Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Baby Blessing and a Christmas Card

Back in November my brother blessed his new baby Jackson. Jaren and Alexa had asked me to bring my camera and snap a few pictures for them. Jaren did a great job and we did manage to get a few pictures.

After the blessing I suggested to Scott that we pull over at a park and try to get a family picture for the Christmas card. We weren't in matching clothes, Cali was ragged from not sitting still for even one second in church and we didn't have anyone to take the picture.

But who cares right?

I positioned my family, propped the camera on a bench, set the timer and ran.


What a pain Christmas cards are! Biggest pain ever!  But oh so fun to get them in the mail!  I will miss seeing all these faces that I love when Christmas is over...

So, I give you Heywood Family Christmas card 2015...

Dear Friends and Family,
When I sat down to think over 2015 I realized that this was the year that my once small trio of “little kids” have now turned this place into an official house-o-teenagers. The scale has tipped over here and the “bigs” now outnumber the “smalls”. It’s hard to believe because I clearly remember hauling around my gaggle of little kids, in a car with 3 car seats, thinking that this would be the way of things FOREVER. 2015 turned Kaden 16 and Brylee and Branson 13 so those 3 “little kids” are long gone. I certainly miss the days when they were small enough to perch under the tree….

This shift from small to big has somehow blasted our schedules into a constant whirl of cheerleading, football and swim practice not to mention, piano lessons, concerts, work, tests, friends, amateur driving excursions, youth activities and insane amounts of homework. And to think I use to fill the days with walks to our small park, sippy cup refills, stories and nap time.
A few weeks ago Kaden was discouraged with his heavy load of difficult classes and long grueling swim practices. He was doing the work but wasn’t getting the results he was hoping for.  I went to bed praying that I would know what to say to him to lift his spirits. In the morning I opened my scriptures and read him this…Wherefore be not weary in well doing for Ye are laying the foundation of a great work and out of small things proceededeth that which is great. We talked about how every homework assignment and every lap in the pool was leading to greater things.
You should know that this early morning, pre-A-hour, pep talk was just as much for me as it was for Kaden. Our days and our year and our life for that matter is filled with small things. The day to day work of growing a family certainly isn’t grand or big or exciting and sometimes it’s hard to see the fruit of the countless small efforts. I just can’t seem to fill my Christmas card update with anything really big.
There was a day when Jesus was teaching a multitude of 5000 followers, Jesus knew they were hungry and He wanted to feed them. Andrew one of the disciples said, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? Jesus blessed the small amount of food and it miraculously fed the 5000.
That night with Kaden I rehearsed to him the small things he was doing…you are working so hard, you are building endurance, you are gaining knowledge, you are diligent in scripture study, prayers and seminary. But I knew his heart was saying, but what are these among so many? So many with better grades, better times, bigger success, bigger accomplishments, more handsome, more money, more popularity. And to tell you the truth I know how he felt. It always seems the world is doing the big things and it is easy to look at our small life and ask what are these among so many?
Has there ever been anyone in the history of the world that has based His life on the small things more than Christ did? He was born in a stable, He never traveled, never earned a degree, never held an office, never had a successful business or career, He definitely never took first place in the state swim finals and he also possessed no apparent beauty that man should Him desire. And yet He was the promised Savior of mankind. He is the One that can take our small things and lay a foundation of a great work with them. In His hands every small effort is counted, blessed and made more. When we let Him, He will take our five loafs and two small fishes and make miracles from them. Big, beautiful, mighty miracles.
We are grateful this year for ordinary, happy days filled with small things. We are grateful for 3 big kids that keep us busy with teenager schedules and 2 sweet little girls that keep the simple, carefree life of childhood in our home. We are grateful for the occasional big things like Kaden’s Priest ordination in November and Ella’s baptism in August.
We testify that Jesus Christ lives, that He loves us, that He is mighty to save, to change and to heal. This will be the way of things FOREVER. How we love, worship and adore Him at Christmas and always.
Merry Christmas with love, Scott, Julianne, Kaden 16, Brylee 13, Branson 13, Ella 8 and Cali 4.

Friday, December 18, 2015

My Little Friend

In the kitchen...

On cleaning day...

At the store...

So glad I get to spend such a big amount of one on one time with this little Love. I had a busy stressful day on Sunday. And then when I got home things were hectic and chaotic and I felt over loaded with everyone's needs, messes and issues. My head was bursting and I didn't even have a second to sit down. I told Scott that I was going for a 10 minute drive to decompress a bit and that I would be right back. Just then Cali called out..."I'm coming too! Then Ella said, "No Cali, Mom will be right back." And Cali responded, "No, Mom loves me to go with her because I am her special girl."

