Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Perfect in Weakness

I have struggled with eczema and psoriasis since I was a baby. The folds in my skin and my scalp behind my left ear are almost always burning if I don’t medicate them.  I get that gene from my Grandpa Bill. Any discomfort I experience, he experienced, and to a much greater degree. None of the remedies I use now were available to him growing up, and by the time he was old, his skin was like tissue paper from various steroid creams. When I lost my Papa, I started to cherish my itchy skin because it came from him. Instead of grumbling as I apply my clobetasol or exfoliate for the millionth time, I think of my discomfort as a tie to and reminder of him and all the love and good he brought into my life. It’s kind of crazy, but I recently realized that I truly do not resent my skin issues anymore. If I’m having an especially itchy or burny day, it just makes me think of Grandpa, which is a happy thing. I realized that this is a parable to teach me about and to improve my relationship with Our Savior.

I think of the scripture where the great missionary apostle Paul rejoiced in his weaknesses and trials as they humbled him and made the glory of God manifest in His life. He said:

“And lest I should be exalted…there was given to me a thorn in the flesh…For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, ‘my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’  Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

 I used to think this was positive thinking at best, self-delusion at worst, and wondered how and if I would ever feel such a thing. I mean, I have felt  grateful for my trials in hindsight,  AFTER I see the blessings and growth that came from my trials, but to appreciate my challenges IN my suffering—WHILE I am still going through them? Well, that just seemed super-human and definitely outside of my soul’s capabilities. Then in general conference, I heard a modern-day apostle elaborate on Paul’s attitude:

“We can choose to be grateful, no matter what. This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer.
“When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.
“We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?…This is not a gratitude of the lips but of the soul. It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April 2014).

This idea took deeper root in my heart just a couple of months after Elder Uchtdorf gave his talk when we visited my mother and father-in-law on their mission at Liberty Jail. Grandpa talked to our children and shared with them the things he had learned about what Joseph Smith and his companions endured in the jail, and how he was able to record a wonderful revelation that brought him personal comfort and has blessed its readers ever since.

“If thou art called to endure tribulation…know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”
(D&C 122: 5, 7, 8).

Two phrases in that scripture serve as mantras for me as I sort through my trials and try to find the lessons. First, “all these things shall give the experience and shall be for thy good.” I’ve written before (HERE) about how the Spirit witnessed to me that none of our pain is ever wasted. I have come to trust that the sooner I can humbly submit to the experience and find the lesson, the sooner it will pass and I can have faith in the process, knowing that God will sustain me and is going to use my experience for good. I have faith that I will come out of it more like Him. Paul also testified of this principle to the Romans, in chapter 8 (the whole chapter is beautiful): “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). Two witnesses…mic drop.

The second mantra from Liberty Jail is, “Art thou greater than he?” Speaking of mic drops…if this question doesn’t shut my whining right up, nothing will. This reminds me of the way God talks to me in my dreams. If I whine, he asks me a stinging question like this one—He meets my sass with sass, so to speak. I love the whole passage preceding this question. God goes on for a whole paragraph, saying ‘You might have to go through this or that, or your worst nightmare, you name it—but the Son of Man had to do all of that, times a zillion. Are you telling me that you don’t DESERVE to suffer, but HE DID?” It is a VERY humbling thought and it usually shuts me right up. Of course, in a dream I might argue back, “But He was half divine, he had special powers I don’t have,” yadda, yadda. And Heavenly Father would reply, “Yeah, and I had to WITHDRAW FROM HIM. I had to leave Him alone to do His work. He had nothing. You have Me, and Him, and the Holy Ghost, all cheering you on and sending you a constant barrage of comfort and encouragement…you just have to choose to receive it. You just have to decide that We are enough. That the prize is worth the fight.” Yep. It always comes down to our choice. We can always CHOOSE how to view our struggles. And remembering that our perfect, sinless Savior was required to suffer WAY more trial and humiliation (even before and after Gethsemane) than we will ever encounter should always help us to put our struggles in perspective.

