Ella
Ella turned 12 in March and is now officially in the Young Women program. Ella and I will be going to Girls Camp this year. We’re both excited! She’s my “flip-flop” girl and really would prefer no shoes or flip-flops to wearing anything resembling a closed shoe. She hates skirts and is my child who can entertain any little boy and run around with them like she’s one of them. Gratefully she loves being a girl in every other way. Ella is turning into quite the young writer as well as an avid reader. She has been going to a bi-weekly writing group to help her be consistent with writing. She always has a book or art project going. She still loves to draw and create things. She enjoys doing just about anything with her hands (just like her mom): beading, cooking, sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, etc… I’ve been invited to help with a Transition to Scholar group for her and other girls in that phase this coming Fall. I’ll be teaching Art because I know it’s Ella’s passion, and I want to help her with it.

Ella has her own blog. It is set to private, so if we know you personally and you would like to subscribe to it, just let me know and I’ll send you an invite.

Ella began violin lessons last March and she plays beautifully.  She had the opportunity to perform at the LDS Conference Center with the Suzuki Association of Utah in October as well as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building for Christmas. She received a Superior on her birthday at the National Federation Junior Festivals at the University of Utah. (You can watch her performance here.) She had been feeling stressed about continuing with the lessons though. It was a very big decision for her, and she struggled because she wanted to make the right decision. David and I suggested she pray about it. When she prayed for guidance, she felt okay with stopping the violin lessons. I think I was more sad than she was about it; however, I am very proud about her praying to find her answer.

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Aurora
Aurora turned 10 last week. She had her last Liberty Girl meeting a few weeks ago. She’s reading a lot more, and after David finished reading the Harry Potter series to the family, she became an avid Harry Potter fan. She always has an idea for a club or ways to have fun with her friends. She is coming along well in learning more womanly arts like sewing and crochet and is a very girly-girl.

Aurora adores animals, and she has made friends with one of the horses on the next street over. She calls it Silver, and the horse comes to the fence when she calls for it. She would love for us to live on a farm (a girl after my own heart), and she talks about owning one quite frequently. She is my super helper and is willing to do just about anything I ask. She loves babies and has become our neighbor’s helper as well–her little boy even cries when Aurora leaves.  She’s growing up to be quite the little mother.

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Lightning
Lightning turned 8 this past Monday. We’re so proud of him for choosing to be baptized in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was a beautiful service, and we had a wonderful luncheon in his honor. Lightning is very excited for Cub Scouts and day camp this summer. He’s keeps asking about scouts and looking through his book, and I just giggle because it’s so cute!

Lightning has been reading since he was 5–all self motivated–and he still surprises his teachers in church with how well he can read words from the scriptures. He is compassionate and is quick to help someone in need.  He loves to help his dad fix whatever needs to be fixed, and quite often he is found outside in our tree or the neighbor’s tree.  He’s learning how to be a gentleman from his dad and has been opening the van door for me more often. He received a pocket knife and real tools for Christmas. Needless to say he’s been using them ever since.  His enthusiasm for life amazes me, and I’m grateful he’s a sweet, happy boy.

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Wendy
Wendy turned 6 in April.  She is my very happy and very spirited child–a GIANT spirit in a little body.  She can be my best friend and biggest challenge. She gets excited to learn her letters and always wants to help me bake yummy things such as cookies. She makes up her own songs, and she sings all the time. Wendy loves anything girly and especially learning what her big sisters are learning like sewing or crochet. I made her several skirts that she adores more than the other clothes she has–makes this mama feel good! This week, she finally tried climbing to the top of our almost dead globe willow tree. I almost couldn’t get her down because she was having so much fun seeing the world from so high up.  Wendy loves to make friends, and she lights up a room with her huge smile and genuine love for everyone.

Wendy had a hard time deciding to stay in her primary class at church, but by the end of last year she had decided it was okay to be there (mostly).  She was given new teachers at the beginning of the year, and they work so well with her energy. Her primary teachers said that they were quite surprised at how well she knows the songs because she doesn’t seem to like participating in singing time. She absolutely loves having the Parks for teachers. I’m so grateful for her patient teachers and primary leaders (past and present).  I know that has made a huge difference.

