Thursday, November 01, 2018

Cancun Sisters’ Trip

October Quotables 2018

Matthew fell and hit his head today.  I was trying to comfort him, but also reminding him about how often I had told him not to do the thing that led to the fall.  Eventually, he put his hand on my mouth and said, “Can you just scratch my back and stop talking?!”

Zackary is terrified of our Halloween decorations.  Now I can’t wait to go trick or treating!

My sweet friend threw me a baby shower this month.  It was a freezer meal prep party.  Isn’t that the BEST baby shower ever?!  I think so, too.  Except, let’s be honest, I’ll probably use the meals in those last miserable weeks of pregnancy.

Matthew continues to be my little engineer.  He is constantly looking for answers, instructions, methods, and timelines.  He can remember an entire day’s agenda, and is always saying things like, “Mom, you forgot to do the laundry before you read me a story.”  He also likes to explain back to me how things work.  “Mom.  When the car is on D, you need to put your foot on the brake to stop.  If you want to move forward, then you push on the gas.  The gas makes the smoke come out of the back of the car.  If you put it in P, then you can rev the engine and make lots of smoke come out.  I will just pretend to drive and rev the engine.”  Vocabulary?  Logical thinking?  Ratting out Joshua for sitting in the driver’s seat and reviving the engine?  If only anyone could understand his speech!

Sam:  Sometimes I think that adults pretend to be sick or injured so that they can just sit around and watch movies and eat snacks while the kids do all the work.  At least, I know I’m going to do that when I’m grown up.

Matthew:  Last night, Jesus told me that I can change the world!!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Burdens and Questions

Foster kid #1 left 2 months ago.  She decided that living with friends would be better because things are never going to change here.

I wasn't really sad about this decision.  It is very difficult to have a person in the home who is only a contributing member of the family when it is fun and convenient.  It is hard to watch your entire household be stirred up in contention.  It is hard to watch your family members fend off a persuasive personality that leads them to physical and spiritual danger.  It is hard to decipher half-truths and try to be loyal to a liar.  It is hard to watch someone refuse to do any work, take any advice, seek any help in getting the physical and emotional health answers that they need.  It is hard to watch someone be directionless.  It is hard to feel that your home, family, and possession are not secure.  It is hard to watch the fall-out when you finally, FINALLY tell that person that if they aren't going to accept the help being offered and be willing to work, then they need to leave.

But I am a healthy, fully-functioning adult.  She is an emotionally unstable teenager who's been through hell in her young life.  I feel like my inability to find any empathy makes me a much worse person than the lying idler.  How do I find the ability to love those who can't reciprocate that in even the smallest way? 

Foster kid #2 left last night.  She decided that living with her mom would be better because things are never going to change here.

Among her list of sudden grievances....

We don't give her any freedom.
We don't treat her like the 18 year old adult that she is.
We forced her to go to school.
We have plans for her for college but have never listened to what she wants to do.
We ask too many questions.
We bad-mouth her mom.

She complains on the regular, like all teenagers do.  But what happened this week to cause such a turn-around?  Is she being stirred up by her friends and family?  Or is sin making her uncomfortable in a place where the Spirit dwells?  Does it matter?  Because all of her complaints are least semantically.

We have a curfew for being in the house.  We require a chore to be done each day, a larger chore on Saturday.  We ask that they clean their rooms every Saturday.  We set time limits on technological devices and require them to be turned in at night.

We don't view a high school senior as quite an adult.  Especially one that has literally never had any freedom and is now navigating the treacherous waters of friends, school, technology, and decision-making.

We spent the entire summer building up the idea of high school, including the options that being a high-school graduate opens up to a person, especially if that person is the first high school graduate in their family.  Breaking a cycle seemed pretty important.  We talked about college admission requirements that go unfulfilled by continuation high schools.  We talked about the football games, the dances, the pranks, and the memories.

We require the college admission tests to be taken and that colleges options be studied out.  We require a plan.

We stay involved by knowing where they are going and who they are with.  We meet the friends.  We have interviews and informal chats.  We rely on the Spirit to guide us to topics that they need to discuss or learn about--even if those topics are uncomfortable.

We want to bring to light destructive habits or ideas, so that the next generation doesn't repeat mistakes.

But instead of defending our actions, I just feel sad.  This foster-parenting thing has been a burden, for sure.  And I maybe allowed myself a little sigh of relief when the decision was made.  But, like most burdens, when they are finally gone, I can see clearly.

Maybe the burden was made light at times and I forgot to express gratitude.

Maybe I didn't learn what I needed to from the burden.

Maybe I made all the wrong choices.  Handled the situation with too little patience and too little reliance on time and perspective and Heavenly Father's timing and perspective.

Maybe I'm too worried about what people will say and what versions of truths will be shared.

Maybe I'm doomed to repeat this cycle again and again until I've lost all my children.  That's the hardest part.  Am I a horrible parent? Am I too controlling?  Am I forcing them to obey instead of letting them make their own mistakes?  But how will those mistakes affect the family?  Where do I go from here?  What amends should be made?  What warnings should still be issued?  Do I cut all ties and involvement?  And how do I answer all these questions in the context of my saving and strengthening my marriage and my family?

While I've waited for the relief of this day, all I'm left with are so many, many questions.

But isn't that life?

I'm so glad no one reads blogs any more. :)

Friday, September 14, 2018

Funny tidbits from 2013 that never made it into a blog post:

I have noticed lately that in every self-portrait that Sam draws, she is wearing a crown.

