Our Happiest Place on Earth

Back in February, I got a crazy idea. We were planning our last family trip to Disneyland before our passes expired and two weeks before our trip I thought, “how great would it be to have our family pictures taken AT Disneyland!?” This past year, we had gone quite a few times. For Valentine’s Day & my birthday (the day after Valentine’s Day), Dave and I even took a quick no-kids trip and stayed at the Grand Californian. It was one of my best birthdays yet, and I’m determined to make it happen every year! Ahem, Dave. Disneyland became my happy place (happier than normal) for me after my Mom died. It was the perfect place to escape real life/little bouts of depression with the California sunshine, palm trees, and Disneyland.

So, I know this amazing photographer, Cherie Mask, that I thought would be the perfect person to take our pictures. I emailed her immediately to see if it was even a possibility that she could come (she lives in Arizona), and miraculously, it worked! She flew out for the day to take our pictures and it was so much fun.

A little side note: Cherie and I first became online friends after I stumbled upon her blog a few years ago. After a few visits to her blog I realized that I knew her husband, Jeff. We had both served as missionaries in Buenos Aires, Argentina many, many years ago. Then last year, Cherie and I met in real life for the first time. We both attended the same lecture at Women’s Conference here at BYU and met in real life. Not only did we end up in the same class, but when Cherie came in a few minutes before the lecture started, the usher sat her in my row! Out of tens of thousands of women, we ended up in the same class, and sitting in the same row! I do not believe in coincidences. I know we were supposed to meet, I know we are meant to be friends, and I feel so blessed by the influence of her goodness in my life. She is gorgeous inside and out!

When I got our pictures, I cried! I was so happy that she perfectly captured us at our favorite place. I will forever treasure them. So without further ado…

Dave, his girls, and a castle

Our fam

I’ve got a crush on this guy

Making wishes at Snow White’s wishing well. My wish is for my double chin to disappear.

I almost puked on the teacups, which means I’m officially old.

I want to recreate this picture every year.

Our Nezzie Girl

One of our favorite treats that we get every time are (non-alcoholic) mint juleps. Inez enjoys the mint leaves.

Gwen, the heartbreaker…

…and daddy’s girl.

Our sweet Olive girl

She truly is our family’s biggest Disneyland fan. She would go every day if she could.

She wore her Minnie Mouse dress and HEELS every day on our trip. See? BIG fan.

Kisses from my Clara bug

The outfit on Clara is one that all my girls have worn and one of my favorites.

Dave LOVES kids on his shoulders at Disneyland

I can’t remember what she saw here, probably Small World.

It truly is our happy place.

Thank you, again, Cherie! Our whole family loves you and can’t wait for next year’s pictures!

*If you are in Arizona and need photography, you need to hire Cherie. She’s amazing and she didn’t even ask me to promote her, but I am because that’s how awesome she is. You’re welcome.

10 on 10 in May

ten on ten button

I remembered to participate this month! Yay for me.

So I decided to shoot with my 50mm prime lens all day because I have a hard time focusing on the right things when I have it on a low f-stop. So I must practice, practice, practice, so that I can get better. I’m addicted to the lens for all the delicious light it lets in.

My day started out with a little re-organization. Our coat closet has been driving me crazy! So this morning when I was hanging someone else’s jacket for the millionth time, I snapped—but not in a bad, postal way. I pulled everything out, got rid of a few things, and organized this bad boy. I know this picture isn’t very impressive to anyone else, but it brings me great joy!

My stained glass star which was a Mother’s Day gift. Now I have something pretty to look at while doing the dishes.

Miss Clara is just shy of her two month mark. She is such a good baby and pretty in pink. She still has the reddish hue in her hair too!

I’m FINALLY getting around to making Gwen’s quilt for her twin bed. It’s from Heather Bailey’s Nicey Jane line. I used more blues and greens for Gwen, as opposed to the pink I used for Inez’s.

A grapefruit. It’s my mid-morning snack. I have to lose this baby weight! Oh, and the other weight I’ve put on in between babies.

We had our chimney cleaned out. Two years at this house and we’ve never built a fire in our fireplace. This was the first step in getting our fireplace finished. You can see there is still a lot to do! UGH.

I found Big Baby in Clara’s car seat. She had even grabbed Clara’s blanket too. She is a funny one.

What a pleasant surprise! When the mail came, we got a package. It came from one of my oldest friends, and full of goodies for my girls from her little girl’s 2nd birthday party. Thank you Lisa! Looks like it was a fun party.

When I need a chunk of time to myself (like to make dinner) I turn on a show for Big Baby. Inevitably, the older girls gravitate towards the TV too. While Olive prefers Little Einsteins and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, I’ve tried to broaden her horizons, but she just won’t sit still for Pride and Prejudice. But she will…all in good time.

