Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Photo Shoot Giveaway & How YOU can Give to Help a Little One

There are reasons that you end up living in the places that you do.  I have lived in so many {9 growing up and 11 since being married}, and I have been blessed in my latter years to see retrospectively why I have lived in each one {of course at the time I may have been wondering why oh why}.  I know that one of the reasons I am living in this house at this time is to have met one of my dear friends, a dream of a neighbor, someone you just crazy admire, and one of those people you just click with instantly.  A kindred spirit.  An eternal friend.  Leslie.

She has an amazingly inspirational blog: both creatively and spiritually.  My Happily Ever After
And is a brilliantly talented professional photographer as well.  Leslie Autumn Photography.  Here are a few photos she did of little Miss Felicity this past Spring.  We agree that they are pure sugar!

I wanted to introduce you to Leslie's work to make you aware of a special situation in which her family has become inextricably involved regarding this precious little baby: Elijah.

"We are doing another giveaway around here... but one with heart... a big big heart. 

We have a dear family staying with us that is here to adopt a sweet baby boy.
One with eyes the size of Alaska, big beautiful eyes, a little boy named Elijah.

He has down syndrome, and has had a hard first month of his little life. Medically. 

Meanwhile the Lord has orchestrated a beautiful symphony, and he cordinates the perfect family to love Elijah, to call him theirs. And so across this great big country on about 24 hours notice, this family boarded a plane and came and claimed him as their own. 

And the expense of that, is bare, and raw.. and very real.. and so I ask that if you go to the website http://www.thecoffeesfamilyblog.blogspot.com/ and donate via paypal any amount that you feel led, and write my name in the comments, I will enter you for a free family photoshoot in the Southern California area. 

It will include a 2 hour photoshoot, in Orange or Riverside County, + $100 print credit towards reprints. 

The drawing will conclude towards the end of the week.

This baby we are praying will leave the hospital soon, very soon, but they cannot go home until the funds are met. Lets be the hands and feet of Jesus, and move mountains in there lives.And meanwhile, I cannot wait to meet the family who gave."

This family whom she had never met, was welcomed with open arms into her home to stay while finalizing the adoption and awaiting favorable health of their new son.  She has worked tirelessly to facilitate miracles in the life of this family.  You can read more about their journey here.  And see more photos of sweet Eli here.  I would also invite you to ponder helping this family.  It has been such a lift to see the goodness of others blessing the life of this little one.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Moments that Matter Most

I have been asked to address my church's congregation this Sunday and deliver a talk on the subject of the eternal blessings of families.  I am grateful for this opportunity in the midst of feeling inadequate and nervous.  Grateful that it has provided for me a chance to glean strength from the truth of the marriage of those two words: eternal...families.  In preparation I came across this magnificently moving little video which has masterfully captured my thoughts.  I hope you can see your own life within the scenes portrayed.  Pray for me that I can convey Heavenly Father's perfect truth through my imperfect deliverance.

moments are the molecules that make up eternity.
Elder Neal A Maxwell

its not so much the major events, as the small day to day decisions that map the course of our living.  
Pres. Gordon B Hinckley

we would do well to slow down a little, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes and truly see the things that matter most.  strength comes not from frantic activity but from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light.  it comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most. diligently doing the things that matter most will lead us to the Savior of the World 
Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Thursday, June 23, 2011

'A Great Witness' by My Husband the Guest Blogger

Today Mike and I experienced something powerful.  Something that left us feeling so comfortably peaceful, happy, and full of gratitude despite the overall news we received.  It seems so strange to try to explain.  After discussing with Mike what had transpired and feeling the energy within our conversation, I asked him if he would write about it.   I have repeatedly felt heart ache regarding Mike's deletion of his blog which documented all of his beginning thoughts and experiences with Multiple Sclerosis.  I have been encouraging him to write, especially lately, and he consented today as a result of our experience.   May I introduce, my very first guest blogger on Sweet Dreams are Made of These, my incredible, incredibly amazing that is... husband, Michael.  In his own words:

