Yellowstone and The Timed Showers of The Grand Tetons

Someone once told me I was going to live my dreams.  I had come up to the front of my small church to be prayed over during a time of waiting in my life and one of our elders said, “Your going to live your dreams!”  I believed him, he was prophetic and I could tell by the look on his face he’d just heard that straight from the source.  He then asked me with excitement, “SO, WHAT ARE YOUR DREAMS?!”

My dreams.

Inspiring posts and speakers always ask the question, if you could do anything, and not fail, what would you do?

And there are your dreams, waiting on the other side of fear of failure.

My dreams have always been to have a big family.  To be married to the guy who had all the checks next to the list I made when I was 13 and very boy crazy.  When I met Davin, I knew.  I think that list was more to keep me AWAY from all the other boys until we met, rather than Davin fill it out.  He’s always been better than the list.  I dreamt of knowing the Lord my whole life, raising our kids to know and love him too.   To be a safe place to land for others over a lifetime, an encouraging friend, and to have a home open to our kids friends who need to know what real love looks like, and hopefully introduce them to Him.  To show others that a real life lived fully comes from fully being known by God himself, the creator of the Universe.  I also dreamt of writing, because I can’t physically be everywhere for everyone, but if I can write it to you, be your friend in the night when you feel alone and wonder who God really is – if I can be there, and encourage you through the hard times, to say it and mean it and you know that I’ve lived it too and we’re not alone.  To spur you on like so many others have spurred me on in knowing Him.  Well, then I’ll have lived out some of my dreams.

We went to Colorado, Yellowstone, and The Grand Tetons over the summer.  I am a little surprised to say that my highlight of the year was spending 14 days in a car and tiny trailer with our family of six.

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Exhibit A: A very, “real life” photo.  Eli, ever desiring to be in charge is taking our photo, Dani is being silly, Evelyn is trying to squiggle herself to dirt and rocks-freedom, Ellie has her sweatshirt in her mouth and I’m smiling at strangers who are admiring our, “adorable” family.  Davin is really the only one who’s appropriately posing for this photo and it makes sense because he planned, organized and executed or trip – this photo sums up so much of our life as a family.

This is one of my favorite pictures because it instantly takes me back to the last night of our trip.  We ate at this fancy Grand Tetons restaurant that smelled like my grandparents house (and had the same type of music).  My grandparents loved taking their trailer all over the US, so it felt special to end the night here, in this beautiful restaurant overlooking the Grand Tetons with our family.   This was our first ever trailer trip and my Gramma D gave me my Grandpa’s old travel journal to fill out, and it felt like my Grandpa D was with us in spirit.  Love you Grandpa D!

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On this trip I realized a few things about myself.  We have four little kids.  I know this, and people TELL me all the time how full my hands are, but it became very different traveling and touring part of America with them.

I honestly didn’t know how much the dangers of Yellowstone were stressing me out until we left, and drove into the Tetons.  It felt like a rocket was just lifted off my shoulders as we passed the park line.  Yellowstone is beautiful, incredibly diverse in it’s geographical landscape and SUPER dangerous for little kids.  In my mind we were always just a few beautiful steps from death.  Many of the sights are boiling hot and will kill any living thing that should fall into them… hence my apprehension.

On our last day at Yellowstone or as I like to call it, “Day Five of Yellowstone Strong”, (remember I said, Davin planned this trip?), I had a meltdown.   Friends, this was no leisurely trip like I would have planned.  We were going hard ALL day long to see all the things.

We’d been up and at it most days at sunrise and didn’t get home to prepare dinner in a trailer until the sun was setting.  Now, I LIKE the outdoors, but I don’t thrive in an outdoor all day environment with four children.  I just don’t want to squint for 12 hours and feel like I and my kids are covered in dirt.  Almost none of the bathrooms have hand soap.  HAND SOAP.  It’s BYOS in Yellowstone.  So, on day five of our kids going all day not properly washing their hands, squinting at the sun and taking our little family just steps from death I was done.  I was over it.  I saw a lady in her 90’s and envied her and her quiet husband because if they had kids, their hands were probably washed in some clean house right now and no one was almost dying of accidental E. Coli on their watch.  They’d done it – parented and made memories successfully AND now they had quiet time to read ALL the plaques, and stare at all the sights and no one was talking at them, pulling at their leg, they weren’t carrying anyone or keeping someone from almost falling in a geyser, mud-pot, waterfall, volcano, hot spring, or getting trampled by a buffalo or breaking up a squabble.

So there we were in the parking lot, and I said to Davin, “just take them to bathroom,  I need some time.”  I stayed in the car and pouted/moped, where it was stupid hot and just stared out the window questioning my life.  I stared out of my hot, dusty, grimy filthy dusty, dusty young body and envied the elderly.

Davin returned smiling, “they have hand soap.”  Inspired by the fact that my children’s hands were now finally clean, I lunged from the car and jogged to the bathroom to regain some sense of hand cleanliness control over my life.  I washed my hands in warm water for like five minutes.  Luxury city all up in there!  Upon returning I found the kids running, laughing and squealing as Davin timed each of them on an obstacle course game he’d created.  They were still dusty but at least their hands were clean for now.

The elderly woman approached me.

“I envy you” she said.

I had the tenacity to actually say, “WHY?” (I’m laughing now, but I still blame Yellowstone Strong and I told you, it was pity party city).

“Look at them, so much zest for life, this is the life, these are the moments.  We came here when my kids were little, we have four.  Those were the best of times.”

I was so tired and exhausted and covered in dirt and honestly just wanted to run away, I wanted to be alone, in quiet for at least a half an hour… but convicted, I felt her truth pull at me.

These were the best of times, and I knew she was right.  These were my dreams and I was living them

I could see it that way now or see it through the lens of later.  I wanted to tell her, but your car… right now… is SILENT.  You hear that breeze?  You can enjoy it!  Did anyone just ask you for something just then?  Nope.  I’m thinking my, “best of times” meter may be maxed out.  Someone may have jammed too many quarters and a loaf of bread in here and it’s just a little to FULL.

But it wasn’t like that.  That’s just how it felt in the moment, based on my expectation of what the best of times should look like.  And I was just really exhausted, but that didn’t change the truth.  I wasn’t there to read the plaques. Davin and I were there to make mostly happy memories with our kids.  (I say mostly because of the Timed Showers of the Tetons – see below) We were there to show our kids the beauty of God’s diverse creation.  To spend time with them.  And, yes, the best of times were currently covered in dirt and rocks, dust, sweat, occasional arguments, tiffs, impromptu games, long hours in the car, giggles, smiles and deep nights of rest under the thick darkness, but they were there for me to categorize on my own plaque under, “The best of times” or “the worst of times.”  Honestly, the way I was feeling it could have gone the other way and certainly did for the half hour or so of my wandering thoughts as we drove to the parking lot and I sat in the car pondering my dusty, grimy life.

However, she was right.  These were the best of times.  And I was living my dreams.

I had a choice to make.

I thought to myself, I’ll probably come back here one day, when my kids are hopefully grown with clean hands in their own houses and I don’t want to watch another family and wish I’d enjoyed it the first time, I need to know that I enjoyed it THIS time.  This is it.

These are the best of times.  I am living my dreams.

I hope I carry this truth into this next year.  It seems that God often brings elderly woman into my life to teach me these great lessons on perspective.

Nostalgia is easy, but enjoying it fully the first time can be really, really hard.

And, for the record, it’s okay to have an occasional pity-party meltdown and pout in the car.  After that pep talk, I looked at my family.  I watched the elderly woman walk away and push her husband on his wheelchair down to another lookout point.  I stared at Ellie, smiling and laughing full of life and energy.  I watched Evelyn pick up rocks and taste them.  I picked her up and as I saw Eli round the corner of the tree, with Dani cheering him on and I realized I could join them.  I didn’t have to sit there and pout and slowly move from frustrated, to sad to okay to sorta-smiling to happy again.  I could just skip all that like my kids do.  I could get over it.

So I swallowed my non-pride and joined in.  I set Evelyn down to taste the rocks and I ran down the hill, around the tree, back up the hill, around the bush and to the plaque that I never got to read.  17 seconds.  Then we drove to Old Faithful (even though we had already seen it) because it has the best ice cream in all of Yellowstone and we weren’t vegan for Evelyn just yet.

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The great indoors. My new favorite place.  I literally took the picture because I was so happy to be INSIDE a building.

Apparently soap, the indoors, ice cream and the elderly can settle me down enough to feel alright about life again and remember who’s dreams I’m living.

 

For those of you who want to walk down another type of memory I give you:

The Timed Showers of the Tetons.  An autobiography of motherhood.

Why are showers in camp sights timed?  Who invented this non-lack-of-water?  What does that even mean?

We were blessed enough to snag a sweet camp site at Signal Mountain Campground.  IT WAS GORGEOUS.  However there were no water hook ups but at least we had power in one of the most beautiful camp sites on earth.  Cue the camp site showers.

