And then, God spoke to me through a cactus. Or: how He makes all things new.

   One of our giant saguaros out front toppled over and crashed into our house a few weeks ago. The night of October 20th, to be precise. Our house is fine; we have a foam roof and although it may not be pretty it's apparently good at keeping cactus out. We were surprised to say the least, and I have to admit I was a little bummed. I know, it's a cactus. But those ancient "trees" of the desert are beautiful in their sky-high majesty! However-it was just a cactus, and considering the news we got from a friend of ours earlier that same day...perspective.
     Then came the next morning. The house was still quiet and dark; Adam was on a run and all three kiddos were asleep. I walked out to snap a few photos to show our families the danger of living in the desert, and, oh, maybe for instagram because how often does a giant cactus fall in your yard and magnificently smash a prickly pear so that it blows all over the place? It was pretty amazing. And beautiful, in the early morning light. And as I walked back into my kitchen to start making my morning smoothie, I started crying.
 Seriously?!? I'm crying over a cactus. What the heck is wrong with me?!? was my subconscious thought.
But from inside, I heard a very familiar still voice....
It's not about the cactus. 
And in that moment everything crystallized and I got it.
      As I stood there and the knowing washed over me, the tears really started to roll and I had to put the blender down and just hold onto the counter and sob....because the Lord had just spoken beautiful truth to me through a cactus and even though my heart was breaking for our friends that day, I couldn't help but see the awe-struck majesty of a Lord who would speak to me through a cactus. (And the ridiculousness of it. I could see that too.)
     You see, the day before a good friend of mine texted me while I was out running errands sans-kids. The gist of it was that my 28-weeks pregnant friend realized she hadn't felt baby move in a day or so, and was going to the midwives to get checked. She asked for prayer, and you can bet I prayed all thorough that hour-long barre class.
     When I got out I had a text saying there had been no heartbeat detectable with the Doppler, and she was headed to the hospital for ultrasound confirmation. By 5 that night we found out that yes, she had lost the baby. Adam and I, we're not strangers to death or grief and really, who in this world is? So our hearts broke for our friends and the rest of the night was spent talking, praying, reaching out to them, praying...talking.
Not even a sparrow falls but that He knows it.
     I wish I could describe to you in less than 55,000 words what happened the rest of that week and even into the next...the grief and the sadness, but more so the holiness of it all. The night we lived through in just a fraction of what they lived through, waiting to hear the news that she'd delivered their small daughter. That they'd finally met tiny, still Mercy. The updates of moments with her throughout that one day with her; of the only memories they would make with their small daughter in their arms. Painting tiny nails pink, taking hand and footprints, holding close to their hearts the little one whose heart beat no more. But I can't, except to tell you what my friend said in one of her texts- that it was the most beautifully sacred day they'd ever had.
       Beautifully sacred. Holding their stillborn daughter...no anger, never anger in that day; although there was-is- sadness. Mostly there was just an overwhelming sense of the presence of the Lord pervading it all and making beauty from their ashes. Just as the light made beautiful the wreak of the cactus in our front yard that morning.
I knew all about it, and I know all about Mercy. I am not a god of cruelty, of mistakes, of senseless pain.
Not even a sparrow falls but that I know it....
    And this is what I saw: He has conquered death. Not a new thought, really. It wasn't part of the original plan, death; it wasn't meant to be this way. It came in with sin. This is why death is so weird and just....heavy. I hate death, in a way. I'm not afraid of it, not angry with it...I just plain hate that this is what humanity has brought upon ourselves with our choices to sin. The traditions surrounding death, the rituals...it's all to try to understand, to say goodbye, to hold on longer.
But He has conquered death.
    I knew this, of course. When Erica died and then again with Celine the Lord carried us through those valleys with so many, many beautiful touches of His presence, revelations of Himself, His goodness, His peace...even in the midst of so much grief. But it took me being on the outside and watching someone else going through the valley and experiencing so many of the same things to really get it. You see, as Christians who profess Christ is the only Son of God; that He died for us and thus paid for our sins; as we gladly repent and admit we can't do it on our own, be good enough, try hard enough to get to heaven we know He's conquered death to make the Way for us. But this I didn't fully realize until that week.... 
His death on the cross and conquering of the grave did not simply make the way to heaven for us. It also gave Him the power to come alongside us in our grief in a new way. In the most beautifully holy, sacred way it enabled Him to bridge the solitude of our grief, of death, and create Beauty from Ashes. ALL of the Ashes. ANYONE'S Ashes.  He does, and He will, always, because of His love for us-- as well as for His glory-- and so He carrys us through the places we once had to trod alone. By His death, He earned that right.
Not even a sparrow falls but that He knows it.
Not even a cactus falls but that He's there to catch the healing tears of grief.
And so He continues to make beauty of the ashes. 



Three and lovin' life...with teeny B :)
   Somehow, my Small Son
went from 3 to 7 in a blink of an eye.
This is from the crazy rain a few weeks ago...my boys LOVE mud.
Seriously, that's what it feels like. The past three years (THREE!!) since we moved to The Valley have literally flown by. Perhaps that has something to do with adding another baby to the family...and all the sleeplessness that goes along with it. For me, at least, that makes the days long but the years short. So, that accounts for the first year. And then Adam started school-- which has been it's own crazy time-warp. And so, here we are, October of 2014-with a SEVEN YEAR OLD. Who, by the way, had "the best birthday EVER!!" And now, a break for a stroll down memory lane...  
This is from 2 days before my due date; 4 days before Pax was born. We were the youth pastors at our church at the time and we were headed to a high school football game. It was very, very uncomfortable to sit on those bleachers if I remember correctly. (side note: for some reason, this picture always reminds me of a stuffed turkey...I carried him SO far back!) And then- there he was! One month old.

6 months old

13 months old...I miss those teeny chocolate Chucks!!
This is from a little photo shoot I did with Adam and Pax right before the Pax-boy turned two. Love it still.

Four years old. Our first Thanksgiving in Arizona!
His smile is the best! Just shy of five.