One of the many difficult challenges of living with MS is trying to decide which, if any, treatment path to follow.  MS is a mystery. There is no cure.  No one knows the cause.  Everyone has an opinion.  Everyone seems to hold the answer.   
In 2009, I began treatment with a drug called Rebif with horrific results.  The side effects were not worth it, at best, and terrifying, at worst.  I stopped treatment after a particularly nasty episode.  After speaking to my neurologist and listening to his suggestions about other treatment options, I decided to take my questions to the One who does know the cause!  Through prayer and study, I felt that none of the medications were right for me at that time.  
The words of Doctrine & Covenants 84:88 were especially poignant at that time, and I have carried them in my heart throughout this journey, “for I will go before your face.  I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”  I have come to know personally that this is NOT mere hyperbole!  
2 years later, I am at this same crossroads.  My wife and many others concerned for my well being persuaded me to once again seek a doctors’ advice and help once again.  I felt it was time.  After a referral from my good bishop, I met with a leading neurologist at USC.  She listened to my concerns regarding my previous difficulty with MS and strongly recommended a different drug based on my ’09 MRI results and ordered new pictures of my brain and cervical and thoracic spine.  I asked for 30 days to decide whether or not I wanted to start treatment.  She told me that she believed she would never see me again!
Over the course of the last 30 days, I have been earnestly seeking the Lord’s divine direction.  One of my personal favorite sermons on this topic was given by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at October 2009 General Conference titled, “To Acquire Spiritual Guidance”.  He gives priceless instruction and guidance.  In his talk, he quotes President John Taylor thusly, “Joseph Smith, upwards of forty years ago, said to me: ‘Brother Taylor, you have received the Holy Ghost.  Now follow the influence of that Spirit, and it will lead you into all truth, until by and by, it will become in you a principle of revelation.’”  
I have much to learn about this process.  I felt as though everybody was telling me that I should be on some treatment.  I wanted to be on treatment.  It seemed like the smart thing to do.  Except, that is not what I felt.  I continued to seek an answer, or maybe more correctly, the answer I thought was wise.  Then, as I was praying on one occasion, my mind was drawn sharply and clearly to this passage of the Doctrine and Covenants, “cast your mind upon the night that you cried into me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.  Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (6:22-23)  I’d had my answer, probably for days, maybe for weeks.  The answer was still that this medication was not right for me at this time.  I knew it, I just had yet to recognize and accept it.
Today, Briana and I traveled to USC (144 miles round trip!) to hear the results of my MRI’s and deliver our ‘bad’ news about not taking her suggested medication.  The doctor first reviewed the scans of my brain.  (The radiologist’s report on my brain scan states that I have “innumerable” scars on my brain and then after innumerable writes in parenthesis “too many to count”.  As if a well educated doctor wouldn’t know what innumerable means!  That has to be in the top ten of most devastating parenthetical statements!  When I read the report, I thought, “Wow, he’s really driving the nail home here...that seemed excessive and uncalled for.”)  
Anyway, have I mentioned how often I get tangential?  The doctor is going through my brain scans and sort of exclaiming each time she sees a ‘huge scar’.  We get through the brain and move on to the cervical spine.  It goes from bad to worse.  My spinal column looks like its hosting a standing room only party for lesions.  When she finishes, she turns to me and says something like, “This is remarkable.  You are vulnerable to progression of symptoms” (Another digression: My doctor is Russian and has a great Russian accent.  I’ll let you do your best with her comments...think Rocky IV and Ivan Drago, “I must break you”)

She tells me that if she looked at my scans without knowing me she would think that I had serious functionality and mobility issues.  She told me that I was remarkable and my body had an incredible ability to adjust to adversity and heal itself.  
At this moment, I realized just how much the Lord had blessed me in this situation.  I have been blessed with miracles and had not understood the scope.  Almost immediately, I recalled a quick, yet powerful, lesson my father-in-law had taught me on Father’s Day.  He is battling cancer.  He said he had been pondering the word suffereth and its dual meaning as used by the Lord.  He taught me that he now had a better understanding that when the Lord suffereth difficulty (cancer, ms, etc.) to come upon us, we can understand that that suffering must apply to him as well, for “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isa. 53:4).  In that divine crucible we reverently refer to as The Atonement, the Lord suffered, not only for our sins and transgressions, but also our sicknesses, heartache, and travails.  Thus, any suffering I have passed through, He suffereth it also.  To feel His companionship and grace ever more powerfully is a miracle indeed!
The doctor asked about my decision regarding the medication.  I informed her that I felt that it was not right at this time to take.  She seemed confused by my explanation, therefore, I spoke to her of my faith and prayers, of my belief in God and His ability to direct His children.  After some conversation, she said that after seeing the scans of my brain and spine, the drug she had recommended was not right for me.  I knew before I saw the scans from divine guidance!  She then discussed other treatment options more suitable (and more aggressive) for my current conditions.  After lengthy discussion regarding these treatments and innumerable (too many to count) questions from my lovely wife, the doctor then wrapped up by saying something like, “I know you will need time to study your decision.  When would you like to come back and let me know?”  She already knew that, once again, I would need to consult with the One Who Knows!
May I end this note by saying the I know that God lives!  He loves us!  Our Savior, Jesus the Christ knows us, loves us, and is always waiting to encircle us about in the arms of his love (D&C 6:20)!  I love the words of a favorite hymn,
“Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed, For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand (special meaning to me!)
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous, Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand....
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”
- How Firm a Foundation, Hymn 85