Consider this logic--Reillee has observed that is it the food that she DOESN'T like that she has to eat in order to get some dessert (and actually, she is right in her thought because I don't have to ask her to eat the stuff she DOES like), so she has started saying things like, "Mom, I don't like peanut butter sandwiches any more so when I eat it, I get some dessert."  or  "Mo-om, I don't like rice and soy sauce and butter, but I ate it all so now I get some dessert!"  She's a smart cookie.

Joshua got stung by a bee on the way to church last Sunday.  It is Tuesday at the time of this writing and his hand is so swollen it looks like a cartoon hand.  I think if I stick a pin in it there will be an air explosion.  It's a good thing it's his right hand because he didn't want to do any school work anyway.

Being Poor

Written in 2012:

I've been wanting forever to do a blog post about being poor.  Probably something that will be funny in years to come, when the emotion is past.  It's hard to write a blog post about being poor, though, when you can't see anything because you are so poor that you haven't had your eyes checked in YEARS and your prescription is so outdated that even the computer screen is blurry.  I probably shouldn't be driving.  Oh, I can't wait to get my eyes checked...

And lots of other things I can't wait for...

But, Luke is gainfully employed now, so while we are still waiting for...eye exams and whatever else we have put off for the last 5 years...we are actively doing damage control, slowly filling in the well that we threw ourselves into until, like the donkey in the allegory, we walk out of the well under our own power.

I'm so blind I wonder how many typos are in this...

Anyway, here is our list of experiences over the past year that made us shake our heads and say, "Man, we are poor."

1.  EmJ's teacher lost the $6.00 I had sent in for a field trip.  I cried.  Sobbed actually.  Wondering where I was going to come up with six more dollars for that stupid field trip.

2.  Cringing, actually every. single. time the kids brought something home from school that was going to require that we pay a dollar or two.  Hiding from the room mom collecting monies for the teacher gifts at Christmas time, or better yet, volunteering to be in charge of putting together said gift so that my donation could simply be my time.  Oh, I got really good at that.   I also got good at saying, "We have our kids make their own gifts or cards for teachers and friends."  To which, parents said, "Oh, that's so good to give them that responsibility!"  But really, I was always feeling bad and wishing we could do more.

3.  Speaking of feeling bad and wishing we could do more.  How about all those wedding receptions we attended to get a free meal, but didn't actually bring a gift?  It's a good thing Luke always had a "future spouse" letter ('cause all the receptions were old seminary kids), so we weren't actually empty handed.

4.  Tae Kwon Do parties.  I don't know if you're aware, but Mormon potlucks are pretty nasty.  It's like we give our worst offering.  I'm not sure why, but we do.  Tae Kwon Do parties, however, are amazing.  The food is fabulous.  People are probably baking for days.  Anyway, thanks to Luke's undying love for Master Hwang and complete inability to say no to a plea for help, Luke ended up being the first to arrive and last to leave at all the TKD parties.  We've scored at least 6 solid weeks of tasty left-over treats from those parties over the years.

5.  Some of those tasty treats may have been regifted at Christmas time.

6.  Family dinners unattended because it cost too much gas.  (And Luke taking all the blame for "never wanting to be with the family.")

7.  Walking or biking any time our destination was close enough to walk.  Yeah, I like walking Nike hill.  So do my kids.  They don't complain or anything.

8.  Cringing when we forgot something somewhere and had to go back.  Oh, the gas money...

9.  Cringing whenever we heard people complain about money.  When they did it while shopping or eating fast-food, it was even more irritating.  Do you see my sack lunch, Big Mac?

10.  Bringing a sack lunch to a dinner or lunch date.  Seriously.  Every time.  We were just trying to be more "healthy".  Sure.

11.  Cannery bean soup.  Oh, somebody shoot me now.  Right now.

12.  The mannamobile.  Literally manna for us.  I am not sure if the amount of toast we have eaten can even be counted.

13.  Waiting until Saturday to go to Costco so that we could combine our shopping with a free lunch of "zamples!"

14.  Using up all the stamps that probably should have been saved as collector's items because we couldn't justify the money to buy real stamps.

15.  All the school/sports fund-raiser paperwork that got shredded in the hopes that I would forget there was a fundraiser and thereby not feel guilty for not participating.  Kind of hard when you are directly involved in said events.

16.  Panicking at every cut, bruise, cough, snotty nose, or worse.  Not for worry over the kids, but for worry about how much it is going to cost.  Panicking when Joshua ran the neighbors' motorcycle into a parked car.  Still waiting to see how that turns out financially.  Panicking when we thought Reillee broke her arm.  That one was probably a miracle.

17.  Haircuts.  What would I have done without Carly?  And oh, the times I didn't wait for Carly!  Sorry boys!

18.  Selling the TV to eat.  Then cracking up when a visitor said, "Oh, I wish I had known you were in the market for a TV!  We just bought a bigger one!"  Tried to sell the piano for food money, too.  Thankfully, the Lord saw fit to let us keep it instead.  Not that the kids would have missed it!

19.  Actually, He watched over us a lot.  Every minute.  Mostly, as is always the case, through others He met our needs.  Looking back it is truly amazing that we survived the last 5 years, and did so with only minor cuts and bruises.  How lucky we are to have a family and friends that are ready and willing, and to have a Father who is in the details.

