Riding Bikes, Dreaming Bigger, and Changing the World

Last month I wrote a blog post about Mikayla and Hope riding their adaptive bikes to raise money for a special needs school in Kenya.  I’m so proud of our girls.  They often begged to ride their bikes.   They pedaled for hours and hours to help kids across the world that they will never meet. They never complained when they were tired and I told them to keep riding.  Just keep pedaling.  Just keep pedaling. And they would keep pedaling with a smile on their faces even when they were exhausted.

I had a certain amount in mind that I was hoping the girls would be able to raise for the Daisy School.  I announced the fundraiser on Facebook on April 29th.  At church the very next day people started giving me money to support the girls and their fundraiser.   I went home and I realized that I needed to dream bigger because it was only the first day of the fundraiser and we were already half way to the goal I had set.

As I was sitting in church on Mother’s Day I felt very strongly in my heart that I was supposed to believe that the girls would raise $1,000.  Believe for $1,000? Gulp.  That sounds impossible.  As I was leaving church I ran into a friend and  I told her that I felt like I was supposed to believe for $1000 for the kids in Kenya.  She said she would love to partner with me in prayer for $1000 for the Daisy School.

Something always happens when you decide to believe for something.  Discouragement.  It always has a way of trying to come in and take away your faith.  The week after I started believing for $1000 the donations stopped.  And I began to listen to the voice in my head that kept saying “It was crazy for me to believe for $1000.  We’ll never get there.  No way.  It’s not gonna happen.”

We went through a dry spell but eventually the donations started coming in again.  We were 10 days away from the end of the fundraiser and the girls had raised $750.  We’re $250 away from our goal.  Is this really going to happen?  I would go out to the mailbox and find a check.  The doorbell would ring and when I answered the door someone would hand me money. Yes, it’s really going to happen.  Mikayla and Hope are going to raise $1000.  Just a few days before the fundraiser was to end a car pulled up in our driveway.  3 donations came in from 3 ladies and we had suddenly reached our goal. Actually, we had not only reached our goal but we had exceeded it.  Above and beyond what we were hoping for.  That’s how God works.  He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above what we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).  But God still wasn’t done yet.  More donations came in and we ended the fundraiser with $1,200.

I believe that God had a lot of things in mind when He put the idea in my heart to have a fundraiser for the Daisy School.  Obviously, He wanted the Daisy School to receive funds to help their school prosper.   I believe He wanted to show the world what a generous group of people can do to help kids across the world.  He taught me that I need to dream bigger dreams.  As I watched my girls pedal day after day He taught me what perseverance looks like.  Perhaps the best thing this experience did for my mom heart was to see what my girls can do.  They can change another child’s life by pedaling their bikes.  As a special needs mom I daily face the things that my girls can’t do.  Sometimes it’s really hard to accept why so many things are hard for them.   I’ve found myself crying in the middle of the night more than once lately.  They weren’t tears of sadness but rather tears of joy.  Joy that my girls have found something that they’re good at.  Joy that God showed us a way to use what they’re good at to help other kids who have special needs. Joy that God can do amazing things through our girls even though they don’t fully understand why they’ve been riding their bicycles so much.

The team from our church has arrived in Kenya.  They will be visiting the Daisy School and they will personally deliver the money that the girls raised. And I’m anxiously sitting here in America waiting for my friend Mona to post pictures on Facebook of the kids at the Daisy School.  It’s amazing what God can do with two little girls, a couple of bikes, and a lot of generous people.

One day as Hope was riding her bike she took a corner too fast and her bike flipped over.  Her feet were strapped to the pedals and she was wearing a seat belt.  She lay there helpless waiting for me to come and unfasten her so she could stand up.  I smiled as I unfastened her feet from the pedals. This helpless little girl of mine who’s all tangled up in her bicycle is changing the world.  This little girl who goes too fast,  falls down, and gets back up again is changing the world.  And her twin sister who doesn’t ride as fast or fall as much is also changing the world.  All of us can change the world.   My friend changed the world by praying for Mikayla and Hope to reach their goal of $1000.  Many people changed the world when they gave money towards the Daisy School fundraiser.  Some people change the world by being a missionary in Kenya.  And sometimes little girls who have special needs change the world by simply riding their bicycles and sending $1,200 to Kenya.

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Pedaling to Change the World

On a Wednesday night last fall my life changed.  I wasn’t planning on going to church that night.  I had a really bad headache so I had decided to stay home.  But then my friend, Mona, posted on Facebook that she was speaking during the service.  She mentioned her topic for the evening and it was something that I was struggling with.  So I took some pain medicine, got the girls ready, and we went to church.