We’ve discovered that Olive isn’t a big fan of her highchair. She will sit and eat much better if she sits with Dave though. She’s such a Daddy’s girl, and he’s such a sucker (in a good way).


Sweet Baby Clara

Going into childbirth, no one ever expects for their baby to wind up in the NICU. We certainly weren’t expecting anything but the same experience we’d had with our first three girls. And I was really looking forward to being at the hospital with a new baby for two days!

When Clara was born, my midwife immediately laid her down on me and I tried to comprehend the fact that we had another girl. I had been so sure that we would have a boy this time around. Now I know that the minimal-puking pregnancy was just a blessing, not the sign of a boy on the way.

I held Clara for about a minute before the respiratory people took her to check her out. Despite the big cry she initially let out, she quickly started grunting–which, we soon learned, is a sign of respiratory problems. She was struggling to breathe. The respiratory specialists watched her for a minute or two and then rushed her to the nursery. Dave went with them and I was left to wonder and worry.

Since at the 11th hour, I had decided to get an epidural, I couldn’t get up and go with him. It was such a fast labor that, even hours after her birth, the drugs had yet to wear off. It was so hard laying in the bed, feeling helpless, unable to go see my new baby in the nursery. As soon as I could get in a wheelchair, I went to see her.

Not only had I barely seen our new babe, but now she was going to be transferred to another hospital in another town. The emotions that first day were extreme, to say the least.  Seeing her little body with all the wires and tubes was almost too much to handle. Dave and I just stared at her, crying for our new baby and not understanding what exactly was wrong with her.

At that point our pediatrician had already decided that she needed to be transferred from Orem Community Hospital–where she had been born–to the Newborn Intensive Car Unit (NICU) over at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (UVRMC).  That afternoon, a LifeFlight crew came and transferred Clara to the Provo hospital.

They thought it was probably pneumonia, and needed to start her on antibiotics before they knew for sure if they even needed them. With babies, they can’t wait for tests to be done before putting them on antibiotics because it’s just too dangerous to wait.

Dave was also born with pneumonia, so he and Clara will be able to bond on a new level.

We are so grateful for modern medicine. We loved the staff—the neonatologists, respiratory specialists, and all those wonderful nurses—that helped save and take care of our baby.

My sister brought our girls to the hospital to see Clara, but they could only see her through the NICU window.

On day four, she was extubated and we were finally able to hold her!

Hooray for fewer tubes! And we were finally able to get a good look at her cute little face.

This was her last night at the hospital when Dave and I got to “room in” with her.

She also had to do a car seat test for 90 minutes on the oxygen. I always forget how teeny newborns are in their car seats.

Coming home and meeting her sisters in person.

Big Baby meets the newest baby.

Since we didn’t get the traditional picture of our new family in the hospital, we took one once we got home.

After eight days, I was overcome with emotion as we were able to finally be together as a family. A family with four girls (I still can’t believe it)!

I am so grateful for these girlies. And I’m so grateful to have married Dave. He is so amazing—more than I could have ever hoped or wished for. The best husband, and the best Daddy of four girls.

I am so blessed.

My Mother, My Hero

It’s 5 a.m. and I cannot sleep. This has been the most uncomfortable night of my this pregnancy (my fourth), thus far. And due to the fact that yesterday was my “due date,” I’m hoping it will have been my last (or at least close to my last) uncomfortable night.

I’m a mixture of emotions. Anxious, nervous, excited, scared, and a little bit of crazy thrown in there too. You name it, I’ve been feeling it. I sit in wonder of how women can have so many children. I realize that four is a decent number, but when I think of those who have had so many more, I am in awe. I think of my own angel mother who endured seven pregnancies (eight including the one where she miscarried). She not only raised seven decent human beings (with a little help from my Dad), but she worked full time too. I feel like I still have so much to learn from her.

Last summer my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She and my dad had completed 2/3 of their full-time mission in Hong Kong when they needed to come home so that she could be treated. Needless to say, it was a whirlwind of events and emotions. They arrived home on a Saturday, and she was in surgery three days later. It was a very invasive surgery, with an extremely difficult recovery for her. Then she began chemotherapy in August. I’m not sure what was harder to watch her go through. That surgery, or the chemo that consistently weakened her.

It is hard to watch your loved ones go through something difficult.  This cancer tested my mom on all levels—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. With all she has had to bear, she has done so without much complaining (she is human after all). But even then, her kind of “complaining” pales in comparison to all the complaining I have done over these last 40 weeks of my pregnancy, and this is not cancer that I’m dealing with!

Like I said, I still have so much to learn from her.