My sweet missionary niece, Brittany, shared a lovely poem in her New Year’s letter. It reminded me of these lessons on suffering that I have been learning. Here is part of the poem:

And in a moment, I understand
Just a moment of
Something beyond me, a truth: 
That Jesus Christ chose to understand me.
When he went to that garden,
When he bowed on the cross,
Beyond my deserving,
Whatever the cost--
He chose to understand me.
He chose to live what I live.
And I don't know how, but the why was love
And so I, too, must give.
If the Savior thought I was so important
To trace the details of my life
To give his empathy, his love
In sickness, gladness, pain or strife--
Why would I not try as well
To live some of His life?
I know that I'm not perfect
My steps won't match his own
But even with some crooked steps
That path can lead me home.
I'll follow him, and when I see
The pain of captured souls in grief
I'll sit a while to be with them
To give them some relief.

I love the idea of this verse—He walked a few miles in my shoes, now it’s my turn to try to walk in His. We are yoked together. We are a team. It is a joyful path, but it’s not an easy one. Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught us: “There is no greater calling, no greater challenge, and no greater source of joy—both proximate joy and ultimate joy—than is found in the process of discipleship. This process brings its own joys and reassurances. Don’t, however, expect the world to understand or to value your discipleship. They will not. In a way, they may admire you from afar, but they will be puzzled about the priorities resulting from your devotion. It still stings a little when I am criticized, demeaned, or just left out for putting my covenants with him first, but the sting is fading away faster. And the other kinds of trials—the ones I bring on myself or that come from being mortal—those don’t really hurt anymore, either.  Sure I get worn out, but I embrace my thorn in the flesh—my auto immune disorders, programmed deep in the genes passed down to me through my mama from my Grandpa, and allowed to manifest in my otherwise healthy body by my Creator to teach me to rely on Him and Him alone (see more HERE). To teach me to be humble and remind me that the boundless energy, motivation, and health I used to enjoy was not because of anything I did, but a gift from Him. I am grateful for the relatively healthy season I now enjoy and I understand that He has given me enough energy to do good things, but not enough to waste time. And when I am asked to do good things that would otherwise exhaust me, He sustains me through it and I am quickened by the Spirit. My faith in Him and in this process is a tiny sprout, but it’s bigger than a desire or a seed or a seedling, and I know it will continue to grow as I continue to trust and obey. It’s such a cool experience!

So I close my thoughts, coming full-circle, with another bright testimony from Paul: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). I reckon that, too. I’m pretty sure our minds would be blown if we could see ourselves as God sees us, in all our divine potential, and all He has in store for us if we choose it. For now, I trust in Paul’s testimony, and in the testimony of all the prophets, that “eye hath not seen, nor ear head, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9—another awesome chapter about how the world just doesn’t get the things of the Spirit), and I will do what it takes to become like Him.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Dear Loved Ones,                                                     

This has been a very typical January week. We are well into the winter doldrums and last weekend seems like a really long time ago. I’m still struggling to get all the bags unpacked an put away. I think I finally got all the laundry washed, I just need to put it away. There were just so many things going on away from home this week, I didn’t do a great job around the house.

