Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Snowflakes

"Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance -- each beautiful, unique and too soon gone."
~Deborah Whipp 

I was raised in California where there is no snow at Christmas time. Or any time for that matter.
My first snowy winter was in 1998 as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Montreal, Canada.
I love it.
And I hated it. 
I was mesmerized watching the very first few snowflakes land on the windshield.
Their designs were nothing less than magical.
The way they landed then colapsed, then melted into the tiniest drop you've ever seen.
I could have watched them for days.
I remember driving out in the Frozen Quebec countryside and seeing the sun reflect off the snow, creating a glitter effect that seemed too beautiful to be real.
All of a sudden I understood why they always put glitter on snowy Christmas cards.
I was in a winter wonderland.
The bitter cold that came along with the Canadian winters was a shock to my California bones.
I resented the millions of layers of clothing, the clunky boots, shoveling snow off the car 10 times a day and the frozen nose hairs when I tried to breath.
It was unbearably cold.
I have lived in a snowy climate ever since, and I swore I never would.
Just like back then, I have a love/hate relationship with the snow. 
The road we live on is absolutely astonishing when  it snows, nothing less than a scene from a wintry fairyland movie.
I love how excited my kids get when they wake up to newly fallen snow.
I love to see their cute little foot prints trailing our yard.
I love lopsided snowmen with carrot noses in the front yard.
But the cold still gets to me.
But this is my home.
All of my children were born here, they don't know anything else.
Their Christmases are filled with snow and puffy frozen breath and coats that make us all look like the Michelin  Man.
The memories I have of Christmas here mingles with the Christmases of my childhood.
Being at my grandma and grandpa's house on Baker street.
The sweet smell of my grandfather's pipe, his dog, Shiloh, asleep on the end of his recliner.
Spending all day in the kitchen helping grandma make the Christmas feast.
My job was to wash and cut the fresh green beans for her bacon beans.
I also opened cans of olives and pickles and scrubbed and peeled potatoes.
I remember sitting in the living room by the fire opening presents.
The thrill I felt when that one was for me.
Being raised by a single mom, our Christmases were always very frugal.
Grandma made sure we had a good Christmas.
Sweaters, toys, Avon lotion and lip balm.
Oh, to be transported back to that place and time.
To hug my grandpa again.
To wash dishes with my grandma near my side.
Those memories are sweet to me.
I love to make these new memories for my kids, right here.
I hope their Christmas memories are magical.
I hope the memories they are making right here, right now will stay with them their whole lives long, just as mine have.
I hope you all have A magical Christmas filled with love and laughter and peace.

From our family to yours, 
Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Hope They Know, My Letter to the Families in Conneticut

Like everyone in the country that heard the chilling news of yesterday's tragedy, my heart is sick.
Like all of you, I simply can't comprehend.
I really don't know if anything I have to say can possibly make any sort of difference, yet my heart is so full.
I hope the parents of those tiny angels know that the whole nation is grieving with them.
We see the pictures of your babies and our hearts break and we cry with you.
You are not alone in this.
I hope you know the whole nation was praying for you last night and today and tomorrow and for many days to come. 
The words fell from our lips as tears fell from our eyes.
It was hard for us to breath, too.
I hope you know that I don't pretend to know the depth of your grief and pain, I can only imagine.
Actually, I can't even imagine, I'm sure the reality is more horrific than anything I could ever conjure up.
I hope you know we have all hugged our own children a little tighter today and spoken a little gentler.
I hope you know God has your babies in His arms and they are safe now.

painting by David Bowman

I hope you know that we know you'd rather have them in your own arms and you'll feel that pain everyday for the rest of your life.
I hope you know you have a million shoulders to cry on.
But there's One who wants you to come to Him with your grief and pain, for he's really the only one that can give you peace.
I hope you know that you will be happy in this life again, you will.
You may not think so now, but peace will come in the morning.
 I don't pretend to know when the morning will come, but it will come.
I hope you know that Christmas will take on a new meaning for you.
The birth of that tiny babe, with Him was born the hope of a life yet to be.
He came to heal the broken hearted. 
I hope you know that because of that tiny baby born over 2 millina ago  you can have your babies for eternity, families can be together forever through Heavenly Father's plan.
And in despair I bowed my head: "There is no peace on earth," I said, "For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men."...Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men."         ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be Still My Soul Hymn

