If I sent Christmas cards, you'd totally be on my list!

With a young, growing family we're always looking for ways to simplify and keep costs down, whether it's Christmas Day or just another ordinary weekday. Unfortunately, Christmas cards are one of those "expendable" expenses. And quite frankly, this bums me out! 

I LOVE Christmas cards. Every year I look forward to seeing pictures of family and friends and pouring over the details of their lives if they are doubly ambitious and including a letter. (I guess I'm kind of nosy like that.) In return, I want to share my own life. (I know I'm an oversharer like that.) Never mind that we do this daily through social media. Isn't it fun seeing it all summed up and packaged up in pretty paper and beautiful photos?

So to all those who were thoughtful enough to include us on their mailing list this year: thank you! It means a lot to me. (And Clayton too though he probably wouldn't gush about it like I do.) And in response, may I send out a virtual Christmas card/end of the year summary to you in the form of a blog post? Tacky? Probably. But tacky with all the best wishes stuck to it.

While every year seems bigger and crazier than the preceding, 2013 really was a rather monumental year for us. After ten years of marriage, our little family is moving on to the next exciting and busy (in a different way) stage of life. We're trading in diapers, strollers, and baby blessings for pierced ears, family hikes, and baptisms.

While we're not trying to rush the youngest member of the family, Lucy (2), we are pretty thrilled to see her developing and changing from a baby to a big girl. It's so bittersweet knowing she is the last little one, but we are relishing each moment and every milestone. This year she graduated from diapers, cribs, sippy cups, and strollers. Now she loves to be the mommy and diapers, feeds, and swaddles anything that will hold still long enough for her to do so.

She will be turning three in January and wants so badly to join the big girls in school and dance. I imagine we'll blink and she'll be doing those things in no time. NO MORE BLINKING! Our "baby" still loves to cuddle as often as she can, sing lullabies at bedtime, and says "I love you!" more than any child I've ever met. Now if she could just learn how to stick with one outfit a day...

Lydia (5) graduated from preschool in May and headed to kindergarten in the fall. I was particularly nervous about sending my little blondie to the "big school", but there was no holding her back. She loves walking with Deacon and Eliza to school every morning. While she plays it pretty cool, she enjoys just about everything about school, even the homework!

It's been especially amazing to watch the non-physical changes in Lydia this year. She is getting braver and more confident in herself. We were so proud of her for dancing on stage this year at her Spring dance recital and December Nutcracker performance.  I marvel (sometimes with fear and surprise, but mostly with awe and amazement) at how this child looks at the world. She is unpredictable and spontaneous and hilarious and artistic. We continue to make progress with her gluten-free diet trying new foods and recipes and I'm thankful she goes along with it so willingly.

Eliza (7) finished 1st grade in a puddle of bittersweet tears, but met 2nd with an eager, happy grin. She loves music, art, helping, chocolate, lip gloss, and playing with cousins and friends. In fact she loves EVERYTHING...except cleaning her room. She embraces life with so much enthusiasm and emotion. It's simultaneously gratifying and terrifying to see your child developing into a mini-version of yourself.

Eliza has grown musically this year. She decided to give dance another go and performed in her dance studio's performance of The Nutcracker. She and I sang our first mommy/daughter duet in our ward talent show. She had zero fear and ate up the limelight while I was, literally, shaking in my boots. Since then we have been asked to sing together a couple of times. Eliza even sang her first public solo in our ward primary program. (We are treated to solos daily here at home.) She has a beautiful voice and it's so fun seeing her love of music in action. She also lost several teeth, got her ears pierced for her birthday, and had to get glasses (which she can never seem to remember to wear). It's fun watching her start these growing pain years and we already admire the beautiful girl she already is.

2013 was especially big for our oldest, Deacon. When he turned eight in January he had the opportunity to be baptized. We enjoyed sharing this very special event with our family and friends. Deacon was excited about joining scouts this year...until he realized it wasn't all camp outs and treats and vowed to not go back until it was. We've "convinced" him to return and he quickly earned his Bobcat badge and will be earning his Wolf in a few weeks (if his mother has anything to do with it).

This year he played soccer again and is also giving basketball a go. While he isn't exactly athletic or aggressive, he has a true love for team sports. He's just happy to be out there, running around with his buddies. And no bird poop on the shoulder or ball to the face (TWO bloody noses in one game!) is going to keep him away. At least not when there are treats at the end. While we question his obsession with Skylanders we see that our son is growing into a fantastic, responsible, little man. He has learned how to clean his room the first time mom asks, that reading is for fun and not just for homework, and that helping others makes him feel good inside. He's just a good kid through and through and we sure appreciate and love him.

While Clayton would prefer I not even mention him in this letter, we would never be complete without him. "Incomplete" is how we often feel since he continues to travel often for work. He has been with Komatsu Equipment Company as an instructor for three years. While he doesn't seem to get to go anywhere too exciting (mostly tiny mining towns in Nevada and other sites in Arizona, Wyoming, Georgia, and Michigan), he continues to impress his coworkers with his knowledge of power generation and electric trucks. He even had the opportunity to help in some training classes with Spanish translation for some Peruvian classmates.

He's actually had the opportunity to use his Spanish a lot this year as we have gained a new Chilean sister-in-law (my brother Colin married Massiel in June this year). He used it again when we traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico where he served his mission to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. With all that work traveling Clayton has done he was able to accrue enough air and hotel points to cover our trip!

Our little "honeymoon" was incredible! We visited several ancient Mayan ruins, sweated our brains out, drove all over the peninsula, swam in both the Gulf of Mexico and the Carribean Sea, missed our kids too much, went snorkeling for the first time, ate lots of local food, drank lots of Mexican Coke, unsuccessfully tried to avoid the pushy peddlers, and reunited with several wonderful people he had known on the mission. It was an amazing experience that helped us to appreciate even more all the little and big things we are blessed with. And what a way to celebrate ten years of wedded bliss!