Awhile back, Olive unloaded our filing cabinet. She made a big mess, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we (Dave) finally were able to re-organized it. In doing so, we came across a family newsletter that I had started back in 2005. In the December issue,—having recently celebrated Thanksgiving—I had asked everyone what they were grateful for. Here’s what my mom wrote:

This year, I am particularly thankful for the knowledge of and the plan of salvation and our purpose here on earth and, of course, having the Gospel to help understand it. It is this knowledge that guides my life, and perhaps, always has. It helps me understand how to go forward and yet reflect back. It helps my feet know which direction to walk in life; my hands what things to do for myself and others; my head how to think clearly and prioritize things; and especially, my heart how to feel and forgive and to love. It puts in place the importance of my Savior, my family and others. It helps me look at all people and know they were a part of the two-thirds who voted with us and causes me to try harder to live both the first and second great commandments. It is this testimony of Heavenly Father and our Lord and the plan that helps me be grateful for life and EVERYTHING and EVERYONE else in it—including the challenges and struggles, as well as the many blessings I have, like my great family and patriarch who help me keep it all in perspective.

I love her outlook on life. She is amazing.

Here she is after a few weeks of chemo, when she decided to chop her hair off, knowing it would probably fall out anyway.

Here she is in November, mid-treatments and rockin’ the turban. Watch out Rachel Zoe!

Here she is most recently with her hair growing back in. We think she looks gorgeous, and very modern!

If you are lucky enough to know my mom, you know that she is a very kind, loving, and happy person. She thrives on serving others, but does it in such a quiet way that you don’t realize what she’s done for you until way after the fact. This is only one of the many things I have learned from her, and am still trying to incorporate it.

I want to be like my Mom when I grow up.

Wha? Huh?

I feel like my life is a blur these days. I’m 36 weeks pregnant (okay, actually 35 weeks and 5 days) and so, so, so tired.

And I’m lazy. Well, I feel lazy. Life isn’t letting me be as lazy as I would like to be. There are still places to be, children to feed and clothe, and laundry that never, ever, ever ends.

I recently told Dave that laundry, dishes, and crumbs are NEVER ENDING. He was sympathetic and did the dishes for me. Actually, he does the dishes a lot. He’s a keeper, that one.

I have completely adopted Scarlet O’Hara’s “I’ll think about it tomorrow” attitude.

Get another crib? Eh. That can wait.
Get bunk beds for the girls? We’ll do that next Saturday.
Get baby clothes out and washed? Yeah, I’ll do that later.

I have nesting desires, but no energy to follow through.

But I can feel the panic starting to set in. I am beginning to FREAK OUT.

Olive is only going to be a little more than 15 months old!
Our house is TEENY! How are we going to fit?!
My kids already wear me out! How can I possibly add another one?

Yes, I realize it’s a little too late to go back on this. But still. These are my panicked thoughts as of late.

Then. I think about what’s coming. How can I possibly be freaking out about this?

Miss Olive, just eleven hours old

Miss Olive, just eleven hours old

And those other three monkeys running around here? They are everything to me. As tiring and they can be, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Some would call me lucky.

But I know I’m just extremely blessed.

A Most Sincere Pumpkin Patch

Gwen watches It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, or asks us to read the book to her every five seconds (or so it seems)—hence the title of this post.

Anyway, the other night we went to a pumpkin patch. Even though we already have some pumpkins growing in our backyard, we wanted to have a pumpkin patch experience. This place even had a “petting zoo” where a few random animals were hanging out in cages, eager to bite little fingers that found their way through the fence. There was a llama, some goats, some donkeys and a wallaby. Yes, you read that right. A wallaby.

The best thing about the wallaby was that when it was closing time, the wallaby’s owner came to pick it up, and this wallaby rode shotgun back to it’s home. I’m not joking. In this car (some kind of four-door sedan) there was a little girl and a Great Dane in the back seat, the owner was driving, and the wallaby rode up front. I have to say it was one of the strangest and most awesome things I’ve ever seen.

There was a gorgeous sunset that evening too. I wasn’t able to capture it. There are still a lot of things I need to learn about photography!


Big Sister, Little Sister

A short story of two sisters and a common interaction between them.

Gwen wants to brush her sister’s hair. Olive just wants to get out of there.

Olive is hanging out doing her thing. Gwen comes along and gets up in her space. Olive pushes Gwen with her feet (because she’s a baby and pushes anything that comes in contact with her feet). Gwen laughs and laughs, thinking it’s a game.

Gwen loves her little sister. Olive loves her big sister, but sometimes just wants her own space.


carving pumpkins

Well, we didn’t get to carve all of the pumpkins before we crashed. But we did nine out of eleven. Not too bad. We did have Jon & Ashley’s help, and Inez’s “help” too of course.

