Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Catching Up....(Preston and Eli...)

I can't believe how much time has gone by since I last posted. I had often thought I should blog--but it's been painful to try to think about how to do so, but I guess I just have to jump in right?

As difficult as it is, I may as well share because it will soon become obvious as I continue to write about the benchmarks and memories made by our family that David and I are now divorced. It's a painful subject as it is still rather fresh (just made final this year) and I still have not completely accepted the fact that I am no longer a wife and learning to accept the fact that I am in fact now a single mother while my children are learning to be part of now a blended family as David has gone on to remarry my former friend Kim Hibbert, now also a Westenskow who also has four beautiful children. I am realizing we do not always get to have life look exactly how we wish and I am learning that there can be moments of peace and moments of joy even when life is horribly painful.
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Visiting the Redwoods July 2017 (See how fast the big boys are catching up to me in height?)

So without going too far backward to explain, I will share some of what the kids have been up to:

 Preston, our oldest, is now 12 and just started middle school last week. He shared with me that his biggest fear was that he would not be able to open his locker, causing him anxiety the week before. Fortunately he seemed to have been able to resolve his fear rather quickly. Preston has grown so much, not just physically but also I have seen him grow spiritually as well. It has been difficult to know how much burden he must feel by the divorce and the many changes in our family as I have watched how he tries to protect not only his siblings, but also his parents from things he is afraid may hurt them. He has tried to put a protective arm around me and lead me away from situations he thought might be too much for for me bear emotionally and I have to gently remind him that although I appreciate his love and concern, I can handle what is. It's ok--I need to grow too. I really worry (probably as all mom's do in these situations) about how he will be affected emotionally and spiritually long term by what he has to experience. One day after a particular emotionally traumatic day for him I had him alone as I ran an errand to return something we had borrowed. He told me that he used to question his faith as a younger kid and wasn't always certain, but how as he has gone through the hardship of losing his intact family that he can feel God around him, helping him and he now knows that his Father in Heaven is real and that he will be able to come through this time stronger spiritually after all.
       Preston has a very goofy side too! He loves to be wild and act like basically a lunatic to make his siblings laugh and can drive me pretty nuts with his constant poking at and teasing his younger siblings. It reminds me of how my parents used to say, "It's all fun and games until somones crying..." which is usually the case. We are working on finding balance there. ;) He still has a love and obsessions with toys and has expanded his love from Wal-Mart (being the biggest supplier of a wide range of toys in La Grande) to online shopping with Amazon. The kids got to see the shopping possibilities when I moved and allowed them to all pick out the bedding and decor for their rooms to help them feel some ownership in their new home. Since then, 'window shopping' on Amazon has become a bargaining chip for me to use on the two oldest boys as they love to look through the many possibilities of toys and electronics (and ninja weapons lol!) sometimes adding them to my cart so they can return to look at things. I realized one day they were doing this when I accidentally ordered a fidget spinner Eli had added to my cart for future drooling over. Luckily it was not only of those $30 or $40 ones!

Eli---Being Goofy and striking his Meditation Pose on a dock in Idaho

Eli also has changed so much since my last post. He is still the same in so many Eli ways with his love of family, friends and food, but he too has had to grow up sooner than I anticipated with all he has been called to bear. Eli is my ultra sensitive son. He used to come to me at night weeping for things that may or my not happen, fears he had about floods filling La Grande with water so we all drowned or how sad it would be if someone in our family died. He reminded me often of myself as I used to also really struggle with morbid thoughts as a child that I would feel worried about but forgetting instantly in the sunshine and happiness of the next morning. Unfortunately with the divorce there were definitely some very real things for Eli to struggle with. Learning to live in two different homes and feeling a homesickness constantly for one parent seemed to really take a toll on all the kids, but Eli initially struggled the most on the surface. I was constantly trying to find ways to help them adapt, even as I knew only time would really be able to help heal the pain.

Heavenly Father must have heard my pleadings though because Eli learned to his delight that when he lived with me he was only blocks away from a couple of his good friends from school and then to our surprise his closest friend at school ended up moving literally just around the corner with his sweet family. I feel so much gratitude as Eli is now able to see some positive things in life even when he is not at the farm as he enjoys riding bikes and playing with his friends who live close by.

This last summer a friend encouraged me to try watching all the Marvel movies with my boys as a way to bond with them. My boys were surprised and excited when I told them I wanted to make it a goal to watch the more recent Marvel superhero movies in order with them. I have loved having something to share with them and enjoy the beseeching "Don't watch any movies without us!!" when they leave to spend time with David.

Dallin (Georgie!) loving the stereo I brought home from the studio--it has it's own light show!

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Meet our Miracle....

