It's hard to believe, but Ashlyn is now 4 years old! She is old enough to realize that her birthday was coming and she was looking forward to it for a long time. Once we got the Valentine's Day decorations out she started getting excited because she knew her birthday was before Valentine's Day.
She started the day off with breakfast in bed, waffles made with the Princess waffle maker. She followed breakfast up with present opening. Savannah had a lot of fun ordering and wrapping Ashlyn's presents this year. She is off track from school so she took great pleasure in preparing Ashlyn's birthday. I was grateful for the help and enjoyed watching her get so excited for Ashlyn's birthday.
Later that day, I drove down to pick up Brigham and Peter, Ashlyn's cousins. Ashlyn loves playing with them and wanted to share her birthday with her cousins. I know the picture down't look like they are happy, but they had a great time together (the picture was at the end of a six hour playdate and Brigs was ready for cake!)
Savannah also helped design and make the cake. Ashlyn was upset at first that the entire cake wasn't pink (emotions that also stemmed from a long day) but she came around and was very excited. Grandma and Grandpa Anderson came over, along with Brigs family, to help sing "Happy Birthday" and celebrate with her!
For the past ten years, we have tried to make an annual ski trip to Targhee in Wyoming. We haven't always been successful because of scheduling or pregnancy, but we have made it most years. This year we realized would be our last one before Luke heads on a mission and then Lindsey and then college starts. It seems kind of surreal! We started taking the kids to ensure that when they went on their 4th grade ski trip they would know how to ski. Now all the kids, except Ashlyn, have moved out of ski school and we get to enjoy the whole day with them on the slopes. This was one of the most enjoyable trips we have had.
Ashlyn did great skiing with her instructors. She progressed enough to go up the lifts to some of the harder runs. I am always amazed that the little kids seem to have no fear. I get a kick out of watching them ski with no poles and zip in and out of the trees. Ashlyn got to also hang out at the Kids Club for parts of the day. Last year, we couldn't get her to stay there and this year we couldn't get her to leave! She loved everything about the trip and continually asks me when we are going back.
The other kids would spend most of their time skiing together. Luke would often go on his own for a while then meet up later with everyone. Lindsey got caught in powder one day that she claims went up to her neck! We all laughed when she would tell us the story and exclaim that she thought that was the way she was going to die, with snow up to her neck. Heather was the watchdog who made sure she always knew where everyone was and would wait for someone if they got behind. I convinced her to go on the big lift up to the higher runs. She was not happy when we unloaded but she did great. Savannah was always cold and refused to pull her hair back. It would often become frozen and stick to her face. This was her first year without lessons and she did great. Matt also had his first year on his own and he loved it. His favorite thing was to lead everyone into the trees, including his Dad.
That leads to the downside of the trip-- James got hurt and ended up on crutches. He was trying to keep up with Matthew and he ended up going down backwards (not sure how it happened). He put a lot of pressure onto his calf muscle and tore it. He was out for the rest of the trip. He continues to recover from the injury but it won't stop us from going again next year!
I read on another friend's blog about her failure to post for two years and then the realization she experienced while reading her scriptures that a family was willing to sacrifice their lives to retrieve a record of their family. This realization inspired her to begin keeping a record of her family. Her discovery, and willingness to pick up where she left off, has inspired me to begin anew. And so I will begin.
What have we done over the past two years, there is too much to tell... we have traveled, laughed, cried and grown together. James was released as bishop and we were realigned into a different ward. Both of these changes has brought challenges and opportunities for our family. Luke and Lindsey are navigating the seas of high school while Heather is finishing up junior high. Savannah is at the top of the totem pole at the elementary school and Matt is in the middle (3rd grade). Ashlyn and I get to spend a lot of time together at home which we love. She definitely keeps all of us smiling as we watch her discover the wonders of life that most of us take for granted.
And so... 2016! There is a lot to look forward to this year. Luke is preparing to submit mission papers at the present time. His college applications have been submitted, some approved and others we are waiting to hear. Lindsey continues to push herself in all areas of life-- academics, cheer, work, driving, friends, etc. Heather will finish up junior high and move onto high school. She is involved with many service groups and performing groups. She has a beautiful voice and strives to develop that talent. Savannah will move to junior high where she will continue to excel. She has developed excellent study habits which will serve her well. She also works to develop her talents, especially piano. Matthew stays busy like the rest of us but mostly with things at home. He loves to read and create and play with Ashlyn. Ashlyn, however, doesn't always like to play with her brother. She "only likes girls" a lot of the time. She is also obsessed with pink and thinks red is "hideous." That could be because she has been trained with an aversion to the University of Utah. Her vocabulary increases exponentially every week because she is surrounded by people so much older than she. James is working towards an MBA from Harvard. He was accepted into their program this year and has completed the first course. He has two more summers to spend in Boston before he is finished. I was elected to the city council and begin my term this year. It has already been an opportunity full of learning experiences and personal growth. I don't doubt this is only the beginning.
Whatever faces us in this new year, I pray we will continue to focus on the most important things and work together towards our goals.
I know, I know-- we haven't ceased to exist the last few months, I just haven't kept up on things. With instagram and facebook, I have found easier ways to journal. However, these other avenues probably aren't the most effective means of journaling our family events because I don't take the time to write very much. I have decided to return to the blog and begin anew. One day, I hope my children and their children thank me for the time I put into writing some of the things down that we do. It takes constant motivation and re-motivation for me to stick with it.
