I have an eensy-weensy amount of time to get all twelve books selected for next year and I want them to be powerful, inspiring, though-provoking reads.

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book bonanzas: the perfect square

Sep 16, 2013 by

book bonanzas: the perfect square

Perfect-Square We checked this book out from the library and love it! The Perfect Square is a delightful little book full clever captions, and lovely artwork by Michael Hall. It is about a square who is taken apart in a different way each day of the week. After he is cut up, ripped apart, or shattered, he makes himself into something new. So fun! This week we are going to cut up our own squares and make them into the objects in the book and probably some objects of our own creations as well.

Perfect Square 07a

“But on Monday, the square was cut into pieces and poked full of holes. It wasn’t perfectly square anymore.”

On the next page, these pieces are turned into a fountain with all the holes making the bubbles. So, so darling. One day the pieces make a river, another a bridge, another a mountain. It is brilliant and has got the wheels turning in my two little ones minds. I can’t wait to see what they create!

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a mom can brag, right?

Sep 10, 2013 by

a mom can brag, right?

Ha-ha! I know even moms shouldn’t brag, but my heart is so full to bursting that I must share all the excitement with the world.

First piece of excitement – Annesley learned how to ride her bike a few weeks ago. As soon as we got home from our camping trip she started practicing in earnest. She would run in and get me a gazillion times a day to show me how close she was to keeping her balance and I admit, it was a tad hard not to laugh at her sorry attempts. She would get the pedal about 30% around the circle before she put her feet down to stop from crashing. Or sometimes she did crash…and oh, the tears! But within just a few days of getting home she insisted she could do it for reals and she really could! I was shocked as could be after seeing the pitiful attempts made all week long. She was a pro and was able to ride up and down our bumpy dirt road with ease. Now she loves to ride down to the mailbox to fetch the mail with Fisher.




Second bit of news – Keziah has long loved running, but hasn’t been able to be as dedicated as she would like because of this hip injury that is plaguing our lives. She really needs me to run with her and since I can’t, her running has suffered. Well, this year she decided to join a cross-country team and she has been running her little heart out for the past several weeks. She competes in one meet a week and is doing really well. I am so proud of her. Most of the youth participating have been running all summer (or for the past many years since so many of them run year round), but she has jumped right in and is giving it her best. She didn’t have time to really build up her strength or lung power, she had to run big right from the get-go and she is succeeding!




Third bit of excitement – my room is clean! It has stayed clean for over a week!


I moved a comfy chair from downstairs up into the corner of my room. I am hoping it will give me a little bit of variety of resting locations. I have been living in my bed for almost 20 months now…and I pretty much hate it. So now, I can read with the children and study myself without having to be on my bed.


Fourth big hooray – Keziah’s bed is almost finished!


I am hoping by the end of the week to have my basement back and have Annesley all moved over into Keziah’s room.

Fifth shout from the rooftops – Fisher’s bedroom is clean! We finished it last Monday late into the night and he has kept it clean for a whole week! Hallelujah!


:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: (those are the drumsticks wacking the screen.)

Blythe auditioned for the Youth Symphony and was accepted! This is a huge deal. The area’s best youth musicians audition each year and some of them are accepted. She has rehearsals every week, several big performances throughout the year and then a tour to San Francisco next summer. It is so exciting and I can’t even think about it without a huge smile lighting up my face. I am SO proud of her. She fell in love with music as a baby and started begging to play the violin as a three-year-old (we made her wait till she was five). She had the same wonderful teacher for the first five years of her learning and we have struggled to find a good fit of a teacher since then. She has been teacherless for months (years?) at a time when we either couldn’t afford lessons or couldn’t find someone to teach her. We have cleaned houses and baked bread for lessons. I have taught gymnastics for years to pay for her lessons. We have done everything we could do to help her live this musical dream of hers and now the paybacks are coming. Now all her hard work is paying off. She has a gift of playing from her heart and now this experience will develop technique and repertoire that she needs to advance to the next level. Here is a big thanks to Jennifer and Jesse for helping her prepare for her audition!

So many good things are happening in the lives of my children. They are learning. They are growing. They are courageous. They are willing to try new things. They are growing up into beautiful human beings.

And it feels good to this mama. Way to go my children – shoot for the stars!

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trying to get ready for fall

Aug 22, 2013 by

trying to get ready for fall

Miss Cutie-Patootie went to a birthday party last week and wanted to wear something super-cute from her new stack of hand-me-down clothes. Then she asked me to take pictures…she is so funny! She loves her picture being taken.


Are you all busy with back-to-school shopping? We sure have been. My Fisher has grown like a weed this summer and all his pants are 2-4 inches too short. A few days ago I hit the thrift store in town and got him a whole new wardrobe of shirts for about $2 a piece, some new gym pants, and two lovely sweaters. I still need to find him some jeans, khakis, and a new church suit, but it seems the thrift store pants for boys are pretty worn out by the time they get there.

We are also stocking up on our favorite composition notebooks, pens & pencils, our FIAR (Five-In-A-Row) books for the year, lots of WWII books for my upcoming Hero Project class, Shakespeare stuff for Keziah, and getting the school room ready for our learning adventures. It is a lot of work, but oh, so much fun to get everything organized for a new year and to watch my children pour over their supplies.

