January 20, 2016

Where Have We Been?!

Where have I been and why have I been MIA from my blog?!  Well, let me tell you a little story.....
Once upon a time, I thought I would do a little service project making wigs for girls with cancer--no big deal.  But I had forgotten how very efficient social media is at spreading an idea, and supposedly this idea was a popular one.
Princess Isabella with Ariel hair

Can't find a bigger smile than on this little cancer-fighting Rapunzel!

Soon the project went viral.  In addition to being featured in articles in over a dozen countries, we were also featured in The Huffington Post, Upworthy,  Today.com, and Oprah.com just to name a few, and we were most recently featured on the show "The Doctors".

Consequently, I unintentionally gained a 40+ hour/week job organizing this movement to make wigs worldwide for little girls with cancer and turn it into a non-profit.  I long to take some of my life back and sometimes regret the day I asked for donations on Facebook--I never intended for the project to blow up like this--but how can you stop when you are greeted daily via email with the pictures of beautiful little girls all over the world fighting cancer and longing for some princess hair?!  So we carry on!  Plus, it has been more rewarding than I could ever describe.  Life is so sweet to be able to serve others, and I have loved the effect it has on my children.  Kenadie and Lila are eager to help where they can and Kenadie always remembers in her nightly prayers to ask a blessing on the little girls with cancer and to help us get enough wigs to all the little girls who don't have hair.  Cue the water works.
Me and my partner in crime, Bree, drowning in the madness together!

Logo courtesy of the talented Bree Hitchcock

But remember how I also have 3 little kids at home?

They are the greatest and being their mom is what I LIVE for, but 90 hours/week of caring for kids plus 40 hours/week of Magic Yarn proves difficult to juggle.  I think I am failing at it 90% of the time!

And in the middle of it all, I had torn the cartilage in my hip and needed surgery.

This made caring for kids and the wig project a challenge.
My children took full advantage of my inability to get around very quickly or very well.  Besides this dumped bottle of baby powder, Soren flooded our downstairs by shoving toilet paper in the toilet and flushing it over and over (he did the same to the upstairs toilets as well).  We had lots of germs and messes floating around for awhile.....and we still kind of do......

No time for rest, the fairy godmothers delivered some wigs--one with her crutches

And then my baby boy turned 2, which was terrible and wonderful all at once because there is nothing cuter than a 2 year old boy, but he won't be a 2 year old boy for long and he's growing up too fast!  He is also super fun and very distracting.

And it was also the Christmas season, which is super fun but also super busy.
Kennedy's school Christmas concert.  Preciousness.

Christmas magic

After months of watching mommy make wigs, they FINALLY got their very own rainbow mermaid wigs.

And my sister Hanna (and sister Sadie) came into town for Christmas with her family so of course we had to spend lots of time with her and her most-delicious twin babies.
The twins satisfied my baby hunger.  LOVE babies!

And in-between it all there were lots of physical therapy appointments for the pesky hip.

And the glue to our family has probably been severely neglected by his wife.  We need a date. 
And so I haven't had much time to blog these days (let alone sleep or shower).

And that makes me sad.

If my hip could tolerate it and I had won a tiny fraction of that ridiculous 1.5 billion dollar powerball lottery, we'd be hopping on an airplane tonight for a relaxing family vacation complete with lots of quality time together, some warmer weather, and plenty of time to write a more detailed blog update.

But I didn't even buy a lottery ticket, so here we are: busy, happy, crazy, and our life remains as blessed and wonderful as ever!

A busy life is better than a boring one, anyway. :)

November 26, 2015


What an amazing year!  What an amazing life!  I have had little time to sleep lately let alone update my poor blog, but as I was driving home from a doctor's appt the other day, I saw a sign that read "Better than Thanksgiving is Thanks-living".  It inspired me not only to be thankful more often, but to live my life in a way that my gratitude is evident by the way I live and just a part of me.  So while I smell the turkey cooking this morning and turn on the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, I wanted to take a few minutes to share the things that have caused my heart to nearly burst with gratitude and love recently....

1) I am grateful to be a citizen of the USA where I feel SAFE and am FREE to pursue my dreams, raise my family, and worship my God without threat to my life.  While we believe these to be basic human rights, I am painfully aware of the millions of people around the world who do not get to enjoy these rights.  I am humbled and grateful to just have the basics that make life sweet.

