Friday, December 2, 2016

Christmas Letter?

This cute family of mine has hit some milestones and 2017 will be full of crying happy tears (some sad too) with what is in store for this bunch!
I've never sent out a "yearly Christmas letter", let's face it, only the past few years has anyone received a Christmas card from us. I still feel it important to jot down some of the ups and downs and things we are looking forward to.

Mat - Mat is finishing up his 8th year of being self-employed and beginning our business Restorative Woodworks. He is and incredibly talented, and extremely hard worker. He will be turning the big FOUR-OH this year and the bugger only keeps better looking with age.  I have decided he's a horrible hiking partner however.  He doesn't feel the need to pause on ANY switchbacks hiking Observation Point or Angel's Landing and frankly I hate him for it as I'm all nonchalant like "hmmm these switchbacks have INCREDIBLE views! Wow, we should pause every other one just to make sure we don't miss anything".  In typical Mat fashion he has registered for a handful of upcoming races...a half marathon here or there thrown in as part of training.  He will be competing on a relay team for the St. George Half Ironman hoping for a 6 minute mile pace (otherwise known as how long it takes Jamie to put her freaking shoes on).  His big milestone for 2017 will be the Zion 100 miler. ONE HUNDRED FREAKING MILES! If you thought perhaps "is Mat insane?' when he married me 18 years ago, YES, yes he is.

Jamie - No one really cares that I've resolved that botox is probably going to have to be a must as I hit the big 40 as well and that my big goal for 2017 is to have zero 4-5 year olds laughing about their chubby primary teacher.

Bailey - This kid is where the mix of happy and sad tears comes into play...She is a senior at Snow Canyon High School this year. A FREAKING SENIOR!!! (yep, almost 18 and as mentioned above 18 years of marriage, feel free to speculate) Bailey is a fantastic student, an amazing cheerleader (sad tears because we can't seem to convince her to cheer in college), and just all around amazing person. COLLEGE! She will be beginning an entire life of adulthood with the possibility of actually leaving the nest to go to college!  Tears, so many tears.

Caleb - Our sweet little toe head is not so little, not so blonde, but still incredibly sweet these days.  He has grown a good 6 inches this past year and has just began his high school days as a freshman. Caleb has left the realms of participating in team sports for picking up an assortment of individual sports.  He has even (much to my dismay being the twin to Kris Nelson and his swarm of buddies) picked up skateboarding. Dang it if he's not a natural either. Of course he tends to naturally talented at anything he tries (those genetics clearly come from his mother and thats why he's my official pickleball partner).  Really though, he's an amazing kid who asks for very little in life.  Everyone should have a "Caleb" in their family.

Easton - Easton has followed in his older brother's footsteps in the growing department following close behind with a gain of 5 inches this year (in case your wondering we've basically experienced 2 teenage boys with hormone levels raging who share a room...yeah, good times).   Easton is an incredible soccer player and his growth has certainly helped his game.  He is a big dreamer and plans to be a multi-millionaire someday.  He bought himself his own dirt bike this year and is currently saving for a Razor, of course gas station trips for Takis and Walgreen stops for cologne seem to be preventing much savings...

Peyton - Okay, those that know Peyton personally will attest to the driven personality of our little platinum blonde.  She currently takes ballet and jazz, participates in the school early morning choir (I ALMOST got away with 0 kids forcing me up extra early 2 days a week), competes on not one but two cheer teams (competing at a youth level 2 and Junior level 3), and still begs to learn to violin and play competitive soccer.  She MAY get to play some rec league soccer in the spring because lets face it she gets most anything she wants, but I don't know how she thinks she could even fit violin into her schedule. She is still participating in her school's dual immersion program which makes her SEP's more exciting despite Mat and I just nodding with confused looks as she rattles off her Chinese with her teachers. 

Holy crappers, we are blessed. Like crazy blessed. Sure we've got struggles, tough times, and all of that but did I mention how much I love that family of mine? 


Monday, July 21, 2014

Our top ten ways we feel like we are at least doing SOMETHING right...

