This morning after gathering her coloring book and crayons, I lift her into her wheelchair. She knows me now and always greets me with a huge smile. We've been spending some time together each morning her and I. As the sun starts to filter through the fancy wood blinds I look over, she smiles and I see a radiant girl.

"Where's pink?" she asked. I help her find the color she needs. Dora the Explorer's shoes are going to be pink today. I hadn't planned on spending each morning with Emily. There is an hour or so where my daughter Lydia is in a religion class each morning and Emily's mother is her instructor.
Actually I had not given much thought to where Emily would be during that time each day. Now we share a table in the early hours and my life is better for it.

Her questions are generally very simple. She loves Dr Pepper and coloring. Her time each day is not being spent in the office or at PTA meetings or hosting the neighborhood block party, they are spent in a day program and at her home with her parents.

This morning my heart pauses a little as she asks, "Am I smart?". I smile and reassure her that she is and then she continues, " What is smart? I can't cook. I don't drive".
I take her hand and explain that smart is knowing something. I assure her that she is the best kind of smart. She knows how to make people laugh and helps them to smile. She brings joy to people. With a world that has so much darkness, her kind of smart is so needed. She is such a blessing to those who know her.

The moment passes; she is coloring Dora's dress brown and I have just been taught a soul lesson.

As a parent and a homeschooling mom maybe I'm concerned more than I should be about how the world views what is a success or the best kind of smart. I am finding the best lessons in my life always come from unexpected places.

Thank you Emily for gifting me your picture. Guess what, I love coloring too!


The Flying Circus

This is the first picture after the hot air balloon crashed. Oh wait, maybe I need to start at the beginning.

Last year my sweet older kids purchased a gift certificate for a hot air balloon ride for my birthday. It has always been a dream of mine to ride in the air in a big beautiful balloon. With Michael gone a great deal, the weather and the distance to a company the ride kept getting postponed.
I saw an ad for The Flying Circus and found that there was a weekend where they did the hot air balloon rides too. I called Mark Nelson and arranged for my flight!

The Flying Circus is held every weekend for 4 months about 2 1/2 hours from our home in Virginia. There were so many planes of olden days. A certain husband and smaller boy were thrilled. Michael ran around taking pictures of plane engines, props, and wings. I think he was a in a little bit of  heaven.

After the airshow that was full of flying and aerobatics, we ate shaved ice and waited for the wind to die down so the balloons could inflate. It was quite a hot August afternoon and there was no shade from the sun. The kids got to pick out some treats from the gift shop. Lydia chose a mood necklace with an airplane on it. Thayne and Maliea both chose different types of model airplanes.

  My balloon ride was not scheduled until after 6 pm. Lydia and I waited while the others went to check out the ReMax balloon while they were doing safety checks. All of a sudden the man told Thayne to jump in the basket and help him. Thayne was so thrilled! He got to pull on the red strap that opened the top to let all the air out. He loves helping people and was so excited they let him get in.
I think that even Maliea had a great time watching all the planes and balloons. 

Then it was time.....

Up, Up, Up, up in my balloon. Up so high I can almost touch a cloud. Our basket was pack. 7 of us. Perhaps maybe a bit too full. I was right under the burner and it felt like a campfire on my head. I did get a small burn on my neck. All part of the adventure right.
The thing that surprised me the most was that you felt nothing. It was so very very calm, like standing still. There was a man in his 20's, a WWII vet, his girlfriend and another couple in their 50's. Fascinating people and we got to know each other well because we crashed. Oh yeah. It is probably all my fault. That darn law of attraction thing. Our flight was supposed to be about 90 minutes long. We did a really fun touch and go on the ground.  People stopped in their cars and waved to us. It was really beautiful with farm fields and ponds. But...it was like standing still, in one spot, with nowhere to go and nothing to do.
At about 20 minutes into our flight I was beginning to wonder if it was going to get any more exciting. That is when it happened! A wind shear from the East hit the side of the balloon and collapsed it. The pilot was amazing trying to recover but to no avail. We were going down.
I don't think anyone was really scared or anything because we had just done the touch and go about 10 minutes earlier and we weren't descending super fast. Then we hit. Three time really  hard before we skidded to a stop. At least we were upright. I loved it!!!!
Honestly my neck and back have been hurting but it was worth it for the adventure of it all.

It was about 2 hours before the chase van could get to us and take us back to the hanger. We got to chat and share the stories of our lives. There was no where to go and except for the bugs, it was a lovely evening. A bunch of strangers who found companionship in life stories. I learned something about myself which is probably the best part of the balloon trip. I like to really live life! I like to do things that really make me feel alive. I am not satisfied with just being stagnant. I love to share with other people and learn that despite how different we are, we are mostly just the same inside.

I am grateful for my children to gave me this experience and these memories. It was the perfect gift even if it wasn't the perfect balloon flight, I now have a story to share.


This morning Thayne brought me his dollar that he got from the tooth fairy. He said, " Here Mama, I want to give this to Mia, so she can have a start on her goal to go to college."
He constantly asks if he is a good boy. He see the world so differently but I think he is going to be just fine.


