Sunday, April 24, 2016

Celebrating Earth Day

Happy (belated) Earth Day!!!

As I write this, Keith and I are driving from Fargo to St. Louis, a trip which is taking us south with the Mississippi through the center of the country. We drove out of the town which was slowly clawing it's way out of winter. It kept on slipping back.

Iowa had made more progress. It had a foot firmly placed in the door of spring and a few farmers were beginning to plant their fields.

Missouri had flung the door of spring wide open with its colorful flowers and blossoming trees.

One of my absolute favorite things about road trips has always been watching out the window to see God's handiwork change. Sometimes the change would be dramatic, such as traveling west across North Dakota into the badlands or from the peaks of the Rockies onto the flat prairies below. But most are subtle. The  gradual change of vegetation, or the slow from utter flatness to the gentle rhythm of traveling over low rolling hills.

It will come to no surprise to those who know me that this is one of my favorite scriptures:

Doctrine and Covenants 59:18-20
Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgement, not to excess, neither by extortion.

God intended us to fully enjoy, not simply use, his creations. I want my children to know the simple joys of breathing fresh air as they explore open places and forests, watch small bugs in the grass, hear the magical sounds of birds, and feel cool mud squish between their toes. I want them to delight in natures wonders, as I do. God saw fit to preserve my life on Earth day three years ago and I am going to do my best to live it fully; not just for my sake but for that of my dear children. They deserve nothing less.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Seizure Groupies

Lunch at a lovely city park while there was a break during the conference. 

Last Saturday Keith and I took a trip to Minneapolis to attend the first Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota conference.

We came away with some good information. It was especially nice to grab a minute with the doctors or specialists after the sessions to get there opinion on what we should do next at this point.

We also came away with some "swag" from the many companies and organizations that had booths at the conference. The kids especially like the pencils that change color as they change temperature and have brain erasers. Pretty cool.

I came away feeling very grateful for the many many support networks that are out there for people with epilepsy. Especially for those who don't know what the cause is. I am one of the blessed few who know why they have seizures. My seizures are a (very obnoxious) symptom of the tumor. At times I feel helpless, but knowledge is power and I am blessed with the knowledge that so very many others at that conference do not have. My heart ached as I talked to a mother of a young daughter with epilepsy. Like so many others there, no one could tell her what was causing the seizures that were slowly erasing the daughter she once knew.

It is times like these that make me thankful that I have a tumor.

Friday, April 8, 2016

A Fun Filled Visit from Amma

       In early March Keith had to go to Chile for a week. Poor guy. He did his best to convince me that it wasn't going to be all that great, but I would have switched him places anyway, given the chance. Flying in a plane all by myself to a warmer country, staying in a hotel where breakfast is ready for you each morning, going out to eat each night, and getting to spend two days at the beach and hiking in the mountains (even if I had to work the other 5 days), sounded lovely. Absolutely lovely.

It still does.

However, Amma came to stay with us for two weeks, so even though it was still winter in Fargo, we had a good time.

Her first Saturday here the weather was actually nice enough for a trip to the zoo. Yes, there is a zoo in Fargo. No, it is not very big. Yes, they can only have cold hardy animals, like Bactrian Camels who are from frigid Mongolia. But it is the perfect size for kids. Not too big and not so small that they get bored.
I like the middle picture where Charlie is man-handling Jane's head in an effort to help her see the crane.

Our weekend with Ted E. Left, top to bottom: Ted E. playing Sneaky Snacky Squirrel with Charlie and Amma, at Courts Plus, at the dentist. Center: at Space Aliens. Right, top to bottom: at the zoo (wolves in background above Ted's head), helping out Charlie during his blood draw.

That first weekend, Charlie also got his turn to take Ted E. Bear, the preschool bear, home. He was super stoked. Along with Ted E. came his journal, or rather the journal that the parents of the chosen child has to fill out with stories of his weekend adventures including pictures. Don't forget the pictures. No pressure Mom and Dad. Luckily for us, since Amma was here, we already had big plans for the weekend.

Right off the bat Ted E. proved to be quite helpful. Charlie had to have a blood draw shortly after school that day. He had had one less than two weeks prior and it was an absolute NIGHTMARE. This time Ted E. came along to help Charlie be brave and between he, and Amma's relaxation breathing she taught Charlie, it went off without a hitch. Nice work Ted and Amma. After the blood draw Keith took Charlie and Ted E. to Charlie's absolute favorite restaurant in town: Space Aliens. Imagine the restaurant in Toy Story, where Sid gets the little alien squeaky toy, but cooler.

Ted E. also accompanied us to Courts Plus (more on that shortly) on Friday and to the zoo Saturday. On Monday Mr. Ted came in handy once again at the dentist. Charlie loved his first dentist visit but has grown less and less excited over time. Once again he showed Ted E. how brave he could be. It really was a good weekend for a visit from Ted E. Bear.

