Welcome Winter!

Winter really came this year and we were so happy! After a December without snow last year and kids who missed out on sledding, snowmen and pure snow joy, we were so glad to have snow this year, and a lot of it. The kids got out of school on December 4th and don’t go back until January 4th. It’s so fun to have the entire month of December off to play and enjoy the Christmas season. We played out in the snow plenty and finally got to try out our new sleds from last year. After the first big storm we went over to a great sledding hill at the bottom of Daybreak, not far from our house. I looked up at the hill and got a little nervous as I watched Noah, Emmy and Jonah traipse up. It was huge! It didn’t seem to bother them so I just watched and waited to see how the first run went. They flew down the hill, smiling faces full of snow. They loved it and went down again and again. Sweet little Mary Jane had no desire to put on snow pants, boots a coat or even socks (she’s had a bit of a hard time adjusting to her winter wardrobe) and had zero interest in sledding so she just hung out in the car. She was totally content to sit there in her seat and watch. Isaiah came with us and he didn’t last too long in the snow so he joined Mary Jane in the car after a while. I went down the hill with the kids and Emmy and I even broke in (literally) one of the sleds after going over a bump. I think Noah would have stayed out there all day. He is fearless when it comes to sledding and just wants more.
On Christmas day we woke up to about 8 inches of snow. After opening presents and Christmas breakfast we went outside to shovel and play. The kids used the piles of snow on the sides of the driveway as snow forts and got in some good snowball throwing. We even built a tiny snowman. The steps from the deck to the patio were covered in snow so we got out the sled and Mary Jane and Emmy went sledding right there in our own yard. Mary Jane loved it and giggled each time she went down. They were so cute!
We went sledding at Sugar House with our friends the Saunders on the 30th and again Noah was unstoppable. He loves going fast, going off jumps and riding down on his stomach, face first. Mary Jane joined us this time and she loved it. She would walk about half way up the hill and then I would carry her the rest of the way. Then we’d fly down and she’d be ready to go up again. This is just our first month of winter and I foresee plenty of sledding in the future.

Two trips and so much to be thankful for

We have a birthday tradition in our family that started when Noah turned three. For each third birthday we celebrate at Disneyland. Mary Jane turned three on November 20th so this was our last third birthday trip. We were all so excited to go and the trip turned out just magical, after all, it is Disneyland. We stayed at the Castle Inn and Suites, just so Mary Jane could stay in a castle and she was thrilled about it. We spent three days in the park, the last day being Mary Jane’s birthday. Our good friends the LeSeurs were also there and it was great palling around with them. We rode all of the rides we wanted, most of them more than once. Noah and Emmy were tall enough to ride every ride and Jonah could ride all of them except two. We spent a lot of time trading off between Brian and me taking the kids on rides but there was very little complaining and every one was excited for whoever got to ride the ride. It’s a lot of work to go to Disneyland but it is so worth it. I just love being there with Brian and the kids and getting so excited about everything. It was decorated for Christmas which just makes it even more magical. Noah’s excitement after conquering California Screaming’, Emmy’s pure joy and meeting Tianna for the very first time, Jonah’s satisfaction in riding and loving everything Star Wars and Mary Jane’s wonderment as she sang and danced in the boat in Small World, those moments are unforgettable and why we just keep going back.

Our last day we went out to Huntington Beach. It was 80 degrees and an unbelievably perfect day for late November. The kids loved it, running in and out of the water, building in the sand, being silly with their friends. I loved watching them and playing with them. Being at the beach with my kids and them loving it is a dream come true! Too bad we don’t live closer.

We got home late Sunday night, had two days to recuperate, do laundry, and pack so we could be on the road again on Wednesday. We drove up to Moses Lake, WA to be with Brian’s sister Kim and her family, Brian’s parents and his sister Karin for Thanksgiving. Instead of heading into beautiful, warm weather we drove straight into and icy winter storm. The roads from the Utah/Idaho border to Boise were pretty frightening. It definitely wasn’t a relaxing drive but we made it!

We spent Thanksgiving day at the Truman’s. This was our first Thanksgiving as a family away from home. Because Kim has cancer and is not doing well we decided to simplify and order Thanksgiving dinner from Safeway. It was certainly different but turned out great. I was basically on warm up duty. All the food is precooked, you just have to warm it up. The kids and Kim sat around the table and the rest of us sat on chairs and on the floor. Dinner was probably the least significant part of the day, which was different, but good. It was just about being together. The kids played great and loved being together. I think it was good for us to just be there. On Friday we took all the kids to a movie while Scott and Ralph took Kim to her radiation and chemo treatments. We all got home about the same time and just played the rest of the day. We were only there two days but it was important. Right now that’s kind of all we can do. We just wait and watch and pray and love and support Kim and Scott and their kids.

