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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Daycare Pics & Woes

06.23 The memory preserver in me is thrilled that Autumn’s day care takes pictures of her once a day and sends it to me via email after I pick her up. I hate it that I have to work and don’t get to be w/ her during the majority of the day. But getting to see her in her daycare environment where she spends so much time helps ease that sadness just a tinge. I’m glad she’s in a place where she’s learning and growing and not just sitting and staring at a screen all day!

She’s really been struggling w/ a few of the kids at daycare who are loud and bossy and pushy. She is very sensitive and takes things very personally. I’m trying to help her learn how to handle those situations, b/c if she can learn that now it will be a blessing to her her whole life. You’d think that as you get older that people would just be kind and mature enough to get along, but that’s not always the case. There will always be people you don’t mesh well with, but learning how to work (or in her case play) together is a huge advantage.

IMG_7973After we ate dinner, I told Autumn she had to read for 15 minutes before having any screen time. You would have thought I asked her to jump to a watery grave. She had a complete fit. I just ignored it and went and read my scriptures. She eventually calmed herself down and went in her room and read for 15 minutes. After that, we got busy cleaning up the house since the young women are coming over tomorrow night. Autumn helped me load the dishwasher, I washed the big pans while she swept the tile (she LOVES to sweep), and then I vacuumed.

We watched part of America’s Got Talent together and then I got her to bed. I had recorded this new series called Poldark on PBS and I watched the first episode after I got Autumn to bed. It is sooooooooooooo good and so far ranks up there pretty close to Pride & Prejudice! I can’t wait for next Sunday night to watch the next episode.

Savi texted me to see if she could come over and visit, and of course I said yes. She came over w/ Flora and we talked about all sorts of things, but mainly Nick (he was at work but got home about 30 minutes after Savi got there). Things are more serious between them than just casual dating for fun. They’re talking about marriage (in the distant future), what their kids would look like, where they would live, etc. She is such a sweetheart and is sooooo good for Nick and has really pushed him to do some things he wouldn’t do for us (like drive on the freeway for example). It will be interesting to see where things go.

I called Mom & Dad just to give them an update on the situation since they obviously aren’t here to know for themselves. With the time difference, it was 7:30 am their time and 12:30 am my time. We finally finished talking at 1:45 am my time! I hope I’m not super tired tomorrow. I told Mom & Dad that it’s exhausting to be the parent to someone who is making grown up decisions. They just laughed and thanked me for holding down the fort while they’re on the other side of the world!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Happy 59th Birthday, Mother Dear!

birthday gate I was up late editing pics, so I decided to call Mom and wish her a happy birthday since it was 7:00 am in South Africa. We talked for quite a while (until 1:20 am my time), and I just miss her so much! She was telling me how they hosted all the senior missionary couples over at their apartment yesterday for a Father’s Day dinner. She said her plans for today are to do all the dishes from that party. What a lame thing to have planned for your 59th birthday! They can’t use paper plates or cups b/c they’re so expensive and are the cheap flimsy kind, and they don’t have a dishwasher so she has to do everything by hand. We both said how we wished I could have been there to help her for the party & the aftermath b/c we’re such a good team and work together so well in the kitchen.

She sent me a picture of the before and after and said, “I’m done!!! I ate some breakfast and then thought of you, channeled some of your energy and love, and ‘snap the job is done.’ Thank you for being my best friend and sweet daughter.” I keep asking her when they’re coming home, which is funny b/c they aren’t coming home until Oct 2016!

She sent me this picture of the gate just outside their apartment. Sis. Morris & Sis. Taylor did this!!! The reason there is a plastic snake wrapped around one of the bars is b/c a couple of weeks ago they went to a snake place on their day off and she fell in love with a milk snake. She said it was so soothing to hold and she let it crawl in her hair!!! It was so pretty that she wanted to take it home w/ her, but Dad said no.