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grl 2013

Aug 16, 2013 by

grl 2013

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


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


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

Here is our dishwashing station.


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



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


Fisher all bundled up for dinner.


Finally the rain stopped and he took his hood off.


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

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


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


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


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


Then we thought we would get creative…hilarity ensued.


The Three Muskateers


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


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


Mom and Grandpa Leonard with all the grandchildren.


And finally all seventeen of us together.


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

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




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


One final wave.


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


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

Nicole learning how to kayak.


Cameron and Nicole kayaking out to the lake.


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




Here is cousin Marcus in one of our kayaks.


Blythe, Annesley, and Fisher out on the lake.


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

Keziah jumping.



Cameron’s splash into the river.


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



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


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





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


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

Setting out.


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


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

Cam and Mom.


Cameron and Nicole


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


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


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


Mikelle and her two babes.


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





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


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



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



A few days later, the curls were lovely.


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


Annes and Grandma soaking the layers of filth away.



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

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


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

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

The girls’ Charlie’s Angels pose.


Blythe’s cake complete with baby Snickers.



Eating the cake…yes, they are goofballs.



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


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


More knives.


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


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


Andie’s cake complete with oreos.


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



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


New nightgowns from grandma.



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

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


See these rocks? They are magical.



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


Andie and Grandma on their tube mountain.



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




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



And with poses.







Filthy, tired Sadie.


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


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



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


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


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

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

I love this place.

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josh burton, a hero in every way

Jul 23, 2013 by

josh burton, a hero in every way

After the miracles of Sunday our hearts were full of joy. Yesterday we received more good news that Elder Burton had excellent color and was doing well, speaking to the hospital staff, being his funny self, and had kept the ability to feel and move his legs. Heather took off for Guatemala with joy in her heart that she would see Josh soon. So when my mama called me earlier and told me that Josh had passed away, I could not believe it. I questioned her and told her she must have read about Josh Burton, the race car driver, not my Josh Burton. But she was right and dear Josh has indeed died today after having several heart attacks.

I am heartbroken and full of tears. I can’t sleep. I am so, so sad for Heather and Allan and their other eight children. Their son Denny is on a mission in The Netherlands. Their son Christian is supposed to enter the MTC, tomorrow, July 24. Their whole family is a tight-knit ball of laughter, bravery, love, and dedication to truth, good government, and living one’s dreams. They inspire me on a continual basis.

Josh desired to change the world through his music. He composes his own piano pieces, practices them till they are just how he envisions, and then performs for anyone and everyone he meets. He knows the power that music can have on a person’s heart because it has opened his heart so much.

I remember hearing Josh speak to a room full of youth at a homeschool conference once. He had them in the palm of his hands. They responded to his message of reaching for your dreams, doing the hard work to get there, and treating others as children of God. I remember seeing him speak to each person who came up to him as though they were the most important person in the world. I remember his smile…his beautiful, beautiful smile full of zest for life and passion for soul-filling music. I remember…and I pray I will never forget how he laughed loudly, spoke boldly, and gave his whole heart to whatever he was doing. He is my kind of guy.


All the Burton children…yes, Heather and Allan have nine beautiful children and now, one grandbaby, Peter, from their oldest son Rob and his wife Naomi.


Rob and Naomi’s wedding


Josh on the left as Gepetto in one of his many summer plays in Cardston.


In Guatemala






Singing his heart out, Josh-style, in Guatemala


Teaching piano lessons to anyone willing to learn


Heather made sure Josh had every supplement, vitamin, herb, first-aid tool, and medical apparatus he could possibly need while he was so far from home. Josh, in signature style, pokes fun at her care. Unfortunately, no amount of vitamins could protect Josh from the roll-over accident that took his life.


My heart is with the Burton’s today and will be for some time. This family has taught me what a family can and should be. They have taught me the power of laughter, of treating people with dignity, of having courage to fight for laws, policies, and a culture of common sense and goodness, of living one’s dreams boldly, and of dedicating one’s life to family AND the betterment of the world. They are my heroes and I love them more each time I speak with them. Heather, please know you are being prayed for in our home and thousands of other homes across the world. Josh’s legacy will be treasured always and his impact on the world for good is not finished.


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girl’s retreat

Jul 19, 2013 by

girl’s retreat

I am back from ten days away from home and swimming in laundry up to my eyeballs! I got home late last night with Fisher and Annes and then Kez and Blythe arrived home from Girls’ Camp this afternoon. After an early morning physical therapy appointment, I hurried home to start on the piles of laundry and have been sorting through Annesley’s too-small clothes (somehow she has grown some more!) and am hoping to empty my closet of clothing that no longer speaks to my soul. It is one of those days…those work-in-the-house days that I don’t really enjoy, but have to be tackled nonetheless.

Before I bore you to death with anymore laundry and clothing posts…I mean, they bore me to death and I own the stuff, I can’t imagine how painfully boring it is to read about someone else’s clothing issues…here are some pics from our Girls’ Retreat in beautiful Park City. The whole point of this retreat was to fill Tami up with enough love from her stateside friends to get her through the next eight months she has left in Australia. I hope we accomplished that goal! I can’t even imagine how much love I would need to fill my bucket if I was going to be gone from my friends for an extended period of time.