Returning to his mission has been a dream of Clayton's for years. Actually we've seen several of our dreams come true this year. When our minivan's slow decline began to look fatal, we had to go shopping for a new family vehicle. Now Clayton finally has that pickup truck he has been fantasizing about for who knows how long. We're still a one-car family, but now we have somewhere to load all these kids and their stuff and four-wheel drive to get us there.

Singing in a "real" performance with my children has always been a dream of mine. I'm grateful Eliza was up for it. Running with my kids was another. This fall, Deacon and Eliza joined me for their very first 5K race! We had a blast running through the Color Me Rad course and the kids were still smiling by the end. I was very proud of both of them!

Seeing my children and their talents, personalities, and senses of responsibility growing is a dream come true too. I find myself almost daily saying aloud how awesome it is to be starting this stage of life. It was really hard to let that baby stage go, but it's a huge relief as well. It's liberating to have everyone walking, talking, dressing, pottying, and feeding themselves. While they may not do it well sometimes I'm just happy we're making progress. The future is looking pretty bright!

I've made a bit of progress this year too. Lo and behold, I've actually stuck with this little running hobby of mine. This year I celebrated my 32nd birthday by running from my doorstep to my sister Erin's doorstep, a total of 24 miles. A friend joined me for the second half and we were met with a banner and balloons at the "finish line" of Erin's driveway. A month later I completed my first full marathon, a harrowing experience as I had been so ill the week of and the freezing spring rain poured through the entire race. By the time I reached the finish line it was with incredible pride, pain, and relief that it was over. I vowed to never do that again. Unfortunately I had already registered and paid for two more races. So in August I ran a second (terrible, terrible) marathon and in October a third (slower, but so much more pleasant!) marathon, making three full marathons in five months' time. I've since sworn off full marathons, but am already signed up for my first triathlon, my first Ragnar relay race, and a half marathon next year. Stupid or ambitious, even I'm not sure some days.

As painful and lonely as long distance running is, it doesn't really compare to having to be a "single married" all the time. In fact I run to deal with being "on duty" all the time. It's gotten a lot easier to have Clayton gone so much, but we sure do miss him when he is. I continue to serve in the primary presidency in our ward and Clayton is the assistant pack leader. And when we're together we try to squeeze in a few family adventures whether it be going for mountain drives and hikes or trying new recipes in the kitchen. This year we made some traditional Yucatacan food, homemade corn dogs, canned applesauce, and homemade vanilla.

Right now our life is homework, Tooth Fairy visits, Saturday ball games, being lucky to get through only ten verses of scripture a night, coloring books, hanging up coats for the hundredth time, hotel rooms, phone calls goodnight, sticky fingers, and animated movies. But we love it. It's funny how one second it feels like everything is broken and a mess when the next second I find myself thinking "Life is good" and meaning it.

Life IS good. And we appreciate the friends and family that help make it that way. Along with our Heavenly Father and Savior who bless us more than we deserve. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours from us! Much love and well wishes!


My New Favorite Christmas Tradition: Tell Me the Stories of Jesus

Ever since I became a mother and realized that the duty of ushering in the (true) Spirit of Christmas had fallen upon my shoulders I have struggled to do anything that really made an impact. I tried to implement many old and new traditions, many of them fairly elaborate or expensive, all with little or no impact.

Maybe it was my delivery. Maybe it was the young age of my children. But all my efforts were met with great frustration and perceived failure.

Back in November of this year I decided to try something a little different and follow the mantra of "Let there be peace on earth at home and let it begin with me" by acting upon a Facebook challenge of reading The Book of Mormon in forty days. I figured what better way to bring the Spirit into my own heart and my home than by drawing close to my Savior through His words. This would be my gift to the Christ Child.

For almost two weeks I followed the reading schedule strictly and marched my way through over 250 pages of scripture. But did I feel an overwhelming closeness to my Savior? Not really. Instead I felt stressed and guilty as I cruised by passages I wanted to study more closely all in the sake of completing the daily reading assignment on time. Enter more stress and guilt for devoting so much time to rushed reading when my children were watching TV, mindlessly, or inciting my anger and frustration with unattended messes and sibling arguments. Once Thanksgiving week hit, I began to fall behind and just never could seem to get caught up.

I felt terrible on top of all that stress and guilt. I had failed at even this.

I beat myself up about it for a few days, feeling like once again my efforts to make Christmas mean something for my family was a flop. I toyed with the idea of just giving up. (But c'mon. We moms never truly give up, right?)

Over Thanksgiving we had traveled to Idaho to visit my family and while there attended church at my parents' ward. It seems to be common practice in the LDS religion to send home lots of little papers with their primary children. I confess, I recycle most of these with hardly a glance. While meaningful, they're often scribbled, wrinkled, and quickly forgotten.

But for some reason, one paper that came home that post-Thanksgiving Sunday caught my eye. It even made it all the way from that church building in Home Town, Idaho to Current Town, Utah, (a veritable miracle in a car packed to the brim with four young children and loads of other stuff).

This paper somehow escaped the car clean-out after our trip and the recycling bin. It just kept resurfacing in my house and eventually I found myself studying it and realizing that this simple little activity might be worth a try.

Each night, through the month of December, I pulled out the corresponding picture from our Gospel Art Kit and we read the related scriptures. This replaced our nightly scripture study. We fell behind a few times, but were able to quickly catch up by reading a couple of stories at a time. Sometimes if we were crunched on time we would simply read the summary on the back of the picture instead of diving into all of the scripture verses. After each reading we would say our family prayers. Then after putting everyone to bed I would tape the picture on the dining room wall so we could look at it throughout the month.

It all took very little time and even less effort.

But "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass" (Alma 37:6).

Let me be totally honest here. There were several nights where I was practically yelling by the end and our prayers were said with more than one child goofing off or sulkily saying "Amen". But there were also several nights when the Spirit poured into our home. As we learned about Jesus from the foretelling of his birth, to his childhood, to the miracles he performed, to his suffering in Gethsemane and his Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and his visitation to the Nephites, He became very real to all of us. Even I learned a few things I didn't know or remember. We were no longer celebrating the birth of a strange and distant God, but our beloved brother and Savior. The kids would ask questions and we were able to have several conversations, some kind of silly, but some very sincere and spiritual in nature. It gave me the natural opportunity to bear my testimony to my family and share my love of Jesus Christ and the gospel with them.