October Quotables

Once upon a time, I loved blogging...

Today, I'm sitting on my couch with a broken ankle, trying not to have a panic attack over all the things that AREN'T getting done.  My sister suggested that I spend my time writing a million blog posts for her to read.  So, I dusted off the old blog and found a few drafts that I never actually published.  This story was worth sharing.  So Alivia, here's for you:

From October 2017:

Reillee and Sam were having a hard time paying attention to General Conference (how dare you interrupt my pajama church!), so I asked them both to sit up, pay attention to the next speaker, and write me a one paragraph summary of the talk.

Jeffrey R. Holland was up, and his talk was about striving for, and recognizing that we will never achieve, perfection.

When it ended, I reminded the girls to write their summaries.  Some time later, I reminded them again and asked them to bring me the finished product.  Sam quickly turned over a generic paragraph outlining something that could cover just about any talk.  No apologies.  Reillee, however, dragged her feet and dragged her feet and refused to give it to me...

I finally had to count...8, 9, 9 1/2, 9 3/4, 9 7/8, 9 9/10....and she burst into uncontrollable sobs, melting into a puddle on the floor.  I wondered if she had a puppy that I didn't know about that just died or something.  I mean, I've never seen anything like her sobbing!

When I was able to calm her down enough to make out the cause of her tears, I realized that she was ashamed that her paragraph about striving for perfection wasn't exactly perfect.

The greatest irony here is that the paragraph was pretty darn perfect.

Oh, Reillee!

No Apologies

Once upon a time, in a high school Creative Writing class, I wrote a poem that described my dream for the future.  That future included a house full of kids and a white picket fence.  My dear, dear teacher wrote on the paper, "I have no doubt that you will accomplish your dream!"

She had to write that on every paper, of course, but Mrs. Mulvey, I've accomplished my dream!  In this not-so-little house that is ours live 8 happy, healthy children.  And a few weeks ago, we began a landscaping remodel that will include (if we ever get it done!) a white picket fence.

Let me stop here to tell you a little something about myself.  I'm crazy smart.  Like Doogie Howser smart.  I received scholarships and had colleges court me.  My interests were as vast as they could be, my abilities not far behind (though I'll never play baseball for the Yankees *sad face*).  In short, I had the absolute confidence that I could do, be, accomplish anything.  The world was at my fingertips, there for the taking.

I chose to get married.  I chose to start a family immediately.  I know, because they've told me, that people cried for lost potential, for a life in ruins, for what could have been.

But I'm not sorry.

Did ya hear that?!  NOT SORRY!!

In what other career could I explore management styles, medicine, psychology, teaching, speech therapy, occupational therapy, neuroscience (dude, I've got teenagers now), art, organizational behavior, motivation, physical education, nutrition, cosmetology (dude, I've got teenagers now), finance, and information technology?  What other career could provide the breadth and depth of emotion, interconnection, and satisfaction?  In what other career could I display the best and worst of myself in an utterly safe environment?  In what other career could I see my hopes and dreams played out in the eyes of a child?  In what other career could I realize how dumb I really am? And in what other career would I have the opportunity to train up the next generation of Doogie Howsers and Yankee greats?

I submit to you -- none.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Quotables September 2017

Kayde:  When we come alive again, will we just come to our houses or does someone come pick us up from our graves?

Kayde:  If you have white hair, then you are finally a lady.

Me:  I've got to go change out of my pajamas if you really want to go to the store right now.
Joshua:  Mom, you're a middle aged woman!  You can wear whatever you want!

Okay, so trying to get back into this whole blogging thing has been rough.  Look!  Three whole quotables from September!  Let it be known that the kids weren't silent all month.  We got into the school routine and avoided any further tardies (after the first day of school...that was rough).  EmJ quit Sienna Ranch (*sobbing*) and became the Assistant (to the) Director of Romeo and Juliet, Willie started working out with the high school baseball team, Benjamin did NOT get shoved in a locker (mostly because his school doesn't have lockers), Samantha started playing clarinet, Reillee is *this close* to moving up a level in gymnastics, Kaylyn is learning to read, Matthew is jumping on the potty train (but only because I let him watch Peppa on the potty), and Zackary found his toes.

See, we've been busy.

I'll keep working on the whole writing thing, though. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

On editing, or lack thereof

I recently read a fantastic book entitled, "My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry."  The main character is a 7 year old girl who, among other quirks, carries a red pen in her pocket for the express purpose of making corrections when needed on printed materials.

I may or may not be that girl.

Here is the sign that greeted me at middle school registration, "Free Treat's on Every Fridays."

For real.  That was not a joke.  I had to try really hard to keep my thought bubble inside my head.

EVERY SINGLE email from the high school has at least one typo.  The elementary school is worse.  Don't even get me started on their teachers.  Or the programs at church.  Or the ride warning signs at Six Flags.  Or the local market that says, "Sweet Cheries $1.49/lb."  I can't even shop there.  And Joshua's Instagram?  The "cherie" on top.

I add to my kids' homework by asking them to proofread the letters from their teachers.  I frequently consider offering to proofread everything before it gets sent home.....but isn't there a minimum standard for office managers?

Then I pull up my blog or open a Chatbook to reminisce, and I realize I'm both that girl AND the moron that missed proofreading day in 2nd grade.

So, perhaps, playing "Spot the Error" isn't a great use of my time or a great lesson to teach my kids or good for my blood pressure.