Our beach

There is never enough time to just relax. I am so grateful to have this wonderful place on the property. We are so blessed to be able to have our family home evening right near the water tonight.


Updates from the wanderer

Michael has been having a grand time in Europe. I am not sure he is really working very hard there though.
We are receiving lots and lots of lovely pictures of his adventures. This last weekend he got to travel over to France to see some of the countryside over there.

We miss our daddy a lot but are glad that he is really having a great time while he is tdy in Northern Italy.

Wear Good Shoes

Last Thursday and Friday, Lydia attended youth conference. I prepared all her food and medicines and told myself that she would be fine without me anywhere around. I still haven't figured out the right balance of letting her be independent and still making sure that I am there in case of a medical emergency. I am getting better though.
All those years of daily life vs death experiences make it hard to completely let go. Her mobility is becoming less and less so that is a factor too.

When we arrived one of my dear friends was in charge of Lydia's group and all my fears gently dissipated, I knew she would have a great time. Lydia loves quilting and that was one of the activities. She had such a grand time being with friends and learning how to share the gospel of Christ. They did service and had a lot of fun too!

Maliea, Thayne and I hopped on the Metro and headed into the District. For the next 9 1/2 hours we followed Thayne from one exciting exhibit to the next.

He loves the Air and Space Museum. He loves anything that is hands on, so we ran around finding as much stuff to touch as possible.

I think that Maliea really had a great time there also. Even if her enjoyment was a bit rushed by her brother's enthusiasm.

We had a snack then walked to the carousel. The ride before had been packed with children but then somehow Thayne got the whole thing by himself. The conductor let it go around double for him!

We also had so much fun at the American history and Natural history museum. Lydia did not need to be picked up until 8:00 pm that night so we had lots of time to walk around and enjoy the beautiful day. Needless to say our feet did not enjoy that many hours though. Even Thayne started to slow down at the end.
On Friday , I was able to feel comfortable enough to let Lydia be up there the whole day without me being just minutes away. I am not sure I could have done another long day chasing Thayne around DC again. I love that Lydia had a good experience at youth conference and honestly it was nice being in the museums without having to chase him and push a wheelchair. One thing that we have learned is always, always wear good shoes. There is nothing like exploring the city on foot but you don't want your feet to hate you at the end of the day.


Working hard?

Just in pictures of Elder Callihan and his companion sent by one of the ward members who feed them tonight.

It was said that he had some really spicy hot sauce and that is why he was sweating.



This morning my love and I exchanged text messages stating how grateful we were that we were not imbibers. This morning I felt like I had a hangover anyway, that's what crying can do to you. Puffy eyes and a sharp headache were the gifts of released sorrow at 3 am that was an accumulation of lots of emotions.

Thayne has been participating in a summer trial for Destination Imagination. I had been there observing his work and how well he was doing. I wasn't sure at first if he would be a good fit, then I watch how he blossomed with the challenges and how his creative mind was loving it. We started attending at the first part of June and the trial period ended last week. He loved creating an article of clothing out of newspaper and duct tape, then displaying his team's creation, they worked with simple machines and learned how to present themselves and a subject. I was surprised and impressed with how he rose to the tasks.

Unfortunately, the program is about competition and winning is the end all be all. The rejection email came yesterday from the leadership team.
"Realizing the full scope of what a competitive DI team entails, we feel that it would be a frustrating year for Thayne and the other team members.  We want his DI experience to be a positive one, and for his learning to be joyful, and recognize that a competitive DI team will likely not provide that environment.  As such, we have determined not to invite Thayne to a team this year." Part of the email read.

Thayne took this very hard and my momma heart is so sad for him. Rejection, unfortunately is part of life and I can't take away his sadness. So all night he was saying things like, " they think I am stupid" and " I tried so hard but I will never be good enough".

One of the women on the leadership team is a lady from our church. She and I have not been seeing eye to eye on several things in cub scouts and other areas. She sent an email to other people in church behind my back about how I disciplined Thayne weeks ago at cubs scouts and she did not agree, thinking that I was being too harsh. I am trying so very hard to believe that she was fair with all of this, but I fear not.

After raising 4 other kids, you would think that I would have all the answers to soothe my boy. I don't. It is really crappy being rejected. Parenting is hard. The world is hard. All I can do is let him know he really did his best and really that is all any of us can do.



This man is the love of my life. He is kind, loving,an excellent father, and currently in Northern Italy without me. Before Italy it was Yuma, Arizona. Before Yuma, California and before California it was Florida. He has been gone for a good part of this year. To be honest, most of this year and the last has been spent traveling with his job.

I would not be honest if I said I am perfectly okay with it all. This trip my phone is filling up with pictures of amazing sites and yummy food.

The most interesting thing I have encountered in my conversation with others, is how they share my lament but then the statement about money always comes up. ALWAYS! " Oh it's too bad he is gone all the time , but the money is really good right?" The variations on this question all are asking the same thing.
For the record , no he doesn't get per diem. It would be dreamy if he did. He does have a very small percentage more of his pay but money can never be a substitute for his presence. Is this what we truly value, money over togetherness?
He does get amazing food and gelato!