Monday I took a sick day with Ammon and we had a nice family night. The little boys had a story from the Friend and then the bigger kids watched Elder Ballard’s Q&A BYU Devotional.  Tuesday I finally got the gumption to put away all the Christmas stuff---I still felt pretty sick but I did it! It was a quiet night at home and we all got to bed early. Wednesday I finally got Ammon back to school (he had a gnarly cough) and I went to Bozeman to Costco to get much-needed groceries—in a snow storm! I was home before noon to do a telephone interview and get the food put away and dinner made. Rich had YM early and I took the rest of the family up to the church at 7 so James could go to scouts and we could attend the New Beginnings program for the Young Women. There will be five new Beehives this year! Addie and Heidi each earned a value ribbon—Addie for knowledge and Heidi for virtue—and we had a really nice time together. Thursday I finally had a chance to work on laundry—no clothes in the little boys’ drawers! In the middle of that I got called into an emergency meeting at the high school to talk about the suicide prevention program at the middle school. I was there from 1:30-3:30 and it was pretty draining but also kind of hopeful. I picked up the kids because I was out and it was snowing. We made a big fire and stayed cozy all evening and I pondered whether an empath should ever attend any kind of support group meeting, since I felt like I had absorbed 10 tons of grief that afternoon, even though our family is doing fine. There is a lot of darkness and pain in this world and the Adversary is having a field day terrorizing young people. Please be so compassionate-- there are people who are so fragile and in so much pain all around us!

Friday Addie and Ammon did not have school and they were still asleep when I took Heidi to school and James to the eye doctor at 8:30. James got a new prescription—he’s very slightly far-sighted, and I ran to the grocery store to get ingredients for a Saturday brunch. In the afternoon we took a break and watched the funeral for President Monson. I was very moved by the messages, especially from his daughter. I so deeply want to be like him and bring some good and light in to the world each day!  I made a few quiches on Friday night and we had one for dinner, saved the rest for the brunch. After dinner I went on a date with James—his request. We kind of wanted to see “The Darkest Hour” but didn’t want to drive to Bozeman in the snow, so we stayed in town and watched “The Greatest Showman.” I had literally seen NOTHING about this movie, so it was a pleasant surprise that it was a musical and it was so well done. We really enjoyed it, although I forgot to take my phone so we couldn’t do our regular hobby of fact checking movies based on history (I simply can’t resist! I turn the brightness way down and look up history, characters, actors, etc.--chalk it up to adult ADD or something but it’s a compulsion for sure). We came home and listened to the soundtrack and found dance tutorials for the awesome number that all the circus freaks do. Here are the lyrics: “When the sharpest words try to cut me down/ I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out/ I am brave, I am bruised/I am who I'm meant to be—THIS IS ME!/ Look out 'cause here I come/ And I'm marching on to the beat I drum/ I’m not scared to be seen/I make no apologies---THIS IS ME! We love it. Saturday we did some morning chores and prepared some food.  I hosted a brunch for some friends and my sister Sara came down from Great Falls with her friend Brooke to present some hair care products they are promoting. It was a nice gathering and my kids were happy to see cousin Raef—we need some more Hamlin time! As Sara was leaving, I took the girls to their first ukulele lessons at Conley’s.  I sure love that place and the Conley’s are the coolest. Jim is a straight-up leprechaun, an amazing musician, and I think the girls will learn lots from him. We passed the theater on the way home and the girls begged to go see “The Greatest Showman” so I gave them some money and sent them on their way. I hurried home because Rich had to drive youth to a Stake activity (but then he didn’t—it was a fun surprise for him to come back home at 5:30 when there were no deacons needing a ride). The boys decided they just wanted peanut butter milkshakes and muffins for dinner so we did that and watched the Odd Squad movie. The girls came home from the movie in tears (as usual). We had bought some Beatles music at Conley’s so we spent the evening going through it. They were learning “I Will” when I was heading to bed and I am pretty sure it’s the sweetest song Paul McCartney ever wrote. Today we had a lovely Sabbath—church was great and I even took a nap!

 Life is good. It’s time for me to feed my people, so I gotta run. We hope you all have a great week. We are so excited to hear from President Nelson Tuesday morning! We also hope Liam and Aunt Erin had a happy birthday on Thursday. We love and miss you all!