I remind my kids at least a million times every day to "worry about YOU!"  And not to exaggerate.  Seriously, a million times.  Probably a lesson I could take to heart.

Free Treat's on every Friday's!!!   

Friday, October 14, 2016

Matthew James is 2!!

Poor Lucky Seven hasn't had his baby book updated, um, ever.  And he doesn't get frequent quotables posted on the blog.  And he never gets to do anything except wander around the house while I teach algebra to Joshua or ride for hours in the car while I drop off his siblings very which place.

So, Matthew, here is a birthday post just for you.  I'm going to interview you while you stand there pulling everything out of the cupboard and your responses will be recorded for all posterity.

What is your favorite thing?

Um, bean!  Um, this book.

What book is that?


But who is it about?



Uh-huh!  Bat!  Man!

How old are you?

Um, two.

What did you do yesterday?

Car!  Vroom, vroom!

Did we go on the BART?

Yeah!  Again!  Again!  *crying now* Again?

You want to go again?

Yeah! Vroom, vroom!

What is on your shirt?


What color is it?

Um, here.

Yeah, but what color is it?

Um, green!

No it's red.


Who is your favorite person?

Bean!  Reillee! (That's Benjamin and Reillee)

What is your favorite thing?

Bean.  Night-night.  (Bean is also binky.)

Are you ready for bed right now?

No, play now.

What are you going to play?


And there you have it.  Happy Birthday, Matthew!  You are smart and independent and always ready to fight for what's yours....including those chicken nuggets that you stole from a stranger at the park and shoved in your mouth before she could stop you.  Well done!

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Summer 2016 Highlights

Of Mouthguards and Fingernails

Many moons ago, Kayde got her finger slammed in the door.  (A future blog post should be entitled:  Kayde's Injuries:  A Compilation.) It was immediately obvious that her poor middle finger was going to eventually lose it's fingernail.  A few months went by, in which Kayde kept that poor finger bandaged and protected and would NOT let us see it or rip off that poor, sorry excuse for a fingernail.

Eventually, though, the nail fell off, leaving a finger resembling a hairless cat.  EWWW!!  Days went by where Kayde flipped everybody off, showing them her nail-less middle finger.  (We may have taken lots of pictures and made an inappropriate meme (thanks, Beth!).)  She gleaned sympathy and chuckles and pretty soon we forgot about the incident.

Benjamin has been taking Tae Kwon Do now for nearly three years.  He needs to bring a mouthguard to every single class.  WE HAVE PURCHASED NO LESS THAN 30 MOUTHGUARDS IN THREE YEARS!! That boy can't remember his mouthguard to save his life.  He brings it to class and leaves it there.  He puts it in his bag and it mysteriously disappears.  He remembers to bring it home from TKD, but loses it somewhere between the car and the front door.  He loses it between purchasing it and walking in to class.  He brings home the case with the mouthguard mysteriously missing.  He has spent every single dime of his allowance on mouthguards and still will need to buy a new one today before class.  It's truly a talent.

I've been reflecting on this past school year and it occurs to me that it's been a lot like the fingernail and the mouthguard.

Sure, I've moved twice and lost my mom and faced unemployment and tried to keep up on my calling and took in a stray and homeschooled two very different kids and done that blasted 11 a.m. kindergarten pick-up every single terrible day.....but like Kayde's finger, I've hidden it close to me and protected it under a bandage of "I'm fine, this is fine, everything is fine!"

But just like that stupid mouthguard, if I keep doing the same thing over and over I'm going to keep having the same result.  How much time did I spend lecturing about keeping-track-of-your-stuff when I should have been getting to the bottom of the mouthguard issue?  (Benjamin is afraid of sparring so purposely loses his mouthguard so he can sit out.  A-HA!  We can work on that now!)

So now I'm working on getting to the bottom of my issues....(actually, we're scratching the surface here.  It's all the emotional space I have.  Baby steps.)

It occurs to me that last year I should have put the kids back in school.  Tried better to feel at home in our temporary home.  Made a friend and figured out a carpool.  Delegated more.  Eaten more chocolate.  Found time to exercise.  Blogged.  Some things I couldn't have changed.  The life we have chosen will never be slow and steady, but I could have reached outside myself just a little bit more and flipped people off instead of keeping that fingernail-less finger all shriveled up under a dirty old band-aid.

This year, we have purchased a home.  We have a new job that Luke loves.  I'm homeschooling only one kid.  I've got carpool helpers and kids that can bike to school.  I've got amazing new counselors in YW.  Other miracles have happened!  And there are internal controls that I'm working on, too.  Most importantly, I'm trying to be more honest with myself about when and where I am scared and need a little help--Dude, I would want to sit out sparring classes, too!

Guess what I noticed yesterday?  Kayde's fingernail is all grown back and looks just as healthy as can be.  It's a perfect little fingernail and I think I will take a minute to paint it today so she can be ready for her first day of preschool carpool.  I won't forget my mouthguard.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Kaylyn Del

Okay, this girl is cracking me up and making me crazy.  

She swings from being incredibly social, making herself at home at our new neighbors houses, talking to everybody at the kids' being the most stubborn anti-social kid I've ever seen.  She won't do gymnastics because there is a boy in the class, she won't go to Sunbeams because it's not in the right classroom, and heaven forbid the dentist even ask her to sit in the chair!