December 27, 2014

I was beginning to feel hopeless that my labor would ever start. My lack of hope was starting to get to me and the discomfort I was feeling in my body was becoming overwhelming. I was just 39 weeks and 3 days pregnant but I felt I couldn’t handle one more day. My doula called me that morning and she could tell by the tone in my voie and the lack of my usual optimism that I was not doing great emotionally. With a sympthatic tone she said, “You know what? It’s usually when women feel as miserable as you do that they go into labor….just hang in there!” I was not holding on to hope though. I had thought I was on the verge of going into labor for the last week and had even been up for hours each night with uncomfortable contractions but all of them had ended in nothing but a lack of sleep. Even though I was impatient, I knew their was probably a good reason for this baby to hang in there. After all I had done (high impact exercising,running up and down the hill by our house, pressure points and having my membranes stipped twice) I was done feeling like it was possible for me to make a difference. That night as the normal rounds of ctonractions began that I had expereinced the previous 5 nights, I decided to just try to sleep through them. At 1:30 AM I could no longer ignore them  so as I had the previous nights I got up and took my phone out in the living room where I used a contraction timer app to time them. I was discouraged to see they were sporatic in length and time so I turned on the television and watched ‘The Big Bang Theory’. at about 2:30 AM witht the contractions becoming a little painful I called the hospital to talk to the nurse. My contractions were only 11 minutes apart at best and she tactfully reminded me no one has a baby when their contractions are 11 minutes apart but if I wasnted to be checked I was welcome to come up to the hospital. I decided to wait longer, telling myself it was likely a false alarm. I walked around, ate and orange and drank some water and nothing changed the discomfort of the contractions. As they began to get a little more painful I finally felt at my wits end. I didn’t care that it was snowing like crazy outside or that it was 3:30 in the morning. I was exhausted from nigths of false labor and if anything else I just needed the hope that I was cose---surely they could tell me if I had dialated past the two I had been at earlier. I woke up David and he asked if I was sure I was in labor. I honestly admitted that I wasn’t sure but I couldn’t deal with the false labor anymore and needed someone to check on me. leaving out 3 older boys sleeping our plan was for me to go up to the hospital and then he would return home with our boys and I would call and let him know whether he should come pick me up or not. Snow was falling heavily and there was already several inches on the ground. It was a beautiful drive to the hospital. He stayed with me as I got admitted and then left to go back home to get a little more sleep before the kids woke up. I felt more cheerful as I got up into the delivery room---even though I knew it was possible that this was a false alarm I felt glad knowing someone was going to be treating me as if I might be in labor---I needed to think I was.

The nurse on staff was a woman who had attended my Zumba classes in the passed so we chatted a little as she hooked me up to the machine to monitor my contractions. She checked me and said I was about 3 centimeters dilated. I was relieved to know I was no longer a two. The contractions were so uncomfortable but still not very close together but I was determined to try to get things moving a little faser. I asked if as I was checked if I could sit on a stability ball. She agreed and brought it to me and laid a sheet over it soI could sit on it. All I really wanted to do was curl up in the fetal position and try not to deal with the pain, but I was desperate to not be sent home so I sat on the ball rolling my hips in a circle and bouncing gently trying to imagine my body doing everything to help bring the baby down.

All this time I still did not know whether the baby was going to be a boy or a girl. I had a feeling deep down it was  girl, but because I wanted a girl so badly--I didn’t trust the feeling as it likely was just a desire rather than intuition. The hard thing about not knowing is that I had not bonded in my mind with the baby. Knowing the sex of the baby had helped me bond and create a relationship with my previous three babies as I was able to gather clues about their personality through their movement and with the knowledge of their gender it helped me create a more complete idea of what they would be like. I was a little nervous that I didn’t feel the same connection based on my lack of knowledge, but trusted that boy or girl I would feel again that immediate mother-love.

When the nurse came into check me again I prayed I had made some progress so she would let me stay. She said I was then at 4 centimeters and because of how quickly I had progressed to that point they would keep me. I was so relieved and felt the last of my despondancy drain away giving way to excitment! I called my doula to come join me at the hospital . By then it was almost 5 AM and she showed up about 5:30AM. I was still able to handle the pain of the contractions alright on my own, but when she arrived as I had a contraction she applied pressure with her hands to each side of my hip giving me an incredible amount of relief from the pain. I was so amazed and VERY grateful. I texted David to come join me when he could but said it may still be some hours so it was not a big rush. He took the boys all over to his parents house and joined us at the hospital--bringing along his library book, ‘Sister Carrie’ to read as we waited for things to progress.

