Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Beautiful Italy

I will write in more detail about my wonderful trip to Italy in the coming days, but for now, I will include a few photos and instead of a write-up, I will include the words to songs, poems, or scriptures that came to mind while I was there.

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.

"Enjoy the little things in life. One day you'll look back and realize they were the big things."

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."
LDS Article of Faith #11

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flow'r,
Sun and moon, and stars of light,

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
~For the Beauty of the Earth hymn

"Your talent is God's gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God."


 I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. 

~Henry David Thoreau

Don't underestimate what the Lord is doing through you. 
~Elder Uchtdorf

 "Do anything. But let it produce joy." ~ Walt Whitman

"We travel not to escape life, but so life doesn't escape us."

"In the end, we will only regret the chances we didn't take, relationships we were too afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make."

"In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured."
~ Gordon B. Hinckley

Sunday, April 10, 2016


"I can't believe I am nine. I am getting old."
 "I just want a cake that is a number 9 but is green."

"It doesn't feel any different being nine."

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


My baby is SEVEN.
My BABY is seven.

"I always wanted this scooter."

 Drew's cousin: "I want to eat the baseball that's on the cake."

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

God's Hand. Ellie's Heart.

I’ve hesitated whether to write anything publicly about experiences around here of late. We’ve written plenty in private emails, text exchanges and journal entries, and thought that would be the extent of it. As I laid my head on my pillow last night, it took a surprising effort to fall asleep despite feeling utterly exhausted from a long day. The events of the last month kept playing themselves out in my mind, and after falling to my knees in humble prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude, sleep did come. With it, came the thought that I should be more open about sharing our experiences with others. It is part of our faith, our belief and our testimony--that God is not only in the details of our lives, but He is a God of miracles, and they do still exist in our world today. We have experienced them. Therefore, we will share an abridged version of our experience, in our small way of testifying of God's goodness, mercy and love.

I wrote about Ellie's mystery finger injury a few weeks back. We never did find out a reason for it being broken in two places, but that enigmatic finger turned out to be the start of a series of miracles in Ellie's life. 

I'm going to write the series of events briefly. We know what we view as miracles, I don't need to identify them specifically.

At Ellie's appointment for her finger, the receptionist told me Ellie was due for a well-check up and that I should schedule one. I had planned for her to get one around her upcoming 12th birthday in May to coincide with her getting the required junior high shots. But instead, for whatever reason, I made an appointment for the next week.

A week later at that visit, Ellie's pediatrician spent extra time listening to Ellie's heart. Thinking she heard something abnormal, she had 2 other doctors come in and listen. I stood there as both of the other doctors said everything sounded within the normal range. Our doctor listened again and had the others listen to HER stethoscope, but they still thought everything sounded normal.  Regardless of her co-workers opinions, our pediatrician told me she felt as though Ellie needed to be referred to a pediatric cardiologist at Primary Children's Medical Center.

I was able to get an appointment AT PRIMARY CHILDREN'S MEDICAL CENTER FOUR days later.

The pediatric cardiologist found everything normal that she could HEAR, but routinely did an EKG in which they found a problem within the "electrical system of the heart." The pediatric cardiologist herself, recognized the "powers that be" causing our pediatrician to refer us for something that is impossible to hear. Due to the results of the EKG, she referred us to an electrophysiologist. Knowing Ellie was in the middle of cheer competition season and typically very active (cast was due off the next week and we were planning to go to Portland for a competition), and knowing high exertion could be risky, the cardiologist went up to the front desk and made an appointment with us for the soonest we could be seen. We were to return one week later.

A few days after Ellie's initial cardiologist appointment, I returned to our pediatrician for an unrelated issue with another child. I gave her a brief update on Ellie. After her initial shock that Ellie had already been seen by the cardiologist, she looked me in the eyes and said, "Someone wanted me to hear something that day."

When checking in the next week with the electrophysiologist, I overheard the receptionists talking surprisingly about our appointment. We came to find out a few minutes later, that the doctor actually wasn't "in clinic" that day, but had set up our appointment amidst a conference call and interviews upstairs.