Certainly cant argue with that.

Today I am helping at Ella's class party and then we will be FREE for Christmas break. Heavenly choirs of angels are singing in my ears because school is FINALLY out. Now maybe I wont have stupid dreams where book reports, class projects and finals are haunting me and giving me heart burn.  I cant wait to have all of the kids home to join me and Cali and celebrate Christmas and eat lots of treats. Fun!

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Scott turned 40 yesterday. How I love him. He is the hero of our family,  the steady hand and my very best friend in all the world. 18 years ago when we met, 40 seemed a world away and now here we are. I love the subtle gray hairs showing up around his temples and a few more in his whiskers. He is better, sweeter and wiser with each passing year and I am the luckiest. 

"Feeling the security and constancy of love from a spouse is a rich blessing. Such love nurtures and sustains faith in God. Such love is a source of strength and casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Such love is the desire of every human soul.” David Bednar 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Little Boy

Kaden went on his first date this weekend. Sigh.....

He looked so cute. And he had a great time. This felt to me like my first step into a BIG new chapter of Motherhood. It is both awesome and horrible. But I played my part, I bought new clothes, ordered a corsage and smiled and snapped pictures in the doorway. And then I whispered a quick reminder to hold the doors and I waved good-bye. Ready or not...

Life is fleeting, years rush past
And little boys grow up too fast...

Friday, December 11, 2015

Little Chucky's (I mean Ella's) Concert

Last night was Ella's school Christmas concert. It was pretty fun mostly because our music teacher is nothing short of AM-AZ-ING and she had these kids singing and moving like a professional show choir. I also love it because our school actually lets the kids sing about Jesus and includes songs like Silent Night and the Nativity Song.

It was also fun because Ella had a speaking part and she just fully loves the stage and any chance to perform.

At the very end the kids were supposed to "fall asleep" but Ella did this instead...

I thought it was a bit...um...scaryish. What is this Ella? Christmas or Halloween?

Never a dull moment with this one I tell you.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Temple Lights

When I was a younger Mom I felt like it was really important to get all of us looking extra cute when we were going out or getting together with friends and family. Hair done, clothes clean and coordinated if at all possible. Things are different now. Sure I'd really love it if we were all put together perfectly before we walked out the door but with 7 schedules to keep up with I am usually just happy if we actually get out the door at all. Last night we met up with Scott's side of the family for our yearly visit to the Mesa Temple lights. My kids love this tradition and they look forward to it year after year. We start by eating together at Pete's, then we see the lights then we meet up at the cars after for hot chocolate and doughnuts.

Branson and Scott came straight from football practice, Brylee and I straight from the orthodontist and Ella straight from piano lessons. I hardly gave anyone's clothes or hair a second thought before rushing out the door. I just grabbed my camera, the doughnuts and hot chocolate supplies and ran for it. When I looked at the pictures I realized how disheveled and day-worn we all look but you know what? We were there, we were together, we followed through on a tradition that our kids love and we spent the evening at one of my most favorite places--so the ragged pigtails and old make-up probably don't matter all that much.

The kids ran all crazy with their cousins and to tell you the truth it stressed me out because I didn't want them to bug everyone around them but then we stopped in to see the Presentation of the Christis Statue and Cali just gazed up with such sweet reverence and love that all the craziness melted away...

I am grateful my kids have cousins to be crazy with, I am grateful that we have family close by, I am grateful for traditions and for the Temple. I am glad that when I am there under all those millions of Christmas lights I feel close to my Grandpa West who spent many many years heading up the temple lights and hanging the highest palm branches with lights while strapped into a cherry picker. Maybe someday we'll be picture perfect but for now I'll take things just the way they are.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

November Catch-Up

I took VERY few pictures of Thanksgiving...

I did a little better for Kaden's 16th birthday and all the festivities that went along with it.

Sometimes, I let myself feel overwhelmed with everything there is to do and then its hard to stop for a minute, take a few pictures and enjoy the fruit of all the work it takes to make special days happen. (and ordinary days for that matter).  I have a couple BIG things behind me so now I am determine to do the basics and enjoy the holiday season. I really just want to have a clean home, stay on a good dinner schedule, have a few meaningful FHE's and watch my kids soak up the season. Cali and Ella are at such perfect ages for the magic of Christmas and the big kids love to indulge them. Its a great combination.

A graphic of the Holy Family at the first Christmas, combined with a quote by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: “First and forever there was just a little family. … That’s how Christmas began.”