{If you are interested in reading more about 'Mike' and 'Our Journey with MS', click on the respective labels located in the right hand column.}

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eyan Says Goodbye to Kindergarten

Kindergarten, Kindergarten {sang to the tune of "Love and Marriage" by Frank Sinatra}
Time to say goodbye to Kindergarten.
Look at all the progress we've made
So now its time to go to First Grade.

Kindergarten, Kindergarten
We have learned so much in Kindergarten
Our teachers wish that we could stay
But now its time to go to First Grade.

My little Eyan graduated from Kindergarten.  Eyan's class sang this darling little song {I gave you the abbreviated version:-)} at the "ceremony": Pomp & Circumstance march, diploma, and cap included.   Felicity was fascinated by the tassel on Eyan's cute graduation cap, and batted at it like a kitten to a catnip toy.  The Kindergarteners were supposed to wear their school t-shirt to the ceremony.  I, being bothered by the lack of fashion sense, added a collared shirt and his 'school tie' which he happened to wear on his first day of school.  {Of course he later accessorized it with some chocolate milk drips.}

I don't think a child enjoyed school more this year than our little E.  His cute little dimple grin was ready each morning when I dropped him off and had big brother Owen 'walk' him to his gate.  I loved watching those two, often with Owen's arm around Eyan, head off to greet the day together.  {Usually with a little too much speed and energy than the crossing guard would have liked, mostly due to the fact that we were almost always 'nearly' late:-)}

Eyan absolutely loved being at school with all his friends.  It was so fun to drop him off and watch as so many kids would light up and wave enthusiastically as Eyan came by.  Below are photos of a few of his best buds, Kaiya and Koa.   He especially loved his teacher, the best teacher in the whole-wide world, Mr. B {Mr. Branstetter}.  Owen had Mr. B when he was in Kindergarten and so we had to have the best again for our Eyan.  Thank goodness for teacher requests.  Mr. Branstetter has high expectations for his students and helps them achieve them by making learning fun and silly in the classroom as well as having incredible communication with the parents to reinforce or correct concepts at home.  Having a great teacher makes such a difference!  Mr. B told us that Eyan was the best reader in his class.  We are so blessed to have children that love to read.  He has started his elementary education off strong.  Way to go Eyan!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A New Climb

Today marks the beginning of a new climb in the journey of My Daddy with Multiple Myeloma.  For the past several months my Daddy’s health has enabled him to carry on with his ‘new normal’.  He is a man of strength and of faith whose character is conveyed with very few needed words.  For the observant onlooker, this type of example is much more powerful than anything flashy or conspicuous.
I have watched him quietly bear testimony to me of his faith.  Of his love for Heavenly Father.  Of his complete trust and confidence in His plan for my father.  I falter often as I witness his quiet struggle and that of my husband, when I know for a surety of their willingness to do anything and everything they could in serving God.  Doesn’t He need them healthy to perform labors in His kingdom?  Doesn’t He know of the lengths they would go to stand as a witness for Him, across countries, in the valleys, on the peaks?  And of course I am reminded and reaffirmed by both of these men’s testimonies and life examples, YES.  God does need them.  He needs them to move mountains with their faith.  Mountains of doubt, pain, suffering, discouragement, self-pity, and feelings of lack of purpose or worth.  Neither of these men question "Why me?".  They only say, “What am I to learn Lord?”  Oh to carry that type of strength each and every day.  
Today my Daddy will start a new medication.  The intense, hard core kind that takes what Mike referred to as “CIA clearance” to get.  Special permission is required to take it , not being available through a pharmacy or doctor’s office.  Its the kind of medicine with an extremely lengthy list of possible side effects, scary ones.  Over a month ago we discovered that the chemotherapy was not working, it was not enough.  Those symptoms my father first experienced leading up to his diagnosis have reemerged.  Alarm returned to our hearts.  An anxious feeling is present today and we would invite all those who would to join in prayer for my Daddy.  Prayers that this medication will have minimal side effects and allow my Daddy to continue with his now ‘new normal’ day to day duties and life experiences with joy.  