Rocks and dirt call to my children in quiet whispers and loud shouts, they are incredibly creative and imaginative, so they will literally play in rocks and dirt for hours.  This is great and all, but it makes for messy children.

As night approached and we were all full from our breakfast for dinner, we decided to haul our dust covered kids, all the shower stuff, towels and our clean pj’s up the hill.  I had bags on bags people.

And here is where being married to Davin brings excitement to my life.

Davin ran on ahead to get our shower coins.  He returned with one coin.

ONE coin.

One coin is five dollars and lasts seven minutes.

He came back proud and thought this was just enough time to shower everyone, and a good use of our funds.

I did not see it the same way however, the coin distributer was far and now here we were… the six of us.

I graciously replied, “Seven minuets!  That’s not enough time, what if someone needs more time?!  I’m going last, what if the time runs out?  Are you crazy!”  I think by now I was yelling, but unawares.

Evelyn at this point had her lips in a straw positing and was trying to drink the leftover shower water from the previous patrons off the floor.

I grabbed her.

Davin, ever upbeat replied, “It will be like a fun video game – a challenge babe!”

One of my other children had already stripped bare and was now dipping both butt cheeks into leftover patron’s water with impeccable balance and just enough silence for me to notice only after it was too late.

I was now internally adding up the different illnesses at least two of my children may have been exposed to.  I fully recognize most of this materializes from spending 19 days in the PICU with our baby last November and watching her get close to death, but at the time, none of that added up.

The clean towels I had worked so hard to protect on our walk had been knocked into large puddle near the door.

Davin put THE coin in and the shower turned on.  I started yelling out orders, “Get in the water, get in the water!!  QUICK!”

My kids yelled back, “It’s too cold!  It’s too hot, I’m scared!”

“We don’t have time to be scared, get in that water!”

By the end of it, all kids were showered yet shaken, and I had exactly one minuet and thirty seconds left over for a rinse.  As I washed the shampoo out of my hair and bubbles filled my flip flops a buzzer louder than a fire engine started going off.

Panic ensued.

One started screaming, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”, another began sobbing, Evelyn was still trying to get into the water with her clean pajamas caring less about the sound and the last was attempting to claw to safety at me IN the shower.  It took Davin and I almost all thirty seconds to convince our kids that it was just the shower buzzer and everything was going to be okay.

All in all, we left in glory.  All showered, all mostly still clean.  And as our wet flip flops kicked up all the dust back onto our only momentarily clean feet, I looked around to see if anyone was staring at us, because we’d all just been screaming in the bathroom like it was the end of the world.

Cheers Grand Tetons, Cheers to your seven minuet showers.

The end.

Fear

“This is my command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Within context, the Lord is commanding Joshua, and the people of Israel to be courageous. Not because there was nothing that would normally cause fear or discouragement for someone facing such opposition, but because GOD WAS WITH THEM, they had nothing to fear.  That’s the key.  God was with them.  God already knew the outcome and he wasn’t going to abandon them.  He had it.

When God is with us, we have nothing to fear.

There will be circumstances in this world, every single day where we could have good reason to fear.  Good reason to be afraid, anxious, worried.  And yet, God’s word says, we have nothing to fear but God himself.

I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Luke 12:4-7

With all the damage and potential for harm, injustice and pain, God’s answer is, “do not be afraid, you are with more than many sparrows.”  We are his kids.  Now this is in the context of the disciples going out and preaching the gospel, Jesus warns them that they will be flogged, thrown in jail and some even martyred, however I believe it applies to us as believers.  We have God with us, of whom or what do we have to be afraid?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

Self-discipline.  For me, I think fear can be a drug.  It’s not even a nice one.  The irony is I literally hate real drugs because they can make my body feel out of my control.  And yet fear is a drug in itself that can cause us to loose our grip of control.  It distorts reality, and then starts everything spinning so much that then what is true and what is a lie are no longer distinguishable.  And it takes discipline and prayer to not give into it.

Once I felt God say to me, “do not take counsel from fear.”

I say all this because I feel like recently the Lord has spoken to me regarding my fears.  I am planning on getting lasik eye surgery towards the end of next week for my birthday.  The outcome sounds fantastic, and I really believe it will be.  When I prayed about it, I felt like the Lord showed me that I’d say, “I wish I would have done this sooner.”  So that’s a good end in my book.  The thing is… I haven’t gotten it yet.  Screeeeech!!!!

To get the surgery I have to have lazers shoot at my eyeballs while a vacuum holds them in place.  There are a lot of people who are not bothered by this in a bit, however when I think through having to take the drugs to numb my eyes, (something that is not my favorite feeling) and then not pass out from the loss of control over my body (which I’ve done in the past!) it freaks me out a little bit!  My eyeballs!!!  The smell of burning flesh!!!

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So naturally, I talked to the Lord about it.

He gave me an awesome word picture.  He showed me two different pictures.

In the first one, I’m waiting in a dark, cave-like hallway set up to be a fun waiting zone, like a cave or hallway at Disneyland.  It’s a bit dark, but has lights and is completely safe and a little boring.

The other picture is of a fun house, but it’s not really fun.  Mirrors are warped, tons of neon colors, music that is way too loud, stuff spinning, florescent lights, it reminds me of a cheap fair ride.  Inside, it is difficult to get anywhere and very disruptive and the fun is more for the maker and less the patron, almost to mock those who enter.  As though the creator could watch and laugh at those who enter.  And yet, outside, it’s a cool night, still, quiet and calm.  That is reality.

I feel like the fun house word picture is fear.  It seems like fun, but inside everything is warped and disorienting.  Outside, reality, is calm, cool and still.  Reality doesn’t change because you step into a fun house, but stay long enough and it will begin to mess with your mind.  It doesn’t make any of it true.  Outside remains a perfect calm night.

The darkness in both word pictures may represent that there will be instances where we wont see all the details, and yet there is no danger in it because God can see all of it.

The first word picture is safe.  And it’s designed with the purpose of making it fun for the patron.  Every detail was thought of (just like in Disneyland) and it was safe.  For the record, I REALLY like Disneyland, and I’m always impressed how even the tunnels and waiting areas are set up for the amusement of the patrons, they take every effort and energy and pour it into the finished product all for the amusement of the patron.

And that’s the difference.  In the one instance, the joke is on the patron and the maker gets to enjoy the foolishness and make fun of the one inside the “fun house” and it’s not really fun for those who enter.  In the other, the maker goes over every single detail, with the patron in mind, all for the patron’s pleasure.  The maker does all the work, just so we can enjoy it, and even if it’s just a waiting area for a fun ride, the details are all there, everything thought of in advance.  He did all the work for us to just enjoy it.

Isn’t that how God is?  He even has the details of the waiting set up to be perfect for us.  And that’s God’s grace.  He cares more about us than himself.  Jesus died for our sins, so we might enjoy life everlasting.  He gave of himself, for us.

The Lord spoke to me a few times just today about the upcoming lazer eye surgery.  Because it’s been keeping me up at night.  This morning, I was going through old photos and I found this one.  It’s of my dad holding Ellie because Davin was acting like a sleeping monster, and she was legitimately scared.  The older two were having so much fun with the “sleeping monster”, however Ellie really did become afraid.  So my dad held her.  He didn’t stop the game, he picked her up and held her.

When I saw the picture, the Lord prompted my heart reminding me that he holds me in this way.  That he loves me with that same compassion and that he’d hold me while having lazers shoot at my eyeballs.  That I didn’t have to be in control, but just to trust him.  That he would be with me.  I’d have nothing to fear even though I would be in the dark about so much of it.

Tonight as I walked to my car alone, leaving my dad and Davin with the kids, I felt the Lord walk with me, arm around my shoulder, “I’ve got you.”

Later this evening, I held my youngest before bed.  Just rocking her in her chair, savoring her beautiful hair, and soaking up the sweet cuddle moments.  I felt the Spirit remind me, “I love you just as you love her.  I made you, I adore you, I’ve got you.”

I say all this not because I am special or that lazer eye surgery is terrifically terrifying – it’s not.  I say this to tell you, God CARES, SOOOO much even when we are afraid of stupid things.  He feels the same way about you.

But we have to believe him.  We have to walk in that truth and reality, otherwise things can get distorted.  We have to have the self-control to not let our mind go to a fun house.

In all reality, when I’m not psyched out, I’m actually excited for lazers to shoot at my eyeballs and make my vision clear for the rest of my life.  That’s going to be SO crazy to wake up and be able to see in the morning.  I’ve never known that.  I can snorkel and swim without having to worry about loosing a contact, or travel without having to bring extra glasses and solution. That’s the Disneyland ride I’m waiting for in the hallway word picture.  But I have to go through the somewhat boring hallway (the surgery) to get to the fun part.

God loves me so much, that even when I am unable to calm myself down, when I am so afraid I can hardly think straight, when I feel like I might pass out in fear – God cares enough to wrap his arms around me and ease my fears.  My silly fears.  All in SUCH love.  He doesn’t mock me or tell me to get over it, or even minimize the concerns, he simply reminds me of who he is and who I am to him.