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Gratitude Day 26

I did it! Thankful posts everyday till Thanksgiving. To really sum up my heart I can just simply say that I am thankful for my little family and for a Savior, that through His merits,  made it possible to be with them forever. The one is not without the other and nothing else is all that important. These two sweetest blessings encompass everything else that really matters and all that I have and all that I thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Gratitude Day 25

I am grateful for the practice of writing. I have always, for as long as I can remember, been a journaler. I enjoy processing my thoughts, feelings, and experiences through writing them down. I have over 1000 blog posts recording everything from our day-to-day life to my testimony. I also have several filled journals. When you read the scriptures you are able to quickly learn that record keeping is very important to God. His people literally risked their lives to keep and preserve records. I love recording life, through this simple practice it is easy to see the hand of the Lord in our lives.

"I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done." Henry B. Eyring

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gratitude Day 24

I am thankful for humor. This morning (like many mornings) the twins were at the table finishing homework. Things were a bit tense (like many mornings) and Brylee was about to quit life altogether over a word problem. (which is a completely valid reason to quit life). I made a comment about how politically correct word problems are these days, where the names of the people in them are from cultures the span the world. (Tiamat, Chiyuta, LaFonda, Rashad, Danuta). Then Scott made up his own word problem and added in his own names and even an accent plus combined all that with ridiculous math calculations and I nearly died of hysteria. I literally had to lean on the kitchen counter and hold my gut--I couldn't even see through the laugh tears dripping down my face. MAN it feels good to laugh really really hard sometimes.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Gratitude Day 23

To say that I am grateful for November 23rd is an understatement. 16 years ago today I became a Mother. From my earliest days I dreamt of motherhood. Of course the reality is a lot harder than those little girl dreams but this is my life's work and I feel confident that motherhood is worth my very best efforts. And to be Kaden's Mother is a joy. He has a heart of gold and he is just plain good. He is helpful to his younger siblings, has memorized 100 scriptures, brings music into our home and is responsible, fun and hard working. Kaden wrapped his heart around mine all those years ago and my heart has been his ever since. Happy Birthday my darling, sweet boy, I love you more than life and breath. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Gratitude Day 22

I am thankful for fasting. In our church we typically spend one Sunday a month abstaining from food and drink for at least 2 consecutive meals. We give the money we would have spent on that food to the needy. Fasting is not only a way to care for the poor but it is also a way to feel closer to God as you put your spirit in control of your body. I always tell my kids that fasting helps us practice making our spirits stronger than our body and I feel that learning to do that is so important to healthy self control habits. Fasting is a beautiful practice of faith. Yesterday was not our normal fast Sunday but I was in need of extra guidance and peace so I fasted. By the end of my fast my problems were not solved but I certainly had a increased measure of peace over the situation. Such a simple concept but an amazing tool to help us access the available help of the Lord

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Gratitude Day 21

I am truly grateful for daughters. These girls are a joy and I am so glad they are mine. Brylee is growing into a beautiful woman inside and out. Ella is full of make believe and drama and has a deep love for babies. Cali is adventurous and funny and shows her love without hesitation. I refer to them as "best sisters" quite a lot because I want them to feel united. I want them to learn to love each other and rely on eachother. I know they will need eachother down the road and I hope they are building a deep and loyal friendship right now. I think they are. Each one has a piece of my heart. To be a mother to these three amazing girls is as good as it gets.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Gratitude Day 20

I am so thankful for babies! Our little Cali girl is almost 5 and so our house is baby less for the first time in 16 years. Its both super exciting and super devastating. I love babies. Some of my earliest memories are of my baby brothers. I loved watching my Mom take care of them and helping as I got bigger. My own babies have literally been my whole heart and soul. Taking care of my babies was such a joy to me and I will always miss the privilege of having a squishy sweet smelling babe on my hip. There is just nothing quite like it in all the world. Now I get to enjoy my brothers babies and they are fully enjoyable and I love them.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Gratitude Day 19

I am thankful for living Prophets. We live in a confusing world. There are so so so many differing opinions and viewpoints on any given topic. Even the Bible can be hard to understand and interpret. Last night as I was getting ready for bed Kaden came in with his scriptures open and told me that he had been reading in Exodus and found something totally confusing. It was Exodus 32:14: "And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people". He was genuinely confused and said, "I thought God was perfect so why would he repent?" In seconds I had looked up the answer to his question by finding the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible. 

Exodus 32:9–14 contains the record of a conversation between the Lord and Moses about the rebellious Israelites. These verses can be confusing because of what they say about the Lord. 