{watching Sam get her teeth cleaned}

I love how she declares herself to be the mom, making me the big sister, so that she can have a phone!  And drive!  And have screen time!  And tell Matthew what to do!

I love how she is suddenly the little sister when it is time to clean!  Or when Matthew decides he's had enough already!  And how she screams bloody murder while he grabs her hair and pulls with all his might and a mischievous smile on his face.  

I love how she hides my phone under her bed and then says, "I don't know where you're phone is, but it's not under my bed.  It's not!"

I love how she says she needs a drink, but sneaks goldfish crackers instead.  And how she thinks I don't know because they are hidden behind her back.

I love how she says, "Ellow bomama!"  And I'm sure going to miss it when she starts speech therapy.

So I'll eat lots of "Ellow bomamas "...dipped in chocolate, of course, to stifle the sad feeling of another baby growing up.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015 Makes Me Tired

January -- 2015 started with a new calling as the Young Women's President.  It's busy and challenging and emotionally taxing at times, but how I love those girls and the leaders I serve with!

February -- Birthday season commenced.  Benjamin turned 9 and is into dinosaurs, business, and how dinosaurs can make a good business.  He's in 4th grade now and growing like a weed.  Sam's birthday was next.  She is 7 now, looking forward to being baptized, got her ears pierced, and was invited to join the pre-competitive gymnastics team.

March -- Birthday season continued with Reillee turning 5!  She is brilliant and organized and basically a mini-me, except cooler.  She is also on the gymnastics team.  EmJ then turned the magical 13!  And I died inside a little realizing that I have a teenager.  This month also brought us the news that our landlords were going to sell our house, which initiated a full 6 months of negotiations, keeping the house clean, dealing with realtors, and other injustices that I won't go into, but weren't very fun.  Thank goodness we got to take a trip this month to Seattle to attend Alivia's wedding!!

April -- I celebrated my 33rd birthday, and Kaylyn celebrated her 3rd.  She is as cute as a button, but still doesn't talk much.  Even so, she is constantly asking for homework and wondering when she can start school. :)

May -- A challenge.  We started by celebrating Joshua's 11th birthday.  He was happy to join 11 year old scouts, but happier still to be (the star player) on a championship baseball team.  He rocked the season, to the point where the other teams were scared of his pitching.  Win!  Toward the end of May, Luke herniated a disc in his back.  While he was flat on his back (literally, didn't move at all) for 16 days, I prepared for and attended all the end of the school year activities, concerts, and graduations, baseball playoff games, carried out our YW Conference, kept the house "show-ready" for our oh, so thankful landlords, and nursed poor Luke.  Turns out, I am not a very good nurse and he is an even worse patient.  Even now, his back still gives him grief, but we are thankful that he has mostly healed.  Seriously, though, that was an awful few weeks!

June -- School ended and we kept busy going to various doctors, chiropractors, and surgeons.  Oh so fun!  We also spent part of every day at the pool...(because, of course, the house had to stay clean)...and spent the rest of the days discovering every hiking trail in the area.

July -- We headed up to Seattle again, this time for a family reunion.  It was a great break and chance to spend time with both sides of the family!  July also brought Girls Camp for EmJ and scout camp for the boys.

August -- I spent the month getting ready for school, as I am now homeschooling both EmJ and Joshua.  We also continued to spend as much time as possible at the pool, except for EmJ, who spent the summer apprenticing at a ranch.  All her best friends are horses!

September -- A new year of school was ushered in...K, 2, 4, 6, 8...and our days grew crazier than ever.  School, gymnastics, tae kwon do, horses, running club, piano, science class, dorky homeschool co-op, scouts, seminary, young women....whew!  By Labor Day, we were exhausted, just in time, of course, for our landlords to finally sell our house.  So, we spent the month packing and moving, all while pretending we could keep up our normal routines.

Lesson learned!  

Fortunately, we found a large house right down the street, and while we don't love the house, the neighbors are outstanding and the landlords have been more than fair and generous.  

October -- We moved everything in to our new home and skedaddled off to the Bahamas!  This was a surprise trip for the four older kids, and I'm pretty sure they loved it. We got to see my grandma and aunt, go to St. Augustine, and then eat ourselves silly on our cruise!  The beach at Nassau was gorgeous and I wanted to stay forever.  

Except, we were missing a third of the family.  Reillee, Kaylyn, and Matthew stayed home with my angel mother making memories that I hope they never least, Reillee won't forget them.  My mom came and played hard with the kids for 10 days:  barbies, magic clip dolls, books, stories, and HOURS at the park.  She taught Matthew the ever important skill of turning around backwards to climb down the stairs, suffered through each child's bout with the stomach flu, and unpacked the kids bedrooms and the kitchen.  She got to attend Reillee's first-ever gymnastics exhibition.  Can I be more grateful for her?  I think not!  When we arrived home, she welcomed us home and then kissed us all goodbye in a quick exchange as she headed off to her next Grandma assignment.  That was the last time we'd see her in this life.

October continued with LASIK surgery and recovery.  What a miracle!  And then dressing up as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for Halloween.  Luke was Prince Charming, of course!

November -- We finally got settled into our new place and new routines, and we celebrated all that we were thankful for.  We had both a traditional Thanksgiving dinner (my gravy turned out beautifully!) and our traditional lunch of finger foods and turkey sandwiches.  Overkill, surely, but festive.