Katherine was our gourmet chef for the week. She brought baskets and boxes and coolers of food and with her magic kitchen skills whipped up three delicious meals for us each day of the week. She is so gifted in the kitchen she was even able to accomodate some new food restrictions Jennifer and I are implementing, but that she had no idea about till the day of (neither did we – we had appointments with Tami’s dad, my favorite chiropractor and he asked us both to stop eating all grains, sugars, starches, and legumes for a few weeks). We had delicious green salads, dips, swiss chard (a first for me, but boy, howdy was it delicious!), kale, yogurt cups she somehow made delicious without any sweeteners, and many, many other delicious entries that made my whole week scrumptious.


More yummy food along with a Heather and Kat squeeze.


I love this picture of Kat…so much joy in that girl! She was in the middle of preparing another delicious meal while I was snapping pictures from my horizontal chair and she wouldn’t stop chopping to pose for us. Finally I made Boo and Jen jump up next to her and she looked up in surprise at just the right moment.


We went to IKEA where I almost passed out, but was already in a wheelchair, so it was all good. I was able to find Blythe some turquoise boxes for her Expedit shelves and some handy-dandy travel bottles for all the children’s shampoos and soaps. I walked rode out of there having spent only $17! That may be an IKEA record!

Tami, Boo, Jen, and Mikelle rented some paddleboards and had races all over the teensy-tiny lake that was across from our condo. You know I would have been right there with them if my hip hadn’t freaked out on Saturday (well, okay, if I could rewind my life 18 months and not have a hip injury or a broken foot, I would have been on those boards!). Instead I stayed in bed and watched Oaklyn so her mama could go play in the water.



Heather, one of Tami’s friends from Colorado, is turning 40 this weekend, so we celebrated it early with Kat’s delicious chocolate cups (which Jen and I couldn’t eat, but Kat made us a substitute dessert that helped us not feel completely left out of the fun), massages, a movie, and eyebrow waxing by the super-talented Mikelle.




The massage table – it was heavenly for everyone else, but it seems my ligaments are too loose for massage now. I ended up with several vertebrae shifted out of place and my whole rib cage torqued, so I guess this was my last massage night until some brilliant scientist invents a ligament-fixer-upper!


Heather loved on Oaklyn all week long. She is the most thoughtful person I have ever met. Over and over and OVER she did nice things for all of us ladies. I could learn a few lessons from her.


Kris, another of Tami’s good friends from Colorado, brought her Turbo Fire DVD’s and did a workout with everyone in the mornings (again, not me, I stayed in bed and snoozed every single day…if I can’t join the fun, I might as well catch up on my ZZZ’s, right?). She has nine children and looks like she is still 22. Here she is holding Oaklyn.


Jen, who always looks adorable in pictures, decided to take her posing skills to the next level and have people hold her up in all sorts of whacky positions.




Finally she decided to rocket-launch herself into the air and lucky for her, I caught a picture of it!


We decided Jen should pick up Tami as well, but Tami was scared petite Jen would drop her, so she couldn’t make herself lift up both legs.


Attempting, but still too scared.


Mikelle taught Boo, who often sports a ponytail, how to curl her hair into ringlets and it turned out fabulouso.



Mikelle spent lots of her time cutting and coloring hair. She is a superstar hair dresser and maybe when she is out of the little children stage of life she will make gazillions of dollars helping people look their best.

I am not photogenic at all…I turn into a blob of mush when a camera is pointed in my direction, but I tried super hard to get a picture with Tami…it took about twenty tries, but we finally ended up with one that I can live with – I still don’t like it, but it will have to do.


Here is one of the laughter-on-the-way-to-mush pics.


I had the hardest time getting a good pic of these three. None of them would look at me and smile at the same time.



This one CRACKS me up. Tami was posed for so long because Boo wouldn’t look at the camera…she was messing around trying to get Jen to laugh and break her perfect pose…that her smile had become a little stale. I hollered at her to smile for real and show some life and this is what I got…that is some life!


We went and had pedicures done and now my calloused Hobbit feet look amazing. The jets in the foot bath about killed my sore foot, but it was worth it to have pretty toes. This picture however is awful. I can’t lean forward because of my hip injury and Boo couldn’t see me in the picture so she kept saying “Lean forward, Trac! More, more!” Finally, I strained my neck as far as I could and she snapped a pic…and now I am immortalized as the woman with the twelve-inch-giraffe-neck. Oh my goodness, it is awful.


We had so, so much fun. It was wonderful to spend three days with my sister and little Oaklyn. Tami, who was more like a sister than a cousin when we were growing up, is buried so deep in my heart that I can’t imagine life without her, is going back to Australia now. I am so grateful I was able to be with her without any distractions and see her face full of happiness for a few short days. I loved meeting Kris and Heather. They are exemplary women and I learned much about living with trials and hardship from them. They both inspired me to live and love more fully. Boo is full of fun and depth and music and can-do attitude. Her friendship has been such a gift to Tami and I am so glad they have each other as besties. Jen and Kat light up my world. The Idaho contingent at the retreat was missing Jessica, but it was still so fun for the three of us to hangout together.

Somehow we never got a picture of all of us together! What were we thinking?!?