My other (incredible) half
2) I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who is mindful of the needs of His children and uses us as instruments in His hands to love and serve each other through all of life's ups and downs.

3) I am forever grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ who brings hope to every moment of life.  I am grateful that because of Him, all the joy of this life can and will extend into the eternities.

4) Oh how I love my hard-working, loving, and ever-supportive husband Garrett.  He is a perfect partner for me and supports and encourages me in a my roles as mother, wife, nurse, daughter, sister, friend, and now co-founder of a (future) non-profit.  I am so grateful to have someone by my side who works is an amazing teammate but honors and encourages me as an individual.  I can't say enough good thing about him.

5) I am grateful for 3 beautiful, healthy, vivacious children to raise.  Sometimes this mothering gig is terribly hard, but it is the best thing I have ever done.  I love watching them learn and grow and I am thankful for the patience and love they teach me every day.  I could go on and on for days like any other mother, but I'll just leave a picture of my little world right here.

so grateful for these people

6) I am grateful for this modern day where my family can frequently engage in conversation over the phone or via family/group text.  I have the best, funniest, greatest family and miss them terribly (why don't you all move back to Alaska?!), so it is a blessing to be able to communicate with each other so easily and often.  We had an awesome Willardson Reunion this past spring and I can't wait for the next one!

7) I am grateful that Garrett's parents were able to come up for a visit in September.  We had the best time with them and it was so wonderful to see my kids spend good time with their grandparents and form new memories.

This lady does so much for us, and we love her.
8) I am grateful for amazing family and friends to help me out!  Between my new endeavor in The Magic Yarn Project and an upcoming hip surgery next week, I've had family and friends come to the rescue watching my kids, bringing me meals, and helping me get The Magic Yarn Project up and running so I can hopefully have a little of my time/sleep back in the coming months!  Mom, Annie, Claire, Bree, Shelly, Jolene, Jamie, Rita, Hayley, Miles, and Sarah (just to name a few): they say it takes a village, and I have the VERY best one.  Thanks for saving me over and over and over with your help and support.

9) I am grateful for a generally healthy body, that I am able to feed it good and nutritious food, and that there are skilled doctors available when needed.  I'm not excited to have hip surgery that will put me on crutches and slow me down considerably for a while--especially at Christmas time--but I am so grateful there is a skilled surgeon in the state who can repair my torn cartilage so I can go from hobbling around to hiking mountains again this summer.  I've heard of people in other countries who are put on waiting lists for several years before they are able to have this surgery, and I am incredibly grateful that it is NOT the case for me here in the US.  What a blessing!

10) I am grateful for all the good people in the world who have eagerly helped, donated their money/time, or who have just offered encouragement and support for The Magic Yarn Project.  Obviously this project needs its own blog post, but it has really exploded in the past few weeks--we have received hundreds if not close to 1,000 emails from people worldwide requesting wigs for their little girls, offering to donate time/money/beanies/yarn, and wanting to know how they can get involved making these wigs.  We have been featured in dozens of news articles and stories around the world.  It is so amazing to see how many GOOD people in the world are eager to volunteer and serve and who are supporting us in this endeavor.  Yesterday I received a box of gourmet caramels from a Confectionary on the east coast as a "thank you" for all we are doing.  I feel like we are being hugged by thousands of people around the world and it brings me to tears frequently.  During a time when there is so much fear, anger, and hatred throughout the world, I am grateful that I get to witness and feel the LOVE, COMPASSION, and KINDNESS that is stronger than the darkness and will always conquer it.  Thank you to all the good people around the world who humble me with your service and big hearts.

Happy Thanksgiving and happier "Thanks-living"!

October 13, 2015

Loss and Grief (Memoirs of a Mother and Nurse)

Nurses have good days, bad days, stressful days, heartbreaking days, and hopefully a few uneventful days sprinkled in between (we like the uneventful days!).  There are a few funny and good days that I remember, but the days that stick out to me the most are, unfortunately, the hard ones.......probably because the hard days are the ones that teach me the greatest lessons.  I'll never forget one of the greatest life lessons one of my patients taught me on one of my hardest days as a nurse......

