Monday, December 29, 2014

I miss them!

Each year, they come less and less as more and more move to green and green.
Yes, I speak of Christmas cards. Actual, physical, tangible Christmas cards. 
And, I have to say, I miss them. Though I know your love is real, the e-cards, e-mails, and posts, don't convey it as much. Just as me texting *hugs* to someone is not the same as giving that person a big, warm, actual, physical, tangible hug. 

I know my family has moved A LOT in the past years, but I still send cards to your addresses and they have my current one included. 

I understand that many are opting for the easier, cheaper, and supposedly greener way of not sending physical cards. Christmas is a time of generosity and for this I appreciate those who are still sending Christmas cards. And to those who don't do it anymore, I still love hearing from you and will take what I can get. *Hugs*

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Racing through fall...

Cross-country is kind of a big deal here in the Sacramento area.  I mean, for heaven's sake, these are vendors (right corner) at the elementary district finals!

Children numbers #1, #3, and #4 ran cross-country this fall.  The eldest is in high school and the other two are in elementary.  Pity that #2 didn't want in on it--because that girl can run.  

#1 was plagued by shin splints towards the middle of the season, but kept coming to practices and hit the bike hard til they felt better.  She was well enough to run in sub-sectionals and did pretty well considering she was coming down with the flu the day of the race (boo). She is looking forward to next year's season.


#3 has turned out to be quite a speedy kid!  His races are only a mile and he consistently kept finishing around 6:40!  My best mile, ever recorded, was 6:05 when I was a junior in high school.  He'll have me beat soon! 

#4 ran because his older brother was doing it.  His races were always 3/4 a mile and he consistently placed in the top 30%.  I was pleasantly surprised when he told me that he wants to do it next year!

It was exciting to see the boys compete at the district level.  Each race (6 different races--3rd, 4th, and 5th grades--boys and girls raced separately as well!) had over 100 kids in it!

So--that's how we've been racing through fall!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Off the top of my head!

To save money--I cook dinner almost every night (except for date night!)  I've been cooking dinner for some 17-18 years.  I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on foods that go well together and am pretty good at making up recipes.  Some times I write them down so as not to forget.  Other times, I assume I'll remember them :).

So, I made this, on the fly, yesterday, and my family loved it.  The kids even asked to have the leftovers for today's lunch!

Chicken Sweet Potato Stew

2 large sweet potatoes (not yams), peeled and then chopped in 1" chunks
2-3 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 small bell peppers (I used one red and one orange), diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 c. frozen carrot, broccoli, cauliflower mix (or the equivalent of fresh--make sure florets are small and carrots sliced thinly)
1-1.5 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
5-6 c. chicken stock or broth
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. dried leaf thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Steam sweet potatoes until barely tender.  In large stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Saute onion, peppers, and garlic, until tender.  Add chicken and cook until done.  Add broth and heat to boiling.  Turn down to a simmer and add paprika and thyme.  Let cook for a few minutes. Stir in sweet potatoes. Using a potato masher, gently smoosh down some of the sweet potatoes to thicken the broth.  In separate pot or container, steam or micro-cook carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower until tender.  Stir gently into the sweet potato mixture.  Let simmer a few more minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  ENJOY!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Update...since last post...

Sitting with my baby girl on my lap and feeling the need to type and tell you all thank you for your continued support with regards to my son!  I have saved all emails, Facebook and blog comments, to read and re-read when I am feeling low.  There are people who are going through similar trials, and I am grateful that they have extended themselves to us.  I haven't called anyone yet, mostly because things are so busy, but I am grateful that there are friends there for us.

I am not intending to blog about my son or autism.  This is kind of my place to say what I want about anything and everything.  It will not be a blog that focuses on autism.  Autism is such a huge part of our life now that I don't feel like talking about it more than we already do :). 

