The beginning of January found Dave and I sick in bed snuggled up in the “volunteer house” of OSSO in Ecuador on New Year’s Day (great way to ring in the new year), painting the graffitied walls surrounding that place (HERE), saying our goodbyes to those wonderful people we will always carry in our hearts (also in that last post), heading off on some grand adventures in the Galapagos Islands (HERE, HERE and HERE), and then trying to get our bearings straight enough to start school back in the desert while Dave headed to China and then got sick as a dog in Canada (HERE).
Phew!  That was one heck of an eventful beginning.
And it didn’t really slow down from there because there was Christmas to take down, birthdays to celebrate, a missionary to prepare to welcome home, blah blah blah.
But let’s go back to Galapagos for just a second because I never posted this picture:
And I’m endeared to it because it shows that good dad and those windy-haired girls in action in a place I fell in love with…to me it shows the hard and the good and the beautiful.  So grateful for the memories of that trip…the good and the bad wrapped up together.  We sure learned a lot in Ecuador.
I also never posted our “miles to Ecuador” chart to get mainly that Lucy girl walking before we left.

We all had a goal to walk at least ten miles in those two weeks leading up to the trip. Most of us made it and it made all the difference in all the walking we did.

Ok, so the girls and I got home on that last red-eye flight, (Dave was still en route directly to China), had a joyous reunion with Bo Jangles, unpacked, got the washing machine whirring, went to church to meet my new primary class, and settled in to give my girls a couple little Christmas tokens.  Some perfume…

…and their own Chatbooks with a selection of favorite my pictures from the activities they were involved in during 2017.

I had worked hard on those suckers leading up to Christmas which made me so happy they loved them so much.

Lucy sat and looked at hers for a very, very long time, reading every summary I wrote in awe and appreciation.

Then, in what seemed like one fell swoop, we took down the Christmas stuff.  
I wrote about this empty manger back HERE in the height of my Christmas bah-humbug phase back in December:
It felt good to have that thing a little more filled up before we packed it up and put it away until next Christmas…
…that one when I’m sure I’ll be on-the-ball and organized and do all kinds of meaningful Christmas things.

At least that’s my resolution when I put things away each year…

We put Christmas things away but we left the Christmas cards hanging a little longer, those faces of people we love smiling out at us in the kitchen.

(More on those things as well as some favorites with Christmas card ideas back HERE.)

This year I hung our own Christmas card up right in the middle above the stove with Grace’s beautiful lettering next to it: “Seek Ye First.”  I had asked her to write that up to remind me in the midst of the Christmas rush that that family of mine…and that God above, were the meaning of it all.  I hoped it would help me slow down a tad.
It didn’t then…too much to prepare and do before Ecuador.  I was a crazy woman in December.

But I did sort of get my priorities straighter in January and it felt good. 

I willed life to slow down and took time to look into these girls’ eyes and thank God they are mine:

…and also to marvel that Dave is mine too.

We sure missed him for that first week back while he was still traveling.

Fun to have Elle one extra day after Ecuador…which meant we got to have these friends too…who were trying out some silly big lip thing super late one night:

Lucy’s friend Reese is the sweetest ever.  She and Lucy with play with Legos for hours.

She is a darling girl.

Lucy and I crunched through lots of Fall leaves in January as we walked to school:

(More about those golden January leaves over HERE.)

Gradually they left the trees barren.  One morning the retention basin was filled with fog:

That picture can’t really do it justice, it was so pretty.

But despite the loss of leaves, the desert is so gorgeous to me in the winter and my friend and I started into hiking once again to try to take it in a little extra:

In January I had another meeting with these ladies to evaluate how Lucy is doing.

I really need a post of my own to talk about that meeting.

And those ladies.

Because they are good to the core.  And they have Lucy’s interest so at heart.

I will get to talking about what we determined there in that room where my eyes brimmed up with tears of sorrow and also gratitude.

Some day.

I love the days when I time it right to walk Bo to meet Lucy on her way home from the bus stop and it’s all glee and happiness when Lucy hears Bo’s little jingle bell on her collar coming toward her.

All that above happened while Dave was away.

