Sunday, March 24, 2013


At the end of last year, Annabelle's tumbling teacher pulled me aside and asked when Belle would turn five. I replied, "Well, she turns four in July..." She was shocked. I murmured my old stand-by phrase when my too-tall, too-fast-talking baby's age gets questioned, "Yeah, she's really tall for her age..." Her teacher said, "She really is! But she acts so much older too!" She then asked how I'd feel about moving Annabelle up to the next class. The five-year-old class. I cringed a little inside - my baby may be tall and smart as a whip, but she's still three. I agreed with one condition: If Belle or Miss Tiffany thought the class wasn't a good fit, we'd switch to the younger class again.
Switching classes on my girl required some preparation. Her best friend wouldn't be in the class (her friend was actually taking the quarter off) and it would be a group of new "big girls." I explained that she'd also be learning new tricks, even cartwheels. Her only question: "Well, will Miss Tiffany be there?" I replied in the affirmative, and she told me that would be fine. She just needed one familiar factor, and she was ready to start.
During her first class with the "big girls," I watched nervously. And closely. Luckily, she's taller than most the "big girls," so at least she blended in easily. But guess what? She also kept up with the big girls. I wasn't hugely surprised as I know Annabelle, and I know that a challenge is what she craves, even if she doesn't realize it. But boy howdy have I been impressed with this girl. It's a very cheesy kind of mom pride, but she has learned and progressed so much this quarter. She began the big girl class unable to do a cartwheel, a sitting somersault, or a backbend. She ended the quarter doing all three, and doing them well. She's learned form and technique, and she has really learned to love tumbling. She spends hours every day practicing. 
As they prepared for their showcase performance (each child had three minutes to complete their entire arsenal of much-practiced tricks), Miss Tiffany again pulled me aside to say, "Okay, best decision we ever made. She's doing awesome." And then a few weeks later, "You've been practicing with her haven't you. She is seriously doing amazing." 
Insert more cheesy mom pride. :)
These photos are from her showcase, which was huge for her as well. She's a shy girl. When strangers talk to her at the store she will not respond. Ever. I don't push her much to either because guys, strangers are weird. Also, I was the same way. It doesn't worry me because I get it. I had no idea how she'd do at her showcase. She was ready, and she was excited, but she's never performed in front of a crowd. Grandma Lichelle drove up to see her perform and some of our best friends who have just a tiny (most adorable) baby came as well.

As we watched the tumblers before her, I could see Annabelle's nerves frazzling. This was when being a three year old in a five year old class was hard. And there were several things not going for her:

1. The showcase was held at a different location (than her class). It was in a big giant gymnasium, not the small little one she's used to.
2. There were probably 50-100 people watching.
3. It wasn't just her class; it was the combined kindertumbler classes.
4. It was freezing. (Seriously - it was so cold.)
5. They accidentally sat her without her class.

When her teacher called for all the kindertumblers, she came unglued. I had to sit with her to get her to the mat. Her very sweet teachers did everything they could, and soon she settled down and sat with her class. However, when it came almost time for her to perform, she lost it again. It was heartbreaking for me. I wanted her to be brave, and I knew she could do it. But I also know that although she is physically and often mentally capable of five-year-old tasks, she's still a baby. My baby.

I stared at her and smiled at her from across the room. I locked my eyes on her, as though if I looked hard enough, I could somehow pass on some of my hard-earned adulthood bravery. I wanted to save her, but I also wanted her to know how brave and amazing she is. Her teacher was the sweetest and kept encouraging her and allowed other girls to go before her. Soon, her teacher motioned for me to come over. I sat with her, put my sweater on her to warm her up, and we talked about her options. Miss Tiffany came and offered to go through the routine with her. She said she'd even do the tricks first. She told me, "I know she's three, but she's better than most of the five year olds!" 

Grandma cheered for her, Daddy's eyes did that thing where his concern for his baby is visible, and Heather (our sweet friend) gave her baby to her husband so she too could sit at the front of the line and wave and cheer and let Annabelle know that we were with her.