I DO, however, wish to give an update.  His sleep has been so much better since about April.  He had a nasty ear infection, got medicine, finished the medicine, and was all better and sleeping better.  I racked my brain: having an ear infection and now sleeping better--huh?

Then my husband and I realized what had changed around that time; He was moved to a twin mattress on the floor.  Guess he has enough room to stretch out now?  Don't really know, but his sleep has been pretty darn awesome since.  He will wake up about once every two weeks now, at least that's when we hear him, and he usually sings himself back to sleep without us having to go in.  This is so wonderful!!!!!!

So, now that I am sleeping more at night, uninterrupted, we have early morning seminary.  Eek.  Well, still working on that one.  Early to bed, early to rise--sounds so easy in theory--but my husband and I find our second wind once the younger ones are down!  We want to hang out for a few hours before going to bed and it is always a slap in the face waking up the next morning!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Game Changer

I have been pondering a long time if I should write about the biggest game changer in my life, probably the biggest one there will ever be in my life. 

I am finally deciding it is time to tell you about this big change, because I have known many of you throughout my life. I am so happy to have ways to stay connected to you and I am grateful that we have shared memories of times in our lives--from my dear, tender friends of elementary and middle school days to those adult friends I've met more recently. 

See, those of my past aren't seeing my present--just what I write in emails, blogs, or on facebook.  I want you to know what I am going through now: not for your pity, nor for your opinions, but for you to just know.

These past 20 months have had some of the most exhausting and heartbreaking days of my life.  And one of the hardest things is knowing that I will still have more exhausting and heartbreaking days ahead, but at least I know they are coming.

Now, I can see some of you spinning your mind wheels and counting back to 20 months ago....

Yup, I was pregnant.  We had just moved to the bay area, lived there for about 2 months, were expecting our 6th child in a few weeks, and getting a little bit frantic about our toddler's lack of speech.

We had stayed at our in-law's house for a month while we were house-hunting.  My sister-in-law had a journal in the bathroom that seemed like a "everyone write your thoughts down, if you want" kind of thing.  Of course, she wrote in it most.  No one said it was off-limits so I read it from time to time.  One entry was a bit strange to me.  She'd written something like, "how do you tell someone that you think their child has autism?"

Of course, I remembered this note retrospectively.  My husband and I were secretly worrying more and more about why our little son wasn't saying more than a handful of words a week (the same "ma," "da," "nigh," "no," "all-done" that he'd been able to say since 15 months of age).  He liked to jump, but hey--what toddler doesn't like to jump?!  But then he started to spin himself and little objects, like toy bowls and lids.  Even I knew that this was a red flag for child-development.  As we read more, both together, and separately, and answered online questionnaires we realized that our sweet 21-month-old was meeting about half the criteria for autism spectrum disorder. 

Autism?!  How could it be, I thought.  My son makes eye contact pretty often.  He doesn't get mad in a new environment or with new people.  He doesn't get upset if his toys are not where he left them or someone touches them.  He likes to be touched and hugged and kissed.  I thought people with autism got very upset with touch, change, and newness!

No, it's more of a social thing, a being aware of the world around them, not just parts of it.  The whole forest through the trees thing.

This explained why he would never ever point to the ball (or any pictures) in the same, simple children's book that I'd read to all of his older siblings.  This explained why he took out all the empty water bottles in a drawer and rolled them all over the floor, yet never put one to his mouth to drink.  This explained why he would open and shut the shoe cabinet doors over and over again, but never take out a shoe and try to put it on.  This explained why he didn't follow easy commands like, "Come here" or "Wave bye-bye."  This explained why he took a long time to settle down and go to sleep, and sometimes woke up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, again taking a long time to fall back asleep. This explained why he began to become very picky about what he would eat. This explained why he seemed to have no clue that my belly was getting round and hard and was thumping him in the back when he sat on my lap.  This explained a lot.