As I’ve thought back on the last year I can see the hand of the Lord significantly in my life. He has guided my path and prepared me so much. I think about the lesson I taught on following the prophet and the declaration I made in that lesson that I will stand with the living prophets. There has been turmoil in the world and in the church and my testimony of our living prophet remains solid. I’ve seen changes in my children as they learn and grow. I think about the prompting that I had to challenge our little family and my extended family to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. I did not know that one of the people it would affect most significantly would be my 9 year old Noah. He took the challenge to heart and has stayed on track better than I have! I pray that this is a habit that will remain with him throughout his life. I think about sitting at lunch with friends of 20+ years, laughing and crying together as we share life’s ups and downs, and the connection we still feel as we have all stayed strong in the gospel. I feel such love and gratitude to the Lord for the abundance of love I feel for Him and from Him. Indeed, there is so much to be thankful for.

In the Lord’s Hands

While trying to catch up on our eventful summer there is a lot happening right now. I just needed a place to put down all these events and feelings that have gone along with them over the past week and a half.

I’ll start with Visiting Teaching. I visit such a dear lady named Barbara. She is 69 years old and has taught me so much about being a wife, mother and grandmother. I get as much or more from our visits as she gets from me. Last Wednesday her husband Leonard fell and broke his hip. He was 72 and has had major health issues and chronic pain for the past 10 years. He had hip surgery on Thursday and then remained in the hospital until he was supposed to move to rehab on Monday or Tuesday. The kids and I visited Barbara on Saturday. We took her some food and helped her pick vegetables from her garden and bring them inside. She talked about being alone, but also being strong. She talked about her love for Leonard and her desire to take care of him, like she has many times before. We left her that evening so she could rest and be ready to go see Leonard again the next day. When Brian woke up on Sunday morning he had a message that Leonard has passed away in the night. It was devastating news. Poor Barbara, my heart just ached for her. Her grandson, who lives next door to her, would be speaking in church that day for his missionary homecoming. And he did. And Barbara was there. We greeted her briefly with tears in our eyes. Her grandson paid a wonderful tribute to his grandpa as he began his talk. It was emotional and so tender. The next day Brian called me from work and said that Barbara had collapsed and was in the hospital. I could hardly believe it. Brian and I took the kids to a neighbor’s house that night and went to visit Barbara in the hospital. Her own medical issues had acted up under the stress of everything but she was stable and doing well. She was surrounded by family. Our visit was short but yet again, one where I left feeling better from being around her.

The week continued on and Brian received a phone call from his mom on Wednesday night. His sister Kim had been sick. When she went to the doctor they learned that her cancer had come back. I couldn’t believe it. It has been five years and her health has been so great and I think I just thought that we were home free. On Thursday we got more news that her tumor was spread across two lobes and therefore it was inoperable. It is so hard to bear the sadness.

On Thursday night at about nine o’clock Brian remembered that he had signed up to clean the temple from 9:45-midnight. He was physically and emotionally exhausted so I told him that I would go and he went to bed. What a blessing it was to be in the temple. I got to sweep and mop the stairs from the first floor to the basement. Then I got to clean the women’s and men’s initiatory rooms. It was peaceful and quiet. The work was a joy and went quickly, almost to quickly. I loved being in the temple, working, serving, in a way I never had before. I loved pondering the initiatory ordinance as I wiped and cleaned and dusted. It was such a blessing to be there.

Friday was the funeral for Leonard Maddox. Brian and I went together, although he had to sit on the stand as a member of the bishopric, so I sat with the second counselors wife. The funeral was lovely. It was a wonderful tribute for a kind, dedicated, righteous man. I learned from his example how to be a better wife and mother and friend. I was grateful to be there and support Barbara, who over the last year and a half has become so much more than just my neighbor who I visit teach. She is a true friend and shining example to me. But as I sat there, I watched Brian on the stand and tried to imagine what was going on in his mind. I knew there were thoughts of his sister and what may lie ahead for her and their family. My heart just ached.

Saturday was General Conference. Oh how I love General Conference! I honestly wish I could sit for all sessions of conference with pen in hand, listening attentively and taking notes. I have four children, ages 9 and under, it is not possible. But we have the tv on and we listen as best we can and enjoy the weekend of listening to prophets and apostles of God. Three new apostles were called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. It was a memorable moment. I love to raise my hand and sustain the prophet and those who serve with him. My heart aches when I hear that there is an opposing vote. I think, “They have no idea what these men have given to serve the Lord their God.” It makes me so grateful for these men and their testimony and example.