As yesterday was Father’s Day, a wonderful day for our family, I made the point to get a photo of the two Fathers in my life.  I am so grateful for the kinship that they feel one for another.  For a relationship filled with admiration, trust, and respect to exist between my husband and my father is beyond measure.  I am truly blessed to have these two examples in my life and the lives of my children.
Mike and I have also been prayerfully considering a new treatment for him.  We meet with a doctor on Wednesday with the results of his new MRIs.  Six MRIs to be exact.  We also ask for your prayers in our behalf as we study to know the Lord's will for Him in regards to this possible new medication.  Thank you for your ongoing prayers, they have truly been felt as a source of strength as we continue on our journey with Multiple Sclerosis.

{To see past posts regarding 'My Daddy', 'Mike', and 'our journey with MS', please click on the respective labels in the right sidebar.}

Friday, June 17, 2011

Full Circle

I can't seem to wipe this silly little grin off my face.
All the way home it stayed and even now.
The kind of grin that comes when you can finally see the humor in those hair-pulling moments.
The kind of grin that comes when you see yourself doing the things your mother did and witnessing the same kid crazy scenes your mother witnessed and survived!

About 5 minutes after I left the house for the store I was about to turn around and retreat.
"Mom, Eyan's punching me!"
"He hit me first."
It went on for a few minutes and then it happened...
"Mom, Tate's touching me with his elbow."
"No I'm not."
I turned around to try and handle it and I saw an image that whisked me back in time and I just couldn't help but laugh.
There was Tate in the backseat bearing a bright, mischievous grin as he had his elbow firmly planted in the air hovering about 2 inches away from Eyan's body.  He wasn't touching Eyan, he just had his elbow close enough that it would drive Eyan crazy.
Oh my word.  I had witnessed this near exact scene so many times in a car ride full of 5 siblings.  The whole, "He's touching me.  He's breathing on me.  He's staring at me." routine.  Although in my recollection most of my involvement seemed to be centered around the times in which my sister's feet were strategically placed on the headrest just next to our face.
It had happened.
Life had come full circle.
I had added my link to the long chain of motherhood.

And then on the way home it happened again...
Listening to the radio is difficult for my children who are used to 'on demand' music from IPods and IPhones.  They just don't get the concept of 'this is what's playing and we can't listen to "Dynamite" for the bigillionth time'.
Lack of an IPhone attachment necessitated the use of the radio.  I flipped through the stations and immediately stopped on U2's "With or Without You" and announced, "This is a classic boys!" to which I blared the volume and began singing along with my imaginary microphone and serenading them.  Pointing to them and singing during various lines.
"Mom, turn it down."
"Mom, this is the weirdest song I've ever heard."
I began to laugh again.
I recognized the laugh.  It was the same one that drove me crazy from time to time growing up.  The one my Mom would do when we complained about her choice in music or when we'd ask her to stop drawing attention to herself {usually dancing in the car} because she was embarrassing us and she would just keep on doing it.
It had happened again.
Life had come full circle.
I had lived some of those same moments my mom had lived.  And you know what she survived them and she was happy.   And she had raised happy kids.

I love these little moments, these little moments of 'deja vu' when time seems to merge and the joy of my past meets the joy of my present.
Thank you Mom.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Owen's On a Roll with Honor Roll

Our first Honor Roll Student...
Way to go Owen!
This year Owen has really been working hard on completing his work... his vice... reading:-)  Yep, you read that right: reading, reading, and reading some more.  He loves to read, in the place of doing his assignments that is.  
His famous words this year were...oh, I didn't finish that assignment mom.  i ran out of time.
Translation.  I just couldn't put my book down, I had to finish the chapter...book.
Thankfully he had an amazing teacher who really helped him to focus and accept responsibility, Mrs. Allegra Benson.

