Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Looking back...Before moving forward

Quick photo catch up before we start making some new memories...

My sister, Laura, came home from her 19 month mission from sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people in Switzerland and Germany. We were able to spend the weekend with her and feel of the wonderful spirit that she carries. Boy, did we miss her!!!
We didn't let Laura spend any time catching up on sleep while we were in Oregon with her. Just hours after her plane landed she went to an outdoor waterpark with the kids. They all had a wonderful time together. Our only complaint was that we didn't have enough time to spend with each other. Good thing we have a lifetime ahead of us!
While in Oregon I got the chance to spend the evening with my good friend Amy. Amy made me this beautiful sling for me to trek Chloe around in. Chloe is snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug when I put her in it. Amy is a super talented woman and I always love seeing her on my trips to Oregon. Again, the only complaint would be that our time was WAY to short together.
Coop and Nate loved all the yummy desserts they got to eat at Ami and Poppi's house.
Coop and Poppi loved playing that golf ball throwing game. I love how my dad always jumps in and plays with my kids. They don't get to see each other too often but Poppi always makes the most of our visits.
Alysee, Chloe, and my mom (Ami) enjoyed lots of time together. My mom is an excellent seamstress and Alysee brought several projects for them to do together. (Side note: I'm not much of a seamstress so I always tell the kids to save whatever needs fixed for our trips to Oregon. My mom doesn't complain a bit and somehow always manages to mend our stuff plus include the kids in the sewing.)Poppi and Chloe rocking together.
One the way home from Oregon we stopped at the Portland Zoo. We were super lucky to have some Ditto cousins join us for the hot morning. The kids all LOVED the animals but even more loved the couple of hours running around with their cousins. We left hot, tired, hungry, and fulfilled. The weekend we got home from Oregon we got the privilege of spending some time with my Aunt and Uncle and my cousins' two kids. They had a pit stop here on their way from Colorado to the Washington Peninsula. We always look forward to their yearly visits!
This time they brought my cousins' two kids whom we had never met. Our kids all had the best time together. Birch organized a wicked game of kickball for all the kids.
Now here is the most exciting news...I bought myself a hydraulic barber chair. For the past eleven and half years I have been giving haircuts to my family. I always complain about how I have to lean forward so far with the kids (especially uncomfortable when I am pregnant)--so I decided ENOUGH OF THAT. I have a little craigslist addiction right now and so when I saw this barber chair listed for $50 I knew it had my name written all over it. I am often cutting nine peoples hair each month so I think I will make good use out of it. (I know you are all jealous of my haircutting apron...maybe one day I will upgrade and get a cool black apron like at the real salons.)
Chloe is five and half weeks old now. She is just the cutest thing, though she is leaving Birch and me quite exhausted. Our nights are pretty much no fun but somehow that cute face laying next to me most of the whole night is still so easy to love.
Coop loves to play on our slide.
The other night the kids were making this train and then having the last person on the slide go through their legs. They had a blast!
Alex took this photo yesterday of Chloe. He just couldn't resist that cute face and HUGE flower headband. It is so wonderful to see the kids all so in love with their little sister.

Okay...we are all caught up now. Stay tuned for more Ditto happenings.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The things I KNOW

I was thinking the other day how this blog serves as a family and personal journal for myself, and is therefore an appropriate place to share some personal beliefs and things I have come to know for myself. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormons). I was blessed to be born into a family that was already a member of this church; I think it is a huge advantage that helped limit the amount of time that I might have flailed around trying to find guidance and direction in my life.

I know that God really does know who I am and cares about me. There have been times in my life where this love has been easier for me to feel and other times where I did wonder if God knew ME and really cared about my happiness. A time that I struggled with this the most was in the late summer of 1999. Alex, Birch and I had just been in a terrible car accident. Alex suffered from a collapsed lung, fractured skull, and fractured spleen. Birch later found that he had dislocated his collar bone and severed his vertebral artery. I was 17.5 weeks pregnant with our second child but through a simple exam in the ER it showed everything was going to be okay. Two weeks later, after Alex had been discharged from the hospital and we had been greeted by much love from our friends and family back at our home in Montana, Birch and I found ourselves again at the hospital. On the previous day we had gone in for our regularly-scheduled ultrasound to find out the sex of our baby and to check on the growth and development, but found that our little girl had died. That night I laid in bed and cried in agony pleading with God to do what he had done in days of old and raise my child from the dead. I had faith that God could bring my baby back to life and the following morning prior to my induction I demanded to have another ultrasound to see if my baby had come back to life. During the following weeks and months I struggled with depression and with knowing if God really did love me and cared about my happiness. I felt hopelessness and a lack of desire to pray to my Heavenly Father. Birch and I had always prayed together each night before going to bed but I no longer felt like I wanted to take part in giving these prayers. A couple of weeks after the death of Sara Elizabeth I was at church and we were singing the hymn "Count your blessings."

Count Your Blessings

When upon life's billows You are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged Thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings Name them one by one,
And it will surprise you What the Lord hath done.