Sunday is always a little more relaxed and I’m usually able to listen to more of conference than on Saturday. President Monson was the first speaker in the morning. He started out so strong and true like he always does. Then, as his talk went on, he leaned over on the pulpit. You could see his physical strength was starting to fail him. He continued to speak, a bit labored, but he continued until the end of his talk. I wanted to rush up and hold him. I wanted someone to stand next to him. I then, I prayed. I don’t know that I’ve ever prayed for a speaker in General Conference at the moment he was speaking. But I did, I prayed in my mind and with all my heart for the Lord to strengthen His prophet. It was a remarkable moment and in know there were many sitting as I was and praying for our dear prophet. Elder Rasband stood up after him and spoke words of love and kindness which echoed all of our hearts.

President Eyring was the concluding speaker for the morning session. He spoke about the Holy Ghost. He told a few stories and closed with a story about his mother, dying of cancer. He told the experiences of his father who was guided, strengthened and sustained by the Holy Ghost in that time. It was not a coincidence that he told that story this morning. It was difficult and hard to hear because it hit so close to home. But it was exactly what we were meant to hear, because it is so close to home. My testimony of a loving Heavenly Father and His faithful servants was strengthened today.

It has been an emotional week and a half. I have seen the hand of the Lord many, many times. I have felt His spirit so strongly. My testimony has been strengthened. I love my Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ. I know they are in the details of each of our lives.  “Behold and lo, mine eyes are upon you, and the heavens and the earth are in mine hands, and the riches of eternity are mine to give.” D&C 67:2

End of school days

After our trip to the great Northwest, Noah and Emmy had three more weeks left of school. These last few weeks are so fun! They were full of talent shows, end of year projects and programs, class parties and swimming lessons.

Our kids go to a great school. I have been so impressed with the community involvement. They really want it to feel like parents, students, teachers and administrators are all working together and it really does. Both Noah and Emmy participated in their class talent shows. Noah drew a picture of our campsite in the Redwoods with pencil and colored pencils and took it to show. Noah is such a talented artist and loves to draw. His picture looked great! Emmy sang a song for her talent. She chose a song that one of their babysitters, Kaitlyn, sings to them when she puts them to bed. Emmy had it completely memorized and sang it aCapella right into the microphone. I was so impressed by her confidence and her musical talent! Both Noah and Emmy had 100% attendance for the year and earned their Soaring Eagke awards. Emmy also got the most home reading minutes in her class, 6,600! And she got 100% of her assignments turned in. They are amazing students!

The kids were excited for school to get our but also seemed to get a little sad, knowing they would miss their teachers and friends. But one good thing about year round school is that their summer vacation is only 3 weeks so they don’t have to miss their friends for too long!

Summer Vacation: the first of three

imageWith the kids being in year-round school we only get a three week summer break, but some other great breaks that make up for that. One of our breaks is what I call our first mini-summer vacation. The kids were our for a week and a half at the end of May/beginning of June, so we took advantage of it.

We have a goal in our family for all of us to visit all fifty states. (Read more about that on fourkidsfiftystates.wordpress.net) So far we had the west pretty much covered except for Washington and Oregon. And thus the inspiration for our Pacific Northwest trip.

I love traveling with our family. Whether we’re visiting somewhere new for all of us or somewhere Brian and I have been, we always  enjoy seeing what’s out there. This trip was a combination of both the new and the old.

Our first stop was Crater Lake in Oregon. Wow! We had to hike a little bit to get our first glimpse of the lake but as we came up around the bend and saw it we were all blown away. It was a short visit there and we headed to one of my most favorite spots on earth, the California Redwoods. I was so excited to go there with my family and to actually camp in the Redwoods. The entire time we were there I could not wipe the smile off my face. I kept saying to the kids, “I’m just so happy here!” And I’m so glad that even though it rained almost the whole two and a half days we were there, we all still loved it. Hugging trees, finding a star fish in a tide pool, chasing squirrels, seeing a banana slug, they are all great memories of our first family trip to the Redwoods.

After that we headed up the Oregon coast, stopping at beaches and lighthouses along the way. We stayed in Beaverton, Oregon with my old roommate Heather Raddatz. She welcomed us with signs on our doors and mints on our pillows. The kids were so excited to see her and it was just like staying with family. We got to spend one day seeing Portland, walking the Rose Gardens, eating from food trucks and  trying out Voodoo Donuts. Then we spent a day on the coast with Heather visiting Astoria, Indian Beach, Cannon Beach, Tillamook and more lighthouses. Oregon was perfectly rainy one day and full of sun the next. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect visit…although we did take one trip to the insta care. Poor Noah was playing/teasing Emmy and she pushed him and he hit his head right on the corner of the newel post at the top of the stairs. A slight delay in our schedule and a few stitches later we were on our way.