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and bless├Ęd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, be leaving, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

Monday, December 10, 2012

To Every Thing There is a Season

Or so The Bible says.
And I full heartily agree.
In a little over a week we will mark the 5th anniversary of the passing of my dear mother-in-law.
Really, she was more like my real mother, but that's another post for another day.
She went back to her maker just a few short days before Christmas.
We buried her the day after.
That was a heavy year.
All of our hearts were filled with incredible sorrow.
The joy of the season was hard to find, but somehow we managed.
The next year took me by surprise. 
It was entirely more difficult than I had expected.
I felt more like crying than laughing the whole season long.
I had not expected that.
I thought that I would have some sad memories, but that for the most part I would be excited for Christmas and all the fun traditions our family enjoyed.
I had to force myself to be cheerful for the children and to carry on the traditions for their sake, because heaven knows if it weren't for them I would have brushed them off entirely.
In fact all of the holiday seasons since then have been difficult for me.
Until this year.
I heard a Christmas song on the radio a few weeks ago and I found myself jamming out, practically dancing in the car at a stoplight.
I was excited to feel the crispness in the air, to see lights appearing on houses, to decorate our home with my children, to make things for them with my own hands.
It occured to me one day that for the first time in years I was excited for the Christmas season.
Truely, deeply excited, all the way down to my toes.
For the first time I wanted to drink everything in, to feel it all and do it all.
It seemed as if the fog had lifted.
"To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance"

~Ecclesiastes 3:1&4
I just wish I could have had just a little more time to dance.

Just a few short days after I realized the joy was back in Christmas we got some news that stopped me dead in my tracks.

My most amazing brother-in-law, Brad has been diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer that has metastasized to his spine and pelvis.

All of a sudden I find myself with only 2 weeks until Christmas and yet again I am feeling the pangs of sorrow and disbelief .

I have taken the children to see the Nutcracker and the lights at Christmas village and even the light parade complete with fireworks.

We have been busily readying for weeks of celebration and fun and once again I feel like the winds have left my sails. We are praying for Brad and nothing less than a miracle will do.

"A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away" 

~ Ecclesiastes 3:6

My prayer is that it's God's will that we keep Brad with us for a good long while, nevertheless, His will be done. At least until he's good and old with many, many children and grandchildren near his side. 

I have prayed this prayer so many times in the last few weeks that my heart aches from praying it. 

As if that were not enough, my sister-in-law, Teresa went in for an appointment with her cardiologist last week and ended up having emergency by pass surgery. They did 6 by passes. I did not even know that was possible.

 Prayers have been answered as Teresa is recovering beautifully. She will get more time to watch her boys grow and to "just keep swimming".

More reasons to dance and to mourn.

But for me the joy is not gone. The wonder on Little M&M's face as she looks at the shining lights of the tree is not lost on me.

The thrill of watching my kids make gifts and secretly hide them away brings that familiar warmth to my heart. 

So with tears in my eyes for a loving Savior who is merciful and kind and so giving, I embrace this wonderful season of birth and life and laughter, right along with the sorrow and pain of it all.

May this season find you all with happy hearts and warm homes.



Sunday, September 23, 2012

The "P" Word

Have you ever taken your child to the doctor because you thought they were dying only to find out it was a hang nail or something similarly lame and of no consequence?
Have you ever walked out of the office thinking, "that guy must think I'm clueless!"
Well, that has happened to me a few times.
Not for a hang nail, per say, but I have felt like a moron leaving the doctor's office on more than one occasion.
My most recent was just a few days ago.
Ever since Doodle started school she has been having horrible pains in her feet and legs.
I waited for it to get better, but instead each day she got a little worse.
It was so bad that when I'd pick her up from school she looked like a cripple girl trying to walk without her crutches.
She said it sent stabbing pains up her legs when she put any pressure on her heal.
The result was a contorted gait that had me panicking.
I was sure she had brain/spinal damage from one of her many horse riding falls.
Or Fibromyalgia, or cerebral palsy.
She was dying a slow, painful death, I was sure of it!
After a few questions and some rubbing of her feet, the doctor gave his diagnosis.
You'll never guess what she has, go ahead, try!
It's a severe case of puberty!
What did you just say about my child?
She IS GOING TO DIE, I knew it!
Apparently it's a really common pain for kids starting puberty.
Turns out there's a growth plate in the heal of the foot and her body is literally growing too fast, which in turn places loads of pressure on the joints and tendons near the growth plates.
So ya, I took my child who I thought might die in the night to the doctors office for growing pains.
Mother of the year, right here!
I was so not ready for that diagnosis.
My kids are small, we don't do puberty in this house.
(Although I do have to say that the puberty smell did start a few months back, but I was in denial)
Now I feel like I'm in a roller coaster inching my way up to the top.
You know, that part where you know it's coming and you can feel your stomach in the back of your throat with nervous anticipation.
This is just the beginning. Beano will not be far behind.
What will this ride bring?
I'm sure it will be full of ups and downs and twists and turns, just like any good roller coaster.
I just hope that at the end of the ride we can breath a sigh of relief and say,
 "Wow! What a ride!"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Life is Beautiful