Every year I feel kind of sad and melancholy when I take the tree and decorations down, but it will be these pictures that will be the most difficult to see go this year. Maybe we will just leave them up...

This is such a small, simple Christmas activity, definitely easier and less time consuming than that monumental 40 day challenge I totally bonked out on. Instead of feeling stressed and guilty, I felt peace and comfort that I was spending time and energy doing what Jesus would have me do. While reading the Book of Mormon in forty days is not a bad thing, it wasn't the best thing I personally could have done at this season of my life. I officially declare this as our new family Christmas tradition and I can't wait to do it again next year. Hopefully, I can stay out of my own way and not complicate it and just let the Spirit guide.

A couple of notes: I'm not exactly sure where this activity originated from; I just saw the paper that came home with my daughter. But from what little research I've done it's possible it came from the December 2008 issue of the LDS monthly publication, The Friend.

Also, while I am of the LDS faith and appreciate that these stories include the Savior's visitation to the Nephites on the American continent, this could very easily be tweaked for someone of a different faith. Most of the scriptures are in the New Testament and Gospel Art Books are very easy to order online (and only $3.50!), no matter what faith you are.


Thoughts of a Mother as Time Marches On

Oh my sad little blog. I just don't have the time to devote to it anymore. There are just SO MANY THINGS that demand my attention and time. I feel like my life is just speeding up and most days I'm hanging on, doing the bare essentials, hoping for the best, and still expecting it to slow down somehow, sometime.

Will that happen when I'm 70???

I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately. I'm wondering...Is it okay to be just hanging on and doing the bare essentials and hoping for the best? Is that what everyone else my age and in my situation (stay at home mom of multiple young children) is doing? Should I even care what anyone else is doing or not doing?

As painful as it is to realize, I am entering a new phase of my life. I'm closing the chapter on babies. Off and on for the past several months my arms have been absolutely aching for another baby. And not just a baby, but one that looks like my other babies, that grew in my own belly. I long for that flutter in my stomach; that wonderful, terrible, life changing experience of child birth; for just one more shot to finally do a natural child birth on MY time schedule and no one else's.

I have been praying to see if another baby is the answer to my aching.

It's not.

My answer came quite clearly in a moment. I had been thinking about what I would name my next baby, when suddenly my thoughts switched to the seasons and how sad I was that summer was ending and fall was beginning. Sad that I hadn't squeezed in everything I wanted to. Sad for missed opportunities. Sad, but happy for the many memories that were made. Hopeful for the joys of a new season.

And the thought came to me that no matter how hard we try to do everything we want to do in a season, we just won't get it all done. That doesn't meant that fall is any less fun than summer. It's just time to move on, ready or not.

And then I realized that was my answer.

We had a wonderful time bringing babies into this world, but that season is ending and it's time to move on to the next season: raising those babies. It's painful and sad to see this season end, but there is much hope and excitement as a new season begins. No use fighting it. Time marches on and a new season comes, ready or not.

So here we are in this new season and I'm left floundering a bit. What do I do now? Where do I go from here? What does Heavenly Father have in store for me?

I know I want to help others, but is that to help others in my own little environment, in my home and family? Do I focus all my energy on being the best mother I can be and giving my four children everything I possibly can?

Or am I meant to inspire and motivate and help others through health and fitness? Or writing??

Or do I go back to school and pursue the nursing degree I left unfinished to nurture my babies?

Or is there something else that I can't see that I'm supposed to be doing?

I keep thinking of this quote: "The greatest work we will ever do will be within the walls of our home.” (David O. McKay) And I know, that for me, being a present and engaged nurturer is my number one priority. All else is moot. It doesn't matter how great a writer I am or how many pounds I lose or how many degrees, awards, prizes, checks I earn. If I fail as a mother, I fail completely. I can promise you I won't parent perfectly, but I'll sure give it my best shot.

But I realize that I am more than a mother. Or a wife. Someday my little baby birds are going to fly and leave this nest and this mama bird will enter a new season. And I need something to carry me into the next season.

I'm still not sure what my purpose is at this time. I'll continue my soul searching. But I do think it was NO coincidence that I stumbled upon this this morning while pondering these things and that it touched my heart in a way that only music can.

It was the perfect reminder that no matter what I do I want to stay close to my Father in Heaven and His plan and will for me. For I know that if I do, that is when I will be the most happy and fulfilled.

Sigh. Such are the rather intimate thoughts of my heart these days... And yes they are intimate and maybe best left to my own heart and head, but maybe I just want to know that I'm not the only one feeling this way in this stage of life.


Making the Most of Mothers' Day

I've been missing from my blog for the last couple of weeks. That being said...I've been missing from a lot of things these days. I'm not exactly depressed, but I find myself feeling tired. Feeling useless. Feeling hopeless. Feeling lost in the monotony of housework and homework. Wondering what good am I for besides cleaning up messes and making sure my children are doing what they need to be doing. Wishing that my life was not one of single-married-hood. Wanting things that I simply cannot have.

It came to a head yesterday when I found myself snapping at my children and melting into tears of frustration. Frustration with my life. With the size of my bum and belly. With stupid, expensive mistakes. With goals that aren't coming to fruition. With mountains of laundry. With the thought of my husband leaving me alone again for weeks on end. With the never ending demands of motherhood.

I grappled to understand why it was so hard for me to be content right now. Typically, I find a great deal of joy in taking care of my home and family. What had changed? Why was I feeling so gloomy about everything?

Right before bed, it dawned on me. Mothers' Day is right around the corner.

Ahh Mothers' Day. The day I feel like the most worthless piece of humanity.

That would be greatly thanks to the traditional few weeks of failed parenting leading up to this day of maternal tribute. Yep, it's an annual thing. The days before that second Sunday in May, I find myself wading through heightened chaos with a decreased amount of patience.