All the kids were done, and it was now or never. On a whim, I asked if it would be okay if I walked around and talked her through. Miss Tiffany said, "Absolutely." I love that Miss Tiffany was all about doing anything it took to get her to succeed. And it was only then, when I walked every step around with my baby, looking every bit of the mommy geek that I am, that she did it. First the jumps - straight, tuck, straddle. Then a backwards somersault. Then came the standing somersault and her perfect scissor-legs handstand. Her legs flew through the cartwheel, and as she went to the backbend spot, the final trick, she gave me a tiny grin, then bent that insanely flexible (and double jointed) body up to the sky. 

With each trick, I saw the pride in her eyes return. Her form was spot on. She raised her arms after each trick toward the "judge." And she finished. She completed the entire routine. I never touched her or made her perform. I simply clapped and cheered and played the fool on the sidelines. As she was the very last girl in this "age group" to perform, the entire gymnasium was cheering for her. It was as though they wanted it for her as much as I did. Although the general rule was to hold your applause until the tumbler had finished all of his or her tricks, the audience broke form and whooped and hollered her through every step of the way. I glanced out at the dozens of moms and dads clapping and cheering for my baby, and had to look away quickly. Because I was talking her through, putting on my best brave face - tears were not an option for me right then. I was so proud.

I worry sometimes that I push her too hard because I know what she's capable of. She's incredibly smart and talented. But she's also still a little girl. I was prepared to cheer for her whether or not she finished her routine because she's accomplished so much even without a showcase, but my heart nearly burst with pride when she did it. It was hard and terrifying, but she didn't give up. Of course, after everything was said and done, she went out on the mat and did all her tricks over and over again. And she told me on the way home that she thinks next time she can do it by herself.

I couldn't be more proud of the way this lovely lady is growing up.I love that this tumbling business has become something that is so her own. I love that she was so brave, a little girl marking time with the big girls. Tumbling gives her a chance to be something awesome. And she knows it; she knows that she did something amazing. So proud.

Note: Annabelle tumbles with the Utah Tumbling Academy. We joined originally because Annabelle's bestie was taking it, but I have to say, we love it and are so glad we stumbled upon it. If tumbling is something Annabelle chooses to continue with, we feel awesome about this group. Miss Tiffany (the director and Belle's teacher, pictured above) is stellar. We can't say enough good things about the program. :)

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Lou got the plague. It started just before bed, just like it did with me. Why does the flu always start when you should be sleeping?
At about 5:30 a.m., Belle must've heard her sister cry and said with a tiny voice, "Mommy?" Sick, little Lou opened her eyes wide, shot out her binky, and said, "Sissy?" I asked if she wanted to go and see Annabelle. "Uh-huh." And so we went and sat by Sissy (her bed is on the floor). Lou's small, sick voice crackled a "Hi!" and her small hand found its way out of her blanket to wave at her best friend. Belle smiled and said hello back, and they both slept.

When Annabelle woke up, I told her Lou was still feeling sick. Annabelle's first question, "When can she play with me again?"
An hour later, Lou guzzled 8 ounces of water and fell asleep. She woke up a little later and seeing Annabelle on the couch, scrambled out of my lap with a smile saying, "Seat! Sissy!" She took her place by Annabelle, pulled the towel over her legs (I'd been packing her around with a towel all night). And smiled at Sissy.
Sickness is like the snow. It makes you slow down, forces you to prioritize, to do only the necessary things. And those things are usually just loving each other, the way these sisters do. And always have:

Annabelle with her very brand new sister, just minutes after Lydia Lou's birth.
Belle was the only one I let in the room for the first fifteen minutes.
I wanted her to see her sister before anyone else. (Jess was already there, of course.)
My how they've grown up.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Tuesday night, I came down with the flu. Or food poisoning. Or both. How do you really tell? Both ailments have the same miserable symptoms. I spent the night in the bathroom, grateful for my bed's close proximity to the toilet. It was bad. I felt awful. I actually WISHED for pregancy over that mess.