The nurse said that since it was a weekend and my doctor wasn’t even on call I would have a different doctor deliver my baby and she would call him. I was a little sad my doctor, Dr. Whitaker would not be delivering the baby, but at that point I was just anxious and excited to meet the baby. As wave after wave of contractions hit I was amazed at how with the help of my doula (she would push on pressure points each time I had a contraction) I was able to get further into my labor as the contractions grew longer and stronger. I told myself when one would start that it would only last a minute or two and then it would be over. I breathed as fully as I could imagineing the baby descending further. Soon the nurse came in and said that there had been a note in my chart from my doctor that she should be called if I went into labor on the weekend in case she was able to deliver me. Upon hearing I was in labor she agreed to come into to deliver the baby---even though it was a Sunday and she was not on call! I felt so blessed. The nurse checked me again and said I was at a 7. I was so surprised! In the past when I would get to about a 5 I would be in tears and struggling to handle the pain and pressure of the contractions. I had just started getting to a whimpering stage when I contracted, but I still felt capable. My plan all along had been to get to 7 centimeters and then have the anethesiologist come in and give me a spinal block. Even though I felt capable to continue without the pain block, I was so exhausted from lack of sleep for the past week that I decided it would be best to follow my plan so I could sleep through the last part of my labor. I asked my doula to go ask the nurse to send for the anthesiologist who I leanred was a woman who had spent a half hour with me on the phone that previous summer explaining about epidurals and giving me an education about my pain relief options. She was wonderful! It was the second mini-miricale that made me feel blessed and very loved. She was the best anthesiologist there AND her little girl was in my Zumba kids class so she was glad to help me have the best experience possible. After she administered the spinal block I felt a comfortable numbness and all the pain sensations were gone. I settled into nap as my wonderful doula (Miriam) shooed everyone out. She had kept the lights dim for me throughout the labor so with just the sound of the monitoring maching I fell asleep. It seemed only moments later that my doctor arrived. She was cheerful and insisted on checking me right away even though I wanted to keep sleeping. I was hoping I still had another hour to sleep, but she said I was at a 10 and it was time to push. A nurse wheeled in the baby crib and got the towels and baby gear ready. Because I was so numb my doctor and nurse had to position my body for delivery. I had delivered all my babies on my left side and since I hadn’t torn with any them I decided I better do it again---I didn’t want to chance additional injury. David held my leg and as a nurse announced I was having a contraction (I couldn’t tell from the numbness) I pushed. With the first push the baby head crowned and with the second the baby was born completely. It was just 6 minutes of pushing! As soon as the baby slid out David said, ‘It’s a girl--you have your girl!” I began to cry not surprised, but so relieved. It felt like the perfect end to our childbearing years and what a high note to go out on! They placed her warm little gray-toned body on my belly and began to rub her down as she cried her newborn cries. She began to look pinker and Inspite of the mess on her and on me I pulled her to me and began to nurse her where she calmed down and nursed hungrily for an hour as they finished delivering the placenta. When she was finally done nursing and I was willing they took her and cleaned her up, wrapping her in a warmed blanket donning her with the standard pink and blue striped cap before handing her back. My doula had called another young woman who is a professional photographer who came in then and took some pictures. I couldn’t believe it--I had a daughter! I had hoped and even prayed for a daughter but was not certain I would ever be mother to one. It was such a loved, contented and miraculous feeling as I cuddled her tiny 6 lb 12 oz self. It was not even 9AM when she was born. Outside it was snowy, but bright. I loved everything about her birth. I wouldn’t have changed anything and reflected at how grateful I was that she didn’t come any sooner as she was so small that every day she stayed inside must have been valuable. I loved that only women and her dad were in attendance of her birth--how fitting and beautiful! My gratitude to my Father in Heaven for allowing me to have a daughter made everything about the pregnancy and birth and after birth seem like small potatoes. I refused to complain about anything because it was so worth the wonder of having the daughter I had felt I was going to have someday but not certain it would happen. When the boys first met their little sister is was amazing--so much love from each big brother! I was a littler concerned about how Dallin would handle it, being just 2 years old,but he was as smitten as any of them and has said each day since she has been born, “I love her!” in such a sweet and adoring tone. I have no doubt they will be close. Preston and Eli want to cuddle and talk baby talk to her all the time and are eager for opportunities to hold and cuddle her. We named her Rayne Grace Westenskow. David had come up with the name Rayne although he wanted it to be Rain Grace Westenskow. I was surprised he had come up with such a unique and beautiful name. We love it, but love her much, much more.

 She inspires all of us.....We love you Rayne!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dallin Dishes

Dallin with is perfectly gorgeous black eye and his favorite treat--popsicles!
I feel guilt every time I think of this blog cause I am not doing a great job keeping up on it, but today Dallin was being...well, Dallin and I decided I better etch some memories in stone--or at least online. 

Dallin George (sometimes known as just George) is definitely advanced and I say this not to brag, but to commiserate with the other Mother's of not quite two-year-olds who also have advanced children who hit the 'terrible twos' months before their time. Lucky for him, he is flippin' adorable. Every Mom of an almost two year old boy knows about the CONSTANTLY moving little bodies. Just a quick recap of some his most recent exploits: There was the time he pitched a brand new tube of toothpaste into the toilet (the toilet had been fairly recently cleaned and I washed it off so what my family doesn't know can't hurt em right?), plastering ( think drowned-rat-style) his head with hair gel two minutes before we need to leave the house, eating a tube of his brother's mountain dew flavored chapstick (yuck!), rubbing his dad's deodorant under his eyes and lets not forget the time I found a thermometer jammed into the one electric outlet that didn't have a baby-proof cap! Some of his newest favorite tricks have been tasting something---thoughtfully chewing it into a warm mash of mess and then when you are unaware he holds out his hand and says cheerfully, "Here you go!" and deposits the mess of warm chewed up food into your trusting hand. He does it with such a sunny smile it's terribly hard to scold him. For all I know he thinks he has just saved us time chewing up the bit he wants to share with us.
No! We don't want your chewed up food....put it back!