Have you seen this movie?

You must.
I watched it several years ago and I had no clue what it was about.
My sister-in-law had picked our show that evening.
I cried my eyes out, for days after I had seen it.
I am tempted to watch it again, but I don't know if I can bring myself to.
Anyone want to join me for a movie night?
It's on Netflix!
But my point is that life truly can be beautiful, no matter our circumstances. 
It's all about our attitude.
Have you ever heard the saying, "attitude determines altitude"?
So true.
There are so, so, so many things in life that are totally out of our control, yet we always have the power over ourselves to choose how we will react.
And in the end, that's really the only thing that matters.
I'm not sying I'm perfect at this, life is a great big fat lesson on this subject.
It's a good thing He has given us a lifetime to figure it out.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Answered Prayers

When our kids were preschool age and beyond I took them on field trips.
Lots and lots of field trips.
It's the part of homeschooling that I'm really good at.
I can not even remember how many times I've been to the fire station.
I think I've been to 3 different ones over the years, and some more than once.
Most little boys LOVE the fire station and the cool truck and putting on the fireman's gear.
But not little Dubs.
It scared him to death and I think we may have scarred him for life.
His first trip there he was maybe 2 years old.
It put the thought into his wee little head that things catch on fire, buildings catch on fire, homes catch on fire.
Then the though occurred to him that we have a home.
Every since that very first trip to the fire station he has prayed every single night that our house would not catch on fire.
I'm not exaggerating, I'm talking every. single. night. without. fail.
We put the fear into him, what can I say?
But maybe that turned out to be a good thing. 
Rewind almost 20 years.
Mr Bird turned 16 years old and his father gifted him with a very nice (at the time) stereo receiver.
That thing was like the energizer bunny, it kept going and going and going.
And we always found good use for it.
We would plug our ipods and iphone into it and listen to music and books on tape for hours while we scrubbed floors and did dishes and made dinners,
or while we danced around the house with it cranked like lunatics.
Until last week when it finally bit the dust.
Let's just say it left our lives with a bang.
It was Friday night, date night.
As soon as Mr Bird got home from work I jumped in the car to get our baby sitter.
I was gone maybe 20 minutes.
When I finally pulled  into the drive way I was greeted with Doodle streaking out of the house at full speed with M&M in her arms.
"The house is on fire!"
She was headed for our family's designated fire safety spot in the front yard by the crab apple tree.
Before I can register what she is saying, Beano and Little Man streak past me with yelps and hollers.
They, too, were headed for the tree.
Not quite sure what was going on and seeing no smoke I head into the open garage.
(Maybe not the best choice)
Just then Mr Bird came out of the door holding that ever so loved and used receiver way out away from his body and walking  like a zombie.
He just started laughing his nervous I-can't believe-that-just-happened laugh.
He must have seen the question in my eyes because he just started talking.
He had turned the receiver up way loud playing some crazy dance song from his iphone and he and the children were dancing through the house waiting for me to get home.
Then suddenly and without reason the music stopped.
Mr Bird walked over to the receiver to take a look and what do you think he saw?
Yup, you guessed it, Flames shooting out of the thing.
He quickly started pulling wires and cords and got everything unplugged.
The flames almost instantly died out.
He grabbed the thing and ran/zombie walked out of the house with it.
Needless to say, that was the end of the road for our beloved receiver.
Dubs, not missing a beat showed up at my side seconds later.
He wrapped his little arms around my waist and squeezed me like he had not seen me in a decade.
He looked up into my eyes with those gorgeous baby blues all open wide and said, "Mom, Heavenly Father answered our prayers! Our house did not catch on fire!"
How right he was. 
I don't know how many times we have turned that thing on and left the room to fold laundry or get on the computer or even go outside not realizing it's still on. 
Sometimes we'd play a record (yes, we still use vinyl from time to time) and the record would end and no one would notice so the record would just go round and round without any music playing at all, speakers and receiver still on full blast.
What if the seemingly harmless fire had happened when no one was watching?
I don't even want to imagine the different outcome we could have had.
But a little boy prayed, and God answered.
Just like that.
Want to know my favorite part of this story?
M&M's head bouncing along in Doodle's arms, her soft baby hair glowing in the evening light.
It means that Doodle would have saved her little sister even though I had not been there.
To a mom, there is no assurance better than to know they would have saved the baby.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