You’re his kid that he loves, and that just like with Joshua and the Israelites, “ God is with you wherever you go”.

You have nothing to fear.

Guest Blog Part 1: Organization By: Carly Pray

Guest Blogger: Carly
I have been trying to get Carly to start her own blog for years.  She is inviting, humble and full of great ideas.  She’ll be sharing a three-part series on organization over the next couple of weeks!
Hi readers! It’s 2107. You just got a bunch of new stuff. You just got your Christmas decorations put away*. You are ready for a fresh start and ready to put some fresh systems in place. I’m here to help. And I really mean that: if anything you read here is not helpful to you, forget about that unhelpful part and move on! I am not writing to you as a professional, I’m writing as a {virtual} friend who wants to enable you to make your life run better for YOU.
*If you haven’t done that yet, stop and do it before you jump into general-house-organizing-mode please.
GETTING STARTED
Why do you want to organize? Check your heart and trust mine.

This will mostly be a helpful, practical, idea-sharing series. But first there is a moment of self-reflection required: Why do you want to get organized? There is a full spectrum of personality out there. I find personality to be one of God’s greatest displays of His creativity. This connects to organization by ranging from the “everything is in a labeled bin and my closet is color coordinated” personality to the “there are clothes I haven’t worn in months because they’re buried under a million other things in my closet and I forgot I even own them” personality. Wherever you land naturally on this spectrum, none of the personalities are better than others. I really mean it. I know disorganized people who are peaceful and happy and free. I also know disorganized people who are frustrated and continually grumpy because of the chaos they live in. On the other hand there are organized people who are relaxed and happy and peaceful, and others who are controlling and uptight. If your efforts to get organized make you grumpy with other people or fire up your inner self-critic, get off this train right now. Your sanity is not worth jeopardizing and negative self-talk is the enemy. Successful organization ends with increased sanity.  As you try out new ideas, make sure your heart is in a good place. That place where you are ready to try something new because you recognize that they way you are currently organizing things is not working.

I also hope that you can trust my kindness. I recently helped a friend move & downsize dramatically. A couple months after the move she told me, “Sometimes when you were helping me purge my stuff I felt like you were being mean to me. I knew you weren’t being mean, and I told myself that you loved me. And you were really helpful. But for some reason it felt a little bit like mean.” I had no idea that she would interpret my help that way and I was so thankful that she trusted my love for her through it. I wish I could come to each of your houses and make you laugh and help in a more personal way. But we are in a blog relationship, so we have to make a deal: trust my helpful heart and I will trust your ability to receive all this info in a healthy way.

Okay enough with the brain gymnastics and the blender of feelings. Here are the practical (happy!) things organization can do for you:
-Find stuff quickly in the moment you need it
-Stop wasting time searching for things 
-Stop losing stuff you paid for and re-buying things you’ve lost
-Enjoy the beauty of your home without being constantly annoyed by clutter & messes
-Teach your kids some good habits for the future when they are roommates & spouses
-Run your kids’ lives more efficiently and calmly (morning routines, gathering sports equipment, etc)
Part 1 will be the general rules of organization. In Part 2 I will coach you through the process of purging if you have too much stuff. Then in Part 3 I will share some ideas and systems I have around my own house to keep everything running smoothly. I know that most people will love Post 3 the best. But these posts are in order for a reason – if you can say that you are abiding (enough) by the “Laws of Organization” and you only have stuff in your house that you use and/or love, then you will be ready for the fun part. Here we go!
PART 1 
 
Organizational Law #1
A place for everything…
This is the first half of a very popular organizational phrase. It’s popular because it works. Everything, yes every single thing, in your house should have a home. And only one home. If I were helping you clean up I would start by walking around and picking up anything on the counters or on the ground that are out of place. I should be able to ask, “Where does this go?” and you should only have ONE home for each item. So if I say, “Where do the scissors go?” You should not say, “In that drawer or over in the desk area or you could also put them on in that other room…” NO. Only one official home. You don’t need a junk drawer where you throw homeless items. Or a stack of papers that you are going to “go through later”. You need to declare a home for those homeless items and make a filing spot for those papers. Homeless items end up tossed aside and cluttering your space simply because you never declared an official home. (By the way, unless its an appliance or decorative item, the counter is NOT a home. Counters are for food prep and homework and the fruit bowl and working on temporary projects. Counters are neutral workspace, NOT a home.)
On this same note, when you buy or receive anything new, you should be giving it a home as soon as it enters your house. If you do not have a home for it, you should consider not keeping it (returning it, donating it, etc). If you want to keep it but do not have space for it, it’s time to remove something from your house that you no longer use/want to make room for the new thing.
Organizational Law #2 
…And everything in it’s place. 
(And please, make your kids do their part.)

This is the second half of that famous phrase. And in my observation, where about 80% of organizational failure happens. People, you need to put your stuff away when you are done with it. All the way away (in its previously declared home). It’s that simple. When you are done with a project, a meal, doing your makeup, you should not walk away from a pile of stuff sitting on the counter/table/desk/bed. After you get dressed: put your PJs in the drawer. After you make food: put the food items and cutting board and knife away. After your kids do their homework: they should put their pencils away and folders back in their backpacks. If your kid was playing with toys in the family room: have he or she put the toys away before going on to the next thing (nap, lunch, baseball practice, whatever). If you do this one thing, you will solve the trouble of all messiness, all clutter, and eliminate most chances of losing anything. It’s that simple.But if you don’t do it already it takes a fair amount of discipline to establish this as a habit.

One of the ways I see this part is ‘hitting the reset button’ on your house. There are stops during your day when you can choose to “reset”. You can reset before meals. You can reset before you leave the house. You can reset before bed.  Some people only need to reset once a day (leave the toys, the food mess, the homework stuff and just put it all away right before bed). People like me need to reset before sitting down and relaxing because the clutter feels chaotic and distracting. I often take 3-5 minutes to reset before I leave the house because I *love* coming home to a neat and beautiful house. It’s just like giving myself a little moment of happiness when I walk in the door. Only you can figure out how often you need to reset.

“But the children!!” you say. This is your job as a mother. You run this place. You are in charge. You set the tone. I hate to say this because I fear that you will be offended. I only mean it as an observation of people I have seen in action and my own personal experiences: If the tone is frantic and stressful and you leave the house (amidst your own yelling voice and your kids scurrying in a panic and without the things they need for the day or the next activity) it is because of your lack of organization. Stop everything 10 minutes before it’s time to leave and have EVERYONE reset. Not 1 minute before. Don’t lose track of time on your phone or FB or talking to a friend and then get mad at the kids because they aren’t ready.  They are kids, they need you to guide them through it (and hopefully not in anger). They need to learn, and you need to show them. You need to remind them to put the old thing away before they get out a new thing. As I am typing this my 2 youngest kids just ran over and asked to play video games. My response was, “put that puzzle and those cars you were just playing with away first and then you are good to play video games.” They ran off happily and did it quickly because they were pumped about the video game. I glanced over and made sure they did it before I heard the TV turn on. No hot emotions, just an understanding of responsibility.

(“My husband!!” you say. This is trickier with husbands than with children, because husbands are adults and you are not the boss of them 😉 That is a whole separate blog post regarding teamwork and common goals. But if everyone but the hubs is pulling their weight, I am going to guess that you will still feel successful with 4/5 of the stuff put away.)

Reset looks like is this: Walk around and put away anything that’s not in its place. If the messes are overwhelming and/or you need be extra efficient, start in one area and completely reset that area before moving on to the next area. If you are walking into another room to put something away and you see another mess – don’t panic or get distracted. Just head back to the area you are working on and keep your focus. Start with the areas that you spend time in the most, move towards the less important or less annoying areas last. Once this becomes a habit and often enough, it should only take about 5 minutes.
I don’t know why but with the kids I call this “Doing Jobs”. I tell all the kids, even kids who are just over for a playdate, “Time to stop what we are doing and Do Jobs. Follow me.” I walk around and hand a kid anything that’s out of place and tell them exactly where to put it. Then they are supposed to race back to me for their next job. I give extra high fives and accolades to the kids who are the fastest. You know they love to race. If I need extra happiness we put on music while we do it. I only takes 1-3 songs. And if everyone gets a piece of gum when we finish, why yes I will use that extra motivational power. The key here is that I don’t just say, “Clean up this counter!” I stand there and hand them the scissors and say ,”put these in that desk drawer. {Next kid} Put these socks in the laundry basket. {Next kid} Throw away these papers in the trash.” Everyone participates, and the reset gets done fast. I keep the mood happy and we are out the door or on to our next activity in just a few minutes.
The last note is this: I reset before true cleaning. So the dishes just get scraped and set in the sink during the reset. Once the clutter is gone, then I do actually cleaning like wiping counters or doing dishes or wiping down a bathroom. I am barefoot all the time, so resetting often means sweeping. But I do that after everything is in it’s home.