The spilled milk. The bedtime balking. The fights over toys. The complaints about what's for dinner. The incessant demands to be fed. The sleepless nights. The seat belt struggle.

Molehills become mountains. Happy Mommy mutates into Grouchy Mommy. There is not much "love at home".

And by Mothers' Day I can hardly bear the cards and gifts and church service with all the sappy mother stories. Why? Because I sit there feeling like one big hypocrite.

Mothers are supposed to be sweet and kind and gentle and patient and whisper loving, confidence-building things into their children's eagerly listening ears. Regardless of how wonderful a mother I was the other eleven months of the year, it's those few prior weeks of particular bad behavior that stands so starkly in my mind on Sunday. And the spirit of Mothers' Day is destroyed.

Hmm...Now who do you think would love to sabotage such a beautiful occasion that celebrates one of the most important parts of a happy family??? Hmm.

Here's to ignoring The Adversary, to looking past faults, to letting go, to always trying to find happiness in the smallest things, to indulging in a cupcake in your closet, to turning a blind eye to the sticky finger prints on the walls, to being patient and kind and gentle, to enjoying Mothers' Day guilt-free every year!

Wish me luck.


Vlog Vednesday: How to Dry Pack Easter Candy

Last year I wrote a blog post on what to do to preserve all that naughty leftover Easter candy. This year, I thought I would make a video about it for Vlog Vednesday.

Same information as the blog post. This one goes out to all those "visual learners".


Of Fossils and Family Pictures

Spring Break rolls on...

Today we took a little trip to the local dinosaur museum at Thanksgiving Point. The kids and I have been here before, but Daddy was a first-timer. It's been a little while since we've all been, so it was fun seeing all the displays and skeletons again.

Cee has been doing really well with potty training. Only...she refuses to go on any toilet seat but her own little seat than can be placed inside larger toilet seats. I imagine it can be pretty scary for a little bum to be dangling in such a precarious situation. So...I did the only thing a mom who doesn't want to lose any of the precious potty training progress she's made could do.

I carried a tiny toilet seat around in a plastic bag inside of a back pack.

I'm a mom. That's how I roll.

Don't laugh. It worked. Twice.

By the end of the trip we posed for a family picture. And I realized, for the millionth time, that there is no such thing as a perfect family picture. With a family of six, it is inevitable that someone will be crying or picking their nose or asking for something to eat or staring off into the distance or yelling at someone else to smile or blinking or imitating Bart Simpson or missing the dinosaur in the picture.

We just take multiples and hope for the best.


There's Nothing Funny about Potty Training

Little Cee woke up this morning and decided it was really, truly time to potty train. Actually, she's had that in mind for awhile. It's just now, we're all on the same page. And home long enough to do it.

She's been using the toilet all day with no accidents! #1 and #2!!! Hooray!

*Please don't let this be an April Fool's joke! Please don't let this be an April Fool's joke! Please don't let this be an April Fool's joke!*

After it took me almost a year to potty train older sister, Elle, I'm trying not to get my hopes up. I HATE HATE HATE potty training. It really has to be the worst part of having a baby. Honestly, I think I would rather go through labor and delivery again instead of potty training. At least with labor and delivery there's a time frame. And drugs. Lots of drugs.

Wish us luck!

In other news, it's Spring Break and we are having loads of fun with Daddy off of work. Last weekend we headed up to Hometown, Idaho and spent a few days with our families. I have mountains of memories of playing with my many cousins as a kid and I love seeing my children making those same memories with all their little cousins. It was fun watching them split off into their respective age groups and busy themselves in pairs or trios.

They got to pet horses in Tiny Town, Wyoming. They "helped" the uncles build a tree house at Ya-Ya's. Lots of running around Grandma and Grandpa's big yard. Decorating eggs. Lots of yummy food. Two Easter egg hunts. A late-night barn dance. An impromptu talent show. And Mommy and Daddy pointing out lots of "this happened there" sites along the way. 

Life is very, very good.


Vlog Vednesday: Testimony

Joe's on vacation this week, so while he's home with the littles, I seized the opportunity to visit one of my favorite places on earth, the temple.

I really love being in the temple, for so many reasons, if not that the crowd there (notoriously, little old ladies and little old men) makes me feel like a spring chicken. And these days...I'll take any chance I get to feel young again.

While I was there, I realized it was Wednesday, Vlog Vednesday to be exact. A little heart-to-heart on the lawn of the temple? Why not?


(If you have any questions about some of the terminology I'm using or about the LDS faith, visit Mormon.org.)


Love One Another

On a day where there is a lot of red to be seen and a lot of talk about equality, politics, love, marriage, definitions, and more, this simple quote made the most sense to me:

Our culture has accepted two huge lies.
The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you must fear or hate them.
The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.
Both are nonsense.
You don't have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.
~Rick Warren


Excuses, Excuses

"I was potty training."

It's a legitimate excuse for the way my house looks today, the fact that dinner was late and not very balanced or healthy, and why my patience is worn thread-bare thin.

If you've ever potty trained a toddler, you get it.

If you haven't...you're seriously missing out.

Because it is just so much darn fun.

In other news...I don't know how to say this without sounding like a weirdo, but I think one of the cutest things you will ever see in this world is little plump, bare, two-year old bum cheeks running around the house.

A close second is little plump, two-year old bum cheeks in teeny-tiny, brand-new, "big girl" panties running around the house.



Mommy Paydays

Over the last couple of days, I have been catching glimpses of the future. And it looks pretty bright.

For the past eight years I have been mired down in the muck of young motherhood. While it hasn't been totally horrible...it's had its moments.

Being a young mom is hard.

I imagine being an old mom is hard too. I don't know yet. I'm not there...yet. When I walk in those shoes, I'll let you know how it is.

For now, I only know mountains of laundry and potty training and sleep deprivation and senseless, needless messes everywhere I look and sticky fingerprints and snotty noses and four year old interrogation and whining and two year old tantrums and Disney movies on repeat and nighttime anxiety and boxes of diapers and Cheerios smashed into car seats and an eight year old who is never full.

