March 27, 2014


I have almost been home from my mission for 10 years, as impossible as that seems to me!  It was an experience I'll never forget and a chance to meet people I never would have otherwise.  Some of the people I grew to love the most were the girls that were my companions.

For those of you who don't know, when you volunteer to be a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you are paired into companionships while you're there.  You don't choose your companions, and they move you around the area you're serving in by inspiration.  I was so lucky to get to know them and learn from them.
First off, my trainer Sister Jane Purdum.  What DIDN'T I learn from that girl?  She had a drive and determination that rivaled no one.  I remember when I first arrived in Montreal, I was trying so hard to keep up with her and wished I hadn't squandered my gym time at the Missionary Training Center. :)  She has the voice of an angel and an amazing musical ear.  She taught me to not be afraid to sing in front of people.  She introduced me to Nutella, which I will never forgive her for.  She taught me to focus on the important things and to be patient with people.  I was with her for 3 months, and we served in two areas together.  I had some of my first and most poignant spiritual experiences while serving with her.  We tracted into some pretty scary areas sometimes, but she never saw people as anything but children of God who needed our message.  She really cared about people, and it showed.  She was awesome.
Next came Sister Jamie Christensen.  We served together for 4 1/2 months so we really got to know each other pretty well.  For the first 6 weeks we got to have another companion with us, but I'll talk about her later.  :)  What can I say about my beautiful curly haired companion?  She has a heart of gold.  She understood those we were teaching so well.  She loved people, and it made me more aware of others and increased my love for the Spanish speaking people in Montreal tremendously.  She has such a genuine interest in people and was such a super listener.  She definitely listened to me babble on and on.  :)  We ate noodles and bread for basically every meal, and were even proposed to by a 50 year old man.  But that's a story for another day.  She was super fun and has the most infectious laugh.  It's adorable, and I miss it like crazy!!  She taught me so much, and I really miss her.
Sister Tasha Velez.  My goodness, where do I even begin?!  From the moment I met her, I was desperate to be her companion.  I felt so close to her right from the get-go and although I was sad to see Sis. Christensen go, I couldn't wait to be Sister Velez's companion!  We were robbed.  We were only together for 6 weeks, but we had SUCH a good time.  From her, I learned that you can be a positive force no matter where you are.  She taught me to take the good out of any situation and love wholeheartedly.  I learned that silence and quiet are good things, and you can learn so much in those moments.  We laughed and got to know each other so deeply.  Anytime I think of her, I have to smile, but part of me is still sad that I don't see her every day.  She would be the perfect neighbor.  And boy is that girl handy!!!  I had to pick my jaw up off the ground the first time she made rolls, from stratch, with no recipe or anything!  She is such an incredible person, and I learned from her every moment of our companionship.
Next up, Sister Michelle Witte.  She is adorable.  I was so amazed by her.  She was so funny, and had such a quick wit.  (Quick plug - she's an author and her books are what you would expect from her. I personally love The Faker's Guide to the Classics.  Check it out.)  Her Spanish was SO good, and she was working on her French.  Okay, smarty pants.  Time to stop being so awesome.  :)  I laughed so much when we were companions!  We learned together that when members give you all their kids' leftover Halloween candy, DON'T eat it all.  It will cause you to think the table smells really good, and you will have a major crash later.  It was the weirdest sugar high I've ever had.  We had three months together and she was such a good friend.  She is so clever and has such an interesting mind.  I loved hearing her reason things out.  I loved hearing her sing (actually, all of my companions had great voices and were super fun to sing with.)  She was such a good teacher.  She had such fun ideas for our (very rare) off times and humored me and my crazy stories and ideas.  I loved that little sister of mine, and was sad to see her go.
Luckily, in came Sister Rocio Rodriguez.  I was her trainer, and I still feel sorry for her to this day.  :)  I wish I could have been better, more patient, and more fun.  Anyway, I digress.  SHE was so good, so patient, and SO fun.  I learned a lot when we were companions (3 months).  I learned that you can take the girl out of Mexico....and if you aren't careful, you could easily kill her.  When we were driving back to Laval after picking her up, she was talking about how cold it was.  My heart sunk for her when I realized that the weather was going to drop another 30-70 degrees soon thereafter.  Even though our eyelashes were sticking our eyes shut and there were ice crystals on her scarf from her breath, she never complained.  (I was more careful from then on, FYI.)  She NEVER complained.  She had just learned English and all of the missionaries, the mission president, etc. spoke English.  It must have been so hard for her at times, but I honestly don't ever remember her being anything but sweet and wonderful.  She taught me that being loving can open doors that would otherwise be closed.  We grew together as sisters and I will always love her.  She taught me words from Mexico, and I taught her important English words like "jerkface" and "freak."  Did I mention she also taught me to try to speak with more love and compassion while driving?  Te quiero mucho mi companerita!
Sister Misty Johnson.  We spent the longest time together.  She was the other companion with Sister Christensen and me.  Then at the end of my mission, we were together for another 4 1/2 months.  And we had a blast.  There's a lady that goes to Zumba with me who looks and acts so much like her, that when I see her, it makes me a little sad!  Sister Johnson and I worked so hard, and really made the end of both of our missions special.  One thing I definitely learned from her is that it doesn't matter who you were in the past.  She overcame so much in her life and every day became stronger, more disciplined, and better.  She and I really became close, and I trusted her so much.  She was just such a great person.  Plus, she has the happiest smile ever.  We would sit and just laugh sometimes remembering funny or bizarre things that happened that day.  She is the only person to threaten to turn my bedspread into a weave.  :)  She really prepared for our lessons with people and was such a people person.  People on the street would just stop and talk to her easily.  Such a great girl.  I was so lucky to get to be her companion twice.
I know I'm forgetting so many great attributes and so many great memories.  These companions truly became my sisters, and I love each of them from the bottom of my heart.  I LOVE MY COMPIES!

