"Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely."

Monday, August 29, 2011

The New School

Some firsts are better than others. Last year, when Weston was 3, because of a speech delay, he qualified for the school district's awesome pre-school program. I was so nervous to send my little "baby" off into the big wide world of public school, but the instant I met his teacher my fears melted away. Mrs. Shelly is the single most awesome teacher in the whole universe! Seriously, I think she has super powers. She is one of those people that just oozes warmth and goodness... and I knew she loved my Weston. She genuinely loved each of the kids in her class, seemingly from the moment she met them! She had a system for everything, and always seemed to know the right thing to do.

Jason and I thought Weston would cry his first day of school but he didn't. He loved it from day one which was something of a small miracle! The whole year was incredible. Weston learned to talk, made great friends, and thrived with his awesome teachers.

The last day of school after saying good-bye to everyone, I came home and opened Weston's Spider Man backpack. To my shock there was a letter from Mrs. Shelly saying that she was taking a different position in the school district and wouldn't be returning to run the preschool program at Tartan Elementary. I was overcome with a wave of intense sadness! I had just assumed Weston would be fortunate enough to be with Mrs. Shelly another year... and that I would be lucky enough to volunteer in her class, which was run so perfectly! I thought about Mrs. Shelly a lot this last Summer and how much we were going to miss her.

Then, another unexpected thing happened. Sometime at the end of July or beginning of August we received a letter saying that Weston had been reassigned to a different school - Duncan Elementary. Duncan has only been open for a year, and this is its first year with the preschool. It is supposed to be a great school, and is only 10 minutes down the road... but when you compare that with Tartan, which is only a couple of blocks away, the change seemed a little ridiculous!

We had the opportunity to meet Weston's teacher before school started, and she was (is) really nice. Jason says she looks like she's 10 years old. To be fair, she looks closer to 20. The classroom wasn't decorated yet, and there was barely anything in the room at all when I took Weston to our "meet the teacher" deal... and no refreshments! I don't particularly care about the food, but when we went to the school, we just weren't feeling the love. Everything was cold and awkward. I was pretty sad about the whole thing, but trying to keep a positive attitude for Weston.

The first day of school was MADNESS. There was no parking on any street going in any direction around the school. Jason and I literally spent 20 minutes looking for ONE spot to open up. So even though we went with plenty of time to spare, we ended up being late after hiking up to the school from our parking spot, which left no time for first day of school pictures in front of the school! I was bummed. That entire day I found myself constantly comparing everything less desirable about this new preschool to everything that was so great about the last one. It's a long list, trust me!

When Weston got home the first day, he wasn't too happy. He said he didn't play with anyone, because he missed his "best friends." He told us he didn't want to play with any of the toys in the room because he missed his old (school) room with his old toys! Poor kid.

It was then that I realized how good for him this experience was going to be. Life is ever changing! You can't spend your life longing for the "good old days!" I figure now is as good a time is any for Weston to learn that awkward and unsettled beginnings can sometimes turn into the best experiences of our lives! To be honest, this situation reminds me a lot of how I felt when our ward was first formed a little over a year ago. There wasn't a sense of cohesion at all those first weeks. Most people felt torn about leaving their old wards that they had come from and just didn't know where they fit in. Looking back, I am astounded at how far we have come! I don't know a soul that would go back to their old ward now, because we have truly become a ward family.

I look forward to seeing what this school year will bring. Weston will undoubtedly make new friends and love his new teacher as he gets to know her. Not everything is magic at the beginning... but that doesn't mean it won't turn into something wonderful with a little bit of time and effort!

Weston got to eat anything he wanted for breakfast on the first day of school. What did he choose? A turkey sandwhich and chips. Here he is pretending to have a grumpy face, but he loved it (along with all the extra special attention)!
I tried to take a nice, smiley picture of him before leaving for school, but he did his goofy, over dramatic "I'm smiling so big that I throw my head back in glee" grin. So here is a nice picture of Weston's neck! For the record, his back pack this year is Iron Man.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sophie is TWO!!