Courts Plus is technically a gym but I have never been past the front desk. We pay $1 per person at the desk and take a left to the doors that open to a three-story playground on steroids. It is a great place to play hide and seek and to tap into that inner-child again. Among the many features in it are two slides. There is a super fast pipe slide and if you climb to the very top level there is this big three-lane slide. Make sure to wear slick pants if you go. I didn't the first time and was completely bummed that Charlie consistently beat me on the slide races.

I am not sure what the technical term for this things is but it is basically one of those handle slide things that you jump onto and it carries you off to the other side. Charlie was imagining that we were all swinging over a river filled with alligators and he kept on shouting for Amma to get out of the water!

Unfortunately Mom can't be with the grandkids as much as she would like. That is why we love skype. I think it is great that whenever we do get together with family, our kids don't have a long adjustment period while they remember who each person is. Picture books and phone calls help but interacting through live video is as good as it gets with out in-person interaction. While Mom was visiting us we could skype Sarah and Darren's little family in Utah!

Jane had her personal stylist back. Before we even had breakfast the first morning she was here, Mom was saying how she could hardly wait to get her hands on this hair as she moved her fingers through Jane's tangled curls. Jane was surprisingly willing to have Amma do her hair each day. I only wish I had gotten a better picture of the pigtails. At church the first Sunday a friend stopped me in the hall and asked if it was nice to have my mom here. I was a bit confused because I was almost certain that she hadn't seen my mom yet and I hadn't told many people that she was coming. When I asked her how she knew, she said that she had seen Jane in nursery and noticed how nice her hair looked. That should give you a pretty good idea of how well I do at managing her hair if people know my mom is here simply by noticing how Jane's hair looks.

Checking her tongue in the mirror while Mom took me shopping for kid's clothes. It was so nice to run errands again!
It was really nice to have Amma here. Charlie loved showing her gymnastics and preschool. Jane loved the attention she got when tagging along on the little errands while Charlie was at school. I enjoyed the talks, night time movies, and just not feeling the same isolation that accompanies Keith's work trips. Between not driving and not getting out much with the kids in the winter, the days can be extra long when he is gone.

Thanks for the visit Amma! We love you. See you in St. Louis in the fall! (the zoo there is much better ;) )

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Christmas in Utah

A huge "bonus" to Joe and Jessica being married in Utah in December was that it meant that we got to spend Christmas with Granny B and Grandpa Joe! I know this post is REALLY late, but how could I skip a post about a Christmas with grandparents?

There was lots of snow so Grandpa was glad to have extra shovelers around.

We took a trip to the aquarium and it was a hit.

Jane loved the toucan and Charlie loved posing on giant frogs. Jane enjoyed sitting on the frogs but did not enjoy getting her picture taken.

Sledding! Charlie had been desperate for a hill so he could go sledding. Poor Fargo kid.


It isn't sledding without races and as it turned out, we all have a bit of a competitive streak. Keith had to strip down to his shorts to show just how manly he has become from living through Fargo winters.

I love these two fun people.

Rocking a pink snowsuit while sledding is tiring work.
Fox and geese with Grandpa. Charlie had been waiting to have enough people (3 or more) to play this ever since the first snow fell in Fargo.

Grandpa Joe training Charlie in the art of bird identification with the quail and finches out the backdoor.

Granny B gives a new Christmas tree ornament to each grand-kid every year. This year Charlie and Jane each got a little owl.

Bonnie graciously used her sewing magic to greatly improve a poorly made dress I had. As I snapped this picture I heard Charlie say to Granny B: Oh! So that is how you sew! :)

All Granny B asked for for Christmas was an updated and nice photo of each son for her photo wall. So when Shawn sent Keith a digital image for Keith to print out for the wall Keith (with some help from Charlie) made sure it looked nice.

A white Christmas! It was perfection!
Well I thought so at least. But then again I wasn't the one who had to drive to the airport to pick up Shawn and his friend Christmas morning. :)

Jane checking on Ginger, pushing her new baby stroller and brushing one of her new Christmas ponies.

Sadly, shortly after Christmas, Ginger went to heaven where I am sure she is waiting enthusiastically for the one who loves her most. It was a treat to see her, and for the kids to see her, one more time before she died.

Keith and I took a drive with Charlie one day and showed him the sights of our old stomping grounds. Included in the tour was the apartment he lived in when he was born and the newly completed Provo City Temple. A building transformed from historic tabernacle into a holy temple after a fire destroyed everything but the exterior walls.

A trip to Orem wouldn't be complete without visiting the Clegg Clan!

Jane literally would try to yank their baby James from my arms every time I took him out of hers because he was crying. The girl is baby obsessed.

Our entire Utah trip was full of family and lots of love. I don't believe there is any feeling better in the world than being surrounded by love.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Joe+Jessica=J2 Happiness

Joe and Jessica got married!!!