I adore this man! He works so hard for our family. Quite frankly he is happy when he is away from the politics and conflict of the engine shop here on base. He misses us and I am a bit jealous that Italy doesn't have me visiting too. His value to me is not in how much his paycheck is. Money is not a consolation. It pays bills, puts food on the table but has nothing to do with how valuable he is to my heart and soul.

Things will have to shift, our boy is having such a hard time with Quayde on his mission and Daddy gone too. I prayed to have an open and loving heart for this trip; so I could delight in Michael's enjoyment of the country and the food. It is amazing how prayer can take away resentment and replace it with joy. I am so loving the discoveries and beauty that is being shared through the photos. I am grateful for the technology that allows us to be close even when we are an ocean apart.


Hello Summer!

It is that time of year again where everything seems just a little bit sweeter. The pressure of daily routine shifts and the world appears to be more relaxed. Our berry bushes are filled with nature's jewels. I went out this morning and collected just around the back yard for a few minutes and came in with a quart.
I know the next week is going to be filled with sticky hands and the sounds of little thumps as the berries are collected.
As I gather and walk around trying not to get pricked by the thorns, everything about this feels true to my soul. There is some kind of deep wisdom I feel that the forest is whispering to me.
I became a nature lover as a wee girl living in N. California. My earliest memories are of rivers, trees and many hours playing outdoors. My parents had friends Lyn & Jo Bates, they came over and they would use the slide projector to share their vacation adventures. I fell in with traveling by dreaming of going on those adventures too.
Summer just brings all those things I love together. We don't have any grand plans this season but long for a trip back to Alaska again to be with family.
The kids and I will just have to make a not-so-bummer Summer list together soon because I feel like it is slipping away all to quickly.


YW Girls Camp 2015

Where: Prince William Forest Park  Virginia 
Dates: June 22 - 26th
Who: Patuxent Ward Young Women

Theme: Warriors of Worth
Putting on the whole armor of God
I have a love/hate relationship with girls camp. There are parts of my soul that love camp and what it means to the girls and then...the heat & sweat and dying of bug bites gets to the other part of my soul.
This was Lydia's fourth year. I have been one of the camp leaders for the past two years also. My main job when I get to camp is to help Lydia so she can participate. This is a lot of work. She needs help to simply even get places anymore. She is not as mobile as she once was and it breaks my heart. 

The second day is always the hardest both physically and emotionally. She is such a trooper. She pushes her little body to go farther and work hard. Lydia is amazing. This year on day two I accidentally gave her some granola bites that had milk in them. Then it was allergic reaction time and meds. She is very patient with me, and still loves me even when I poison her. I had to basically knock her out with Benedryl for the rest of the afternoon. Yep, I'm not winning any mother of the year awards.

The best thing about this girl is her sense of humor and how happy she always is. She won Warrior of the Day for participating in the warrior dash obstacle course. Seriously, she is rather cool. Her leaders had to help her walk and climb but she did it! She made it through the whole obstacle course.

I always have to take a little time out during the week to commune with nature on my own. Without Lydia or anyone else. Sometimes I have deep moments and sometimes just the peace that comes from being enveloped in God's creations fills my soul back up.

I am always humbled by the perfect design of mother earth. How complete each aspect of the plants and animals complement each other. I wish my brain could have the enlarging capacity to fully comprehend the sacred geometry of it all.

This frog was huge and right under my feet during my walk. I barely noticed him until he leaped away from my foot. He blended into the forest floor completely. His coloring was totally matching the forest floor.

Lydia's favorite part of camp is always the crafts cabin. This year they made jewelry, painted signs for their rooms and made Waldorf style window stars.

Lydia's favorite color is still purple. I love her concentration as she was painting. She surprised me by actually accenting it with some blue. Their boards had their name and then the phrase "daughter of a king" on them.

Here are the other leaders. Sis. Carolee Battaglia and Sis. Dixie Ely. We all had worked for about 9 months together to make sure camp was the best experience for the girls.

The 4th year level girls rocked the party!!! Emily, Lydia and Bethany were the coolest kids there. Lydia said her favorite part of camp this year was the pranks. Since it was just our ward , we allowed nice pranks. Well these girls dumped some really cold water on some other girls. Lydia thought that was hilarious.

There were some nights where fierce storms raged through the camp ground and we all sheltered inside the dining hall. Never fear, these girls know how to play some games. Lydia's favorite....Killer Frog.

Lydia and I won the Golden Broom award for the most creative and clean cabin. I think our rug between the beds helped us win. It is a necessity though for keeping dirt and sand out of the sleeping bags.

The problem with pranks is that things get a little out of control really fast. The leaders except yours truly all got into the pranking mode. They got caught and had to go to Kangaroo court and receive their punishment. Camp is so much fun!

The best part is the love that surrounds all of these girls as they grow to know who they are as daughters of God. Camp this year was epic.