Wednesday, January 21, 2015

One a Day, Week Three


Packing snacks for California Daddy Trip

Katie with her (3rd cousin once removed?) Tennyson

New playdough!


Helping Mom clean up after the studio painting project

All finished with the painting

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Split Vacations

I showed up on Sunday with just three kids -- Katie, Cami, and Joey.  A couple of new friends of ours, knowing that our daughter had talked about a California trip, seemed concerned, "Wait, how come you didn't go on the trip?"

Friends that have known us for a long time hardly noticed.  Splitting up the family for shorter trips is kind of how we roll around here.  We've been doing Daddy Trips for almost a decade, and it's one of my favorite traditions.  For a few days to a week, my husband takes most of the older kids on an adventure, while I get time at home to enjoy a quieter pace of life.  I usually catch up on projects, both the fun kind and the onerous.

We usually do one big Daddy trip each summer, and it's a doozy of a trip.  DH will carefully map out a route through several states, with stops for tent-trailer camping and attraction-visiting along the way.  Last summer, they hopped their way up the California coastline (I don't think I ever blogged the photos of that trip -- sorry!).  In 2013, they headed to San Francisco.  In 2011, they went through Nevada, California, and Oregon.   Typically, DH takes all the kids older than three.  The last few years, one of the older kids has often stayed home, either by preference or because they had another commitment that they wanted to hit.  It's been a wonderful combination -- I get all the rest of having just a few littles around, but with the bonus of having an older one around to watch them while I run, do errands, or work on projects.  And I enjoy spending one-on-one time with the older one as well. And they don't complain about a week of Subways and pizza ('cause it's hardly worth cooking for a just a few kids)

We still do trips with the whole family.  It's part of our family culture to travel a lot, though with kids in middle school and high school, it's getting hard to get away with everyone -- we have no problem with elementary school kids missing a few days here and there, but the older ones, especially Lillian, have tougher classes and a harder time catching back up.  So we do what works.  At least once a year, we take the whole family somewhere for a week.  But other times, such as when we can only get away for a weekend, one of us will take a group of kids and enjoy the time and memories.

It's a good way to balance the many ages and stages of all of our children.  It's really easy to travel with the 6-and-older crowd, not so fun with the toddlers and babies.  So we do more camping, longer hikes, and more location-hopping with the older ones, while saving our family trips for times when we can go and stay put for a week.  To me, it's just not worth driving nine or more hours with the littlest ones just to turn around and do the drive again a few days later.

But back to this weekend.  DH joined another family and brought six of our kids to California.  They used the boogie boards Santa brought us this year, hung out on the beach, swam, and had a great time.

Meanwhile, I did two photoshoots (a newborn and an extended family), and tackled a painting and caulking project.
This "little" guy was over 9 lbs at birth!

When we finished our upstairs last year, the painters only finished the rooms with carpet, leaving us to do the baseboards in the rooms with hardwood.  We'd traded for the work, and that was the amount of hours they had to give us.  So while our hard floors looked awesome, all the nail holes and the gaps between the baseboards and the walls looked pretty cruddy, including in my studio area.  So I filled in all the nail holes and caulked just about everywhere, only stopping when I ran out of caulk.

I also painted two sections of my studio, increasing the flexibility I have in there for backgrounds. I chose a beautiful deep navy for one area, and a chocolate brown for the other.  I'm loving them both.

Katie enjoyed helping me clean up afterwards.  The new blue is on the left, the brown on the right.

I grabbed a couple of handy models to test out the colors in use.

Yep, I'm loving it!  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sledding (Wordless Wednesday)

We got our first big snowstorm of the season 2 a.m. Christmas Morning.  The day after Christmas, we took advantage of the snow to enjoy some sledding.  

One a Day, Week 2

A fun week for photography -- cute kids, lovely bedhead, and fun fog, rain, and snow!

Baby Jack, a friend's newborn

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Highs and Lows of 2014

It's been quite an eventful year for our family, and looking back, it's been full of more highs than lows.  Today, I thought I'd share a few of both, in no particular order.

Low:  Losing a Baby at 11 Weeks.

I was pregnant all summer long but very few people knew.  My husband and I were waiting until our daughter Lillian got back from her summer camp to tell our children and friends.  But two weeks before that happened, I went in for a ten week appointment on a Friday morning.  There was no heartbeat and an ultrasound found that the baby was only about 8 weeks in size and no longer alive.

It was heartbreaking, but at the same time, I felt like it was my turn.  It was my first miscarriage, and I know from my friends how unusual it is to have been able to carry 9 children to term without any complications.

My husband gave me a beautiful priesthood blessing that afternoon, full of comfort and promises, and I felt at peace through the experience.  He then left with six of our kids for his week-long Daddy trip, and I headed to Idaho with two kids.