At this point he was here in all this gorgeousness, unfortunately just barely starting to feel awfully sick.

Claire played early-morning soccer:

Grace and I had an all-day date:

We went to Max’s friend’s missionary homecoming talk:

And sung to Claire pre-birthday with all the cousins…

…the very night Dave got home and thought he was ok (after checking himself into the emergency room in Canada because he was so sick)

But he really wasn’t ok, so I sent him to bed and Claire had a cousin sleepover…

…because it was MLK day the next day and I guess it’s a tradition to have the cousins sleep over every time we have Monday off of school.

The girls slept over and Knox came to join in the party the next day:

…while Bo got a funny haircut:

…and we celebrated Josh’s birthday with the movie Coco (so good), Thai food:

…and cake:

…while Dave was pretty much flat in bed for probably three FULL days after he got home.

I’ve never seen him so sick in all my life!

One of our friends from Ecuador had become sicker than she had ever been when she got home from Ecuador as well, but she felt well enough by this time to bring over dinner and all these magazines for Dave:

How sweet is that?

Here we are sending her a little “thank you” clip on the iPhone…

…everyone else was there, not sure why I got that funky picture, but it reminds me of that delicious meal and kindness even after she had been so sick.

There are so many good people in this world!

I sent Max his very last real, hand-written letter…the last I would ever send to him as a missionary.

Such mixed emotions about that.

Claire’s notes…not sure why i have this picture but there you go.

That girl LOVES science!

We had a little lunch date:

Dave finally got up and showered and joined the land of the living, and we were all pretty happy about that.

Shortly after he was feeling better one of his childhood friends who was in town came to visit.

So glad they got to catch up.

January is always “golden” month here in the desert as far as I’m concerned.

…because those puppies up there decorate the trees and we get to have them as the most delicious snacks and we also get to make this with them:

Oh man, that stuff is good.

My friends and I got to help pack a fraction of the “million meals” Forever Living was packing and sending away (more on that HERE).

Meanwhile over in Taiwan this boy was living up the last part of his mission, putting his whole heart and soul into it.

We had a family date to get passports renewed.  They were all expiring and Grace needed to have a new one on file for the humanitarian trip she’s taking this summer (HEFY).  So we figured we may as well get the others renewed as well.

Both parents have to go when children get their passports renewed and there was something I loved about sitting there, all five of us, hanging out in the passport post office.

I know, I’m weird, but there was just something in the air that day…everyone happy, nice people helping us, just a little family date I want to remember.

Meanwhile Elle got this alert over in Hawaii:

I know, those legs in the background are a little distracting, but we were baffled by that “non-drill” alert.  Wow.

When I asked Elle what in the world she did when that came through, wondering if there is an evacuation place or where she figured she’d go for the “shelter” she was supposed to be seeking, she nonchalantly told me she just hunkered down and made pancakes.  She figured if the end was coming, there was really nowhere she could go, she may as well make the most of life.

She’s crazy like that.

This was the view when I drove into the cul-de-sac one night:

So much beauty.

Our friends planned a little cooking class for us all to go to as a date-night.

We whipped up a pretty tasty meal all together, and I thought it was a great date-night activity.

Claire had her first volleyball tournament:

Unfortunately Dave and I were unable to go, dang it, but she sure was excited and although they lost every game, she had the best time.  She’s falling in love with that sport so it’s all working out according to our plans.  Ha!

Claire also had a birthday:

Lots more about the bit FOURTEEN back HERE (the things I love about her) and HERE (what we did on the actual day).

This is how Bo looks after putting her head out the window of a moving vehicle:

She loves that!

Some friends took me to lunch as a pre-birthday celebration:

(love those ladies!)

We had a little Family Home Evening with our Ecuador travel partners.

This little picture cannot do justice to that evening in my mind. 

We sat there and each got to share a favorite memory from OSSO.  See where Lucy is sitting?  Up there third in from the right?  Well, we started the memories over on the other side.  I was sitting next to Lucy and as the memories were being spilled out Lucy tapped me on the arm.  I looked over and she had tears filling up her eyes.  She whispered that she didn’t want me to share the same memory she wanted to share, and I knew exactly what she was talking about.