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Peter
Peter is now 3 years old. He is such a sweet, loving boy. He’s getting to be more daring and climbing things he never used to climb…like the filing cabinet in the basement–gratefully not the trees yet.  He has the cutest little voice, and he’s usually easy to please. He’s now fully potty-trained (as of about 3 weeks ago), and he loves to help his daddy “fix” things.   He can also put his clothes on all by himself. His vocabulary has skyrocketed lately, and he says the funniest things–or maybe it’s just because he says them in his cute voice.

Peter actually sits with his Sunbeams class during Primary (without me). I didn’t expect that he would considering he’s the youngest in his class and still a 3 year old boy. He’s done really well. Most of the kids closest to his age are still in nursery where it’s mostly play time, not sitting time. Occasionally he’ll ask to go back to nursery, but most of the time he’s happy to be in Primary. He’s growing up!

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David
David is still a wonderful husband and father. He’s been an even better one thanks to what he’s learned from Kirk Duncan. He attended two of Kirk’s Master of Influence seminars since November and came away with information that he’s been applying and changing his life with.

David was the Young Men’s secretary until last October when he was put in as the 11 year-old Scout Leader and teacher. He seems to be enjoying scouts again. It’s been many years since he has done scouting himself.

After many months of writing, rewriting, organizational changes, etc…David finished his book about our experience leading up to, during, and after our journey to Connecticut. It is written for an LDS audience, and we believe his message is timely and needed by many. He sent it into a publisher at the beginning of May, and we hope to hear back withing the next few months. (Prayers are appreciated!)

He has been in an employment/entrepreneurial transition for several years now. Doing legal work is not his cup of tea. He is now working on getting his message to the world through teaching and mentoring. He’s given several speeches at local libraries, and so far he hasn’t had as much support as he was hoping for. He’s excellent at gearing his message for specific audiences. He has a way with words and ideas. I am always amazed at how he connects things I never would have. He can explain complex issues in an easy to understand way–it’s one of his gifts. He loves speaking in front of an audience and helping people be inspired. I highly recommend you listen to his podcast here to get a feel for what he teaches. Then PLEASE PASS IT ON! Thanks!

David and I both attended the Business of Marriage event this past April. I’ve already talked about it a little in a previous post, and I have to say again that it was an amazing event that strengthened our marriage and put us on a path to making our marriage even better! (We’re one of the couples in the videos on the front page. Gotta love it!)

Brandi
In 2010 I finished with the 2010 TJEd Forum as Volunteer Coordinator in March. I turned over my position as Liberty Girls chapter advisor to my friend, Melinda, and stayed as a co-advisor after May. David and I had a simple, lovely anniversary getaway last July. I resigned as Secretary of American Youth Leadership Institute in September at about the same time I finished as Volunteer Coordinator for the Knights of Freedom Summit*.

I became a Family Time and Money Freedom course graduate and attended the Thoughts Alive Mentor Training in Arizona with one of my best friends, Emily. The experience was awesome, and I am so grateful I was able to go and learn from such wonderful people, especially Leslie and Trevan Householder. I made many wonderful new friends. Emily and I came home having two new sisters: Amy and Linda. We shared a condo and a vehicle with them, and I enjoyed our deep conversations, not to mention the foot massage from Amy–our in-house massage therapist–and the yummy green smoothies thanks to Linda!

After I came home from Arizona, our ward was given a new bishopric. With that change, I was released as Secretary in the Primary Presidency and put in the Young Women’s organization over Personal Progress. (The new online tracker is awesome for the YW, their moms, and leaders if you didn’t already know!)

In 2011 I was able to attend Kirk Duncan’s Master of Influence seminar in February. We hosted my friend, Linda and her son during the event. I really enjoyed going with them to the event while David was taking care of the children (though having David with me would have been awesome!). The event was a lot of fun and gave me much to process and do. The whole three days were so high-energy, and I soaked it all in! I highly recommend what Kirk teaches. He not only teaches about body language, but how to listen to your body to help heal yourself. Fascinating stuff!

