Thursday, January 19, 2017


Years ago Elle wrote a masterful essay in sixth grade about how our family was in dire need of a dog.  (I posted it back HERE.)

She had several clear, thought-out points for discussion, and her essay was sound.

But, we are not dog people.  Never have been.

Dave and I both come from families with nine children.

We both grew up with dogs.  And although I'm pretty sure all of us loved those pets from our childhoods, not one of those eighteen children has a dog.

Fluke?  Destiny?  Common-sense? ha!  I don't know.

Poor Elle's essay didn't move us much.  Plant a seed?  Yes.  But again, not dog people.  Not dog-hair people.  Not stationary people (we like to be on the move).  Not patient people (have I mentioned the door slamming?? ha!).

But each year I have had a little bit more of a nudge that Elle did indeed have some pretty great points way back when.

And the past two years that nudge has become more of a push.

Most especially for our youngest girl who is doing exceptionally well with the issues she faces but often-times we feel the desperate need for a loyal companion for her.

Don't get me wrong, she is the luckiest girl ever to have a group of the sweetest and most loyal friends.  But their interests are starting to branch off a little bit so we want to be proactive.

And it's not just Lucy.  Every one of our girls have had stars in their eyes about dogs from the get-go.  I'm pretty sure it's what they have wished for when they blow out their birthday candles every single year.  And they get that familiar look in their eyes that I have when I have IWAN every time they see a dog.

So, after much research and discussion between me and Dave, and finally coming to a decision we both felt good about, this was what we surprised them with on Christmas morning:

Ahhhh, our girls are dramatic.

But I'll admit I was tearing up behind my camera.

And after a little while of baffled and teary amazement Elle announced that she didn't know why she was crying since she doesn't even live here ;)

But she was.  And everyone oooo'd and ahhhh'd over the pictures of the litter of puppies we were going to be able to choose from the next day in Utah.

I loved this face Elle captured of Lucy thinking about picking out our own little puppy when we were on our way up in Utah:

After much research and investigation, thinking through a bunch of different scenarios with rescue dogs and all kinds of other options, we chose to get a medium-sized golden-doodle puppy.  They are smart, easily trainable, hypo-allergenic, can be very great therapy dogs...they fit pretty much all our criteria.

And through the brother of a friend we found this sweet littler of pups up in Utah.

Tell me if that's not the toughest decision ever!
They were all so incredibly sweet we could hardly bear to choose just one of them!

Here's a little snippet of our time with the puppies:

After much deliberation and voting, we finally all made a unanimous decision to choose "Pylon." (they named all the puppies "P" names to keep track of them all before they were "adopted" by their families).

The name that Dave has chosen and has one by one cajoled us all into falling in love with is Bo Jangles.  Ha!  Yes, it's a female puppy.  But with all these girls around we all figure Dave has to have some say somewhere!  We'll call her Bo.  And we love her already.

Here she is:
...along with some pretty delighted girls!

It was hard to say goodbye!  She still needed a few more weeks with her mama before we could take her home.
We have been missing her ever since, but TODAY marks the day that she arrives.

Oh boy.

Lots of emotions rolling around here as we've waited for this day.  When we broke the news to Max (on Christmas when we talked to him) he looked at us with a smile and replied, "I hate dogs!"  Ha!  I guess there are all kinds of crazy strays where he lives right now and he has learned to shy away from them.  But little Bo is going to capture his heart when he gets home I'm sure:)  The girls are all just positively oozing with delight.  Elle keeps asking for updates from over in Hawaii, Grace keeps counting down the days, Claire keeps telling me all the things she's going to do with that little puppy, and how she imagines her greeting her each day when she gets home from school, and Lucy is pretty much just worried about the safety of her Legos for now.  Ha!

Dave and I are excited, but we are not naive enough to think that this is going to be easy.  We know that although these girls claim they will take care of every single thing, and that despite what we teach and what charts we have, etc., there will be a lot of work on our hands.  Despite the training we are going to be doing, we know there will be chewing and whining and accidents and probably even tears.  What in heavens' name are we thinking?!  Starting tonight I'm sure we are going to be up a bunch with our new "baby."

But every time I start to get worried I have this peaceful feeling surround me telling me we're on the right track.  It may not be easy, but it's right for us right now.  So I'm gearing myself up for an extra family member around here who strangely I already love.

