Get a Haircut Hippie! :P

>> Monday, December 30, 2013

Jared was getting ready and I noticed how long his hair has gotten!!! I told him he needed to get a haircut so people wouldn't mistake him for a hippie.....or a Chia Pet! LOL!!!!!


From our Family to Yours- 2013!!!

>> Friday, December 27, 2013

Hello Family & Friends!

     This year has flown by, and it’s been a full of ups and downs. We were very lucky this summer and had the chance to take a family vacation with my longtime friend and her family at The Hotel Del Coronado, in California. It was absolutely a dream vacation, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has never been. The beaches are pristine, and the hotel is stunning. The kids still talk about it and ask when we can go back. I think that they will just have to hang on to those memories though. It was certainly a once in a life time trip! In July we took another family vacation to see Jared’s family in Utah. 
We stopped at the Hoover Dam, saw his cousins that live in the Salt Lake area, took the kids to see the Salt Lake Temple, had a whiz-bang fun time at Lagoon, and had a nice visit with his Dad and Step-Mom up in Tremonton! Crazily, we also built a swimming pool this summer. We got a late start and had a few setbacks, so it didn’t get finished until the middle of September. It made for a short swimming season, but Jared did jump in about a week ago and froze to death. So it’s still bringing great enjoyment!! LOL!

     On another note, Jared was let go from Coppersmith at the end of August and if the leads he’s currently looking into don’t work out, he might start up his own business again. He’d been with Coppersmith for over 12 years, and it was not expected. They did tell him however, that it was strictly a business decision and there was nothing he did wrong or could have done differently to change their minds. They told him they’ve loved having him there and would give him an excellent recommendation. They outsourced his job to a 3rd party. It was quite a blow, but over the past several months, we have been blessed in so many ways through the generosity and kindness of family, friends, and anonymous angels. I think I could write several pages on just this matter. It’s been so humbling and heartwarming! God is good!! Jared was also just called to be the Ward Clerk in the new Bishopric last month. This calling will require him to be gone a lot, he will be putting in lots of hours at the church, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve our Ward Family. Jared has also finished all of his Cisco and Microsoft certifications that he started last year! So proud of him!!

     As for myself I’ve started watching my friend’s two little-ones 3 days a week. They are full of energy, and its helped fill in the gaps while Jared continues to look for work/clients. In May, Alayna, my Mom, and I were able to take a wonderful “Mother-Daughter” trip to San Diego! The weather was gorgeous, and it was so much fun spending some girl time together! In August, I was called back to Primary as the Second Counselor, and I’m still very involved in the Cub Scout program. 

     Walker is in 8th grade and is now an official teenager. He turned 13 this summer. Next year he will enter High School, and we are all excited for the new experiences he will have there. Walker is in all Honors Classes, and I’m so thankful Jared is able to help him with his homework!! LOL!! Walker is still playing the drums/percussion in band, and in the spring, he will get to go to Disneyland and participate in a Disney Soundtrack Session Workshop. He’s really looking forward to going. He was inducted into National Junior Honor Society; he qualified for Golden Scholars (Academic Night); he’s teaching piano lessons, and he’s on the school newspaper. He just earned his Life rank in Scouts and is hoping to earn his Eagle by his 14th birthday this summer. In October he was also called to be the Secretary in the Deacon’s Quorum Presidency at church. He’s just been a ‘little’ busy! :) He’s so fun, and we are just enjoying watching him grow into an amazing young man!

     Eli is in the 5th grade and is 10 years old. He’s involved in lots of activities and loves it! He earned his Bear in Cub Scouts; he’s rockin’ it in Chorus, and has had the chance to show off some hidden dancing skills in his concerts! Eli started playing the saxophone, which thrills Jared to no end that his boy is following in his footsteps. Jared says Eli is pretty good for just a beginner! :) Eli is also still playing the piano. In April he sprained his foot pretty bad and was on crutches for about a month and then in a walking boot. He was not a fan. He was able to start football back up this fall now that it’s healed, and he’s so much fun to watch! He was chosen again this year to be a Peace Helper at school. He also qualified for Academic Night and is in A.L.P. for math and language. In September he got new reading glasses, and they have helped his headaches to disappear. Eli is in the Oceanography Club and, at the beginning of the new year, he will get to take a trip to San Diego, California. Eli loves to be involved in as much as he can. He has a hard time just sitting still!

     Alayna is in 1st grade and will be turning 7 this month! My baby isn’t a baby anymore. She lost her 1st tooth in January and has lost several more over the past year. The Tooth Fairy might go broke if she doesn’t slow down! :) In August she started ballet and tried out to be in The Nutcracker. She was chosen to be an Angel and a Mouse. Unfortunately, we had to withdraw her since Jared lost his job. Dance is not an inexpensive activity. On a brighter note we had a wonderful lady in our Ward offer to teach Alayna piano free of charge until we are able to find work again. (I couldn’t just allow her to do that though, and she is allowing me to pay her in baked goods!! LOL!) Alayna is doing excellent in school and loves reading and math! She is very artistic and loves to draw. We will be keeping a close eye on this one as she seems to have many admirers at school, and Mom and Dad are already worried about the teenage years ahead!

     As you can see, it’s been quite a year for our family, and through it all, we are thankful we have each other and each one of you! We hope you and your families are well, and we send our love.

We wish you a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!!