........I got to work extra early that morning at about 6:30ish.  I had worked the day before and knew this day would be really busy after the patient load I had the day before (nurses are usually given the same patient assignment they had the day before).  The prior evening--right before the end of my shift--I had sent one of my patients to the OR to receive an emergent surgery on her small intestines. They had completely twisted on themselves causing a slew of problems and immediate surgery was required to repair this.  Oh yes, and she was about 15-16 weeks pregnant.  Though this surgery could put a lot of stress and danger to her unborn baby, it was absolutely necessary to save her life.  So I sent this sweet, nervous mom down to surgery, went home, slept, and came right back to work.  I was anxious to know how she'd done since coming back from surgery.  The report I received from the night shift nurse was promising: the surgery went well, my patient was doing well, her husband had stayed by her bed all night, and 2-3 ultrasounds throughout the night confirmed that baby was doing well, had a strong heartbeat, and was happily sucking his thumb and kicking away inside his mommy.  The ultrasound did confirm a partial placenta previa (the placenta was partially covering the cervix), which was causing my patient to slightly bleed, so she would probably be on bed rest until that resolved and we would continue doing daily ultrasounds on the baby until my patient was discharged from the hospital.

I was so relieved.  Thank heavens for the surgeon who saved her life and thank heavens the baby was still doing great!  Knowing that I would want to spend extra time with this patient that morning, I quickly did morning rounds on my other patients before heading into her room.  My patient was awake, sitting up in bed and talking to her husband when I came in.  We chit-chatted about how surgery went, how excited she was to get home to see her 18 month old son, how she would need to contact friends from her church to help her out while she was on bed rest.  She then mentioned that her pain medicine was wearing off and her abdomen was hurting.  Could she have more pain medicine?  She also wondered if I could bring her some more chux pads since she felt like she was spotting a little more "down there".  I did a quick check to see just how much she was spotting and my heart dropped.  I didn't see very much spotting, but her chux was soaked.....and that's when I saw her baby's head crowning; her baby, who was still a good 7-9 weeks away from the possibility of surviving outside the womb, was not going to make it.  Her increased abdominal pain, the feeling that she was spotting more.......her water had broken and she had gone into labor without realizing it because she had just had abdominal surgery and was on pain medication.......she had no idea.......

As my fingers and hands went numb I knew that I could not deliver this news to my patient alone.  I felt like falling into a heap on the floor and letting out an ugly cry, but I was her nurse.  I had to keep it together and I had a lot to do in the next 30 minutes.....call the OB doctor, call the surgeon, get this mom pain medicine, grab extra chux, help this mom deliver her baby, deliver the placenta, monitor her bleeding post-delivery, call the in-house social workers for grief counseling, grab packets of paperwork I'd need to fill out, and most importantly help this mother grieve......

"Let me just step outside and get more chux pads, some pain medicine, and I'll be right back," I said.  (I have no idea how she did not see the horror or panic on my face).  I quickly grabbed my charge nurse, made a phone call to my patient's OB doctor to inform him about what was happening, grabbed some pain medicine for my patient, took some deep breaths to try to compose myself, and went back into my patient's room with two other nurses to inform her what was happening, and then to help deliver her baby.

It was such a whirlwind of emotions and activity in the room, but all noise and activity seemed to stop when my patient's tiny baby boy was wrapped in a towel and placed in my arms.  I stared at his tiny hands clasped together across his chest, his ten little toes, his little lips that still seemed to be pursed from when he had been sucking his thumb a few hours before.  He was a perfect baby boy with a soul.  Perfect but just born too soon.  The trauma of surgery was just too much for his mother's body to hold onto the pregnancy......Though I did manage to suppress the "ugly cry", I turned away from my patient while I held her baby and let my body silently shake with sobs.  These are the heartbreaking moments of being a nurse that are so hard and yet very sacred and special at the same time.

A few hours later after the initial shock and commotion had died down, it was just myself, my patient, and her husband in the room.  At one point she turned to me and took my hand.
"Thank you for everything today.  You have been so sweet and compassionate.  I know that nurses often suppress their emotions because they have to carry on and keep working caring for everyone, but I really appreciate your tears today, they have helped me feel supported."

"I am just so sorry for your loss," I  told her.  "I'm a mom, too, and I can't imagine losing one of my babies.  I am so, so sorry."

"You just seem touched by this in a way different than anyone else who's been in my room today......Have you ever lost a baby?"

"No, not like this."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I've had a miscarriage, but I was only about 12 weeks along."

"That is still a loss."

"Yes, but the circumstances were very different."

"Holly.......did you ever mourn your loss?"

