I’ve been feeling the need to remember our little life lately, especially as the girls grow so fast. Here are a few of our favorite snapshots:
Today I was playing primary songs on the piano, and Ellie stood on her yellow bus next to me asking me to play song after song with her cute little “Again” and “Song!”
The way Ellie says, “Fork” and “Shirt” makes us die laughing. Those two words don’t sound like fork and shirt if you get what I mean, Ellie.
OUT OF NOWHERE, Ellie started singing, “Rain, rain, go away” in the clearest voice we’ve ever heard while reading a little Unicorn book. It is the CUTEST.
We LOVE Ellie’s eyebrow raises right now. She’ll do them in response to our eyebrow raises or whenever she sees her reflection.
Almost every time we come down the stairs, Nora runs up and hugs us. With Chad, she yells, “DADA HI.” If we ever take too long, she waits patiently at the bottom of the stairs prepared to pounce.
When Nora gets picked up out of her crib, she gathers up her blanket, doll, Minnie mouse, and puppy in her arms and then loves to give hugs and kisses once she’s out. It’s adorable.
Nora is going through a BIG trading phase. If we hand her a pack of gummies first, she instantly hands it over to Ellie and takes the next one. Basically, she wants everything Ellie has. Fortunately, she trades; she doesn’t just take.
Nora calls Brandon- Unca Bee. It’s heart-melting every time.
The girls have become the cutest book readers. They sit down with their books and recite the parts they have memorized. “BOOM BOOM BOOM!” from the Big Hungry Bear, “How much? Sooo much!” from Ashley’s personalized book, and “Hop pop hop,” from Hop on Pop. It’s amazing to watch you two learn words so quickly.
The girls recently started holding hands running up and down the hallway. They often yell, “FUN” and “Friends” and “Funny” while they are running. They even started holding hands outside on walks now too.
As I’ve said before, it has been such a strange time lately. With COVID-19 taking over, our little family of four has spent a LOT more time together and at home. Chad has been working from home, most everything has been closed that isn’t the grocery store, and we’ve tightened our little circle significantly. Life has SLOWED way down. Here are a few things I’ve been learning during this crazy time:
My spiritual health is up to me. It’s not dependent on a speaker at church, a Relief Society activity, or even Chad. I decide how close I am to my Heavenly Father.
The craziness of social and family activities that used to feel burdensome sometimes, isn’t burdensome after all. I love being with all our loved ones, even if it comes with a little extra stress. I’m lucky for all the time I have with family and friends.
Chad is just the best. I’m eternally lucky to have him by my side. We strike the right balance together. He knows the right thing to do when I’m sad or fighting a migraine. He knows when to encourage me and when to help me say no. He’s a rockstar of a dad and I wouldn’t want to take on this life with someone else.
It’s okay that a lot of parenting feels like work. “God has designed this mortal existence to require nearly constant exertion… By work, we sustain and enrich life… Work builds and refines character, creates beauty, and is the instrument of our service to one another and to God. A consecrated life is filled with work, sometimes repetitive,… sometimes unappreciated but always work that improves,… lifts, and aspires.” Thank you, D. Todd Christofferson.
Side note to all of this: Yesterday was one of those blissful Saturdays. Chad and I each got to workout. We each finished a few chores around the house. We got time to play and laugh with the girls. They started this new thing where they hold hands and run up and down the hallway yelling, “Friends!” and “Funny!” Goodness, they’re adorable. We had an entire four hours with B, Kate, and Crew. It’s the first time we’ve seen them in at least 6 weeks with all that’s gone on with COVID-19. We made shish kebabs for the first time on our new grill. And during naptime and after the girls went down for the night, Chad and I had time with each other to feel like we were out on a date. We didn’t have to leave the house once. Even when still feeling the after-effects of COVID-19, we can have the happiest of days at home together.