There is joy to balance out all that goo and grindstone. But, let's be honest. Sometimes those moments dim in comparison to the daily, monotonous, melancholy, messy routine.

But as mothers, we always have hope. The hope that our never-ending efforts will one day be rewarded with children who are self-sufficient, happy, well-adjusted individuals who contribute as much, if not more, than they take.

We hang on to the hope for Mommy Paydays. That the "check won't be in the mail" forever and that we will start to reap some of the fruit from the seeds we have so diligently been sowing day after day. That we will know we are making some difference little by little.

The last couple of days I've made a few deposits...

Last night as Jeigh got on stage, stood proudly on a chair beside me, and sang her little heart out...


Today as I watched both of my older children--voluntarily!--get up in Primary and bear their precious, sweet, little testimonies for the first time ever...


When Dee sat down in his chair afterwards and announced to the primary room, "I'm so happy! I love church now!" and I knew that that happy feeling he was feeling was the Spirit...


As I watch Elle growing and changing every single day, learning how to write letters, drawing and coloring for hours, being proactive about her gluten free diet, talking about how Jesus loves her...


While I struggle with Cee keeping her diaper on, I have hope that potty training is right around the corner and that very soon we will be done with diapers forever...


Every time I walk down the hall at bedtime to find these placed on the floor, waiting for me...


It dawned on me today, that young motherhood really won't last forever, even when it seems like it will. I can't wait for the future, the freedom, and all the Mommy Paydays that are there. But I'm enjoying my little paychecks now too. I really do love being a mom. Best. job. ever.


I Love You a Bushel and a Peck!

My six year old daughter, Jeigh, and I performed in our church talent show tonight! I just can't stop grinning about it! She was absolutely brilliant! She had no fear as she sang her part beautifully. Me on the other hand...I was shaking in my boots. Literally! I always get the worst stage fright, but having her on stage with me was comforting and inspiring. And it was just so much darn fun!

This is a dream that I've had for years. I've always loved to sing and always hoped that my children would share that same love and would want to sing--privately or publicly--with me. Two of my three older kids are rather shy about public displays, but Jeigh...she's always been a "performer". She loves an audience.

I was shocked at how good she was about preparing and practicing for her first public vocal performance. I suggested the song, "A Bushel and a Peck" from Guys and Dolls, a song I used to sing with my sister and some friends when we were in college. The kids and I sing bits and pieces of it around the house from time to time. I even have "I love you a bushel and a peck" in vinyl lettering on the wall. It was such a cute little song for our first mother/daughter duet.

She approved my suggestion and we began to practice. I assumed it was going to be a little rough and she would need some coaxing, if not full out bribery. But right from the get-go, she knew what she was doing. In fact, she was hardly going to let me sing as she claimed the first, second, and most of the third verse. "Mom, you can come in at the end," she said. I redirected her a bit, claiming the second verse as my own. I mean, what mom can resist the line "You make my heart a wreck and you make my life a mess. Yes, a mess of happiness!"?

As we went over the song with our accompanist, she followed the piano so well, naturally knowing when to come in and out. She constantly directed our practice with, "Let's go over that part again" or "One more time" or "We need dance moves!" I was awe-struck at her. She hardly needed my guidance. She's a total natural at this!

When the performance arrived, she picked our outfits and asked if she could wear a little makeup. It was so much fun just getting ready for the show. And then we did it and it went marvelously! We already have our next "gig". It's just singing in our church sacrament meeting in a couple of weeks, but this is the stuff that my dreams are made of. This is one of those "mommy paydays" that balances out the sleepless nights and potty training messes. And it is totally worth it!


A Happy to Be Gluten Free Recipe: Chicken Taco Soup

This week we discovered that my four year old niece has Celiac Disease and Type I Diabetes. I really can only half way imagine what her parents are feeling right now. I remember when my little four year old was diagnosed with Celiac. It was devastating.

While not immediately life threatening, Celiac can lead to a plethora of problems in the future, including infertility, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, depression, etc. It was terrifying to hear these things could be in my little daughter's future. Plus, it was just so overwhelming to learn I could no longer feed her gluten. Gluten...which is in...everything.

There definitely was a steep learning curve and mountains to climb as we have learned how to live with Celiac. And that was only one major health issue. My poor little niece has diabetes to contend with on top of all that. We really have had her in her hearts and prayers this week.

I have posted a few gluten free recipes on my blog. I want to help however I can, so I plan to post more in the future...starting now...

Here's what we had for dinner tonight...Chicken Taco Soup!

Delicious, healthy, easy to throw together, and gluten- and dairy-free. There are lots of beans in this soup which makes it a great source of non-animal protein. I'm running a half marathon (plus three miles) tomorrow morning so I'm hoping this will power me through. Even if it's "gas-power". ;)

Love my little helper!

Chicken Taco Soup (adapted from a friend's vegetarian taco soup)

Olive oil
1 or 2 cans chopped green chilies
1 medium onion, chopped
3 TBSPs homemade GF taco seasoning (or 1 pkg taco seasoning)
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Great Northern white beans, drained and rinsed
2 (14 ounce) cans of peeled, cut tomatoes (or 1 qt canned stewed tomatoes)
1 can yellow hominy (or corn)
1 can white hominy (or corn)
1 pound chicken, shredded (My canned chicken breast works perfectly for this!)
2 TBSP salsa (optional)
2 to 3 cups of water
1 to 2 tsps chicken bouillon, to taste
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, sauté onion and chilies in oil for about 3 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips, grated cheddar cheese, and sour cream.

A few notes...This can very easily be a vegetarian meal; just leave out the chicken and bouillon!

If you are using chicken, a rotisserie chicken, such as the ones they sell at Costco, works very well for this recipe. Or you can just prepare some chicken breasts and shred them.

The beans are flexible, in that, you could put in whatever beans you have on hand. Black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, etc.