I know it has been over a month, but marriages are too special, too wonderful, too sacred to not be celebrated in a blog. Even more so when it is my "little" brother Joe and his love Jessica! They were married and sealed together for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake City temple (the same temple my grandparents were sealed in decades earlier) on December 18th. Being there as they held hands over the alter, and covenanted to give themselves to each other, was a tender experience. I remember having a great feeling of love for the gift of families wash over me. An united and loving family is truly a powerful force for good. It was a special treat to be there as a brand new one was created.

And I just gotta say how much I love Joe's smile in these pictures. It is his super excited, super happy smile that he has had ever since I can remember. It is the classic Joe smile. This day though, it was even bigger.

I can't go on without first thanking our long time friend Cheryl who took almost all of these pictures. It was so nice to not have to think about catching a few photos of this special day because I knew she was there doing it. As a bonus, I think this post may have more pictures that I am included in than almost any other! She also took all the pictures in this previous post and many of them in this other one. It was super sweet of her.

Also, this is one of those "awesome family memories" posts which means there are quite a few pictures. You have been warned. I find myself going back and looking at old blog posts way more often than I go look at other old pictures on my computer. That is my excuse for doing long posts full of pictures now and again.

Thanks Patti for this precious shot! Charlie LOVES Jessica.

I am am so blessed to belong to this family! We have been through thick and thin together and I love them, each and every one.

These next two are funny to flip back and forth between.

Darren and Grant though are constantly prepared for a photo. Can't catch them off guard!

The photographer asked us to all act excited as Joe and Jessica kissed. I chuckle every single time I look at Charlie in this photo. He looks over the moon with joy that Jessica is now his aunt.

Now these next photos were fun to take. The newly weds with the nieces and nephews. Attempting to get a picture with six kids ranging from almost 5 to 2 months old was quite entertaining.
Little Hannah wasn't very happy with being passed off to Uncle Joe. We were getting Charlie to cooperate with the photo taking by bribing him with jelly beans. Apparently he had squirreled one away into his pocket for safe keeping but to his dismay, it fell to the ground. We didn't understand what he was so upset about so we kept on telling him to look at the camera. Being surprisingly obedient, considering his predicament, instead of snatching it up and popping it into his mouth, he just looked at it. When we kept on trying to get him to look up he just pointed at it.

Eventually we realized what was going on and Keith went in to retrieve the jelly bean. Charlie didn't understand that Daddy would get him another. He thought Dad had just walked off and threw away the last jelly bean. The picture on the right was taken the moment before he began crying. Poor guy!

I love what goes on behind the camera to get little ones to smile.

"Time to par-tay!"

We had been telling the kids during the "boring" picture taking time that there was going to be a party later. They just needed to hanging in there until then. Jane seemed especially happy when the pictures were done and we headed off to the "party."

I have never heard of newly weds being able to eat more than just a few bites of their own cake. Jessica and Joe made it to the reception center (which was a beautiful fancy greenhouse) barely in time to eat some of the enchiladas before the reception started. In the picture in the upper right corner Keith is trying, unsuccessfully, to convince Joe to give him the key to his truck. Joe has been the mastermind behind too many car jobs at weddings to trust anyone with his truck keys. He knew that there were plenty of people who would want to pay him back
They just wanted to put an innocent disco ball in the cab...

They had to settle with putting it on the hitch.

Lizzy, Cory and their sweet boys, Ben and Cooper. I love these guys.

Jane loved playing with Emily, my lovely cousin, during the reception. It was so fun to hear Jane's giggles. Bottom right: Joe and Tay-tay. Tay-tay and Joe go way back and he also knew Jessica before Joe did.

Charlie playing under the tables with Aunt Liz's animal light key chain thing. Uncle Alex chatting with Jane. Grant looking skeptical at the camera. Grandpa Joe (Keith's dad) snuggling a sleeping Hannah. He has this magical ability to make babies fall asleep in his arms. Sarah was very grateful for his skills and willingness to help during the reception.

The very talented Jessica made her own wedding cake! Joe just tried to distract her during the finishing touches.

Now this is the part where I get a bit emotional.

When she was planning for her very special day, her own wedding day, Jessica thought of Charlie and made him a cake of his own. Not just any cake, a mini three-tier wedding cake.

Did you catch that? She made my son a cake of his very own. She wanted him to be included so much that she made a cake that he could eat. I don't mind bringing food to celebrations that he can have. It is just how things are and I am used to it. I don't expect others to go out of their way to accommodate his needs. But she did just that on one of the most special days of her life.

Charlie was so surprised. He had been looking at that big beautiful wedding cake and telling me how much he wished he could have some. He didn't say anything when Jessica gave it to him. Just looked smiling at her and reached around the cake to squeeze her hands. Then he gave her a big hug.

He admired it for a moment then dug right in, after biting into a cinnamon stick, that is. He offered a bite to Jessica, Keith and I. You know it is yummy when he shares. He is very generous with his food. Especially when it is something he really likes.

It made me smile to remember the happy little moments of that blessed day as I looked through these pictures. (Which may be why there are so many in this post...) Family is truly one of God's greatest gifts.

I treasure mine.