Now it is back to reality…laundry, children, unpacking and packing for the next adventure, finalizing my class plans for iFamily this fall, dejunking my bedroom, working on the yard, finding the fox that is eating Fisher’s chickens, loving on the kittens, planning out our homeschool adventure for the coming year, getting gymnastics classes organized, healing my foot, and figuring out what to eat now that Kat isn’t cooking for me three times a day.

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whoosh – the summer is flying by

Jul 9, 2013 by

whoosh – the summer is flying by

Full days, oh, so full. The past twelve days have been chock-full of excitement and due to a missing camera, then a found camera and dead camera batteries, I have almost zero pictures to document them.

Ugggh. I hate when I do that.

My brother and his daughter, Scott and Andie, came to visit for five days of swimming, kayaking, fireworks, a patriotic celebration that Annes, Fisher, Blythe, and Andie sang in, movie in an empty theater, splash park, warm watermelon, lots of big girl giggling, and kitten attacks. Andie ran a 5K and won first place – she is a dedicated and speedy runner. We had a wonderful visit and I am grateful they were willing to make the eight hour drive to come spend some time with us. Blythe and Andie were born just two days apart and have been best buds ever since. They left on Tuesday and I worked on the iFamily website non-stop till Independence Day.

Then my mom came to visit on the 4th for four days of fireworks, small town parade full of tractors and horses, a wonderful movie (I loved Epic!), a temple trip, shopping for Blythe’s birthday, and making dozens of lemon crinkle cookies and lemon brownies with Fisher and Annes. She also put her superhero cape on and put a dent in my piles of laundry.

I think these cookie photos are the only ones I snapped all Independence weekend!



In the midst of all of this fun, I made a big error in judgment. I decided to stand on a tall barstool in my bathroom to clean the upper walls and ceilings. As I was leaned far over to the left to get just one more spot spic and span, the stool tipped to the right and I came crashing down in a splayed out, Russian dancer position. My left foot took the brunt of the force which is a huge blessing because of the shambles my pelvis is already in. Even with the foot taking so much of the force, my pubic symphysis is nearly completely separated and the inguinal ligament is inflamed. My left foot isn’t doing so hot – sometimes it feels absolutely and completely broken and sometimes it just feels sore. Driving is the worst. The vibrations of the engine through the floor make my foot shriek at me in pain. I can walk on it which makes me think it is not broken, but who knows, it very well could be. I am treating it with BF&C, wintergreen oil, arnica, and wrapping it up nice and tight every day.

Saturday night a group of friends and my mama went to the temple with me to complete more sealing ordinances for my family. We did 113 parents and children and six couples. It was a lovely night in the temple even though I was hobbling around.

Every spare minute I have had in the past few weeks has been spent on getting the iFamily website ready for registration for the upcoming fall semester. I am thrilled to announce it is finally done! Last night around midnight I hit publish and then immediately fell asleep. I know there will be some little things to fix, but it feels so good to have the bulk of it done!

Tomorrow I am off to LEMI training and then a girls’ retreat with Tami and friends. Ten days till I see my home or hubby again. I better get packing!

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fun in the sun

Jul 7, 2013 by

fun in the sun

We love going to the lake. My kids are swim-aholics. They could swim for 12 hours straight if I let them (and sometimes I do!). We spend a lot of our summer afternoons paddling around in our kayaks.

The flotilla.


Making sand angels…yes, it takes days for the sand to come out of her hair.



Crazy poses – she is such a silly girlie.



I didn’t catch any pictures of Fisher. He spent the whole day kayaking and my camera died before I was able to track him down.

Fun in the sun is so good for my soul.

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bright yellow picnic table

Jul 7, 2013 by

bright yellow picnic table

A few weeks ago we picked up an old picnic table for $15 from a garage sale. I have really been wanting a picnic table to eat at out in the shade. We don’t have air conditioning or a swamp cooler, but we do have lots of trees and it is high time we take advantage of their shade by eating outside all summer long.

The table needed sanded, primed, and painted. All of which I have no clue how to do, but I decided I would give it my best shot because I really, really wanted a cute picnic table in my yard…remember my little plan to spruce up my yard a wee bit? But, my sweetie came to my rescue and did all the work. All I had to do was pick out the paint color! After scouring the interwebs for pics of picnic tables I decided on School Bus Yellow. I love how bright and cheerful it looks. I almost went with an aqua, but decided the yellow was just the ray of sunshine I need in my life.

Sanding it down.


All sanded.


Richard gave it a full gallon of primer, yes, it took three heavy coats of primer before the wood stopped drinking it up like a thirsty camel. Notice it is already quite yellow because the paint lady at the store added our yellow tint to the primer. I had never heard of doing that and I think it is brilliant. Here he is just starting to add the yellow paint.


All finished! I love how bright it is!


Now it is in place in the shade. I think it looks great against the green, but my mama thinks she needs some sunglasses on before she looks at it. Now we can eat outside morning, noon, and night! Especially night, our house is kind of like a sauna come 6:00.



I hope it doesn’t attract bees!

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almost hiking

Jul 2, 2013 by

almost hiking

A few weeks ago when Tami was here visiting we spent the afternoon at one of our favorite kid-friendly hiking spots with my friend Jennifer and her family. When all the kids were tuckered out from walking up and down the mountainside, we had a huge picnic and then spent the evening fishing with Mr. Richard, the world’s best fisherman.