When it comes to perfect parenting, the Holt family will most likely never be discussed unless its in regards of "what not to do".  Nevertheless, we have felt the slightest bit of accomplishment with a few small adjustments in our home.  Here's our top ten:

10.  Family prayers.  Confession that we only do nightly prayers with kids and dada leaving at all different times each morning but we are pretty diligent in our nightly prayers.  Each family member has a specific night that is theirs to say the prayer.  They are also asked to read a scripture. With 6 of us in the family and 7 nights a week mom and dad usually end up saying the 7th night.

9. Vacations.  We love to vacation and have realized it is a priority to us.  First we started a vacation jar, which is great and still in use but doesn't cover the amount of vacations we prefer to take anymore.  It basically is a change jar that loose bills and change get put into as often as we find them.  If Mat just happens to leave a lot of cash in his pants and it comes through the wash that's a vacation jar bonus!  The jar also serves as a cash reserve with smaller bills in case of a power outage or emergency that we need cash for as we use our debit cards 95% of the time.  

8. More Vacations.  To combat our love of vacations and our less then lucrative vacation jar we've instilled the envelope system.  We have an envelope for couples vacations, family vacations, and when our kids turn 12 mom and dad take them on vacation so they get and envelope too.  Each month Mat will add cash to each envelope with the idea that each vacation we are saving for will be fully funded by the time it comes.

7. Envelopes for everything.  We have liked the envelopes so much that there is almost an envelope for everything you could think of.  All of our bills are paid online each month and we have a set amount for food and necessities that gets deposited into my account and everything else belongs to the envelopes.  We have one for home updating, clothes, Christmas (Mat's favorite), etc.  We even have an envelope for just Mat and one for just me that we can either save up for something we want or spend each month but we can spend it on anything we want without getting any grief from each other.

6. Chores. Of course with 4 fairly involved kiddos we have our work cut out in the chore department.  To save us grief we have chores that rotate each month for the three older while our youngest gets a little easier one.  We rotate trash duty, every trash in the house needs to be emptied by this child every time it's full.  Usually the day before trash pickup they empty every trash as well.  We rotate laundry.  I wash and fold all of the laundry but twice a week one child goes and gathers the dirty clothes and once they are folded the same child puts them away.  We also rotate dishes.  The rule is that you put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher so the main chore is that the clean dishes are always put away.  If the dishwasher is neglected when their clean then the child has to load any that accumulate that are dirty.
 Each child is expected (expected because realistically they're done once a week) to keep their room and bathrooms clean before going out to play.  

5. Dinner.  I like to cook but coming up with ideas every night is overwhelming.  This doesn't work great during the summer as everything mealtime is a crap shoot but winter months it's a life saver.  On Sunday each family member chooses a meal they would like that week.  It can't be something we had the week prior and it has to be reasonable.  So we basically have a weekly menu which helps cut costs on groceries.  If it's that family member's night to say prayers then it's also their night to clean up dinner. 

4.  Reading, writing, and everything else they whine about doing.  Each child is expected to read 20 minutes each day before they can play.  Each child usually has another activity that we ask that they work on to improve for an additional 20 minutes. 

3.  Gratitude jar.  We just began this after a Sunday school lesson on gratitude but it is working so far.  Each night as we kneel down for prayers each family member writes something they are grateful for on a slip of paper and puts it into a jar.  At the end of the year we plan to make a wordle of all of our blessings.

2. The phones and electronics.  Each kid is required to turn in their phones or electronics each night.  Before accessing them in the morning they must meet certain requirements.  Our oldest must read her scriptures a certain amount each day.  Our younger kids must complete their everyday tasks and depending on how much time they've spent the day before they will have to do some sort of an extra chore to have use of them.  The ipads are all password protected so Mat and I are the only ones that can access them.  If our younger kids are wanting to get on them typically they will find a chore as in straightening up the kitchen or family room and THEN ask if they can play them.  It's amazing!

Our number 1 favorite thing....

1.  No electronic Sunday.  This means no cell phones, no tv, no iPads etc.  Heaven forbid these kids have been forced to interact with their family members one day a week and while it took a while to get into the groove they seem to actually ENJOY spending time as a family.  They are allowed electronic access if they are doing something gospel related.  They are more than welcome to index, listen to church music, watch church movies, etc.  We have allowed on small catch to accessing electronics on Sunday. We have church at 9:00am which can be a challenge to get them all ready.  If they are ready and in the car by 8:45am they are allowed one hour of electronic time during a designated hour.  So if we're coming in late you can pretty much guess it's mom running behind as that hour is like gold to the kids.