The Kitch’s


Christmas Day 2013...It's a Wonderful Life!!!

>> Thursday, December 26, 2013

Words cannot describe the gratitude our family has this year for all of our many blessings. We had "many" Secret Santas visit our home and made Christmas for our family possible. I really don't know what we would have done with out them. The few days leading up to Christmas we had lot of special deliveries. Most were anonymous. The most popular was the "ding-dong-ditch" method! :P

We had baskets full of goodies, gift cards, cash, boxes of food, bags of clothing, already wrapped gifts for everyone in the family, toys, books, the list goes on. It was absolutely humbling. We were overcome with emotions and the reminder that our family is loved and thought of by so many. 

 We don't know who they were, but we are grateful from the bottom of our hearts!! We pray God will bless them and their families for being angels in our life. Their acts of love and service to us will never be forgotten. My cup runneth over!!  

 The entire front room was filled with amazing gifts. This picture doesn't even show you a fraction of what was really there. A lot of it was stashed behind the tree, table, and chair!

The kids were a "little" excited!

 After the mayhem! :P

Even though this Christmas has been difficult, we will never forget the joy we've been able to feel dispite our circumstances. We felt a little bit like George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life", as our friends/family came to our home to help us. We are so blessed to have so many wonderful and thoughtful people in our lives!!!

Merry Christmas!!!


Christmas Eve 2013

>> Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Every year we go to Grandma and Grandpa Morrison's for Christmas Eve. Before we open gifts all the grandkids that want to or, have prepared a musical number, give us a little talent show. :)

This year the entertainment was hosted by yours truly..The Kitch Family! :P

 Alayna started taking piano this year so she gave us a sweet little performance of  "Jingle Bells". She did great! 

Eli played, "Looking Glass River" and "Promenade". He has such a natural talent for music. 

Walker played, " Pachelbel Canon" and "Linus and Lucy". I love hearing him play.

 The audience was captivated! :)

 The big finale was all the of the grandkids...well at least more than half of them...sang "Silent Night" with Walker accompanying them. :)

 We enjoyed the evening together with all of the family and ate until we had to roll ourselves home before Santa made his delivery!!


Mesa Temple Christmas Lights

>> Tuesday, December 24, 2013

We visited the Mesa Temple Christmas Lights for F.H.E. this week. They had a lot of new displays that were beautiful. I wish I had taken pictures of everything. Sometimes it's nice not worrying about the camera and just soaking in the moment. :)They also had a new movie in the visitor's center about Jesus' birth. It was a nice evening as a family. :)



Walker's Band Christmas Concert

>> Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Walker had his Christmas Concert for band last night and they sounded so good!!!!!

I just love hearing how much they improve every year. It brings back such memories for me as I sit and listen to them play and at this point they are able to play some pretty technical music and it brings me so much joy to watch! :) 

 I think what I get a kick out of the most is watching him concentrate so hard and I can see his mouth silently counting out the beats! :P Love it!

This guy is growing up so fast and I'm trying to drink in every moment of it before I blink and he's a grown man! 

We had a fun night! Great job Walker!


The Velveteen Rabbit

>> Friday, December 13, 2013

As I posted before Alayna has been sick a lot this year and she missed her class' field trip they took earlier this year and then this week she had a fever and Walking Pneumonia so she was pretty worried she wasn't going to make it again!!! Thankfully however, she turned around pretty quick once she got on the medications the doctor prescribed and she was able to go...and I got to go too!!! :)

We went to the Tempe Center for the Arts where Child's Play put on the production of The Velveteen Rabbit. It was really cute and perfect for 1st graders! :)

After the play we went to Tumbleweed Park in Chandler to have lunch and for the kids to play! It was a beautiful day out and I felt so lucky I got to go with my sweet girl!! :)


'Tis the Season to be Sick

>> Thursday, December 12, 2013

Poor Alayna has had a really rough year this year. She can't seem to stay well! She's missed 11 days so far and students are only allowed to miss 10 before they threaten to send a truant officer...which we've already received a letter for a few weeks ago. 

Alayna had a fever Monday and Tuesday so I kept her home. Wednesday she was fever free but still had this awful cough. It was incessant and sounded terrible. I thought she was ok to go to school so I sent her. Her teacher told me she had a rough day at school with all the coughing and by the time she got home she sounded even worse, so we took her to Urgent Care. It's our favorite place!!!! NOT!!

They gave her a breathing treatment and ran some scans. 

It turns out she has Walking Pneumonia!!! I don't always win the award for World's Greatest Mom...I felt horrible for sending her to school. :( They gave her antibiotics and Albuterol to help her breathe easier. They told her she could go to school but she'd need to take the RX's at school too. No running around like a crazy girl, take it easy and stay warm...especially at recess. 

By the end of the day today she was already sounding so much better and feeling better. We are so relieved. She hadn't had a good nights rest all week because she couldn't breathe with out coughing. Thank goodness for modern medicine and health insurance!!!!


Eli's Christmas Band Concert!

>> Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Eli is totally rockin' the sax this year. This is his 1st year playing and he's really quite good! He had his Christmas Concert tonight and it was fun watching him! He was very excited about tonight!!!

 I took these shots on the video camera since I had to go solo. Jared was with Alayna at the doctor and Walker was at Scouts. Don't worry though..I documented all of it so we can all watch it together as a family this weekend! :)


Alayna's 7th Birthday...A Pinkie Pie Pony Party!!!!!

