For years I’ve done a “snapshot” in words at the beginning of each year (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) to describe how our family was running right at that moment in time.

Because, well, it may go without saying that I am a little bit of a sentimental person.
And a record keeper to a fault.  
When the memories of the here and now start to fade into the recesses of my mind, I want to be able to look at a picture and pull up some writing of exactly how we were “back in the day.”

Take this picture for instance:

This is Claire at eleven-and-a-half.

I love that face.

It has a little bit of mysterious confidence mixed with a little bit of mischief.  But only words can remind me how she always has a deep question for me (mostly spiritually based), is a pleaser, and how she endlessly daydreams about her future children (just like I did when I was her age).

That’s why I love keeping up on this blog.  I want the words along with the pictures.

With all the commotion surrounding our homecoming from our semester in China (we arrived back in the states on December 23rd), I never did that annual “snapshot” post.

If I had, it would have included things like how Dave and I looked at each other every single day with stars in our eyes about how grateful we were for this home we built right before we left, and how even more grateful we were that we were able to leave it (in great hands) for a pretty life-changing amazing experience on the other side of the world.

It would have talked about how Max and Elle were pretty much in seventh heaven surrounded by hundreds of friends again in such a comfortable place, but somehow gained a confidence from their China experience I hadn’t seen in them before.

How I worried endlessly that all their credits would transfer correctly from their Chinese high school so that Max could graduate, how Grace and Claire moved seamlessly back into tumbling and neighborhood bike-riding, and how we tried to have me be their piano teacher but ended with a big fail on that little idea.

I would have talked about how I worked hard to keep the pace slowed down around here…I didn’t sign the kids up for much, we just basked in the revolving door of friends and family who live in close proximity.  How I worked to “enjoy” and live in the present.

And I would have talked about how tennis and volleyball season took over our lives once again and how incredibly fun that time of life was.

Dave and I got to go on lots of “dates” as we jumped from one game to the next with the biggest smiles…we got to watch our favorite sports with our kids right in the middle of the action.

Yes, I skipped out on the “snapshot” at the beginning of 2015, but I decided I better get in gear to freeze time before Max left.  Not only did I bite the bullet and get some professional family photos taken, but also recorded in words how our family worked the last couple months we were all under one roof.

We went to this great studio with such a talented photographer we loved (I talked a little bit about it back here).  She concentrated solely on capturing our family as requested by me.  I’m kicking myself I didn’t have her do individual pictures of the kids too, but I did try while they were still all dressed up after the shoot, so I’ll mingle those snapshots on in with the “snapshot words.”

So here we go:  our family pre-Max leaving home:
Lucy’s fingers and face are always colored. She likes to use markers so much that they get all over her fingers, and when she rubs her nose or wipes her eye the colors smudge all over.  But she is an artist and we sure love that about her.

Claire’s passion is still tumbling.  She could hardly wait for “Flips” (her tumbling class) to begin.  She can never get enough of it.
Claire and Grace share a bedroom.  Most of the time they adore it, but one of them is quite clean and the other is quite messy (not to mention any names πŸ™‚ so there are a few annoyed fights over that little problem.  They do their laundry together as well, which sometimes results in lots of clean laundry strewn unfolded around their room.
After years and years of Saturday jobs, these kids are finally getting their cleaning skills down pat.
They are also getting pretty good at doing the dishes, especially Lucy.  We decided to “give” her a special gift the last couple months:  a kitchen sink.  Her very own.  She could name it if she wanted and take good care of it which means no dishes stacking up in there and the sides wiped down.
I must say she’s getting pretty good at that little task.
Lucy is pretty clean and organized.  She makes her bed every day and is always closing drawers.

But her legos are ALWAYS strewn around her room.  She is always working on a new project with them….which makes me so happy she can still see those teeny things and that her fine motor skills are getting a great workout.

Lucy also almost always has her nose in a book.
She cannot get enough.  She reads while walking, getting ready for school, at church, you name it, she’s always got a book she is into.
Grace is blossoming more than ever before in high school.  She thinks high school is the absolute best thing since sliced bread.  Being a cheerleader is pretty exciting too.  She’s still a natural-born “gatherer” and is always planning and organizing things.

Max is old.  He’s a true adult and it is weird.  

He’s still at the stage where he thinks it’s so awesome that he can grow “scruff” on his face and he made me so mad he didn’t shave it for the family pictures, gosh darn that kid.

I am hanging on to him for dear life because I know how things will change in a month when he’s gone.  Our family will always be a family, of course, but it will change.  He won’t be walking in late at night after begging for a few more minutes out with his friends.  We won’t hear his door creak closed as he heads to bed (we need some WD40), his fan get turned on, his teeth brushed.  Our little hallway we share with him will echo with the “missing” of him.