Fisher and Teryn running up the hill – they weren’t interested in waiting for me. I walk pretty slowly uphill as it hurts my hip like the dickens.




Trying to figure out what type of juniper this is – the berries turn different colors when squished depending on the type.


Jen, Lizzie, and Jessie


Miss Paige and Annesley


Some of the gang…just the ones who were willing to walk at my turtle pace.


Skipping rocks



Jace freezing after wading in the river


Fishing the night away


Fisher in his favorite spot – near a river with his fishing pole.


Annesley’s very, very, very small fish – it’s a baby bullhead.


Keziah with her signature bun. I’m sure she will do her hair down someday, but we have only seen it in this hairdo for the past two years or so.


Teryn and those adorable glasses


I love, love, love being out in nature. This hike was a little rough on me and I ended up having to walk down holding on to Tami because I was quite close to passing out, but it was worth it to be out in the wild with my family and friends.

p.s. In just four short weeks I will be in my Wyoming mountains again – I am so ready to swim in the glacier fed waters and kayak across the lake in the shadow of my mountains.

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book bonanza: the giraffe that walked to paris

Jul 2, 2013 by

book bonanza: the giraffe that walked to paris

Oh my goodness! Guess what just arrived at my house?

The Giraffe That Walked To Paris!

Yes! You heard (read?) me right! It is back in print! After years and years and years of being out-of-print and being impossible to find for under $100, it was reissued on June 21 and is now available for a mere $13! This is one of our favorite books and is used in the FIAR Vokume 2 Literature Guide that I am using this next school year with Annesley. Miss Annes and I are so excited we can hardly contain ourselves!

If you have not heard of this delightful book, here is a review:

In an attempt to improve relations between Egypt and France, who were on opposite sides of the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s, the pasha of Egypt presented King Charles X with a giraffe, the first in Europe in over three centuries. But in the days before aircraft, how do you send a large, ungainly animal such a long way? The answer is depicted in this book–a sea : voyage to Marseilles, and then a six-week march to Paris. The brief text is written in a chatty style that deals effectively with the logistics of the move and its historical underpinnings. It also includes details that will appeal to young readers: the custom-made giraffe raincoat necessitated by France’s cooler climate, the need for a cow in the entourage to provide La Girafe’s daily rations, the unusual way a giraffe moves its legs in walking. The illustrations are attractive pastel cartoons and one full-color photograph of the giraffe’s stuffed remains, still on display at La Rochelle. The book concludes with a historical note briefly outlining the background of the story. A charming illumination of one of history’s more obscure footnotes. –Barbara Hutcheson, Greater Victoria Public Library, B.C., Canada

We love checking books out from the library as it is always an adventure to go and find new treasures, but for our FIAR books I really like to own them and be able to pick them up at any time without having to make a library trip. This year I am attempting to collect all the Volume 2 books and put them on our kitchen bookshelf so Annesley can keep them all together all year long on her very own special shelf.

I am also considering doing Beyond FIAR with Fisher this fall. Have any of you used this? If so, what was your experience like?

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Jun 25, 2013 by


Somehow in the past week we have adopted three new kittens. Our plan was to adopt one little girl for Annesley. She has been looking for about six weeks for the perfect first pet for herself. Keziah has Sadie (and the yearly batch of pups) and has had a hamster (now dead) as well, Blythe has Lina (the insane, anti-social cat that only a cat lover like Blythe could enjoy), Fisher has his chickens and has had a beta fish until it recently passed away, but Miss Annes has never had anything to love on and take care of.

We scoured Craigslist, Facebook ads, and neighbors’ litters. Annesley looked at gazillions of pictures, gone and looked at quite a few, and never could make up her mind. Finally last Sunday she talked to a woman in our ward about some kittens she had looked at clear back in May and decided to go look at them again. On the way there Fisher started begging for one as well. His sweet little voice melted our hearts and we decided if he liked one of them he could get one as well.

After searching for the kittens and then deciding to get them, rescuing two baby birds, losing a kitten in all the bird hullabaloo, and finally getting everyone and everything back in the car, we were the (proud?) owners of two new kittens (that I thought were not cute at all) and wondering if we had lost our minds. Fisher and Annesley were in love. Fisher promptly named his Haley after a character in Horton Hears A Who and Annesley named hers Peaches.


They both have tortoise shell coloring and put up with the children’s endless toting them around quite well. The children slept outside with them for the first several nights to help them get acclimated to their new home and all seemed to be going well.


Then on the first night the children slept inside, Peaches disappeared. Poor Haley cried all night long and Blythe went out in the middle of the night to find Peaches. No luck. The next morning everyone searched, but we couldn’t find her either. Annesley cried and cried, but we had to rush out the door to go help a friend move and didn’t have time for her to completely fall apart. I kept reassuring her that Peaches would turn up, but I knew the possibilities were slim. The owls around our house love little kittens and I really thought one of them had scooped her up. Richard kept looking for her for the rest of the day while he worked outside on the picnic table (yes, it is almost done!), but she was no where to be found.


Later that day we were at our local grocery store handing out flyers for a patriotic event next week and a family had a box of adorable kittens. They were so super-soft and calm AND ADORABLE – they melted my heart. Annesley immediately scooped one up and pleaded with her big, blue eyes to let her take it home with us. I called Richard and he agreed that Peaches was gone for good and Annes could have this new kitty.