>> Saturday, December 7, 2013

Having a birthday in December can be really tricky. In past years I've had Alayna's parties the weekend before Christmas Break but this year I tried doing it 2 weeks earlier and that didn't seem to work out any better. She still had a great turn out but we were missing quite a bit of family. 

This year Alayna has become obsessed with My Little Pony. She watches is as much as she possibly can and so to fit with tradition we themed her birthday after what she loved most that year!

I usually make a big cake which can be pretty time consuming and labor intensive but this year she said she just wanted cupcakes and I was happy to accommodate! :)

The kids enjoyed some coloring pages. 

L to R: Lizzy, Cy, Emmy, Emma, Elsie, Ashlynn, Alayna, Meda, Morgan, Madina, Ava & Justin
These cutie pie kiddos were ready for some pinata action!!!

But not before a goofy picture first! LOL!

This year I got my craftiness on and made (with Jared's help) the pinata. It turned out really cute! I was pleased and Alayna was very happy!

My beautiful birthday girl!!!!!

We also made a Pin the tail on Pinkie Pie. :)

Nice try! LOL!!!!! :D Her face is priceless!

Some of her bday gifts!

It was a great party. It started out REALLY cold outside and the kids kept coming in
to try to warm up. By the end the temp started to rise and everyone had a wonderful time! One of Alayna's friends said it was "The Best Day Ever!!!!" :)

Happy Birthday Baby Girl!


A Christmas Carol...By the Mustachios!!!

>> Friday, December 6, 2013

Walker and 3 of his buddies performed at the Ward Christmas Party this year!!! The boys did a fantastic job and it was the HIT of the night! We were all dying laughing. 

If you don't recognize him he's the one on the far right. They have been given the name as the "Mustachios" and have already been requested to perform again next year! :P

Jared put the video on youtube so I'll just copy the link below and you can watch their fantastic performance! :)


Walker Earned His "Life"

>> Thursday, December 5, 2013

Walker earned his Life Rank Advancement in Scouts tonight! He's been diligently working his way through the Scouting Program and he's hoping to get his Eagle by his 14th birthday this summer!!!

Way to go Walker!!!


Eli's Ho, Ho, Ho-liday Chorus Conert!

Eli had his Christmas Concert tonight and it was great! They boys had a special number where they came down from the bleachers and showed off some super cute choreography. Eli has some awesome dance moves! He said during the school performance a lot of the kids came up to him afterwards and told him how great he did and that he was really funny! :)

What a cute Santa!! :)


Birthday Love..

>> Sunday, December 1, 2013

Jared wrote me this beautiful tribute today. He's not much for words so when these moments come I want to document them! :)

"My wife, Vanessa, doesn't like when her birthday falls on the same weekend as Thanksgiving, but I think it's perfect. Those of you who are her friend as well on here have seen over the past month where the good parts of me come from. Her month long Thanksgiving gives a glimpse of the person that she is. She embodies everything that I am thankful for. She makes my home more peaceful, my kids more high-minded, my life more fun, my faults less noticeable. I am a better person because of her example of following His example. She is the perfect partner, and I know that we belong with each other. Like most marriages, we have our disagreements, but I always know that she loves me and that our marriage covenant will weather anything. I know that I can make her a higher priority than myself because she reciprocates. I don't want to imagine where my life would be without her. Happy Birthday Vanessa! I love you more than you know."

I think I found myself a keeper! This past Thanksgiving also marks our 20 year anniversary. He asked me to be his girlfriend all those years ago! :)


30 Days of Gratitude

>> Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving and Fall have always been my favorite holiday and time of year. I love that this particular holiday is simple and pure. Gathering everyone I love around me, giving thanks to my Father in Heaven, and having a wonderful meal together! 

There are no costumes to buy, Valentine's to worry about, or wondering if I forgot someone on my Christmas list. There are no expectations or concerns the Easter Bunny is going to be late, figuring out how to stay cool in July as we try to figure out where to watch fireworks, or making New Year's resolutions that I probably won't be able to keep. LOL! Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday! :)

Every year I take the month of November and make a more concerted effort to think about the blessings in my life. I've posted them on Face Book in prior years but this year I tried to delve a little deeper into why I'm thankful for certain things..not just ramble off a list, but really give it some thought. 

When I began posting these things I'm "Thankful For", it was really for my own inventory and to acknowledge these gifts in my life and to keep a record of it. I didn't foresee the impact it would have on my family and friends. I've been extremely humbled and touched by the outpouring of positive things so many have written to me. I will share them at the end of this post.  

30 Days of Gratitude:

1&2- In the midst of everything that has been going on this week I missed the fact that yesterday was the 1st day of November. I love this time of year and this holiday season to be able to set aside time to really count my blessings and recognize all that I have to be thankful for. Since I missed yesterday I will begin with 2 blessings in my life. I'm thankful for my loving husband who despite all that has come our way in the past 20 years he leads our family with strength, love, and wisdom. I'm also thankful for modern medicine and that we have access to it when we need it.

3- Thankful for the power of prayer. It matters not our circumstance, be we humble or arrogant, poor or rich, free or enslaved, learned or ignorant, loved or forsaken, we can address Him. My heart swells with gratitude that He loves us so much that He provided this gift to all of us to come unto Him whenever and wherever we are. He is listening.

