for the love

birth love . bio love . step love

Snowball Cookies



It snowed this week. And though we don't have many family traditions, one that we started when we became a family was to make Snowball Cookies on the first snowy day of the season. And since we like cookies so much, we usually make them on other random, snowy days, too. They help ease my pain and anxiety over winter. You know-- carbs. 

There is nothing better than Snowball Cookies and hot chocolate on a snowy day.

Snowball Cookies
1 c. butter
1/2 c. confectioners sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. sifted flour
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. chopped pecans (an option I don't use)
Additional confectioners sugar (for rolling)

Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add remaining ingredients, mix. Use a teaspoonful (I use a small ice cream scoop) of dough and roll into small ball. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool slightly and roll in confectioners sugar. (I roll them twice.)

Step Mothering


Of all of the titles I've had, step mom has to be the hardest earned, least appreciated, and most polarizing of them all.

It suggests to some that I'm not the real mom-- and I guess if you define a real mom by genetics and gestation periods, then you would be right. But my “real mom” standards are different. To me, a real mom is more than giving birth or being able to sign my name on the legal documents at the DMV.

It means--

Fixing her hair just the way she wants it for school/homecoming/like she saw on Pinterest ... and getting it jussssssst right. It's giving her a high five after her first kiss, hoping heartbreak avoids her, yet knowing it won't. Then helping her pick out her best outfit for school the day after heartbreak happens. It means going to her piano recitals, gymnastics meets, and making sure she knows I'm cheering her on in every part of her life, whether it's from the sidelines of a volleyball game, or via email from halfway across the world. It's teaching her that she has the power to make a difference in a world full of injustice that she is all too familiar with as a child of divorce.

It's making him cookies when homework is long and tedious. Or asking him to run to the store to get bread for dinner when he's been grounded for the last two days-- and you know he needs to feel just a little bit of freedom. It's not feeling bad for yourself when the Mother's Day cards, treats, and jewelry come home addressed to the other woman in his life … because it's not about the cards and tangled up bracelet anyway. It's carpooling 4 of his friends to soccer practice with a screaming baby in the car, because there is no tapping out when it comes to step mothering in real life. It's loving him through disappointment, sadness, and grief-- and letting him know it's okay to feel those kinds of emotions. In fact, the act of feeling actually makes you a whole person.

It means knowing when they want your advice, and when they just need someone to listen to them. It is offering unconditional love, and conditional taxi rides based on clean rooms and homework getting done. It's apologizing when you are wrong, or after losing it over something really dumb.

I occasionally hear, "those kids are lucky to have you!", and although intended as a compliment, it doesn’t really feel like one. We're lucky to have each other. And when someone assumes that you won't miss your step kids as much when they leave the family nest, because, well, "you're just the step mom", and "it's just not the same”-- know that it is the same for me.

I want all of the things for my step kids that I want for my biological kids- the best education, a good night's sleep, clean, presentable clothes, well rounded meals, safe cars (and extra insurance), a chance to make whatever athletic team they're trying out for, a strong work ethic, success in almost everything they do paired with enough failure to keep them humble, and the same rules, disciplines, and expectations in every day life-- like, call your mom at least once a week, "and that means BOTH of us!"

It's a long list of hard work and big sacrifices, with little to no credit. I never wanted to compete for the title of Mom, or to try to win their affection in that role. I knew going into it that I would be second in command, the understudy to another woman, another supportive voice. The step mom gig is a hard one. People often say, "they'll appreciate you when they're older", and you never believe them. But when the day comes, you'll wear that "Thanks for everything, mom!" like the badge of honor that it is. Because you earned that title-- without the dreaded prefix-- in the trenches of unconditional love, which requires more than your signature at the DMV.

Coming & Going


(November 2012)

In November of 2012, Parker came home from serving a mission in Florida.  I can't even begin to describe the complete JOY (there is no other word for it) a parent (yes, even a "step-parent") feels when their child, or man child as was Parker's case, comes home after being away for 2 whole years.  And Parker's mission was the absolute longest mission ever.  He was gone FOR.EV.ER. 