        Six! The night he lost his first tooth...it got knocked out by another boy during games at Awanas. Seems about right....
                                 ....aaaand....seven. Early-early morning breakfast date with Daddy.
     oh, my Small Son...there is NO one quite like you. Your joy, your warrior-ness, your protectiveness of your siblings, your love of people (to the point of me having to ask you just a few weeks ago not to tell every.single.mother you met at barre3 our address just in case they wanted to drop by and play...) and of books; your silliness, the way you're the king of goofy faces and weird, made-up knock knock jokes. Gifts are a major love language for you-to get, yes, but also to give. You bring Daddy and I special "snacks", thoughtfully prepared, on the weekends during quite time-and there's always a little surprise included. It's so much fun-and so thoughtfully sweet, too. But my favorite thing is the way you make sure we have something with us "to remember you by" or to protect us when Daddy or I leave the house without you. A clone trooper, C3PO, a truck, a lego lightsaber....whatever you think would protect us the best that day, you make sure it's tucked in our hands before we walk out the door! You have absolutely NO personal space. And you've officially made me the mother of "that kid" in the best of ways-the kid people remember because you stand out and make them laugh. I can't tell you the number of times people at church have said to me, "Oh, you're PAX'S mom!" or "Oh, we know who your kid is!" or "I have to tell you what Pax did today in church...." it makes you live in a state of constant fear/hilarity as a parent. And while it's not always a cake-walk parenting a strong-willed kiddo; you're always up for an adventure. Which is what this life is, Pax-boy...a beautiful, crazy, sometimes-confusing adventure that we're on together-for now. I know someday you'll wave goodbye and head out bravely on your own. And your Daddy and I pray every day for the wisdom and grace to prepare you for that time, to become the young man God is making you to be. I know you'll do well. But for now....I'm glad you still reach for my hand in the parking lot when we're alone; that you still want to snuggle up next to me and have me read to you, even though you can read to yourself...and that you always, always want just a few more minutes of snuggling at night.I'll take that as long as it lasts.
               We love you so much, Petey Petey. You're my favorite Big Kid--and you always, always will be.


Journey to Barre3: Or, (part of) the reason I'm such a fan.

     *disclaimer* this is a looong post about why I'm so crazy about barre3...it's worth the read. And there's a link to a freebie at the end! but it IS long!!

    A beautiful, early-spring day in the Tuileries Garden of Paris doesn't seem like a place one would run into barre3- at least, not at first glance. But that's where it started, none the less. That day, I laced up my running shoes and headed out across Rue di Rivoli with my husband and three littles to the park, which was our afternoon ritual. Everyone else in Paris-local or otherwise- had the same idea. It was one of the first really warm, sunshiny afternoons in Paris that spring; so the park was filled with people walking, sitting, watching, sipping, talking. A crew was setting up for some sort of fancy dinner/fashion show thing on one side of the park; on the other, the playground was filled with children enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. There was a line for the in-ground trampolines (my kids' favorite attraction) and humming conversations filled in the air, along with some accordion music from the little cafe. We strolled to the playground and I told my husband I'd be back in a bit; then I walked to the perimeter of the park and began to jog. I'd decided it was time to shed the last 15 pounds of baby weight I still carried after the birth of our third child, newly one and weaned while we were in Paris. The Gardens would provide the perfect motivation to start running again. At least, so I thought.
     It sounded so incredibly romantic to me-running through the Tuileries. And it was, for the first 200 yards. Then it very quickly turned into one of the most embarrassing moments of my life as my three-pregnancies-in-4-years bladder gave way...and not just a little leak, either. I was prepared for that. But oh, no... by the time I was halfway across the park, I had fully peed my pants. I could practically hear the Parisians around me sipping their espressos and sneering at the obviously-American girl who was peeing her pants in the Tuileries Garden. This? This was not romantic AT ALL.  I quickly stopped running, my face burning. Walked a bit. Then squeezed things a bit and attempted to jog-hobble back to the playground as quickly as possible...which wasn't very quickly. I grabbed an errant sweater and wrapped it around my waist, feeling all the time a mix of embarrassment and a sense of betrayal from my own body. That was it, I decided. No more running for me. Ever, Ever again. I'd have to find something else. Or just resign myself to being un-fit forever.
       Of course I had known things wouldn't be quite the same after having three babies in relatively quick succession. I'd make it to 18 months postpartum and-poof!-pregnant again! But I'd never thought my body would feel so old after having babies. By the time my third was born, my joints felt so out-of-wack and fragile that even the thought of jumping or running to chase my littles made me wince. I felt as if I'd fall apart at the slightest jolt, which was not the kind of mother I wanted to be. I've always enjoyed being active, and I love playing with my kids. I wasn't unhealthy in other ways, necessarily; we ate fairly well, mostly whole foods, homemade bread, very little processed food  and if I was a little too addicted to my morning coffee-well, that was only because of the lack of sleep (I thought). I just felt like I couldn't keep up. And at 29 years old, I didn't like it. I wanted to be able to do what I wanted to physically without pain, or a migraine. But now-Well, that afternoon I felt more than a little hopeless, since it was quite clear there was no possibility of falling back on my old standby of running, or even cross-fit. Dance classes aren't exactly convenient with three littles in tow; and even swimming ended up giving me a migraine because everything was misaligned. My back and core were not strong enough to hold my spine in the right position. Nursing, carrying babies and toddlers and giant diapers bags-and everything else that comes along with littles-it all exacerbated the problem.

Enter barre.