A New Adventure

Our little family is embarking on a brand new journey.
A new chapter in our lives.
I enrolled the two oldest in the charter school just down the road.
It has been 3 days for Beano and 2 for Doodle.
This has been the hardest thing I have ever done.
I can't stop crying my eyes out.
I see random people that I know and I tell them our news and I just start crying, I look like such a sissy.
 It was a choice about a year in the making.
As a home school mom I constantly worry that my kids are getting the education and enrichment they need.
It came to a point that I was struggling balancing the toddler and younger grade things with Little Man and Dubs, while keeping Doodle and Beano on track, they are at such different levels in their education.
I found that Little Man and Dubs were constantly getting the short end of the stick.
Amazingly the charter school just happened to have one 3rd grade spot left and one for Doodle in 5th grade, too.
Answer to prayer? I think so!
From a home school mind set it's hard not to feel like a failure.
I find myself constantly going back to the feelings of peace and clarity I had and the whispers in my mind that I received. 
But, man, I miss my kids in a bad, bad way.
They have become my best friends and I love being with them and watching them grow into the people that they are.

I will not bore you with all the details, but rather the things I have already learned from this new start.
  • I am a home schooler, through and through. I doubt very seriously this will last longer than one year.
  • I value different things in education than most people (like free time to read what interests the child and music and running around outside with little brothers and a baby girl tagging behind), and that's OK.
  • Test scores can be valuable information, but they could never  accurately evaluate character or perseverance or 'heart'. (P.S. My kids have always tested in the 90th percentile, that's not just a cop out for low test scores)  :)
  • I have learned that I love home school more than I thought I did. Why is it that I didn't appreciate it enough until now? Maybe that's one of the answers to prayers that I needed. I needed to be shown just how much I love it and how much a part of my life it is.
  • My kids are so, so smart (I already knew that one).
  • My kids can do hard things. I don't think I've ever been prouder of them, especially Doodle, for being so brave, even though her first day was so, so hard for her. I think they needed to know that they can do hard things without me right by their side the whole time.
  • I am so grateful already for the time I am getting to read the little books again that I read to Doodle and Beano when they were little to Dubs (who was there but does not remember any of them) and Little Man. I forgot how much I love Winnie the Pooh and Mr Popper's Penguins and story time at the library. We spend almost 2 hours a day snuggling on the couch reading, even baby girl sits with us the entire time and listens quietly (as long as she has her blankie to snuggle). It's is the cutest thing you have ever seen.
  • I don't have any more free time by having them gone because I am still home schooling and cleaning and cooking. But now I get the joys of home work as an added bonus! 
  • Beano LOVES school, it was love at first sight. He started the Friday before Labor Day and wanted to go back every day until it was finally Tuesday. I learned that my sweet boy will be happy no matter where he is.
  • We are in this for the year, committed 100%. After that, we'll see what new adventures lie on the horizon.
  • School is not bad and I am not a failure. Although I never did think school was bad, I know a few home schoolers who do. In fact, elementary school is enjoyable for the kids, except for math if you're Doodle. But she never did like it at home either.
  • Too often I underestimate myself. Why?
  • Change is hard (again, just reinforcing already known facts). After the initial shock of things, we will find a groove and we will thrive!