Chorus:

Count your blessings Name them one by one.
Count your blessings See what God hath done.
Count your blessings Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings See what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened With a load of care,
Does the cross seem heavy You are called to bear.
Count your many blessings Every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing As the days go by.

When you look at others With their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised You His wealth untold.
Count your many blessings Money cannot buy,
Your reward in heaven Nor your home on high.

So amid the conflict Whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged God is over all.
Count your many blessings Angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you To your journey's end.

I couldn't finish the song. I had lost the desire to "count my blessings" and see that God was watching over all. It wasn't long after when I had a very personal experience with God where I felt SO strongly that God did care about me and my family and that he was watching over me. It was such a personal experience with God's love for me that I wept uncontrollably, filled with such peace that I was not just one of millions that lived here on earth merely existing. Yes, I know God loves ME.

I know that the Bible and the Book of Mormon contain the fullness of the gospel. In John 10:16 it says, "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." After Jesus was resurrected he visited the "other sheep" on the American continent and this visit is recorded in the Book of Mormon. I know that Joseph Smith was used by God to translate these sacred ancient writings into English. As I have taken the time to read the writings of ancient prophets in the Bible and Book of Mormon I have again felt God's love and his plan for me.

I know that there is life after death. Almost eight years ago Birch's father suddenly passed away.

The pain of his death is very real for Birch's mom and for all of us who love his dad. Knowing that his father's memories and relationships with those he loved on this earth were not erased at death is very comforting. I know that once I have died and have been resurrected at some point, I will have the opportunity to have eternal life and carry on those relationships that I have made here on earth. Eternally being with my spouse, my children, and others I love is such a rewarding promise.

I know that God gives us commandments in order for me to be a happier person. I'm sure that I have not always looked at this concept in the same way that I do now, especially since having children. What an amazing thought that God loved us all so much that he gave us the opportunity to choose right from wrong. I am so grateful for the Holy Ghost which not only can help me choose right from wrong but also brings me comfort when my soul is in need.

I know that this life is all about family. Not only does God love and care about my family but he cares about the kind of mother I am to my family. If Birch and I fail to teach our children God's commandments at home, how can we expect them to flourish in the world? "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3) and the family is the center of God's plan.

These are a few of things I KNOW. I am grateful that I know so many answers to life's greatest questions.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Look what's growing at our house!

This past weekend Alex turned 10 years old! We sure filled the day with LOTS of fun activities. Since I am not much of a cake girl and Alex loves cinnamon rolls we enjoyed a Papa Murphy's cinnamon wheel for Alex's "cake." We started off the day with my Aunt and Uncle visiting from Colorado with my cousin's kids, then we headed to the family fun center, and then off to McDonald's. After we snarfed down lunch our friends the Coxes joined us for the afternoon, Birch took the kids swimming (yes, seven kids on his own), and then we had a pizza movie party. I think Alex's favorite gift was a new lefty baseball mitt and a bag of baseballs.

Alex sure changed our lives for the better when we was born ten years ago. Though his labor is not one that I like to remember, the feeling of love that we instantly felt toward him is unforgettable. He is a great example to his siblings and a very loving brother. I can't believe he is 10!
In the morning we went to the family fun center and rode the go-carts, bumper boats, and did a few arcade games. Alysee and I were quite the wild drivers!
Coop really did NOT enjoy getting wet on the bumper boats. Although this picture doesn't really show it, he did really love the arcade games and horsey ride.
Tyler and Birch won first place in the go-cart race. I'm stayin' off the road once Tyler gets his license.Family picture (minus Chloe who was being babysat by some friends) after the bumper boat attack.

Look what else is growing...

Our garden in May 2008.Our garden today--July 2008. We've got sugar snap peas, basil, corn, cucumbers, beans, strawberries, blueberries, tons of tomatoes, squash up the ying-yang, pumpkins, watermelon, and cantaloupe. Oh yes, and my favorite...the zinnias.

And let's not forget Chloe...

4 weeks old - time is just flying. Chloe is such a good baby (as she is now crying in the background). Really, we are SO SUPER DUPER grateful!! She sleeps, eats, and poops. Nights aren't so awesome but they never have been with a Ditto newborn. We just love her to pieces!!
Capturing one of Chloe's first smiles. They are far between but we are pretty sure that they are FOR REAL. Check out those cheeks...I might be making 2% milk this time as opposed to the skim supreme in the past.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pioneer Day (Week) Ideas

Looking for some fun ideas to do with your kids this week? Need a Family Home Evening lesson for tonight?

Click HERE for some great ideas.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A mother hen and her six chicks

I was feeling a little self conscious about posting again due to several comments about my productivity after Chloe's birth. Just so you know, during the past two weeks that was about the only productive thing I did.

Today was my first day ruling the roost all by myself. The whole family agreed that it would be wonderful if Dad could only work half days ALL SUMMER LONG; but someone has got to earn the money for the chicken feed and to keep the coop up and running.