This recipe was my first encounter with hominy. If you've never had it, you've got to give it a try! Hominy is a form of corn, but it's just not the same. It has a fantastic, almost chewy texture which I love. It can be found near the canned beans in your grocery store or in the ethnic food aisle.

I love this recipe because it is a "dump it all in and simmer for a bit" kind of recipe. Whether you eat gluten free or not...this is a yummy meal. Hope you like it as much as we do.


Vlog Vednesday #4: Interview with an 8 Year Old

Cee put herself down for a nap.
Elle is gone to preschool.
The house is clean.
The laundry and dishes are done.
The treadmill's not working out today.
And Dee's home from school with pink eye.

Mwahahaha! Fresh meat for the Vednesday Vlog!

If you can't embarrass your kids, at least a little bit, really, what good are you as a parent?


Tuesdays with Evie

...and Dee, Jeigh, Elle, and Cee of course.

Oh, and Joe! He's home and balance has once again been restored to the universe.

Pink eye has claimed its third victim, but somehow it doesn't seem as tragic now that Joe is back. Everything's better when Daddy is home. Dee will be staying home from school tomorrow so as not to spread The Pink Plague; something he is not incredibly broken up about.

It is Tuesday, which means it's "Clean the Toy Room Tuesday", which means I was cleaning up toys and other random things --as it so happens in the toy room-- as Cee watched. Eventually she got tired of watching and fell asleep like this...

And like the good parent I am...I left her there to go find the camera and capture the moment before I scooped her up and put her in bed. Because moments like these are what makes parenthood so worth it.

Moments like those and moments like when I skipped out on the workout I had planned to sit down with my four year old in her little kitchen and chat with her about recipes, chocolate, her unstable relationship with peanut butter, tigers, her friends at school, the difference between "friends" and "cousins", and how my hair is going "blond". I can't even remember the last time we had such a good talk. She positively glowed with the individual attention she was getting from Mommy. Note to self: Those chats really must happen more often.

Don't worry! I didn't skip that workout completely. After our chat, Elle took it upon herself to pick the workout of the day and we did Zumba together. Well, we did Zumba together for about 5 minutes. Then she just sat on the fireplace step, watching and intermittently yelling, "FASTER, MAMA!", "WHY ARE YOU SO SWEATY?", and "WE'RE GOING TO HAVE LUNCH SOON, RIGHT?"

Four year olds are hilarious. Like when they come running to tell you that the baby is drawing on herself again.
Is that a stick figure the two year old has drawn upon her own back?

In other news, Cee suddenly doesn't like Muddy Buddies. I think she may have been switched at birth.

I can't watch "Lost" while I fold laundry. Too many subtitles. And too many kids walking in on too many scary parts.

The two older kids figured out how to do flips on the trampoline tonight.

Today, I voluntarily offered to run a half marathon race on Saturday. That's in--ahem--four days.

My poor little four year old niece just found out she has Type I Diabetes AND Celiac disease. My heart is breaking for her, but I'm feeling grateful that maybe Elle and I can help her a little bit.

One of my videos on YouTube is going "viral"-ish and it's kind of freaking me out that people are making comments on it, "thumbs-upping" it, and subscribing to my YouTube account.

And I found this lurking in the kitchen sink disposal...

Just another Tuesday at our house.


Death by Sleep Deprivation

My birthday is in exactly one month. I've been pondering on how I can use this one special day of the year devoted to me to my advantage. What goodie or favor or item have I been desperately wanting, but denying myself because of the sacrificial nature of being a mom?

It didn't take me long to figure it out.

A nap.

All I want is a stupid nap. Two, maybe three, hours of uninterrupted sleep. No children, no sunlight, no fighting, no phone calls, no requests, no demands, no noise. No nothing.

Just me. My pillow. And the back of my eyelids.

Is that really too much to ask for? Do I really have to wait until April 18th to get what I most want--nay, NEED?! I can't even remember what it feels like to be "well-rested". Isn't sleep one of those unalienable rights or something? Air, water, love, food, SLEEP.

Taking a nap when I'm on single parent duty is just...impossible. But even when Joe's around...it's still somehow impossible. My mom sense never shuts off. I am on high alert all the time. Not by choice. I try to set it on auto-pilot as I prop my children in front of the TV, make my way to my bedroom, shut my eyes, and just chill out. Willing myself to sleep. Just struggling to relax enough to drift into unconsciousness.

Most of the time it doesn't happen. And then on the rare occasion it does...Well, you can imagine what happens. Someone gets hungry or hurt or bored and comes looking for mom. Even if Dad is sitting right there! Or more usually, laying on the couch beside the children, sleeping peacefully, absolutely unaware of the world. Eventually I just give up, get up, and try not to be worked up about it.

Night time isn't any better. In fact, it's worse. We don't have a newborn in the house. Heck! We don't even have a baby anymore! Yet a full night of rest has never seemed further from my clutches.

Every night plays out the same.

Around 11 pm, the six year old begins wandering around the house in a sleep-dazed stupor, not awake enough to make any audible sense, yet not asleep enough to be immobile.

After taking her to the bathroom and leading her back to bed, we make our way to bed. When my husband is around, he can fall asleep in 0.003 seconds flat. You think I exaggerate. No. I've actually timed it before. He can barely get the words "good night" out before the snoring begins.

And oh, good grief, the snoring.

There is this movie from the 1980s called "War of the Roses". I only saw one scene when I was a teenager. A feuding husband and wife are laying in bed. The man is snoring, the woman is glaring at him with murder in her eyes. Suddenly, she crams her fingers up his nostrils in a last ditch attempt to make the snoring stop.

I can't help but think of that scene so vividly every single night as I listen to my husband snoring.


Eventually, I'm able to fall asleep, in spite of the ear- and nerve-shattering reverberation.

And just as soon as I've settled into a good sleep pattern, the two year old stirs. Not enough to be truly awake. Just enough to truly wake me up. I lay in bed and listen as she squirms and moans, settling back into a peaceful slumber.

And again I'm left to myself. And the snoring.