Maddy's friend,Jedidiah Thunell, was there to capture Parker's arrival at the airport, and then made this awesome video to help us remember that day.  Incredible talent- that boy will have an Academy Award someday. 

This past August, Maddy left to serve a mission in Denmark.  We knew from our experience with Parker that the curbside drop off is rushed and hurried, and I thought we were prepared this time around- experienced, seasoned missionary parents.  We pulled up to the curb, and saw one of her friends from high school (I knew immediately that her familiar face was a gift), and in the whirlwind of exchanging hugs, grabbing luggage, and trying to get a picture- I noticed that Jack was still in the car, and Maddy's Host Missionary was anxious to take her away, and Jack was crying ... and it was total and complete chaos. CHAOS. And this is what our family looked like dropping off Maddy at the MTC, while I barked out commands to "hurry and get in the picture", and all of us on the verge of tears. 


And just like that, we have arrived at the point in our family where our front door is revolving, and our big kids are big, and the little ones are getting bigger, and they come and they go.  On missions, to college, and down the street to play at a friends house.

As A.A. Milne said - thanks for happening to pass me.  

Christmas 2013


Christmas of 2013. The SADDEST Christmas ever, which I didn't think could happen knowing how depressing Christmas 2010 was for us, which was when we fell into the deep, dark abyss of the Sister Wives marathon on TLC.

While we took advantage of every fun moment and tradition we could fit into December, the 25th left us without Parker and Maddy- Parker was in the Dominican Republic on a "non-service" service project with his GF and family, and of course Maddy was living it up, celebrating Christmas for THREE straight days as an LDS missionary in Denmark. Thankfully, the little boys had no idea they were getting the raw end of the deal.

Beck Christmas Tree Farm in Alpine.  A new-ish tradition for our family.  And while it looks really pretty, the snow doesn't help ... other than motivating everyone to agree on a tree quickly.

We chose to chop it/saw it down ourselves ... but only because we had Parker with us who is 22 and still has good knees. It was crooked and we ended up having to chop off another 2 feet.  And that's
when I declared no more real Christmas trees. 

And because we like huge crowds and annoying people, we hit up City Creek and Temple Square
the Saturday before Christmas.

And of course we stopped by Uncle Mikie's place because "new shoes for everyone!" 
Just kidding- new shoes for Parker, Taylor, and me.  
And the boys played hide and seek with D.  Apparently, it was exhausting.

Christmas morning ... just the three amigos with some amazing bed head. 
With Star Wars pajamas and Legos for all.

Mads with her companion trainer, Sister Rogers.  Sweaters by H&M, in Denmark. 
Everything's better in Denmark.  Including bricks, pavers, and Christmas sweaters. 

What Ten Years Feels Like


(My handsome dates for my anniversary dinner. 
 I chose sushi.  It was bad. 
No more sushi for long time.)

Ten years, and it feels like way more.  We were put through the ringer the first year of our marriage- I highly DO NOT recommend going through a custody evaluation/court battle during those first 12 months. No fun.  Neither is trying to get pregnant  in the middle of it, and failing miserably.  Which is a crazy thing to do, anyway.  But by the end of that first year, we had Parker and Maddy and a baby on the way.  And we celebrated at KFC-  Aaron's choice.

To say that we don't celebrate our anniversary like we should is the understatement of the year.  We are horrible at it.  (I mean, sushi on a Tuesday night at a restaurant 5 minutes away, with your 4 year old in tow, to celebrate ten years?)  But what we do really well is love each other through the every day, mundane, imperfect, and demanding parts of our life together.  We don't always agree.  And, occasionally, we argue.  But those butterflies that fluttered so often in the early years have woven a pretty cozy and familiar blanket around my heart.  He is the best thing that ever happened to me and my life, and I love him a whole lot.

We're thinking that maybe we'll go big with the 10 1/2 year mark.  Or 11.  Any good trip suggestions out there?

Let Us Eat Cake


We have some important events to celebrate at our house this weekend!

Today is Aaron's 44th birthday. I honestly thank the heavens for that man every day of my life, so I'm especially looking forward to celebrating him today! Although, I still need to go buy the presents. (Busy week.)