December -- On December 3, my mom passed away suddenly. I headed right up to Seattle and relish the time I got to spend with my dad and siblings.  Luke and the kids came a few days later and we spent nearly a week up there.  This Christmas has been somewhat muted, but in a Spirit-filled kind of way, which makes it sweet.  We've said many times that our hearts are empty, but full.

And so we head into 2016 with a renewed commitment to emulate the example of mom, in service, in obedience, in faith.  (Clearly, this goal doesn't start until Jan 1 because let's be honest, I'm sitting here yelling at the kids to leave me alone for just 5 more minutes, please!!!!) 

Merry Christmas to you and warmest wishes for an amazing 2016!

Merry Christmas!!

Night in Jerusalem

Christmas Jammies!

We bought each other puppy jammies...haha...not quite "Gift of the Magi" but it cracked us up nonetheless. :)

Live Nativity...or something like it.

Seeing Santa with cousins

No Christmas cards were sent this year and I simply couldn't choose from the oodles of hilarious family here are a few Christmas wonders!  A year-in-review will come soon!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Catherine S. Burnham 1/30/1959 -- 12/3/2015

Anybody who still reads this blog...should there be such a soul...has surely heard that my angel mother passed away a few short weeks ago. Below is her "Life Sketch" that my sisters and I gave at her funeral. It's pretty darn good. But that's because she gave us some pretty darn good material. Thanks, Mom!

Catherine S. Burnham Life Sketch

Mom had a phobia of throwing parties—especially for herself.  She thought that no one would come.  So, she is relieved to see that people attended this one! This week has indeed been sad, but it has also been full of tender mercies, comfort from angels seen and unseen, and sacred experiences that allow us to feel gratitude in our circumstances.

Mom’s story is one of triumph.  It is an absolute testament to the reality and power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to heal, to find place for forgiveness, to change our hearts, and to become all that she was divinely destined to become.  In and through our Savior, Jesus Christ, she broke a cycle of abuse, created an eternal family, and began a new tradition—one of faith and covenant keeping.  

Isaiah 58:8-12  “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning,…and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.  Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am….And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:  And the Lord shall guide thee continually,…and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.  And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places:  thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.”

Catherine was born January 30, 1959 on Long Island, New York to Faye and William Souhrada. She has two older siblings Debbie, Billie, and two younger Libby and Joanie. She had a special relationship with her grandmother Dede, and frequently talked about how it was Dede who gave her a rosary and taught her how to pray. She always said that that kept her close to the spirit and was the reason she was able to recognize truth when she found it later at a Mormon church.
Her family moved to North Carolina when she was 13. She had dreams of attending college even though nobody in her family ever had.  She saw a picture of the rocky mountains on a Brigham Young University brochure and said, “that’s where I want to go.”  She sought out an LDS church and showed up smelling like smoke from the steakhouse where she worked.  She found two boys, both named “Elder” who told her she’d get cheaper tuition if she was baptized.  She readily agreed and was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on November 27, 1976. She left shortly after for BYU where she became immersed in the gospel and her testimony grew and was solidified.  She’d been a member 2 ½ years when she got called to be a relief society president.
She graduated from BYU in April of 1981 and married Dime Jeffrey Burnham on June 26 of that same year. After putting my Dad through law school she fulfilled her dream to go to law school. She graduated from Seton Hall in 1992.
She had a number of colorful jobs in her life that all added to her experience and wisdom--working in tobacco fields in North Carolina, waitressing at her Dad’s steakhouse, going undercover with BYU police, she was a janitor,  did phone sales, defended juvenile delinquents and clerked for a judge in Newark, NJ, and worked part time with a few law firms over the years.  When she worked, she did so while her kids were at school or late at night after we went to bed.  Alivia said it wasn’t until she was 21 that she realized she had a working mother.
Her favorite job, though, was as a mother to her four children.  Kirstin, Lindsey, Zack, and Alivia and to her favorite son-in-law, who shall remain nameless. An even better job and the one she frequently reminded us was the most rewarding, was as a grandmother to her 11 grandchildren.  Emmeline, Joshua, Benjamin, Coleson, Samantha, Amelia, Reillee, Annabelle, Kaylyn, Matthew, and Elouise Catherine, her namesake.
It’s amazing that all that came after spending her adolescence not wanting to get married. One day in college, while on the grounds of the Los Angeles temple, she received a witness that the everlasting covenant of marriage was a necessary and wonderful step toward further spiritual progression. She met my Dad the following semester. That experience was the “start” of her eternal family.  They “loved with a love that was more than a love” and set an amazing example of what marriage could be. They never fought (around us anyway) or ever spoke negatively about each other. She strived to make our home a safe haven for us and is second only to the temple as a place where I always felt comfortable and found peace.
Mom’s  mortal body was riddled with ailments, like the kind we all must endure in this life, but that didn’t stop her from constantly being a force for good. I can only image what her perfect spirit will now be able to accomplish and what her perfected, resurrected body will one day be capable of.