We all fell in love her and Annes named her Sarah after Blythe’s faithful kitty that caught mice for us for nearly ten years. Today however, Annesley has changed her name to Rosie.

The next installment of the kitten saga is the return of Peaches. At church on Sunday our neighbor asked if we were missing a kitten and said they had been keeping her since she showed up in one of their trees a few days before. The little ones went and got her and so now we have three.


THREE. Oh my goodness. Kittens meowing everywhere. Kittens playing everywhere. Happy children. Snarling Lina. Such is life.

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day at the pool

Jun 18, 2013 by

day at the pool

We have been exploring pools in the area to have our annual Swim Camp next year and last week we had a blast swimming and sliding.

The big, hill slides that were sauna-like hot inside.


Annes tackled the big slides along with all the big kids.


Coming out of the chute – no, she isn’t drowning, jut being swept away to the stairs.


Here she is, so proud of her bravery on the big slide.


The foam pads made it slick and speedy.


She loved going down this one because at the end you aren’t moving hardly at all and she could stop, stand up, and jump out.


The splash park was a hit with all the little ones.





Sunburns, smiles, and freckle-growing were on the upswing.


One happy boy.


These goggles crack me up.


I love that my children are die-hard swimmers. They will swim till the cows come home if I let them and their courage impresses me. My husband *hates* swimming, but I love it and so do my kiddos, so it is one of our favorite summer pastimes when he is at work. I am hoping to catch our little lake with the kayaks sometime this week and maybe Bear Lake as well. Summer in Idaho is so short, we need to pack our days full of adventure while the sun is warm and the wind is slow – it will be gone before we know it.

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baby teeth are falling out

Jun 17, 2013 by

baby teeth are falling out

My baby is growing up. She is now a proud 5 1/2 year old, but I still think of her as my baby. She very well may be my last child and it is pretty hard to watch her grow up so quickly.

The day after we got home from Swim Camp she made a huge jump forward in her growing-up-quest – she lost her first tooth!

This marks the youngest age at which one of our children have lost a tooth and it beats my record by a mile! I lost my first tooth at age 10 – the August right before I started fifth grade.

Her new smile is super cute, but it pains my heart to see it – surely she isn’t old enough to be losing teeth!

Here she is with some of her cousins…third cousins to be exact. These are some of Tami’s children minutes before we walked out the door to church.

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puppies are growing up

Jun 17, 2013 by

puppies are growing up

Sadie’s puppies are now about 7 weeks old. They are so stinkin’ cute! If they would stay this size, we might be tempted to keep all of them!




This is Sadie’s little twin – we call him Diego.


So far, my friend Cosette has claimed the cute little black one. The three light honey colored ones are adorable and the lone dark caramel one is a favorite around here. They are all available for adoption for the super low price of fifty buckaroos and will be ready to go home with you next week.


We have thoroughly enjoyed having puppies this time – it is amazing what a difference it makes when there are only five instead of nine! If you would like to make one of these puppies a new addition to your family contact us lickety-split and we will set up an appointment to come look at them and select your new furry companion.

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swim camp 2013

Jun 6, 2013 by

swim camp 2013

Last week was our 10th Annual Homeschool Swim Camp. Ten years! I can’t believe a small spur-of-the-moment camp-out when I was 36 weeks pregnant with Fisher has turned into such a wonderful (and huge!) gathering of family and friends.


This year we endured three days of nearly constant rain, freezing cold nights, and flooded tents and enjoyed three days of sunshine, good conversations, big leaps in swimming skills, delicious food, a hilarious skit night emceed by Jennifer, endless Capture The Flag games, hours of sitting at the pool while Annesley swam her little heart out, lots of cousins, a snuggly snake that Fisher quickly made into his best friend, s’mores made with Reeses (um, can you say yummo?), an adorable song about happiness written by Boo for all the children, massage night, birthday party for Marcus, and loads of laughter.

Unfortunately, I misplaced my camera at the beginning of the week and didn’t find it until the last day, so I missed lots of great moments. Thank goodness that Jessica and Melissa took a ton of photos!

This year was like a family reunion for me! Camille, my first cousin and bestie since the age of five came with six of her children. Three of my second cousins, Tami (with six of her eight), Melissa (with three of her four), and Nikki (with three of her five) joined us. Then Tami’s friend from high school, KeeNan, came with her five children and her husband (lucky girl, the rest of us were husbandless) and Tami’s best friend, Boo, came with her four children. Every day was a party over in my section of the campground. On Friday we celebrated Camille’s son’s 16th Birthday complete with cake and ice cream. I will always remember the day he was born and how brave and resilient Camille was during his birth.

Checking people in always takes me hours and hours and this year was no different. I think I helped people for about ten hours straight on Monday and about six hours on Tuesday. After that I was able to relax and enjoy being with everyone. We had about 40 families join us this year with 89 children in swimming lessons and lots of babies and teens who are either to young or have graduated out of lessons. People went on hikes, rode bikes, huddled under shade shelters, explored the woods, played Capture the Flag (a Swim Camp tradition) and spent lots of time in the water. Speaking of spending lots of time in the water, my Annesley got in everyday at nine in the morning and didn’t get out until six or seven at night. She is a fish!