Love, Jamie and Rich and Family

PS: I literally only took ONE photo this week and it was the girls at New Beginnings. I did make a video of Ammon telling me about his first Sunday in Primary today but it's almost 3 minutes long--too big to attach, but trust me, ITS ADORBS. He was really hung up on not getting to get one of the "thingies out of the bag"--huh?--then I remembered during singing time the kids pulled objects out of a tote bag to remind them of the lyrics to the second verse of "I Am a Child of God." I assured him he would get a turn next time--you've got a million singing times to go, buddy, you will get a thingie someday!

1/13-Girls at Gil's getting cheesy fries after music lessons...


Dear Loved Ones, 

Tonight is a first in family letter composition. I am writing in the car on my phone as we drive home from Utah. We just rounded Henry's Lake and crossed the Idaho-Montana border. The sun set was hot pink over the snowy lake and the continental divide, but we could only see stripes of it through the low snowy clouds. We left Sam's house after sacrament meeting this morning about 11am. We've made a few more stops than usual but we are getting there. Our last stop was the Maverick in Rexburg where we got San Pellegrinos and pickles and icees on our potty break. Now we are searching for a rest area again in the middle of nowhere. Good times.

We drove down to Utah Thursday night to attend Brandon Casper's marriage to Kylee Sayer (Brandon is the son of my late bff Erin, so he's pretty much a nephew) in the Timpanogos temple on Friday.  Brandon returned from the CA Bakersfield Mission Nov. 15th and much like his dad, was ready for his next mission and companion 50 days later. Those two crazy kids got sealed on Friday and start school at BYU Monday. Ever onward, Brandon! ;) It was sweet to be in the temple together and know Erin was with us, rejoicing in her posterity. 'Big' Heidi was with Richard and me for most of the day and we really missed Erin, yet felt her very much with us all thru the day and night. Between the sealing and reception we went to her grave with Tarah and Eliza and their sweet step siblings Devon and Ariah. I am always in awe of the love we feel when we get together and I'm increasingly curious to understand the whole history and future and purpose of our relationship. I'm certain God arranged it and has great plans for us yet. I'm grateful our family got to participate in another special occasion with our beloved Caspers.♡

So rewinding to the beginning of the week, we enjoyed a very cozy, snowed-in New Year's Eve party at the home of the Saaris in Clyde Park. It was a sweet time with several families. We defrosted an eegees pina colada party pack we brought home from Tucson in June and shared the joy with our MT people...such a treat!! We all had to head home before the roads got too dangerous, so we kinda celebrated at 9pm and headed out. We rang in the new year at home with our kooky kids at 11 and a few of us again at midnight. We created a time capsule with little questionnaires we put into a jar. We will fill the jar with bits of memorabilia all year and then open it and enjoy the contents next new year's eve. I hope to make this a tradition and just save the jars, especially since I haven't scrapbooked in 10 years. Maybe this will be a good replacement (along with our family letter archives).

Monday was a lazy day of games, movies, stacking wood, and enjoying family. Rich went back to work Tuesday and the kids and I caught up on laundry, chores, scriptures, and organizing school stuff to go back to class on Wednesday. We went sledding in the afternoon and had fried chicken and watermelon for dinner and did HOMEWORK that night...booo! Everyone had a great day at school Wednesday, even though we woke up to the news of President Monson's passing♡. The Jones girls came over after school and helped Addie do chores and homework. I made taco salad for dinner then Rich and all the big kids went to scouts and Young Women. The little boys had a cozy bath and lavender foot rubs and they crashed at 6:48pm! I had a nice quiet night to get them packed for our Utah trip. I wanted to take Christmas down but I decided to leave it for tomorrow so I can do it in one fell swoop (alone ;)). Thursday I just cleaned up and got my own stuff packed and Rich came home from work at 1pm so we could leave. It took us a whole hour to sign 5 kids out of 4 schools, and we were on the road from 2:30-11pm. We stayed over with Petersens Thursday night and they kept the kids while Rich, Addie, and I spent Friday at the Casper wedding. It's always so fun staying there because our kids love each other so dang much and Jill and Drew are so chill and thoughtful. Jill and Drew came to the reception with us because WHO CAN RESIST A FAMILY BOOGIE SESH? It was fun to reminisce back to the time I was single and neighbors with Caspers when Tarah was a baby and Brandon and Brittany were 2 and Jill used to come over with Ally and I would go borrow Brandon and Brittany to play at my condo. Who knew I'd have my own baby just a year or so later!? And who knew the time would fly so fast! It seriously feels like maybe five years ago and now BRANDON IS A HUSBAND. Wut!?!?!