I do recognize though that Dallin is simply trying to figure stuff out in the world so we are generally quite patient with him and I am willing to adapt to keep him safe. I have learned to simply put my makeup on with one foot firmly planted on the toilet lid so he can't play in the toilet ('s may explain why my right leg is so much more flexible).  and have figured out the lock feature on the dishwasher that even though it's a pain (says hold three seconds, but it's more like 10!) it has save me from a  lot of frustration as his dear little self is constantly happy to start the dishwasher...anytime for any occasion.

My favorite things about Dallin's stage right now is his talking. He of course has 'here you go!' down rather well. He also loves to say 'Hi!' and he says it so enthusiastically you would think he hadn't seen you for years. I love coming home from teaching class cause he runs in saying, "hi, hi, hi!" One thing that is endearing but sad too is that he has never said Mama---it's always been Mom. He enunciates the last 'm' really hard. MoM! So in the morning when he can hear someone moving about the house he will shout a cheery "hi!" through the door. If no one responds he begin to yell out, "Mom! Mom! Hi! Mom!" It's hilarious. The thing he is most famous for saying is 'Yeah' which in weeks recent has turned into 'Yep' (with again a strong enunciation on the 'p'.) I am thrilled and still surprised that he has not picked up on the word no. He certainly hears it enough, but I have NEVER (knock on wood) heard him say no. How did we get so lucky and am I praising the good Lord too soon? For now anyway, he is just this little cheerful positive man. Here is what a daily conversation like Dallin is like:
Mom: Are you ready for lunch?
Dallin: Yep!
Mom: Should we make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?
Dallin: Yep!
Mom: All right!
Dallin: Ai Ite! (all right roughly translated)
Mom: Here you go!
Dallin: Ere go!
Mom: Is it tasty?
Dallin: Yep!

One of the other tricks he getting rather good at which hopefully will make potty training easier is announcing a 'poop'. Once when he felt like I hadn't heard him announce his accomplishment he stuck his hand down the back of his diaper and then came to me waving his hand yelling 'Poop! Poop!" Lovely.

He loves music and especially singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He can sing the one melody  of "Like a Diamond in the Sky" really well and often after we have settled him in bed we will hear him singing "Ike a da da in da hi" over and over...eventually he follows it with the song he has sang since he was a few months old which just a monotone "Aaaahhhhhh, aaaahhhhhhh" always at the same low pitch. He will be great at meditating some day!  "Ooohm....Ooohm...."
DG is so charming a friend of mine game him enough
money to buy his own trampoline! Geez.
His brothers are more thrilled than jealous. :) 

With such a big age gap you might wonder how the three boys all get along. Well according to Dallin there is no age gap. He throws his little body on top of his brothers when they are playing on the floor and gleefully wails on them with his little fists. I scold him and the boys say, "Oh Mom, it's doesn't hurt" (and they are laughing) so heaven knows someday I will get a call with "Olivia, your son Dallin has punched so and so several times in the stomach--he seems to think it's funny!" Preston and Eli adore Dallin and a common sentence they often repeat is, "Aww, he is so cute!" Dallin in turn adores his big brothers as long as they know their place (which is not too close to Mom when he is sitting on Mom's lap) and is always looking forward to following and tumbling around with them after school.

So there is a better picture of Dallin and his little self. I thought I better get it on here cause before I know it there will be another baby to write about. Yep...apparently Dallin put in birthday wish to be a Big Brother in time for Christmas (or actually shortly after). Any bets it's another boy? ;)

PS Just as I finished writing this I heard a tumble behind me and Dallin has rolled off the coffee table in the laundry basket, dumping my freshly folded laundry everywhere....that's what I get for blogging huh?

Just one of the big kids now....hanging out with big brother and cousins 'helping' design their pizzas!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Post Holiday Hangover

                            Happy 2014!
Me and friend (and amazing Artist) Diana Dominguez
 The holidays have just ended and I am looking at a normal school/workday in the morning and I just feel almost like I have been hit with a truck. Really? Do I really  have to go back to the norm? Ok, let me backtrack. I am super happy to have a friendly norm to go back to. I really am not complaining.  I love the holidays---love the lights, the creative gift ideas, the wrapping, the baking, the music, the general loving vibe...and this year for some reason it felt like all of that seasonal great stuff---on drugs! The break is almost over and I feel like I need a break to recover from the break---and really to reflect on all the gift I have been given. What a wonderful season! We are not a wealthy family, but this year felt so rich. First I have to back track to December 1st---where the best gift began to unfold.