This was the sunset I experienced that night:

By the next Thursday, nothing had happened, so the doctor gave me some medication to start things along.

It was a very physically challenging experience, a lot harder than I expected.  It took a long time, I lost a lot of blood and nearly fainted.  I had to call a dear friend to take me to the ER in the middle of the night.  I lost so much blood that the next day I could barely stand up without feeling faint and it took about four to six weeks before I felt like myself again.  I told my husband that labor and delivery were a lot easier than miscarriage, and if I ever have to do it again, I'm getting a d&c.

High:  Being carried by good friends and the comfort of Heavenly Father through that difficult experience

I was blessed with sweet friends who were so kind and helpful in those first few days and weeks.  So many had experienced their own miscarriages and shared their experiences.  One brought by Cafe Rio, another a smoothie.  One friend took me out for a drive that was so needed.

And despite how hard it all was, especially physically, I felt immediately grateful for it.  With seven daughters, it's likely miscarriage will visit our family again and I'm grateful to have an understanding of what it's like.  I think I knew before and had imagined and experienced vicariously the emotional pain of miscarriage, but I had really underestimated the physical aspect of it.

High:  Positive Pregnancy Test and Seeing my Children's Excitement 

The positive test was a nice birthday present.  We waited to share the news until after hearing a heartbeat, so the kids didn't find out until Christmas Eve.  They are so excited, especially Lillian.

Low:  Nervousness about the new baby

It's been strange to be pregnant again after a loss.  I can't help worrying more than I should.  If I feel less tired one day, I can't help but wonder if things are all right.  I felt some peace after a priesthood blessing, and lots of excitement after hearing a heartbeat (if you hear a heartbeat at 10 weeks, the chances of miscarriage from that point on are less than 1%), but having had lost the last pregnancy, I can't help feeling some psychological need to prepare for the worst, just in case.  Most of the time, I just reassure myself that most likely things will be fine and try not to worry too much.

High:  Running Success!  

One of my goals for the year was to run a 10K in under 60 minutes.  I got close twice.  In March, Marci and I ran a very fast and challenging pace.  I finished in 1:00:25.  Darn those extra 25 seconds! But we had pushed ourselves really hard for that finish, and I was happy.  Then in September, we ran the Powerhouse 10K together.  We ran at what felt like a more comfortable, conversational pace, through pouring rain, and I finished in 1:00:46.  Guess that "less than 60 minute" goal will have to be put off until 2016.
Rex Lee Run with Jennie and Marci

Just before the downpour at the Powerhouse 10K

In other success, when I was running on the track at the Rec Center this summer, I did a lot of intervals and tried to improve my mile time.  I once thought I'd never break 8 minutes for a mile, but on my fastest, sprint-every-other-lap run, I got a PR of 7:36.  That felt awesome.

My other favorite race was a Turkey Run 4-miler on Thanksgiving Day.  I ran alone, pushing the pace as hard as I could and ended up finishing in 36:23, faster than I ran my first 5K five years ago, and a 9:06 average pace.  One thing I love about running is how many ways there are to measure your progress.

For example, I ran 846 miles last year.  In 2013, I ran 774, so even though I did fewer half marathons, I still ran more.  Add in hiking and walking, I traveled over 1066 miles last year, a full 200 more than the 848 for 2013.  And since I've been exercising 5 or 6 days a week all year, it's no surprise I accumulated 269 hours of exercise last year, compared to 243 for 2013. (I love looking at stats like that on DailyMile).

High:  A good friend and consistent running partner.

Marci is just awesome.  She's dependable, level-headed, and great to talk to.  There's something so wonderful about being able to talk everything from trivia to home management to world affairs while getting in exercise every week.  Thanks for all the 6:00 a.m. runs, Marci, even in the 22 degree weather.

Low:  How awful I felt at the Provo City Half.

I only did one half marathon this year, and it was pretty miserable.  I'd trained well for it, but then I got a horrible cold that week.  I was so sick and congested I hardly slept the night before, but I was determined to finish anyway.  I was frustrated with the results.  I was so hoping to get below 2:10, and I think I could have had I not been ill.  I finished in 2:15:30, an average pace of 10:20.  It was still a PR, but I was disappointed I wasn't able to do better.  It's funny because once upon a time I really didn't care how fast or slow I was, and now I do.  :)

High:  Watching my husband commit to regular exercise and calorie-counting, 

He's kept it up for over four months now, lost 50 lbs, and feels great.  All from a simple ten-week challenge to get into shape.  He wants to climb Mount Whitney next summer for his 40th birthday, and he's well on his way to being fit enough to do so.