We stayed over at Jill's Friday night and slept in til 9! We were slow going cuz everyone in worn out and has a little cough, but we finally packed up and said goodbye to Petersens and had brunch at IKEA so we could pick up a few replacement dishes. As we were leaving, we ran into Angie and Jex (Rich's baby sis and her husband who live in Boise). They were in town to pick up Angie's kids from the airport after holidays with their dad in Tennessee...what are the odds?! That was super fun! We went to have late lunch and visit with mom and Mark. They made a beautiful gluten-free, super veggie lunch for us and had treats for all the kids.Papa played jenga with the boys while Nana and I took the girls to check out their new DI thrift store (brand New! So nice!). We visited Willy's fun family from 4-5 then drove to Tooele for dinner and a sleep over with our Layton cousins. Kristen made us amazing chili for dinner and kids rolled out their beds and watched Harry Potter til they crashed at 9pm. Sam and I chatted til 1:30am. He is my little Spirit animal, my touchstone. I'm grateful he makes time for me even though he probably had lots of bishopric responsibilities today and desperately needed a nap! We went to sacrament meeting with LAYTONS where many heart felt memories of President Monson were shared. We said goodbye to LAYTONS and headed home at 11am. 

And now we are just about there! We love and miss you all and pray you all have a healthy, productive week!!!

Rich and Jamie and Family

"If you like Pina coladas and gettin caught in the rain..."

Cool Girls' Table

Partyin' with Gio!

I'm sad I didn't shoot another selfie because our fine host, Russ Saari, is blurry!
Sean, Cassi and Evie Defendis (Gio goes with these two) and Teresa Saari
(Cassi's mom), with Gio, Russ, ann Heidi on the back row

Heidi walking to the car down the snowy sidewalk

Look at the snow! Such a cozy barn-house!

New Years Nerds!


Our family ringing in 2018, Central Time
(Ammon was sleeping)

Sledding on 1/2/18...

Niles, Addie, James, Ammon

Yellowstone River

Off to Utah 1/4/18

Sunset in Island Park ID

Mt. Timpanogos Temple
(stock photo in spring time, obvs)

Eliza hugging Brandon and Tarah hugging Kylee

Phtoto bombing wedding pictures
Addie, Me, and Rich

A selfie I sent to ABH to prove I was at the temple

Brandon with his groomsmen

Heidi, Chasta, Tarah, Eliza, Araya, Me, and Adeline

crazy auntie selfie

At Erin's Grave in Holladay

Reception Shenanigans Friday night in Alpine, Utah
Brandon, Me, Heidi

Heidi and Brandon

James and Brandon
Kylee and Brandon...
Congratulations, you two crazy kids! We love you!

1/6/18-Brunch at Ikea

AdRock and Hades

CRAZY running into Ang and Jex at IKEA totally randomly!

Sammy and Me after sacrament meeting at his ward in Tooele.
I love this guy...and how our foreheads get bigger every year ;)

Saturday, December 30, 2017


Dear Loved Ones,                                               

We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! Ours was nice and calm and snowy. We missed the ruckus of extended family, but we enjoyed staying home and watching the snow fall. I know that this New Year’s weekend will be just as busy as last Christmas weekend, so I thought I’d send out my letter on Saturday before I get too far behind.