We do scriptures at 6:30 every weekday morning.  Max has already been gone to work for an hour by then.
We are reading the Book of Mormon right now and I love the discussions that come up (we are changing things up a little bit this year…more on that soon).  Dave and I take turns leading the discussion with the kids while the other one whips up breakfast.
Breakfast is usually hot…egg burritos, pancakes, sometimes with smoothies on the side.
Dave always makes the sandwiches for lunches while everyone packs up their backpacks and fights about who can borrow which article of clothing.
Elle and Grace are out the door at 7:05.  
Claire, Lu and I have almost a whole hour after that to practice flashcards, finish homework, sign agendas, blah blah blah.  But my favorite is hanging out with them in their bathroom as we do hair. 
Every morning.

Claire always comes up with some creative kind of hairstyle to have me experiment with, and Lucy doesn’t usually give a care.  And often works on homework while we whip that hair into shape.

Then Dave and Lu ride bikes to catch the bus, and Claire hops on her yellow beach-cruiser to meet up with all her friends to ride to school in a little pack.
I am still the primary singing leader and I love it.  They haven’t fired me yet for my quite serious lack of musical abilities and I love those darling kids and the spirit they bring in each week when they sing.
(I’m kidding about the firing thing…they don’t “fire” people in the church but I’m just saying, I’m happy they’ve kept me in there as long as they have even with my breathy, weird voice I’ve gotten used to singing loud and not even caring how it sounds so that they’ll know the words.)
Dave still works with the 16-18 year old young men and he adores that too.

Although Grace is loving school she has a ton of homework.  Always.  So she puts in some late nights.  It doesn’t help that she has two hours of practice for cheer every single day after school, but she pulls it all off with flying colors.

Max and Elle don’t tell me a lot about school without a lot of prodding, but Grace does, and I adore it.
She decided a while back that she wants to be a hair dresser some day and she sure is getting in some good practice on braids.
After all these years (I noticed I said this in 2010 too), we still have Family Home Evening on Sundays after church (that always seems to be the best time to have everyone at home) and an activity on Monday nights with whoever can make it.
Everyone in our family but Lucy does their own laundry (Dave and I do ours together).  Sometimes I pinch myself that we are to that stage and I have worked my way almost out of my least favorite household chore!
We have a speaker system in our house and it is one of the very best things about the whole house.  We almost always have music playing and I adore it.
Lucy’s job is to set the table and she does it in a very particular way.  She usually fills up each cup with ice water separately, loves to do name tags on the plates and is quite conscientious about using napkins.  I love it.
Sadly, piano lessons have fallen by the wayside.  I let Max and Elle quit a couple years ago, but before China Claire and Grace were still going strong.  
We still do our job charts (associated with our family money system), but we have been awful at it lately!  We need to start following through on the consequences again.  Man, family systems have to be tweaked so many times!
Dave and I just started working out at a new gym and it is kicking my booty.  I am NOT a runner, and we have to run.  
A lot.
Lucy’s eyesight is declining which stops my heart in the moments I notice it.  But she is totally mainstream in school which makes my heart soar.  So far so good with the ominous “x equations” (multiplication) that she was so worried about this year.
(Never mind that safety pin holding her glasses together…she stepped on them and broke them a while ago so safety pins seem to do the trick.)
Elle is in love with her senior year.  She’s dreading the day when she’ll graduate.  She’s living it up like nobody’s business.
She is looking for an after school job and studying for the ACT amidst all her “soaking in the senior year” hoopla.
We moved into our new house a year and a half ago, but it still feels like we just moved in in so many ways.  Part of that is because we moved to China for a third of that time, but another part is that it just takes time and money and more time and money to finish it off.
After a year and a half we are coming around to finishing the back yard and there is still so much not done on the inside as well.  Some day we’ll feel really moved in.
My Hashimotos and Valley Fever sometimes give me a run for my money but if I’m super conscientious about getting enough sleep I’m pretty ok.
Dave has his fingers in a lot of different businesses right now, consulting, manufacturing, managing, and he loves it all.  We are thankful every day that he has a job he likes so much.
I could go on and on, but let’s just end with this series of pics. of Claire, who is the only one who would really pose for me that hot night back in August on our back porch.

Thanks Claire πŸ™‚

There we go, Fall 2015 in a nutshell.  Right before we shipped our son off to college and he got his mission call to leave us for even longer.

But I’m here to update that we are all surviving just fine.  Sure we miss that kid like nobody’s business, but it is pretty fun to watch him grow and blossom so much up there where the leaves are turning and he’s surrounded every minute by a mixture of studying and entertaining and inspiring kids.