Russell Family Fundraiser Photo
It was Sunday--a fast Sunday and near the beginning of sacrament I watched as one of the men in our congregation stood up (from his wheelchair) made his way to the front with his 17 year old son helping him up to the pulpit and he shared a testimony of gratitude, hope and love that touched me more than words can express. This man has bone cancer...a very aggressive form of it and I had watched in the past year as his weight dropped, his strength weakened and eventually he needed to use a wheelchair as he was too weak to make his way around. His wife has passed away four years earlier of MS and they still had their two youngest kids in high school. I have to admit something first. I had been avoiding this family a little since the cancer diagnosis. I am not proud of it, but every time I saw Brother Russell, I could see my own dad---with an identical weakening body and I wanted to cry every time I saw him. It was out of weakness and selfishness that I stayed away. I didn't want to be reminded so clearly of my dad's lost battle with cancer--it was still too close to home and the guilt of not being the kind of daughter I wish I had been for my dad, was there. As I listened to this man speak about his gratitude for his family, his love of the Savior and the atonement and his gratitude for his life, I felt spiritually nudged. It was as if a voice (probably my own dad) saying, "Olivia, you need to do something for this family, you need to move quickly." My heart was repentant and after sacrament meeting I went over to the family. I told Brother Russell how much I loved his testimony and was frustrated internally that the emotion I felt was all over my face and forming into tears. My voice was probably bizarrely emotional as asked if I could do a fundraiser for them. I didn't know if he would be receptive to the I babbled on, explaining that I have done fundraisers for people before and would really love to organize one for them. He warmly accepted with gratitude and I thanked him, and left before the tears could really fall. I didn't know then just how rough Brother Russell was going to have it in the following days. He managed to send me a picture of himself with his two youngest kids for my flyer and I got to work. It was the holiday season and I was concerned that I might not get a turnout if I did one big event on a weekend (as most people use those last few weekends preparing for the holidays) so I decided to donate two weeks worth of drop-ins and have a donation drop-off in all my fitness classes. It was late notice so I mainly advertised this fundraiser online with my students, facebook and through church. The first week left me anxious. By Friday we had only raised a little less than $200. I was disappointed and worried that we would not be able to raise a significant amount. The most I had ever raised in a fundraiser was a little over $800....and that was with much more notice and advertising! My goal for this family was to be able to raise at least $1000 before the left La Grande at the end of December (they were moving for his treatment and to be closer to family). As that first week was closing I felt like maybe I was being unrealistic with my goal of $1000. That first Friday night I felt prompted to post the amount and say that I felt we could more than double it in the next few days. I hesitated thinking, "Why would I write that? It's the weekend, how will I get donations during a weekend?" But nope---the prompting was persistent so I trusted it and posted that optimistic projection. Sunday, I announced in Relief Society about this fundraiser. I felt unsure if I should be pushing a fundraiser during church, but it felt right. I was tearful as I explained the situation and the fundraiser. By the end of the hour I had over $300 dollars to add to the total. I was stunned and elated. We had more than doubled the original figure.The next week I pushed hard again...creating a new approach with a $5 drive--asking people to donate at least $5. Something doable for most anyone. Then the donations started to come in. Most people wouldn't donate just $5 though. I collected from families with young kids that probably could barely afford the $50 donation they made. I collected from broke college students who loved to be able to give something. I also collected donations from a couple who decided they wanted to give a sizable donation rather than buy eachother Christmas presents. Most of the people did not know Jim Russell, but the love and compassion they felt for him and his family was amazing.
           Something I hadn't considered when I started this fundraiser was that it would go over the birthday and the anniversary of my dad's passing. I felt a wave of not sadness so much, but solemnity, reflection and a weariness that day. I felt close to tears so many times as I felt the significance of being able to raise money for a dad fighting cancer during the 5 year anniversary of when my dad lost the battle with his. It was bitter-sweet---and much more sweet than bitter. That night of my birthday thought a lot about my dad---the many things I loved, admired and missed about him and suddenly I felt purged of any criticism and judgement of my dad that I had ever struggled with. I felt like I had finally made use of the atonement in this context of mourning and forgiving, and being forgiven. I felt so close to my dad that day. I knew his spirit was present and  I knew this all was a birthday present from my wonderful earthly dad and a loving Heavenly Father to heal as I served someone else' dad. BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER. I looked back and realize that every year since my dad has passed there has been something spiritually special that takes place on or around my birthday and I know we share that day in a special way. By the way the end total to the fundraiser was over $ was amazing.

An eclectic fabulous group of friends!
So speaking of birthdays! My 30th birthday has come and gone. One of the women I met through my business, Melinda, shares the same birthday. She is a fabulous person. She, without being paid, subbed my Zumba classes for me out of the goodness of her heart while I took 6 weeks off to have Dallin. She is a saint. She REALLY wanted to have a joint birthday party. I cautiously agreed thinking how busy the month is already and how it might be hard to plan a party, but we eventually figured we would do a December 14th (it was a Saturday) afternoon  potluck style gathering. It was short notice but we got an awesome group of women together (mostly from our fitness classes) and had the most awesome birthday every! Our ages at the party ranged from 25 to 72 and my friend Heather from church (no one else was from my church) exclaimed, "You could write a book about the women who were there!" because we were such an eclectic group. We laughed so much that day (hilarious white elephant gifts all around)--and everyone seemed to have a great time. It was a great way to begin my time in my 30's. Love wonderful friends and the sister-hood that comes with that.