Mom was incredibly strong, independent, opinionated. If something needed to get done, she did it. If something needed to be taught, she taught it. If a battle needed to be fought, she fought it. On the day I was born, my mother went into labor at home, drove my brother to the Hammer’s home, and then drove herself to the hospital! She dedicated her professional life to helping those who couldn’t help themselves—representing children. There was one occasion that perhaps won’t mean much to many in the congregation, but to those who know the law and the 6th amendment, it might be significant. She once convinced a judge that a certain father was so vile he shouldn’t even be grated a hearing. The judge approved her motion! So, in her determination for good, that man was denied his constitutional right to due process. When my mother and father were newly married, they lived in upstate New York. During the winters it becomes very cold and snowy. One day their old car wouldn’t start so she bundled Kirstin up and walked the few miles it was to the grocery store in the snow. She had made it home when she discovered that the cashier thad given her something like 5 cents more than was due. My father, who had by then returned home, suggested that next time she went to the store she return the amount. She insisted that she needed to be honest THEN and not later and walked back to the store to return the miscounted change. 

Though she was incredibly independent and strong willed she was even more gentle, kind and loving. She had a gift for teaching and especially story telling. Her stories were vivid and detailed. With her grandkids she was constantly playing make-believe-turning simple walks into dragon slaying adventures. She would also often claim that a new movie coming out was indeed her idea first! She had many aches and pains through the year, some keeping her in bed through the day. Yet, during those times, I remember that she would call me into her room and I would lay next to her in bed. She would hold me close and read books or tell stories while I sucked my thumb and twister her hair around my finger. Mom, like so many of the rest of us, was never able to see her good works. We would often thank her for being such a great mother or ask how she did it…to which she would begin to cry, which wasn’t an uncommon occurance, and say “you just came that way…I just hope I didn’t mess you up too badly”. She couldn’t see then, but perhaps she can see now, that it was her teaching, her encouragement and most importantly her deep, never ending love, that has molded each of us children, refined my equally angelic father, and impacted so many lives for the better.

Mom was home alone on the day that she died, but over the last few days we’ve been putting together a picture of how she spent her day.  We think it is the perfect summary of her life of service, day in and day out…

On Thursday, December 3 she:
*read her scriptures and was on Moroni 7
*took dad to the airport  
*did a substitute shift at the temple
*taught a class via skype to two of her grandchildren
*delivered Christmas presents to some children in ward
*talked on the phone to Alivia because Alivia was scared to walk to her car in the dark
*without being asked, offered advice to a friend who’s daughter was experiencing a health challenge
*wrapped and packaged gifts for the missionaries serving from the Willows ward
Truly, she “went about doing good.”

We’d like to conclude with mom’s testimony, sent in an email to us just a few short weeks ago.

To My Wonderful Grandkids:

Yesterday, while driving to the temple in the wee hours of the morning, I was listening to 98.1—the classical station.  My radio stays tuned to that station because it brings me peace (unless someone starts singing opera—then I turn it—hahaha).

Yesterday morning, however, the tune “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” popped into my head. I started singing it—over and over again when one phrase struck me hard, and Grandma started to  cry—I know, such a surprise.

While the song is replete with wonderful attributes and blessings of the Lord:  kind, wise, He lives, He loves, He comforts, He prepares mansions—to name a few—the phrase:  “ . . . He lives to bring me safely there” really touched my heart.

“He lives to bring us safely there.”

You have the choice blessing of being raised within the gospel of Jesus Christ—with a living Prophet, even Thomas S. Monson, to guide us today.  The Lord knows our day; He knows you; He knows me; He knows the challenges of the world; He knows the priestcrafts; He knows the adversary; but most importantly, He knows how to protect us and how to “bring us safely there.”

Please know this:  I know that my Redeemer lives.  As I get older and my time in this mortal probation shortens, I find comfort in knowing that we will all be joined together again in the eternities.  I testify that the Prophet will never lead us astray.  I testify that along with the scriptures we have to teach us pure truth, the Prophet  is the Lord’s mouthpiece that will “lead us safely there.”

I love you all—always and forever,

Wednesday, December 02, 2015


Sam:  And I'm glad we're not poor.

Me:  Well, we aren't rich!

Sam:  Buy we have the perfect amount of money!

Me:  I'd like just a little bit more money.

Sam:  Mo-om!  Don't be greedy!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

AP Seminary

Each of Luke's seminary classes has had its own unique personality and has created its own unique traditions...

From Bigger and Better hunts and toilets in our yard,

To being toilet papered and "forked",

To helping with the toilet papering and forking,

To Karate Kid marathons,

To karaoke,

And finally, AP Seminary.  This year's class can't get enough, so we welcome them at 6 am every Saturday morning, cook breakfast, and usually dance and sing around the house.  

I don't love giving up my Saturday morning runs, but I can't deny that I do love having them in our home.  And I love that my kids all think they are part of the class (which entitles them to extra syrup and whipped cream on their French toast, right)?!

Three cheers for AP Seminary!

(And three cheers for Thanksgiving break and sleeping in just a smidge!)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Catch up on the kids...

Willie's sad face.  His bike recently got stolen.  Luke and I were secretly happy for the excuse to get a new one because the bike was pretty pathetic, and the frame was bent from last summer's hit and run. (Bruised chin and bruised ego only...but pretty unbelievable nonetheless that someone dared hit a kid, however minor, and drive away!)
Reille had a special friend at school.  His name is Harry, and they blush and show off and pretty much crack me up!
Kayde and Matthew love to read, like seriously can't get enough.  Even though she doesn't speak well, she remembers every word of every book it song she hears.  I love to hear her reading and singing to Matthew and to her dolls. :)

AP seminary...because what else would I be doing on Saturday morning at 6 am?!?  I am not sure the neighbors like the new family with all the kids that sings karaoke early in the morning.  