It was the one we shared that last night at OSSO.  Everyone else had gone to dinner and the two of us stayed to be with those people we had fallen in love with one more night.  We helped them eat dinner, then brush teeth, then we sat in a circle and had the most memorable goodbyes.  I’m sure I wrote about it in more detail in those Ecuador posts, but it was a night we won’t forget.  And I was so happy Lucy wanted to share it.  And that her little (big) heart was holding onto it so well so far.

After we all shared, then laughed and cried about all the funny things and the crazy sicknesses and the adventure of it all, we ate dessert.  It was fitting that part of the dessert was “real” texas sheet cake, since the cake we tried to make there somehow turned out gray and inedible.  (Yes, I said gray.)  Ha!  This time around it was much better 🙂 

Went out to lunch with the “Missionary Moms” one last time:

(Three were missing in that picture…)  The “Missionary Moms” are all of us mothers of Max’s main group of high school friends who one by one set off on missions and one by one came back.  Max was the last one to return.  Loved catching up with them.

Then it was on to my birthday.  I was greeted with this from our sweet neighbors out the side door:

Dave took good care of me and took me to lunch:

…and got me these:

Every birthday I’m so overwhelmed with the kindness that people bring.  So grateful for good friends, for the sweet little gifts and treats that were dropped off, for the kind texts and emails.  It’s so nice to be remembered, even when you’re getting old.

These three wonderful friends happened to all come right at the same time to drop off kind little gifts:

…so of course we had to take a picture.  So grateful for them.

I’m the luckiest.

More Thai food for my birthday dinner:

Snuggles to try to catch up with This Is Us:

And more cake:

January is a birthday month around here I tell you!

Lucy and love when we are out of the long shadows and finally in the sun as we walk to school in the mornings:

She was really excited this day to have a lunch soccer match she really wanted me to come watch. 

These girls were either on her team or cheering from the sidelines. 

That girl is a lucky one too. 

More sunsets…

My view after post-scriptures kneeling prayer one morning…my husband serving his girls hot breakfast. 

It was such a sweet scene I had to capture it, while the goodness in that room still lingered.

My sisters, mom and I (minus Charity who was too far off in London…missed her so much!) got spoiled and got to be in California together for a few days right before Max arrived home:

Lots more to say about that soon…I’m so grateful for any chance I get to be with those women.
And then it was preparation for the day that had finally come:
Max’s return.

(Saved the best for the last day of the month 🙂

MUCH more about that back HERE.

And that wrapped up January with a big, giant-sized bow. 

It was a good month.

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  1. off topic but last night two mormon missionaries came to our door. i was more than happy to thank them for taking the time to say hello and wish them well in their endeavors in our urban area but i am not interested in becoming mormon. the boys were incredibly polite and seemed quite nice. my question for you (and perhaps more aptly for Max) is: what is the best way to support the missionaries as individuals and give them a good experience without committing to a conversation i am just simply not interested in having about religion? basically i didn't want to slam the door on them or be rude but also didn't want to give anyone false hope about our spiritual situation.

    i hope this makes sense and doesn't come across as rude but i'm genuinely curious what is the best route here!

    1. Good question. I agree with Cheryl, you are awesome to simply give them kindness. My missionary-mom heart thanks you 🙂 Max says he'd recommend telling the missionaries in a nice way that you don’t have much interest right off the bat. That way they won't get their hopes up for a promising gospel conversation. But hey, if you have a minute, still engage them in a conversation! Ask them where they're from. Sometimes missionary days are long, and they're far from home…they'll feel so grateful for your kindness. If you're really feeling extra awesome, ask if you can take a pic of them with your cell phone and text it on over to their mothers. I've done that a couple times with missionaries, SO easy and their moms write back with all the appreciation they can convey through a little technological device…they think it's the greatest thing ever to get a text in the middle of the day with their son (or daughter) popping up out of no where on their phone 🙂

      Missionaries are out there to teach the gospel. They are pretty excited about it and because every personality is different…some may be pretty persistent. But if they know you're not interested right from the get-go they will just appreciate your friendliness more than you can know!

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