(I thought about it for a moment.....my miscarriage.....it happened at my husband's family reunion when we had only been married a year.  I barely knew the 100+ members of his family and in the awkwardness of going into labor to deliver a tiny fetus, I think many people did not know how to respond other than to ignore that it was happening.  The few who acknowledged what was happening offered sympathy with an, "at least you know you can get pregnant!!" encouragement and upbeat smile tacked onto the end.  With the encouraging or vacant responses I received, I was resolved that what I was going through was not tragic or even a big deal.  It was just a miscarriage.  I could always get pregnant again.  So I loaded up on ibuprofen for the pain and didn't shed a single tear, not even when I passed the baby in a restaurant toilet the next day........)

"Oh sweetie......you are mourning your loss," she concluded when I didn't answer.

I was a little offended at her suggesting this.  My miscarriage from 4 years prior had not crossed my mind all day (or even for the past several months) until she mentioned it.  I reassured my patient, "Oh no, no!  I am mourning your loss.  My own miscarriage never even crossed my mind until you mentioned it.  The circumstances surrounding my miscarriage were different....not as big of a deal."

"Just because you were a few weeks behind me in gestation and just because the circumstances were different doesn't make it any 'better' or 'worse'.......loss is all relative......someone's loss may seem trivial compared to someone else's, but it is all loss still the same.....we should grieve our own and grieve with others who have lost, too........I will shed a few tears for your loss today, because this is really hard and I feel for you!"  She squeezed my hand again.  "I'm grateful that you were my nurse these past few days.  You know, because of your miscarriage you can understand in some way what I'm going through and I think that is why you have been the most compassionate and relatable person I've had through all of this.  It's been a gift, really, so thank you."

I went home and cried a lot that night.
I cried for that beautiful baby boy who's life was precious despite being so brief.
I cried for my patient who would go home empty-handed, no longer planning for the birth and life of her baby boy.
I cried because my patient was right......

We do ourselves a disservice when we don't allow ourselves to mourn a loss because others don't recognize it or because it pales in comparison to another's loss.  Grief is a natural and even healthy part of life.
We do ourselves and others a disservice when we withhold compassion unless the loss seems harder than our own or "worthy" of our compassion.  Grieving with others brings us a little closer to the Divine.

I think of the example of our Savior, one who--despite His eternal perspective--still wept and grieved over the loss of Lazarus, and one who extends his compassion and succor to even our smallest trials despite his suffering being greater than them all combined.  I am grateful for my patient following His example: allowing herself to mourn her loss and still setting aside a few tears for my loss, no matter where it stood in comparison to hers.  I saw her in the grocery store a few months later.  She looked the picture of perfect health.  She had gotten the "okay" from her doctor to get pregnant again and was very excited to expand their family.  We gave each other a hug and chit-chatted for a few moments before we parted ways with her saying, "I've been thinking about you a lot.  Thank you for being there during such a profound moment of my life and for mourning with me.  It has taught me a lot."  Funny how patients think it's the nurses who are the ones giving and teaching.  I have found it to be quite the opposite. :)

October 6, 2015

The Magic Yarn Project

 This is Lily, the little girl who first inspired a small project creating princess yarn wigs for little girls who have lost their hair from cancer treatments.  Lily's mother was one of my classmates and friends during nursing school.  Last September at the age of 2 1/2, Lily was diagnosed with lymphoma, turning her and her family's world upside down.  When I found out about Lily's diagnosis, my heart sank and I longed to be able to put my "oncology nursing cap" back on and rush to her bedside to take care of her.  Cancer patients continue to have a very strong pull on my heart.  Unfortunately, I live across the country from her and felt helpless to do anything beyond offering prayers on her behalf.  So I prayed and continued on with my life, and that's about the time I started going through a struggle of my own......

I began having strange symptoms and difficulties that I had never experienced before: night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, panic attacks, general apathy.  I just wasn't myself......I wasn't sure if it was hormonal changes because I had recently stopped breastfeeding, or if it was depression, or problems with my thyroid.  I changed my diet, made exercise a priority, and threw myself into my responsibilities to hopefully make the symptoms go away.  Though I found ways to help me cope, I still struggled with the feeling that this just "wasn't me".