Everything was weighing heavy on us and worse, for me, was realizing I was having another baby.  What if she started exhibiting signs of autism?!  My heart was breaking as I was becoming more aware of how much my life was changing.

My husband was on a business trip and we were talking and crying, every night, on the phone.  He finally just cut his trip short and came home.  We cried in each other's arms all night and then called my son's pediatrician the next morning. 

Everything has a waiting list, so by the time he was able to be assessed, by the child psychiatrist and developmental pediatrician, our baby girl had been born and he was near approaching his second birthday.

Being in their office was one of the most awful days of my life.  Hearing the results, where my son's development was on the social, cognitive, and physical levels was like drifting helplessly in the sea and having unseen waves push and pull me around.  There were other days and nights like this to come, when I was just barely able to lift my head for a breath.  The only "good" news of the day was that his gross and fine motor skills were pretty close to where they should be.  (And looking back, I know we are fortunate that he can move around and do things without hindrance).

My saving grace was probably that I had just had a baby and was enjoying her newborn-ness.  Being sleep-deprived because of caring for a sweet new baby is okay with me.  Being sleep-deprived because a toddler is singing his head off (using sounds, not words) or because he is screaming and crying for reasons he can't tell me is NOT okay with me. 

Some nights I had just gotten the baby fed, changed, and rocked back to sleep, only to have my head hit the pillow and 30 minutes later have the screams of a toddler jerk me out of my meager slumber.  Another saving grace was that my husband was on board.  He had never really woken up with any of our other kids; I'd always nursed our babies and later I got up when they were older and feeling sick.  Since he worked outside the home, we thought it best that he get the rest, I could often get a nap in the following day, if I forced myself to stop doing things and take one when the kids at home did.  But this time, he was almost always the one that got up and held and rocked and sang to our little toddler.

I had a crash course on all things Autism Spectrum Disorder related, over the course of just a few months.  Having graduated from college with a degree in psychology, terms and definitions that I studied to pass tests, were suddenly taking on real and unwanted meaning in my life.  I read as much as I could, in between caring for 5 other children and having to drive them to and from school and activities) as there was no transportation department at our new school district.  (My youngest child spent more time in her car seat in the first year of her life than all her older siblings time in car seats combined!)  I had to meet with doctors and specialists whom I really didn't want to meet with--not because they weren't nice, but because I didn't want to have to deal with this worrying and planning and preparing for my son's uncertain future.  I had to painfully tell my family and people at my church what was up with our son, so that they might understand why my son might giggle at nothing or grunt in the middle of our conversation or spin their flower pots.

I reentered the cell-phone world at just the right time.  Having gone for about six years without one, I got an iPhone 5.  This was just the right time because it meant I could text fast without having to use abbreviations: after learning about my son's disorder I have come to have a strong disdain for three letter acronyms: ASD, ABA, PRT, IPP, IEP, ABR, PECs, PDD-NOS, etc...  As well as puzzle pieces.  (I think autism should be represented by this symbol-"?!?!?").

Baby step, by emotionally gut-wrenching baby step, we got behavioral and speech therapies set up for him at home.  At the original assessment I do remember the doctors saying that how well he responds to therapy, over the next few years, would be a good indicator of the quality of life he might have.  After weeks of therapy we began to see millimeters of improvement.  I have learned to rejoice in these millimeters, even though they are microscopic compared to his peers who are kilometers ahead.

For my other children, I did my best to document and celebrate my last baby's first year of life.  And, try and bring normalcy to my oldest four children's lives.  I know we have a loving Father in Heaven.  Being so tired and stressed--I should have developed mastitis a million times.  But, I never did.  Someone was lifting me up to keep my head above the waves. 

Everything has a waiting list, so by the time we were at Stanford, and he was actually being assessed specifically for autism and being given the "official medical diagnosis," it had been 10 months of getting used to our new, not wished for, life. 