    It was a day or two later that I got a Groupon offer in my inbox for a 5-pack to a barre studio near me. I talked to Adam about it, instinctively knowing I'd love the combo of barre work and pilates because of my dancing days. And he wholly supported me trying it out-he knew my love of dance, my frustration with my current physical health, and the importance of being able to move and be healthy. I bought a 5-pack. And had my mom and husband each gift me one, too. After our trip was cut short and we ended up back in the Valley, I was more ready than ever to try out the workout. I needed the physical stress-relief the exercise would bring, as well as the mental clarity. Adam was starting P.A. school on top of everything else, and I looked forward to my first Saturday class with anticipation-and a touch of anxiousness.
      It turned out that  I needn't have worried. After the first class, I was hooked--and my only concern was that I had just enough classes to get though the summer, one a week, since there was no way I could afford the studio's regular prices on a grad-student-with-a-family budget. What would I do when they ran out? I committed to just enjoying the time I had and not worrying about it. Maybe my body would be ready to try running again at that point, I thought. I looked forward to Saturdays and each week's class refreshed me and left me feeling stronger and more flexible; every week I could feel my body begin-just a teeny bit-to recover its old fitness. But I did dread-just a bit- the end of summer and the end, so I thought, of my barre-days.
and then.
In August, just as I was coming to the end of my 15 classes, I began to see posts on Facebook from a friend of mine about something called Barre3. She, it seemed, had a friend who was opening a studio in California and she'd gone for the opening. The photos intrigued me as I'd fallen in love with barre at this point, and this studio looked so different from the one I was going to. It looked warm and light and they all looked like they were having so much (sweaty) fun! One day, she posted about Barre3 online, mentioning online workouts-and I knew I'd found my answer. Here was a way to keep practicing barre, a way to maybe-just maybe-continue to regain some fitness. So I signed up. $15 a month was something we could afford. And I LOVED the variety of workouts and time lengths because it seemed so doable for a busy mom. At this point, I just wanted to be able to play with and chase my kids without pain; maybe lose some weight. I didn't have a lot more goals than that.

     I've never looked back. Each month, each week I began to feel small, significant changes in my body. I didn't step on the scale too often, because I was more concerned with how my body felt, but I could feel my clothes getting looser. I loved Barre3 even more than the studio I'd been going to because the blend of Yoga, ballet, and pilates resonated with my body. The low-impact cardio was a nice addition for someone who has grown up involved with athletics; getting my heartrate up and pushing myself deeper was a challenge I loved taking. I didn't even have a core ball at this point; I used a pillow when needed and was still impressed with the differences in my core strength. My hip pain left, too. I'd squeeze in 30 or 40 or 10 minutes early in the morning or at rest time, after homeschooling my oldest. Often, my two youngest would come in in the mornings and the little one would crawl all over me as I finished my core work (not and easy task...). My 4 year old daughter would imitate the more ballet-esq moves, being crazy-enamored with dance herself.  So when that same friend told me she was going to open up the first Barre3 studio in the Phoenix area, I could not have been more excited! I'm sure I was slightly obnoxious to poor Karie; each week when I saw her I'd ask her about how everything was progressing, eager for news of the opening.  And when she opened up her home for "Barre3 underground" as she worked toward her certification, she was kind enough to include me on the friends and family list. This-this was wonderful!! So very exciting, my first "real" studio class! It was fun. And HARD. And--holy moly--what that core ball did for my core work was nuts. I couldn't WAIT to come back again.
      I went as often as I could to Karie's house for classes beginning in March; usually once or maybe twice a week, if I could get a spot in her very popular underground. I took my kiddos with me every time, and every time we all were warmly welcomed. Soon, my now-two-year-old would ask if we were going to "Kawie's house" for "ba-fwee" every time we got in the car. The kids enjoyed playing as much as I enjoyed exercising, and the hour-long studio classes skyrocketed my results. Getting to workout with friends just fed this extrovert's motivation; and my energy was higher than it had been in a long time. I'd lost pounds and even more inches. I could now jump on the trampoline (for a short time) with my kids, or race my son across the driveway and back. One beautiful Saturday afternoon at the park, we had a rollicking game of family tag all over the play equipment, up and down and around. I ran and chased and jumped and laughed along with my husband and the bigs; and I'll never forget how my husband laughed with joy to see me able and wanting to play like that again. I was starting to feel "normal" again.
      In May, I jumped at the chance to join the Barre3 Spring Challenge, and it was enormously beneficial to me. I'd already slowly been re-vamping the way our whole family ate, due to stomach issues I'd been having since my youngest was born as well as for the betterment of all my family. Now I committed to a month of whole foods only-no coffee, no sugar, no refined grains. The company's core value of balance in life has been a catchword for my husband and I in this whole P.A. school journey; and I loved the care encouraged to all aspects to my life, not just to my fitness or nutrition. I also got my very own bright-orange core ball, which came along with the challenge and allowed me to increase my at-home practice. And streaming the online seminars each week with founder Sadie Lincoln and functional nutritionist Andrea Nakayama was educational and encouraging.
    By the end of that month, I was completely off my morning cup of coffee (except occasionally, because I do love my coffee!!) and enjoying a cup of tea instead. My energy was higher than it'd been in several years; and I felt like my old self.  As a bonus, I'd lost even more inches, and a few more pounds- now down about 10 lbs. from the last spring. Because of the muscle I'd gained and the inches I'd lost, most people thought it was much more than that. But my favorite part? I felt for the first time that my body was really, truly, totally rehabbed from my three babies. I could-and did-do whatever I wanted to do physically. I hadn't had a migraine in months, because my core was now strong enough to hold my spine in proper alignment. Even my ages-old chronic runner's knee leftover from high school cross-country days was beginning to feel better more days than it hurt me, which was a BIG deal. That's when I knew that I wanted more than just to practice barre3-I wanted to be a part of this organization in any way I could be. I met with Karie and asked if I could do childcare part-time (because every barre3 studio offers childcare) in exchange for classes. Even though I've dreamed some about the possibility of becoming an instructor one day and being able to offer the same support and encouragement to others I've found at Barre3, I knew that this was the involvement level we could handle right now with Adam still in the middle of his program. Karie willingly agreed, knowing how I love the company and the workouts; and just like that I've gotten to be a small part of the awesome new North Scottsdale studio. A few weeks ago I even began to float the idea of running again once in awhile to my husband, maybe training for a thanksgiving 5k, not entirely sure how it would go but knowing my body finally felt willing to try again.
So, this morning, I  finally suggested we go for a family jog.
I laced up my running shoes and headed out with my husband and three littles on the first cool-ish morning we've had here in Scottsdale since early last spring. Adam pushed the double jogger with the two littles-now 2 and 4-in it, while our almost-7-year-old rode ahead on his mostly outgrown  two-wheeler. The light was beautiful. My husband made some smart remark about the fact that we both had on the exact same shade of bright-blue pants on as our double stroller; I laughed--and began to run.
    I mentally help my breath at first, taking stock of each muscle and body part; but everything felt good. In fact, except for some tightness in that old runner's knee, everything felt really great. It was true-Barre3 had actually, totally helped me to rehab my body AND helped me maintain (or maybe even increase!) my cardiovascular strength. Now, I didn't run for 5 miles. And I didn't plan to, as this was just a trial run (quite literally). But I ran the whole way, felt strong and healthy--
and I didn't pee myself once.
   Thanks for helping me finally get here, Barre3. Sadie Lincoln--if you ever read this--I'm so thankful that the workout you created to rehab your own body has spread like wildfire and has now helped me rehab mine.  And I'm so thankful that I get to be a part-even a small part-of the barre3 community. Thank you for sharing this gift with all of us.

