Thursday, January 30, 2014

Blogging From Russia.

You can read all about Michaela's Russia adventures at

Monday, January 27, 2014

Russia Bound.

Good thing I have done this before.
Sent a child off to a foreign country?
Not so much.
But I, myself, have packed my life into a single suitcase to live for several months somewhere across the map.

Second only to my husband and children, 
it's been my life's greatest adventure so far.
I would relive those months over and over if I could.

St. Petersburg is not Jerusalem, but some of 
the same lessons will be learned, I am sure.
Awesome lessons of independence, gratitude, and love for another people.
Lessons of tolerance, self discovery, and faith. 
Oh, I get weepy just thinking about that time in my life.
I'm so grateful for parents who encouraged that dream and helped make it a reality.

Funny how life always seems to come full circle.

Love you Michaela.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I Could Have Been There.

Got a text from my husband who is at a Rugby tournament in Vegas: 
"Guess who just sang the National Anthem? 
Yup.  The Voice extraordinaire who happens to be a rugby player too:           Matthew Schuler. 
Darn the luck. 
But it got me reminiscing...
...and so I had to watch a few performances for old time's sake (old times being like, last November).

Here's one of my favorites:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ode to Preppers.

 Though it seems that January has had a whole lot of nothing going on...
in actuality it's been a big preparatory month.

Michaela: Is SLOWLY preparing for her Russia adventure. She has completed her last day of work and is now gathering and packing. As a mom, I am a little worried about turning her loose in a foreign country. Especially after spending a week looking for her newly acquired, and yet missing, passport. Until one day, after several hours of overhauling her bedroom, she received an email informing all departing ILP teachers, that their passports and visas would be returned to them at the airport. YUP. She had forgotten that she turned it over to the program a month before. Ay yi yi!!!
But you should see her room....

Bethany: Has been busy preparing to come home. After a successful term at a Washington high school, she is heading back to finish up where she started. Lot's of good things have happened for her there. We will be forever grateful to the Woolf's and all the Washington cousins and family that made her  a part of their lives.

Hannah: Has been busily preparing to turn Bethany's room back over to her. On the upside, Michaela will vacate Hannah's old room, and she will be back to having sole ownership. Yipee!

Elijah: Has been prepping like a crazy person for his Pro Start competition next month. Every Tuesday and Thursday after school they cook for 2 hours, trying to perfect their menu. I am continually impressed with his mad cooking skills... The competition will be state wide and their meals will be judged for taste and presentation. Kind of makes me happy that he considers cooking, one of his hobbies :)

Will: He just continues to prepare to be awesome. I am not sure I have had any child so in love with life in general. Every day is a new adventure. What a kid!

And Michael and I: are constantly preparing for the next big wave to come...teenagers are like big crashing waves, slamming down on shore and quietly retreating, then slamming down again. Is that too harsh? Probably. Nonetheless that is what we prepare for :)

So, here's to February. 
Please hurry.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I Just Can't Help Myself.

So many old pictures on my hard drive. 
I can't stop obsessing about them :)

This one takes me back to the time I thought life was hard...lot's of physical demands but such sweet payoffs!

Top Row L to R: Cody, Brady, Meghan, Michaela, Bethany, and Jordan
Middle Row: Hannah, Elijah, Avery, Cassidy, Kyle, Riley, and Colby
Front Row: Christine, Will, and Kaylie

This would be the Easter Egg hunt at the church where four year old Elijah made a potty run just as we were loading up into the cars to go home. 
He told me specifically-"don't leave me."
Which I promptly did.
Some wonderful mother found him walking home on State street. He had his phone number memorized and she called me to let me know 
what a loser mother I was.
Well, not really in those words but I knew the truth.
A shining moment in my career :)

Good times ya'll.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Awkward Family Photos...

I have found a treasure trove of scanned pictures on my hard drive. I honestly don't know how I got them but oh my goodness, they are something else. 

This was affectionately (?) dubbed my "Joseph Smith" look. It's really working for me don't you think?
Look at all of that 80's hair...

This is the longest I have ever seen my mom's hair. 
Isn't she gorgeous?
This was my "I have a mouth full of braces and I just can't smile" phase.
I have no idea who the gentleman on the right is...
I feel like he was a church official or something....

No words to defend this one.

Doesn't everyone have a photographer come and photograph a family prayer? Apparently the youngest three did not get the memo to close their eyes.

And seriously, before this photo I would have bet my life that no one would ever get my dad to pose in a Santa hat, with a smile nonetheless.

That's all for today. 
Just know that I have more where these came from.

And happy third week of January-
(if I were keeping track of each and every passing day, 
which I'm not...)

Friday, January 17, 2014


...a merit badge requirement I can relate to!!!

The new Boy Scout cooking merit badge 
is right up my alley :)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Half Way Mark.

I am making a much bigger deal of this January month than it deserves,  
but Hallelujah, it's half way gone.

And there is nothing like a few memories of Buddha the Elder to bring a little sunshine into a cold heart.

Go ahead, enjoy the warmth!

Take that  January!

And yes, I realize that no one feels warmth from these pictures but me, 
but I just loved that dog so dang much!

Post Script: Our current Buddha is back to normal. Just needed a week to shake off those pesky insecurities....

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Patience and Other Lessons On A Sunday.