One day while praying to Heavenly Father to help me get back to normal, the distinct thought came to my mind that I needed to make Lily a yarn wig.  I had seen through Facebook updates that she was back in the hospital and her beautiful, curly blonde hair had fallen out.  Because cancer treatments often leave patients' scalps too tender and sensitive to comfortably wear traditional wigs, they often just wear scarves and beanies to cover their heads and keep warm.  I knew that Lily would probably be missing her long, beautiful hair and I knew that she loved Disney princesses, so I dropped my day's to-do list and made her a Rapunzel yarn wig on a soft, crocheted beanie and sent it in the mail.  Within a week her mother sent me the picture above of Lily wearing her wig: she LOVED it!  Her mother mentioned how many other little girls at the cancer center would be thrilled to have yarn wigs and it started a little fire inside of me.  Maybe I could organize a small project through my church's women's society creating a few wigs for little girls with cancer.  Maybe I could slowly and constantly make the wigs myself and mail them to different cancer centers who would want them.  So I posted my idea for this project on Facebook and asked if anyone had connections to children's cancer centers who would want these.  Within a day I had connections to eight hospitals saying they would love these wigs, that this was an inspired project, that it was going to do so much good.  I knew then that this would be something really special to be involved in, so I planned to organize a service project creating these wigs in the fall with the women in my church.

When I began organizing this event last month, I realized that with our limited funds we may only be able to make a few dozen wigs and even then we would need some yarn donated in order to make it happen.  Once again, I took to Facebook asking if anyone had some yarn they'd like to donate so we could make yarn wigs for little girls with cancer.  Within 48 hours my request had been shared nearly 100 times, people around the nation (complete strangers) were offering to donate yarn or money for the project, mothers of little girls with cancer from Seattle to Scotland were inquiring how they could get these wigs, the local newspaper contacted me wanting to do a story on this project, and countless local friends, family, and strangers were asking if they could come to the activity to help create the wigs.  I was overwhelmed!  I knew earlier this spring that this would be a special project, but I didn't imagine that part of what would make this project so special is the enthusiasm it would spark in others to give and serve.  It was inspirational to see how many good and giving people there are all over.  I was contacted by a friend of a friend, Bree, who has been a HUGE help and completely involved in helping get a GoFundMe page set-up for donations, a name and logo designed for this project, and who has had amazing ideas on how to organize this project as it very rapidly grew into something much bigger than I had anticipated.

As of today "The Magic Yarn Project" has raised a little over $2000 dollars for yarn and shipping costs, has set up our first local workshop for putting together the wigs on October 17th, and has collaborated with a crocheting club of 90 women at the local Women's Correctional Facility to help make as many beanies for these wigs as we would need.  These women are excited to serve in this capacity and have shown interest in having us come teach them how to put these wigs together for their own project.  Their enthusiasm and willingness has completely touched me.  People in communities from various states have shown interest in wanting to put together their own fundraisers and wig-making workshops, so I am planning on creating a website with supply lists, pictures, video tutorials, etc in order to help them be a part of this project.

As I look back on my personal struggle this past year, I am grateful for a loving God who answered my prayers and prompted me to reach outside of myself to serve others.  It hasn't solved everything and I definitely don't preach service as a cure-all for whatever ails us, but I can attest that life is so much sweeter when we try to help make others' lives better, and I realize that while this project will bring magic into little girls' lives who are going through difficult times, being a part of this project is also bringing some magic into the lives of those who serve.  So thank you to all who have contributed so far.  You make me want to be a better person. :)

If you'd like to donate yarn (we mostly need red, brown, reddish-brown, white, black, and yellow) please mail it to:

Holly Christensen
3467 N. Palmer Fishhook Rd. #C
Palmer, AK 99645

If you'd like to donate money that will go to purchasing supplies and shipping wigs to various cancer centers, please visit our GoFundMe page @ www.gofundme.com/magicyarn.

If you'd like to keep updated on what is happening with this project, visit our Facebook page @ www.facebook.com/magicyarnwigs.

September 15, 2015

Most Likely To Succeed

Remember those "Senior Awards" that as high school seniors we voted on and gave each other?  We voted for the "Cutest Couple", "Best Hair", "Most Athletic", "Perfect Smile", "Biggest Sweetheart", etc. and then had our pictures taken for the yearbook.  Well guess which one award I got???