    And now: I'm not so into selfies. Honestly, I feel weird even posting these...because it's about SO much more than just weight. So much more has changed than just what you can see on the outside. But, I also know before and after pics can be nice...just to actually see what HAS changed on the outside. So, here's a few of mine:
Before: Jan. 2013 (9 months post-baby)
4 months into Barre3, 7months into barre: Dec. 2013
Before: Christmas 2012 (8 months post-baby)

 July 2014
my friends, now it's your turn....Robyn over at Real Food Whole Life (click that for the link!) is starting a 28 to Great challenge tomorrow and inviting everyone along for the ride! As an incentive, she also has a code for 30 days FREE online access to Barre3. That gives you access to the workouts, the recipes, and all the other good-ness barre3 online has to offer. If you've been seeing me post (and post and post) about this for the past year and ever thought about trying it out-here's a risk-free way to get started! You won't regret it. Trust me.


Summah time.

So, here we are: four weeks into Adam's first round of clinicals. Honestly, I've no idea how this happened...our lives keep speeding up without asking my permission and, most days, I'm amazed that it's already  4pm when I look at the clock! So, I'm playing catch-up. I had excellent intentions of catching up on blogging and 84,000 other things while we were on our 3-week vacation in Colorado; instead, I took naps almost every day and spent time with the people I love most. It was much needed, and very very fun....but not actually restful at all, in hindsight.
     We started out with a great little camping trip, just the five of us, up at Woods Canyon Lake. Our day and night were full of capture the flag in the woods, playing in the lake (and mama almost falling asleep by the lake..due to Dramamine), and reading around the campfire at night (after s'mores, of course). The next day we headed down the mountains mid-morning, on our way to Durango...and our car blew up about 40 miles outside of Gallup, NM. Seriously, what is it about our cars and driving to Durango?? The cool part? We ended up right in front of a home belonging to a neat little old couple-who happened to be Christians. The little old man brought us water, and they ended up taking the littles and I into town when the tow-truck driver (whom dispatch assured us would have space for all of us)-well-didn't. Instead, Pax got to ride up front with Adam in the front of the tow-truck and had an absolutely marvelous time!
           To make a long story short, 3 tow-trucks, a McDonald's, a rental car, over 300 miles and many many hours later; we made it to Durango.

 A few days after that, we made it to Ft. Collins in my mother-in-law's car, actually on schedule (we skipped the 2nd mini-camping trip we'd planned) while the van stayed in Durango to have a new engine put in. The kids were fine with missing the 2nd camping trip because it just so happened that they got to go to an awesome water day event at our old church with all their friends and cousins. B was double thrilled because she just made the age-limit!   
       Our days in Colorado were almost all on the cool side; rainy in the afternoons or evenings, and sometimes all day- we loved it! Although, my usually-crazy-brave littlest did discover that he's not at all a fan of thunder.
Blaise, my mom (Grammy), and niece Evie (1 1/2) playing in the little-kid sprinklers while the Bigs were at a park with Adam one morning...they had a marvelous time!

We spent as much time in the beautiful Colorado outdoors as we could. One day, we took my nephew Ayden (11) and our 3 on a hike up to Horsetooth Falls. We left early, to avoid the thunderstorms, and the kids all had a great time-our kiddos have missed hiking these past few months! Another evening, we took him along with our kids to City Park Pool, where  he and Pax took on the giant slides without even blinking. Most evenings were spent playing "kickball" in the backyard until it was dusk, and one rainy afternoon while the littles napped we even got to go see Planes 2 with almost the whole crew-a bit hit!
Intermission: A word about our youngest son.
This little guy...he's seriously brave. And seriously fierce. And seriously smart, as in he watches EVERYTHING and is pretty sure he can do it all just as well as anyone else-if not better. Which is great- but also gives this mama wrinkles because-let's face it-at 2, that's a combination for disaster!! And so this kid has had more than his fair share of crazy almost-catastrophes since he learned to walk a year and a half ago, let me tell you. Thankfully this wasn't one of them. This rock was much higher than it looks in the picture; he kept telling his daddy, "Don't worry, Daddy-I can do it!" yeah...but we'll hold on anyway, at least for another year or two, littlest buddy!