Through the night, between toilet sessions, I prayed that I'd be able to get my girl to her tumbling class. When I woke up, bleary eyed, mouth coated with throw up taste, I realized, I'm okay. I can do this. Belle woke up and asked - knowing I was sick - "Can I still go to tumbling?" I told her that yes, I was feeling okay. And I did feel okay all through tumbling. And then at the grocery store where I was picking up a few things, I realized, wow. I'm not okay. And we went home, where we watched movie after movie, and I half-slept the gross away, grateful for the tender mercy that allowed me to get Belle to tumbling, if nothing else. She learned new tricks yesterday, and I was so grateful we made it, so grateful I got to watch her little mind run like a mill, calculating how in the world she was going to manage a backbend with her leg in the air. (She can almost do it already.)

By the evening, I was feeling relatively normal, and last night, although combined the girls woke me up three times, I felt so very well rested. Sleep without the interruption of the bathroom - dreamy. This morning, as I've walked around picking up the house that I willingly let the girls run like a very disorganized business yesterday, I just feel gratitude. Gratitude that I can pick up the toys. Gratitude that a shower seems in the cards today. Gratitude that the sun is shining and my windows are open. Gratitude that I have two of the best little girls who somehow knew to tiptoe around Mommy yesterday. They've never been as angelic as they were yesterday, my grown up Annabelle especially.

It was less than 24 hours of feeling blah. It was nothing really. But just those handful of hours where I wasn't at my best have made the regular, day-to-day hours of this lovely life all the better.

So grateful.

Monday, March 11, 2013

talk talk talk

Yesterday, Jess, Annabelle and I gave talks in church. And trust me when I say, Lou would've also totes been down with shouting some Japaspanglish into a mic. However, a translator couldn't be found at such late notice. 

Annabelle's talk was given in Primary, her first talk ever, and her first time speaking in front of people. All the Sunbeams before her hadn't had the courage to use their voices, so I spent two weeks pumping my Belle up. We spent all of last week memorizing her five lines, which went like this:

One day, Jesus was teaching the people.
He asked them to bring their little children to Him.
They sat on the ground around Him, 
and Jesus knelt and prayed.
Then He blessed each child, one by one.
Jesus did this because he loves the little children,
and I know He loves me.

She had every single word memorized. I'd test her memory and mess up the words intentionally, and she'd correct me from the other room, "NO Mom, it's little children, not just children!" 

When her time came, she listened cautiously as the first little girl got up to give the prayer. She asked me why her friend wouldn't talk in the microphone. I replied, "Oh, she's just being silly isn't she!" not wanting her to realize that she should be nervous. I myself sat there a ball of nerves. I had far more anxiety as I sat waiting with my baby who had prepared and practiced without end for a week, than I did for myself who would be standing to deliver a fifteen minute talk in a few hours.

In the end, my brave little girl stood up, and with just a little help, delivered her entire address. In the audience was her great grandma, her grandpa, an aunt, an uncle with his girlfriend, her daddy, and her little sister. Four generations there to witness a three-year-old give a 45 second talk. She was brave and she was proud, and she felt so special that so many people were there to see her. 

Annabelle is remarkable. There really isn't any other way to describe her. And listening to her simple and beautiful testimony yesterday may have been my most proud 45 seconds of my life.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

our sister whit

Jess has seven siblings, and he's the oldest. Their ages span from 33 to 16. Among the kids, there are vast differences and commonalities. Personalities from one to another are sometimes identical, sometimes polar opposites. And yet, these siblings are as bonded and as loyal to one another as you could ever imagine. The Cheney children are knit together with bonds of love unbreakable. I have been so very blessed to come from these kinds of bonds myself and then to marry into them as well. So blessed.

The middle sibling - Whitney - is the glue that holds them all together. She is always loving, always selfless. She never puts her needs first, always seeking first to serve. I don't think she puts any thought into it either. It's just what she does. She loves with her whole heart, always and constantly. She never says no, even when perhaps she should. She sacrifices time and sleep to make sure everyone in her reach is safe and happy and loved.