Because FFA was my LIFE
If your first thoughts were "Most Popular" or "Nicest Car", then clearly you didn't know me in high school. ;)  I was voted "Most Likely to Succeed".  My best friends respectively were voted the "Future President of the US" and "Senior Genius" awards.  As you might guess, we were total over-achievers so these seemed to be pretty appropriate labels for us.  Sometimes I think about all I did in high school and get exhausted wondering how I did it all: FFA State President, raising 4-H animals, Model UN, 3 different choirs, drama club, International Student Club, French Honor Society, and then finishing it off doing Miss Alaska after graduating.  I had high aspirations to do a lot in life, so I was confident I'd show up to my 20 year high school reunion doing that "award" justice with a life of successful accomplishments.

On a nursing internship in a maternity hospital in Argentina

I started by spending crazy amounts of time studying in college.  I made it into BYU's College of Nursing (no easy feat!), earned a full-tuition scholarship, completed an internship in Argentina, and graduated nearly at the top of my class.  I landed a job right away as an ICU nurse and success seemed imminent!  Then I got married and moved to Texas where I quickly landed a job as a nurse at MD Anderson Cancer Center.  It was hard physically and emotionally, but I loved serving my patients and I wanted to be the best nurse I could be for my patients.

Then we moved to Minnesota and began our family.  I became too sick to work long hours through my pregnancies but found a great "fit" as a foot-care nurse in an Alzheimer's home--rewarding in its own way, but not as grand or seemingly important as an ICU or cancer nurse.  During my second rough pregnancy we flew home to Alaska for Christmas and I was able to go to breakfast with a handful of high school friends.  We had a wonderful time catching up with each other.  One of my friends was finishing up her Master's Degree.  Another had nearly traveled the world with her line of work.  Another had become fluent in several more languages since high school.  They had all accomplished so much and were doing big, exciting things with their lives.   When it came to me sharing what was going on with my life, all I had to offer was that I could barely work 10 hours a week and let my daughter watch "How to Train Your Dragon" 4 times a day while I tossed my cookies and took as much Zofran as I could get my hands on.  In that moment I remembered the "Most Likely to Succeed" label given me and thought how much I was not fulfilling that prophecy.......

Fast forward 3 years and we were living in Alaska, I had just had our third baby, was currently putting my career on hold to be a full-time mom, and we were renting a few bedrooms in a friend's house while Garrett started his practice.  I remember bouncing my fussy baby on the exercise ball one night at 11:30pm while watching a movie.  Garrett was still at his office, which had been the norm for a few months as he was getting his practice set up and organized.  I had been having a pity party all evening--here we were in our 30's with few earthly possessions, no home, and were down to one car.  I had struggled all evening with my two cranky girls who thought peeing their pants was an awesome idea and going to bed was a bad one.  Once they were asleep the baby began fussing on cue.  I sat and cried and thought of that stupid label again: "Most Likely to Succeed".  What would my classmates think of me and my "success" now?!  Certainly, their instincts about me were a little off.  I turned on the movie "Family Man"--you know, the movie where Nicholas Cage is a rich, single prick who gets a chance to see what his life could be like if he had chosen to be with the girl of his dreams and start a family?  He works at a tire shop, his wife is a pro-bono lawyer, they have a few kids, a minivan, and a modest house.  At one point in the movie Nicholas Cage turns to his wife exasperated and embarrassed that he cannot afford a nice, expensive suit.  He points out all that is "wrong" in their lives and how things haven't gone as planned.  He asks her how she would label this life that they find themselves in and she responds calmly by saying, "A really great success story."

Maybe it was the postpartum hormones or utter exhaustion, but I became emotional when she said that.  I looked down at my perfectly healthy baby who was starting to settle to sleep.  And then there were the two perfect, strong little girls sleeping soundly in their beds, and the wonderful, hard-working husband who was pulling late lates and sometimes near all-nighters to build his dream and provide for our family.  We had a life of happiness and love that many wealthy and accomplished people would envy.

Since that day I still have moments when I question the value and success of the life I lead: I don't have my Master's Degree.  I have forgotten most of my French and struggle speaking fluently in Spanish.  I'm not progressing further in my career at this time, and despite my best efforts my kids have some serious temper and volume-control issues.  Am I leading a life worthy of the "Most Likely to Succeed" title?  To some, perhaps not.  But when I think of the 3 miracles I was able to bring into the world, their general state of happiness, the fact that they are well-adjusted little people overall, the wonderful man I'm married to and the love we share, the health we enjoy, and the endless possibilities that lie ahead for us to create and live our lives as we choose, I have to say that perhaps we really are a great success story afterall.