Three days ago, Sophie turned two. I think I am still in denial, although I don't know why since she has seemed like a little girl (and not a baby anymore) from the time she was 9 months old. For some reason her birthday really crept up on us! It seems like just a few weeks ago when Weston had his birthday, and that was 6 whole months ago. I can't believe my little Sophie baby is a big 2 year old girl now! She brings so very much joy into our family. She is truly full of sugar and spice... LOTS of spice!!
Here are a few of the cute things our little Sophie says on a regular basis:

"Come on now!"
- this is particularly great when followed by "get up mommy/daddy/Weston/Auntie!"

"Good Job!!" - always said with tremendous enthusiasm... Sophie is our cheerleader! Whether it is opening a tight jar lid or putting a new battery in the remote control, she is always telling us what a good job we do.

"Cookie Monker" - She has a love/hate relationship with the cookie monster... sometimes she loves him, sometimes she's afraid of him.

"I just fine"
- for some reason I find this one particularly funny. What little kid uses the term "just fine!?"

"I'm a do it"
or "My do it!" - This oft repeated phrase is the primary reason we refer to Sophie as the sass-master. She wants to do EVERYTHING herself!

"You ok? You feel better?"
- She is sincerely tender and sweet. Jason injured his ankle badly several weeks ago, and she asks him every day how it feels. Sometimes she inadvertently does something to hurt you, then immediately follows it up with a high pitched "You okay!?" The adorable voice coupled with the irresistible look of concern on her face pretty much melts your heart on the spot.

"Right he-ya" - As she gives orders or explains something, she will say (for example): "My owie is right HEYA!"

"Awwww... cute!" - This is always said in a high-pitched, melodic, ultra tender voice. So sweet!!

"I toot"- Pretty sure this needs no explanation. Let's just say she never deflects the blame... Sophie always fesses up to her flatulence.

"I cuddle you"

"I cuddle myself" - This is hilarious. It all began one morning after she woke up. I asked, "did you cuddle with mommy for awhile last night?" Her response: "No! I cuddle myself. Now I awake!"

"water-melna" - translation: watermelon, one of her most favorite foods.

"gummy juice" - translation: cranberry juice, one of her most favorite drinks.

A few fun facts about Sophie right now:

She loves her dark green hair bow that doesn't match anything. She wants to wear it everyday. I need to hide that thing!

She looks like my Grandma Knapp every time she scowls or makes a pouty face.

She adores her daddy. This really worked to my advantage for awhile because she only wanted daddy to change her diapers!

She also loves her brother and sometimes insists on him holding her. When it doesn't happen, she'll just jump up and hang on to him like some sort of monkey baby! Of course she is too heavy for him to hold, so they both topple over within seconds.

She weighs almost 30 pounds and is taller than most of the other kids her age (I'll be going to the pediatrician soon to get more accurate stats on that)!

Whenever she pretends to have phone conversations on her toy cell phone, it is always with a grandpa or a grandma. It usually goes something like this: "Hi grandpa. I okay. I just fine! How you doing?"

While all of the other babies and toddlers held on to their parents for dear life at our first swim lesson together, Sophie kept pushing me away while screaming, "No, I do it!" I think she finally realizes that she needs me though... at least while in the swimming pool!

A few recent pictures (not including her actual birthday, though... still waiting for a new card reader to come in the mail so I can download the many August pictures sitting on my camera right now):

I thank God each and every day for the privilege of being mommy to this little sweetheart. Happy birthday Sophie!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Such a treat

On the Saturday before the 4th (which happened to be July 2nd), we had a very special treat... in the form of a visit from some dear friends of ours. Matt and Jason were missionary companions in the great state of Louisiana several years back, and they have been friends ever since. (By the way, I have no idea if Louisiana is really so great, but Jason insists that it is, so we'll just trust him on this one...) The Caress' came into town for a family baptism, so we had the fortunate opportunity of getting together for a few hours!
This first picture was actually taken the next day when my good friend Jolee spent an entire awesome afternoon at our house, but it was just so cute I had to throw it in...
So back to the Caress family... Matt and Meagan have a son named Sterling, just 3 months older than Weston. They had a great time playing together, busting ghosts and who knows what else!