4- Thankful for my 3 beautiful children. Each of them bring joy and light to everyone they meet. They are amazing people who work hard, strive to do what is right, and constantly teach me what is most important in life. They have a personal relationship with their Heavenly Father and know they are His children. I'm extremely blessed to be their mom and be apart of their lives. It's not always easy but it is absolutely worth it! My dream has always been to be a mother.

5- Thankful for the amazing friends in my life. Each of them help me want to strive to do better and live better. I'm humbled by their examples of strength, generosity, compassion, service, faith, and love.

6- Thankful for my home and all that it provides. A refuge from the world, a warm place to sleep, and place to gather my loved ones. It is a sanctuary of learning and growing in temporal & spiritual ways. It allows me the ability cook special meals for family & friends. My home offers me a secure place to be a mother & wife. It gives my family a retreat to create memories together. It is my little piece of heaven on earth!

7- Thankful for my awesome visiting teachers! Even though they have their own families, careers, and struggles, they never hesitate to serve me and my family. They edify the meaning of charity. They are more than fellow members of my church. They are my sisters.  BTW - Thank you for the fantastic banana splits!! ;D

8- Thankful for the Scouting Program and that it teaches my boys to put God 1st, Family 2nd, and Country 3rd. It helps them in their physical, mental and spiritual development as they learn to "Be Prepared" and to "Do a Good Turn Daily". I'm thankful for their leaders and all the time, energy, and patience as they guide my boys on their path to be good men. Today is a great example as Eli participates in his school's Veteran's Day Ceremony and honors those men and women who have served our country.

9- Thankful for the Temple. It is a sacred place where I am able to truly be removed from the noise and distractions of the world. I am able to feel the presence and love of my Heavenly Father so closely each time I enter His Holy House. The Temple refines me as an individual and helps me strive to be a better person. It helps me to love more deeply, become more selfless, and to be more teachable and humble. It is a physical reminder that He has not removed Himself from us and that He wishes all of us to come "home" to Him. It brings great blessings to my life.

10- Thankful for my trials. Even though I would never ask for them, my Heavenly Father knows me more perfectly than I know myself, and allows me to grow in ways I wouldn't be able to otherwise. As I sit in the middle of the refiner’s fire even today I know I'm being shaped and molded by His hands to become the person He wants me to be. Some days are extremely hard but through His love and His guiding hand I have been able to witness the generosity, kindness, love, prayers, comfort, and service of the angels on this earth that He has sent and continues to send as my family and I endure. I'm strengthened by these moments as they come in different times and seasons of my life. They help me to understand others struggles and pains and hopefully I can in turn support and lift them as we travel in our journey of life. Life can be hard...really, really hard... He never said it would be easy, He only said it would be worth it!

11- Thankful for the men and women who have served and continue to serve our beautiful country. I'm blessed to live in a country that is free and allows me the liberties and choices I desire. Because of their sacrifices I am given so many freedoms. I'm thankful for the right to vote, worship as I believe, marry whom I love, live where I desire, and I am able to raise all of my children. These heroic citizens allow us to live our lives with the freedoms we all expect, enjoy, and all too often take for granted. We can live the American Dream thanks to these brave men and women. I'm thankful to their families as well. What an example of strength it is to stand by their father, mother, brother, sister, wife, cousin, friend, as they are called away and know they will need to sacrifice their precious time together. I'm thankful for these amazing selfless individuals. Happy Veteran's Day!

12- Thankful for our health. It has been a little over 2 1/2 years since Jared has had a relapse and for that I'm truly grateful! Even though his illness weighs on my mind daily we are blessed that it rarely affects his daily life to the point he is unable to function. He does have good days and bad days but, we are fortunate that the good typically outweigh the bad. I'm thankful that my children are healthy and have strong minds and bodies that allow them the freedoms and joys to explore and play. I'm also grateful for my own health that enables me to take care of my family and even accomplish the most mundane chores of daily life. There have been times due to injury/illness I have yearned to make a sandwich for my daughter, walk painlessly while grocery shopping, and do my family's laundry. It's easy to take these things we easily do each day for granted until that moment when we are unable. When I was 11 years old I sat in the room with my Grandmother who was fighting an uphill battle with brain cancer and she shared words of wisdom with me I will never forget. She said, "Vanessa if you don't have your health, you don't have anything." I took to heart her words and try to live a healthy life. Things of course come our way that are beyond our control. This day however, I find my family in good health and I am deeply grateful!

13- Thankful for hope and faith. Throughout my life they have carried me through. Each has given me the strength and courage to overcome. I'm buoyed in times of trials and difficulties. They encourage me to forge ahead, as I've face unpleasant realities. I try to recognize the beauties of life around me. I recently read a quote that says, “Two men look out through the same bars: One sees the mud, and one the stars”, in spite of my trials, I cling to my faith and hope, and try to allow myself to be filled with a sense of well-being. On many occasions I'm successful and others not so much. There are certainly times my hope has faded and I've succumbed to feelings of desperation and discouragement...I'm human after all...But I've discovered that sitting in that place doesn't change my situation, it doesn't improve my well-being, it doesn't help me to move forward, so I do the best I can to put one foot in front of the other and hold fast to hope and faith. "Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." D&C 123:17.