Finally, I prod and will myself back to sleep. And then the six year old wanders in shivering with terror from nighttime anxiety. It is no easy feat to calm her down. It can take hours.

By then, I'm out of patience, if not just out of my mind with exhaustion. And I am not a good mom at this unearthly hour. I say and do stupid things in a last ditch effort to just get some bloody sleep. Last night's gem: "If you don't stop crying right now and go to sleep, I will make you sleep in the basement all by yourself. I'm totally serious!" (And I'm totally not.)  Stupid.

This goes on all night. The snoring husband, the restless toddler, the four year old with the occasional bed wetting accident, the anxiety ridden six year old. And just when it all winds down...It is nearly 5 am and the early bird eight year old springs out of bed, ready to take on the day, convinced everyone else is as eager to do the same.

Those teen pregnancy PSA ads should say this: "Sex lasts a moment. Sleep deprivation lasts your whole life."

If only I'd known. If only I had known.


The Ides of March

Thanks to my high school English teacher I will forever remember March 15th as "The Ides of March" or...the day Julius Caesar was assassinated. Now if only I could remember my own children's birthdays as well...

We're spending the day trying to recoup from this crazy week. I'm feeling pretty drained, physically and emotionally, after being up every night with Cee (I can't remember the last time I slept more than an hour at a time) and speaking at a church meeting last night about my weight loss journey.

I was asked to speak AND sing last night, which I was very happy to do. I've just felt great anxiety about it, especially as my children have been getting sick and the chaos has been thick. (Hey! That rhymes!) I prayed many times, for many things, but especially that I would be well enough to deliver on Thursday. Being sleep-deprived and surrounded by pink eye and various other viruses, I felt doomed.

My prayers were most certainly answered and I could feel many times that we were blessed this last week even as I questioned why Heavenly Father wasn't helping out the way I wanted Him to. (Oh, stupid mortal.) So I promised that if I woke up this morning with the plague, I would not complain one little bit.

No plague for me. It looks like the blessings are still coming. (yay!)

After school and naps, I took the kids to the park. The weather is getting beautiful. Spring is here and we are so ready for it!

That's one lucky kid.

Then we did a little grocery shopping at Costco, stopped for hot dogs and pizza on the way out, and rushed home to make a Taco Pie and some Muddy Buddies for my brother-in-law, Jordan, who is celebrating his birthday today and has been living with us for 6 months while he works and tries to find a home of his own. I stuck a few candles in his taco pie and the kids and I sang "Happy Birthday" to him and then left him to his birthday dinner.

Later that night, as the kids were going to bed, I gathered my two oldest children together. We had saved a wishbone from a chicken earlier that week and it was dry enough to "wish upon". I told the kids to make a wish and then pull on the wishbone. Jeigh got the bigger piece and therefore earned her wish.

Dee burst into tears...followed quickly by Jeigh. Dee's emotion I could understand (kind of), but Jeigh's? Upon inquiry, she confessed that her wish had been that her birthday would not be like Uncle Jordan's.

She explained through sobs, "It was a terrible birthday! No friends and family. Just a couple of kids sitting around watching him eat, all alone. No excitement or presents. It's just sad! I don't want my birthday to be like that! I want excitement and lots of friends and family eating WITH me and being happy!"

I really had to work not to laugh because she was so sincere and sweet as only a six year old can be. Not to mention worried that she might end up with "no excitement" too.

Sorry, dear Jeigh, but after this week, I'm fresh out of "excitement".


Ain't No Sunshine When He's Gone

We miss our Daddy/husband.

Sure, we're grateful for a good job that supports our household and that he is doing well in his career and that he gets to do all this traveling and learning and developing.

But sometimes this job stinks. It gets pretty old not having him around. And Skype hugs and kisses are a poor substitute for the real thing.

While I feel that I'm more of the optimist in our relationship, he definitely brings the sunshine into our life. He is our comic relief and sometimes we go a little too long without a good laugh when he's gone on these long trips.

Today, I stumbled on a video clip I took awhile back that is a perfect example of his joviality.

To preface...We had just finished watching the episode of "The Office" where the character, Michael Scott, keeps saying "I do declare!"

We turned off the TV. Joe headed back to our bedroom and I walked around the house turning off lights and locking doors. When I made my way to the bedroom I heard Joe, who was sitting in the bathroom, giggling.

And giggling and giggling and giggling. It went on and on, long enough for me to go find the camera, come back, and record a few minutes.

He had no idea I was standing by the door, much less recording.

Later he explained, that "I do declare!" line set him off and he just could not stop laughing. We've all had those moments.

I'm so glad I have this recorded. It's the best sound in the world. I can't help laughing so hard every time I watch it. Especially when my big, burly husband says things like "Oh, my tummy!" and "Shut up!" to...himself.


Vlog Vednesday #3: Happiness is a Choice

Ugh. Ugh. UGH!

I have been whining so much. Are you sick of me? Because I'm sick of me.

Sure, life has been a struggle for us lately, but isn't life a struggle for everyone? I really need to break out of this whiny rut I'm in. I was thinking today how much I have to be thankful for. We have so much. Why does a little episode of sickness make me feel like the world is falling apart?

Sigh. One of these days I will learn to be more dignified and handle my trials with a little more grace. There's something to be said for "suffering in silence".


Croup Happens. As Does Pink Eye.

So Cee has croup.

Elle has a lingering cough that keeps her and Jeigh awake at night.

Dee has a tooth growing in on top of a baby tooth that has decided it's staying put.

And Jeigh has a black eye.

Oh wait. Make that a black eye AND a pink eye.

Pink eye. Awesome.

I thought this week was starting to get kind of crazy. And then last night happened.

It. was. horrific.

Cee in her croupy discomfort tossed and turned and wheezed and cried with every cough. She didn't want to sleep in her bed. She didn't want to sleep in my bed. Or in the recliner. Or in her bed with me beside her. In fact she didn't/couldn't really sleep at all.

She would sleep for about twenty minutes at a time and then wake up upset and in pain or struggling to breathe. That or one of her restless siblings would turn on a light or come looking for her or me and wake her up again.