There you have it. Right or wrong these are the top things that have us functioning almost like a normal family day to day.  No they don't always work like clockwork but when they do life is that much easier.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Storm

This past fall/winter Mat and I took a much needed cruise to the Caribbean just the two of us.  We prepared to leave with the usual list,  carefully packing each kid's suitcase, outlining the kid's activities and carpool, cleaning the house, outlining work, etc.  The day we left for our cruise was the Friday following Thanksgiving and we had spent it watching Easton's soccer tournament in lovely 65 degree weather.  We were almost sad to leave as we knew the weather wouldn't sustain that temp for much longer.

Halfway through our cruise we stopped off in Curacao and found a wifi spot.  Anxious to be able to checkin with the kids we took a break and accessed the internet for a bit.  The imessaging was understandably taking a bit longer than usual so while waiting for replies I checked the weather in Santa Clara.  I commented to Mat that my phone must've switched to celsius because the temps were far lower than typical of Southern Utah.  The kids had messaged indicating that my phone hadn't changed and was giving me a correct forecast of the weather at home.  My first thought was that I had only packed light jackets for the kids and that they would certainly need access to some winter coats.  Mat made arrangements for the main water line to the house to be shut off as we hadn't insulated anything before our departure. 

As we embarked from our cruise we laughed as many pictures and videos were being sent from home of our kids in a winter wonderland.  Not only were the temps significantly below normal but Southern Utah had been blanketed in snow!  We laughed and returned the messages with pictures of us smiling in the 88 degree Florida sunshine.

At lunch that day Mat was watching the news screens and asked if we had a layover in Dallas like we did on the way there.  I said that we had a direct flight into Las Vegas and should be home about 1:00am.  He was relieved as Dallas had cancelled 2,500 flights due to ice on the runway.

As our flight arrived in Las Vegas we received word that the freeway was closed on the way home leaving only one other access to our house.  Our brother in law was on a flight ahead of us and said the highway we were looking at was icy but if we were cautious we would be ok.  Anxious to get home because we hadn't arranged for an adult to sleep at our house thinking we were getting home at 1:00am we were grateful there was an option for us.  After a very cautious drive home we pulled into a snow covered town at 3:30.  It was beautiful.  The last flakes had fallen and the sky was clear.  We had never seen that much snow in our corner of the world.

When the sun arose we saw how much snow had been dumped and were happy that igloos and forts had been built and our kids got a taste of snow for a day because that's how snow falls in Southern Utah.  It snows for a day and is melted by the next...

Not this time.

Our driveway took weeks to melt.  The streets and sidewalks remained quite dangerous for a while as no one really owned the proper equipment to remove snow and it was Southern Utah after all so it would just melt...

The palms around town were weighted heavily with ice.  Mat and I chuckled thinking the nurseries would certainly love spring.  It didn't even dawn us that OUR yard had been impacted by the freeze.  After the snow finally melted we realized not only had our yard been affected but it appeared that MANY of our our plants had been lost. 

I'm a yard fanatic.  I mow sometimes twice a week just because I love a well kept yard.  We didn't pay anyone to landscape and every plant, tree, and flower, had been put their by our hands and cared for by us.  We have spent HOURS creating our dream backyard and it looked AWFUL!!! 

It took me a few weeks before I could bring myself to see if there was any life left in the plants.  When I finally did I was sick.  It appeared that the majority of our plants had been lost in the freeze and the thought of the time, money, and effort it would take to get it back was overwhelming!  We limited ourselves to making minor improvements each year and not only would this push our spring plans back but I didn't know how we would even be able to afford to fix the damage that was there.  We just stopped thinking about the yard.  We didn't go into our backyard and tried to think of what we were facing. 

Finally we decided it was time to make SOME progress on it.  Mat called our friend that landscapes professionally and relayed back to me that we may not have to replace our plants!  Our friend suggested that there WAS life in them but we needed to trim them back.  I was weary to say the least and actually thought I knew better than the professional because the plants WERE DEAD! Mat set aside the trimming and decided a saw would suit our needs better and went crazy sawing limbs off every tree and bush we owned.  