Can't wait.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

two ways to ponder about raising teenagers and family systems

I'm sharing links to two resources today.

Because like parenting books I always try to have close, it's always great to have ideas to re-work mothering from time to time.

1)  I had the opportunity a couple weeks ago to be interviewed by Jessica Dahlquist a little bit ago.  She is a pretty exceptional lady who has interviewed all kinds of moms about all kinds of ideas.  It was so great to talk to her!  The topic of our conversation was on raising teenagers, but really we touched on a lot more than that.  All kinds of motherhood ideas and thoughts from toddlers to communication to dealing with chaos.  

That interview went live yesterday.  And Lucy and I listened to it together, her eyes widening every time I mentioned her:)  Jessica asked me all kinds of things about what I've learned over the years and it was kind of fun to reminisce.
You can listen to that over HERE.  

2)  I talk a lot on this blog about family systems.  Jobs, money systems, practicing, traditions, schedules...the whole gamut of things we mothers deal with every day.  

Well, my sister has put together a pretty awesome 1-hour webinar for TOMORROW (Thursday, January 19th) on all kinds of family system topics.  All kinds of tried-and-true ideas to glean from.

You can sign up HERE to listen and get all the information.
I'm pretty sure once we listen in we will all look like that family up there, happily getting along and working together.  Ha!  But maybe we'll get at least a little notch closer to that!

Once you're signed up there you will get information sent to your email about how to tune in tomorrow (Thursday).  

I'm excited to listen in.  

Happy listening!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"guided" -- one word for 2017

Over the holiday season one phrase spoke to me over and over and over again:

"But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."

It's from Luke 2:19, and it hit me so much that when I saw these images of both my "Marys" from Christmas Eve show up on my camera I wanted to keep them close.  And ponder them as well.
I wonder what they were thinking in those split-seconds?  What were they pondering?

I know, it's a very small verse jumbled amidst bigger and more important ones, and not seemingly really a very integral part of the whole story.

But when you think about it, maybe that pondering was really what made the whole story happen:  that Mary was willing to be still enough to ponder in her heart.  To let the miraculous events become part of who she was, to let them help her become the kind of person she needed to be.

There is power in pondering.  A power that brings understanding and light.  Guidance and safety.

And I like to think that Mary was well-aware of that.

She had to be to do what she did.

Sometimes in this world crammed to the gills with technology, never-ending ideas thrown at us and endless cyberspace to "catch up with," I think it's easy to forget about the pondering and just get busy with the "doing" without giving it much thought.

Try that new recipe!
Buy that cute outfit!
Try this new diet!
Watch that show!
Create that perfect party!

And all of it is fine and good, and quite often helps us to progress in wonderful ways.  But as we race from one thing to the next trying so hard to "fill" it with goodness sometimes we forget to keep some of those things and ponder them in our hearts.

And we forget that the pondering itself is what could fill it up rightly.

That very pondering could possibly make all the difference.  Could slow us down.  Could help us remember what's most important.  And help us find the joy that waits patiently for our hearts to allow it in.

I fell so in love with this scripture as I was doing some of my own "keeping:" many things nestling into my heart, and pondering them in that safe place.

My heart has been so filled with specific things I want to discuss, or write about, or shout from the mountaintops, or bawl my eyes out about, but things that that heart of mine needs to mull over and dissect myself before I "do."

Sometimes all those things get so jumbled up in that heart of mine it's hard to detangle them, but most of the time, keeping them close and letting them transform my feelings and thoughts helps me make sense of things.

I think about that lesson in church where we learned about how we can let the fruits of the spirit overcome the works of the flesh (from Galatians 5).

And that lesson about creating beauty for ashes (Isaiah of the very most beautiful scriptures in my opinion) and how sometimes "plan B" is where we end up and exactly what we need to learn from.

I wrestle in the middle of the night about decisions children are making and how I can guide them.  How I can help them connect to God to guide them.

I think of their friends and how we can help them too.  And my young women.  And that man on the street corner without a home.

I am reading a book about North Korea and I ponder and marvel at what is happening there.  Here in this same world.  

I watch a movie about a young boy lost in India and I sit in the movie theater, tears streaming down my face because I've seen that boy.  Thousands of them.  On the streets in India and my heart aches to find a way to reach out and help every one of them.