Everything they said to us was no shocker; we'd had 10 months of getting ready to hear what we already knew.  We handled the news rather well, they said.  The head child psychiatrist was distracted while she explained everything, distracted by our extremely adorable, yet autistic, little boy.  Remember how I said he makes eye contact pretty often?  Well, if you are one of those fortunate souls, you not only get to be mesmerized by his dark brown peepers, but you will most likely be given one of the most genuinely happiest of smiles: a beautiful little smile that speaks from his little soul--telling you that he is extremely pleased to meet you.

It had been an exhausting 10 months.  Though I would have liked to have nursed my last baby for longer, since she was our last--she was weaned at age 12 months on the dot, we had our son's "official diagnosis," and my husband and I left for a much-needed 10-day trip to Hawaii--all in the same week.

Now, we've moved again.  I have a 4" three-ring binder full of all my son's "stuff" we've accumulated in his short life.  He has started at his second special day class for children with autism (first one was in our last area).  People first learning about him always ask, "Where is he on the spectrum?"  Moderate, if you must know.  Yes, it could be worse.  Some days it is worse and he screams.  But, most days, it is okay.  He is still making his millimeters of progress.  His baby sister has now surpassed him in almost everything developmental (except for running and jumping!) 

My family has all grown so much.  My four older children are like mini-therapists; they are all getting quite good at engaging and teaching and directing their youngest brother.  My baby is teaching him to stick up for himself and that it is okay to get upset when she takes his toy, instead of just walking away.  He is learning to associate where things are better.  He started singing familiar songs, with sounds, not the actual words, right around the time he turned two.  My husband and I do not find it coincidental that the first song we recognized him singing was, "I Am a Child of God."  He loves to play with toys that make sound.  He loves to bang and spin and swing different objects to hear their sound.  He loves to play our piano.  Guess who played most of "Chopsticks" by himself the other day?  (We have sat and done it with him--but this time no one was around and he went in and figured out the notes himself!)

People say, "Oh well--autistic people are geniuses in specific areas."  That is totally not true as most individuals with autism are at normal or below normal IQ.  So, do I expect he will a savant like Mozart?  No, but it would be cool. Do I believe he'll have a lifelong appreciation for music and sounds?  Absolutely!

I have learned that 55% of communication involves no spoken words.  I am getting better at reading that 55% in my son and others.  My husband and I are picking up the pieces of our shattered future and putting them together in a different, flexible way.  We may not be able to travel the world and serve all those church missions we always hoped we would when we retire, but it doesn't mean we can't serve.  The atonement of Jesus Christ--that I always believed in and understood to mean we would all one day be perfect--used to mean to me, that I would have no more scars or crooked teeth and finally be able to recollect all my forgotten memories, now has a much deeper meaning for me; it means that my beautiful son will one day tell me all his glorious thoughts and hopes and dreams because whatever is not whole in him (autism is such a mystery) will be made whole!

We believe he will speak to us, eventually.  Right now he is learning the basis of communication--the exchange of something for something.  He has always made lots of little sounds so we know he is capable of speech.  I'm not holding my breath for it, but I sure am persistent about getting him to emit sounds for favorite objects--crackers, blankets, going outside.  He will speak, eventually.  He will show an interest in potty-training, one day.  He will improve because he is already improving.  It is millimeters.

So, my dear past and present friends--I hope when we meet again, and it's a small world so we may eventually run into each other--you will do one (hopefully both) of two things: 1) Find the balance in showing me you support me in my newfound, lifelong, trial without sounding fake or condoning and 2) Come up to my son, get close to his face, talk to him and see if you can get one of those heart-melting smiles. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Shock is Almost Over

The shock of moving is almost over.

Fourth of July weekend was a crazy busy one, as we relocated to our new home in the Sacramento area.  

It's been a shock of a move--in a good, but never-slowing-down kind of way.  Sitting here in the parking lot, as my oldest is attending early-morning seminary, I am finally taking a moment to realize all that we've managed to accomplish in 6 weeks--and boy do I make myself tired!!