After 5 days, we headed back down to Durango and spent the rest of our time there. Durango is glorious in July, especially if you're coming from Phoenix...we soaked up every second, once again spending our time outside as much as we could. One wonderful evening was spent eating a picnic dinner at a park with our friends the Danquahs, who recently moved back to Durango. We watched a storm roll in...and then watched the kids-all 6 of them- glory in the rain. We had dinner in the back room (read:the wine room) at my in-laws' bakery with my in-laws several times, as well as my brother-and sister-in law and our nieces; another harrowing experience for the mama of a 2-year old. All those bottles! and the ladder! But-worth it for the delicious treats everyone devoured at the end. (Perks of being the grandchild of a French baker: getting to go behind the counter and pick your own as-big-as-your-face pastry.)
       Add to that the wonderful time we got to spend with the Palmers, the Danquahs, and many more old friends at more parks than I can count; tons of cousin time, Blythe's first sleepover (at Aunt Tiff and Uncle YayYay's house-Pax got to go, too. They had some serious fun! And we felt strangely childless with only one...) friends and family, and, well....it was hard to come back to the hot August desert. Blythe was upset for days; so I taught her the fine art of letter-writing. She then proceeded to write letters to all her Colorado friends and family....and was overjoyed to get an answer from her Grammy and Grandaddy and Evie, just the other day.

(See? Giant!! These are 2 of our nieces-Madi (8) and Violet (6).)

This photo just screams summer in Durango to me!
This was a fun Saturday morning spent at Tiff and Jerome's with cousins and the Palmer kids-Kale (10), Pax (6), Jack (5), and Madi (8). I had the chance to do a few photoshoots again while in town, so I had dropped Adam and the kids off at 7 am on my way to a shoot.

    This is how Blaise spent 75% of the time we were at the bakery. He woke up to the sound of beeping trucks backing up, and ran out the door to watch them dig and grade and lift until it was time to leave for that day's adventure.  They're adding a parking lot across the street for the new pediatric center built in the last year; and therefore there's lots and lots of construction vehicles and workers, too. We spent more than one evening exploring the empty work site, mush to his delight...

...These are the Danquah girls. One of the perks of having my MIL's Seqoia is that it fits 8; so one morning, while Megan did some last-minute packing and cleaning for the move into their new home, I took all the girls with us to meet the other mamas at their Tuesday park day. Loud, crazy, giggling fun! Pax says they were telling ghost stories in the back...I don't really know where any of them have ever heard a ghost story, but, there you go.
Pax (6), Lily (7), Sadie (5), Blythe (4), Ollie (3), and Blaise (2). The stair-step kids. Sadie is convinced that they're all "real cousins", despite Lily's attempts to convince her otherwise; and considering that half the people we know and love in Durango ARE "real cousins" and their mama is my birthday "twin"....I can understand her confusion! It's just allllll part of the family.
       And then there's these two. Pax and Ayden. This summer they had SO much fun together! Here you see evidence of their sand/ water days in my parents' backyard, something I have vivid childhood memories of doing. It's so much fun seeing your kiddos enjoy the same summer thrills you did!
     The end of this story: our van is still in Durango, not quite fixed yet. Thankfully, we had the generostiy of my mother-in-law's Sequoia to get us back home and around until it's done. We had a deadline-Adam started Clinicals on the 6th of August, so we didn't have a lot of wiggle room. But that's another story.....
       let's just say- Summer in Colorado was great!


Adventures of the Cupboard Dweller: and away he goes...

To my Biggest Small Son,

    Last Thursday, you did it. Faced a fear head-on and conquered it. Chose to try, even if it meant failing, instead of balking. You stepped out, and you were ready....
...you learned to ride a two-wheeler.
     To some, that may seem like a child-hood no-brainer, a right of passage for a six year old. No big deal. some kids do it earlier; some later. And there's no denying it IS a right of passage. But for you, my highly-imaginative, I'll-do-it-on-my-own-time son, it's been more than that. It's been a definite process.  You see, you've loved your red and black Lightening McQueen bike since your Grammy and Grandaddy took you to pick it our for your 5th birthday. No problems with the training wheels on; you couldn't WAIT to ride! But taking the trainers off...well.
Here's where your beautifully active imagination (and, perhaps, a few too many reads of your Daddy's old Calvin and Hobbes comic books) got in the way. You were certain that the minute those training wheels were off and the adult nearby let go, you'd crash and break every bone in your body. Or, possibly, that your bike would eat you. So, you refused to try. We had a few go-rounds with the wheels off and the "c'mon, just TRY IT!" from your dad and I, until we had (another) mini-revelation and realized that this is just.how.you.are. You do things in your own way, on your own time, and you always have- whether it's potty training yourself at 18 months or learning to ride a two-wheeler at 6 1/2. So, we backed off and just tried to make bike riding fun. Which it is. We had races and played and took Grandaddy's suggestion about setting the training wheels a bit higher off the ground to start the idea of balance, which helped. Then, a few weeks ago, I remembered your Grammy's suggestion about removing the training wheels and pedals to basically make it a balance bike. I figured it was worth a shot; and within the first day I could see you becoming more comfortable with balancing, racing your bike, feet up, down the driveway.
     Then came Thursday, July 10th, 2014. I knew you were ready. I think you knew, too, but when I suggested putting the pedals back on you still acted a bit unsure. I could see you were nervous, and asked you to try it with me holding on, just once-if you weren't comfortable, we'd take the pedals back off again.  No pressure.
   But, really, I was pretty sure I wouldn't need to.
And sure enough, 10 seconds into your first ride, I let go and jogged alongside you----
and you were off. That was it. All it took, just one try--and you did it! I shouted and cheered, you laughed, so proud! Both of us, you and I-so proud of what you'd accomplished, of the way you'd swallowed hard and climbed on and did it. The next ride, I took a video per request and as soon as it ended, you gave a huge thumbs up and shouted, "Send it to Daddy!"
      Which of course I did. You made his day, buddy. A morning full of testing; he said he's walked out discouraged and then to get that video-the sunshine flooded into his day. He was so proud of you, too!
Because we knew-your daddy and I-that it wasn't just about learning to ride a bike. It was about learning that you can do it. And, perhaps even more importantly, that if you can't do it you sometimes just have to keep trying, and backing up and taking baby steps, until finally, finally, FINALLY you CAN do it--and then the whole world opens up to you. And that's good, too, because we know that "(trials) produce perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:5, my paraphrase) Perseverance, my Small Son...Character, Hope...this is what we continually pray for and parent you towards. This is a huge part of what you need to be a man. Especially a man after God's own Heart.
     Perhaps the coolest thing about you learning to ride your bike last week? Just the joy of seeing your self-confidence sky rocket. The next day, we went to a cool pool here in town with some good friends. They had big-kid water slides and a diving well with high- and low-dives; and this summer you are just exactly the right height to go on them. But you were the only kiddo in our group who was tall enough, which meant you'd be on your own, mostly. No sweat to you...you asked if you could go on the big slides, I said yes, and off you went on your own. Bam. Conquered it. No sweat. And THEN, after 10 or so slides down the "fast slide" and a little playtime with your friends, you asked if you could go to the diving well at the other end of the pool. Again, I said yes; but this time I did walk over with you. Honestly, I wasn't sure how you'd do if you decided to go up the high dive-actually, I didn't think you'd even want to do the high dive because you're a bit nervous about heights in general. But after one jump off the low dive (piece of cake-we have a small diving board, so you're pretty used to that) you set your sights on the high dive.
   I was nervous for you, my son. Not sure if you'd get to the top and freeze, or not. Thinking that you looked so small standing with all the tweens and teens, even while wondering how on earth you'd gotten so big so quickly. And then it was your turn...and as I waited to the side I told you not to look down, to just climb up and look out and walk straight off...and you climbed up and walked out...and looked straight down. Now I could see you getting a bit afraid; it was awfully high. You started to walk backwards and I though for sure you'd climb back down the ladder, but  I didn't say anything; sometimes we're just plain not ready for the high dive and Iwanted you to make your own choice. Then-you stopped again. And walked forward again. And crouched waaaaay down....and jumped. I grinned and- honestly, my Small Son-almost cried. Just like that-you decided to be brave, and try, and you did it.
    I think you went off that high dive 5 or 6 more times that day, just to prove to yourself you could do it. I loved watching you, seeing you become even braver, although you were always cautious. Watching you decide on the last jump to swim all the way to the bottom of the 13-foot diving well and touch the bottom before rocketing up, gasping out, "I touched the bottom!!", proud of yourself. Your daddy laughed, surprised and thrilled with your bravery, when I told him the story that night. He went off the high dive?!? That's fantastic!!
    My Pax-boy, don't ever forget the small steps of bravery. Don't ever trivialize the times you depend on God and grab hold of who He is making you to be and just jump. It's the little things that add up to the big things. Character is built in the mundane. And every Warrior fights with a stick, long before he learns to hold a sword.
               We love you, Not-so-Small-Son. We are so proud of you. Now let's go ride our bikes!
                                 Perseverance produces Character, and character, Hope...
                                              and Hope does not disappoint.