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Thanks to Miracle Salve from Butterfly Express her skin didn’t fall off and amazingly didn’t even turn all red and dried out looking like all the other years. I think I need to buy gallons of the stuff!

I spent almost all of my time at the pool with Annesley. So most of the time I only got to visit with people who came to sit by me. Tami brought a magical zero-gravity chair to camp and I CAN SIT IN IT! Hallelujah! It is so stinkin’ exciting to sit down. I sat in it at the pool, at the fire, and we even took it to church on Sunday so I could sit through the meetings. Oh my goodness, it is wonderful! She left it at my house and insists it is my birthday present so now I get to sit in it all the time. Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!

Fisher was super easy to spot in his lessons in his bright, green swim attire. He spent almost as much time in the pool as Annesley, but he also had plenty of time to hunt bugs and other creatures.



One day during the rain a group of us moms spent the morning playing Heads Up, an app that is a combination of Taboo and Charades. We laughed hard, flailed our bodies in every direction, and made utter fools of ourselves. It took me back to our days of teenage-hood when we played games for hours and hours at family reunions. I have to say Jessica’s scootering imitation had all of us snorting.

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Here is Camille who I can’t imagine my life without. We met when we were five years old and have been more like sisters than cousins ever since. She helped my through childhood, my parent’s divorce, teenage angst, early marriage, mothering toddlers, learning how to be a homemaker, and everything in between. I love her to the moon and back and am so glad she came to join us. I haven’t seen her for awhile and I miss our girl time together.


Tami came all the way from Australia just for Swim Camp (just kidding, she is in the States visiting for seven weeks while her oldest graduates from high school and gets ready to leave on his mission for the LDS church).


She gives wonderful massages and I was able to be spoiled with two of them although anytime she or Boo got near my IT Band I went through the roof. As soon as my hip is all better I will enjoy a massage without jumping in pain. We also laughed our heads off, ate lots of yummy food, and she helped me through the one and only passing out episode of the week.

Jessica was my camping partner and together with Jen and Kat we had pretty fancy lodgings. Kat’s parents came up to set up their double canopy shelters so we could have shade and protection from the ever present rain. It was so cold we only ate a few meals under them though, the rest of the time we hauled our food up to the warm pool house.

Jennifer, aka Captain Literally, knocked our socks off at Skit Night. Wish she would have had time to complete her superhero costume with tights, shorts, and cape. (Thanks for the photo, Jess.) She also was our emcee and shared hilarious jokes in between all the skits – “What does the shy pebble wish for? To be a little bolder!”

My 2nd cousin (our grandmothers are sisters), Melissa, came up with her three adorable children. Her goal was to spend lots of time talking to the experienced homeschooling mothers and figure out how to do this whole homeschooling gig. After talking to her, I think she has it down…lots of wonderful ideas, a solid foundation, and excellent mothering skills – she has it made in spades. I wish she would move up here and join our community of awesome families.

Melissa’s sister, Nikki, joined us on Friday (she missed all the bad weather, lucky girl!) and what fun is she! These two girls are from one of my favorite cousin families. I envied them while we were growing up. They all (nine children and two amazing parents) seemed so happy and put together while I felt my family was falling apart on a regular basis. Now that we are grown up, I love them even more and am thrilled to pieces they decided to come and join in our fun.

Melissa and Nikki with some of their children.


Here are Melissa, Tami, me, and Nikki trying to get one decent photo, but Boo was dancing around behind us pinching our bottoms and none of the photos turned out that great. What is it with my squinty and/or closed eyes???

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Swim Camp 045

Finally a halfway decent one, just ignore my squinty eyes with giant bags under them!

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Before we went to Swim Camp, my mom helped me (who am I kidding, she made them, the kids and I slightly assisted…someday I’m sure I will become proficient in the kitchen!) make 14 dozen chocolate mint cookies. They were greatly enjoyed at camp and I used them as payment every time I asked a youth to do a favor for me…like move a gazillion tables to our canopy area.





Fisher and Jared, two bug-catching soulmates, spent much of their time hunting creatures. On Friday they found a snake and it lived in their arms for the next 48 hours or so. Unfortunately it escaped on Sunday afternoon and rivers of tears were shed (thankfully it escaped while it was outside, otherwise I would be having snake-attack-nightmares).



Melissa and Jen

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Boo teaching the children the “I’m Happy” song. We performed it at skit night and I’m sure made everyone’s night full of sunshine and smiles.

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Melissa and me…finally I have my eyes open!

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Friday night was the first night it was nice enough to do campfire singing and my annual storytime. Thanks to Tami’s chair I was able to sit at the fire and read Just Rewards, Or, Who is That Man in the Moon and What’s He Doing Up There Anyway? . We sang lots of songs, learned some more, and then closed with a reading of Loud Emily. I only made it a paragraph in when an ember from the fire shot down Annesley’s suit and burned her, so Jessica took over with me and did a fine rendition of Emily’s very loud voice.

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Boo and Tami, so glad these two found each other a few years back when they lived in the same neighborhood in Colorado. I love both of them to pieces. Boo wrote a song about friendship…I want to share the words…can I? Or are you going to publish this song somewhere. I cried my little eyes out when she sang it at Skit Night.