Mona started the service by showing slides from her recent mission trip to Kakemega, Kenya.  She had visited a school for kids with special needs that was called the Daisy School.  As I watched each picture flash across the screen something happened to me.  I started crying.  That might not sound like a big deal.  But it was.  At the time I was battling the worst anxiety of my life.  I couldn’t seem to feel anything anymore and I hadn’t been able to cry. Before anxiety invaded my life I cried very easily.  But I couldn’t remember the last time that I’d cried.  As I saw the pictures of the kids from the Daisy School the tears came like a flood.

I was overwhelmed with emotion.  These kids don’t have much of anything.  I began to realize how much my family has.  Yes, two of our girls have special needs.  And it can be really, really hard at times.  But as I looked at these pictures I realized that I don’t even begin to know what hard is.  I was suddenly faced with the realization that my husband and I can give our girls everything that they need.   And one of the reasons we are able to do that may be just simply because we were born in the United States and we are able to raise our family here.  But what if we were in Kenya?  What if we couldn’t take care of our girls?  That’s a kind of hard that my mind can’t even comprehend.

Mona moved on from the Daisy School presentation into the topic she was speaking on for the evening.   I don’t remember what she talked about because I couldn’t stop thinking about the Daisy School.  I went home and I couldn’t stop thinking about the Daisy School.  I’ve never had a desire to go on a mission trip.  And I still don’t have any desire to go on a mission trip.  But as I sat in church on this night in 2016 God dropped a desire in my heart to help the Daisy School.  I didn’t know how we were going to do it but I believed that God would show me.

At the end of April I still didn’t know what we were supposed to do to raise money for the Daisy School.  Mona was planning her trip to Kenya and I asked her when she would be leaving.  She said June 19th.  June 19th!  That’s less than 2 months away.  We’re running out of time!  I googled fundraiser ideas and nothing felt right.  I began to panic because I only had the month of May left to do anything.  And suddenly the answer came.

I woke up on April 26th at 3:00 in the morning with a thought.  Use the bicycles your girls were blessed with to bless others.   I believe it was God speaking to me.  I had racked my brain for months trying to figure out what to do.  But then in the still of the night the answer came.

Last spring a wonderful organization gave Mikayla and Hope adaptive bicycles. Our girls were 11 years old and I’d never seen them ride a bicycle. Along came these amazing people who gave them bikes free of charge.  My dream to see my girls ride a bike was fulfilled.  And it was because someone saw a need and did something about it.  And now I saw a need in Kenya and I needed to do something about it.

On April 29th I posted on Facebook that Mikayla and Hope were having a fundraiser to bless the Daisy School.  For a $5 donation the girls will ride their bikes for 15 minutes. We made a commitment that they would ride their bikes every day in May.  The very next day at church 4 people gave me donations.  I began to find checks in my mailbox.  And I realized that God was doing something really special.  And He had chosen my girls to be a part of something really big.

Mikayla has pedaled every single day in May.  Hope missed 2 days because she came down with a stomach virus.  I couldn’t be more proud of my girls. Hope was always exhausted after a day of school and a long bus ride home but she still rode her bike for at least 15 minutes.  She even rode on the night that she had torn her pants and scraped her knee up at school.  Most days Mikayla rode for 30 minutes and sometimes for as much as 45 minutes.  We have 9 more days until the fundraiser is over.  On June 1st I will announce how much money will be going to the Daisy School.  I’m excited about what God has done and what He will do in this final week of our fundraising efforts.

I’m thankful for this opportunity to touch Kenya even though our family can’t physically go there. I’m thankful for people like Mona who have a heart to go to other nations and love others like Jesus loves.  I’m thankful for everyone who has given me a donation and shared in this vision of helping the Daisy School.  And I’m thankful that on that night in 2016 I didn’t let a headache stop me from going to church.  God had a plan for our family and the Daisy School.  I’m humbled to be a part of what He’s doing in Kenya.  And I’m blessed to daily watch our girls pedaling to change the world.

Learning to Dance in the Rain

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Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain.  I stumbled across this saying a couple of years ago.  I’ve thought about it often when life’s challenges have me frustrated.   Will I ever learn to take my eyes off the storm? Is it really possible to learn to enjoy life when I’m in the middle of a storm?  A few months ago I bought a wall hanging with the saying on it.   It reminds that I need to enjoy life even in the midst of the challenges.  Even when it’s hard.  Even when things never seem to change.  Even when my heart wants it but my mind thinks it’s impossible.  I need to learn how to dance in the rain.