I finished up with our Liberty Girls chapter as a co-advisor and took on doing it as the chapter advisor again. Gratefully this time I don’t need to host it as well. It’s the only way I was going to advise again. I’m helping with my son’s Knights of Freedom* group as well since all the moms participate. I may be helping with a YASA group if it continues on. I already mentioned helping with a Transition to Scholar group with Ella teaching Art. I’m also helping Queen Emily again with the Knights of Freedom Summit*, only doing Family Activities Coordinating instead or being in charge of the 100 or so volunteers. It’s more manageable for me right now.

I planted most of our garden, watermelons and pumpkins excepted, and the kids and I are very excited about what we’re getting this year. Our family has been also gardening at a friend’s house. She has a lot of land to plant, and we’ve enjoyed several weeks worth of planting, weeding, and play. We all look forward to this year’s harvest and preserving.

I am still administrative coordinator for my book group, the Eliza R. Snow Association, also known as ERSA. I absolutely love the sisterhood we share and the amazing conversations we have. I look forward to it every month. I highly recommend starting your own group if you don’t already have one!

I’m singing in our ward choir again after a couple years hiatus. I really love to sing. It’s a secret passion of mine though I’m still scared to sing by myself. I’ll just belt out the songs in church with everyone else singing with me. :) A duet would be welcome, but I’m really bad at “putting myself out there” and volunteering for such a thing. I guess I just need some encouragement. lol

Other happenings this past year

  • We began using Bountiful Baskets for much of our produce. (If you haven’t tried it, try it if it’s available in your area!)
  • Our family and I went on a trip to St. George, Utah for my grandmother and grandfather’s 50th wedding anniversary in August and for Thanksgiving in November.
  • I attended the Mom’s Retreat in October.
  • My older three children and I participated in a small homeschool Christmas choir and performed at a rest home.
  • We had a crazy-fun Christmas–I sewed a lot and loved it!
  • We visited with David’s sister, Janae, and niece, Laura, while they were visiting from Florida for Christmas and Stephen’s wedding (my brother-in-law).
  • We welcomed a new sister-in-law in the family just after Christmas. Welcome Rachel! (I’m no longer the only daughter-in-law in my husband’s side!)
  • David went on a Klondike Campout with the scouts in January and survived it. :)
  • We joined a monthly sewing group as part of our homeschool.
  • David, Ella, and I attended the 2011 TJEd Forum in March.
  • David enjoyed learning to fly fish with his dad in May.
  • Ella and Aurora had an very fun time with their Aunt Jen at a Harry Potter movie marathon and sleepover in May.
  • Ella and Aurora have been participating in a short Math course to help them get more excited about math.

{*Update 4/11/2015: Knights of Freedom Summit is now owned by Heroic Youth and is called Mastering Knighthood.}

I’ve been thinking a lot about our adventures in Connecticut.  I miss the beauty and especially the friends we made there.  I don’t have many photos of the time we were there, and I could kick myself for not taking more of my friends while we were there.  I have one with my friend Rae, but I’ll forgo putting it online because I think I look funny in it.  Okay, it’s not that bad, so here it is cropped:

Of the few pics I took then, I love this one of my children in our friends’ backyard.  Lightning (then 2yo) and Aurora (then 4yo) were watching the little dog in the neighbor’s yard.  I love the beautiful green of the grass and the little figures looking through the fence.  It reminds me that Spring is coming!!!

It’s a long story, but the short of it is this…whatever we were supposed to learn/do in Connecticut must have been learned/done because we’re back in Utah again. We’ve been tremendously blessed despite some setbacks, but we’re doing our best and know that the Lord is on our side. Thank you all for your love and prayers.

“And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.”
~Isaiah 42:16

I’m feeling like David and I are walking blindly.  We have faith that Heavenly Father knows what he’s doing, and I KNOW He would never lead us astray.  This is so hard, and I can’t even describe the roller coaster of emotions we’ve gone through; however, we’re reaching out to Him and know he is leading us where we can do the most good for His children.

My sweet grandmother sent us some money today.  I was crying when I opened the envelope. I don’t know where we’d be without such wonderful family and friends who listen to the Spirit and say or do what they’re prompted to do!

Still no job, don’t ask! :-P I’ve been forcing myself to stay away from the computer, so that’s why I haven’t been updating.  We’re trying to get into an apartment since we need to be out soon.  I’ll definitely post when David gets a job though! Thanks for caring! :)