Annesley was our lucky child to get David for a teacher this year. He is THE BEST swim teacher and he makes sure to get one of my children in his class each year. Fisher has had him for the past three years, so it was Annesley’s turn for David’s teach-children-to-swim magic.


Good friends from years of attending swim camp together. Here are Derek, Kayden, Blythe, Keziah, and Eve.


Keziah and her swim pass wristbands. Every year she and a whole group of her friends keep their Swim Camp wristbands on for as long as possible. Keziah’s 2012 band just fell off in April, so it looks like these ones will be part of our life for months to come.


We always camp in spot #34, right next to the tree. It is the one perk of spending hours organizing Swim Camp. I get to choose my spot and every year we are right here next to the one and only tree in the campground.


Darci, one of our awesome swim instructors, and Kat.


The besties, Morgan (Boo’s daughter) and Teryn, (Tami’s daughter) hanging out while we pack up camp.


My Annes – always full of spunk.



Making s’mores with friends and cousins – a favorite nightly tradition.


I am so glad Cami and I started this event clear back in 2004. It has brought our homeschool community together and built friendships among children, youth, and families. It is so much fun – even with all the rain, soaking wet towels, freezing cold nights, diarrhea, puking, chlorine-burned faces, and all the work to make it happen – it is totally worth it. My children love it and that is enough for me to continue to make it happen every year.

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we love music

Jun 6, 2013 by

we love music

Blythe and Keziah play the violin and recently started taking piano lessons as well. Right now we have an awesome teacher who comes to our home (can you shout, YAZOO!) and teaches both of them on both instruments. I am in love with the set-up as it requires no driving for me and no entertaining of my little ones while the older ones have lessons. We just hole up in my room and do math and reading and games while the girls have their two hour lesson. Two weeks ago they had their Spring recital and played beautifully.


Yes, she is wearing ponytails all over her arm. She always has ponytails around her wrist, but I can’t believe I didn’t notice she had them on for the recital. If I had she would have been reminded to take them off.


Blythe just started piano lessons in February. I am amazed at how much progress she has made in just a few short months.


Here she is with her beloved violin, Niphredil (yes, she named her violin after a flower in Middle Earth, you LOTR fans can shout hurrah). She loves to create beautiful pieces and spends her free time dancing in the yard while she plays – now that is talent, don’t you think?


Getting a picture of these two smiling without the silliness is nigh on impossible…



Refreshments were enjoyed by all the little brothers and sisters.


I will sure miss these days of music bursting out the walls of our home when these two girls leave home. They play constantly and I often wake up to their music. I am so grateful Blythe set us on this path so many years ago.

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a ballet dream

May 20, 2013 by

a ballet dream

Since my Blythe was a very little girl she has dreamed of dancing. She has read many ballet books and watched ballet movies and productions, but until this year she has not had the opportunity to take ballet lessons. I begged a local dance teacher to create a beginning class for teens and she agreed to do it if we could get enough students.

Well. A project like that is right up my alley (don’t ask me to cook food for large groups of people though!) and I got right to work recruiting older girls for a beginning ballet class. Soon we had more than enough and the girls started learning and building muscles and increasing their flexibility.

A few short weeks later Blythe was invited to join the advanced class and soon after that she was ready to go on pointe. It all felt like a whirlwind to me. I thought we were signing up for a little beginning class one night a week and all of a sudden we were doing ballet three nights week, being fitted for pointe shoes, and hardly seeing our daughter at all. It was a huge sacrifice for our family AND it was worth it.

This past weekend was Blythe’s recital. She shined. She has learned so much in nine short months. She danced with both her beginning class and her advanced class, four numbers in all.

And it was lovely.

And I cried.

And I was filled with happiness for this girl whose dream finally came true.

Unfortunately I took video of the dances and don’t have very many pictures!

Blythe in her closing bow.

Keziah in her closing bow.


Keziah, Blythe, Spencer, and Madi

Madison and Blythe, dear friends and ballet lovers.

Blythe and Keziah after it was all over. See how happy she is. Maybe if she had a dance recital every day she would smile more often!

The entire company.

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some birthday presents

May 20, 2013 by

some birthday presents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 9, 2013 by


Sadie gave birth to five puppies last Thursday. This is her smallest litter yet and it seems much more manageable than her 2011 litter of nine. There is one brown one, one black one, and three yellow. The males win out this time with four boys and one girl. They were born in Keziah’s room and have kept her up all night ever since. Sadie is a wonderful mother and takes care of them, but squealing puppies make such a ruckus it is difficult to sleep through. Nevertheless, Keziah is in love with them and wants to keep them all, espcecially the little female. However, she is out of luck. We are a one-dog family (at least I am a one-dog mama) and we are not going to venture down the path of two dogs anytime soon.

When some friends took my little ones to the lake on my birthday I decided to use the unfettered time to clean my room and boy, howdy, did I find some treasures. One of them being my battery charger, which I promptly used to charge my camera batteries so I could take some pictures of these little cutie pies.

This is the female that Keziah loves so much. She spends as much time in Keziah’s arms as she does with her litter mates.

Puppies will be available June 27th. If you want one, put your dibs in now. We want them to go to families who will love them and it is always fun for them to go to people we know so we can watch them grow up!

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