August 18, 2015

Back to School Banquet

For a few years I have noticed via social media a few families who do "back to school banquets" for their families as a way to celebrate, prepare, and get excited for a new school year.  Well, even though Kenadie does not need help getting excited for school starting (she's been counting down the days since day 67), I thought it would be a wonderful tradition for our family to start.....plus, I could use a little celebration to help me not be too sad about my kids going to school all day.  I miss my little minions when they aren't around.....

During our anniversary weekend, Garrett and I had time to counsel together and set family goals and decided to start having a family theme or motto for the beginning of every school year.  We want this theme to be something we can remember to strive for throughout the school year.  

This year we chose our theme to be this scripture:

Because we have some pretty frilly princesses on our hands, we thought that this would be a perfect theme for our girls this year.
We are all beautifully and perfectly made after the image of God and though there are many worldly distractions (wealth, popularity, acceptance) that will stand in our path throughout life, we must remember that we are sons and daughters of a King and must first seek for His Kingdom, or any "riches" we receive in life will be meaningless.  
I'm having this theme printed out and framed to hang in our home to remind us daily of our goal for the year. 
To drive the theme home about seeking for His kingdom and remembering who we are in our journey, we prepared a "fancy banquet" where we all wore crowns we had decorated ourselves, and toasted to the new school year in little crystal glasses filled with sparkling grapefruit juice.  

(Though I have several dozen "fancier" meals I could've prepared, I knew there is nothing my girls love more than Tortilla Taco Skillet and corn on the cob, so I had to oblige.)
We finished the banquet off with brownie sundaes in fancy sundae dishes.

The girls (and even Prince Soren) had such a blast (Lila wanted to do "cheers" with her sparkling juice every 20 seconds) and it was a great way to prepare for the school year.  

The girls miraculously fell asleep before 10pm (Alaskan summers do fantastic things to children's circadian rhythms) and woke up early so we could get Kenadie ready for school.
My big 1st grader was so excited to be dropped off in her class with her wonderful new teacher.
She's going to have a great year.   
Then we had to drive to the store to get Lila a ring pop, because it's rough having to leave your big sister at the really cool classroom and go home with just your boring mom and baby brother.....

Luckily for Lila, she doesn't have to feel bored for long; we registered her for preschool today and she insisted on getting a pretty picture of herself, too.
She starts school next Monday......I might cry.

Luckily I have this little man still to help me out around the house:
and then I feel a little better knowing that I won't be all alone yet.  He's pretty demanding, busy, and precious company for a mama to have so I'll still be pretty busy around here. :)

Here's to a wonderful school year of learning and growth for the whole family!

August 10, 2015

Love the Alaskan Summers

Alaska is known for its breathtaking northern lights in the winter, sweeping mountain landscapes, snowy and dark winters, massive glaciers, plentiful wildlife, and.......often-rainy summers. 
That is, until our family moved to Alaska 4 years ago and Alaska decided it loved us so much that it has given us beautiful, warm, sun-filled summers. 
No complaints from this crew, we have LOVED our summers here and this summer has been no exception!

Here's our summer in pictures!

hiking Matanuska Glacier on a hot day

Lots of sprinkler-running and sun-bathing

Daddy took the kids to Nancy Lake one Saturday morning (while mommy got a rare and most-appreciated massage)

Fudgsicles with Miss Mary and the BFF's

Family trip to Eklutna Lake

Eklutna Lake at 8pm

Sooooo much grilling! 

Garrett's took a trip to the Kenai with his buddy Nick to go dipnetting for reds. 

44 reds in a little over 24 hours ain't bad! 

A lot of outdoor dinners

Nothing beats Miss Mary's four-wheeler! 

Little kid heaven!  Not only are they on the four-wheeler, Lila is with her best little buddy, Red, and Soren is cruisin' with his lady, Kinley. ;)

I've learned the hard way that if we don't go somewhere on these gorgeous days, my kids get bored and the back deck becomes "Mud-pie Central". 

Tri-color tomatoes. Taste even better than they look!

Ventured up to Independence Mine for an "easy hike" with all three kiddos and a few other friends.  It is so gorgeous up there! 

These long summer days and nights are enjoyed to the fullest because we know they are precious and don't last (aka school starts next week and I'm kind of in denial over summer coming to a close).
Thanks for treating us so well, Alaska!  You sure have been good to us. :)  

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