In layman terms, the doctor informed us that Ellie had an abnormality within the functioning of her heart. Unbeknownst to us, she was born with the abnormality, but she never had any symptoms....yet. Due to the lack of symptoms, if she were to continue in physically exerting gymnastics/cheer, it is quite likely we would have never known anything was wrong with her heart until it was quite possibly too late and she could go into cardiac arrest. That could have been 2 weeks or 5 years from now.

Ellie was told she needed to have a procedure done on her heart, and that until it was done, she would be unable to participate in any physically exerting activities (way more devastating to her than the words "at risk of sudden death" that the doctor kept throwing around the conversation). Abruptly stepping down from her competition cheer team smack dab in the middle of competitions was not an easy task for a constant cartwheel flipping and back-hand springing 11 year old girl to do.

Yesterday, March 14th, Ellie underwent a 4 hour procedure on her heart. It was a long 4 hours, but despite me feeling fidgety, Mike and I never felt anxious or worried while waiting for news of the procedure progress. As text after text came through my phone throughout the day, I felt the love, concern, faith and prayers of so many people close to us. 
The procedure went very well. The doctor said it was only a matter of time until the symptoms of her condition would have appeared. It is now 98% likely it is completely fixed, though they'll know with certainty in 2 months

Here we are a day later. Ellie is doing great! She is sore at the sites the three catheters entered into her body, but after a lazy, restful day today, she will be almost completely back to real life tomorrow. 

Today, I gifted Ellie three bracelets I purchased at the hospital gift shop yesterday. I told her, I picked out each one for a specific reason and I want them to always be a tangible reminder of three things. 1. The heart is self-explanatory-but to always remember the story associated with that heart of hers beating inside her body. 2. The "love you" one-is to remember all the people that have given her gifts, sent texts, served us, etc. I hope she always remembers how many people love and care for her. 3. The angel bracelet is to remind her that Heavenly Father uses people here on earth to accomplish His works. There is no end to the angels both seen and unseen that play a part in our lives. (We think our pediatrician is one of them.)

We have no explanation for why some youth meet a sudden death on a gym floor or a sports field, and why Ellie was likely spared that ending. We acknowledge the Lord's hand in Ellie's life. We feel humbled and very blessed that we have been the benefactors of true, modern-day miracles.

We believe God lives. We believe He loves us, and we believe that He is involved in the details of our lives. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mike and Me

For three years now, Mike and I have been gracious guests of Mountainland Supply Company on a Caribbean cruise. Each cruise finds us in a traveling group of 60-100 people, made up of fellow landscape and plumbing contractors, and of course the MSC workers that serve as our hosts. We both feel tremendously blessed for the opportunities, and we thoroughly enjoy the downtime, and the forced separation from real life that comes from being on a ship at sea.

I know it isn't the case for every couple, but Mike and I really enjoy spending time together. Life with a business, five children and regular life gets sort of crazy at times, so we don't take for granted the time we have alone together. Whether it's a Scrabble game on a Sunday afternoon, a quick lunch together during the week, or a week alone in the Caribbean, Mike and I do our best to make the most of time alone.

Mike and I frequently make it a point to make sure our children know that our relationship with each other comes first, and we make little to no apology when we turn down other things to be together.

Our time spent on cruises have always included plenty of time together; playing Scrabble, reading, simply relaxing, and most of all NOT BEING INTERRUPTED by five demanding children. Our first cruise we spent a lot of time on the top floor in a library that opened into a bar area, that had lots of tables and we spent a fair amount of time playing Scrabble and Rummikub with a couple from CA that invited themselves to join our game one afternoon.

I'll interrupt myself to mention that upon arriving on the ship, one of the first places we explore is the library and check if there are Scrabble games available. This most recent cruise scored big points because it had brand new, unopened games available to play. Hooray for Scrabble games with no missing tiles!

Last year's cruise, we spent a lot of our free time in a mid-floor office type room that had an awesome spiral stair case up to a library. And this year, our favored place became the back of the ship behind the main cafe. It wasn't so much that the couches we frequented were comfortable, but it was in close proximity for the hours of offered sushi (Mike) and crusty bread and cheese varieties (me).

I have never really given much thought to the time Mike and I spent together while the ship is sailing the sea. We make it to the 2 "work meetings" that are really just fun games with cash prizes but called "work meetings" for the IRS purposes of bringing people on a free cruise, and we frequent the formal dining room to socialize with our group a few nights of the cruise.