How to better balance pushing and praising and how to make our kids "hungry" for work and learning.

How to incorporate more reading and writing into our family and how to dismantle our ideas of education and forge our own path that works for us.

How to support my two children who are gone, off on their own adventures, to keep them tethered safely to us yet to let them fly.

I wonder about how a great woman I know told me she tries to make the gospel a living part of life for her children, which in turn, of course, makes me wonder at how I'm doing in that category.

I think about my husband, how to keep him firmly at #1 amidst all the other swirling needs surrounding us on all sides. And how I hit the lottery, over and over again, that he's mine.

I wonder about this blog, who it is helping, who it may be hurting, how to go forward.

And Lucy, always Lucy, what doctors to see, what her trajectory is and could be depending on how we guide and lead, and what we can do to lift and encourage that girl of ours.  And how we can let her lift us up too, because she does that with certainty.

Each thought (these are a few amidst a flurry of them) deserves some deep pondering.  Each deserves to be detangled from the rest and shined up brightly and dissected.  Yet I am wise enough to know I cannot reach them all.  I cannot be them all.  

I know because I've sure tried.  

And failed over and over again.

I've learned that only God knows how to help decipher the "best" amidst so many "goods" that pull and prod in so many different directions.

In all my pondering I've realized that that (the pondering) alone isn't enough.  It wasn't enough for Mary and it's not enough for me. She pondered but then acted on her ponderings.  I have to "do" to give life to all that "keeping" and "pondering in my heart." 

But I don't think those actions are as powerful or focused or full of love without the pondering first.  

So I have chosen "GUIDED" for my "word" to help lead me in 2017 because I think it fully incorporates all those thoughts wrapped up together. (I pick out one word each year to be my mantra for the year.  Some years I emerge triumphant in becoming that word, others I realize I could have done more, but I love having a word to ponder over each year.)  

GUIDED is how I want to emerge from 2017.  

I don't think you can feel truly guided unless you ASK.  And to ask the right things you have to PONDER.

And also LISTEN.

Which needs to be followed up by DO-ing.

I need guidance to help me detangle that mass of worries and joys and to-dos that are always collected, filed and pondered in my heart.  

So GUIDED as an action word spoke to me this year.  I was guided to that word.  Truly.  And I'm excited to try to act on what I need to do to gain that guidance.

I'm adding my own little addendum to my favorite scripture of the holidays: "And Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart," ...and was guided in how to interpret and incorporate and act upon them.

I have already started deliberately listening better for that guidance and it makes a difference.

Monday, January 16, 2017

November little things

Slowly but surely I'm catching up on our history here.  Very motivated by this book my sister-in-law whipped up for me (here...and I really shouldn't say "whipped" because I'm sure it wasn't all that quick of a job...).  I already wrote a bunch about November here and there, but here are the "little things" I don't want to let fall through my memory cracks.

We started November like this:

And rounded it up like this:
And there was lots of goodness and light and stress and fret and worry and wonder all wrapped up in between.

Max went from working for a couple months in the mission office:
 ...and then got transferred back down to the southern part of Taiwan with a new companion:
And although he missed the close proximity with his Mission President and all the elders in that area, he was so excited to get back out teaching full-time every day he could hardly stand it.
(I'm pretty sure that's not really where he "knocks" to talk to people, but I gotta give him an A+ for the pretty Chinese flaire:)

Elle explored more of the beauty Hawaii has to offer and fell head-over-heels even more in love with that place...
(Can you even believe that gorgeousness?  And that looks a little scary Elle...)

She ended one semester and started another one, and worked her little heart out resulting in all A's.  GO ELLE!

(More about Elle's Hawaii adventures in November back HERE.)

And she came to be with us for Thanksgiving to wrap up the month.

Grace cheered up a storm:

Claire ran a hundred miles around random soccer fields:

And Lucy?  Well, she worked her tail off writing her special book...
...and turning her bedroom into a Lego universe.

But let's get to the overall things:

We made our traditional Thanksgiving tree (back HERE)...
 ...and sent one to Max (who got it a little late, but still looks pretty happy about it...):
We sent some "thankful turkey hands" to his Mission President and his wife as well and thought it was so sweet that they sent us a picture as well :)
Love those two SO much!

Our missionary chart got a little more filled in...