Today, we are also celebrating Jack's Preschool Graduation. Since he has a late birthday, I have always planned on waiting until he was 6 to start kindergarten. But now that he is finished with preschool, it's obvious we are both ready for him to start kindergarten next year. He's all registered, and we have his 5 year old "shots" appointment next month. And while I'm a little bit sad that our baby is growing up (in just the blink of an eye he'll be graduating from high school) I'm also excited to move onto the next phase of life.

Of course, Monday we'll celebrate a rainy Memorial Day, and Tuesday will mark 10 years of marriage for us.  TEN years.  Sometimes it feels like yesterday, and other days it feels like we've been together all of our lives.  More to come on that.  But for now, we have some major celebrating of my favorite people to do!  Yay for happy days.   

His "Mad" Face


Today Jack was standing in front of the television when Maxwell said "Uh, Jack's toe is bleeding."  Jack had no idea his big toe was a bloody mess. And no idea how it ended up that way.  So we went to Alpine Pediatrics where the Nurse Practitioner told Jack he was a very brave boy, and wouldn't need stitches.  RELIEVED!  She cleaned his toe, bandaged it up nicely, and sent him home with a sucker, a bouncy ball, and a sticky hand that is now semi-permanently stuck to the vaulted ceiling.  Awesome.

I told Jack to make a happy face for a picture for Dad.  He preferred his mad face, and there you have it.

Christmas 2010


Christmas 2010
(I am in an honest enough mood to admit that this is not my favorite picture of my kids. And it was $15.) 

I promised Aaron that I wouldn't write about how this was our worst Christmas ever, so I won't.  So let's remember these things:

1. The conversation I had with Charlie just days before Christmas ... said in the midst of grumpy, overly hyper kids throwing Legos at each other

Me: You know what I want for Christmas? I want kids that will get along!
Charlie: Do you mean new kids, or us? 

2. Having my dad sleepover on Christmas Eve and spend all of Christmas day with us- something he never does.

3. Fun parties and dinners with friends, family, and neighbors. Including our very first non-kid New Year's Eve celebration. Sign me up for that next year!

4. Visiting the Santa at Gateway Mall that was  grumpy and missing most of his bottom teeth.  He went on to scold me about what my kids had told him they want for Christmas- all Nintendo Dsi's.  And while this whole experience put me in a bad mood, I'm throwing it on my list so I'll remember next year where NOT to take our kids.
(p.s. I think Max is starting to question the existence of Santa, as I guess he should at 8 years old.)
5. Talking to Parker for a little over an hour.  That was definitely the highlight of our Christmas. The little boys said hello and I love and miss you, and then went on to play with new toys.  I was in the middle of making dinner, so I popped in and out of the conversation.  Aaron and Maddy were glued to the phone.  It was the best for how hard it was. Still missing him a lot.

(p.s. his being gone is the reason this was our worst Christmas ever.)
We've already made reservations at The Morgan Bed and Breakfast in California for next Christmas.  And no one can talk me out of it.

Merry Christmas's


It's amazing how heavy the nostalgia becomes when the oldest child leaves home. This week I stumbled upon our family history of Christmas cards.  Still looking for 2004 and 2006 (we missed 2002 and 2009). 

Parker 10, Maddy 7 
Married a mere 6 months. When bedtime and Christmas were a piece of cake. 

Parker 12, Maddy 9, Maxwell 1
  One of my favorite family pictures ever. 

Parker 14, Maddy 11, Maxwell 3, Charlie 1
I like to call this our honest family picture.  Grumpy baby.  Fed up toddler.  Happy big kids.  And the crazy part- I had just found out that we were (unexpectedly) expecting another baby. 4 weeks pregnant. 

Parker 16, Maddy 13, Maxwell 5, Charlie 3, Jack 1

Parker 17, Maddy 14, Maxwell 6, Charlie 4, Jack 2

Parker 19, Maddy 16, Maxwell 8, Charlie 6, Jack 4
The oldest on a mission, the youngest completely potty trained.  Middle aged parents, self sufficient kids.  Ever evolving life and family.  At the end of my trip down Christmas card memory lane, I am feeling very blessed, and incredibly grateful for the little family we have.  