Okay Part 1 is done. If that all seems like common sense to you, great job. You are ready for Part 2. If all of that sounds overwhelming, try looking around and noting if you have a lot of homeless items lying on your neutral surfaces. Maybe try just just resetting once or twice a day and getting everyone involved. My husband read this and said, “I get stuck at giving things homes. So I just set stuff on my workbench because I’m not sure where to put it and eventually it’s a mountain of stuff that takes forever to clean.” I know this is true because he is awesome about picking up inside the house where I have already assigned the homes for everything. My daughter read this and said, “My stuff has homes but I just get lazy and don’t feel like putting things all the way away.” It’s good to know thyself. Not to make excuses for yourself, but to know yourself and then take steps to be at peace with yourself and the people who have to live with you 😉

Here is a picture of my daughter’s desk.

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Neat piles that aren’t technically dirty… but check out how tiny that little bit of work space has become when it’s crowded by her piles!

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The second picture is after I sat there sipping a glass of wine and simply picked up everything on her desk that isn’t decorative and asked her to put it in it’s home. I timed us and it took less than 10 minutes and we had some of our favorite songs on while she did it. Now she can actually use her work space and I am not a grumpy mom when I walk by her room. And we got to enjoy the sound of our stellar singing voices and occasional dance moves.

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Davin won quite a few mountain bike races and has become an expert in home construction.

 

Most weeks I’m just happy I get to drive the kids to school, hang with the baby, run errands and make dinner (well, Davin cooks half the time, so I should say, “eat dinner together as a family”).  Davin and I try to go out on a date once a week and look each other in the eyes:-)  I just feel so grateful for everyday life.

Eli can tie his shoes, ride mountain bike trails with his daddy and loves to make breakfast for himself and the girls most mornings.  He also built a rocket and started pastoring his own church in our pantry.  Everyone is welcome.

Dani knows all her sight words and has lost five teeth is tall enough to ride Screaming California and has become quite an artist and story teller.  She blessed us with a drawing of my Gramma Jo when she passed away at the beginning of the year.

Ellie has learned self control, loves to take care of her baby dolls, her baby sister and generally enjoy life to the fullest.  She is often found in a tutu, crown or jewelry of some sort.  We have discovered that there is nothing Ellie can’t make into a good time.

Evelyn learned to walk, say at least ten words and has mastered the tiger growl sound, which she now uses for ALL animal sounds.  She also spent 19 days in the hospital, grew 5 teeth WHILE IN the hospital, fought e. coli and overcame HUS.  She came out happier and more full of life, and we took her to Disneyland to celebrate!

There were a TON of visitors at the hospital and I can’t wait to write about Evelyn’s story and how so many people rallied around us and helped us in such miraculous ways.  Here are just a few photos from her time in the hospital.  Thank you EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU for praying for our sweet baby, Evelyn._DSC3813.JPG_DSC3808.JPG_DSC3806.JPG_DSC3805.JPG_DSC3875.JPG

Here’s a photo of me, probably getting e. coli.  I just couldn’t gown and glove anymore!  I needed to hold and touch my baby.  And then I got e. coli.  So there’s a lesson in there somewhere.   #stillworthit_DSC3877.JPG_DSC3880.JPG

These two.  Let’s just say our other three kids came out of this whole experience happy, healthy and perfectly normal – I can’t thank Davin’s parents, Ivan & Pam enough for putting their lives on hold, flying out here and basically running our home and parenting our three other kiddos for the length of Evelyn’s hospital stay.  They did it with a smile like old pros:-)  We love you Dad & Mom!_DSC3882.JPGSome of our MANY favorite nurses and doctors.  Seriously, I have only good things to say about this hospital.  What an INCREDIBLE facility with INCREDIBLE people._DSC3884.JPG

The photographer and chief, “cheer-er-up-er”,  Dad would stay with Evelyn to give Davin and I breaks, and he spent many of his days at the hospital with me so I wouldn’t be alone.  And he brought me chocolate milkshakes.  Love you dad!_DSC3886.JPG

This was our view most nights._DSC3896.JPG_DSC3914.JPG

Uncle Tom and Aunt Nancy:-)_DSC3949.JPG_DSC3953.JPG_DSC3955.JPG_DSC3967.JPG_DSC3982.JPG

Christmas on the Peds floor.  _DSC3983.JPGMom took a couple night shifts so Davin could actually get some rest at home, and we could see each other for more than a second when trading off at the hospital.  Mom loves Evelyn and mom loves our marriage.  I love you mom!Grandma Evelyn 2 .JPG

Thank you for your prayers.

In 2017 we are praying for a year of excellent health, that we sell our home, move into a perfect rental near the property and begin all the fun on our project of building our dream house on the little piece of property near the kids school.   This Christmas we are celebrating that we are all healthy and together as a family.  We feel incredibly blessed.

We love you all!  Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

 

The End of Things

I cried tonight.  I got an email from our kid’s school teacher.  She was thanking us for our gift and sharing that when she saw Eli and his best buddy getting their picture taken today, it hit her.  The kids won’t be there next year and she was really going to miss them and our family.

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We are leaving the school that we’ve loved, our community.  We are leaving the teachers, staff and families we’ve grown to love.  We are in the process of preparing to sell the house we’ve loved.

And all of it’s ending right before me at the same time.

Back in December we felt the Lord tugging on our hearts to ask him where the kids would attend school the following year.  As I picked out used uniforms from the tables in the lobby, excited to save money in the fall, I heard his voice,

“Ask me.  Ask me where they’re going to school next year.”

Me… [hands figuratively over ears], “LALALAALALALA” ignoring him the first time.  He prompted my heart again.

“Ask me where they’re going to school next year.”

“Ummmm, of course they are going HERE Lord, we LOVE it HERE.  Let’s be done talking about this.”

Then twice again I heard him prompt me.  And twice again I tried to ignore him.

Then on crisp January morning, Davin and I stepped onto a little field.

All of the sudden in the middle of the field, I felt sparkles, a pre-known-history and something electrifying all at the same time.  I’ve only felt a pre-known-history one other time in my life, and that was when Davin and I started dating.  Within a few weeks, I felt it.  We hadn’t been together but days, but future me had known and loved him all her life, and present me felt it and knew it.  I just couldn’t see it, because as humans, we are bound by time.  But it’s like God let my sprit in on a little glimpse of the past as though I was an old lady looking back on my life yet standing in the shoes of a twenty-something me.  I’m not sure of any other way to explain it.  And it was just the same while we were standing alone in this little field.

I looked at Davin and whispered,

“I think this could be IT.  The place.  I think this is where we are going to live.”

In my heart I thought, I think this is where we have lived, for many, many years.

We have looked at plenty of property over the years and had been looking at even more recently.  Davin has always wanted our family to grow up in the country, on some land.  It took me about eight years to ever warm to the idea of not having a suburb street to drive down at night and park my car in the garage with the streetlight warming us through the night.  I grew up in the suburbs, it’s all I’ve ever known or wanted.

The country has always seemed so remote and distant.  But not this place.

Not this field.

So, we took it to prayer.

The field isn’t even up for sale.  A guy owns it.  Our friends know him and he’s agreed to talk to us before he sells it to anyone else.  That was back in January.

It’s June.

We’ve been patiently waiting on him for over six months to contact us.  And he hasn’t.  Yet.

We’ve prayed.  We’ve written him a letter.  We’ve prayed.  We’ve stopped by and tired to get him to speak to us.  We’ve prayed again.

All without a response from him.  He won’t even take the time to speak to us.

Nothing.

But he’s not in charge.  God is.  And IF we truly belong there, then it will happen in God’s beautiful, triumphant, glorious and hallelujah timing.

Because he’s God, and nothing else, and he always gets the glory, because he is worthy of it all.  So we wait, mostly patiently, becuase God knows what is best and, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”  Proverbs 16:9.

In February, we finally decided to stop ignoring the Lords prompting and take to prayer where the kids should go to school the following year.  We felt like God said to trust him and try to put the kids in public school, specifically the one near the field, even though we did’t live there.  Which meant we had to decide NOT to re-enroll our kids in the school we love.  We called our district for a transfer approval in the beginning of March, here is how the conversation went:

District: Do you have any evidence that you are moving?  Maybe a realtor, paperwork, contract?”

Me: No, we have none of that.

District: Well, then we can’t approve your request.

Me: Ok.

The school our kids attend is so popular, we both have to race to our computers at 8pm on the set date and rush to fill out the forms for each of our kids.  Then there is a waitlist.

It’s an amazing school.

8pm came on a cloudy, Monday night.

I had been in my closet, laying on the floor for the past hour.  Praying/whining/in anguish/thinking over what we felt God had put on our hearts.  We really felt like God said to pursue this field, put the kids in public school and be a light to our surrounding community.  To step out in faith that our kids would influence their un-churched friends and not the other way around.  To trust them with teachers who might tell them things that aren’t actually true.  Friends who don’t all know the Ten Commandments nor follow them.  To leave the beautiful, perfect safety net of their Christian school.