Held Evening in Excellence for church:
(more about that back HERE)

It was mis-match day at school...and least I sure HOPED it really was when I dropped off this girl in all her mis-matched glory:
(And it really was, thank Heavens!)

Grace and I accidentally kind of opposite-matched for our lunch date:

Our dear, sweet friends got baptized.

It was kind of a crazy weekend so I went to set up for a little refreshment gathering after the baptism a day early.
...and then headed to sleep over at the zoo with this girl of mine on her zoology-club field-trip sleep-over:
(Lots of emotions that night, but loved being with that good girl...more HERE.)

We snuck out a little early to get home in time for this extra special event:
(Which I wrote all about back HERE talking about "fullness" and the amazing feeling this day brought.)

I got random pics from Elle and from her friends too...

Lucy bided her time on the sideline of the few soccer games I was able to cajole her into accompanying me to...
It helped to have a friend at this one :)
Dave had a friend too :)

These girls are getting pretty bonded.  Love them together.

In November we worked hard on trying to furnish our living room to get ready for Thanksgiving.

It went from this:
To this...
To this right before Thanksgiving:

More about how we transformed that living room (still not done, but closer) over HERE.

We finally got our painting we fell in love with in Bali framed. In order to do a float frame I had to paint the edges (since they'd show a little).  Scary business.
But it turned out just how we love it:

We had a game night with friends to celebrate a birthday:

We tried to memorize quotes:

Claire wrapped up her school soccer and had a little informal ceremony to commemorate that ending at school, complete with a little certificate:
(More about her school team soccer back HERE, but her club is still going strong...)

My friend who we met in China and have remained friends ever since (she and her family moved here shortly after we got home), was getting ready to move back East so I tried to soak her up a little before she left :(

Elle went to all kinds of surf competitions and met a bunch of the big surfers there.

I got this text from the place where I work out and it really hit me:
I gotta remember that!

We live in an area where there is a new neighborhood getting built out very quickly and very close-by.  This means our ward congregation is growing rapidly.  Our neighbors had the grand idea to go together to visit each new family and bring them a loaf of bread.  We separated visiting the 28 families (at that time, now, in January I think we're up to 40!) into two different weeks and we loved getting to know them.

We invited them to a little dessert open-house in our cul-de-sac before the holidays hit.  This is the only picture I got:
But I love it because it symbolizes a lot of great people and a lot of love we feel for all of them...and they just keep coming!

We read the Aviator's Wife for book club:
(lots of thoughts on that back HERE)

Grace sweet-talked her friends into going on an adventure to watch the sun rise at the lake:
They were pretty excited about that.

Love all the pictures we get from Max each week.
He always looks so happy.
And I love this group of his friends moms who I get together with occasionally while all our boys are gone serving missions spread all over the world:
(They are the mothers of some of Max's very best friends.)

A little birthday visit to our neighbor's "baby" who just turned two:
She was born right before we returned from China.  Makes me marvel that we've been home that long!

We sat in shock watching the election:
How in the world did that happen?  I'm still wondering that.

Dave and I were happy to be leaving all of it the next day on a little trip:
We got this quote en route which really hit home:
Such a good one.
We got to be spoiled in such a beautiful spot:

Eating beautiful food:
(That was a salad with roasted pistachios and arugula and feta cheese along with watermelon...oh boy, I still dream of that thing!)

And even better friends:

Meanwhile soccer kept on going...
...and it's not leaving any time soon...

And I'm pretty sure that it's a rule that you sometimes have to get treats after the games.

We tried some new techniques with scripture study:
(How we tried to switch it up back HERE.)

My brother moved into a new home.  He was pretty over-the-moon about it and we were pretty happy for him too.  This is when we brought him a little house-warming gift and got a little tour of the new place:

Loved watching the "super moon."
I stole that pic. from my sis-in-law...hope that's ok Annie, love it!

The girls and I watched it snuggled up on a chair in our back yard.

These cousins had a sleepover with their Nana...and a big breakfast to wrap it up:

The Turkey Trot Team had lots of prep for the big day:

Love these friends who find pretty great stuff to do:
Temple with the young women in our congregation...
...those two had sporting practices so we came a little late.

We had "the flood" which was quite a fiasco:
Lucy was pleased as punch about the whole deal as you can see...
Ha!  Fans always cheer people up right?
(more about that flood and what my girls taught me in the midst of the chaos back HERE)

Lucy doesn't ever let me leave the bathtub while it's filling now...even if there's just an inch of water in it.