Throughout the time on the ships, I've always seen different groups of people from our large group hanging out at different times and places together, I've never given any thought to Mike and I preferring to be alone. I didn't think anyone else noticed, until this last cruise, one of the ladies who has been on all 3 with us said, "So where is your private hide-out on this ship?"

Her tone was hard to read. I'm hopeful she was being facetious.
But I'm not sure.
And now I've got myself wondering if next year's cruise I have to feign the desires to be more social.

But if that's the cost of a free cruise.
I'll likely oblige.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Things We Do

So, I think I sort of shot myself in the foot...
Especially considering just this morning, feeling as though I deserved a break I laid on the couch and let my children eat cold cereal for breakfast asking myself, "Do I do too much for my children?" (After I had already packed 5 lunches, fixed oatmeal for a child that then decided they didn't want it, and had already fixed breakfast for a child that left before the others...) Typically, after arriving home from the gym around 6:20, I'm straight into wake-up children, fix breakfast, pack lunches, get out the door mode. This morning, I went on a temporary strike.

Let's back-up to give just a little background from a couple of different perspectives...

Point one: I came home from my early morning shift working at the temple on Saturday, to find Mike organizing our big pantry. It was a pleasant, much needed surprise, yet I couldn't help feel like a little ashamed when he mentioned a long list of things we are out of, and presented a handful of expired cans of food. (I typically pride myself on not having expired food.) Now before you start thinking of faulting me for feeling shame--it wasn't like you think--it's just, well, we eat so many fresh food, fruits and vegetables, that simply keeping a fridge and pantry full for 7 people for immediate consumption, sort of makes one forget the longer term storage that's wise to keep.

Point two: Mike has been requesting that we eat more rice. I've never been a huge rice fan myself, but he likes it, and I keep meaning to incorporate more rice into our meals.

Point three: I've been sort of low on rice lately, and yesterday while at Costco, decided to stock up on rice to help out with aforementioned points one and two.

On another note,

Point one: Though we have both an upstairs and downstairs furnace, due to the layout of our home, the master bedroom upstairs is always cold. I don't like climbing into my cold sheets at night and feeling like I'm camping outside in Antarctica. Last week, I remembered a rice bag that has probably gone unused for over a year or so, and have taken to having a child heat it up for me each night and bring to my bed. I love it!

Point two: For some reason last night before bed, Drew asked if he could use the rice bag. I might add, that I think Luke had originally requested it, but somehow (I think it had something to do with him swinging it at a sibling) it ended up in Drew's possession. Somehow later, (I think after Mike caught Drew with it in mid-swing with it ready to hit Joshua) the rice bag was sitting unused in my bedroom, and Joshua politely came in and asked if he could use it. I obliged.

For the first time in a week, last night I fell asleep with cold feet.

This morning, after I had risen from the couch to continue the morning duties with my children (like making sure children have needed library books, making sure papers are signed, lunches in backpacks, teeth are brushed, medication give to child with sore arm due to yesterday's shots, etc. etc. etc.) Joshua said to me, "Mom, if today you aren't doing anything or going anywhere and you have nothing to do, will you  make a rice bag for me to use?"

It wasn't really the fact that making a rice bag will maybe take 10 minutes maximum, it's the fact my son thinks a. I likely am not doing anything or that I have NOTHING to do.

As I hugged and kissed Joshua goodbye at the front door, he again said, "Remember if you have nothing to do today, can you make me a rice bag?"

For the record, I actually have several things to do today, a few places to go, and lots of I "want to get to's". Yet the selfish part of me, remember back to my first paragraph--for whatever reason, I woke up feeling sort of selfish today; begrudging the morning routine, thinking I do wwwaaayyyyy too much for my children, and not feeling guilty that they were eating cold cereal on a mid-week day. (Typically Friday's are the only days they eat cold cereal.), all I could think about was, "I AM NOT GOING TO BED WITH COLD FEET AGAIN TONIGHT. THAT RICE BAG IS MINE."

So, to ensure that Yours Truly gets the rice bag tonight, guess what I spent 30 minutes doing this morning?
Making not one, but 3 rice bags. But I'm beginning to guess, it may have introduced a whole new slew of problems.