IT was HARD.  It felt like in the movie Indiana Jones when he takes the step of faith.

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I am not kidding.

We didn’t enroll them and we didn’t know where they were going to attend school.  The minutes passed, 8:03… 8:04… I kept checking my watch from the floor.  Our kids would have definitely lost their spots by now…  the feeling sunk in that we were trusting this thing that we thought God was speaking to us.  Davin was much more confident.  He was not on the floor of our closet.  He came in and pulled me off the ground and said it was like Abraham trusting God when he was about to sacrifice his son, and God provided the ram.  We had to take a step of faith, and that God would bless that.

The very next day after we chose NOT to re-enroll the kids, we got a call from the school district that the little field is in.  The cheerful woman on the phone was happy to tell me that our district HAD approved our request, and that we only needed to bring in the completed paperwork to finish it.  Our kids were enrolled in the public school near the little field.

It was less than 24 hours of wondering where our kids would go to school and we got that call.

It was pretty amazing.  Especially the timing of it all.  That was back in March.  We’ve heard nothing regarding the field since then.  We’ve looked at other properties.  Some that cost less and have more land and trees and are in better locations.  But none of them have felt right.

Now we are preparing our beautiful home to sell.  We are packing boxes and giving things away because we are planning on selling and hoping to move into a rental as close as we can get to the field.

The flesh part of me feels like this could literally be the dumbest thing we’ve ever done.

But my sprit answers with “or it could end up being the awesomest.”

Either way, when God calls us to do something we feel like he calling us to do, we have to do it.  Otherwise life is just boring.  I don’t like boring.  I’d rather go on the crazy, blindfold journey with Jesus, than walk the boring suburb sidewalk.  It’s not that he would ever leave me, I’d just be on the sidewalk, kinda bored and he’d be like, “Well, I had this cool adventure planned, and lots of it was a surprise, but you didn’t want to trust me, and that’s alright, so here we are, staring at rollie pollies, but those are cool too, I sure love you.  Do you want to roll one up again and watch it unfold?”

And I’d be like, “NO!  I did this when I was seven, and it was fun back then, but I’m a grown up now and I’m ready for a real BIG adventure!!  I want to go 4-wheeling in the dirt and get muddy and see the water splash around.  I want to run from the alligator and hide under the leaves of the tree with you until the rain passes.  It’s okay if I scrape my knee or get dirty, we’ll be together and I want to go with you wherever you’d take me.”

We could stay in our safe and beautiful home.  With no risk.  We could keep the kids safe and protected from some of the world in Christian school, less risk.

But we feel him calling us on an adventure.  At least we THINK we do, but there is a great risk.

And he didn’t give us the map.  Just asked us if we wanted to come.

He is calling us to dream.  To try and buy the field we are so drawn to, and then try to build a house we’d love our family to grow up in.  To have a garden, a small orchard of fruit trees and maybe even a few dogs to run around the place.

It all sounds so great in my imagination.  And when I’m in prayer or talking with Davin, it doesn’t sound crazy, not at all.

But when I see that we’re selling our gorgeous house that already has a garden, fruit trees, swimming pool and an upstairs patio… well.  When I think about leaving the school we love and not seeing the teachers, staff family and friends everyday… well.  When I consider that the guy that owns the field won’t even give us the time of day… well.  When I think about spending a rainy Christmas in a small rental in who-knows-where… well.

It all makes me want to cry.  To mourn the loss of the school we’ve loved.  To think our kids won’t see those friends, the teachers, staff and families.  I won’t see the beautiful, bright and cheerful school secretary who’s made me cry more than once from her sweet acts of kindness and Christ’s love well… it just makes me sad, and I just want to cry.

Because it’s hard.

It’s hard to leave the stuff I love.

It’s hard to give up so much of what I love on the hope that God has something else in mind even though so much of it is unclear.

So here I sit.  Finally processing all that’s gone on over the past six months, making decisions based on faith.  And I feel reminiscent of the past.  All the past we’ve had in this house.  Two of my babies came home from the hospital here.  This house was their first beginning.  I had three kids two and under here, day-in, day-out.  I remember crying, laughing and feeling exhausted.  Now the twins have lost teeth and look like young kids, not toddlers.  The baby is about to turn one.  Life just keeps going on and on, and my grounding points are being pulled up from under me.

To wrap it up:

  1. We have pulled the kids out of an amazing Christian school, and enrolled them into a public school.
  2. We are preparing to sell the house we love, get rid of things we love and pack up and move into a much smaller rental for an unknown amount of time.
  3. We have yet to hear ANYTHING from the guy that owns the field.

It felt good to cry.  To sit and look at all the memories we’ve had in this house.  To mourn the loss of all the lovely I am leaving and saying goodbye to.

On the hope of a new adventure.

 

Rainbows, More Rainbows & Good Dinner Links

Hey-o!

I feel like I’m writing a letter to one of my best friends.  Except, like way back, when I was eleven years old and we used lined paper and Lisa Frank pencils.  Can I PLEEEEASE geta’ shout-out for Lisa Frank?  I STILL see Lisa Frank paraphernalia and I have to taper back the enthusiasm in my eight year old heart to purchase it.  “It’s for Dani” I say… finds us coloring together later;-)

Kittens, rainbows and butterflies?  Yes please.

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Dolphins, SMILING with purple sunsets while playing beach ball?  Absolutely.

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Pink dolphins are my spirit-animal.

This post is brought to you by Lisa Frank.  Inspiring and affirming all of the wonder of little girls hearts.  How cute and classy is Lisa in her shades-of-lavender rainbow sweater?  I would expect nothing less of a childhood hear-e-o (that is how my kids pronounce hero;-)  “Thanks Lisa” – Love, all the Little Girls from the early 90’s.

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Alright, on to even more exciting things: Rainbow sandals.

I am approaching year nine on this pair.  Yes, NINE.  I’ve worn these every summer, possibly more than any of my other shoes.  Rainbow sandals are forever sandals.  Here is a gorgeous photo that I ran downstairs to capture of my sandals in their natural state.  I titled this, “resting after another hard days work.”

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You’ve served me well Rainbows.  They are beginning to crack on the top leather and I’ve all but worn down the bottoms.  It is time for a new pair.  If you’ve been searching for a pair of casual sandals then search no more. Nordstrom also sells them if you’d like to try them on.

Time for food.

A few months ago, I went on a super quick girls weekend to Napa with two of my dear friends.  They were both in my wedding and when we lived together we created a pretend sorority.  We named it after ourselves, Beta (Bek), Sigma (Sarah) and Kappa (for Jen’s last name because we either couldn’t find the Greek letter for J or it doesn’t exist, and her last name started with C at the time so it was close enough).  We have Christmas stockings with glitter glue immortalizing this time of our lives.  Beta Sigma Kappa forever in our hearts.

Here are Sarah and I with some friends (Annie is second from the top and my friend Bonz is on the bottom) doing important things, obviously.

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As you can tell we were a fancy sorority with only fancy events.  One of our house parties involved giving the weather the what-for by pretending it was summer in the middle of a rainy March.  We insisted on summer by turning up the heater, dressing in tank tops and skirts and drinking margaritas over spring break.  We made fake summer and it was awesome, take that rainy days in March when they are naturally occurring.

Now that we’ve walked down memory lane, on to the food.  On our trip we discovered that we were all in a dinner rut involving the same few favorite meals that were quick go-to’s.  One of them came up with the brilliant idea of sharing our top faves in an email (we are SO original).  So, having done so, without their permission, I am going to share with you some of my favorites and some of my friend’s favorites.  These recipes HAVE BEEN tested and eaten and enjoyed so much that they are the tops of the tops.  We literally cook them a few times a month, if not weekly.  Now, Sarah is a vegetarian and Jen and I often cook vegan in our homes, so many of the meals are vegetarian, vegan or close enough;-)  But please remember how much I like ALL food.  I often cook vegan at home because I believe it is incredibly healthy, but I’m not about to sacrifice tastiness.  All that being said, this food can be plated among my favorite fish tacos or a delicious fried chicken and hold it’s ground just fine.  It’s not, “good for vegan food”, it’s just good in general and happens to be fairly healthy.  So give the veggies a try.

#1: ‘Cept it has chicken, sub for grilled tofu if you like :http://www.recipetineats.com/satay-chicken-noodle-salad/

#2: Easy summer recipe with guac exception below: http://ohsheglows.com/2013/09/18/tex-mex-spaghetti-squash-with-black-bean-guacamole/

USE THIS guac and add black beans to it: http://www.recipetineats.com/best-ever-authentic-guacamole/ this guac is my favorite guac.  I make it all the time without the chilies, because I couldn’t find them.  Side note: you can freeze chopped red onions and toss them in frozen for the next time, they smashe up easier when cold.