The week leading up to Christmas was pretty fun and busy. This is the first year in a long time that I haven’t had Christmas 90% ready by TG and I now I remember why. I swallowed my anxiety and nausea in crowds and did some shopping and last minute baking and gift deliveries.  I took Addie to finish up Christmas shopping on Tuesday night (12/19) and we made the mistake of going to World Market, which was a black hole of cash-sucking  global Christmas delights, but we had so much fun. The kids got out of school on Wednesday December 20th.  I was busy Christmasing all day, but I made a pot of hot cocoa and chocolate chip cookies to welcome them home and kick off Christmas break. That night the youth had a caroling hayride followed by a movie at the Dennistons. Thursday morning I made breakfast and made the kids finish making 45 Christmas cards for the nursing home. That night the girls attended a super fun white elephant youth Christmas party at the Johnsons.’  Heidi’s gift was a Onesie ELF costume—it was HILARIOUS! Addie invited her friend Conor and he had a great time with all the crazy Mormon kids. On Friday is snowed like crazy all day. That night, Addie took Ammon on a special date to see a screening of “Polar Express” at the Shane Center. They were greeted by a real conductor who took their golden tickets and punched them all fancy, and they got a bell as well as cocoa and cookies. Ammon was just on cloud nine; he carried his ticket and bell around for several days. SO CUTE! The rest of us stayed home and watched “Christmas Vacation” to celebrate daddy not having to go back to the office for Four days. Saturday morning we all did chores, then Rich and I went to do our last minute elfing and wrap gifts as the office. It was super fun. That evening, we met up with the Johnsons for our second annual caroling and Christmas cards at the nursing home. It was especially sweet to see the elderly residents doting on the little kids, and to watch little Raef's face and he shook the jingle bells. Pure joy!

Sunday we just had sacrament meeting. I tweaked the program from 2014 and had 7 readers, 11 hymns, and 3 musical numbers to invite the Christmas spirit. Everyone seemed to enjoy it—almost as much as they loved heading home after 70 minutes, lol! I like that the bishopric listens to feedback and encourages a mostly-music meeting for Christmas. Music is much better at expressing the praise and rejoicing of Christmas, after all. We came home and had some sandwiches, started some fancy Greek food for our Christmas Eve dinner, then took naps. Every year we have international dinner for Christmas Eve—learn a little bit about another country and its holiday traditions and eat their foods. Heidi suggested Greece this year, so we had lighted ships in the form of paper boats (celebrating St. Nicholas, patron saint of sailors—important to a nation of islands and mariners and fishermen). For dinner we ate Lemon-Celery Pork fricassee, herb-feta potatoes gratin, baked squash with herbs, peas for the little boys, an orange-vanilla vasilopita new year’s cake, and baklava from Costco. After dinner, we read stories and talked about Jesus. I suggested we have a song and prayer and watch a movie, but the little boys seemed anxious to get to bed so Santa could come. So the Elf hurried and brought us our new pjs on the porch at 6:30 instead of 7:30. After a little more hanging out, the little boys were asleep by 8. The big kids watched a movie and went to bed. And then to our surprise, they slept in until 7am! Christmas morning was lovely—gifts, phone calls and facetiming, biscuits, gravy and tangerines for breakfast, then candy and cookies and crackers, cheese, and sausage all day. The big family gifts was a set of 6 laser tag guns, so there were battles all day long. I fell asleep around 10am watching “Miracle on 34th Street.” It was a deep and restful nap, much needed! The whole day we just hung out around the house, playing games, resting, laughing, etc. We had a nice ham and funeral potato dinner around 6pm, then watched MoTab on PBS and did a Yoda puzzle with James and Rich. The kids crashed shortly thereafter.