IMG_7950 I was able to get up and go to work fine this morning, but got tired in the afternoon. Tonight Autumn & I met up w/ Liz and Jacob at one of the local park/amphitheaters for some free food and a free concert. They had free In-N-Out cheeseburgers, chips, and a drink for the first 1,000 people! It was so good and hit the spot. We took our food and went and sat in Liz’s car and talked while we ate so we could enjoy the air conditioning.

IMG_7955 The concert started at 7:00 so around 6:45 we wandered over to the hillside and set down our blankets to stake our spot. I feel like I haven’t seen Liz in such a long time so it was great to spend time w/ her and catch up on the latest stuff that’s going on in each other’s lives.

IMG_7956 The band was good, but they were way too loud and they played blues & classic rock music that I don’t know or listen to. Jacob was CRACKING.US.UP! He was dancing around like a mad men and was having the time of his life. At one point he had on one flip flop, was rolling around on the ground, and then he stood up and started dancing w/ Liz’s purse. Everyone around us was laughing too b/c it was so funny and he was dancing w/ such freedom of expression.

IMG_7962I took the kids down to an area where they had a springless trampoline they could jump on. We had to wait our turns and it took about 20 minutes. They had fun when they finally got their turn to jump. Liz & I made up a game called, “oh, look they must be Mormon.” Seriously, it was like a big Mormon party/reunion. We saw so many people in our stake that were there. We would look at a family and guess if they were Mormon or not b/c they weren’t wearing tanktops and their shorts were to the knee and they had a bunch of little kids! LOL!

It was a great evening and I’m sad this is the last one of the season and that it was our first time going. We’ll have to make sure to go to them again when they start up in the spring next year.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father’s Day 2015

dad shoe shine signI got to talk to Mom & especially Dad yesterday to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. To celebrate the day, he went to church early and set up a shoe shine station. Doesn’t my Mom have the prettiest handwriting?!?!

dad shoe shineThis is what Mom put on her Facebook page, “He went early to polish all the men's shoes in the new branch before and after church. Then did our wards men's shoes the next time slot. What a great example of service. There isn't a shy bone in his body. P.S. He did stop long enough to attend our sacrament meeting.” Dad also said there were about 15-20 cute little kids that wanted to have their shoes shined. So he had them all line up and he just went along w/ the brush and gave them a super quick shoe shine. He said they were so excited, and that was the best part of the day for him. What a remarkable man!!! I’m so lucky to have him as my Dad and for Autumn to have him as her Papa.

IMG_7942 Autumn & I have gotten out of the habit of taking pictures together before church on Sundays. I want to make an effort to start doing that again. It was nice that I didn’t have any meetings before or after church today b/c it was Father’s Day.

IMG_7945 Liz said she had something for me, and it ended up being a plate of homemade cookies from Steve! They were over at his house last night and he sent a plate of his cookies w/ her to give to me! I texted him telling him thank you so much and how it’s the best Father’s Day present! LOL.

IMG_7946Sis. T taught the lesson in Laurels today about priesthood keys and she gave us all these treats at the end of the lesson. I love this big old fashioned looking key that she gave us, and I didn’t realize it had any words on it until one of the Laurels said that hers said “journey” on hers. I turned mine over and was beyond ecstatic that mine said “memory.” How perfectly fitting for me, b/c I’m such an avid photographer & memory keeper. It was like a little message from heaven just for me.

After church we came home, had some dinner, and just relaxed for the rest of the day.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Stay At Home Saturday Fun

IMG_7787 It was so nice to sleep in this morning & wake up naturally instead of having to get up b/c of an alarm. We had breakfast and then put the kids to work doing Saturday chores. They swept, vacuumed, and loaded the dishwasher.

IMG_7795 After helping & supervising w/ all of that, I laid down on the couch for a moment and within 30 seconds I had Jackson jumping on my stomach, Autumn sitting on my bladder, and Adam trying to get in the middle of it all. LOL! I love being an aunt to boys.