As parents, Mike and I were so proud of Owen when he achieved Honor Roll for his 1st Trimester in 3rd Grade... then Straight A's for 2nd and 3rd Trimesters.  We did however have to lay down the law, that although we were so proud of him, we don't put stickers on our cars.  Sorry kids.

I loved looking over these photos to see how much he's grown even in just 1 year.  His best little buddy, Zak, also got Honor Roll each time with him. [the last assembly he was at Disneyland instead:-)}  
He's had lots of support too, baby sister, little brothers, Grandma, Mom, and Dad all there to give great big hugs and glowing praise.

First Trimester...November 2011
Mom.Felicity in tow

Second Trimester...March 2011
Mom.Dad.Tate.Felicity in pearls.Grandma

Third Trimester...May 2011
Grandma entertaining wiggly Felicity.Mom.proud Tate.

Good work my little boy, whose not so little anymore.  What a wonderful worker you are.  I'm so proud of you.  I love you Owen!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Manna for a Heavy Soul

Manna for a heavy soul.
The testimonies of the living Apostles and Prophets of Jesus Christ on the power of our Savior's Atonement to heal, carry, change, and raise us up.
I testify to you that these words are true, for I feel it in my soul.  I have felt the powerful, yet gentle outreach of my Savior again even tonight.

Through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our natures can be changed, that our power to carry burdens can be increased more than enough.
President Henry B Eyring
We see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today.  Our Heavenly Father sees us in terms of forever.
Elder Joseph B Wirthlin 
Jesus said, "Without me, ye can do nothing."  I testify that that is God's truth.  Christ is everything to us and we are to abide in him permanently.  Unyieldingly.  Steadfastly.  Forever.
Elder Jeffrey R Holland 

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Summer Tunes

We love music in our home.  One of our favorite family activities is having a Dance Party, just turning up the music and busting some moves in the Family Room.  The boys ask to have one all the time.

that blur is Tate doing an awesome cartwheel

The past few days I have been in a classical mood, so I've been "introducing" my boys to some of the classics: Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Bach...  The funny thing was that I played them a piece and then Eyan said..."Oh I've heard this before, its on Peggle {some silly little game on Mike's Iphone they play together}"  or "That's on the Silly Symphony Swings {a ride at Disney's California Adventure}.  Eyan really does have a great ear.  This happened to at least four of the pieces.  So I guess I'll have to give credit to Disneyland and the silly little video game for subconsiously introducing classical music to my children.  I grew up with my mom listening to Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and other classics all the time.  Of course there was also De Barge, the B-52s, Joni Mitchell, and CCR playing from our enormous 5 level stereo system.

This morning we were all in a little different mood, a SUMMER mood.  The song, "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies filled the air during breakfast time.  From there the boys decided on a variety of songs to create their Summer Fun Playlist. {ok I added a few too - a boycotted a few too - not too keen on Jennifer Lopez's "On the Floor" to be blaring on my blog.}

Playlist.com has been such a fun little tool to create and share our favorite music.  Unfortunately {and maybe a few of you are saying "fortunately" instead} you can no longer add new playlists to your blog in which the music starts up automatically.  So if you'd like to hear the boys' new Summer Fun Playlist, head on over to the right hand column and scroll down a bit to hit PLAY.

{Ok so just listened to the playlist on my blog and found out that they play advertisements between some of the songs -- so annoying!  I will be finding a new site to do my playlists through.  Sorry}

Would love to hear some of your favorite summer tunes!

{Some more Hipstamatic photos, ok so I'm still playing:-)

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Mud Pies and Wood Chip Tea

Mud pie anyone? How about some wood chip tea?  Yumm-o!  {Tate was not allowed to sip his tea by the way.}  Perfect summer backyard fun.  Of course after you have covered yourself in mud, you have to hose yourself off.

Then dry off in the sun.

And make silly faces at Mom.

Felicity woke up from her nap and wanted to join the fun.  She has recently discovered that she loves riding in cars, a Wiggles Big Red Car that is.  Yes, this car has been around that long, from a time when every kid knew who the Wiggles were.  Chuga Chuga Chuga Chuga Big Red Car.  {you know you know the one}

A quintessential lazy summer day.

{Photos taken with Hipstamatic App for my IPhone.  My camera battery was dead so I decided to try this new app.  You can pick your type of vintage film, flash, and lens.  I became giddy with my new little toy.}


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