A Call for Faith

  My sister Amy and her family are a foster family to two beautiful little kids.  They have loved those kids and prayed that their parents will change their lives so they can be reunited with their babies.  This has been going on for 3 1/2 years. 
  During that time, they have been a source of strength.  They have hoped that the Atonement of Jesus Christ would work to help the twins' parents receive strength and peace and determination to make their lives better for themselves and their children.  There have been a lot of ups and downs, and it has been a trying experience for everyone.
  We love those kids, just as if they were part of our family.  We want what is best for them.  Of course, we don't want to see them go, and the Phillips would adopt them before you even finished asking if they wanted to. But ultimately, we just want them to have stable, happy lives.
  My sister has asked for a day of prayer and fasting that the Lord's will will be made known and that the kids will no longer be in limbo.  It will only get harder for them as they get older.  They have lived with my sister's family since the moment they were born.  If you believe in God, please pray for everyone involved this coming Sunday, March 30th (and before and after :) ). 
  I know Heavenly Father lives, and that He has a direction for all of our lives.  He provided a Savior to come to this Earth to make it possible for us to repent and become who He would want us to be.  Our Father in Heaven loves these twins, and wants what is best for them.  I truly believe that if we join together in faith, He will perform a miracle.  I'm just really excited to see what He wants from us.

March 26, 2014

A Weighty Issue

I saw this the other day, and it spoke to me.  :) 
As you may know, I have had some ups and downs with my weight during my life.  Unfortunately, most of the time, it's been ups rather than downs.  I don't know why it's a struggle for me, but believe it or not, I'm actually kind of grateful.
Losing weight and becoming healthy is a process that changes you forever.  It forces you to see yourself in a new light.  It makes you braver and more willing to take risks.  It is hard and heartbreaking and frustrating and confusing and awful.  But with every victory, you build your confidence and your sense of self.
My goal this year has been to lose 50 pounds.  I have more than that to lose, but that would put me pretty close to my ultimate goal.  I've really struggled this year.  I've been really good about tracking my calories and working out a lot and it just has been so slow for me.  I talked to my doctor about it, and she prescribed Metformin for my PCOS.  It won't in and of itself make me lose any weight, but it will hopefully balance out my hormones and make it easier.
I think the most frustrating part of this whole thing is not really seeing my progress.  I can definitely feel the difference.  I have WAY more energy, and can keep up with my Zumba class, even during the really difficult songs.  I've toned up, and can see and feel big differences in my muscles.  But when you see yourself every day and have had a negative self image in the past, it's hard to see that progress. 
I think that even harder than trying to lose the weight is talking about it.  It is such a taboo subject and frankly, embarrassing, although I don't know why it should be more embarrassing than talking about any other self improvement.  Anyway, I'm kind of just babbling here, because it's out of my comfort zone.
Me in 2008?  I was at my heaviest here.  This was about 55 pounds ago.
March 2012, wearing a horrible outfit.
May 2013
March 2014
Despite the obvious need for better posture and a more pleasant neutral face, I can see a difference here.  It's not where I want to be, but it's getting there, and I'm thankful.  I'm pretty sure I'm the only one in the world who can see my recent changes, but that's enough.  And it's motivating me to keep going!