I love the scriptures.
My very favorite thing is uncovering hidden treasures from their pages.
However, I often struggle with a method for studying them.
I get a little crazy trying to figure out how I should study.
Certainly it is easiest to just read cover to cover and I have done that many times. However, I also like changing it up.
And so, sometimes I study by topic, or by a question, or by a Sunday School lesson schedule.
You name it, I have probably attempted it.
But somehow I always seem to lose focus on why I am reading that way...or I change my mind a few weeks in.
Anyways, all that to say that one day it occurred to me that there is probably no better way to study the scriptures, than the way the missionaries do.
So I bought myself a Preach My Gospel book and began.
For some reason it has been liberating for me.
It makes me feel focused and purposeful.
I love it.
Right now I am smack in the middle of studying about Christ's attributes.
Patience has been my topic for several days and I have learned some pretty amazing things. One of which is that  I have been approaching the acquisition of patience with some incomplete ideas...
I am grateful for several "light bulb" moments.
And today I read this talk on patience by Elder Maxwell.
(Does anyone else get a little homesick for Elder Maxwell?)
Such a great talk.

Anyways, Sunday was also filled with a great homecoming talk by a returned missionary from Ghana.
Not to mention a wonderful talk by a brother in our ward who works at the MTC and shared some sweet experiences he has had with MTC missionaries.
I love Sundays that just fill you up to the brim with God and His love.
Today was one of those.

After church, we met at the Cooks for Sunday dinner. There, we learned some not-so-life-changing lessons:

 First of all, we learned that Taco Salad, though ridiculed by the Labit kids as their least favorite Sunday dinner, is absolutely gobbled up by the plateful. 
Seriously, who doesn't love a good Taco Salad?

Secondly, we learned that Will is putty in the hands of the Cook girls :)  
And though he may look grumpy, he loves the attention he 
gets from those cute girls.

Next, we learned that Hannah has very pretty eyelashes.
 (Can you tell I am struggling for a caption?)

We then learned that if we all play the game of Fact or Cr--,

Zack is the King of it.

Though I would venture to say that in real life, this boy wins hands down :)
"Eees joke Lijah..."

Hope your Sabbath was full of lessons-
Gospel and otherwise.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

January So Far.

My not so favorite month is nine days over 
and I am really trying to be awesome about it. 
It is taking extreme mental effort though. 

And so, thus far in January, 
I have read two and a half books.

Kind of fitting for this month don't you think?

This book deserves a post of its own...wonderful.

And  I am half way through this one-
every paragraph seems to require great pondering...

To sum it up-
reading has been my sanity.

Thank you, my two wonderful book groups.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Never Mess With Perfection.

Everyone knows by now that we have the perfect dog. He is, to quote Mary Poppins, "practically perfect in every way." We reeeeeeally had to rack our brains to come up with any fault. Seriously.

However, a little indiscretion has changed all that.

Over Christmas break, we invited another dog into our home.
Just temporarily, as we were prone to do before Buddha arrived.
We were known as the go-to dog sitters.

On Christmas Eve, Daphne arrived.

 Buddha was semi-tolerant. Every once in awhile he felt the need to put this bossy little 5 pound puff of fur in her place. She wasn't allowed to eat out of his bowl, touch his ball, or chew on his rejected bone. Everything seemed okay. He still got plenty of attention but she came on all of his walks, and demanded equal time from his family.

One week later she went home. Buddha has never been the same. He's needy and whiny and wants constant reassurance. He follows me from room to room and can barely ever relax. He whines and barks when we leave, and continues until we get home.

The worst of his new behavior is whining and crying in the middle of the night. Anyone who has woken me up from a deep sleep knows how pleasant that experience is. It has become just about intolerable.

Michael thinks he misses Daphne. I think we rocked his world with that little spitfire and he just doesn't know how regroup.


Any helpful ideas on how to get him back to normal-pleeeeeze let me know.

Poor Buddha and poor us!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Five Higlights of 2013.

Last night, as we celebrated the final moments of the year 2013, Michaela informed us that actually, only 28% percent of the American population was happy with this exiting year. It didn't take me but a couple of seconds to know that I was probably in that 72% of the less-than-happy crowd. 

While we were richly blessed in a lot of ways, it was a year of struggles and heartaches-within and without our home. However, I am not going to focus on that. I am going to embrace 2014 wholeheartedly even though it begins with my most dreaded month. And because December decided to latch on to the frigid temperatures and ugly inversion that usually comes with January, I figure I have a pretty good tolerance already built up. Positive thinking, right? 

And so with that, here are my five personal favorite highlights of 2013.

#1: Mission calls and farewells. 2013 was the year of 3 cousins receiving mission calls. For me, there is nothing like the nervous excitement that surrounds newly called missionaries. Even though their fear of the unknown is evident, their commitment is undaunted. Love that missionary spirit. I will continue to love reading their letters and hearing about their successes and struggles in 2014.

#2: Matthew Schuler. This may be super shallow but 2013 was the year I was introduced to The Voice. Some might say that I have a little bit of an obsession when it comes to certain singers:) Matthew was my absolute favorite last season and my family can testify that I watched this blind audition more times than is normal.

 And though it might be blasphemous to some, I think his version of Hallelujah almost rivals David Archuleta's Imagine performance. Almost.

 #3: The miraculous attainment of Buddha Number Two. Nothing more to say. Not a single day goes by that we don't love the heck out of that decision :)

#4: Having Molly and Cecil with us again for the summer. I won't lie, even after the previous summer's five additional cousins, having just two more rocks my world a little bit. But these kids are so good and we love sharing some of their lives for a little while each year. We always hope they take something good back to California with them.

#5: Honestly, this last one is a little selfish. Having seen so many friends and family  pass on to the next life this past year, I treasure the time that we spent all together as a whole, complete family. And because Michaela is leaving for Russia soon with immediate plans to move out when she returns, this may very well have been the last year that we were all together under one roof as a family. Uhg. That was supposed to be a highlight but suddenly I'm depressed!

In truth, I couldn't be more excited to dig in to this new year, January and all. Here's to hoping for great opportunities, challenges, and growth in 2014.