14- Thankful for my children’s teachers & leaders. It is said, “The greatest work we will ever do will be within the walls of our home.” I believe this with all of my heart. Building a strong family, community, and nation begins at home. However, we can't keep our little ones in a bubble, even though I'd really love to do that, and we must send them out into the world. It brings me great comfort to know when I do let these precious spirits leave my care, that they have wonderful adults and mentors in their life that help reiterate the lessons and ideals we try so desperately to instill in them, before the noise and distractions of the world grab hold and convince them otherwise. I appreciate the time, energy, and example they provide for my children. These selfless individuals are helping Jared and me to shape and mold these little people into productive members of society who have integrity, character, a good education, and a strong faith. Without them our job as parents would even more challenging than it already is. To know my children are surrounded by others that love and respect them for who they are and see their potential means the world to us. Thank you to each of you who have and continue to bless our children’s lives with all that you do!

15- Thankful for family history. Since I was little I've always loved to take pictures, journal, scrapbook, and now blog. As I've gotten older I've come to enjoy learning about my grandparents and the lives of my ancestors. It’s very grounding to know what kind of people they were and to see if I can find any of their traits in myself. I love reading about how they came to live where they did, and why they made those choices. Some by way of their own decisions, others were called. Reading about their families and the things that weighed on their minds, their joys, friends, day to day chores, and struggles give me a better insight to their character and who they were as individuals. Some had trials beyond my comprehension. One I recall lost 11 of her 13 a mother I cannot even begin to image the heartache. Some have stories of braving the West and settling “The waste places” and doing their best to make a good life for their families. I have precious love letters that my Great- Great Grandfather and Grandmother wrote to one another as they were courting. I’m thankful that my family has kept journals/records and that I have many of them at my fingertips. If I ever need a dose of perspective I just dive into those amazing lives of those who have come before me and take notes on how truly blessed I am and how far I've been able to come because of their sacrifices, hard work, and desire to do and give more to their loved ones. I’m also thankful for these entries as they came in quite handy this week as Eli had a report due today on how his ancestors immigrated to America. We easily could pick from several individuals because we had these treasured documents. In case you were wondering who he chose, he picked Samuel Fuller. He is Eli’s 11th Great-Grand Uncle. He was the doctor and surgeon on the Mayflower! 

16- Thankful for my parents. Both came from very humble homes and they are both the oldest in their families. Being the oldest siblings of large families a lot of responsibilities fell to them. They learned a great work ethic. I’m thankful to them for passing that down to me. I enjoy tackling a task and the gratification it gives me when I've attained a goal. I’m thankful to them for loving me even when I’m not so loveable and teaching me that family always comes first. They support me in my decisions even when they may not understand or necessarily agree with them. My mom has always been my soft place to fall and my dad has always been my protector. They both march to the beat of their own drum and are two of the most unique people I've ever met. I’m not a child anymore but I still need my mom and dad, I always will. I am one of the fortunate ones that was raised by both a mother and father…I know not everyone has that blessing….and I’m thankful for all of the sacrifices they've made for me over the years. I wouldn't be who I am today without them.

17- Thankful for the children in Primary. Every week I get to spend time serving in the Primary. I love the sweetness of these innocent children. They have the pure love of Christ in their hearts. It’s such a joy to see their eyes light up when they begin to understand the lessons they are taught each week. On many occasions they teach me about the simple truths instead of the other way around. I love to hear their comments, giggles, and watch them support each other when someone may be having a bad day. We have some really amazing children on our Ward and I feel that my life is blessed by knowing each and every one of them.

18-Thankful for Now. The way every moment is a new beginning. Right now is a perfect time to start over. This moment is a brand new opportunity to rebuild what I truly want. When things begin to feel overwhelming I try to not think about what might have been, and starting looking at what can be. There are three little words that release me from past struggles and regrets and guide me forward. They are: “From now on…”

19-Thankful for my hands. They are a beautiful gift that enable me to create new things, hold hands with loved ones, pray, serve those around me, make delicious meals for my family, and hold friends and family close. It’s amazing how with each set of hands everyone has their own unique fingerprints. Some hands are small, tender, and soft and others are worn, wrinkled, and seen many seasons of life. Each express the life they have been a part of. Hands enable us to carry and be carried. To touch one another’s lives. We shake hands to greet, agree, and as form of a binding contract. We reach out our hands to connect to humanity. My hands have enabled me to bless those around me and others' hands have certainly blessed my life!

20-I am thankful for seasons. I am thankful that seasons bring change. We can mark the passing of time through the passing of seasons. I can see new growth and change in myself and the world around me as I move from season to season. These seasons move me, mark me, and change me. Seasons of joy and sorrow, faith and frustration. Each high seems to have an equal low and each low an equal high. There are seasons of planting and seasons of harvest, and soon enough the time will come when I will be able to reap the amazing harvest of all that was sewn while I was diligently planting. I try and take time each day to stop, be still, and be thankful for the season I am in. In every season I try to find hope, joy, and passion. In every season there is beauty to be found.....I love fall! 

21-Thankful for the ability to read. I read recently that, only about one third of the world’s population has internet access. And there are roughly 774 million people in the world who aren’t educated enough to read. I feel privileged and blessed to be counted among the number of people that have had the gift of a good education and the ability to read. Learning to read changes your life forever. You gain immediate access into the world of make-believe and a front row seat to new discoveries. It is empowering and uplifting. I spent a few years as a Teacher’s Assistant in a Resource classroom. The students I worked with had reading levels all across the board and I can tell you that no one understands the importance of reading more than those who can’t read yet. I am grateful that not only can I read, but that I can teach others to as well. Being a mother the ability to read has taken on yet another dimension. Reading to and with my own children is wonderful…and having them read to me brings me so much joy!