The yard looked somewhat better after being cleaned up from all of the fallen leaves and debris that had been hidden in the snow, but it also made me sick to look at.  It looked bald and still looked dead.  Mat had cut everything back to almost stumps.  Where the tough, brittle bark hadn't grown leaves or new branches for years.  He said "Give it time, they will leaf out".  RIGHT...

In February the sun started coming out more and more and I would just look at my yard in disappointment as it was ALWAYS so pretty in February... "Give it will leaf out and green up," Mat kept saying.

Early into March we began to see our trees begin to bud.  Happy that we at the very least still had them I relished their buds.  They were beautiful.  Maybe there was hope for spring after all.

We took to the beach mid-March for spring break and were very surprised when we came home to buds on some of the plants!  Humble and happy that I had been wrong there was new growth!  Growth where there hadn't been since the plants were put in the ground years ago! The stubs hadn't been growing leafs because they hadn't seen the sun being covered by the new leaves each year.  It was AMAZING!!!

There were plants that we hadn't got around to trimming and they still looked sad but there was hope which was an amazing thing.

It's now Mid-April and our yard is flourishing!  I am shocked at our strong our roots must've been and extremely happy we spent the time throughout the years tending to our yard as we have.  We have TWO pomegranate trees that have not leafed out but Mat has assured me that he believes there is life in them still but they weren't cut back far enough.  We probably won't get fruit from them this summer but the roots are strong!

Here's the thing about me sharing this:  Mat and I have had a wonderful marriage.  Ideal in MANY ways.  Like the week we returned home from a gorgeous cruise in the sunshine to the stark contrast of the ice/snow storm we were caught off guard with a wrench that made our life together feel dead.

I had nourished and tended to our marriage and was sick that with all of our efforts it was dead. I thought the time and effort we had both put into it had made it great and indestructible.

It wasn't.

Of course our marriage was something neither of us wanted to throw away but by all appearances it was gone.

I loved Mat, he loved me.  Neither of us wanted to it to end but we couldn't seem to find a way out of the shade and into the sunshine.  Money intake had certainly been affected (which didn't help) by the aftermath of the storm our marriage was facing and things overall looked VERY bleak.

It was tough.

We started cutting out the dead and frozen over parts of our marriage and home life. THAT was tough! We had to BOTH sacrifice so much that we held dear in the hopes that doing away with it would expose strong healthy roots.  Work HAD to be second priority (which as I mentioned before finances weren't exactly what we were used to living off).  Personal attachments were one of the most difficult things to break away from.  Things that from the outside seemed harmless and in many ways should be good and healthy but for us and our marriage they weren't.

We kept cutting out and cutting out.

It's been a year and a half since the storm that came out of nowhere hit us.  What seemed dark and unfixable is bright and wonderful.  We cut deep and found the precious roots that hadn't seen the sunshine in far too long.  New growth is everywhere.  It is amazing!

 I share this with much trepidation as I'm clearly saying to the world..."We are NOT perfect" and it's not always an easy thing to expose to the world.  I have felt a strong need to share however.  I know MANY friends and loved ones each experiencing their own storms in life that feel unrecoverable.  Things that don't feel fair and weigh us down to where we feel like we can't take anymore.

If I've learned anything from the storm I truly thought I was ready for that shifted our lives upside down is that as long as there are strong living roots new life can grow.   It's not easy to start cutting away at all of the things you want so badly to hold onto and have cherished for so long but once you find the roots and find expose the core to the light that it needs our lives can flourish in ways we didn't know were possible.

The leaves are a darker, richer green.  The plants have so many more ways to grow.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Top ten things we love about Easton...

 Easton is an amazing kid who yesterday officially turned 11! So here's our top ten favorite things about my baby boy.
10.  Easton is giving. While he can be a tad stingy he really wants his brother and sisters to feel loved. 

9. He's happy.  Easton finds the joy in life as evidenced by the big smile he always wears.

8. Easton is a hard worker.  Once Easton decides to dig in on a project whether it be school or chore related he works hard.  He has to work harder at school than most kids and he really tries his best.
 7.  Easton is funny.  He always has a great joke or story to tell.

6. Easton is friendly.  He has a huge variety of friends at school and in the neighborhood.  He is always up for a party.