Friday, August 31, 2012

I am Puff

I have been a Peter, Paul and Mary fan for as long as I can remember.
I don't even remember who first introduced me to them.
Songs like Blowin' in the Wind and Leaving on  Jet Plane run through my soul like the blood in my veins.
I know every word by heart and I can sing with the melody or harmony as my mood directs.
(And I am pretty darn good, if I do say so myself)
But my favorite has always been Puff the Magic Dragon.
It's always been a, well, magical song to me.
I could feel the Autumn mist in Honah Lee on my skin.
I may was well have been on the boat with billowed sails, right out front like Kate Winslet on the Titanic, hair blowing in the wind.
Oh how I longed to have painted wings and giants rings!
My heart always broke a little when Little Jackie Paper came no more.
I never knew why this song haunted me until recently.
Puff was blaring from the kitchen sound system (on vinyl, none the less) when suddenly the reality was blarringly obvious.
 I am Puff the Magic Dragon.
"A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys", the words pierced my heart with new meaning.
My little boys are growing up just like little Jackie Paper did.
My mother heart can not handle this.
I always want Beano running around the back yard, stick in hand , on some grand adventure.
I never want the fancy stuff he brings me, like the remains of a hatched robin egg and a fist full of dandelions, to stop.
Can't we just live forever in this little boyhood?
With all the fantastic stories and games that only we know the rules to.
Lately I am really feeling this in Beano.
He is growing up right under my nose.
While it is thrilling to watch, my heart wants to hold on so tightly to that little boy.
Being the mom is so hard and delightful and joyous and hard.
I love every minute of it, maybe a little too much.
I always want him to have that unquenchable curiosity and goodness that he has about him.
I love my Beano and I don't know what I'll do when he trades in his painted wings and giant's rings for other toys.
My tears already fall like rain at the mere thought.
I suppose I'll do what any good Puff would do, I'll cease my fearless roar and sadly slip into my cave.
But I'll always have the memories of a perfect little boy with perfect blue eyes and a perfect desire to just have fun!
And those memories?
They are oh, so good!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lazy Sunday Evening

I have all sorts of randomness in me and I just know you are all dying to hear it.
Or maybe you're just dying to hear something, anything from me, considering I've been absent for about a month.
Or maybe you haven't even noticed and are on to more exciting blogs, not that I'd blame you.
So here are my random thoughts on this lazy Sunday evening.
Random thought number one:
School is starting, but I have no time for school just yet.
I have tomatoes and green beans and squash and zucchini coming out of my ears. 
(Plus I plan on buying peaches and pickling cucumbers this week, I can't wait!)
I think instead of the first day of school, we will all be up to our elbows in canning and freezing and trying to figure out ways to make this zucchini edible for the next 9 months.
But I don't feel too guilty because we are one of those families that schools through most of the Summer, that is when we are not off having fun in the mountains or on the sunny California beach.
In my opinion, all of the experiences we give our children are life lessons that they learn from, even canning and playing in the sand.
So the spelling books will wait another few weeks while we bring in the harvest and rejoice in our God who gives us so, so much and is so, so good.
Maybe we'll get out a good audio book to listen to while we blanch and peel and slice.
Anyone have a good one we haven't heard yet? 
 Random thought number two:
I turned 35  29 a few weeks ago.
My birthday was fairly uneventful.
Mr Bird took me out to eat the night before, then I spend my big day with my Sisters on Sister Saturday.
I planned to make my birthday cake and ice cream the next day, but I did not feel like it, so I didn't.
I still have not done it, I think the kids wanted it more than I did and they have forgotten about it, so maybe I'm off the hook.
Birthdays are not that exciting when you're my age, or maybe it's just me being a bah humbug.
Random thought number three:
I have some really yummy Summer recipes I had planned on posting this Summer, but I never did.
What do you think, should I just go ahead and post them anyway, or just keep them for next Summer when the kids are home from school and want a cold treat to cool off?
Ya, I think I may have missed the boat on those this year, that ship has sailed.
It's on to fall goodies, and I think I know just the one that you must try! 
Stay tuned, I promise I will not make you wait another month for this tasty morsel.
Random thought number four:
The spiders are everywhere this time of year.
I hate it and can't wait until they all freeze to death.
We have had some whoppers this year that are actually more like little creatures than the supposedly harmless arachnids they claim to be.
It's a good thing I have lots of strong knights in shining armor to rescue me from those horrid beasts.
Random thought number five:
I love being in Primary.
There is just something about watching chubby fingers and getting hugs from the children in the hallway.
I love watching my Little Man nearly falling out of his chair on the verge of sleep as his eye balls roll to the back of his head during singing time.
I love seeing the Sunbeams march in with badges that are as big as their little chests that say "I can be forgiving" pinned to their little shirts.
And they say the funniest things, every single week, without fail.
 Those children do my heart good.
 Last random thought of the day:
Life is good and busy and oh, so happy.
I am blown away by just how blessed I really am.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