Tuesday was Boxing Day, but Rich went in to the office to catch up on things and we hung out here at the house. Addie and I went to a matinee of Star Wars since we are the only ones who hadn’t seen it. It was pretty good. It was super cold when we came out, -3*! We grabbed some dinner from Cluck and came home to find that Rich had taken the boys to Bozeman to get something at Home Depot for his VW Beetle rebuilding project. They got their own dinner there and went to bed when they got home. Wednesday I took the kids to Bozeman to Museum of the Rockies and we saw a cool planetarium show called “Seasons of Light.” The graphics were kind of out dated, but learning about the winter sky as well as traditions throughout the ages to turn the darkest time of year into a season of light was really cool. Everything testifies of our Savior, the light of the world, whether we know it or not! We also ran to Costco and Target. I found a long quilted Granny coat for 80% off, just in time for the SNOWPOCALYPSE that blew in on Friday. On Thursday, Addie and her friends had their 3rd annual Twilight movie marathon from noon til 11pm (food breaks). It was fun to have them, but not fun trying to finish laundry and keep the little boys out of their hair. We let Heidi go to Clyde Park to stay over with her friend, which we kind of regretted on Wednesday when we had to pick her up in a blizzard and 2 feet of uncleared snow. I drove the Lexus (Land Cruiser), so the snow was no problem and the landscape was so beautiful. In the afternoon, Addie’s friends Caden and Conor came over with Conor’s sister who’s home from college. They were so nice, playing with the little boys and watching Bob Ross by the fire (their for-real favorite activity). Friday evening I folded laundry and binged on “The Crown” season 2 on Netflix. It took me a long time because I kept fact-checking every episode, lol. They have reeeeeally taken some unnecessary liberties this season, imho, but it’s still such a feast for the eyes—cinematography and costuming and acting, all top notch. I finished the series this morning—we’ve had the laziest Saturday ever. Rich worked on the bug, I watched the rest of "The Crown," then “The Queen” with Helen Mirren, then played with the boys for a bit, then got Chinese take out for dinner after taking the girls to their “New Year’s Adam” Party (because Adam comes before Eve). I just watched “Rogue One” with a boy snuggling each side and one asleep on my legs…cozy. Fun movie. Now I’m heading to pick up the girls in a bit. It has been a very relaxing break for the most part, except for our stir-crazy little guys—it’s hard when it’s too cold (below about 15*) to play outside much, poor fellas.

We wish you all a lovely Sabbath and a fun New Year celebration. New Year, clean slate, lots of possibilities! We will be in Utah next weekend (1/4-drive home 1/7) for Brandon Casper’s wedding. Hope we get to see many of you—message me!  We love and miss you all, especially as we play games and celebrate all the joys of this time of year! Keep in touch!

Jamie and Rich and Family
Addie and her pal Lincoln in matching TRex sweaters
(he gave that to her for Christmas)

A photo and poem to celebrate the winter solstice
"It only gets brighter from here!"

Snow downtown

12/20 making Christmas cards for the nursing home

All the crazy kids at the Johnsons' Christmas Party 12/21

Conor gave Addie this fluffy fox for Christmas before they went to the party.
Conor is the fella she goes out with the most and we like him.

12/22-Addie and Ammon on their date


SO MUCH SNOW on 12/22

Greek Christmas Eve dinner

Add caption

Christmas Jammies!

Christmas Weirdos

Santa brought Ammon some janitorial tools!

James will SHOOT HIS EYE OUT with his new pellet gun

Addie and her new ukulele (it came with lessons!)

James building the marble run Ammon got from Niles

LASER TAG! ROCK RHINO tour shirts for the whole family!
(Niles' imaginary rock band)

Drum Pad-- with headphones! Charcoal masks!

Awesome TShirt from Nana

Thumbs up from mommy on Christmas night

Snacks at MOR before the star show 12/27

James, Addie, and Ammon in the planetarium

Niles and Heidi in the planetarium

The end of our street-- BEFORE the snowpocalypse on Thursday

Perfect in Weakness

I have struggled with eczema and psoriasis since I was a baby. The folds in my skin and my scalp behind my left ear are almost always burni...