The Prophet Joseph Smith changed this verse in his inspired translation of the Bible to read as follows: “And the Lord said unto Moses, If they will repent of the evil which they have done, I will spare them, and turn away my fierce wrath; but, behold, thou shalt execute judgment upon all that will not repent of this evil this day. Therefore, see thou do this thing that I have commanded thee, or I will execute all that which I had thought to do unto my people” (Joseph Smith Translation, Exodus 32:14 
The Lord does not repent; He has no need to. The change made to Exodus 32:14 in the Joseph Smith Translation is in harmony with that doctrine. Further, this change by the Prophet corresponds to the original Hebrew, which conveys the idea of being sorry or of consoling oneself, indicating the Lord was frustrated with these people, but He did not need to repent of any wrongdoing.
The Joseph Smith translation of the Bible is such a gift. When Joseph Smith was 17 he said that the Angel Moroni told him  that his name would “be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues.” Can you even imagine? This was a kid with a 3rd grade education living in a time when computers, mass communication, telephones and T.V's were non-exsistant. I am sure the idea that his name would be had at all must have seemed impossible let alone among all nations, kindreds, and tongues. Of all the things that Joseph Smith said this one thing can not be argued. He was 100% right. Our modern day prophets are not perfect men. The apostles that Jesus called personally while He lived on Earth were not perfect either. But I am thankful for them. I am thankful that God loves us and gives us leadership and direction, in a difficult world, through living Prophets. 
“Because Heavenly Father loves His children, He has not left them to walk through this mortal life without direction and guidance. That is why He pleads so earnestly with us through His prophets. Just as we want what is best for our loved ones, Heavenly Father wants what is best for us.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Gratitude Day 18

I am grateful for the standards in the pamphlet For The Strength of Youth. I literally would be lost, in raising teenagers, with out these guidelines. Our house is very teenagerish right now. We have 3 teenagers in the middle of navigating, the sometimes treacherous world, that exists between 13 and 19. In so many ways these years are AWESOME. These kids are hysterical, their friends are down right entertaining and the activities they are involved in are so fun to watch. BUT MAN there are a lot of scary and stressful aspects to raising teenagers in a difficult world. We are so incredibly blessed with great teenagers. So far our big kids are nailing it! And so much of that, I believe, has come from the standards that we expect them to live by. Kaden will be 16 in less than a week. This is a whole new world for us. He will begin group dating and driving and for us he will also begin managing his own bank account. A few weeks ago there was a knock at our door and Kaden was asked to the Winter Formal Dance. I was smiling and snapping pictures but later I had a sort of I-AM-NOT-READY moment. But that was quickly followed by a sweet assurance that Kaden has been taught and guided and has a conviction for himself of the standards we live by. "Teach correct principals and let them govern themselves." Let the fun begin!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Gratitude Day 17

Last nights FHE activity was building our Thankful Tree

I am thankful for the Family Home Evening program. Over the years our FHE's have ranged from down right flops where everyone is mad, fighting and hating each other to little pieces of Heaven on Earth. But the heavenly FHE's have far out weighed the horrible. Oh and we've had a ton of really mediocre ones as well.

This is what the Church says about FHE.

Family home evening is a time to strengthen family ties. We do this by learning the gospel together, by listening to each other’s feelings, thoughts and ideas, and by enjoying activities together. It is usually held on Monday evenings.
The practice of learning the gospel in the home began with Adam and Eve (see Moses 6:57). It has continued throughout succeeding generations, as prophets counseled parents to teach their children to love God and follow His ways (see Deuteronomy 6:5–7Ephesians 6:4).
Family home evening is a time to enjoy each other and have fun together. Through simple activities—games, service, sharing talents, visits to local sites of interest—families create connections and build unity.
Prophets have promised great blessings to those who follow this counsel, including greater faith in the hearts of the youth, increased ability to resist temptation, and greater peace, love, and harmony in the home.
President Thomas S. Monson has said, “We cannot afford to neglect this heaven-inspired program. It can bring spiritual growth to each member of the family, helping him or her to withstand the temptations which are everywhere. The lessons learned in the home are those that last the longest.”
 I love FHE. It is work and it can be so hard (even a huge pain sometimes) but what a gift this practice has been to us over the years. It has helped me as a mother to sit down each week and think over what I'd like to specifically teach my children. It is a chance to bear testimony, love, eat and learn with the people I care most about. What in the whole world could be better than that? 
We will keep adding to it all month. The kids love this and they especially love it
when I make their friends add leaves to the tree :)