This is the first time, since my kids have been in school, that we didn't move in the middle of the school year.  Registering five children at four different schools (one being high school)--been there, done that!

Moving to a home with 36 fruit trees--in the MIDDLE of summer-- when everything's producing: dehydrating pounds of plums and making 15 pints of various kinds of jam (thus far), and finding new recipes for figs--been there, done that!

Finding, buying, sewing, adjusting curtains for windows that are taller than my old homes' windows--been there, still doing that!

Sortof neglecting the newly-acquired pool, finding it one day to be the color of lemon-lime Gatorade, crash-learning all about various pool chemicals and creating cocktails to bring it back to crystal clear--been there--done that!

Child proofing for a toddler, who has learned to climb on counter-height stools (and all heights in between) WAY earlier than all her five siblings previously--been there, done that!

Starting school and dealing with such changes as sleep deprivation from onset of early morning seminary--been there, done, Zzzzzzz....

Saturday, May 10, 2014

On my plate...

If crunch time means trying to fit in more stuff during a 24-hour period, than right now it is the crunchiest of times for me!

I'm in the process of moving 2 1/2 hours away.  I'm in the process of getting 5 children registered for new schools.  I'm in the process of finishing off their current school year (and why in the world are ALL the fieldtrips in the last month of school?!?!?!?!)  I'm in the process of trying to do a lot!

This means I must either create an extra hour or two in the day OR drop something.  Since I am not God, nor am I willing to go on less sleep--I'm dropping something!  And I have chosen: blogging.  It will only be temporary and who knows--I might decide to throw something up here every now and then.  But honestly, myself and family first!

"And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order."  (Mosiah 4:27)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Fun with the camera.

So, I have had a phone with a camera on it for the last 15 months. Now, I am able to actually see things that I want to take pictures of, take pictures of them, and immediately post into blogs. I love it.

If I had had this feature a few years back, you would've seen the announcement of my pregnancies with such a picture as this. 

(Of course, with myself in the picture and my husband pointing to my belly).

Ah well, those of you who are still baby prolific--feel free to use my idea! ;)

Monday, April 14, 2014

At it again!

#2 and I went to UT at the end of March to attend the General Women's meeting.  Yeah, they switched the age to 8 years and up now, but our tradition is 12 years of age and we go to the meeting itself, not the broadcast.  Besides, I had a lot more fun with her at 12 than I think I would have when she was 8!

First on the agenda (besides flying there):

Full-day of BYU indoctrination!  

I had such great experiences at BYU and that is why I wish for all my children to go here!



We squeezed in time for visits with family and friends.

This is her 93-year-old great grandma, whom she shares her birthday with!

Also on the to do list: Go to the Salt Lake Temple (my first time inside this one, as well!), then spend the day at Temple Square.  We were thus fueled for the big meeting and excited to be sitting on a few of the amazing 21,333 seats in the glorious Conference Center!

21,333 seat!!!!!

Aunt H. came too!!


And, a little fun here and there didn't hurt (though I find snow painful(ly) annoying!  But #2 LOVED it!)

Main actors "Huckleberry Finn" and "Jim" in a local production of my favorite musical, "Big River"

Surprise snow on our way out of church!

Don't see this stuff where we live in CA!

It was a lot of fun and a trip we will always remember.  As a busy mom of six, trips with just one child are a rare treat!  I love my daughter!!

Friday, March 28, 2014


It's almost April!  The time goes by too fast!

Some quick Marchy happenings:

My fourth child gets baptized!  

Baby girl finally cuts a tooth--her top left. Top right is almost in--guess she's getting her bunny teeth in time for Easter? 

#5 preps for America's Top (Child) Model. :)

St. Patrick's Day traditional green feast...

#3's basketball team wins the tournament after an undefeated season.  Did I mention he was the only 4th grader to make the team?  Guess it helps to be taller than everyone-including the 6th graders....