Oh at our party we did a craft---I realize probably all the other crafty people in the world  has probably made this craft, but this was the first year I tried it and I am in love with it--such a cool way to create home-art.Simply put, what it is is modge-podging a picture onto a canvas. The effect looks great and it's much cheaper even than framing a picture and I think looks pretty darn good. Here is one I made at home for our family. I had bought this print of Christ (we didn't have one in our house yet and we really wanted one). It was 11x14 and I knew a nice frame like it deserved would be spendy. The print alone was $40 (a big chunk to us) so I stupidly/bravely decided to put it on canvas. First I painted the canvas to look like wood (dark brown and black) then I modge podged the print in the center. It began to buckle and curve (the print) and I was so stressed that I had just ruined it! Luckily I was able to coax it flat with a hairdryer and constant stroking, but it was scary. Probably won't try it with a print again, but it turned out pretty good.  Liv and learn... ;) I did make several for Christmas presents for friends with their own family pictures or cool pictures and quotes. Awesome (inexpensive) gift.

This years' picture before shrunk down and made into magnets!
Finished Magnets--bad pic, they look clear in real life.
Speaking of making gifts---here is my other obsession. They are magnets made from those glass flat marble things you can get at the dollar store. I turn pictures into thumbnail prints and put them on a big collage on picasa and then I print out a big sheet of lots of tiny pictures (or funny quotes) then using E6000 glue I glue the picture to the glass and a magnet to the back. Quick, great gift. I gave a bunch of these out to my friends. They loved them. I don't think you can have too many refrigerator magnets...well I can't anyway.

The coolest home-made gift I made this year though I think is the one I made my mom for her birthday. I got the idea online (of course--just like all these others) and made it on that program! My mom loves it!  I am going to re-print it after my sister Lucia has her baby so it doesn't just say 'baby girl'. Not having an excess in money is good....we have to get creative.

Now Sugar, now corn syrup, now chocolate--dash away all!
My boys were supposed to bring a 'gift' for each of their classmates for Christmas (they each only have 10 kids in their classes). They really wanted to give their friends something 'cool' so we looked online and we found this cute candy-cane sled. I got the stuff at the dollar store and we spent a great evening taping together some VERY cool little Christmas sleds for all their classmates and even their teachers and principal. I'm sure the parents were just thrilled to see this little sugar laden vehicle. Haha!

Dear Santa....
Christmas itself was sweet. This was the year I introduced the boys to Christmas shopping. I asked them to take $15 of their own hard earned money to go buy Christmas presents. They were not too eager to take spend their money (they work really hard for it), but I insisted they would have fun once we got to the store. Once there we had so much fun. They would try ask the other to go away while they stowed each other's gifts under coats (Preston got Eli a coin organizer and Eli got Preston a Transformer he didn't yet own). They were so excited about the goldfish crackers (and container!) they bought Dallin and the little lunchbox and baby lunchables. The bought their dad some of what we call 'man-wash' which is any manly scented bodywash like by Old Spice or Axe. They each bought me a piece of jewelry...a necklace with an M on is (for Mom) from Preston and a charm bracelet with gardening tools on it from Eli. So adorable. They made me hide my face while the snatched them quickly from the $5 jewelry display and were grinning ear to ear hinting that I was going to love the beautiful gifts they had found for me. They were so excited to go home and wrap the gifts---teasing each other with hints about the present they had bought for the other. It was great! Christmas Eve we made a bizarre amount of sugar cookies. We delivered them to friends and Preston saved out four he decorated especially for Santa. He decorated three gingerbread men shaped cookies to look like Santa and one to look like a Santa Smurf (it was blue, but with a red hat). Here is the note he wrote to case it's not clear enough this is what it says: " engoy three santa's and a santa smerf. I'm saree thers no chalkelit from Preston Eli. David convinced him maybe they could drizzle some chocolate syrup on a couple of the cookies and maybe Santa would like that. The boys were very pleased with this improvisation.

Apparently Santa was happy with his cookies cause the boys got to wake up to some lovely gifts under the tree. The best was the Radio Flyer wagon for Dallin. All the boys enjoyed playing with that. I spent the day gobbling up a book in between nursing a migraine (too many late nights during the 'break'!) and playing board games with the boys. Preston was enamored with his first piece of the electronic world (an Mp3 player) and Eli persuading all to play pick-up sticks and checkers with him. Dallin saw the unattended stocking and illustrated his quickness at grasping at great opportunities when they arrive---much to the chagrin of his older bother Preston:

Seizing the moment (and the chocolate!)

 Oh wow---that was a huge post. I am exhausted and dreading my alarm waking me up to teach my 6Am class. However, this was worth it. I am not going to edit it now, but I am going to post it anyway. I do notice the MANY typos and errors in my other posts, but you know what? I am not a perfectionist. I want to remember things and not have things look perfect. So I am sorry about the many annoying typos that I have yet to correct. I'm sorry. Please graciously overlook them. It reminds me of a cool post I just read:

 “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
Neil Gaiman

 To mistakes in 2014---both new and the same old typos over and over!


Saturday, November 9, 2013


One of our best fall days so far....
Mom--it's ok, you can stay here. I have things to do.