I can even go in his bedroom now without bawling πŸ™‚

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  1. Do your kids attend seminary? I would love to do family scriptures in the morning, but my oldest has to leave the house before 6:00 AM for seminary, and I can't sacrifice the younger kids' sleep. So we do scriptures and family prayer at dinner, but they are often rushed and not optimal. I try to be positive about early morning seminary, but it definitely detracts from our family life.

    1. They do attend seminary but they have released time at school so they don't have to leave until 7:00. They had early-morning seminary in China so we had to do scriptures at night there which was my FAVORITE. So many good discussions. We've found that our brains are still waking up in the morning which makes it a little tricky:) But we've tried evening scriptures over and over here in the States and we just can't get it to work with all the carpools and commotion going on. Bottom line is that there probably isn't an "optimal" time for scriptures with a large family, we just have to work and re-work as schedules change. But through the years of studying together and working to make it work, I sure hope our kids have realized how important the scriptures are to me and Dave, and have planted seeds of love for what they teach us in our children's hearts. That makes all the crazy rigamarole trying to figure it out worth it in the long run!

  2. lovely post. and hey, if you are getting tired of all those wee legos on the floor, a great gift might be a lego table…we just took an old coffee table with a shelf underneath (you can put legos in buckets under there for storage), and contact cemented some big building plates on them. best gift ever for my two oldest boys, and i love it, too, because it keeps (for the most part) the legos off the floor πŸ™‚

  3. I'm deep in the throes of mothering two small children. Like you, I knew I always wanted to be a mother and I often said that I wanted to have four children. The last few weeks I keep catching myself thinking that maybe I should be done with two. This stage is so physically exhausting. The baby needs my body to hold her and nourish her and dress her and bathe her. She doesn't care about what time the clock says it is or how utterly exhausted I am. She literally needs me to survive. My two-year-old needs me to hug him and kiss him and hold him. To feed him (even though he can feed himself) and dress him and change his diaper. He also needs me to play with him, talk to him, teach him and reassure him. He needs me to let him begin exploring his independence while still holding him close. I'm at a stage where I feel physically depleted. Like there just isn't enough of me to go around. Some days I don't eat a meal until 3:00 pm and rarely ever enjoy a trip to the bathroom alone. On Monday both of my kids cried for fives hours straight. It is in those moments that I tell myself I can't do this anymore. But then I come to your blog and see your five beautiful children and I remember my dream. My dream to have more than two children. And I'm inspired. And reassured. It won't always be this physically exhausting (though probably more mentally and emotionally tiring down the road, I'm sure). And I am reminded that there will come a time when my oldest will go to college and that his sister won't be too far behind. And I know deep in my heart that I won't be ready to be an empty nester. That I loved growing up with three siblings and want that for my children. And then I realize, I can't let the exhaustion that comes with raising small children dictate a future that doesn't look like the dream I've always had for my family. Because, in your posts I see that it will be so, so worth it. Thank you so much for sharing your life. You have no idea the impact you have and will continue to have on mothers all over the world.

    1. I hear you, Katie! We are at 3, always wanted 4, but thinking we might be done. With my last baby, I was so depleted nutritionally & sleep deprived. I was suffering from post partum depression which was adding to all of it. Please make sure to take care of your self. Eat!! A hungry body & brain makes things so much worse. Be selective with your social media. And get help! I didn't have any family around and had just moved to a new state so I wasn't very well connected. I ended up hiring a girl to help for 6 months & it was the best decision ever. things are so much better now. Hang in there!

    2. Dear Katie,

      I agree with Jessica…it does get better! It's just so hard to see the "light" while you're deep in the trenches! It's amazing what can change in even a few months as schedules start to settle, etc. Then, of course, something else will fall off-kilter as it always does in mothering and you will have to seek for that balance again. But you can do it! Getting enough to eat and getting sleep make all the difference in the world…I hope you can maybe find some help like Jessica did. I remember being there right where you are…two babies needing me like I'd never been needed before. I can remember endless sleepless nights and walking around like a zombie. But it was worth it's weight in gold for all the goodness that comes along with the craziness. Just remember there's light at the end of the tunnel and to reach "up" to find it. Heavenly Father will help you every step of the way. You can do it. Sending prayers your way!

      Love, Shawni

  4. This is beautiful and a great reminder of why I want to keep up with my own blog. It is so hard with three littles who always need me, but I love the words WITH the pictures…It makes all the difference. Your family is beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I've been reading your blog for years and I'm enjoying finding new meaning and inspiration in it now that I'm a mother myself to a beautiful 7 month old. I'm also likely on the verge of being diagnosed with Hashimoto's right now and I was wondering if you have any advice or recommendations for resources that have been helpful for you. I'm so grateful for my health; at the same time, it does feel like a lot to process right now, especially with the possible effects on my fertility and my hope for a bigger family.

    Thank you spreading positivity and joy through your blog! The internet needs a little more of that πŸ™‚

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