...And Spiders

For those of you who know me, you know my one true, debilitating fear.
My mother sent me t-shirt a while ago that says, 
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself...and spiders."
Then it has a picture of little spider guy hanging from a thin black thread.
It's too bad the spider guy is on there, I just can't bring myself to put it on.
When my children are looking at nurture books and bring me photos of arachnids I come unglued and give them unreasonable consequences.
I think I may have blogged about this subject before.
Normally one blog post would suffice, but I have some recent experiences that some of you may or may not find hilarious.
I do not.
Maybe someday I will, but for now, I'm still in shock and will likely never hike to what used to be my favorite waterfall ever again.
A few years ago Mr Bird and I hiked said trail with some friends for date night. 
On the way up a huge tarantula decided to make himself cozy right in the middle of the path.
Mr Bird got some gnarly pictures of it, pictures which I to this day can not bring myself to even look at, let alone desecrate my blog with.
I stayed far, far away and only passed the spot after I was sure any sign of him was long gone.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Shame on me!
Last week my wonderful nephew took me and my brood up to the fabulous waterfall for one last hike before he leaves for law school for 3 long years.
We chose our favorite spot, waterfall canyon.
The hike up was grueling, but we all made it to the top after some blood, sweat and even a few tears.
We played in the cool spray of the waterfall and dipped our toes in the little pools made by the constant dripping water.
We had a water fight and ate our snacks.
Finally, it was time to head home and back to the beds we longed to fall into.
I strapped M&M in the hiking backpack and we were off.
I love the hike down, it's always so nice to be headed downhill with the gorgeous, trickling  river winding along the path.
Some of the boulders on that path are so huge that you have to put your hand down and sit on them as you drop your legs down to the ground below to reach the lower ground.
You kind of get into a groove and it's much faster going down than up.
Imagine my surprise when, coming to a steep decline, I put my hand out to help myself down only to see a spider the size of the palm of my hand camped out right on the rock I needed for support.
It all happened in a flash, but time seemed to stand still.
I paused, not sure of what to do.
The baby was on my back, so I knew I had to watch my step, I knew it was steep.
I was at an impasse.
That is, I was, until that thing locked eyes with me.
Yes, it was big enough that I could see its eyes and it looked right at me.
Then as if it read my mind, it jetted right for me at lightening speed!
That's when my brain turned off.
The next thing I know, I'm leaping through the air and down the steep boulders as if they were clouds with M&M still on my back all while shrieking at the top of my lungs and flailing my arms in all directions.
It must have been quite a sight to behold.
I'm pretty sure that was a new record for spider freak outs on my part.
I must have run screaming like that for a good 1/4 mile.
It was like I was not in control of my body, it just kept going down, down down, screaming in horror.
I could hear myself doing it, but I had no power to stop.
Finally the screams subsided only to be replaced with hyperventilation.
Horrifying memories of the nasty bugger charging at me kept playing through my mind and it felt like I could not breath.
I had been under attack, an attack of the worst possible kind.
I think I must have stopped shaking at some point before we got all the way off the mountain.
I did not stop to take pictures, but the image of that thing is seared into my brain.
I will never be rid of it.
In fact for two nights after the unfortunate event I lay awake at night unable to sleep thinking of it.
It caused me panic attacks.
I have never had a panic attack before, but I have a new found sympathy for those who have them.
And now a hike that I once loved has forever been ruined.
It will always be known to me hereafter as The Freakishly Huge Spider Trail.
I do not trust it anymore.
A part of me may have died...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Happiest Place on Earth

Last weekend we spent an afternoon at Snow Basin, otherwise known as the happiest place on Earth.
Disney has it all wrong.
I mean really, look  at this place! What could possibly be better?

This little cowboy absolutely breaks my heart with the cuteness.
Doesn't he look like he could step into a Norman Rockwell painting? 
Just classic.

This is what happens to cowboys when the horses have been riding all day and are tired and just don't want to go anymore.
They nose up to the trailer, practically begging the saddle to be taken off.
This one may as well have been a mule, he was not going to budge.
But the little man on back desperately wanted one last ride around the lot.