IMG_7804 We were trying to decide what to do for the day, and the thought of having to pack everyone up to go to a water park just made all us adults tired. So, we decided to just have some fun at home. Jon set up this slip-n-slide for the kids w/ the sprinkler on it and they played on that thing for at least an hour! I think it’s so good for kids to get time outside to be screen free and learn to use their imaginations and entertain themselves. After that, they moved the sprinkler under the trampoline and played for another 30 minutes on the trampoline.

IMG_7820 The natives were getting hungry, so we threw together a quick lunch of “cleaning out the fridge leftovers.” They loved it and were so happy they got to eat outside at the patio table.

IMG_7824 After all the fun and sun and excitement, it was quiet/relaxation time. We put Adam down for a nap and Lexie got out her Jamberry stuff. She’s hosting an online Facebook party and wanted to show me how easy they are. She put some blue & white stripped ones on Jackson’s big toes and he loved it! Then she put some purple ones w/ silver dots on hers, mine, and Autumn’s big toes so we’d match.

IMG_7832 Jon got home from some Scout training he had to go to, and Adam hadn’t woken up from his nap yet so Lexie & I took the older kids to their community pool to swim. I’ve only been swimming a few times this year (so unlike me), so it felt great to be in the water and swim around and have fun playing w/ the kids.

IMG_7837 We finally packed up and headed home when some dark storm clouds came rolling in and it got really windy. Jon grilled some hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner, which hit the spot. After dinner Lexie said she had a fun game to play w/ the kids. She got out this bag of flavored marshmallows and the kids came running. They pretend to be puppies and she feeds them marshmallows just like you would feed a dog a doggie treat! I couldn’t believe how excited the kids were to do this!

IMG_7846 They played this game for over an hour! Lexie had them do different tricks like balancing a treat on their forehead and then trying to catch it in their mouth. She also had them “roll over,” “play dead,” “shake hands,” etc. The kids were eating it up (pun intended).

IMG_7857 Miss Donna came over and we had family game night. We paired one each of the kids w/ an adult so we had 4 teams.

IMG_7855 We decided to play a fun game called “Quelf.” Andrew & I got to be Queen Spatula. Jon said I look like her, but I think she looks like a drag queen. This game is so random & quirky and we were laughing so hard at some of the stuff we had to do. For example, anytime someone rolled a 4 Jon & Jackson had to stand up and pretend to be a weeping willow and hum music to a sad song of their choosing. Andrew & I ended up winning. We put Adam & Jackson to bed and let Andrew & Autumn stay up to play a few rounds of Apples to Apples. Then we put them to bed and just stayed up and talked for a while before calling it a night.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Cheesecake & A Broken Bed

IMG_7774 It was HARD getting up this morning and going to work. I felt like I could have slept for at least 4 more hours. But, I knew I had a LOT of work waiting for me since the girl filling in for me just did the basics like charging credit cards. I got straight to work as soon as I sat down at my desk and worked super hard to get caught up. I was plugging along and doing great until 4:00 when I realized that I had gotten NO emails at all today. I had been catching up on all the old emails and didn’t notice I had no new ones. So, I restarted my computer and when I opened outlook I had 48 emails come flooding in. I got through as many of them as I could before 5:00 on top of getting my end of the week reports out. I was so happy when it hit 5:00 so I could pack up my stuff and hit the road.

I hit some major traffic through Dallas, but once I finally got south of the metroplex the traffic eased up. I stopped to get some gas b/c I was on 1/4 of a tank. I had to snap this picture for Autumn b/c I thought it was a cool graphic representation of an American Indian.

IMG_7776 The sunset was so pretty as I got closer to Austin. I love these summer days when the sun stays in the sky past 8:00 pm!

IMG_7782 I got to Lexie’s around 8:40 pm and was so happy to see my Autumn Girl again and give her a big hug and hear all about her fun adventures at Aunt Lexie’s house. We had some yummy thin crust pizza and salad for dinner, and then once the kids were in bed we broke out the chocolate cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory. It was so good and so rich that I barely finished my piece. We had fun talking and laughing w/ Miss Donna (Lexie’s neighbor).