Fall is almost over! I can't believe it. It really shook me up when my kids told me yesterday that they felt like time is passing 'so fast mom--it feels like Dallin was just born!'. I thought adults were the only one who could sense that fast pace of time. Since we are looking forward to Thanksgiving now, I wanted to share a bit about this fall. There was one day when David was going to be gone most of the day and so I decided that rather than waste the bizarrely beautiful, warm fall weather, that the boys and I would turn it into a Fall Surprise Party. I love surprising others with things I know they will love and so I relished teasing them a bit to hurry and finish their chores cause they don't want to miss the awesome surprise I had in store for them.  We left close to lunch time so for a fun treat I took the boys to pick up something to eat at Wendies. I rarely to a fast food run so they knew this was part of the fun surprise. They were happily munching away as I drove them across town and over toward the opposite side of the valley. They hounded me about where we were going but I just smiled and shook my head---nope! Not telling. As I got closer to our destination the boys started yelling that they knew what the surprise was...the Pumpkin Patch! There are some wonderful people who put together a fun straw maze for kids, hay rides and a pumpkin patch to pick out of. They also have this cute old fashioned 'Mercantile' type store that sells mostly cutesy things like candles, soaps, and figurines. So we paid the admittance fee (just $2 for the older two boys and Dallin and I were free) and went to play in the straw maze. The boys ran ahead, leaving me and Dallin in their dust and were having a blast as they found hidden scary surprises in the maze. I had to laugh when I cam across a skeletal deer carcass in the maze with some pretend  people party (arms, legs) in the rib Eastern Oregon! I loved watching Dallin charge ahead, so bravely going around every corner with purpose. He almost seemed to resent that I was following him.Once I even had to ask Eli to help cause he crawled through a hole in the straw bales and I couldn't reach him. Eli and Preston are such good big brothers. When we were done with the maze we found that the mercantile store sold salt water taffy and suckers. The boys wanted the suckers (they were those big fun flavored ones) and I wanted the taffy so we got our treats and headed out very content. We all shared 'tastes' with Dallin and Preston decided as his suckers was almost gone that he would let Dallin have the rest. I had to stop for some gas and when I looked back at Dallin sucking away he gave me a huge grin. What a life.

After they pumpkin patch the boys were thanking me for the day, what a great surprise etc., but I told them we weren't done! I wouldn't tell them where we were going but we drove and drove back toward our side of town. They were speculating about what we else we could possibly do and then I slowed down as we got to Riverside Park. I got out some rakes I had stowed in the back of the suburban and we had a ball raking up the huge drifts of leaves (the park has some wonderful big maple trees) and pushed all of them into a big pile. Then we began to play! We burried eachother in the leaves, have leaf fights etc. The big boys were having a great wild time with it. Dallin would throw a couple handfuls and then try to run off toward the playground. I would let him go several yards before I would scoop him up and bring him back. Once though I let him get closer and I noticed two of Eli's boy classmates in the park. I invited them (and their Moms) to come play in the leaves with us. They ran over and gleefully dove in. This is where it got a little funny. When Preston realized that their were other people (and not his own particular friends) being crazy about the leaves, he all of sudden became very possessive. "You guys are messing up our pile, don't throw the leaves etc. etc." I tried to reason with him that we are all playing, and it's fin to throw them...I demonstrated how easy it was to rake the leaves back into a pile. Instead of calming down Preston became angry and anxious, scooping up big piles of leaves from the main pile to 'go make my own stack--and you guys can't play with it!'. It was too funny! Poor kid.

David surprises the boys that same weekend with three huge pumpkins that a friend gave the family. They are really enormous kinds of pumpkins so the boys were thrilled. David, who usually lets me take on the pumpkin carving duties, realized that he had an electric saw that might be perfect for carving this large thick-walled pumpkin! We went online and as a family picked out a face we liked. Eli and David wanted scary faces, Preston wanted a 'not scary face' or at least a smile and I was indifferent. We ended up with a smiling scary face. Then my job was to sketch it onto the pumpkin (mean while the boys are scooping out the 'guts'). At last David brought in the knife looking electric saw and began carving. It was so impressive how nice and quick the carving went! At lsat we found a candle put it inside and lit up the jack-o-lantern. The boys raced to turn off the lights and then we all gazed admiringly at the family handy work.

Halloween was last week. Eli knew who wanted to be a scary chef with the chef costume his Aunt Ana had gotten him the previous Christmas. I had bought Dallin a cute Dragon costume that I picked because it was a warm and had a hood. and Preston had been planning to be another transformer. Halloween landed on a Thursday this year and the boys still have school the next day, so we didn't have any huge plans for Halloween beyond the classic trick-or-treating. Suffice it to say, I wasn't really into the idea of building Preston another Transformer costume. Last year we had made an Optimus Prime costume out of boxes and spray paint. I love making it with him--and was so happy that he loved the final product so much, but this year he was at a school that doesn't celebrate Halloween and except for the dark door to door trick-or-treating he would have no where to where his costume. I kept putting things off until the day before Halloween and finally we went to look for stuff to make his costume. I tried to convince him to pick something else as we didn't have the time or money to make a costume he was gonna where in the dark and cold for an hour. He stubbornly refused every idea as I took him (and his two brothers) to four different stores. At last I said, ok, I'm done you are going to have to figure something out with what we have at home. The next day after school we got the kids ready. Eli was fun---he wanted a scary face which was easy! Dallin, I put in his costume and he flipped out. Absolutely hated his costume (the hood annoyed him) and he was hysterical by the time I pulled the costume off him. Preston was sullen and said he just wouldn't go, but at least decided to be Ironman with an Ironman mask and a large red sweater. I planned to stay with the still sobbing Dallin at home (although I was disappointed--I wanted to go join the fun too!). But then I remembered a pair of superman pajamas he had gotten from his cousin. It even had a little cape! So we got him in his pj costume and least we got out the door to collect bags of candy!