She is each sibling's best friend. Each of them find in her the friend they need, the listening ear, the ever constant help in a crisis. As a married-in sister, you might think I'd be excluded from this friendship, but no. Truly, Whitney is among the best of my friends. She has saved me more times than my hands have fingers to count. She and I have shared the deepest of belly laughs and filled some of the best and most ridiculous memories.

My girls are extraordinarily lucky to have Super Aunts on both sides, and Whitney is most definitely among them. She has such a calm about her that babies are instantly soothed when she rocks them. She loves each of them almost as her own. Annabelle has a particular affinity for her, and indeed Whitney has always treated her as her friend. Her best friend. With Whitney's patient love and gentle encouragement, Annabelle's tumbling tricks have turned into legitimate skills. She's always there to hear Annabelle's drawn-out monologues and she does the coolest flip trick with her repeatedly, without end sometimes, allowing Annabelle to use her as a personal jungle gym. Whitney is her friend and her champion, always.

Just this afternoon, Whitney entered the Missionary Training Center in preparation to serve an eighteen month mission in Korea for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She's no longer just our sister. She's a sister. A sister missionary. I cannot think of a single person better suited to serve and love people of a different world and culture than our Whitney. They are so lucky, and I know she will serve and love each and every person she meets just the way she does us.

Our Sister Cheney is one extraordinary sister - here and abroad. We are so unbelievably proud of her and grateful for her example. Belle and I shared some giant alligator tears last night as we contemplated eighteen months without our friend, but then we talked about how lucky the people in Korea were, to have her as their friend too. We decided we could share her. (But just for a little while.) We talked about how lucky they were to learn about Jesus from Whitney. We talked about how she would love us always and be back before we knew it. 

My sweet Whitney, God be with you. You will be missed every day, but you will be championed just the same. Our prayers and our love are with you every. Single. Second. And we are incredibly proud of you. Thank you for loving us and for loving people you haven't even met yet. We love you. Totes. :)

Monday, March 4, 2013

photo dump

This post is for those whose titles begin with Grandma or Aunt and don't mind a lack of wordy dialogue. 

Instead, a handful of random photos, with tidbits of the goings-on.

Also, if you have a special pill or machine that will freeze my babies at exactly these ages, I'm in the market.

News flash: she's NOT a baby anymore. In the last month or so, she has just looked so grown up. It kind of breaks my heart. But then look how lovely she is. She requests random hair dos all the time now, which is fairly exciting for me as previously it was always, "just normal please."

She has her dad's phone and wallet, with the credit cards and driver's license out for easy access. She kind of kills me. 

Last week, I had a thyroid doctor's appointment early in the morning, so Jess worked from home until I got back. Annabelle got herself dressed and ready (I did her hair). She was unbelievably proud of this outfit. I let her wear it all day. :)

When Lolly does something she knows is naughty, she pretty much laughs when she gets in trouble, as seen here. She got quiet this afternoon for too long, and I found her with her favorite no-no - a box of tampons. Beats me guys.

But if she gets in trouble for something that she doesn't understand is wrong - in this case, putting Desitin on as chapstick - she breaks down. Her heart breaks. And we don't even "get mad." If we say "no-no" too forcefully in these cases, she breaks down for an hour, convinced she's committed a handful of unpardonable sins. 

Also, I look like my mother back there.

Also, we totes matched on purpose.

With the DISGUSTING weather we've been having (except today, today THE SUN IS OUT AND IT IS GLORIOUS GLORIOUS GLORIOUS), the kids (meaning Jess and the girls) have been very busy with the Legos. This is a Lego cake, built entirely by Annabelle, over the course of two days. It is her most epic creation thus far, and I'm seriously so proud of her. Her Daddy's just a little proud too. :)

Lolly's contribution to the Lego playing involves gathering any and all Lego wheels and carrying as many as humanly possible in two hands and outfitting Lego men with hats and clothes.


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