I couldn't do anything for her. I would try to cuddle her, but she'd wriggle away or kick me. I'd try to give her medicine and she'd bat it away. I'd try to leave her be and she would get even more upset.

By 2:30 am, I couldn't take it anymore. We had already been through a couple of restless nights. Multiple children were crying at once. Every time Cee would cough and cry, her roommate, Dee, would start crying, convinced she was going to die. I felt so powerless and short-fused. I'll admit it. I am not a good mom after 1 am and on so little sleep. I was quickly loosing my cool. After many frustrated prayers, I had no idea what to do or who to ask what to do.

So I called my husband. Who was sleeping peacefully in a motel five hours away.

Poor man.

Can you imagine being woken at 2:30 am by a hysterical wife with four crying children in the background?

He did his best talking to the kids over the phone trying to calm them down and allay their fears. He let me cry and vent to him too. He never complained. He didn't even try to end the conversation quickly. He gave us what he could from where he was.

And I sure love him for that.

The rest of the night was just as restless. The older kids finally fell asleep, but Cee never did sleep longer than 20 to 30 minutes at a time. But at least I was able to endure it without going crazy.

Today I feel like a character from The Walking Dead, although I can't decide if I'm a Walker or someone who is just hanging on, trying to survive.

Later in the day I discovered the Pink Eye Plague had claimed its second victim. Poor Cee.

We're dropping like flies around here. Stay away if you want to live.


Ahhh Croup!

On Saturday evening, right before dinner, the 6 year old, Jeigh, threw a shoe up in the air (???). What goes up, must come down. On her face. A nice big bruise immediately began to form on her left cheek. Ouch!

Not twenty minutes later, child #3, Elle, was sitting in the bathtub and sprung a leak. A bloody nose! Just from sitting in the tub.

Not five minutes later, I lifted the baby of the bunch, Cee, from the tub and began to dry her off. As I did she began to wheeze and cough that croupy, barky cough.

What the--?! Ten minutes before I had put a perfectly healthy two year old in the tub and pulled out a toddler with croup? Is that even possible?!

So within a half hour time period, all three of my girls were crying or bleeding or both. What is going on here?

Fortunately, the bloody nose dried up, and the bump is gone leaving behind a nice little shiner, but the croup remains. And I know it's croup because I took Cee to the doctor today. Fever, coughing, crying with pain, complaining of everything hurting, no sleep. I could take all that, but that heavy, labored breathing was freaking me out. Even if it was a "waste" of twenty dollars for a co-pay, I needed to make sure she was okay. Which she is. It's just one of those darn "wait it out" things.

You know you're a mom of multiple children (I would even boldly say three or more children) when you can't remember just which of your children had what in the past.

The doctor asked me if Cee had had croup before.


I can remember when Elle had it. But that's only because it was our first bout with croup ever. It was Thanksgiving night. I rushed her to the ER in Arizona convinced she was dying. I left the ER at 3 in the morning and as I drove home I saw lines of Black Friday shoppers waiting outside of all the department stores. And I miscarried the next day. Black Friday. It was pretty memorable.

I know we've had several episodes of croup and Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease and penicillin allergic reactions and dairy anaphylactic reactions and pneumonia and roseola and staph infection and H1N1 and rounds of diarrhea and snotty noses and gastric bugs and sleepless nights and loads of laundry and jugs of Gatorade and pots of chicken noodle soup before and since then.

I just can't for the life of me remember who and when. I blame it on all the sleepless nights.

Sheesh! My kids' immune systems are going to be made of titanium by the time they reach adolescence.


What She Said

Most of my day has been consumed with taxiing children around, washing dishes, and starting THIS project up.

Aaaand I'm done for the day.

I'm not getting into the nitty gritty of it, even if it is kind of exciting and all. Just head on over to The Jolly Green Giant for the details.



Debbie Downer Meets "Happiness Is..."

It's been a rough week.

I'm not really sure what sparked it.

Unless...it was this really glorious moment on Monday night when during our family scripture study, one of my prayers was answered, the Spirit filled our home, we grew closer as a family, and love abounded from every corner.

And then the Adversary decided to move in and set up camp and declared,

"There will be no happiness here."

Because he likes to do that when he's losing.

He's pretty smart because the last couple of days, he's winning. He knows exactly what pressure points to squeeze to defeat us. In our family, it's sleep, or the lack of. It's Mommy. It's food. It's irritability and over-sensitivity. It's making mountains out of molehills.

I keep trying to dig my way out of it with all the usual tactics.

Giving up and just giving in to the bad mood for a day.

But prayers get constantly interrupted by little voices with big needs.
But the work is never ending and undone as soon as I turn around.
But there just hasn't been time for exercise. Or energy. Or desire. Or something.
But I feel so empty that I feel like I have nothing to give someone else.
But a day wriggles into two. Then stretches into three. And before you know it you haven't showered in a few days, and eaten a bag of Cadbury eggs and watched the entire third season of Modern Family while your kids get way too comfortable with Netflix on the iPad.

It's a downward spiral. A sharp and severe free fall. And it's over.


Time for a "Happiness is..." post.

Happiness is...

...a secret bag of Cadbury eggs.

...seeing more and more brown grass every day as the snow disappears.

...having hope that brown will magically brighten into green.

...little baby Chiclet teeth.

...your son earning his first Scout award.

...little sisters cuddling.

...a warm shower dance and song.

...figuring out that extra chores is the answer to motivating the kids to do all kinds of things.

...finally, after literally years of talking about it, learning how to make charts on the computer.

...running 14 miles.

...popcorn and Icees with my favorite blond.

...children dragging the scriptures over to you each night instead of you having to drag the children to the scriptures.

..."no root canal necessary".

...sticking to your budget.

...watching your 4 year old change right before your eyes.

...getting your library books turned in before the due date.

...duct tape on diapers preserving your sanity.

There is a lot to be happy about. Time to shut up, get up, straighten up, and look up and onward.


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