And then there's the cowgirl, she can get that horse to do anything she wants it to, she's never happier than when she's on the back of that horse.
A ride on the mountain trial is never complete without a lope or two around the parking lot.
Tired horse or not.

I love that my children are being raised in the mountains. 
We get out there as much as we can this time of year.
It is usually at least 10 degrees cooler up there.
We can leave the scorching heat for a few hours and enjoy their magic.

I sometimes wish I could bottle these days. 
The cool grass under our bare feet and rolling up pant legs to feel the cool rush of the brook on our bare toes on hot Summer afternoons.
I feel like I may need these happy memories one day.
I will need the pig tails and the too big cowboy hats and the blazing Summer sun telling me that life is good.
I will need friends playing in the mountains with laughter ringing in the trees.
I will need muddy feet and watermelon juice running down little chins.
I will need BFFs and plaid shirts.
I will need skipping stones and babies sleeping in the car on the way home.
I will need the towering aspens with their leaves that twinkle in the breeze.
I will need the lunches packed up and hiked to a picnic table deep in the trees, away from all the care and worries of this thing called life.

Little M&M and her BFF

 I just keep thinking that my kids only have one shot at childhood, and this is it.
I want them to have the happiest memories possible.
Happy enough to get them through whatever life throws at them when they are older.
I can not tell what may or may not happen in the years to come, but for right here and right now, this is childhood, and I bask in the richness of it all!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Fourth of July Is...

Babies in sunhats

Waking up at the crack of dawn for the annual 5K

Riding bikes in the bike parade, shimmering streamers of red, silver and blue taped to the handle bars fluttering in the breeze

Eating peanuts while waiting for the parade to begin

Wondering if the parade will EVER end...

Fire trucks, need I say more?

Little boys passing out the parade candy they gathered

Patriotic under roos

Five million degrees before noon

Cooling off in the shade of the willow for a family BBQ

Traditional flag cake with homemade whipped cream and fresh berries

Making wedding plans with your cousin 

Visiting with our four legged cousins
(this has got to be my favorite photo of the entire day!)

The best water fight of the entire year

Big boys versus little boys

Brother against brother

Both water hoses running full blast

Little boys in swim suits

Unbridled permission to get as wet as you want with your clothes on

No questions asked

 Long afternoon naps waiting for the fire works to start

Nieces growing up too fast

Up by 6am, back to bed no earlier than midnight

The smell of fire crackers

"Oooooo, ahhhhhhhh!"

Glow sicks

Trying to keep the baby on the blanket in the pitch blackness of night

Little ones falling asleep to the booms and bangs of fireworks

Sitting by my lover, hoping this spectacular moment will never end

 A million and one pictures to remember the fun

Being sad when it's all over, knowing we have to wait another long year before the festivities happen again

Sunday, July 1, 2012

God is in the Details

 "Thanks is what multiplies the joy and makes any life large, and I hunger for it."
"God is in the details; God is in the moment. God is in all that blurs by in life-even hurts in a life."
 ~ Ann Voskamp
13. Brother reading to brothers after lights out
14. Sister sandwich hug
15. Perfect ripe raspberries, thick as leaves
16. Soft baby kissy cheeks
17. Baby sucky face
18. Sparkly glitter clippie in curly baby pig tail
19. The hum of the air conditioner
20. Hiking in my mountains before the sun is up
21. The warming first rays of the sun on my frigid skin
22. Wild mountain flowers basking in the morning light
23. Little feet stepping double time to keep up with big ones
24. Baby in the backpack
25. The ring of laughter echoing from majestic peeks
26. The dead batteries in the camera holding out for that one last, perfect photo
27. Naps on a lazy Saturday afternoon with my soul mate
28. The gorgeous, long shade of the willow in the early twilight, my little ones running wild in it
29. Summer nights that never end