March 23, 2014

13 Months

Here are the kids at 13 months.  Left to right: Andrew, Emily, and Charlie.  Can you tell they're related? 
And for the record, I did try to find a picture of Charlie with the same look as Andrew and Emmie, but that boy just smiles all the dang time.  :)
And here are a couple pictures of Emily that I just couldn't resist sharing, because even though about 2 years have gone by, she still gives the same little looks and everything!


We had some pretty fun visitors come to Bolivar this weekend!  My Aunt Wanda and Uncle David made the drive to spend the weekend with us and the kids.  Andrew has been counting down the days, and as we predicted, the kids won't be content for awhile because they'll be missing them and all the fun we had!  :)
We went out to eat a few times and since we very rarely do that, and it's even rarer for the kids to be with us, it was a real treat!  Emily told us yesterday that she wanted to "go to a restaurant and be a princess."  I'm not really sure what that meant.  Then as soon as she woke up today she said she wanted to go to a restaurant and eat macaroni and cheese.  :)
They did pretty well in the restaurant.  Emily sang songs to keep herself (and everyone around her) occupied.  Charlie threw sugar packets on the ground, and Andrew sat pretty quietly drinking his water and asking if we just had to wait "a little while."
On Friday we had pretty nice weather, so we went to Dickerson Zoo in Springfield.  Andrew loved the giraffe statue.
 Emily saw this picture today and said, "My Wanda givin' me a ride."  Andrew and Charlie wanted to be out and running around, but Emily prefers the princess treatment.
On Saturday, we went to the Discovery Center in Springfield.  I worried that the kids might be too little to enjoy it, but no worries there!  Charlie loved looking at everyone and everything, and Andrew and Emily were completely enthralled with all the exhibits and things to do.  It was really fun, and completely up Andrew's alley.  He asked if we could go back today to "do more Science."  I think we'll look into getting a year pass.
Clockwise: 1.  They had a room for kids 5 and under and we spent quite a lot of time there. 2. Andrew on a bed of nails.  He did that about 10 times.  3.  Emily spent 15 minutes on this one exhibit alone.  She would have been there longer, but we moved on.  4.  Me trying to get the boys to play with puppets.  Andrew said he didn't want to, and Charlie came over and took it off my hand and violently threw it on the ground.  I gave up.  :)
Like I said, ALL the kids had a good time at the Discovery Center.  :) 
To sum it all up, I'll just use Andrew's words. 
"Mom, I think I just love Uncle David."
Thank you David and Wanda for coming to see us and for all the fun times!  We hope to see you again soon!  We love you!

March 20, 2014

Oops....Happy St. Patrick's Day!

As you may know, I love holidays.  The kids and I start decorating for the next holiday as soon as the last one is over, and I love thinking of fun things for our family to do to celebrate.  St. Patrick's Day kind of snuck up on me, though!  I managed to scrounge up some green clothes for everyone, and made some rice krispie treats with Andrew, adding green food coloring and using a heart stamp to make a clover in the middle to make it more St. Patricksy - which is a new word I just made up.
I was thinking of a couple friends of ours, and noticed that I had some too ripe bananas, so Andrew and I whipped up some banana bread for our friends (and us) and I delivered it after Zumba.  It was a great way to let our friends know we love them, while also saving me from eating an entire batch of banana bread.
So our celebrating was basically all just food, but we all had a good time anyway. :)
And we had the best darn corned beef and cabbage I've ever made.  Oh my gosh was it delicious!

March 17, 2014

Warmth? Hooray!

It was finally warm enough to go to the park!!!  And we were so happy. 
But first...
Waiting a whole 3 minutes for Daddy to get copies of 1776 for Mommy and Daddy to read before our Boston trip.  It was agony for these kiddos.
 Emily made a friend.  She didn't know her name, so she just called her Emily.  They went down the slide over and over again and clapped for each other.  It was pretty cute.
Andrew also made a friend.  There was a boy there with a green shirt, and I pointed it out.  He was so excited, so I told him he could go tell the boy.  (We've been working on social skills.)  So Andy went up to him and said, "Wow.  I just love your green shirt.  It's really great."  The kid (who was probably 5) said thanks and was very happy about that.  Then Andrew continued.  "It's just awesome.  I love green.  And your shirt is green.  That is great."  The kid smiled, a little confused as if to say 'are we still talking about my shirt?'  Then they ran off to play.  About 2 minutes later, I heard Andrew say, "Yeah, I just think that shirt is amazing.  A green shirt.  WOW!"  I went up to him and whispered that he could tell him about the shirt if he wanted, but that now it was okay to just play with him.  :)  They then had a fun time running and talking and sliding.  And I was happy that he was able to make a friend...whom he called Green Shirt the entire time.  Baby steps...
No matter who else they play with, Daddy is still their favorite pal ever.
My littlest babies.  They all love swinging.
I LOVE this picture.
I love my little family, I love Spring, and I love having pictures to keep these memories.