Before the pumpkin slaughter

Jon is hard at work

Dave’s first

Dave’s second

Jon’s first

Jon’s second


Here’s one of the three that I did. The other two are not really photo worthy because every year I feel this pressure to produce a really good Jack-o-lantern (which is totally self-imposed). I get this way because year after year Dave just sneezes and has the best looking jack-o-lanterns. But me? Well, I fret for a long, long time about what to do. After feeling bad for wasting so much time (because everyone else has already carved at least one pumpkin already) I just start carving without a plan. It gets worse as I just keep carving and cutting and cutting and carving, trying to improve what I’ve already basically destroyed. And the result is horrendous and I end feeling sorry for myself and lack of spontaneous creativity. Oh well. Maybe next year I’ll make a good one.

happy birthday jon!

So yesterday was Jonny’s 25th birthday and I had a bunch of great photos that I was going to scan for this post, but haven’t quite found the time yet. I have a feeling that Jon will be okay with that.

Well, I remember when my Mom was pregnant with her seventh child (Jon) and she and my Dad decided that if they had a girl then my sister Heather and I would get a bunk bed, but if they had a boy then Joe & James would get the bunk bed. I was six and therefore sad when Joe & James got the bunk bed (especially because Heather always tried to push me into the crack between the bed and the wall to scare me, but that’s a different story).

Fortunately, Jon has filled the bunk bed void with a lot of fun and great memories. A few classics spring to mind. For example there was the time that he tried to bleach his own hair, but having naturally black hair it turned a nice shade of orange. He wore a hat to school the next day, but that night he had a volleyball game where he wouldn’t be allowed to cover his orange head. He quickly scrambled and found a box of black hair dye. Well, he fixed his hair, but he also dyed his head black. I can see those gymnasium lights reflecting off of his scalp as if it were yesterday.

Probably one of my favorite memories of Jon was when we went to Arizona with the Wihongis and Joe & Liz. We were there for a few different events, like nearly going deaf from a Blue Angel that buzzed about 20 feet over us, the Aloha festival and scorp hunting to name a few. We also went to a little open house of sorts at our brother-in-law’s parent’s house where someone had made a delicious fruit dip. Joe, Liz, Jon & I were standing around the food and chatting and as I reached for the last piece of fruit to dip in the yummy dip Jon went to intercept the apple slice from my hand and in the process he got overly excited and some saliva fell from his mouth directly into the fruit dip. Well, we all nearly wet ourselves but no one thought to do anything about the dip, until later when we saw someone else eating some.

Jon is such a fun guy to have around. He’s always waiting in the shadows to jump out and scare you or try and start a snowball fight—just ask Ashley! He’s a great uncle and the girls love it when he’s around, which is more often now since he and Ashley are living downstairs from us! We’re so glad that he married Ashley and that she is part of our family.

We love you “Jo nathan” and hope that you had a great birthday! And for the record, I am glad that Heather and I didn’t get the bunk bed after all.

Oh, and here is one picture that I did manage to scan.

happy birthday gene!

So when my oldest sister, Carol, had her first date with Gene I remember sitting on the couch in our living room in Anaheim watching the whole scene. He came in and met everyone that was there and I have this vivid memory where he was wearing a flannel shirt. I know that doesn’t sound right for a punk rocker, or “the blonde kid” as he was referred to by my Dad, but that is what was burned into my mind. Kristy (sister #2) asked me what I thought—which seems silly now because at the time I was maybe nine years old—and I said that he looked like a lumberjack (yet another piece to my memory puzzle to back up my flannel shirt rememberance). I didn’t disapprove, but I wasn’t sold right away either.

Well, it didn’t take Gene very long to take a hold of our hearts (except maybe for Dad, but that may be somewhat understandable considering the lame guys that Carol had dated previously—sorry Carol, although I’m sure you’d agree—and she was also his first daughter to date and get married). We’re so glad that he married into our crazy family because now he’s stuck.
But seriously, we love Gene. He is such an amazing person, father, husband, doctor, surfer, and “kid” to have around. We always feel welcomed, loved, uplifted and enlightened when we are around him. He is seriously a kid at heart and is always up for any adventure.

I even remember being at their house in San Diego and Carol had to tell Gene to come in from skateboarding so that he wouldn’t disturb the neighbors late at night. That was probably three or four years ago. Gene will be the 80 year old surfer.

We know that you’ll never live too far from the ocean or your year-round perfect weather, but please come visit more often! We do have good snowboarding here and I’m sure that Carol could turn that into some sort of field trip for the girls. You’re always invited.

We love you Gene and hope you had a great birthday!