The morning we left Portland was Brian’s birthday. The kids and I served him breakfast in bed and showered him with handmade cards, since the few presents we had bought we’re left at home, oops! Then we headed out to see Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier. It was neat to see Mount St Helens but we didn’t get the up-close experience like we did at Rainier. It was absolutely breathtaking. I was so amazed at the beauty there. The kids were in awe too. We wished we had more time to spend there but we were able to do a couple of short hikes, one to a waterfall and one just around the base a bit. It was such an awe-inspiring place to be and we will definitely go back!

After Mount Rainier we were homeward bound. We ended up stopping for dinner at really the only place we could find along the way. It was a restaurant in the back of a store at a campground on a lake. The kids were clearly starving as they consumed their cheeseburgers exclaiming that they were the best burgers they had ever eaten! And it just happened to be the store owners birthday as well.

The next day we added on one last stop for the way home, Craters of the Moon in Idaho. It was definitely unlike any place we’ve been before and there are places where it really does seem like you’re walking on the moon. The kids’ favorite part was hiking up the black hill and running around like they were on a different planet. I love their sense of adventure. We certainly have times on the road where one or all of us are losing it, but the time we spend together and the places we discover will never be forgotten.

Growing Up

Some big stuff has been going on with Jonah.  On Wednesday, May 20, Jonah had his last day of preschool and that night was his preschool graduation.  This year and last he attended preschool just down the street with Miss Amee.  He has loved going to school there and feels lucky that he’s one of the few kids that will still get to see her since she’s in our ward.  As we’ve gotten closer to the end of preschool I’ve noticed some changes in Jonah.  One day after school he told me they had watched the video that Miss Amee was going to show at the graduation.  It had pictures of the year and music to go along with it.  He told me that during the last song his eyes got a little bit watery.  As he continued to talk, his eyes started to get a little bit watery again.  I asked him if he was sad about graduating from preschool and he said yes.  He said he would miss playing and the Ninja Turtle bikes.  Now that is something to be sad about!  I know his five-year-old mind couldn’t grasp it, but I could see that he was sad about more than just that.

The next couple of days were a bit rough for Jonah.  One night I crawled up onto the top bunk with him and asked why he’d be acting out the way he had.  He thought for a minute and then started to cry, “I don’t want to grow up!”  It was so cute and so sad and I wanted to cry right along with him.  Growing up is tough and he has really been feeling these changes.  I laid there in his bed with him and we hid under his blanket together.

Sometimes we just need to hide under a blanket together and let it all just go away for a minute.  In that moment under the blanket, we found joy.

His graduation was adorable.  All the kids wore their dad’s white dress shirts backwards to look like graduation gowns.  Each of them had a graduation hat with a tassel.  Jonah got to lead the kids in and hold the flag while they recited the pledge.  Then they sang some of the songs they learned this past year and some of the kids got to read a short book.  Jonah read a cute little book called “Tails”.  At the end Miss Amee presented the class of 2015 and the kids threw their caps in the air! Afterward we went out for ice cream to celebrate.  Lucky for Jonah two of his school friends were there, Alexis and Ellie.  He sat at a table with the two of them and they were so cute just laughing and playing and eating their ice cream.

It’s fun to watch these kids grow up, although there are certainly times where I wish I could make it all stop. Jonah is going to be fantastic in Kindergarten. I’m so excited to watch him learn and grow and make new friends. He has such a kind heart and always wants to do good. He is full of life and never stops going. Jonah is so happy and full of life and I’m so glad I get to be his mom!

Joy in Mothering

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I sat on the couch the other night, exhausted after having put the kids to bed, and said to Brian, “I feel like I’ve lost the joy in mothering.”  It was sad.  I was sad.  I knew it wasn’t really gone, but it was certainly getting harder and harder to find.  As I thought, and prayed, and searched for a solution, I began to find an answer.  I realized that my mind was so preoccupied with everything that wasn’t right, I was forgetting what was.  I was forgetting what was right in front of me.  The answer was to start writing it down. It seemed a peculiar answer at first, but the more I thought about it, it seems to be the perfect answer.  Writing will give me a chance to focus.  In focusing, I know I will see more clearly and see the joy that surrounds me.  So here I go!