We finally called it a night around 10:30 b/c we were all so tired and could barely keep our eyes open. In Lexie’s guest room she has a queen sized bed, and it has a little mesh gate thing up near the head of the bed so that Jackson doesn’t fall out when he sleeps in there. So, I knelt on the end of the bed to climb in and heard a loud crack! I looked and had broken the underneath support beam of the bed!!! This big queen bed only has 3 small boards supporting the whole thing! I guess Jon will have to get some cinder blocks tomorrow to put under there to help support it. I guess I should have only eaten half of my piece of cheesecake instead of the whole thing! LOL!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Camp ~ Day 3

IMG_7738 Here was our schedule for the last day of camp. I have to laugh at the 6:00 am optional exercise. I’m pretty sure none of my girls went to that, b/c we all wanted to sleep instead.

P1120834 Today the other 2 tents that didn’t cook & clean yesterday got their chance to earn their bacon charms. We had pancakes, bacon, strawberries, and orange juice. We told the girls they couldn’t eat breakfast unless their 5 gallon bucket was packed and loaded on the trailer first.

P1120839 We ate breakfast, had our morning devotional, and then had the girls start taking down their tents. Then it was time to go do the Stake activity. They split the girls up by their year of camp and they went around to 8 different stations that represented the 8 different Young Women values (faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice & accountability, good works, integrity, and virtue). Sis. S amazes me and took charge of the first year group. She’s so awesome!

P1120850 At the individual worth station, the girls learned about the power of their influence and how to handle people with care. For the activity part they paired up and got a water balloon. They stood across from each other and had to give their partner a compliment before they tossed them the water balloon. Then they had to take a step bask so eventually they got further and further apart. The winning pair was the one that popped their balloon last.

P1120852 This was the finish line. As each group finished the 8 stations they ran under this banner and through a tunnel of the girls that had already finished. It was so touching to see everyone cheer like crazy for the first year girls, who were the last ones to finish.

P1120845While everyone was walking around doing their value stations, I got to sit and guard these 300 packets of colored powder. The Stake wanted to keep it a secret from the girls, but at the end of their value walk they got to have a colored powder war!

P1120856 All the girls got to grab 3 packets and then they went down by the lake and we counted down from 10 to start the powder war. This doesn’t look like very many girls, but that’s b/c most of them are already hidden by the cloud of powder.

P1120857 I had planned on not participating so I could take pictures and not ruin my camera. But, the wind was blowing in my direction and this is the cloud of powder that engulfed me.

P1120860 As you can see, my plans to not get dirty did not work. I hurried and put my camera in my pocket, grabbed some packets of powder and started throwing them at the other leaders. Someone got me good w/ a packet of blue powder all over the side of my face and down the front of my shirt. It was SO.MUCH.FUN!!! I have always wanted to do something like this and it meet every expectation. I love each of these ladies so much and am so blessed to rub shoulders w/ such fabulous & faithful women.

chalk lake pic This picture is blurry b/c I took it off the Facebook page of one of the Dad’s that came to help us pack up. He had a nice camera and took some awesome shots!

P1120868 After all the crazy fun of the powder war they had everyone huddle up for the closing remarks. It was a great way to end a fabulous camp! I’m incredibly thankful for the Stake leaders who put in so much time and work and effort behind the scenes to pull this all off!

P1120879 The only downside to having the powder war at the end of camp is that we had to go back to camp, get showered off, and go home wet and dirty. But, it was worth it. We finished packing up our things, loaded the trailer, and headed for home. I stopped at Sonic on the way home w/ the girls in my car b/c we were all super thirsty and it was half price during happy hour.

IMG_7770 We met parents in the same parking lot where they had dropped their girls off early Tuesday morning. So crazy to think that was just 2 days ago. The trailer didn’t get there for about 40 minutes, but once it finally did everyone grabbed their stuff and went home to shower, sit by a fan, and take a nap. I took my stuff and went over to Nate & Riannon’s to put away the tent, camping chairs, and garden hose I had borrowed. This is how lovely I looked when I got home. I was so hot and gross and stinky. I enjoyed my cold shower so much!!!