22-Thankful for my life. This life gives me the chance to experience all that I’m experiencing and will be experiencing in time to come. I feel blessed at the unique privilege to be me. I embrace my individuality…however, it hasn't happened overnight, it’s a lifelong process. I have the sense of sight, letting me see the colors of life, and the ability to read anything I choose. The sense of hearing, letting me hear the trickle of rain, the voices of my loved ones, and the harmonious chords of music. Sense of touch, letting me feel the texture of my clothes, the breeze of the wind, and the hands of those around me. The sense of smell, allowing me breathe in the warm aroma of baking desserts, scrumptious dinners, and beautiful flowers. Sense of taste, letting me savor the sweetness of fruits, the saltiness of seawater, the sourness of pickles, the bitterness of a walnut, and the spiciness of chili. My speech, for giving me the outlet to express myself. My heart, for pumping blood to all the parts of my body every second since I was born (this is especially important to me since I have heart issues now); for giving me the ability to feel. Even though sometimes I think I feel too much. My lungs, for letting me breathe so I can live. My hands, so I can photograph the beauty I see around me, flip the pages of books, and hold the hands of my family and friends. My feet, for letting me walk (even though it still isn't as far as I would like). I can walk further than 3 years ago. My mind, for the ability to think, to store memories, and to create new solutions. Being blessed with one more day on earth is not one everyone is afforded. Too many days are wasted comparing ourselves to others and wishing to be someone or something we aren't. Every one of us has our own strengths and weaknesses, and it is only when we accept everything we are, and aren't, that we will truly find the happiness and fulfillment we seek. Life is good!

23- Thankful for mistakes. I am grateful for the blunders I’ve made and the faults I have, as they are what make me stronger physically and mentally. They prepare me for the next obstacle. I’ve been able to gain insight and knowledge through each experience. I have failed over and over in my life, and I’m sure I will continue to. However, I will also continue to get up, pull up my boot straps, and try again. If I never made mistakes I would never learn anything new. Mistakes stretch me as a person. They help me to uncover what works and what doesn’t. The greatest classroom is our own experiences. The pain from some of my mistakes will definitely prevent me from making them in the future, which enables me to become the individual I aspire to be. Some say there are no failures or mistakes…only lessons learned.

24- Thankful for forgiveness. Although forgiveness is something we give to a person, in the end it is a gift to ourselves. Without forgiveness, one can become hard and bitter, not just toward the person who has done the wrong but to many around us because bitterness doesn’t have boundaries. I’m thankful for forgiveness because it allows me to let go of the vengeances and makes room for love, compassion and the understanding that my life is not defined by hurt. Forgiving doesn’t justify the wrong. However, I also don’t need my offenders to “pay” for what they did. There is power in forgiveness. It relieves me of my selfishness and pride. Once I release control, which I really have no control over anyway, I am able to grow and be unchained.  When I don’t forgive others, I become captive to unforgiveness, and it affects many aspects of my life and robs me of joy. Many times, the offender never even knows they have offended me, and they go on living their lives free from worry and bitterness. This took me a long time to realize. In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?" And Jesus replies, “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!" And no, that does not mean on the 491st time they are out of luck. I am to always forgive. I'm also thankful for the unconditional forgiveness I receive from the Lord - all I have to do is ask. To be forgiven is absolutely liberating when I am guilty of something I have done or said. I'm thankful that although I am far from perfect, all my sins are forgiven because Christ died on the cross for me. And because I'm forgiven, there's a promise of eternity. I'm also thankful for friends and family that believe in forgiving "seventy times seven," and have forgiven me over the years. Because I have been forgiven, this allows me to forgive others, and I must.  I admit it, some things are not easy to forgive, but the Lord helps me during these times. With Jesus Christ as my lawyer, arguing on my behalf, bestowing His righteousness on me, I don’t have to live under constant guilt and condemnation for my sins. That is a great blessing!! 

25- Thankful for Insight and clarity. Grateful for those opportunities I’m able to look back at something that has been bothering me and suddenly I am able to see it in a different light. Or when I manage to make a really good decision in the middle of chaos. I’ve found these opportunities come more often when I turn off the TV, limit social media, and make a slow and deliberate effort to find balance in my life. I’m sure I might be equally (or better) served by simply turning down “the noise & distractions” in a more permanent way, as opposed to simply tuning it out at intervals. When I get stuck in the daily routine and lose connection with everything else I find those moments for insight and clarity far removed from my grasp. Prayer and meditation greatly move me forward to finding insight and clarity to those things that weigh on me. Mindful planning and assessment help in my ability to move towards worthy goals. Sometimes to find what I have been searching for, a radical and comprehensive honesty is required first. While trying to achieve clarity and insight, if I have not put everything out on the table and have not been truly (not brutally, but authentically) honest with myself then the clarity and insight I hope to gain will evade me. Honesty can be challenging, uncomfortable, sometimes downright confronting – but it’s also a release, and life after honesty is a better place!