Covid-19 has been a whirlwind of canceled plans and a myriad of emotions mixed with the incredible peace that comes with being home in my favorite place with my favorite people. Instead of writing about the canceled plans and many emotions we’ve been feeling, I want to take a few minutes and write about the highlights of today, the things I LOVE about being home with my loved ones.
I’ve had time to read my library books. I’m currently reading Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. As I sat on the couch reading, my girls cuddled up on each side with a board book of their own. For a dreamy five minutes, we three girls read together.
Tonight, in an effort to escape the world, Chad and I had a game night, just him and me. We had delicious snacks on one side of the table and a stack of games on the other. It was the perfect evening and the cares of the world quickly fell away.
Our ward coordinated a “Bear Hunt.” Kids could walk around the neighborhood looking for teddy bears displayed in windows of people’s homes. I walked around the neighborhood for a half-hour with the girls trying to point out teddy bears to them. I’m not sure they noticed a single one, but it was a great excuse to get outside and feel the warmth of the sun warming my face again. I’m so ready for Spring.
Everyone seems to have something profound to say on social media about this strange stage of life. I’m just grateful for the time I have with Chad and my girls. I’m grateful for time to focus on them and us and who we all want to become. Our 2020 theme of “Focus on the Four” fits this year almost too well.
Yesterday was a harder day for me. The girls were throwing tantrums and the social distancing of COVID-19 was exhausting me. As 5:00 pm rolled around and Chad came downstairs from working, he kindly, but firmly, kicked me out. He told me to go do something just for me. I love him so much.
I decided to call Ryan and we ventured off together, just the two of us, for the first time in years. We didn’t do anything fancy (because remember, COVID-19). We grabbed In-N-Out and then hung out at Jaclyn’s place in Alpine. We talked, laughed, and had sibling time that we haven’t had in ages. It felt so good.
After dropping Ryan off, I braved Target. It was near closing time and there weren’t many people out. It was the best COVID-19 shopping experience I’ve had in weeks. I found things for the girl’s birthday and Easter and some crucial grocery items I haven’t found lately.
This simple night was the BEST, most rejuvenating evening I’ve had in a while. Thank you, Chad. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for being aware of what simple things would make my night. I’m incredibly grateful for the power of relationships and connection at such an uncertain and scary time as now.
Chad and I went on a date to the temple a few weeks back. We left our twin toddlers with our favorite babysitter, grabbed a quick dinner, and then went to the Oquirrh Mountain Temple to do sealings together. We felt a special spirit in the sealing room that evening—one of familiarity and family. The two other couples serving with us were kind and understanding. As I explained my bad track record for fainting when I kneel, one man graciously pulled out a chair for me beside the altar. We shared a quiet laugh over my latest temple fainting story. The feeling of unity in that room was palpable.
One couple was Polynesian. The family names they brought with them were the longest I have ever heard. The good-natured sealer smiled and patiently asked for help. The other couple was older. The wife was quiet and the husband a bit more gregarious. His side comments made me feel like I was sitting beside my own grandpa in that sealing room.
I sat, everyone else kneeled, and we sealed families together for time and all eternity. I was in a room surrounded by strangers, and yet I felt closer to these people during that one hour than I usually do with friends and family I have known forever. I was home.
I didn’t know the people in that room well. I didn’t know their families, their pasts, their opinions. I didn’t know their stories. None of that mattered.
Outside of the temple, all too often I let differences stand in the way of what really matters. I let my mind build walls between me and those I think are too different from me.
I’ve been wrong countless times. A few years back, I was intimidated by my new coworkers and assumed they wouldn’t want to be my friends. I’m grateful the Spirit nudged me to try a little harder. They are now some of my closest friends. Once when ministering was visiting teaching, I thought I had nothing in common with a woman I was assigned to befriend. I’m grateful the Spirit nudged me to ask her to teach me how to weight lift. We became instant gym buddies. One summer, I taught refugee children from all over the world and was terrified we would find no common ground, let alone a common language to speak. I’m grateful the Spirit nudged me to join their soccer game during recess. We found some common ground on the field the very first day.
Making those hasty, seemingly sensible judgments are not what Heavenly Father wants for us. No matter someone’s beliefs, backgrounds, ethnicity, political views, we are all children of God. We are to love our neighbor, not judge him or her.
It was easy to find common ground with those men and women I served with at the temple. We were dressed all in white and serving together. It’s not as simple in our wards, our families, and our workplaces where are differences are more apparent, but it can be done. We can cross the dividing lines we’ve drawn by praying for help and letting the Spirit guide us to see everyone as Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ see them.
We can choose to find common ground with everyone. We can build relationships with our Relief Society sisters, our extended families, and our noisy neighbors. The feelings of unity I felt in the temple can permeate our entire lives. One thing will forever bring us all together—our heritage. We are children of God. Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us for our similarities and our differences.
It’s funny how things that happen in the past have a habit of being part of the present. I went to Jerusalem in 2013. It’s been more than five years, and those four months still mean the world to me.
One evening while at Cambridge, I saw someone post about their Jerusalem study abroad on Facebook. I was curious and looked at the cutoff for applying for the coming year. The application was due in three days. I brushed it off and reminded myself I wasn’t planning on going as a sophomore, but a junior.
The next morning, I remember waking up with the words, “If you don’t go now, you’ll never go, ” clearly ringing through my head. I felt a kind of urgency that I’d never felt before. I had 48-hours. It was a mad dash coordinating transcripts, notarizing paperwork, and writing answers to essay questions. My parents were incredibly supportive all the way through.
Those two stressful days put me behind in school work. A month or so later, I was taking a study break with a friend on the terrace of our little apartment building in Cambridge outside of Kings College. I remember telling her that prompting must have been a mistake. I must have made it up. Why would God put me through stress for nothing? Obviously, if I hadn’t heard back by now, I wasn’t in.
Not ten minutes later, I walked back into my room and read a message from my family telling me to video chat them immediately. The second I hopped on the call, I saw all my family on the other side of the screen with really big smiles holding out an envelope from BYU-Jerusalem. I was in.
That was probably the longest lead-in of a lifetime, but those moments are so significant and memorable for me. I was meant to go to Jerusalem. That was God’s plan for me. I felt it then, and I feel it now.
While I was there, I felt hyper-focused. I didn’t want to miss anything I might need to be learning, seeing, or experiencing. Now five years later, ten memories stand out the most:
Sitting outside the Jerusalem Center accepting my sins really could be forgiven, and I could be worthy to enter the temple someday.
Being on the shores of Galilee reading the gospels and writing in my journal. I felt called to my mission like the original twelve apostles were called to walk with Christ.
Standing alongside faithful, spiritual women praying at the Wailing Wall. Their clear devotion and love for God will never leave me.
Looking out through the windows overlooking Jerusalem listening to President Uchtdorf describe what it would have been like for him to be an apostle of the Lord during the last supper. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt the Spirit more powerfully in my life.
Standing alongside the separation walls feeling the gravity of the conflict at hand. The Israeli and Palestinian conflict is real and affecting countless people. These people are just like me.
Singing “With Humble Heart” during sacrament meeting with the unmistakable impression I was meant to serve a mission soon.
Sharing my testimony in along the Sea of Galilee about how I knew my feet had been where Jesus had once walked. He is real. He lives.
Spending countless hours with dear friends. The people I met there were genuine and kind. They taught me more about the kind of friend I want to me.
Exploring and learning about new places, cultures, and peoples all day, every day. Our professors taught us so much.
Running the Jerusalem half-marathon. During the last two miles, my friends ran ahead, and I slowed down to walk up an intimidating hill. A kind Jewish man put his hand on my back and pushed me forward. “No, no, not now. You keep going. You’ll run with me.” We talked and ran the last two miles together. He felt like some kind of angel helping me finish the race. He was a poignant reminder Heavenly Father loves me and will help me reach my goals.
We’re on the plane back from Maui after a wonderful trip to Black Rock. I’ve been in a hard place lately with migraines so we decided to leave the girls with Chad’s parents. It was a really hard decision and we’ve missed them terribly, but it was the right decision. I fought through four migraines over seven days. We still managed to fit in a lot of fun around all the migraines though. Chad even blew a hole through his eardrum. And yet, we had a blast. That’s Hawaii for you. It’s nearly impossible to have a bad time.
So here’s a record of the best times, my favorite moments:
Our Hiking Adventure: Chad and I decided to set off on a little road trip one morning. We drove around a big chunk of the island on these tiny little roads blasting our favorite music and eating our feast of popcorn and Oreos. We stopped for two mini hikes. The first was Nakelele Blowhole. It may be a horrible name, but it was very cool. The blowhole was about a half-mile down a pretty steep hill. The wind was crazy and the waves were huge. Every time a big wave crashed the blowhole erupted 40 feet into the air. There were scary signs along the way that warned hikers not to get sucked into the blowhole. Chad and I kept our distance and took some funny photos. We kept driving and started on the Road to Hana. The first major stop is called Twin Falls. We hiked an even shorter distance and came across a few beautiful waterfalls. We decided to swim in one. It was cold and so fun to try and swim against the strong waterfall current. This was definitely one of my favorite days adventuring with Chad.
Family Ocean Swims: Almost every day a big group of us would end up playing in the ocean. We’d pass around babies, laugh when anyone got knocked hard by a wave, and look for sea creatures. My favorite moment was swimming after a sea turtle with Mae. We named her CeeCee and laughed and laughed together. It’s getting so easy to chat with her. I had a really great time with Mae this trip especially.
Leilani’s Lunch Date: Chad and I snuck away on our last family trip to Maui for a little lunch date and we decided to repeat it again this year. We even ordered the exact same things: fish tacos for me and nachos for Chad. We shared Hula Pie to finish off the delicious meal. I don’t know why I love this little date so much. It’s our hour or so to step back and re-evaluate where we’re at in our marriage, our jobs, our faith, everything. I’m so grateful for Chad and how great he is with keeping our little family happy and safe.
Thanksgiving Day: In the middle of a killer migraine, I was able to say a prayer and join my family for our big Thanksgiving dinner at Leilani’s. I was SO happy not to miss it. We all ate way too much, laughed too loud, and shared Hula Pie to top it all off. We all met up in Mom and Dad’s room to continue the Indian stick tradition and share what we are grateful for. And don’t worry, we then watched all the 2019 Lip Syncs and laughed til we cried.
Sunset Beach Walk: On our second night I convinced Chad to walk in the sand along the water back to our hotel. We ended up taking off our sandals and sitting for a little while as dusk became night. I don’t know what it is about the ocean. It brings such a feeling of peace.
My Dad’s Parenting Tips: Each night my dad would give a three-minute spiritual thought. They were pieces of parenting advice from the Book of Mormon. These are the ones that stood out to me:
Pray every day, every day, every day. I want to be better at praying first thing in the morning.
When struggles come our way, be humbled, not hardened.
Say your piece when teaching the girls, then be quiet and let them lead.
Reading the scriptures every day will keep us on the right path.
Swimming with the Munson Boys: These three are crazy and oh so adorable. For a good 30 minutes, I competed in handstand competitions, caught Graham over and over again as he jumped off the edge of the pool, and threw little boy after little boy up into the air to make the biggest splash. We laughed, splashed, and joked through it all. I really love them.
Facetiming with the Girls: Every day I caught the cutest glimpses of the girls sweeping, reading books, and blowing kisses. I’m hours away from hugging them. Hallelujah.
All in all, it was a great trip. The migraines and missing the girls weren’t able to take away from the magic that is being in Hawaii with the Hutchins clan. This year, I’m incredibly grateful hard things, like migraines, are not eternal, but the very best things, like my family, are. These 20 people are some of my favorite on the planet. I can’t imagine my life without them. So here’s to the best memories, hordes of photos, and spending way too much money on yummy macadamia nut chocolate.
“We get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed.” —Elder Holland
At this stage of our lives, Chad and I are running a hard mile. We’re sick, overwhelmed, and exhausted almost all of the time. I genuinely feel I’m being humbled beyond anything I’ve encountered before. Heavenly Father keeps sending me little reminders. He wants us to know that this hard mile won’t last forever. We’re in a hard stretch of our race, but it will get easier. We will get stronger. It will be okay in the end. We need to trust God and believe in good things to come.
Alma 34:41 – But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions.
This year, I’m grateful that hard things do someday come to an end. And I’m exceptionally grateful I get to run this race with Chad.
Today was a really good day. There wasn’t anything particularly special about it, but maybe that’s why I loved it so much. All the ordinary things combined to be that extraordinary life Tim is always talking about in About Time. Here are a few of those extraordinary ordinary moments:
Disney dance party in the kitchen with the girls. Chad was coming home a bit late from work, so the girls and I twirled and danced and chased each other while Alexa blasted the best Disney tunes. The girls were running around with butterfly wings on their backs and princess crowns sliding off their heads. There were lots of giggles and some impressive new moves from Ellie.
Halloween costume making with Chad, complete with pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and How I Met Your Mother reruns. Somehow, Chad’s strengths combined with one or two of my creative strengths (yes, I have those somewhere) made it all work. We have a functioning and cute slinky twin costume, ladies and gents! Let’s just hope it comes together on Halloween!
I managed to do some laundry, run some errands, talk with a few of my favorite people on the phone, and get my work done. I still read Harry Potter and caught up on Grey’s Anatomy.
Thanks to a lot of encouragement from Chad and my desperate need to hang out with my older sister, I booked a flight to Baton Rouge, Lousiana to see the darling Munson Crew.
It was a great decision. The last 4 days have been blissful.
To start, traveling on a plane without squirming, screaming babies is AMAZING. I’ve had time to read, write, listen to music, look out the window, play stupid games on my phone. It’s dreamy to have this kind of uninterrupted time. Who knew you could find your ideal form of self-care on a plane surrounded by strangers.
Then I had almost three full days with Jewelsie and her cute family. We ate delicious food at the Rum House, Raisin’ Canes, Napoleon, Café Dumonde, and Red Zepplin. We ventured to fun places like Oak Alley Plantation, the French Quarter in New Orleans, and Perkins Rowe. At Jewels’ house we played Hand and Foot a few times, laughed as the kids played Dance Dance Revolution, and strolled around her neighborhood.
My favorite evening was Saturday. Jewels and I snuck out just us. We went shopping, ate at the Rum House together, and saw Peanut Butter Falcon. We laughed, talked, and brainstormed for a company she wants to start. It was blissful. I love my time with just her. Oh, how I’ve missed her.
Here are a few other highlights:
Jewels and I sat at her kitchen table playing Hand and Food while Brett and Hugh played Old Maid. The anticipation of when Brett would pick the Old Maid out of Huey’s hand was KILLING Hugh. He was just giggling to start, but then it became out-of-control laughter when Brett finally picked it out of his hand. It was infectious. Huey’s happiness was just too cute.
Last night, I slipped in Mae’s room just to chat. We sat there talking about her school, her friends, and anything else that entered her cute little head. She’s becoming an adult right before our eyes.
The entire Munson family and I went to a pizza place called Red Zepplin together. We ate outside under a big fan talking back and forth. Man oh man, I love this family.
Maybe just every freaking moment with Jewels? I LOVE HER.
So grateful for the chance to see the Munsons this weekend.
Special shout out to Chad for holding down the fort at home while I was away. I
really do have the best husband around.