High:  Running the Adventure 5K

I talked my husband into this as a birthday present for me.  We both had a great time at it.  We stayed overnight in Moab, then headed out for 3.1 miles of fun terrain, trans-versing culverts, climbing ropes and ladders, running through a cave and then through an obstacle course before finishing up.  It was a beautiful day and a fun run -- no muddy messes or anything too challenging.

Low:  Wishing it was easier for me to lose that last 15 lbs.  

I really struggled to track and lose during the ten week challenge with my husband.  Weight just doesn't seem to come off as quickly as I think it should.  It was really hard to stick with it every week while my husband was losing 3-4 lbs a week and I was only losing .5 to 1.  But I did get down ten pounds and to within 6 lbs of my goal weight before pregnancy happily let me slack off.  I'm hoping when I get back into weight loss, the combination of having taken a long break and nursing a baby will help me finally get down to my goal.

High:  Watching my kids grow up and fly the nest a bit

This summer was unusual for our family, as much of the time, we only had seven children at home. Lillian spent one week at Girls' Camp, then spent seven weeks at Camp Rising Sun in New York. She had an amazingly good time and made friends from all around the world -- girls came from something like 14 states and 30 countries.   Joey and Michael went to Scout Camp, then Joey spent three and then two weeks with his Grandma and Grandpa, helping to work on their acreage in the mornings and then going fishing, rockhounding, and four-wheeling in the afternoon.  It was especially neat to see Michael, age 12, step up into the oldest child role so well this summer.  He babysat while I exercised and the twins did swim team (another great experience) every morning, and he was great at it.

Low:  Trying to help one of my smartest children develop better study habits and follow-through, with little obvious success


High:  Attending the first General Women's Meeting with three of my daughters at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City

It was wonderful to be there in person, and we enjoyed the many messages about making and keeping covenants with God, including this sweet video:

High:  Eliza's Baptism

She's a lovely girl and it was a lovely day.  She's been such a joy in her eight years of life.  We love having her in our family.

High:  Family Trip to San Diego

We're usually able to travel several times through the year, but this was only trip with everyone along this year.  It was also our first time driving two vehicles on vacation, which worked out better than I expected.  The week was a perfect mix of sand, sun, museums, Sea World, swimming, relaxing, and photography.  I came home renewed and refreshed.

I think the little girl in the right corner was secretly hoping to join our family.  :)

Low:  Feeling grief for friends

My running partner and friend Marci unexpectedly lost her father this fall.  He was healthy as could be, then out of the blue developed trouble breathing, a lung disease, and died in just a few short months.  Another friend lost her husband unexpectedly after a quick bout with nasty pneomonia and then a blood clot.  She is now left with six young children to care for, her oldest just 15.  Though these tragedies haven't drastically affected my life the way they have my friends', it has been sad for me to watch.  Life is fragile, and sorrow and difficulty are a huge part of life.

High:  Taking up Landscape Photography

I started seriously doing landscapes after our trip to Kauai last December.  It's been a fun, creative outlet that has improved my skills.  I entered two contest this year and won in both of them, winning an honorable mention in the Provo City contest, then first place overall in the Utah Lake Festival.

That's my photo on the top right!

Winning Photo, Utah Lake Festival

It's been fun to periodically watch the skies, anticipating what kind of sunset we might have, then finding a great spot to take photos in.  I loved driving the canyons in the fall and visiting several temples.  I've been working on culling down my landscape images to my top 10 for a portfolio and shared some of my favorites last week.

Provo Temple, one of my favorite photos of the year.

High:  Sharing Photography with my Children

Landscape photography has allowed me to include my children in more ways than just begging them to let me take their own photos.  Sarah and Allison have especially loved going to the sunset at Utah Lake with me, using my old cameras or just exploring the shore.  Joey is another who never misses a chance to be near water (especially if he has a fishing pole handy).  We tromped near lakes, drove around fall canyons, and picked wildflowers in Aspen Groves this year, all things we might have missed had I not been anxious to get stunning shots with my camera.  Sarah asked for a tripod for Christmas, Allison a camera of her own.  Both wishes were granted.

Low:  Feeling helpless as a friend dealt with mental illness and suicidal thoughts in a loved one.

I can't share much, but my heart ached this year watching a good friend go through her worst nightmare with a loved one.

High:  Watching my Photography Business Thrive

To be honest, I've always been a bit worried about being TOO busy with photography, so I don't advertise, have a website other than a blog and Facebook page (and even those aren't always updated), or do much to promote myself.  I run it as a hobby rather than a business.   But then I worry I won't be busy enough sometimes.  But this year was just about perfect.  I did 40 shoots and they were spread out nicely through the year.  I was able to attend several fun workshops, watch dozens more online, and I feel great about where I'm at with my skills and craft right now.
Me with Scott Kelby

I always love doing large families!