Merry Christmas.

New York City In June or The Day We Saw Tom Cruise


Let's finale this thing before the details get lost in the fog of my memory.

So, New York City was incredible.  What I wasn't prepared for?  How stinky it was.  And dirty.  No one tells you "I love New York City- it's so dirty and gross!"  But I will tell you.  Every night I came back to hotel room wanting to take a shower.  Nevertheless, I loved it and want to go back.  So the awesomeness definitely outweighs the grossness. 

We drove from Rochester into the city.  The drive was beautiful.  But navigating Manhattan on your own- I don't recommend doing that.  

Lincoln Tunnel- when you come out on the other side, you enter complete chaos. 

See?  Complete chaos.  We stayed at the Marriott Times Square.  The same hotel where just a few weeks earlier, a van with a bomb was parked in front of.  That did great things for my anxiety level.  But our hotel is to the right of us.  And Aaron, after driving around in circles trying to get to our hotel, ended up ditching me and the kids in a "Bus Loading Only" zone, and then took off.  I checked us in, got us up to our room.  And then sat on the bed on the verge of having an anxiety attack.

We were there from Friday-Wednesday.  And we packed it in.  One thing I realized once we got home is that we are horrible at taking pictures on vacations. This was at the top of Rockefeller Center. (Or Top of The Rock.)   

More from the top of Rockefeller Center.  Parker holding The Empire State Building.  We went there, too, but no pictures. 

 The M&M Store.  I'm sticking this picture on here just because we miss Parker and his antics.  

 Aaron (and Parker) loved the NBC Store.  Somehow, I missed it. 

The Museum of Modern Art.  We are not art people, and I'm just going to be honest and say we didn't love it.  Anyway, that wall behind Parker and Maddy, and Starry Nights, is temporary.  And the security guard freaked out over how close the kids were to the painting and the wall.  Whoops. We left after that. 

 Outside of Carnegie Deli.  The pastrami was heaven.  

Sunday, after church.  Now that would have been a good sight seeing picture to take- outside of the LDS church/Temple building.  But nope- no picture there, either.  We went to Sacrament meeting- it was incredible.  Small chapel in a high rise. And the entire congregation had professional voices.  

 My drunk on sprite husband.  "Getcha hands outta thair."

We saw Wicked on Maddy's sweet 16 birthday.  We LOVED it!  I cried my eyes out. 

We finished celebrating Maddy's big day at Serendipity.  After I took this picture, Tom and Suri Cruise walked in and were sat right behind where Parker is sitting.  We were seriously dying!

DYING! It was a memorable birthday moment for Maddy!

Rockefeller Center- where the gold statue man is, and those umbrellas are where the ice skaters skate in the winter time.  We didn't wake up at the crack of dawn to do The Today Show.  But we did hit the JCrew store across the street.  

 Grand Central Station.  

We LOVED the Museum of Natural History.  We ate at the Shake Shack afterward for lunch.  One of the best cheeseburgers I've ever had.  And they had fountain diet coke.  Which, for your information, is hard to find in NYC. 

Aaron took close to one hundred photos of the church and fire station across from Ground Zero.  It was a pretty incredible experience to see it all in person.  

More stuff we don't want to forget; 

1. Juniors- where we would grab breakfast in the morning, and a treat and diet coke at the end of each very long day.
2. Our 30 minute experience on Canal Street.  We didn't see "the good stuff".  
3. The Nannies + kids at the park in the Financial District.
4. Central Park- which smells a lot like urine, and the crazy man who followed us.
5. The peddler on the corner who was selling "The Ultimate Stimulus Package".
6. The Apple Store.
7. The street dancers- they were awesome!
8. The Muslim wedding party in the middle of the street in front of Grand Central Station.

And lastly, a special thank you to Grant & Kelly, and my mom for watching the boys so we could take our big kids on a really fun vacation.  Even though I was a nervous wreck, and was convinced that I was going to die- to the point of actually typing up a will (which we should really have already had on file)- we had the best time, and made really great memories with Parker and Maddy. 

The End.