Charlie the Buckethead

Charlie is HILARIOUS!  We love having this funny baby around the house.
As you know, this bucket has already had a lot of mileage on it with Emily the Buckethead.  She still wears it a lot, but now she can see as it's more like a hat.  Charlie has become Buckethead #2, wearing it for long periods of time (we're talking 10 minutes at least) with the other kids cheering him on.  "Buckethead!  Buckethead!  Buckethead!" It's cute enough, but when you add the sounds of Charlie's chuckles echoing from the bucket......yeah, it's cute. 
Charlie loves spaghetti.  And he loves to squish it.  And he loves to throw it.  And I knew that when I gave it to him.  And that took a lot of bravery.  I've been trying to teach him to feed himself more, which requires even more clean-up than before.  But he does look cute.
Little punk.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Charlie loves to get the broom and sweep along with me.  The other day he got the broom, moved it along for awhile then snagged the dustpan and waddled over to the trash and pretended to dump the trash in it!  It was so cute, and he was so funny with his little tummy sticking out and that serious look on his face.  He was VERY proud of himself.  And he is so so adorable.  (Have I mentioned that before?)
He tries to draw like his brother and sister.  He gets pretty into it, and we're just happy that he has stopped finding crayons around the house and immediately eating them.

More About My Rash...Yes, seriously.

So it didn't get better.  It got worse - much worse!  It was all over my neck, face, ears (and inside my ears), arms, and even the back of my neck spreading to my back.  The doctor said it was an allergic reaction and that the first round of steroids wasn't strong enough.  We could go to an allergist but there's it would be a long, expensive road.  So, we're going to try a different antihistamine and a stronger dose of steroids.  Who knows, maybe I'll get super buff or be awesome at baseball from taking all these steroids.  Haha. 
These pictures were taken 5 days ago and I'm feeling much better.  Believe it or not, I was trying to just look into the camera, not show my misery.  And believe it or not, the rash actually looked way worse in person. 
I was so grateful that the kids were so good at the doctor's office.  What sweet little kids we have!

March 10, 2014

Rashes and Other Exciting News

A few weeks ago, I got a rash.  We thought maybe it was poison ivy because Mike had it and I did his laundry.  But came back!  These pictures don't quite do it justice, but it's all over my arms, face, and neck.  It is super itchy and awful.  Yes, I'm whining.  I guess it's an allergy of some sort.  Time to see an allergist.  Blech.
 Charlie has a little cold and feels yucky.  But apparently he was feeling pretty chill yesterday.
 Emily started potty training today!  She has had one success and one failure.  She is excited about the whole thing, so I'm hopeful!  Here she is watching an episode of Daniel Tiger about potty training and eating pretzels.  I'm sad that my baby is growing up, but happy that she is becoming such a sweet little girl.  We are so proud of her.

March 9, 2014

What's Cookin', Good Lookin'?

Here are some of the things we ate this week!
 Honey Chipotle Chicken Bowls with Lime Quinoa - SO delicious.
 And again, because it was so amazingly pretty.  You can't see the lettuce underneath, but it was there. :)
Chocolate Zucchini Brownies.
Heaven.  My one and only.  My true love.  I showed real restraint when I sent half to Mike's work, and saved the last piece for Andrew (who on his own shared some with Emily.  It was super sweet.)
Chicken Pineapple Jalepeno Quesadillas
with Sriracha Mayonnaise
Oh.  My.  Gosh.  AMAZING.  I couldn't get the picture to do it justice, and all you can see is the mayo, but it was so good.  And, for the record, there's not much sauce on there.  You could even have it without the sauce.  2 of these suckers were less than 500 calories, too.  And our taste buds were having a party, let me tell you. 

Green Curry
YUM!  It was really good, and we are excited to perfect this recipe.
 Grilled Cheese Tomato and Pesto Sandwiches - pretty good.
Mini Egg Quiches with feta, cheddar, green onion, orange pepper, and ham
Sautéed spicy green beans and snow peas

 Crispy Chickpeas - incredibly good! 
I cooked them a bit too long and they got SUPER crunchy, but reminded us a bit of CornNuts. (texture, not taste) 
Black Bean Green Chile Chicken Skillet-
Not great.  It was okay, but a little bland.  It made, unfortunately, about 100 meals worth of leftovers.

A "healthy" banana split. 
Banana, strawberries, Cool Whip, and a sliced up Fun Size Snickers bar.
It was good, but the Snickers bar was not necessary (although it IS delicious.)