a Baby no more.

April 5th, 2012. Meeting big brother at one hour old.
 Our fierce, loud, sensitive, musical, crazy, snaggle-toothed builderfixerguy is TWO. No babies in this house anymore...the week before his birthday we started potty training and the week after he lost his plug-and that was it. Bam. Big kid city. This particular two-year-old has brought us challenges that we've not experienced before; but it's still just such a super-fun stage of life. I have two good friends who also have three and we all agree:  third baby=game changer. He's crazy :) New words, new phrases..getting in between the two bigs when they're arguing and shouting out "Pax! Stop! Now! One...teww..." and then "spanking" his brother (that's a hard one. Defending his sister vs. hitting. See? the kid is a conundrum!) Getting put in his crib for a timeout (for hitting said big brother) and subsequently pulling his pants off and peeing all over his bed to show his displeasure. The kid is smart and very, very aware of EVERYTHING. Pax has nicknamed our good friends "the Behs" because littlest calls all of them (including the dad) "Beh". He can say Loren and Cora and I've even heard him say Charissa. But, no, they are all "Beh!" After their mama Beth, whom he loves. A lot. 
He knows he's funny and frequently plays the ham to make people laugh-especially his big brother and sister; something he's done from a very young age. And he's still the biggest sweetheart, running to the freezer for a "col pool" (cold pack) if his sister or brother (or anyone else) hurts themselves. (Beth is pretty sure he's gonna be an athletic trainer based off of that one!) He gives the biggest and sweetest hugs, frequently sprinkles French words and phrases in among the English, and wants to do exactly what Pax is doing. I cannot believe how much I love him or how much joy he brings to our family-we are so thankful for this silly little blessing!   
April 5th, 2013-first birthday!

We had a small family party at home this year, just my folks and I-Adam had a clinic he had to work in the morning, so we spent the morning getting donuts and shopping for new boots for the birthday boy (one of my folks' gifts. Blaise looooves his boots and was so sad when he outgrew the last pair!). After naps, we had a little party with balloons, presents, and-of course-cake! By far the biggest hit of the day was putting all of the balloons on the trampoline. The kids jumped and bounced for at LEAST and hour and had a fantastic time! Seriously... this might be an every-year occurrence!

                         Pure. Joy. This prettymuch sums up little Adam Blaise's personality perfectly!
                                                                   April 5th, 2014.
                                                                 and now, he is Two.


Diary of a P.A. student('s wife)

If you haven't been living in this house for the past 10 months-which is 99.9% of the population-you probably have very little idea, if any, what a big deal that word has been.
Clinicals. Always like that. Actually, in even bigger letters...Clinicals. There. That's better.