Here’s the guac on top of a summer enchilada from Happy Herbivore’s Meal Mentor Trial.

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Yes, I made an enchilada salad.  It was really just a good excuse to eat an entire avocado.  I’m serious.

#3: Time consuming, but delicious: http://www.chowhound.com/recipes/vietnamese-style-summer-rolls-with-peanut-sauce-10641#!

we serve them next to: http://www.neverhomemaker.com/2010/07/noodle-salad-and-peanut-sauce.html

#4: Quick and delicious: http://damndelicious.net/2014/04/19/quinoa-black-bean-tacos/

#5: Instead of take-out: http://damndelicious.net/2014/05/30/pf-changs-chicken-lettuce-wraps/

#6: Be still my heart – last meal of my life type of situation (sub with soyrizo): http://www.recipetineats.com/mexican-breakfast-tacos-chorizo-and-egg/

#7: I really like this girl because she has a photo of herself putting food in her mouth.  Solid work: http://rachelschultz.com/2013/02/28/better-than-takeout-easy-pad-thai/

* for this one, I’ve made QUITE a few changes, picture attached below.  We eat it once a week.  It’s great as cold leftovers for a lunch to-go.  We leave out the Sriracha in the cooking process and use it as a condiment instead.  I use udon noodles and we usually add an entire bag of shredded carrots from TJ’s.  Love me some carrots.

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Be sure to double the sauce, otherwise it’s just a sad, sad bare noodle situation.

100% eat some of the leftovers cold on top of a bed of dinosaur kale.  Be sure to slice out the thick stems on the kale, they are the bitter!

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Crazy good lunch.

Dinner intermission with…

SNACKS:

I make this often and serve with sliced granny smith apples: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2011/05/23/want-to-eat-an-entire-bowl-of-cookie-dough/  This girl has some GREAT oatmeal recipes, desserts and otherwise.  

Back to mealz… 

#8: These are coconut cauliflower tacos.  Ate these tonight.  Davin made them for us.  All by himself.  LOVED them, LOVE him: http://www.veggieinspiredjourney.com/2015/05/23/crispy-coconut-lime-baked-cauliflower-tacos/

#9: Jen mentioned she uses the chickpeas and cauliflower as left overs with brown rice the next day as a work lunch: http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/roasted-cauliflower-and-chickpea-tacos/?m Pretty sure I made these and FORGOT the cauliflower, and they were still yummy, also sans the jalapeno.

10: Summer salad (especially if you have zucchini growing in your garden): http://www.marthastewart.com/1014032/quinoa-salad-zucchini-mint-and-pistachios

11: Easy peasy: http://iowagirleats.com/2014/10/15/caramelized-sweet-potato-kale-fried-wild-rice/

12: These pita “gyros” are quite good.  Although I STRONGLY recommend buying the Tzaziki.  Making this one is a BEAST in my opinion compared to standing in a store, literally moving your arm towards a container in the refrigerated section, grasping it with your hands and then letting it go near your cart.  Sweet girls first instruction on, “the worlds best tzaziki” was “1. Strain yogurt using a cheesecloth or coffee filter for 30 minutes to 3 hours to remove some moisture.” Followed by mine:

  1. Cry.
  2. Try to get soul back into body.
  3. Buy tzaziki from the store.

http://www.liveeatlearn.com/roasted-chickpea-gyros/

Well my friends, being an ENFP, compiling that list in any sense of order about did me in.  I did it for YOU though, because I like you, and vegetables.  And vegetables are good for you and I.  And we should all eat a little more sometimes, but not all the time.  Sometimes we should eat chocolate.

Travels, Barfing and an Angel – Merry Christmas!

For Christmas, my family and I went to Colorado.  My husband’s  parents live there, on a beautiful five acre property in horse country.  We had a white Christmas, fresh snow on the ground and all.  IMG_1949

We went sledding, the kids made a snowman with their Papa. IMG_2041

We had a snowball fight
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sunroom hot tub-runs out into the snow and back into the warm water,
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hot chocolates from Starbucks and an hour spent in the indoor Chick-Fil-A play area (one of the kids highlights for sure).

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Most importantly, we were all together under one warm roof,

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snuggling under blankets by the fire with tasty food (including mom’s famous TV Mix), celebrating Jesus and his birth.
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We opened presents, Skyped Aunt Keeli & Uncle Jake and enjoyed being together as a family.

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Getting there was a different story.  We flew on an airplane.  These photos are from the way home, since I didn’t take any on the way there.

That’s Rosie, the class mascot.  We had the privilege of taking her to Colorado over Christmas Break!

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Such a happy girl on the plane!IMG_2198

Six people, four of them five and under.  Please understand the luggage situation alone involving FOUR carseats.  You know that TSA line was LOVING us.  They were actually crazy nice aside from a Desitin confiscation.  All that AND I was completely disabled by a serious flu.  Pardon me if I am too descriptive, but I feel like the details are imperative to this narrative, so bear with me.

It was Monday, December 21st and we were on our way to the airport when I started crying in the car.  Crying a rare occurrence for me, I was beginning to get delusional, for reals.  The kids had all just gone through a horrible flu.

Here is the day before, all Christmas smiles and celebrations for the special school performances they were about to be a part of.

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The flu started Friday night around three in the morning with Dani throwing up, six hours later Eli and then six hours later, Ellie.  And it wasn’t just barf.  It was the kind of flu that completely disables its victim for about 24 hours.

It had been a tough weekend of wiping up puke, holding kids, changing sheets, cleaning carpets and doing lots of laundry.  We had made it through just in time for our Christmas flight on Monday.

We call this photo, “trying to celebrate Christmas…”

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I woke Monday morning with a queazy stomach.  I decided to work out, believing that I could sweat out the virus.

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Since the worst of it looked to be about six hours with the kids, I totally thought I could still make it to Colorado.  I’m tough after all.  We’d booked our flights, and changing them would not only be expensive, but because it was Christmas maybe not even possible.  My choices were, keep the whole family home and try to find flights once I was better, stay home alone with the baby who’s nursing while my family flies to Colorado and try and catch a flight later, surviving the flu alone, or get on the plane and tough it out.

Being the ever optimistic enfp that I am, I really thought it would all just work out fine.  I also had been given a flu bomb of oils, worship music about healing and had friends and family praying for me.  None of that changed the fact that I was about to get crazy ill.  And for future reference, Davin has declared that he will never, ever take my word for it again when I say, “I’m okay, I think I can do this” if I’m sick and start crying in public ever again.  He said that he’s never, ever letting this happen again.

By the time Davin had unloaded all our luggage to the sidewalk, asked me five times if I wanted to go home and then went to find parking, I was shivering and crying while leaning up against the windows of the airport.  I couldn’t stop shaking but I was determined my friends, determined to get on that plane.  I had packed ALL the kids suitcases and stuff.  We HAD to get on that plane.  Dani was holding me and rubbing my back, Eli was telling me that it was going to be okay.  I just kept trying to do the next step.  It took us two hours to get through check-in and TSA because I was so violently ill.  At one point I was puking in the middle of the airport while Davin held a plastic grocery bag.  It was horrendous and is probably on YouTube.  I also still had to nurse the baby, so I was drinking water by the gallons so I could at least produce milk, since all the liquid was fast leaving my body.  When we finally made it on the plane, I told the male flight attendants that I was going to need a few bags.   Fortunately we were in the back a few rows from the bathroom.  Most of that flight is a blur.  Davin said I got up every fifteen minutes to puke and otherwise in the bathroom. One time I didn’t make it and was actually barfing IN THE ISLE into a bag.  Those poor people around me!  Everyone was so nice, they probably assumed I was airsick since all the kids were healthy and happy.  I tried not to touch anything and washed my hands a ton so others wouldn’t get sick.  I sat on the end by Eli while he watched Whinny the Pooh, Davin held the baby in the row next to us with the girls.  Davin said it was such a crazy contrast to hear the kids laughing and squealing with delight during take-off and landing while his wife was almost passed out from the flu.  I remember three different times, almost loosing consciousness.  My eyes wouldn’t even stay focused where I wanted to look, they kept drifting off.  When I had to nurse the baby, she felt like she weighed fifty pounds.  I remember wondering what happens when someone passes out on a plane, wondering where they would put me.  The entire flight I was shaking and vomiting and otherwise.  Every joint and muscle hurt.  All I wanted to do was lie down.  I just kept thinking all I have to do is make it to Colorado.  I wonder if this is what hell actually feels like?  Except Jesus felt close, so not that part.

When we landed, they had a wheelchair brought out for me.  Then we caught a ride on the golf cart thing that the cute old ladies get to ride on in the airport.  One sweet older woman looked at me and said, “you don’t look well.”  I was like, “yea, I’m not (eyes roll back into head, praying I don’t get her sick).”  It was all such a daze.  It’s funny how much we care about how we present ourselves in public most of the time, but when I was that ill, I couldn’t care less if every tv camera, the president and the entire internet saw me.  I couldn’t care stinkin’ less.  I probably looked like the walking dead and I certainly felt like death. Except my outfit.  I had a very cute outfit on, black leggings, black loose top with a cropped dark brown leather jacket and matching booties, and a topknot.  It was pre-flu planned, oh and I wore gold stud Tory Burch earrings that Keeli got me last Christmas, I live in them right now with a hands grabby baby in my arms all the time.  My outfit was super adorable, despite feeling super horrible.