They also have a daughter named Gwen, about 8 months older than Sophie. Here are Matt and Jason with their little girls...
If you haven't noticed, there is a pattern here... the Caress' have a baby of a certain gender, then a few months later we do too. So when we discovered that Meagan is 5 months pregnant with a boy, I got a little nervous. Is this a sign of something soon to come!?
Truly, though, it was a great visit and I'm grateful we were able to do it... a small miracle considering that it was in the heat (both literally and figuratively) of fireworks season!!

Pioneer Days 2011

Friday night, July 22nd... the weather was sooooooooooooo nice! It was breezy and beautiful.
For some reason, the kids were drawn to the horseshoe game area
It seems odd to me that they were surrounded by grass and yet somehow drawn to the one small area with dirt! Go figure.
Weston and the other "superheroes"
Saturday before we left for Stevenson Park, Jason's dad came over because he had a couple of gifts from his recent trip to Washington D.C.
My favorite gift was the little "money" bear he got for Sophie...she named it "baby Kayla," which is no surprise at all. She names EVERYTHING Baby Kayla!
Weston could not get enough of the bouncy house... it was the first place he went as soon as we arrived (at the blazing hot hour of 4:30). Grandpa had lots of patience and watched the kids jump for a long time.
Weston's other favorite activity this year at Pioneer Days was the water slide... I think he went down it a zillion times (for those who are wondering, zillion is more than a million, but still a little less than ba-zillion)!
This year, the young women and young men from our ward were in charge of a booth - the sponge toss. These awesome girls did a great job helping out the little kids that wanted to come play! Here is Jessica, Kira, and Shawna. I've got nothing but love for these beauties!
Aunt Shae-Leigh doing the sponge toss with the kiddos...
I think Sophie was mostly interested in her rice krispie treat...
Oh, and the glow sticks, which the kids are still fighting over on an almost daily basis (I seriously should just throw them away already)!
Just chillin' with the kids!
There is no way to capture how truly amazing the fireworks were... honestly, this year's display was one of the best I have ever seen. It was impressive!!
And thus we conclude yet another awesome Pioneer Day celebration!! After eating ridiculous amounts of yummy food, running around all night with the kids and enjoying a spectacular fireworks display, we went home satisfied... and a little worn out!

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I first knew Garth as Bishop Abbott. He was my bishop during a very crucial time in my life. I knew he was more than a bishop - he was my friend. He went out of his way to ask about my life and how I was doing... on a weekly basis! He would pull me into his office for a few minutes to ask how my date went the previous night, and ask me if the guy tried to kiss me. He would give me all sorts of pointers and advice, most of which I don't remember. What I do remember is that he genuinely loved me.

He exuded greatness, and had a personality that was larger than life. He was wise, funny, blunt, and never hesitated to stand up for what he thought or believed. He was bold. You never wanted to disappoint the man, not because you were afraid of him, but because you respected him so much and knew that he believed in you. At the time that he was my bishop, I always thought I was sort of special. Why else would he devote so much time and energy to little me? There were 500 young adults in that ward! As it turns out, every single person felt that he or she was special to him. And they were.

There was not a false bone in that man's body. He loved everyone that he served, and he had a magnificent, incredible capacity to reach each person individually. He was charming, and you just couldn't help but love him! Garth, whether in his capacity as bishop or friend, had an infectious quality that drew you to him. He could get away with saying almost anything because of his charm, but also because you knew he loved you. I'll never forget one time seeing him at a wedding reception where I had brought a young man that I was dating at the time. He kind of gave that dude the evil eye and then told him that if he ever did anything to hurt me he would break his leg!