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Million Miracles

I have fallen in love with a book.
This blog is not meant to be a book review blog, but every now and then I find a book that I just can't shut up about.
This one is called, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp.
I don't read many blogs, but I read hers.
I have never, ever read a book published by a blogger, but hers I can not put down.
It haunts the recesses of my mind nearly every waking moment.
In a good way, a very, very good way.
She writes of (here I go, about to slaughter her beautiful book) living a thankful, purposeful life.
The sub title reads, A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.
She talks of thanking God for his many, many gifts. 
That may seem obvious.
What is not so obvious (at least it was not for me) was the idea of thanking God, even in our trials.
The hard ones.
The ones that seem impossible to bear.
She writes of witnessing the tragic death of her toddler sister when she was only a small girl when a delivery truck didn't see her toddling after a cat in the lane as he drove onto their quiet farm road.
She writes of her parents life after the accident, and her own, being closed to grace.
She says that in essence, sometimes we look at what God has given us and we accept the good things and gladly thank Him for them.
But when the bad things come we shake our heads and say no and ask why, and in so doing we seperate ourselves from God.
We accept the good, but not the bad.
We think we know better than God.
I think of my impossible trials.
I think of my grandmother, brutally murdered by a serial killer.
I think of how that tragedy destroyed my father.
Of how he turned to alcohol instead of our Savior.
I think of the ensuing devorce, the broken family and home that came in the wake of that horrible tragedy.
There was not much thanksgiving going on in those years.
There was, however, an abundance of bitterness and grief and pain.
But life is a gift, the good along with the bad.
  I think of Corrie Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place.
She was a survivor of the German concentration camps, yet she was Christian.
She and her family hid Jews in their home and were caught.
She and her sister endured things you and I could never imagine.
Her sister, Betsy, was forever kind and loving and, yes, even thankful.
She was thankful even amidst hell on Earth.
At one point in her book, Corrie writes of the horrible conditions in the 'dorms'. 
They were horribly crowded and infested with fleas and lice.
Betsy told Corrie that they must thank God in EVERY situation!
Corrie was doubtful that God expected her to be thankful for the fleas.
But not Besty, she knelt down and thanked God for the fleas, the very scourge that  made their skin crawl.
Later in the book, after Betsy had passed away, Corrie found out how much of a blessing the fleas really were.
Somehow, through all the strip searches, Corrie managed to smuggle a small part of the New Testament into the camp, an act that literally could have cost her life, along with the lives of her family.
Corrie ended up sick and unable to do the hard, physical labor of the camp, so she ended up sewing socks  with other sick inmates in their dorms during the days, the one place in camp the guards never went.
During these days Corrie was able to take out her New Testament and read to her Jewish friends of Jesus Christ and to preach His gospel.
After many months of this she found out why the guards never came into the dorms.
Can you guess?
You got it, it was all because of the fleas.
Corrie learned to thank God for the fleas!
Is it not the same with our trials?
Aren't there things we learn and become that we never would be if it were not for them?
Shouldn't we thank God for them, accept them and learn and grow and move on?
Shouldn't we choose happiness, even in the most impossible of hard times?
Isn't that when we need to rely most on Him?
Isn't He the gardener,  doesn't He know what to do to make us grow?
Perhaps He gives us these trials to get us to come to Him, to rely on Him instead of our own feeble attempts to do it all by ourselves.
Part of what changed Ann Voskamp was a dare from a friend to make a list of 1,000 things that she loved.
She learned to name her blessings and to purposefully see the hand of God in her life.
Ever since I read this, I have been mentally making my own list.
It happens as I live my life, this internal script of thanks.
It happens as I pick cherries and watch my children dance and play in the Summer sunlight.
Suddenly the love and gratitude  seem to be flowing out of me and I can no more stop it than I can stop the flow of a waterfall.
They keep coming.
I need to write them down.
I need to never forget these moments, these memories, these gifts, these miracles.
Only it seems to me that there have got to be more than just one thousand. 
It seems to me that I really never will come to an end of naming them all. 
So here I go, my feeble attempt to thank God for this incredible, difficult, beautiful life that He has hand picked, just for me.
  1. Picking sweet and sour cherries, still warm from the morning sun
  2. Friends willing and happy to share their abundance
  3. Baby curls
  4. Ethan holding Lily on his lap, cheek against baby cheek
  5. Fairy dust 
  6. Walks along the river when we just can't help but stop to dip our toes in
  7. And when I say toes I mean our whole selves up to our waists
  8. Children carrying chicken eggs in their shirt like a basket
  9. Children running around in swimsuits all day long
  10. Tree swings and hammocks
  11. The way my willow leaves wave and whisper in the wind
  12. Water balloons bulging fat in tiny hands

To be continued...
(every day of my life)