And now, here’s the very best part of the entire dramatic, horrific photo-filled, miracle-ending story.

When we finally made it to the carport pickup area, Davin and Ellie went outside to find his parent’s cars.  I say cars because there are so many of us, they have to bring both their cars just to get us home.   The older two, the baby and I waited just inside on a bench, because I already couldn’t stop shaking, and the cold was just making it worse.  On the second bench next to me, sat an Old-World-Russian-looking woman possibly in her seventies.  I glanced at her and normally would have smiled or even started up a conversation with her (I have a strong affinity for Old-World Russian looking ladies) but this time I just sat there, looking down shivering and silently mouthing, “Jesus help me”.  After a moment, she walked over to me with this large, dark-green, decorative fleece jacket.  She spoke zero percent English and motioned to me to put on the jacket.  It was not a suggestion.  I was now a five-year old little girl and she was going to put that jacket on me.  She even zipped it up for me.  Then she wrapped her arms around me and just held me.  I started sobbing.  I have never felt grace like that before.  This woman didn’t know me.  She didn’t know if I was a nice person or a mean person.  She didn’t know anything about me and yet there she was taking care of me in the middle of the Denver airport.  She rocked me and held me for the next five minutes while I cried.  I think she was praying over me in Russian because she kept saying in almost a soft song what sounded like, “Do Papa, Do Papa” in her sweet Russian voice.  I just cried and cried because I was so sick, in so much pain, and so tired just trying to make it for my family and here she was holding me.  I hadn’t done anything to deserve this grace and yet I found myself in the very center of God’s grace.  I knew God hadn’t abandoned me, I didn’t know why I was so violently ill even after I and so many others were praying for me, but there in that moment, it was as though Jesus was right there holding me.

Here’s the most interesting part.  When Davin came in to get me, he just said, “They’re here, come on” and walked away.  I thought it was so strange that he didn’t come over and ask who the woman was holding his wife or ask why I was wearing a stranger’s jacket.  He just motioned for us to come outside.  So, the kids and I got up, I gave the jacket back even though I wanted to keep it in THE worst worst way to save and treasure it for the rest of my life.  I thanked her as best as I could in English and hand motions and we left.  When I glanced back at her she sat back down in her same spot, all alone.

When I was later retelling the story to our friends over a New Year’s dinner, they asked Davin if he saw the woman.  I thought that was such a strange question because I had just assumed he had, but was trying to hurry, although I had thought it peculiar he hadn’t acknowledge her.  And here’s the craziest part.

He never saw her.

How he never saw her I will not understand, because she was literally covering me.  I had to peek through her arms to even see him when he called us.  She was draped over me like a blanket.

He never saw the woman, or her coat.

The older two kids saw her.  I saw her and she certainly seemed like a real person.  She smelled like a real person, she looked like a real person.  But that experience was something very different.  I’ve never felt so clearly the grace of God as I did in that moment while she rocked me, prayed over me and I cried the tears of understood grace.  I’ll never forget it.  The contrast of feeling terrible, and yet feeling so absolutely and unconditionally loved and cared for by a complete stranger.  It was worth having norvirus on an airplane.

Months earlier, I had been praying about understanding unmerited grace.  Reading again and again of the prodigal son. I had been telling God that I am so much like the older grouchy son, who thinks’s she’s got it all together in so many ways and I longed to feel and accept the overwhelming grace of God like the younger son did, but without all the shenanigans.  To truly stand where I should not be able to stand in God’s presence, and recognize the absolute grace of Jesus Christ.

The thing about the older son is that he is just in denial.  He thinks he’s all great but really his heart is in a prideful state and he’s just as much a sinner as the younger son, the sad part is he doesn’t realize it.  So he misses out on the blessing.  He never even comes to the party.  I kept longing for the feeling of getting a coat, and a ring and feeling the full weight and grace of Jesus on my life.  Having been lost and then found.  I always thought growing up a christian would feel different than someone whose lived a wild life and then later comes to Christ.  At least, that’s what I thought.  I was always a little jealous of the believers who’d have amazing stories of meeting Jesus after all the years of crazy and really truly understanding his love and mercy.  However, the grace is just the same if we only look for it.

And that is where I found myself.

In the very center of God’s grace, with a coat put on me and all!

And Jesus used that terrible situation for good.  How sweet is Jesus to meet me there at the airport when I was having one of the worst experiences of my life?

It’s true that God uses all things for the good of those who love him.

Merry Christmas from 2015!

Updates for days

I Think I’m coming down with a cold.  You know that miserable tired feeling like you have 1% battery left in your body and that soreness on the side of your throat?

Yep.  I’m feeling that.

It’s like always the worst part of a cold for me… the beginning.  Every part of me wants to be in denial, like, “No, I’m just tired, that soreness getting worse in my throat is because we slept with the windows open three days ago… right?”

nopeSo there’s that.

Annnnnd, I have an announcement… We had our BABY!  Evelyn Grace Anthony was born Thursday, June 11th around 6pm in the evening, wearing a super special hospital hat.  Someone made that in love, I just know it.

IMG_8697Here she is!  Her nails were crazy long and she scratched her precious baby face.IMG_8705“Our Baby!”  The kids all decided that her name should be Evelyn.IMG_8718

Davin brought these BEAUTIFUL flowers to the hospital.  I was so surprised.  Our wedding had floral arrangements that were very similar, so that made it even more special.

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Evelyn was born on my Gramma D’s birthday.  They are birthday girls in this picture, separated by a few years.

All my previous kiddos were born on Fridays, so Evie decided to break the mold with that one.  When she was born I cried.  I said, “Welcome to the world!” with tears in my eyes.  She’s the first baby I’ve cried over upon delivery.  I think it’s finally sunk in that these tiny brand new babies are going to turn into the little people I do life with.  It only took five years and three kids. The first three were just so shocking I was like, “Wait, I grew this tiny human in my body?  Howwwwww?”

Evelyn is pretty amazing.  In fact, she’s so amazing that I tried to write about her a few times on my blog, but every time I’d get distracted and didn’t have the heart to not stare at her as much as possible during awake times, hence the lack of blogging.  However she can’t be blamed entirely for my over three month absence, I also started freelancing!  I love it and here are some of the articles I’ve recently contributed to, click on them to read:

Ten Scriptures to Help Overcome: Loneliness

Ten Scriptures to Help Overcome: Depression

This one is particularly useful seeing as how school has already begun, but maybe it will come in handy anyway:

Back to School: Five Strategies for Busy Families

I liked it.

I also helped out on a really cool follow up guide for a program called, Dare to Dream.  K-Love’s Randy Rich is a former Bronco’s player that speaks at school assemblies about moving beyond the negative labels others place on us.  Our team worked on a three-week follow up guide for teachers, coaches and mentors to use to help navigate students through the process of dropping the negative labels, picking up their dreams and beginning to follow them.  In the process I got to meet some crazy rad people, and it kinda made my summer like even cooler.  I even got to, “go into work” for a couple of days, and wear FANCY SHOES!  And, my clothes did NOT smell like barf.  They did TODAY, but not those two special days, nope… I was a professional;-)

Let’s see… other things to update you on.

The kids started school and everything feels new, but we’re getting into a routine.  They LOVE their school, it’s amazing and one of my favorite parts is taking a nap in my car every day while I wait to pick them up, it’s the best.  That and Ellie gets to listen to WeeSing Bible Songs on repeat.  I’ve actually gone through a few stages of the WeeSing Bible Songs CD. At first it was sweet, then it was annoying, after that I was American Idol/X-Factor judging the children’s voices in my head (not good) and now I’ve come to what I hope is the last stage, neutral acceptance.  It’s become so familiar, it can almost be ignored by my ears, so we are at peace now, that CD and I.  I have no one to blame but myself seeing as how I sought it out, having such fond memories of Psalty the Singing Song Book as a kid, I jumped at the opportunity to bless my children with this gem on Amazon, but it’s just not the same when you’re an adult.

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Ellie loves it, so that’s cool.

Time for some baby pictures.  I will tell you, she’s pretty stinkin’ adorable.  She’s also very chill for the most part. Yesterday she decided to start getting some teeth and now large sections of her gums are swollen and she’s not too thrilled about it come, oh say… five-o-clock.  At 5pm precisely, she’s unhappy, for a little bit.  However, it’s a well known fact that babies all around the world have a tendency for the grouchy around 5pm.  So all us Mama’s can just hang in there knowing we are not alone.  Yesterday I gave her a few Hylands teething tablets even though she’s only three months old and much to young for teeth, MUCH TOO YOUNG and is also wearing size nine pajamas.  Girl is going to be TALL.  I’m jealous, I used to want to be six-foot tall.  I didn’t quite make it.  There’s hope for my girls.  Except Ellie, she has no hope for that, she will never, ever be six-foot tall, but her personality will more than make up for that great loss in life.