#1 receives award for having straight A's through all of junior high!  

#2 proves to be an awesome babysitter-- like her sister...

I continue to receive opportunities to dress up and goof off.

Yea for March!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

180 degrees

Are there things that you are doing the exact opposite of what you once did?  Or even just thinking  the opposite of before?  I have noticed some 180 degree changes in my life, on things that are not right or wrong, just different than the way I was before.


My sister and I use to talk about how deceitful make-up could make you look and how horrible it would be to be an avid make-up user, get married and then for your husband to see you for the first time without make-up and think, "Who in the world are you?!"

I wore make-up in 5th grade, usually putting it on at school when my mom wasn't around.  When she found out she informed me that I couldn't wear make-up until I was 15, which to an 11 year-old seems forever away.  During the following four years I just got used to liking the way I looked au natural and continued to bare my naked face for several years.

It wasn't until after the birth of my 4th child that I started to feel like my face was lacking color.  It just looked mighty pale from losing all the fluids one loses when having a baby, especially at the end of winter when one hasn't been outside much to absorb some sunshine.  I started using some bronzer and felt much better when I saw myself in the mirror.

Since then I would just wear blush occasionally.  A year ago I started to wear foundation, cover-up and blush every day--and I like the way I look with it on, better than without it on.  Some times I even put on eye shadow and mascara and lip gloss.

Short Hair

I never paid much attention to short hair.  Mine had almost always been long.  The few times I had it shorter, it was still to my shoulders, but it was easy to do and easy to pull it up if I needed.  But, then I just got to wanting a change.  I began to consider short hair?  Would I like it--on me?  Only one way to found out.  It's been almost four years since I chopped it off and I love the way I look with short hair.   It's more sassy--and that is definitely more me.  I think I will begin growing it out when I start to get close to 40--just because.  But, I've still got a few years til I attempt that feat!


Yup, I am sexist now.  I use to believe that women and men were pretty equal for all tasks.  Except maybe extreme things like firefighting and having to be able to heft 300 pounds on your shoulder like it was a 50 pound bag of flour--most women can't do it (most can't even heft a 50 pound bag of flour!)

But, as of the past year, one of my children has required some in-home therapy.  I can't sit by his side 100% of the time, since I have other children and a house to tend to.  So--guess what?!  I am sexist!  I refuse to employ male therapists.  There are some wonderful male therapists out there, but they will never see the inside of my home....

Being a stay-at-home-mom

When I was a teenager I knew that I really wanted to get married and, eventually, have children.  I knew that I wanted lots of children.  I also felt that God had given me a special talent and that I would become a phenomenal psychologist one day, or a musician, or an athletic coach....  I saw motherhood as something you just did and didn't think that it would be too hard to manage that while I worked full or part time.

It wasn't until I did get married and then had my first child, while still in college, that my viewpoint began to change.  After spending the first few months with her, and getting close to my graduation, I thought, "How could I NOT stay at home with you?  I don't want someone else to witness all these magical moments of raising you.  I want to see your first steps--not hear about it from the daycare worker!"

I worked part-time for a couple more years, just to help my husband to be able to finish his degree, and then I stayed at home with my babies.  I'm still with them and still loving being the first one to see those smiles, hear those words, and receive those hugs, that only children have!  I plan to work part-time when my youngest begins school full-time.  But for now--I am treasuring this time with my children.

Monday, February 24, 2014

New Tricks for this Old Dog...

1st second honeymoon:


1st time snorkeling (for me):


1st rambutan:


1st time Tongan dancing:


1st time being awoken by a moth:


1st hike using my hands more than my feet (slippery, slippery, SLIPPERY!  Thank heaven for tree roots!!!!)

1st time golfing (for me):


1st time seeing The [ABSOLUTELY AMAZING] Lion King!!!


1st personal tree root parking lot:


1st helicopter ride: