Mya at 10

Mya is inquisitive, curious, full of imagination, emotional, and extremely smart. She is (mostly) what I hope every ten year old would be like. Daily, she runs full speed out the front door to walk the dogs the moment her backpack hits the ground. She is a loyal companion and true to at least that one job/duty she randomly assigned to herself one day. It’s sweet to watch the dogs circle the kitchen island close to the time the girls get home from school, knowing that the moment they hear heavy footsteps Mya’s home and their walk is about to begin.

She is constantly creating plays, concerts, circuses, schools, and campgrounds out of every object she can find, including her vivid imagination. Tim and I both wish that she could use more of her imagination instead of our literal decorative pieces to adorn her “forts” or “homes,” but alas, we’ve asked her a million times and no progress has been made. I adore Mya’s creativity. She includes everyone in the house, even the dogs, in the plays and concerts she creates. And everyone usually has a good time living up to her expectations, so long as no mistakes are made because then she turns into a dramatic beast. 

Mya is all drama all the time. I feel like I do so many imaginary dances around her and my words to her so as to avoid a daily heated confrontation. She generally feels attacked by anything we say or do that might have a slightly serious tone, and she cannot handle criticism. She can criticize with the best of them, but don’t you dare say anything slightly negative to her. It’s tricky. She is by far the child I use the most energy on, and it’s okay because that’s reality, but it can be hard because I just want to love her and help her be the best person she can be, but she shuts down the moment I try to give her a few tips or pointers of how things could be handled differently. 

I think the pre-teen emotions are starting to boil over the top of the pot more and more these days, and I’m learning to navigate a new way of life with her. I actually just convinced her to see a counselor because I think I lack the tools necessary for her to feel comfortable in her own skin. While we both understand each other on a deeper level because we’re both thinkers, we often clash when it comes to conflict, and it’s starting to bleed into other areas of our lives, and I’d prefer that she is happy, and if that means I’m not the person counseling her then I’m fine with it. She really is such a unique person. She wants to do the right things; I really see that in her, but for some reason the right thing doesn’t always get chosen, and it’s hard. She feels like a failure a lot no matter what I say, and that’s extremely difficult for me to watch. I’m hoping with some good direction we’ll both be on a happier path. 

The things I love about 10-year-old Mya are our conversations. When she’s not angry with me, she amazes in the things she talks to me about. She thinks about things very similarly to me, and I love having a friend at home that I can talk to about things that may be of little importance to anyone else. I love reading with Mya. We have such a good time at night discovering new worlds and words together. I also love Mya’s laugh. She laughs hardest when her dad’s around. Dinnertime is actually my favorite because she gets laughing pretty easily and then the other girls naturally follow her lead. I love that she loves maps and giving directions. I love that she loves chewing gum, but I hate that I find random wads around the house. I love that she plays with each sibling; she could care less the age difference. I love that she’d rather read than watch television. And I love that she helps me get breakfast going in the mornings before school. I often get on her about not helping a lot, but she actually does quite a bit without even being asked, and I should thank her more. 

I love my Mya. I really do.


My kids are the luckiest.

Growing up, I felt like the luckiest kid because I got to live around the block from my grandparents. We visited them frequently, perhaps too frequently sometimes. It was in their cozy home that I hid behind the couches while my siblings watched Indiana Jones and Ghostbusters. It was in their home that I learned the significance of a pink, square box on Saturday mornings (the pink box contained donuts of course). It was in their home that I sorted buttons and played the golf game on an old box computer. It was in their home that I sat on my grandpa's lap, pinching his fingertips, causing him to make funny faces that made me giggle so hard. 

My small family had the opportunity to live with my other grandparents for a short time, and I learned what CMT was and ordered my first CD (Clint Black featuring Wynona Judd). I also learned to eat salad, and I'm forever grateful for that.  I loved sitting upstairs staring at my grandpa's train set. I wish I had been wise enough to ask him for it when they moved because of my son. My grandma patiently sat with me and taught me how to hand stitch. I loved attending quilting group with her. I also oddly remember going to a nearby breakfast place and ordering the best pancakes of my life. Sadly, that restaurant and my grandparents' old home is gone now, being burned in the recent Paradise fires. 

My four grandparents were my world. They took me to see glaciers, taught me to fish, brought me treats at church, and smiled at me in only the way grandparents could. And then we moved. And my world shifted, and it was hard. It's been hard to remain close ever since because life has put so many states between us, but I am grateful for my grandparents--for who they were when I was a child and who they are now because I have learned unspeakable lessons from them, perhaps without them even knowing. 

I am fairly certain that I've written about this before, but my grandpa (my dad's dad) never really has spoken that much when we all get together as a family. However, the words that he has said over the years have left a distinct impression on my mind and heart, a few in particular. I remember struggling with my faith, and I mentioned it to my grandpa, and he looked me square in the eyes and said, "Janine, I think that if you need to take a step aside for a moment, God will still love you. You say that God is a loving God, don't you think that he will know your reasons and still love you?"

I think of those words whenever I struggle, and I feel not only love from an all-knowing God but also from a wise grandfather who knew exactly what to say when I needed him. So thanks Grandpa.

Grandparents are so important, and I feel lucky to still have each of my grandparents, regardless of distance. We are connected, and I feel it. I think, perhaps, that one of my greatest heartaches is that my kids do not get to see my parents enough. My parents love them so much, and every person on the planet would benefit from being loved so much. And I wish they could hug each other more or talk to each other more, but I am so grateful for the weeks we do spend together because the kids get to spend one on one time with them, and they are building memories that hopefully are filling their reserves for all the days we don't see them. I'm also grateful for technology. Marco Polo keeps the kids close to my parents and siblings, and I love it.

My kids really are the luckiest. 

Halloween 2018

While it takes so much work to do theme Halloween costumes, it's so worth it. I mean look at those cute Sanderson sisters. Mya really killed Winnie's face. And Birdie was a sweet little Binx and Timmy was the cutest zombie. He walked around with his arms stretched out mumbling, "Oooouuuuu."

The weather held out for us, and the girls didn't have to wear coats over their costumes. They collected enough candy to last us until summer, although I keep finding wrappers under the couch so I know someone is sneaking it. I don't love the buying candy part of Halloween because why is it so expensive?!! But I do love passing candy out to the neighbor kids.

Motherhood lately...

Motherhood lately is...
-Listening to Hamilton on repeat while cleaning messy rooms
-Finding chewed gum wads in corners and crevices
-Kissing Timmy’s cheeks a million times a day
-Reading more than the usual amount of books at naptime
-Feeling exhausted by 7:30pm
-Learning one of your children isn’t doing well in school, even when you know they are capable of it.
-Giving tons of piggy back rides up and down the stairs
-Wanting to write everything down but never finding enough (or any) time
-Singing choo-choo songs before shutting the door at night
-Watching a thousand made-up shows and concerts (and even 1 bike show)
-Loving each of my kids for completely different reasons
-Making warm soups to get us through the cooler nights
-Sneaking a piece of Halloween candy right after bedtime
-Cozying up in a fleece blanket while finishing work
-Exercising between two impatient dogs each morning
-Teaching letters to Birdie every afternoon
-Studying candidates’ positions for today’s election
-Putting the kids to bed alone several nights a week
-Drinking camomile tea just before bed to relax my body
-Hearing Maize bark starting at 3 or 4am each morning
-Feeling dead by 2pm
-Expressing love more times than I can count.


Please let me never forget watching Elle say her nightly prayers, studying her profile as she squints into the light talking to God. She is so expressive with her hands and her face, and it's as if I can hear heaven laughing a little as she tells of her day and her wishes of sweet dreams for every person or animal in the family each day.

Please let me always remember the way Timmy grabs my face between his dimpled fingers and squeezes my cheeks before kissing my lips and saying, "I wuv you mama." To which always reply, "Who does mama love?" And if he's in a happy mood, he'll say, "Immy." If not, he simply, but emphatically states, "No!" which means he's had quite enough for the day.

Please let me remember the way Genevieve looks at me as we drive to and from horseback riding. I've taken an active interest in improving the short 44 minutes we have alone together by asking her tons of questions and listening to her joke her way through the conversation, as she does, and I love it so much. She is such a fibber, which is mildly (or very) irritating in most every other situation, but I don't really care if she fibs during our drives. I just let her tell her stories and her moment-to-moment playbacks with as much enthusiasm as she can muster, which usually includes a few (or a lot) of fibbing.

Please let me never wish away the nightly reading I do with the kids. I know it takes forever, and I know my work is definitely always behind schedule, but reading with them feels right, and I know it will be worth it.

Please let me be a better woman for myself, my kids, my husband, God, my PTO board members, my book club friends, church friends, and strangers. I can't tell you how much I talk to God on my morning walks about wanting to be so much better than I just generally am. I can be so much more; I just have to be organized and patient...and willing I guess.

Please let me never forget the way Birdie's hair tickles my face just before nap time while we're reading books in bed. It's always everywhere; she's basically always a mess, but just before bedtime, it feels particularly worse, and I do my best to push it to the side, but it always inches its way to my face and tickles my cheeks and nose.

Please let me always cherish the fact that my husband adores me. My hairstylist recently told me how jealous she was of my relationship with Tim, and after watching her with her husband for just a few minutes, I understand why she's jealous. Tim loves me so much, and I love him almost as much. ;)

the little things

It often feels like the small decisions I make are inconsequential, such as my decision to workout each morning before the kids get ready for school or the few minutes we carve out to read scriptures and say a prayer as mother and kids before the kids head off on their bikes or the moments I push pause on my daily routine to sit on the wood floor and read a book to Timmy or push trains around in circles. Will those little things actually matter? In the moment, it feels like it's just the right thing to do, pushing us forward into the unknown. But as life gets busier and trickier to organize, I think those small decisions actually make all the difference.

Tonight I was tired and didn't want to read with Mya before bed. We've been reading Goose Girl by Shannon Hale for a few weeks (it's nearly 400 pages and we only read it together at night), and tonight I just thought please Mya just go to bed...please. But she looked at me with her big hopeful eyes, and I could not refuse a few pages. Reading with her is our time away from everything and everyone else. We cuddle in her bed, and I read aloud while she makes circles with her feet in the air. It happens to be one of my favorite things of every day, and I'd be okay if she wanted to do it until she moves out, which let's be honest, I will never be ready to have happen.

It was just a small decision, but it meant a lot to her and to me.

Another thing I do before bed is peek into the girls' bedrooms. I don't do anything but sneak a look inside and smile at whatever position they're sleeping in or whatever fort they've created to sleep under, but those are the images in my head as I fall asleep at night.

The little things in my life take up a lot of time. In fact, I think they take up the majority of my time, but it's worth it. I will never regret sitting with Timmy for an extra few minutes to play whatever game instead of cleaning. I'll never regret taking time to take care of my body and brain in my daily workout. And I'll never regret just being with my kids.

I already feel things changing for the kids and for me--they're getting more involved in school, clubs and sports, and I am starting to volunteer a bit more here and there, and it feels like we're changing so quickly, and it makes my heart ache a little each day to think that my older kids are away from me more than they're with me during the day. They spend more time in the company of their teachers than they do with me. And I'm trying to adjust to that fact. And so, as this realization crashes upon me over and over again, I've resolved to do whatever I can to do the small things with the kids and with Tim. To put my phone away more. To be outside more. To laugh more. All the little things--they're worth it.


Today is my husband's birthday, and tonight I sluggishly walked upstairs at 7pm after a long day and collapsed on my bed, leaving him to put all five kids to bed alone. When I woke up around 8:30 just as he was finishing with the girls, I felt guilty for having fallen asleep on his special day, but without missing a beat, he just waved it off and joined me on the couch to eat a slice of cake that nearly didn't survive the baking process.

Yesterday while trying to prep for today, I tried to bake my "famous" chocolate cake (as the kids call it), and just as I was lifting the springform pans up to put them in the oven, I realized I didn't clip one of the pans right, and half of the cake batter fell to the floor, delighting the dogs. I oddly didn't get angry. I just quickly saved what I could and regrouped--his 4-layer cake turned into a 3-layer cake, and no one even noticed the missing layer, and the dogs enjoyed a chocolatey treat that will probably cause some terrible diarrhea before the day is over tomorrow.

The cake trouble didn't end with the batter spilling all over the floor. While cutting the layers in the cake, one of the layers crumbled in my hands as I transferred it to a plate. I managed to piece it back together, and the cream frosting held it together, but man, I'm not sure I've ever had such a difficult time making a cake.

But Tim is worth it. So for Tim's birthday I gave him the gift of putting our babies to bed, a botched cake, and a silly gesture of finding our rogue paddle boat across the lake and bringing it home by tying a rope around my waist and dragging it behind my kayak. I'm sure I looked ridiculous on the water, but I knew Tim would appreciate the help, so I had a few laughs and secured the boat to our dock again. I also bought him a shirt, but of course it hasn't arrived yet, so his birthday gifts from me are rather lame, but somehow he managed to enjoy them.

I've been married to this man for over 11 years now. We were practically babies when we got married. I didn't even know how to make a homemade cake that first year we celebrated his birthday; I just went to the store and bought 4 chocolate cake mixes and made 4 round cakes to stack on each other because it hadn't occurred to me that you could slice the cake in half to get more layers, so that first year his cake was not homemade and looked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The memory still makes me laugh.

By his second birthday I had learned a thing or two and although I still used a box cake mix, I at least learned there was no reason to buy 4 boxes. It's just gotten better with each passing year.

I once wrote how Tim was both the cake and frosting of my life. He is full of all the substance one needs to make a cake (or a life), and he has provided for me and the kids in every way possible over the years. He has all the right ingredients. But he also is my frosting. I used to think you couldn't have both--you'd have to sacrifice one in order to have the other, but not with Tim. He has all the substance and all the sweetness of the frosting. He still grabs me first thing after getting home from work and kisses me in front of whoever is sitting at the table (sometimes too passionately for my taste in front of the kids, but he swears it's for their own good). He texts me he loves me randomly throughout the day. He also texts me dirty little lines that make my mind reel for hours before he gets home; he knows how to get under my skin in the best kind of way. He runs his fingers through my hair almost every night because he knows I love it. He kisses my face when I cry. He laughs with me in bed as we review the day holding hands and touching toes. He is my cake and frosting.

And you know what else--he is also my sprinkles. He makes the very dim days shine brighter. He has a way of spicing up any dull evening with a laugh, a touch or a story.

He has what I need, probably more than I need some days, but over the years he has taught me to love abundantly and love deeply. I need him in every way, and I am thankful God had a hand in bringing us together.

Happy birthday bun! I love you so much.