Moving on.

We had an amazing photographer agree to take pictures of our family even though he lives super far away and is studying and in college.  Yay!  Thank you Danny Montemayor for being not only a great photographer, but for being a chill, kid-person in general.  Family photos have the potential to be stressful, and if the photographer is laid back and little kids like him, it really just makes things that much better.  Also, my badd for not realizing summer was taking an extra long stroll though our lives, I thought the END of September would be an acceptable time for fall digs, I was however wrong and it was a million degrees, but we rocked it anyway.

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Ellie who will follow her big brother anywhere.IMG_1257

This is actually a tribute pose to our Gramma Alta who went to be with Jesus in heaven a few weeks ago.  We love you Gramma Alta!IMG_1283And now there are four.  Yay!
IMG_1388Oh, I’m on a swing, swinging, and I look this beautiful without trying.  Gurrrrl is blessed.
IMG_1465 IMG_1490 IMG_1498He makes me sandwiches and asks, “Mom, what can I do for you?” And he clearly loves posing for photos with mom when he could still be playing on that tire swing.
IMG_1511This photo sums up my entire relationship with Ellie.IMG_1569Daddy’s girl.IMG_1605A boy with his Daddy.  This could totally be a greeting card.
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Yay US!

And now… the BABY!IMG_1709 IMG_1736 IMG_1761 IMG_1786One of my favorites.IMG_1794 IMG_1825 IMG_1843 IMG_1863 IMG_1867

I love my newest baby.

Thanks for reading!

Photo Update

We took baby bump photos this morning in our backyard because it was WAY too hot to go anywhere far from air conditioning;-)  IMG_0023IMG_9877

All my babies.
IMG_9879IMG_9898 IMG_9914 IMG_9929 IMG_9936I’m around 38 weeks, so could be any day now that we get to meet the Littlest Anthony.  We have three names in the running, we’re going to see when she’s born which name is a fit.  Eli wanted to name her Doughnut, Dani voted for Princess and they all agreed on Cute Baby, so we’ve got some extra options in addition to the ones Davin and I chose.

Tonight Davin and I went on a date – we tried walking the mall and I had like only two contractions.  Boo-skies.  However, we ended our date at a place that makes ice cream filled doughnuts.  Yes, together.  Amazing.  Here’s some awesome iphone photos of our excursion.  And other random life.

Convincing Davin he should get these awesome Ray Bans.  He makes good arm candy, I think I’ll keep him;-)

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So yummy right now.
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A good sport joining me on my pregnant food journey.
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Crazy good.  Probably 1 million calories.  Whatevs.IMG_8631Also, the other day, Davin carved out a watermelon and made a hat with the leftovers.  The kids loved it.  (please notice there IS a Krispy Kream box on my counter.  I only ate ONE, for reals.  #pregnancyisreal
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And the girls were playing in my bathtub while I finished my hair, there is nothing so sweet as little sisters together.
IMG_8601More updates to come with the Littlest Anthony!

Also, this post was brought to you by… Tacos.

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Tacos of all kinds.  It’s what is currently fueling me, for the most part.  Tacos and doughnuts… and ice cream.

Thanks for reading!

Mother’s Day

IMG_8127This afternoon, I was folding my son’s laundry.  He and his sister Dani just turned five this past week.  We typically use birthdays as an opportunity to give them the next season of clothes as gifts, since it lines up well.  After I had finished washing his old clothes from this week, mixed in with his new ones I started to get sentimental.  The old Thomas the Train shirt is getting a little small as well as faded blue Lightining McQueen.

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Is it strange that I’m trying to savor and hold on to the days where my son would rather wear a cartoon character on his shirt than something a little more grown up?  When his bright red hand-me-down Mickey Mouse sweatshirt is the number one pick in his closet?  I know the days are coming, when he wouldn’t want to be seen in a Lightening McQueen, and that’s fine, I’m sure I’ll love and adore him just as much then as I do now.  However, I’m sensing that this phase is passing and short, and just so sweet.  I’m not quite ready to give it up yet – and thankfully I don’t have to.

The fact that he picked out all superhero t-shirts, especially the over-the-top Superman one with a cape, tells me he is still my little boy.

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The new lineup, a little bit more grown up, but not too much.
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The cape… I’m thinking this should NOT be worn to school, I’m concerned it may introduce a little TOO much superhero spirit into class.

I see him growing and changing into a mature young man by the questions he asks, but his zest for life and fun is still ever present and dominant.

I can still hear his giggle and laughter in my mind as he was chasing his daddy and sister through the halls before nap time.  After lunch, my husband picked up our youngest, Ellie who’s three and ran around the house, hiding from the older two.  Ellie cries if Davin doesn’t carry her, because she’s not fast enough to ever catch him.  So, he carries her even though she slows him down and gives away all his hiding places by yelling, “I”M RIGHT HERE!!!!”  The older two laugh and run and giggle as they attempt to chase down Daddy and Ellie.

Maybe it’s because we think we are having our last child in a few weeks, and we know it’s a girl which means none of Eli’s old clothes will be worn again in our house.

Maybe it’s because I know that I’ll never get these moments back, because even IF we had another little boy, he wouldn’t be my Eli.  He would be his own little person.

God has created something special between a boy and his Mama.  Eli holds a unique piece of my heart that no one else has, and it’s been that way since he was a tiny squishy baby.

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Seriously? Does it get any more adorable than this?

We get each other.  He reads me well and and I can understand him.  It’s just so easy most of the time for the two of us to get along.

I can wrestle him and tickle him, push him over and fake punch him in ways I’d never do to the girls.  He’s rough and rowdy, but also so very deep and insightful.  Over the past few days he’s asked me different questions that have me thinking he’s going a lot deeper in his mind than super hero t-shirts and games of chase.

“God made the world, and everything in it, and us, but who made God?”

As I pondered how to answer this question in a way that a five year old would understand, I had a hard time concentrating because I was so amazed that he even thought to ask that question.  To be fair, Dani asks equally as astounding questions, but since I’m getting sappy over Eli, we’ll keep the topic on him this time.

I had to go with scripture, hoping God would fill in any gaps.  “Well buddy, the bible just says that God always was, always is and always will be.  Kinda crazy right?  It’s hard for us to understand, because everything in our world right now has a beginning and an end.  But not God.”

He nodded and thought it through.  It seemed to satisfy his theology for the moment.  He’s just now five and he seems to be reaching beyond his years in reasoning and questions.

He’s always listening to the conversations between Davin and I.  We’ve had to start spelling things, if we don’t want him to know or ask any leading questions.

Often, Eli will come up and start helping me with whatever task I am working at if he wants to hang out.  Or if he picks up on the fact that I’m getting drained, he comes in and says, “What can I do to help you Mama?”   His peppy little spirit usually helps me pick it back up and finish the job with a smile.

I’m not saying I’m the only mother in the world with amazing kids, I’m just saying that I’m amazed God would love me so much, to give me such a sweet, intelligent, and capable little son like Eli.  I have my girls and could and I’m sure will write entire blogs about them as well, but for some reason, this Mother’s Day, my little boy has come to the forefront of my mind, and I’m just so grateful for him and that he’s still mostly in the superhero t-shirt stage of life.

Maybe it’s because he’s so much like his daddy, and I love his daddy.

Maybe it’s because he’s hilarious and loves to enjoy life and he’s organized and methodical in his leadership skills;-)

Maybe it’s because I see him take care of his sisters even when they play, making sure everyone has a fort built for them, everyone has the pillow for sliding down the grass, and everyone is included and has what they need.  I watch this leadership in a five year old boy and wonder where the Lord will place him one day.

I pray for his wife.  That she adores him and loves him and is beautiful inside and out.  That she loves Jesus deeply and prays for her husband daily.  That when they get married and she gets to be the one to kiss him goodnight, that he feels loved, cared for beyond grateful have his best friend by his side.  I know those beautiful days will come, and I hope for now, as I get to be his Mama growing up, that I  can set an example of the kind of woman he will search for and find one day.  The way I treat him now will be the way he’s accustomed to being treated by a woman as an adult, and I want him to strike GOLD in his wife, because he is gold, (gold that is being refined in the Father’s fire, but gold nonetheless.)

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My little dude.
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Giving his sweet little friend the drivers seat… even if she’s too tiny to take them anywhere;-)
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Hanging with the girls.
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Entertaining his little cousin.
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Teaching Ellie how to “fix a bike” and letting her help.
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Loves his papa AND motorcycles.
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Not only did he offer to do all the breakfast dishes, but he then trained Ellie in proper loading technique.

It’s normal for a Mama to think she has one of the best son’s in the world right?

As always, thanks for reading.