26- Thankful for memories. I’m ridiculously nostalgic. I love taking photographs, blogging, watching home movies, and remembering the past. Jared teases me that our family is probably the most well documented family on earth. I’m “that mom” that always has the camera ready at a moment’s notice. It’s not uncommon to find me on a Sunday afternoon watching old vacation videos on the couch by myself, because the rest of the family has seen them a 100 times already and they love me enough to let me do it anyway..LOL! I affectionately call it Virtual Vacation Day. I adore revisiting those days when my children were learning to walk, talk, and finding ‘trouble’. Keeping these records either written or visual fill in the gaps of my “mom brain” that I’ve long forgotten. I’ve made scrapbooks for each of my kids for the 1st 2 years of their lives and they ask me often to pull out those books and we sit together and they ask me to tell them stories about the funny little things they used to do. It connects us and has brought many laughs and good times. I enjoy sharing memories with them about when I was a kid too. They of course don’t always believe mom was ever a little girl. On holidays I enjoy bringing out my Grandmother’s silver and as I open the box I think of all the things I remember about her. How she used to love to collect rocks, the mean peacocks’ that would run loose in her backyard and chase us Grandkids, the weeping willow tree in her orchard I used to love to climb, and how her pantry was full of canned peaches she canned herself. Memories are sort of like hugs from the past…always ready to welcome me in their arms. Too cheesy??? Probably…but never the less true! :P

27- Thankful for joy! I love the word joy. To me it conveys more than happiness. Joy to me is when I have one of those moments where all of a sudden my heart just feels so full that I can’t stand it, where the smile on my face is so big that it makes my face hurt a tiny bit and the joy is leaking out of my eyes. It fills me up and keeps me energized in a way nothing else can. It enables me to see the beauty in everything. Life has a way of making troubles seem urgent and encourage procrastinating joy. Waiting for the “to do’s” to be done, or for this crisis to pass before enjoying life is a trap.  After this crisis passes another one will be right on its tail.  I try very hard not to allow my circumstances dictate my joy.  Even when I have setbacks, delays, or disappointments I try the very best I can to not let them prevent me from taking the time to give thanks. In the scriptures I’ve learned a deeper understanding of joy. I recently read a blog post that summarized it perfectly, “We’re not just to have joy like His; we are to have His joy. What was this joy Jesus had and wanted us to have? First, He had an abounding joy. He said, “…that your joy might be full.” His joy was not half-hearted joy, not maybe-so joy, but it was joy that was abounding and supernatural. Not only an abounding joy, but Jesus also had an abundant joy. Abounding speaks of the quality of the joy, and abundant speaks of the amount of joy. Even through His tears and even through His agony, His was an abundant joy. And He had an abiding joy. He said, “… that My joy might remain in you …” It was not joy that came and went. We need to realize that Jesus taught us this lesson about joy as He faced dark Calvary. We too are to have joy in the good times, the bad times, the nighttime, the daytime, the rainy day, and the sunny day. We’re to rejoice in the Lord always.” There are souls in this world who have the gift of finding joy everywhere and leaving it behind them when they go. - Faber . It is my hope that I can be a person like this. “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” John 15:11.

28- Thankful for the “little things”. I’m thankful that in each day there are things I can appreciate. I’m thankful for chocolate…if you could taste heaven, I think that’s what it would taste like! :P A smile from a stranger when I’m having a down day. Giggles from my children’s bedrooms as they play. Sunshine through my window that reminds me of God’s love for me. Getting the best parking spot. Sleeping in fresh clean sheets warm and right out of the dryer. Gorgeous Fall days. Finding a pair of jeans that fit just right…this should probably be under the heading of “miracles” instead of “little things”! Snuggling with my family on the couch watching a movie and munching freshly popped popcorn. Hearing Jared’s and my song playing on the radio as I drive my 500th carpool with the kids. Enjoying my mom’s breakfast potatoes and homemade bean burritos…NO one makes them the way she does!! Having all the right coupons and getting the perfect deal! Breaking out into a jig & Jared catching me in the act and then he joins in!!!!! Finding sweet notes from one of my children they have made for one of their siblings. Hitting all the green lights on the way home. Baked goods….mmmm! This list is truly endless…there are so many things to be thankful for! Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

29- Thankful for love. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had in my life to love and be loved. I’m grateful that I’ve had the courage to be vulnerable and put my heart out there for others and that others have done the same for me. As I’ve grown up I’ve experienced the love of my parents, my brother and sister, and friends. As a young adult I came to know what it feels like to find the love of my life…my High School Sweetheart… He has in turn showed me how to love myself. As we began a family I’ve been blessed with the understanding of unconditional love as I held my beautiful babies in my arms. There is nothing in life that is more pure. As my children grow I’ve come full circle and have heard them utter the most treasured words in my life, “I love you mom.” What joy this sweet sentence gives! Love enables me to feel what it truly means to be alive!!