Reillee and Sam are both on the pre-team at our gym.  This is a picture of a picture, but I just had to do it because Sam is so cute!  And string...I love her little biceps especially. :)

Last one for now...Matthew wishing that he was allowed to play basketball with the YW.  He is 13 months now and reminds me in so many ways of, just looking at him makes me tired.  It doesn't help that he can run and climb and pretty much try to keep up with everyone.  

Also, can I just shoutout EmJ, the basketball star?  The girl with no athletic ability has been tearing it up for Concird 2 ward. And by tearing it up, I mean that she scored 4 out of the 8 points we scored and had 2 of the 4 steals.  As you can tell our team is really, really good.

I'm taking bets on just how long the blogging will up are some quotable a from the last, erm, year!

Catching Up

I have been thinking a lot over the last few weeks about simplifying, how to do so, how to rid myself of the crazies that seem to house themselves in my brain.  I thought the answer would be to let something go...have the girls quit gymnastics? Send the homeschoolers back to school?  Pull the little kids out of public school?  Cut off PTA, friends, community involvement? Tell EmJ that if she wants to continue spending hours at the ranch, she's gonna have to take BART?  Petition the Lord for a simpler calling?  

Ironically enough, the answer, for now, came in adding things to my list, not taking anything away.  

Update the blog.  You enjoy writing, laughing about your day.  It is a record of this time. (And thanks, Debbie!)

Read.  Find quiet time to escape, learn, set a good example for the kids.  And read to the kids more.

Play outside.  Matthew isn't going to master that slide without someone to push him down a few times!

So, in the last few days I read a book.  A whole one.  And I let chores go undone (WHAT?) so I could play outside.  I read Reillee a Roald Dahl book because childhood isn't complete without the Twits and the Witches and the BFG!  And I treated myself to a long run and, later in the same day, a long hike.

Wait?  Running wasn't in your list!  Or hiking!

Yeah, I guess I should have stuck to the inspiration I received.  My foot is killing me.  So now I have some down time to blog a bit...

Maybe I will write all about our summer!

Or moving and our super classy landlords!

Or our vacation!

Hopefully everything.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dear EmJ,

Today in Young Women, I am going to teach the Laurels about defending the doctrine of the family.  I want to make sure that you, too, know exactly where I stand on marriage and family...which is exactly where the Lord stands.

First, the Lord’s Prophets will teach us what we need to know about and what we should do to defend the family.  As you seek answers to your questions, turn to the words of the prophets.  You will find answers there.  I’ve noticed that when I read things from those opposed to the family, or even just intelligent scholars, I don’t feel the same spirit as when I read the words of the prophets encouraging us to stand up for traditional marriage and families.

The Family:  A Proclamation to the World is true.  You should read it often, even memorize it.  It is a statement of truth, it is how the Lord views marriages and families, it is what we should strive for in our own homes.

Being a mother is the highest, holiest calling that you can have in this life.  You should look forward to that privilege that is yours, you should prepare for it, and you should remember that it is more important than anything else you can achieve.  You are lucky to be born into a time in history where women can do anything they want, can become anything they want, and that’s important.  But being a mother is the MOST important.  Be proud of that.

As a mother, you will one day be responsible for the next generation.  You will most likely marry and have children of your own.  Even if you, for some reason, don’t marry or can’t have children, you will be a sister, an aunt, a primary teacher, a young women leader, a neighbor, or a mother figure to many, many impressionable children.  Teach them about the family.  Teach them to say, “When I grow up I want to be a mother!” (or father, as the case may be. :)

Your home should be second in holiness only to the temple.  I hope our home achieves this...that it is a place of security and refuge for you and your siblings.  Please know that you can come to dad or I with any questions or concerns at any time.  We want to know how you feel, what you think, and we will always love you no matter your actions or decisions.  But we will always teach and defend truth.

The Supreme Court just legalized same-sex marriage, which cuts at the heart of the family.  I want you to know that I have learned that it is possible to love those who support this issue, even while disagreeing with their position or lifestyle.  Be kind to them even while staying true to yourself.  Society hasn’t yet seen the gross consequences of this decision, but in your lifetime you will.  You will also see your freedoms erode because of this ruling.  That is why your home has to be a holy place.  It may be the ONLY place where you will be able to teach truth and defend the family.  

This letter isn’t very eloquent.  I am going to attach a copy of the family proclamation, the Church’s statement on the institution of marriage, and a talk by Sister Oscarson...all of which explain things so much better than I can!  Please take the time to read and study them.  Over and over again.  Until they are a part of your very thinking.  If you have the truths in your brain, the Spirit can help you remember them when you are called upon to defend them.

One more thing.  Eternal perspective.  Our country, maybe even our world, is headed in the wrong direction.  It is becoming increasingly evil.  As you see these things happen, try to remember that this life is only a small time in our eternal existence.  We need to be counted among those who “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places,”  but we don’t need to fear the future, nor what man can do.  If this life is a football game, the Lord’s team is the guaranteed winner.  Make sure you are on His team and don’t worry about how hard the fight is or how much it looks like Satan’s team is winning.  The Lord will come again, victorious.  Justice and mercy will be perfectly dished out.  It will be an incredible time, but only if you are found on the Lord’s side.

I love you!  You are amazing and I can’t wait to see what life has in store for you, such a strong and confident young woman.

Love, Mom