I kept in touch with Garth even after he was no longer my bishop, as did many others. One of my nearest and dearest friends, Rachelle, married his oldest son (Jonathan), so I had the good fortune of running into him more frequently. What a blessing and honor it has been to know the Abbott family!

Garth died of cancer last week. My heart was heavy, and I just couldn't shake the sadness. As the opening hymn began at his funeral on Saturday, I started to cry. If I hadn't been in public, I probably would have bawled like a baby. Since there were many people around me, however, I attempted to control myself! As the memories and testimonies were shared, I felt the heaviness begin to lift and instead felt grateful. Grateful to have rubbed shoulders with this man. Grateful for all that he inspired in me. Grateful to recognize the tremendous impact that one great man can have on so very many people. Jason, one of Garth's sons, read the following quote:

"I believe that the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I don't mean by humility, doubt of his power. But really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not of them, but through them. And they see something divine in every other man and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful." ~John Ruskin

I'm convinced that the idea expressed in this quote is what made him such an effective leader. That and his incredible knowledge of the scriptures. And his boldness in speaking the truth, along with at least 50 other things!

If I were to describe Garth Abbott to a total stranger, I might say that he was fun, full of life, with a dash of crazy. Obviously that would only give half the story. The legacy Garth left is a living testimony to the truthfulness of the gospel he loved.

I left that funeral feeling grateful, inspired, and still a little sad. I was also reminded of a vital truth: no matter where we are in our life, Jesus Christ offers solace, peace and hope. I realized as I left that my heavy heart had been filled with hope, and it was the kind of hope that is found only in and through the Savior of the world! I hope to live the kind of life that leads others to Christ, that makes them want to be better. I hope for the day that I will see my dear friend again. The best part about the kind of hope that the Savior offers is that it is based in the truth. The hope I have is a sure hope! I also hope to live the kind of life that would make Garth proud.

The older I get, the more I understand how important our connections with others are. What a tragedy it would be for those connections to end at the conclusion of our mortal life... and what a glorious blessing to know that they extend into eternity!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Fourth

In the morning me and the kids went swimming at Jolee's pool... well, I can't say that it is her pool per se... but it is in her apartment complex, and it's lots of fun. Correction, it WAS lots of fun going swimming with her at that pool, but I wouldn't know if it's fun anymore, because she moved to Utah a couple weeks ago (a real tragedy, I must admit). Then we rushed off to Weston's first swim lesson of the Summer! Super fun. He did so great this year with his swim lessons. Every day he would dread going and tell me how much he hated it, but then he would have a complete blast and be grinning from ear to ear the entire time he was in the water. As soon as we left each day, he would go back to telling me how much he disliked it. What a funny kid! I'm really proud of him, though... his swimming skills have improved a lot.
Blowing bubbles:
His little swim class:

Weston loved his cute teacher:
In the evening, after rushing home from swim lessons, we got ourselves looking decent (read: I got myself looking decent, because let's face it, the kids are ALWAYS adorable) and headed over to President Shields' house (with Jolee, who was many miles apart from her hubby that day) where we sort of awkwardly hung out while Jason got all the fireworks set up for our show. President Shields was having a bbq at his house with some friends and graciously invited us over too... which was actually really nice. As we sat around eating, I realized that I should have brought swim suits for the kids, or at least for Weston, because all the other kids were swimming! Finally I just stripped him down to his undies and let him swim like that!

When we were finally ready for the festivities, we headed out to the street where Jason and his friend, Will, had been setting up fireworks for at least an hour. We had invited a few friends and family so Weston found his buddy Owen to sit with...
Sophie enjoyed the pretty lights but wasn't so fond of the loud noise...
It's virtually impossible to capture the fireworks well, but here is my attempt! What was especially awesome about this year is that there were like 5 aerial displays going on simultaneously all surrounding our own little show. It was nice!

I was actually in a couple of pictures, but I looked pretty gross by the end of the night, so instead I'm sharing a picture of two of my cute friends, Katie and Jolee!
And of course the kids were loving on their Auntie...
All in all, it was a successful, busy 4th.