30- Thankful for Gratitude. Gratitude doesn’t make problems and threats disappear. We can lose jobs; we can lose a loved one, and we can get sick. I’ve experienced all of those things. I remember those harrowing times at unexpected moments, and through those experiences, I’ve found so much encouragement, happiness, and love from focusing on what I’m grateful for rather than what I don’t have. Gratitude is the mental tool we use to remind ourselves of the good stuff. It’s a lens that helps us to see the things that don’t make it onto our lists of problems to be solved. It’s a spotlight that we shine on the people who give us the good things in life. It’s a bright red paintbrush we apply to otherwise-invisible blessings. Gratitude is known to be good for us and those around us. It is a conscious effort to get into the habit of being grateful. Gratitude is important for how good I feel mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually. This action is simple but incredibly powerful. As I come to the end of this month long posts of things I’m “Thankful for”, I’ve felt a deeper sense of peace in my life. I’m a grateful person, and I do count my blessings each day, but taking the time to really consider all that I have been given has made me take a deeper look at each element in my life and consider how it has been a gift to me. When I began this month’s posts I never imagined it would have the impact that it has on those who have read them. It warms my heart to know in some small way I was able to brighten or lift someone’s day. I’m grateful for the opportunity to recognize all that I have been blessed with, big and small. God is good!!! 

Below are some of the comments that just filled my heart!

Wow...Vanessa you really have a way expressing what is in your heart. I have enjoyed your thoughts each day, but this one hit home. Thanks for sharing.

I'm going to save everyone of these 'thankful' posts of yours and read them when I need a lift.

Seriously, Vanessa, I agree with whoever it was that said you need to compile these into a book (so that those that can read can enjoy them). These are fantastic!! 

Very poetic!! Have you thought about writing??

Thank you for posting each day, reminding me of my many blessings. This is truly touching. Now I have to redo the makeup.

See why you are my hero?!
I told them you were my anchor while I was bedridden. You could bake, I couldn't. You could cook, I couldn't. You are just amazing! I told them I needed a WWVD bracelet...what would Vanessa do! I'm still not back to what I was able to do before. I never will be. But, you can, so I don't have to beat myself up because I can't. 
You are an amazing woman. You are so very Christlike and talented. You ooze joy and sweetness, no matter what. Your children are well-prepared spiritually and grounded in gospel principles.

You are such a strong person and I am amazed at how you show everyone that you are holding strong to the rod. You are such a great example to me.

 My brother (terminal cancer) sends out a daily devotional via e-mail to a group of about 50 friends. I am now sending him your daily thoughts of gratitude. It gives him strength too. Thank you.

Your faith is an example to us all, Vanessa.

I am so inspired by reading your posts every day. Keep the faith. 

Wow...just wow..*shudders with cold chills*

LOVE!! Joy is one of my favorite of the most living, aspiring and inspiring words. Lovely :) <3


 I'm thankful for you, Vanessa, You're an inspiration. Have a great day!

See what I mean??? Truly humbling....It's been a wonderful experience and I highly recommend that everyone try it. Of course not everyone needs or wants to do it in the form I chose, but to keep a Gratitude Journal at home and each day writing down those things you witnessed as a blessing or joy  that day will greatly impact your life for the positive!! I have a strong testimony of that! :)


Halle Heart Center

>> Friday, November 22, 2013

Jared went with Eli and his class to the Halle Heart Center in Tempe. Visitors to the museum find out how the heart works, alone and with other parts of the body, as part of the circulatory system, and how to protect the heart from disease.

Eli is in one of the hands on displays showing an artery of the heart!

It was an informative and interesting fieldtrip!


The Mayflower

>> Saturday, November 16, 2013

Eli had a school project this week on explorer ships and how his ancestors immigrated to the United States. Thankfully I've tried to gather as many documents, files, pictures, and charts as I could over the years for our family history and it made the essay portion of the project so much easier. 

Jared and Eli worked for many hours on the model portion and it turned out awesome!!

Below is his report and a family tree showing the relationship. 

Dr. Samuel Fuller

My ancestor is Dr. Samuel Fuller he is my 11th great grand uncle. He was born on January 1, 1580, and he died between August 9 and September 26, 1633. He was born in England and later moved to Holland. He was the doctor and surgeon on the Mayflower. There were many injuries if you were on a ship, and he was such a good doctor and surgeon that he only lost one passenger on the voyage. I think he was important because every ship needs a doctor and surgeon or else more people would die of sicknesses or injuries. He left Holland because he wanted freedom of religion and later on became a respected deacon for the Plymouth Colony. This is my ancestor, I hope you enjoyed learning more about my ancestor.

One thing I should mention...John Fuller's wife says "Mrs. Fuller" her actual name is Dorcas Fuller but Eli was worried the kids might make fun of her name so we went the safe route! :)


I Would Walk 100 Thousand Miles...I Would Walk 100 Thousand More...Or Drive...

>> Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ok so I know those aren't the actual lyrics to the song but it's what popped into my head..LOL!

Today as we were pulling out of the garage to go to church Jared noticed the odometer was exactly at 100,000 miles! 

We bought the van back in 2001 brand's actually a 2002 model... and it's been a great vehicle. She's definitely in need of some TLC here and there but for the most part she's been great. Her nickname is Big Red. :P

Today also happens to be 11/10 and that's just a lot of 1's and 0's in a day. Hehehe!

We are crossing our fingers Big Red will continue to get us to the places we need. I mostly drive her in town to go shopping, taking the kids to/from school, practices, scouts, church, and running a million errands. We've taken her to New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Utah, and my favorite place California..or maybe I should clarify...Disneyland!!! :D 

She's the perfect size, seating 7 passengers comfortably and still plenty of room for all the coloring books, games, and toys that inevitably find there way in on trips. 

Here's to another 100,000 more miles Big Red!!!


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