1. When Joshua returns home today from school and sees the rice bags, he will be happy. But there is a risk that it will confirm to him that his mother does nothing and had nowhere to go, or nothing to do other than make him a rice bag.

2. Making the rice bags took up the last of a container of rice I'd purchased yesterday at Costco, and so that is one less "storage" of rice I had so proudly added to my storage shelf yesterday. (I may add, we had rice for dinner last night.)

3. Mike isn't interested in using a rice bag. But I only made three, plus the one I have been using, plus one old one I dug out from the recesses of a closet. So that equals 5. There will likely be 6 interested persons in having a rice bag tonight.

4. It is likely one or more rice bags will again be used as a weapon tonight in an effort for the 6th person to acquire one.

5. On the bright side, perhaps someone will lose the privilege of using one, and that will make an easy solution for that problem.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling tomorrow I'll be making one more rice bag.

To answer this morning's rhetorical question to myself while laying on the couch, "Do I do too much for my children?" I answer with a resounding, "YES!!!!"

But I guess that's the price a mother has to pay to go to bed with warm feet.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Ellie's Mystery Injury

Mike had to recently highlight/introduce Ellie somewhere, and one of the comments he made was when he thinks of Ellie, he pictures her feet more than her face. Ellie is constantly back flipping or cartwheeling through the house, yard, etc. that it is far more common to see her feet and legs than her face.

Ellie has always loved gymnastics, and almost a year ago, she really wanted to try out for a competition cheer team. Mike and I really weren't excited about her pursuing this, but seeing Ellie's enthusiasm and desire, and wanting Ellie to explore something she loved, Mike and I acquiesced. Before we knew it Ellie was spending a fair amount of time (and our $$) at a local gym.

December began the official "cheer competition season" and after months of practicing, they began to perform. Ellie participated in a competition in December, and one in January. The schedule included three in February (including one in Oregon), and one in March to finish up the season.

Two weeks ago, Ellie spent Monday and Tuesday laying on the couch sick with the stomach flu. On the  Tuesday night Ellie complained that her middle finger was swollen and bruised. Knowing she had done nothing but spend the last couple days doing nothing, we didn't think too much of it. The next morning the bruising had spread to her two fingers either side. Mike and I assumed if it was a burst blood vessel or something similar. That evening, Ellie as at her friend's house next-door and our neighbor (an x-ray tech) said Ellie really should get it looked at. Mike echoed the suggestion to me later that night, and despite the fact I was hoping for a day to myself after finally getting everyone well and back to school, I decided to make an appointment to get the unexplained swelling and bruising looked at.

To make a long story short, we were told it wasn't broken and sent home on our way. After first the doctor bringing in 3 other doctors to look at the weird bruising with no trauma story or broken bone. We were told to return if the bruising got worse.

An hour later, while lunching with Mike, I received a phone call that it was indeed broken (resident versus doctor reading the x-ray), and that she needed to see a specialist the next day as it was on/near the growth plate at the base of her middle finger.

A visit to the specialist told us Ellie's finger is broken across the base of her middle finger, and broken in a second place to the lower right. He also told us she has a high threshold for pain, as she hardly even winced as the doctor squeezed, moved and wiggled her finger. (This is the child that the only way I knew she had repeated ear infections as a baby was because of a fever-no crying-yet CRIES with all the energy she can muster if she gets a paper cut or an (un)intentional blow from a sibling.)

Ellie's tears may not have fallen because of any pain, but my heart broke when Ellie burst into tears upon the doctor's announcement she would need a cast. 

I wanted to get a photo of her new cast the day it was put on, but I didn't have the heart to capture Ellie's tear-stained face. It isn't really a "badge of honor" around here, it's a reminder of a painful time for Ellie. And the pain, has nothing to do with any broken bones. She has put soooo much time into this cheer team gearing up for this competition season, so not being able to participate in the fruit of her labors hasn't been very easy for her.

Saturday was a sad day around here...it was a competition day, and Ellie was replaced on her team for it. We have one more competition to skip, and hopefully, though she can't cross her fingers, we are hoping to go to Portland, OR on the 26th. The cast will come off the day before, but the doctor unfortunately has no faith that Ellie will dictate her own healing/return to activity based on what may or may not be painful--because she didn't feel any pain to begin with.

One week down, three to go.

On the bright side, she is perfecting her one handed cartwheels.


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