Clinicals meant...well, it means a lot of things. The start of a new year; the second year of P.A. school.
An end to the classwork, and some of the crazy fire-hydrant-book-learning. And the start of all things hands-on and people related. In other words, my husband's forte.
For quite awhile, it meant the possibility of being separated for six weeks or more; or relocating for part of the year.
Basically, clinicals has been a big, giant, much-talked-about question mark in this house. But now...
Let me back up a minute. First, this year. This crazy, crazy fast year of book-learning. Didactic year has been...well, interesting. Not easy, but not horrible either; thanks to a wonderful husband who gets it and does his best to keep first things. And, of course, we've had a lot of Divine help.
    It's been challenging for both of us and has required even greater discipline-from both of us.  You wouldn't think I'd necessarily need to be more disciplined, seeing as I'm not the one in school; but I absolutely did. I've found that living a bit more disciplined life in some areas has actually led to more flexibility, more calm in our days, and simply everything running smoother in general. Which I'm sure is no brain wave to most people; but let's face it, I'm NOT the type-A one in this family and there's definitely an element of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants in my blood. I've been working on it. So, now, I get up voluntarily between 5:15 and 5:30 (Adam is up by 4:30, to get a little more studying in...but he's always been better at super-early mornings than late nights. Baker's son and all that.). This early rising is perhaps shocking to my mother. I've found, though, it's been vital to smooth (and slower) mornings, which I do much better with. This way I have time for things like quite times and exercise and getting a load of laundry done and the dishes unloaded before the kids wake up. You know, all those things that help you not to be a crazy person (or at least, a little less crazy). Plus, when you have a husband who is up so early that he brings you your morning tea nice and hot before you've even sat up in bed most days...well, that helps a lot. A LOT. Really, I don't know what I'm gonna do when he's not a student anymore and gets up at a more normal hour-or when he works nights and isn't around to make my tea. I'm thoroughly spoiled. I know this.
    And yet...somehow, even with all the newly-added organization/discipline in my life, there's been a serious lack of time. Time for things like blogging, anyhow. Also, that whole homeschooling-during-the-smallest-son's-naptime might have something to do with it. Either way, it means that somehow I've let a WHOLE MONTH go by between the time we found out about Adam's clinical placements and the blogging of it. In fact, I didn't even think about it until I started getting questions from aunts and good friends and cousins about where he'd be doing clinicals...oops. So, to answer the question-we're staying in the Valley! Adam had requested a couple of rotations up in Colorado, but between the school's requirements and the doctors' available time, it simply didn't work out. And while it would've been fun to have a 6-week adventure in Colorado with family, there's no denying it's much, much easier not to pack up a family of 5 with three young kiddos for six weeks. Believe me, I've done it before. Doable, but not easy! 
    We're also incredibly thankful that Adam will be able to come home at some point every day. This is truly an incredible blessing. Several students, including some with families, have clinicals in places that are over an hour commute each day-which means they'll most likely be finding a place to stay for the week and home only on weekends. Going into this clinical process, I prayed for two things: that we'd be able to stay together as a family, and that Adam would get the preceptors and clinical sites he needs to learn what he needs to learn. I knew I'd be able to handle anything else that came our way.  I'm so incredibly thankful to see how the Lord has answered the first part of that prayer-and I can't wait to see how he answers the second part! 
    Neither of us can believe how quickly this first year has gone. We're down to the last 7 weeks...it'll be 7 weeks of craziness, but STILL! It's only 7 weeks. Then a few weeks off to breathe, and then....the fun begins! 


Adventures of the Cupboard Dweller: Indecent Exposure.

     My folks came into town for Blaise's birthday at the beginning of April. We had a great visit; and toward the end of their trip, my dad, Adam and I took the kids to a nearby train park to spend a Saturday morning. (note:Saturday=busy) We had tickets to the train and carousel, thanks to my aunt's generosity when they'd come up a week or so before with my cousin's kids; so we got in line for the train first thing. Great! The kids were all thrilled. The train pulled in...and Pax suddenly realized he needed to go to the bathroom. could it wait till after the ride? No. Ok.
     Being that he's six and a half, Adam walked him down the ramp and  then told him to hurry to the bathroom, since the train would be loading very soon and the bathroom was maybe 300 yards away. Pax raced across the small yard towards the bathroom, saw a tree halfway there...and panicked.
    I watched in shocked horror as my not-so-small son ducked behind the tree (in the middle of the park, filled with people all around) and DROPPED HIS PANTS. AND his unders. To his ANKLES.
 Somehow, as I watched the undressing unfold (in what seemed like slow motion, of course)  I  desperately yelled, "ADAM!!", while Adam himself charged across the 200 yards or so to quickly ask Pax to pull his pants back up. And then ushered him to the bathroom door. The poor kid...apparently he just knew his need, saw a tree, didn't want to miss the train, and decided it was his quickest option. Adam and I were all at once horrified, slightly embarrassed-and couldn't help but laugh.
We may need to work on reacting under stress. Especially  in public. But, to the boy who ripped off his clothes, peed on a palm tree, and jumped into the pool in celebration only last year...well, you can see the logic.I had been expecting potty issues that day...only with the potty-training two-year-old. Not my oldest.
Only Pax, people. I love him. He keeps me on my toes constantly. He's one-of-a-kind, that kid!


April in Arizona.

Spring in Arizona. It's why people live here! So that's what we've been doing...
snuggling. eating waffles. seeing beauty. painting. waffles...yummm....bringing joy to little hearts. playing with cousins..and friends. hiking.walking in Grandaddy's boots. PA-racing on climbing walls. imagining. baking cakes. celebrating little boy birthdays. group homeschooling. playing princess. seeing beauty. swimming (well...some of us!). falling asleep while listening in to Mama & Megs. accidental science experiments. seeing beauty. ripping off fingernails in playground (third kids...I tell ya!!)."reading". celebrating. fighting croup.
living life. seeing beauty. everywhere.


1000 words.

I know there's been a lot of pics of this little princess lately-but that's because she's the most enthusiastic about the camera at this point! I love being her mama. I love the late-night "Mama, can we just talk? Girls, well, they need to talk more than boys, you know." Which is true! Especially for her...my folks took all the kids out to eat once last winter and the boys fell asleep while she talked all.the.way.home. My mom said to me, "You know how most women have 5,000 words a day? I'm pretty sure she has 50,000!" it's so, so true-and something we've come to love about her. We have some very, very interesting talks after I put Pax to bed with a few songs and an "I love you, Pax." ("Ok," is his response to that....)


Wordless Wednesday:2010

This is Pax, sometime in the spring of 2010. I miss that little tongue, stuck out in concentration!


A dream...reborn? Second Wind.