After the flood Claire and I figured hey, why go to school when you can go together to help pack food for BrainFood:
It was a great date I hope we remember for a long time for a lot of reasons.

Lucy did a great drawing for desert animals.

It's hiking season prime-time around here.
These ladies and I hiked up one side of a mountain and down the other, then up and back all over again.
It was awesome.

My brother is always helping with something or other... him so.

This is usually our position when we FaceTime with Elle at night before we go to sleep:

Our friends' boys got baptized a couple weeks after they did.
Their dad got to baptize them and it was so beautiful.

So much joy filled us all up that day.

I loved this project Lucy was working on:

Visited old friends who are remodeling a house.
Miss and love them so much!

I taught art masterpiece.
We did self-portraits modeled after Van Gogh's portraits.

I really adored what these little artists came up with.

So did they.  They were so proud to show them off.

Then the Thanksgiving gathering began.

Elle arrived from Hawaii, and semi surprised some of her sisters...

(Not quite like the "big surprise" last time back HERE.)

After almost a year of prep, we finally changed this wall:
To this one:
...that we love so much. 

(More about that wall and how we did it back HERE.)

At this point, there was a LOT of Turkey Trot prep work being done.
Even Claire was preparing:
I had to steam this sucker to get it in working condition for the next day:

Then it was on to the real deal:
(Lots more about that Turkey Trot back HERE.)

We had not one, but TWO new baby cousins born the day before Thanksgiving.  My brother had his NUMBER SIX (three boys and three girls...and we met her in back at the end of THIS post).

But the day after thanksgiving we got to meet Dave's sister's sweetie-pie baby boy which brings them up to FOUR BOYS.

Oh boy, we are lucky to have sweet baby cousins to snuggle up.  We had to go meet little Thomas directly after the Turkey Trot before he got too far out of that little fresh-from-heaven newborn minute.
(I already included that pic. in all the pre-Thanksgiving prep work back HERE, but had to post it again because hey, we don't get many babies around here these days!)

Then it was off to finish Thanksgiving dinner prep...

...and soak up this crowd to give thanks:
One big thing I gave thanks for that day was having these four reunited:
Love those four girls of mine.
More Thanksgiving wrap-up stuff back HERE.

We had one last adult gathering at my in-laws before the visitors started taking off:
(Loved having Dave's cousin and his wife here with us through all the crazy Thanksgiving stuff.)

Claire steals babies at church any chance she can get:

Dave had a birthday.

The two of us got to spend the whole day together with no other distractions which seems to be hard to come by these days.  It was pretty awesome I have to say.

We celebrated with the girls by going out to dinner after waiting forever for Claire to get done with soccer...
We FaceTimed with Elle while we waited for our food.

Then came home for cake and ice cream:

Love that man up there.

Lots of stress went around getting this Christmas package ready for Max.
It's hard to figure out what in the world to send to a missionary that will uplift and be useful, but I think we did ok with that thing.

It felt pretty great to drop it off at the post office I must say!
This pic. is from December, but it's good to see how happy he was that he got the tree and all the other stuff in that little Christmas box:

Another pic. from Elle.

Lucy bought this little horse necklace with the babysitter while Dave and I were out of town and she wore it practically every day since, without fail:
She puts it in a little special spot on her nightstand every night, just so.

That girl sure likes routine I tell you!

I had lunch with this friend (the one who was baptized at the beginning of the month) and she was just glowing.  Some of the stories she told me over lunch were just so beautiful, one in particular made me tear up.
So grateful for what the gospel has brought to her and her family.  And so grateful that she shares that with me.  And so grateful for how it strengthens my gratitude even more for this church we get to be a part of.

We wrapped up the month with our Young Women fund raiser to raise money for girls' camp this summer.  

We sold caramel apple kits that people could give away for Christmas gifts.
These girls were busy as could be assembling all the kits.
And Lucy was pleased as punch that she got to be there in the thick of things.

We pulled off putting together hundreds of kits in record time.

I feel so lucky I get to work with all these wonderful girls!
(and the leaders too!)

The sister missionaries came and gave us a message to wrap things up.

And let's wrap this wing-dinger of a post up with Max...
...looks like he's teaching a little class at church.

And he doesn't look too sad about that service.

Love it.
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