High:  Setting up and using my new studio space

I'm absolutely spoiled to have it, and I love it!  It's been so fun to play with lights.  Outdoors, it's mostly about reading the light and positioning your subjects in relation to it.  Indoors, it's more about controlling and directing light.  It's been a lot of fun to learn.

Our lovely neighbors
My friend's perfect twins

High:  Using my skills to help others

I love using photography to bless others, whether it's giving free sessions to friends with new babies or donating my photos to the LDS Church (I always get a thrill to see them used!).  This fall, I was able to donate the money from doing preschool portraits to help fund new mattresses for orphans in Kenya.

Low:  Wishing I could do more about the poverty and difficulties in the world.

It feels good to "do what I can," but I so wish there were more I could do.  A good friend's husband lost his job in May and has struggled ever since to find another one.  Another friend's husband was downsized and they moved in with her in-laws.  And so on.  And then I see photos from Kenya of what these poor orphans were sleeping on before the new mattresses were purchased, and my heart breaks.

High:  Idaho Mommy Trip

I'd seen the doctor Friday morning for what should have been a happy "here's the heartbeat -- see you next month!" visit.  Instead, we found a baby who had likely died several weeks prior.  But even so, this weekend trip with just me, Joey, and Cami, was delightful.  I felt peace about the future and gratitude for the blessings I enjoyed.  I got to see beautiful things, watch a friend finish her first triathlon, take beautiful photos, and see my parents' new home.  It was a good time.

Craters of the Moon

Twin Falls Temple at Sunrise, another of my favorites for the year

Low:  Several months of feeling off physically due to thyroid disease.

Spring was especially hard this way, as I just felt exhausted and had low energy and some persistent headaches. I had a few minor fluctuations in the fall as well, but I was able to adjust medication quickly so it didn't last long.

High:  Finding medication and doses that work well for me.

I finally saw my doctor and got some additional medication in May that did wonders for my energy levels.  It's been a good year for my thyroid condition since then, even though I had some fluctuations in my levels and doses with the pregnancy and miscarriage.

High: Teaching Relief Society, my Favorite Calling Ever

I've really enjoyed teaching the adult women in my ward once a month.  It really is a plush calling -- just once a month to prepare for, the women are happy to participate, and they thank you and tell you you're doing a good job.  Plus, I love teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This year, I got to teach about love, gratitudeJesus Christ (well, every lesson is about Him!), Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and more.  It was truly soul-filling to prepare and teach each month.

High:  Enjoying visiting with new and old friends.

I got to meet up with lots of moms who also have large families, and two of them came and stayed with us during parts of the years.  I got to visit with my good friend Carrie in San Diego.  We hosted large gatherings at Thanksgiving, and New Year's.

Harmony's new best friend Lollie -- the Julie Hess family is awesome!

Loved having Marybeth's family here for a week

Getting ready for s'mores
Large family Girls Night Out -- 14 moms with over 100 kids total!

Low:  Wishing that certain of my children, who should be the best of friends, didn't have such a hard time getting along.

Mostly, we all get along well, but it is frustrating to see petty grievances and silly personality quirks get in the way of what should be deep, supportive friendships.

High:  Watching my children grow and develop.  

There's always something happening and I probably don't appreciate how much good is happening around me, from kids plunking out "In Dreams" on the piano to Lillian playing her violin in the Youth Symphony.  We did dance class and robotics class and went to a fun gym (no horseback riding right now since their teacher is on a mission).  We went swimming a ton, hiked and traveled and experienced so much.  We went water-skiing for the first time as a family (thanks to some kind friends).  We did mountains of homework, learned new skills and enjoyed old ones.  We have four voracious readers devouring books like crazy, and a few more headed that way.  I have nine awesome, amazing kids.

High:  Holidays in a Big Family

There's always something going on, always people thrilled, and it's just so fun!

Allison and Sarah got Izzy the hamster for their birthday in July

Small Town 24th of July Celebration

High:  Daily Life with Kids of all Ages -- Loving my Stage of Life!

It is seriously SO FUN to have kids at all stages of life, from toddler to high school.  I love that I can have deep conversations with my older kids, that they are capable and learning so much.  I love my elementary kids, from my first grade new reader (Harmony) to my sixth grader obsessed with Legos (Michael).  I love that there are so many hands when it's time to work.

I love having so many fun and simple traditions throughout the year, like our General Conference wall

I love doing big projects, like making jam for the year or cleaning out the pantry together.

And I just love the small, daily, happy life I generally enjoy.  

I am so blessed!


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