     I just did something completely terrifying (for me) and absolutly exhilirating, at the same time. I signed up for a completely awsome 4 DAY photography conference here next fall. Terrifying, because I'm fignting the lies in my head about not being good enough or hip enough to join this awsomeness (hey, I'm just a stay-at-home homeschooling mama who happens to have a photography business on the side!); exhilirating because of the timing and the way it all came about.
     I see God in the details, although perhaps others would just say "coincidence". But no. For 2 years now, I've wanted to do a flash course or a photography conference; something with continuing education and hands-on photo experience and personal critiques, with some business sense thrown in the mix. WPPI is too far away with 3 kids and a husband in grad school and everything else... well. A year ago, I priced a flash course out with a fellow photog. here in Phoenix I happen to know/ sing with at church; but couldn't afford it at the time. 2 months ago, doubts started creeping in about whether or not I should even keep going on this journey; should I keep my business? I wanted to; this has been a dream of mine since I was a girl and I LOVE what I do. But kids, doubts, time, my own fears get in my way sometimes. Yesterday, we got the next loan installment, which is prettymuch what we live off of right now, with some help from parents and a bit from my photography business. Last night, on my instagram feed, the same photographer I asked about the flash course last year posted about a conference she'll be a part of next fall. She said they'd sold out in 48 hours, but were opening 10 more spots today at noon. I looked it up and knew I wanted to go. Showed it to Adam...asked him about investing in this opportunity...heard his encouragement, not only of the conference but also of chasing this dream and making things happen, regardless of his time restraints right now (which is a big reason I haven't been pursuing much right now, but just letting business trickle in). I decided to wait. To pray. And then to just see if there were any spots open at noon today....
.....and then I forgot all. about. it. Something about feeding my children lunch and a little girl who needed a bit of discipline attention and homeschooling got in the way until 2pm, when Adam asked if I'd looked at the registration.
I got on the site...and there were spots open. Honestly, I was shocked.
 "Are you ok with this?"
 "Honey, if you feel good about it, go for it," he told me (he's so great!). So I clicked the reservation down to "1", pushed "book now", and quickly called my mama to ask if she'd be available to come those days, since it starts on a Thursday night and who knows what my husband will be doing at that point in time. She said yes-and I reserved my spot.
I'm freaking out.
Good and bad...
fighting the lies
knowing this is a direct answer to prayer; that if that Instagram message had been one week earlier I wouldn't have given it a second thought.
knowing He gave me the creativity and desire to record relationships and memories through photography
knowing there's much more to this than possibly growing my business.
knowing that this conference won't necessarily make or break me; that there's work to be done right now.
I offer my gifting up for His glory, and I'm excited to see where this leads me...and to see how He'll provide the bookings to pay for the rest of it. Because I know He will.
Now pardon me while I go freak out a little bit more...


Wordless(ish) Wednesday

A month from today, this little guy will be two. TWO! I feel like it was just yesterday that I looked like this, in labor and so very ready for him to be born, with a different, tiny two-year-old clinging to me. :)


And then she was four.

 I think this about every birthday any of my littles have...but HOW IS SHE FOUR already?? No longer a baby, even a little bit (although the 18 month old who talked in full sentences didn't seem much like a baby at the time, either...).  
      It was so much fun to listen to her plot and plan with Pax about her birthday; about having a little party and who would come, what cake she'd like (a dollcake again-surprise!), what they'd eat (enchiladas-yum!). She's always enjoyed her birthday, of course, but this year was the first she really got super excited about everything. So, we had a little party the day before her birthday with a few little friends. Thanks to my dad, there were streamers and balloons to please any little girls' heart; and between my mom and I a dress fit for a princess was whipped up the day before. Blythe chose the fabric and the pattern herself-which will come as no surprise if you know her at all! She's definitely sure she's a princess right now. Or a ballerina. Or a ballerina-princess! I'm pretty sure "ballerina-princess-doctor" was the future career of choice last time I checked.

 The gold crown was part of her gift from Adam and I. This dress...I didn't think she would take it off even to sleep! And she's worn it almost constantly since. I got so much joy out of watcher her joy over every little thing-I remember how much I loved twirly dresses and sparkly anything as a little girl, too; and I sort of get to relive it all with B.

We had cake, of course; but she needed Pax's help with the candles. She was a bit too shy to blow them out with all eyes on her! A funny mix of sweet-and-shy and crazy emoter right now, our girlie is. I'm never quite sure what to expect; but I love the way she always looks to him for protection and help when she's feeling uncertain around others.

The next day, on her real birthday, we had a little family celebration-the "flatted-out" tutu was a five-star gift from my folks. Adam had made her a balance beam, so we spent the morning playing on that after church; and then went to our good friends' house to watch the Broncos. Hey, it was playoffs!! and she got to play with their two girlies, whom she loves. So really, it was like a second birthday party for her. We even had enchiladas again-leftovers from the day before :)  Their youngest girlie commandeered my dad as her third grandpa; and wanted to cuddle with only him when he was hurt, which was totally adorable. I managed to snap a picture of my dad, Cora, and Blythe watching the game together...but it's on my phone, and won't upload, and as it's the end of February and her birthday was last month...I think I'll just post this now and save that for another time. First world problems...

oh, and Little Brother loves the balance beam, too! He's pretty good at it, too, when his big 4-year-old sister isn't trying to "mother" him along :)


Wordless Wednesday

                                  Yes, I do think I'll start this again...too many fun pictures not to!


Muddy Buddies.

 Once there were three little buddies, living in Arizona.
The older two were told stories of when they were tinys- of winters of snow and ice and cold...

 it was all rather of hard to believe
on a February day
that was 75 degrees
and a yard full of dirt begged to be turned into mud.

"su! su!" the littlest begged, running with silly baby steps to the drawer that held his swim trunks.
The bigs dressed themselves, bolting out the door.

Then pies were mixed and mud was thrown and really, really big sticks were dragged around by too-small boys

     until Daddy came home and it was time
for dinner and dark.

And that, my friends, is winter this year
     in the land of Arizona.