I basically did nothing the rest of the day b/c I was so tired. I laid on the couch w/ my feet up and relaxed, edited pictures, had some dinner, and watched TV. Overall, it was a WONDERFUL experience and the only down side was the heat and lack of a breeze. But there was no drama, we bonded and got closer as a group, and everyone survived. I’d call that a HUGE win & a success.

a&a 1 It was so good to talk to Autumn & hear about all the fun she had while I was gone. She had such a great time playing w/ her cousins and helping Aunt Lexie. I can’t wait to see her tomorrow!!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Camp ~ Day 2 (and 3 Powerful Spiritual Experiences)

IMG_7737 Here’s what our schedule for our 2nd day of camp looked like. Yesterday felt like I had already been here a whole week (in both good and bad ways), so it was hard to believe it was only day 2.

IMG_7749 The Stake brought us the fixin’s for breakfast burritos. We had one tent make the breakfast (eggs, hashbrowns, sausage) …

IMG_7751 … and one tent clean the pots and pans. The incentive to do that was that they could earn the cutest bacon charm for their necklaces. We called it the “bringin’ home the bacon” charm.

IMG_7754 There was this HUGE tumor/growth looking thing on one of the trees and somebody made it look like a face by taping up cups for the eyes and duct tape for the mouth. LOL!

IMG_7757 We had our morning ward devotional by one of the YCL’s and then we had the girls get their scriptures and camp books and read the scriptures for their level so they could pass off that part of their camp certification. Lily got hers done early and carved this funny face into an orange. We have so many girls that have so much personality!

IMG_7763 All the girls left to go on their year hikes. I stayed back at camp with some of the girls that were sick/dehydrated and couldn’t go. We just sat in the shade and talked, ate our sack lunches, and cleaned up around camp. These are our fabulous 4th year girls that canoed across the lake, down a river, and spent the night outdoors w/out a tent. 2 of them came back COVERED in mosquito bites. I’m proud of them for doing something like that. They LOVED our little shower station we had set up w/ a hose and some good smelling shampoo & conditioner.

P1120797 Everyone got back from their hikes and they were all hot and sweaty and tired. So they changed into their swimming suits and I took them down to the lake so they could cool off. Someone had mentioned a fun game where you oil up a watermelon and play “basketball” in the lake w/ the watermelon (b/c it floats). They had to try and get the watermelon through the other team’s inner tube. The girls had a lot of fun playing that and just swimming around.

IMG_7765 This picture looks pretty ordinary, but it means a lot to me. I was walking back to camp w/ 2 of the girls and one of their flip flops broke. Poor Elizabeth had to walk super slow and careful so her flip flop wouldn’t fall off. After walking a little ways Ashlyn said, “give me your broken flip flop. You can wear one of mine and I’ll wear your broken one.” Elizabeth protested but Ashlyn said, “I’m older and want to help you.” It might not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but it touched my heart so much and made me get all choked up.

We walked along slowly so the broken flip flop wouldn’t fall of Ashlyn’s foot. I finally told Ashlyn to get on my back and I gave her a piggy back ride back to camp. It was easy, b/c she’s skinny and doesn’t weigh much. I was so impressed w/ her willingness to serve Elizabeth (a brand new Beehive) in such a kind way. This was the first of 3 very spiritual experiences I had today.

P1120812 When we got back to camp, Sis. S had set up some pampering stations for the girls. She had some relaxing music playing and had given the girls a little devotional about serving each other. They weren’t allowed to wash or brush their own hair, they had to have someone else do it for them as an act of service/love. After they got showered off, they came and sat down in a chair and got a cold washcloth put over their eyes. Then they soaked their hands in a tub of water while someone else rubbed their hands w/ a sugar scrub. Then after their hands were nice and soft they put their feet in a bucket of water and had their feet washed.