5.  Easton is handsome.  I mean, look at him.
 4. Easton is smart.  The gears turn in his head quicker than he can sort them out sometimes but he is great at math, science, and is becoming a great reader.

3.  Easton loves animals.  He has such a tender heart and animals hold a special spot in it.
 2. Easton is strong.  Strong both physically and mentally.  He has a strong will that we believe will help him to accomplish great things in his life.  He is also just plain tough.
1.  Easton is amazing.  Plain and simple, we love everything about him and feel it a privilege to have him in our family.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Lasts and a first...

 We've had quite a week at the Holt household.  We were able to attend the annual Raglan review and watch our girls shine a bit. 
 We also got to watch Bailey don her Raglan uniform for the last time. 
 Bailey tried out for high school cheer at Snow Canyon High School and of course rocked her tryouts and made the team.  She is officially no longer an all-star cheerleader.  
 It's been emotional to say goodbye to the gym that Bailey has called home for the past 6 years but we are very excited for her new adventure with the high school squad.  It will no doubt be an adjustment for her but one filled with opportunity. We are very proud to call Bailey ours.
 With Bailey going onto high school cheer we have decided Peyton will take a hiatus from all-star cheer as well.  Peyton loves dance and so until she asks us to begin competing again we are going to enjoy less time spent in the car running from place to place and enjoy watching her blossom as a little dancer.
 Raglan has been a great experience for our girls and it has had a great impact on Bailey's life in particular.  She's grown phenomenally and we couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Break Part 2

 Our spring break trip to Oceanside was short lived.  We had nationals in Salt Lake to get to after all.  This year Peyton's team ended up wanting to compete last minute which meant we had to be in Salt Lake earlier than usual.  We came back from Oceanside one day and left the next up north for the girls to compete.  Unfortunately I was fairly spent and forgot to take any photographs of my little Peyton on her big day.  Her team was darling of course but didn't place.
 Bailey was competing on two teams and both were up against some pretty tough teams.  Unfortunately  Bailey's first performance didn't go as well as she had hoped and the team didn't make it to the match play round.  However, she had to brush off that loss right away because she had to compete with her other team shortly after the first.
 They came out and did great!  The team made it to match play but in the first  15 seconds of their routine, one of their flyers was kicked during a tumbling pass and the music stopped.  Most of the parents hadn't seen it and were stunned by the silence.  The little girl that had been kicked landed on her head and ended up with a pretty severe concussion.  The judges allowed the team to still perform once they were able to stabilize Bailey's teammate.  Bailey's team at that point couldn't have taken first but they were AMAZING!!! 
 No jackets and second place but a memory that will outlast a title.
As soon as we pulled into town we headed over to Bailey's fallen teammate's house to give her a welcome surprise home.

This week will be Bailey's last at Raglan as she made the high school cheer team the following week (more on that later) and while we are looking forward to a new experience for our amazingly talented daughter, we will miss her family at Raglan.

Oceanside 2014

 In the spring of 2013 Mat and I decided it was time to save for a trip to Hawaii again.  We figured we could set aside money each month and by spring break of 2014 we would be relaxing with the island breeze.  An incident with backing out of the garage, Bailey's appendix, and basically life altered our plans to Spring Break in Oceanside, California. 
 The benefit of our new plans were that we could invite other families to go along.  We rented a great beach house and invited the Herd's, Edwards, and Orchards, to share in our family fun. 
 The house was PERFECT with ample space to accommodate all four families and it was RIGHT on the beach so the kids could spend as much time in the sun as their hearts desired.
 We got lucky with gorgeous weather and despite the ocean being a tad cold the kids rarely came inside.  
 Mat took Bailey and Caleb one morning to the San Diego temple to do baptisms which was Caleb's first time.  We also took a day and went to see the seals and tide pools in La Jolla.  We could have easily spent every minute of our trip at the house however.  We were there for four nights which frankly just wasn't enough!
 The kids all got along great with each other and they all formed new friendships.  
 Mat and I have taken some great trips over the past few months but there's nothing quite as fun as having all of the family in one place. 
 The kids are growing up.  In terms of summers left we have 3 with Bailey which is crazy to think of!
 We had a wonderful time and of course can't wait to head back!