As I went to sleep last night I felt a little overwhelmed with fear of how I was going to manage the house stuff plus keep the kids alive and happy. Well, the dishes still haven't been touched today but Coop did finally get a fresh diaper just before eating lunch. I, on the other hand, had a great loooong shower (my daily indulgence) got dressed and ate breakfast all before 10 am. Not bad, eh? The kids have played well with each other today and I even attempted my first summer "homeschool" lesson prior to eating lunch. This week our theme is "Joseph Smith's First Vision and Forrest Life." The kids seemed to really enjoy having something structured to do and especially loved the pudding mud that we made at the end for our dessert after lunch. I'm hoping to pull off something similar each day this summer...but I'm not going to stress too much if Momma Hen skips a day here and there.

The past two weeks have been filled with all sorts of fun at our house. Birch has been so good at really making an effort to include each of the kids in special activities and do some extra one-on-one time with each of them. The kids seem to thrive on having dates ALONE with dad.

Meanwhile, back at the farm... here are some of the activities that have gone on at our house the past two weeks:One early morning Birch took Alex and Tyler rock climbing.
It was their first time and they LOVED it!

Alex

Tyler

We went miniature golfing. Coop loved dropping the golf ball
in the holes then retrieving them. He also loved throwing
his golf ball in any of the water features.

Nate built a few things in the shop. He made and painted
a really cool wooden race car.

Birch took some of the kids to an outdoor water squirter park.
As you can tell they had a great time cooling off.

Tyler, Nate, Alysee

We went swimming at our friend's pool. Lately Coop has decided that he doesn't like water...sure has made bath time and swimming not much fun. However, he did discover that he does enjoy squirting people with water guns.

Alysee

The Forth of July was lots of fun! We had our own little family picnic (who am I kidding, nothing is little around here); we said the pledge of allegiance; we ate yummy patriotic food; and then the kids and Birch set up camp in the backyard. Chloe and I enjoyed the night in our soft bed, though I am pretty sure that I had to get up more often than Birch did during the night.

Can you tell who LOVES pop?

And corn?

And watermelon?
Yep, that would be Cooper.


Alex feeling rather lucky that he got to sit in one of the two coveted lawn chairs.

Alex and Tyler setting up camp.

Storytime in the tent--biding time before the fireworks.

Game time in the boys' tent.

Ditto Camp all set up.

The highlight of the week for Alysee and Tyler would be my allowing them to have a frog and a tadpole. Our friends found a bunch of tadpoles in a lake and could see how much Alysee was enthralled with them. If I had known what happiness I was going to bring to Alysee's life, I would have hidden the frog for a month and then given it to her for her birthday. Both Tyler and Alysee ended the school year with science units about frogs. They LOVED learning and observing the life cycle of the frog. Since I am NOT a pet person the frog and tadpole have found their home far from our house on the outer edge of our property in a large plastic tub. I hear the frog and tadpole are quite happy!

Tyler, Nate, and Alysee digging for worms to add to the frog habitat.

Yesterday Birch cut off four different pairs of pants to make himself some new shorts. We ended up spending the next several hours making "pillows" out of the cut-off pant legs. The kids had fun appliquéing pictures on the outside of the pillow and then using pastel fabric crayons to draw pictures around the design. The kids all loved sewing. Besides the sewing project, Birch also managed to install a whole new toilet downstairs which is apparently so powerful that we could flush 150 feet of toilet paper down and it would not plug the toilet. Goodbye plunger!!

So what have I been doing all week?

Mostly being a Momma cow, changing poopy diapers, and resting my bum on the couch.

Chloe had her two-week check up last week and gained 4 ounces. She now weighs 6 pounds 8 ounces. We love every ounce of her!!! I would describe Chloe so far as a "normal" baby. She does mostly eat, sleep, and poop. (We have had several kids who would not fit this "normal" category, so we are grateful.) She is VERY noisy, though. Maybe this is because she feels like she lives on a farm. She makes grunting, groaning, and even a great horse neighing sound (which isn't so great at 1 am, 3 am, 4 am, etc...). She prefers to not sleep in her bassinet (again, just like her siblings), but wrapped up in momma's arms close to her next meal. Although all the kids love Chloe, Tyler has particularly seemed to enjoy each minute with his little sister. He is great at babysitting her! Actually last week I paid Tyler $1.00 to babysit Cooper for the morning before Birch got home at lunchtime; he did a great job fixing breakfast, getting Coop dressed, and playing him all morning.

Here are a few pictures to catch you up on Chloe's growth:
Chloe's first Sunday going to church - 15 days old (yes, her toenails are painted--I just couldn't resist).

We love every inch of her!!!

Okay, I can tell I have overdone my computer time now. Chloe has peed through her diaper all over my leg; the dishes are still in the sink; the doors outside have been left wide open, letting the 100-degree air warm the house; Coop is calling for me from his crib; I'm ignoring the kids' requests for help; and the piles of laundry have grown beyond the laundry basket.

Good thing Birch is on his way home and my mom is coming to the rescue by sending us pizza for dinner tonight! Life on the farm continues...