My favorite moment from that evening was when I was walking with the big boys up the street (David was hanging with Dallin at his parents house for a bit) and Eli suddenly said, "Mom, you know what I love most about Halloween?" I assumed he was going to talk about the plentiful treats but he surprised me with, "I love how we get to go say hi to all these people we have never met!" I laughed cause it was so like his Grandpa Westenskow and so opposite of his dad.

All in all, it's been a pretty good fall! Even thought I don't' love the cold of winter, I am looking forward to the cozy days of reading to the kids in front of the fire, or watching a movie with some hot cocoa in hand.  I know that before long I am going to look back and say, "Where did the time go?"

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fire in the hole!

 It's October and I have to give you an image. It's 8 AM and you see a woman with a baby in tow...wearing a nice black dress coat pushing a cart full of splatter targets and clay pigeons and infant cold medicine. Yep--that was me. Top priorities on my list. You see, David has bought the boys a 'Rascal' 22 gun. It's basically a 22 but smaller for kids to be able to use. He has taken out the kids a couple times and they have shot pop cans filled with their own pee....charming I know. They have a blast though and I love that David and the boys are bonding over such fun memories. However, last night Eli told me that he is becoming a pretty good shot and 'Mom--I only missed a squirrel by six inches!". Now I love to be delighted with my kids accomplishments--that's why they are excited to tell me things--cause I love to be happy with them! HE looked confused when my face fell a bit and I with what I am sure looked like an injured small smile I said, "Why would you shoot a squirrel?" Now I know men and boys have been entertained for years by running around shooting birds and squirrels....but it doesn't mean I like it or approved it. After a discussion (which is a small word compared to the reality of the discussion) as to why I don't like the idea of hunting animals we aren't going to use or eat, the boys seemed to understand. I didn't want to spoil their fun though and have enjoyed shooting targets myself. I remembered a fun time when my friends and I went with some boys to clay pigeon shoot (they are clay discs you throw in the air and try to shoot---and they shatter on impact). I had a lot of fun and was so thrilled when I shot and shattered a clay pigeon! So after that discussion and realizing I better have a great alternative for my boys...I found that I could buy 90 clay pigeons for just $10 at walmart. I also went online for more fun target ideas that don't spill innocent blood and here is what I found: water balloons as targets, filling empty plastic bottle with food colored water as targets, crackers (feed the birds!) strung up as targets, squash (feed our chickens!) etc. I can't wait to show my boys the cool fun targets they will get to shoot and I love that they will have a lot of fun---without wasting life. :)

So the boys have a wonderful Grandmother---well two really, but the one that lives in La Grande has this absolute creative wonderful mind when it come to holidays. She loves to make the magic in creative fun ways so the other day, in the mailbox we found a letter from 'The Witch'. The witch invited us to a wonderful Halloween dinner featuring Mummy Bones (BBQ Ribs), Squashed Troll (Squash), Cheesy bat tongs( cheesy pasta), Ghost Hats (biscuits), Witches teeth (corn),and  Graveyard Garden (salad). It was so fun! She wore a witches hat and an owl necklace and she had made little creative signs which she had put into each of the dishes and her rule was that we had to refer to the dishes as the names she had given them. The boys were of course delighted and exclaimed how it was "the best Halloween Dinner ever!" Then Grandma brought out dessert. Chocolate Spider Cake! She used chocolate truffles for the spider body and cut black licorice to make the legs and red licorice for the eyes.

So it has been getting cooler and we have had several days with a fire to warm up the house. Normally we stack the wood all in the front closet so it's out of the way. I saw we, but it is really David and the boys. Normally the big boys (Preston and Eli) do it, but one day David set a smaller piece down and Dallin got to it and grunted with the effort, but picked it up and solemnly carried it to the closet. We laughed at his cute little face so solemn with the weight of his duty being filled and then when he would set it down he would swing his arms and brush his hands together. We sheered for him and since then he has become a regular little helper.

I know it has been a while since I have been on this blog. But the summer was so busy and full. I have a lot of pics and so perhaps some cold wintry day when I am longing for summer, I will post our summer pics and stories!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Family Reunion Pics!

We paid for the copyright of the pics--and she can make more editing changes as needed. These were the best, in her opinion, of each of the poses. Let me know what you think and if you think there needs to be any changes (she can edit heads from other pics etc.) ~Olivia