I will attempt another quick catch up on events that have happened since school started and hopefully keep up with things that are going on. I think the best way to do this is to summarize what each child has been up to and possibly a family summary.
Luke-- Luke turned sixteen and entered the world of driving and dating. I found it really interesting that he wasn't super anxious to get his driver's license. I remember turning 16 and couldn't wait to get to the DMV. Things have changed. Luke isn't the only one, most of his friends aren't anxious to get licenses either. I finally got him in to take the test which he passed on the first try and we got his license. I have been just as happy as he has to have it. It is nice having another driver in the family.
It has also been fun watching him enter the dating scene. Because his birthday is so early, he doesn't have a lot of girls his age that are eligible to date yet but he has had fun dating those that he can. He has gone to a few dances and done some other fun activities. I know he is looking forward to more of the girls his grade turning sixteen.
He has made some good friends in high school and has had some good experiences. We have gotten a couple of emails from teachers expressing how much they enjoy having him in their classes. He is in the band where he continues to play the trumpet. They are preparing to go to California soon. Luke has also been working at James' dental office as a dental assistant. He usually works on James' day off, I think he feels like an employee then and not a son. I have been impressed with his dependability and hard work. He is growing into a fine young man.
Lindsey-- Lindsey is by far my busiest kid. She is rarely home but can be found at cheer practice, National Honor Society Meetings, Mock trial, study groups, and hanging out with friends. She is taking a full load of honors classes and an AP class. She is extremely self motivated and wants to be the best at everything she does. I sometimes worry that she is doing too much but when she gets overwhelmed she takes some down time and rallies herself.
Lindsey's biggest struggle so far this year has been dealing with friends. She wants good friends but the ones that she hangs out with are starting to get boyfriends. Lindsey then gets left out of activities because she doesn't have a boyfriend--nor does she want one. She has been called a "goodie-goodie" more than once in a derogatory manner. I try to tell her that this should be a compliment but I don't think teenagers see it that way. I am proud of how she maintains her standards despite these trials.
Heather-- Heather is finding her way in junior high. Her talents aren't as loud as Lindsey's but they are there. She loves to sing and draw and excels in both areas. She is friendly and easy going. She is an avid reader and always has a book she is reading (or devouring). I have to remind her to leave her room and do other things.
Heather is one of my most dependable kids. She is always so willing to help and to serve. She has a special relationship with Ashlyn. For a while Ashlyn would ask for Heather over me. I can tell in Heather's face that she loves the fact that Ashlyn loves her.
Heather is also very smart. She excels in all of her schoolwork and has stayed very organized. I have only had to run one paper to the junior high that she has forgotten. This is saying a lot because it seems last year I had to go about three times a week between Luke and Lindsey. Hopefully she can keep this up. It will save on gas and time for me.
Savannah-- Savannah is loving fourth grade. She loves everything about school. She loves her friends and she loves learning. I am not exaggerating when I say that she would prefer going to school than having time off. She is dedicated to school. When she comes home she immediately does her homework and gets quite upset if I can't drop what I'm doing and help her. She works very hard.
Savannah also started playing piano. I finally gave in and let her quit violin. Now, I realize I should have let her quit a year earlier. I made her keep playing because I thought she was making excuses and didn't want to practice. I now know that she just really did not like the violin. She practices the piano without being reminded and memorizes almost every song she assigned to practice. Her music experience has been a parenting lesson learned. I should have listened to her feelings and not been so worried about my own agenda.
Savannah also has a special relationship with Ashlyn. She usually asks if she can wake her up when she gets home from school. I have had to start adjusting Ashlyn's nap time to ensure she gets a long enough nap before Savannah comes home. I am blessed to have so many helpers.
Matthew-- Matthew is doing awesome in first grade. His teacher tells me all the time how impressed he is with Matthew's reading skills. I noticed at school everyone calls him Matt. It took me a while to get used to this when I would help with his class. People would make comments about Matt and it would take me a few seconds to realize they were talking about Matthew. He'll always be Matthew to me but to others he is Matt.
Although Matt does well in school, he doesn't love it. He loves it when school is out and there were a few days when he told me he was sick despite a lack of symptoms. I had to make the rule that if he doesn't have a fever he has to go to school.
I think one of Matthew's favorite things to do is play with Ashlyn. However, it is not Ashlyn's favorite thing to do because his idea of playing is Ashlyn's idea of picking. He likes to bug her and chase her and annoy her. She takes it for a while and then starts fighting back.
Ashlyn--Ash is growing faster than I would like. I can't believe that she is as big as she is. Her vocabulary is quite developed for her age. I love this age, when they start to communicate and their personalities come out. I feel so blessed to have her. She has made me realize how much I love my other children. I know that sounds strange but it's true. It seems I have forgotten so much of the growing up of my other babies because there was so much going on with five kids under the age of 8. Having Ashlyn at this time of my life brings back all those memories and feelings of having my other kids and I appreciate them so much more. What a blessing this has been for me.
Ashlyn is a mommy's girl. She takes me over anyone. I am enjoying that while it lasts because I know she'll outgrow it. She cuddles and talks to me and loves to be with me. She also loves to be with her siblings which gives me a break when needed.
That is a rundown on all that is going on with the kids. James and I have been busy fulfilling our various roles as mom and dad, caregiver and provider, bishop and relief society. We love all that we are doing and feel so blessed in every way.
If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware. The tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered around the house, the piles and piles of laundry lying around to be tackled, will disappear all too soon. And, you will, to your surprise, miss them profoundly. Thomas S. Monson