This was the 2nd powerful spiritual experience I had today. It was interesting that EVERY single time I went to wash someone’s feet they said something negative to me like, “my feet are so gross,” or, “I have ugly toes,” or something along those lines. I told them that I didn’t care at all, and that I wouldn’t be washing their feet if that bothered me.

As I served these incredible girls by washing their feet, I couldn’t help but think of John 13 when the Savior washed his apostles feet. It made that part of the scriptures come to life for me. What must it have been like to be His apostle and have that intimate one on one connection w/ the Savior as he washed the filth and feces and grime from their feet? Did they talk as He did it, or were they silent? What must it have been like to watch Him wash the feet of your fellow apostles and feel the love He had for them and for you?

As each of the girls said something negative about their feet it made me think of verse 8 when Peter says, “thou shalt never wash my feet.” I think I would have been the same way … I wouldn’t have wanted Jesus to even touch my feet let alone wash them. I would have brought up all those insecurities and negative things that the girls each said to me. I would have felt completely unworthy. I love what Jesus says to Peter, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.”

Then Peter in verse 9 responds with, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” He wanted to be 100% with the Savior.

It was a very sacred and tender experience for me to wash the feet of some of the young women that I love so much. I didn’t care if their feet were nasty. I was doing it because I love them and wanted to serve them. Same thing with the Savior … He loves me despite my “grossness” or imperfections. He sacrificed himself because He loves me, and each and every single one of us. It was a humbling and powerful experience.

P1120814 After everyone was all clean, pampered, and refreshed we headed over to do crafts at 3:15. The girls got to paint a wooden block and then add a metal sheet to it where they could use magnets to put pictures on it when they get home. It was fun to see each of their personalities and unique creativity in how they decorated their blocks.

IMG_7767 At 4:00 we got to go inside where it was air conditioned and listen to Sis. D talk about “Navigation 101.” She shared some very touching personal stories about a time in her life when it was the “perfect storm” and she had several family members die (including her husband). She talked about how if she had not put in the work before that to have a firm foundation in the Savior then that perfect storm of hardships & trials could have easily drowned her. I just love her to pieces and was thankful for the message she shared. What an incredible woman!

P1120824 After the workshop we had some time to kill before dinner so I sat out on the patio w/ some of the girls and we came up w/ awards to give out at our evening devotional tonight. For dinner we got to eat inside (YAY for air conditioning). The dinner was some super good BBQ that was catered by Kirby’s. I heard it was voted one of the top 10 BBQ places in Texas. Sis. J cracks me up! Since we both have the same last name, the girls came up with nicknames for us. She is “Sassy J” and I’m “Sweet Curls.” I love it!!!

I have to say that I am SO THANKFUL for Sassy J & Sis. S (they nicknamed her Bambi b/c she’s so “deer” to us). They have made this camping experience so much fun. They are funny, upbeat, go getters, and it has made a huge positive impact to have them here.

P1120828 After dinner it was time for the Stake Presidency’s devotional. I sent everyone off to that and then stayed at camp to clean up the campsite and get the awards ready for tonight. It was nice to have that quiet alone time at the campsite. Everyone got back and we had our Bishop Visit/testimony time.

We circled up and he shared a few thoughts and then we went around the circle and everyone shared something. It could be their testimony or something they learned at camp, etc. It was my 3rd powerful spiritual experience of the day. We had a few girls that were very open and honest and shared how they are struggling with trials, with their testimonies, with their friends, with their families, etc. One girls said that she doesn’t fit the “Mormon mold” and I think we all realized that there is no such thing. Every single one of us has issues and things that we are dealing with. I felt that it really unified us, and helped us love each other more.

P1120831 At the end, we had to have a big group hug. It was bittersweet, b/c this is our last big hoorah all together. We have 6 girls that are moving out of the ward this summer! That’s a big chunk since we will go from 24 to 18 girls. We will miss them terribly, and I’m so thankful we got to share this fun time at camp together.