As I was sitting on the couch admiring my new piece of artwork I was reminded of a day from my childhood.  I was outside playing with my sisters.  It started raining and we ran to the shelter of the block barn that’s across from the house. Once we were safely under the shelter it started pouring. The rain was running down the metal roof and showering down upon the ground.  It was calling us to play in it.  So we did.  We laughed.  We danced.  We were having the time of our lives. And then it happened.

Mom came around the side of the house and yelled at us to come inside.  Really?  What’s the big deal about dancing in the rain?  We’re not fighting. We’re having fun.  We’re not pulling each others hair or scratching each other.   We’re actually being good.  And you want us to go in the house?  I just don’t get it.  Years later I brought up my memory of that day to my mom.  I told her I’d never understood why she ruined our fun that day. She filled me in on the detail that my childish mind failed to remember about that day.

Mom looked out the kitchen window and she saw her three little sweethearts dancing in the rain.  I’m sure she thought we were pretty cute.  But she came outside and ruined our fun because she could see something that we couldn’t see.  There was lightning behind the barn.  She made us come in the house because it was her job to keep us safe.  Dance in the rain unless Momma tells you not to.   Momma knows best.

It’s easy to dance in the rain when we’re a kid. We don’t have anything to worry about.  We don’t worry about the mud splashing up on our clothes. We don’t worry about the lightning.  We just dance because it’s fun.  But then we grow up.  We have bills to pay, food to cook, dishes to wash, and muddy clothes to spray and wash.  Life becomes complicated and downright hard.  If only this would happen then I could enjoy life. Or if only this hadn’t happened then I could enjoy life.

If I could only lose weight.  Then I would be happy.   

I am so sick of washing dishes.  Carol Brady was one lucky woman.  I wish I had an Alice around here to cook and clean for me. Then I wouldn’t have all this work to do.

I’ll enjoy life when my kids start acting right.

It would be easy to enjoy life if I didn’t have to deal with anxiety every day.  

I wish my house looked like her house.

I wish I had her life.  Must be nice.

I finally finished filling out the 65 pages of medical forms so that our girls can see a developmental pediatrician.  Parents of kids with special needs have so many more things to worry about (sigh).  Now I have a headache and I need to eat a bag of chocolate.

Why do our girls have to have sensory processing disorder?  The battle with the socks every morning is frustrating.  I wish they didn’t have to deal with so much stuff.   

I spend so much time every day answering the same questions over and over again.  It’s totally exhausting.

Life would be so much better if someone in this house could hear me when I’m talking to them.  (Then my husband says “Huh? What did you say?”And I roll my eyes and laugh because he’s just so stinking funny.)

I think all of us have times when we wish our life could be different.  But what if it’s never different?  Then what?  Do we just feel miserable and never enjoy our life?  I’m guilty of wanting my storms to just go away.  If it would quit raining then I could enjoy my life.  But what happens if it doesn’t rain? Things can’t grow without rain.  Like the dogwood trees that I love seeing bloom in the spring.  They wouldn’t grow if it never rained. The same is true for my life.  I won’t grow if my life is always easy and I never experience any rain or storms.  We grow during the storms.  We develop character during the storms.  We learn to never give up in the middle of a storm.   And our storms teach us to have compassion for people who are in the middle of their storm.

We had family over a few weeks ago to celebrate Mikayla and Hope’s 12th Birthday.  I was sitting in the living room with a few of our guests and the front door flew open.  Mikayla yelled “Mommy, Mommy.  Come outside.  It’s raining!!!!!”  We all laughed.  She was so excited.  You would’ve thought it was the first time she’d ever seen rain.  If you know Mikayla then you realize this was so much more than just a cute moment.  When Mikayla was little she was scared to death of rain.  If it started raining she would start crying and she wouldn’t let me out of her sight.  She would often go to sleep to escape the rain.  She did this for years.  But then all of a sudden in 2017 the front door flies open and my girl is now excited about rain. That storm in her life has passed.  And I’m thankful.

I jumped off the couch and I ran out the front door so fast that I forgot to put on my shoes.  Brett and the kids were flying a kite in the rain.  I stood barefoot on the front porch and I watched the kite for a few minutes.  Then I went back in the house to visit more with our family.  After everyone left I realized the mistake I’d made.  Why did I just stand on the porch and watch?  Why didn’t I grab some shoes and get out in the rain with my girls?  Am I ever going to learn to dance in the rain?  I missed that moment.  But hopefully I won’t miss the next one.

A few days ago I was tired and frustrated.  I was complaining about something and wishing that it would change.  My husband said “You just need to learn to dance in the rain.”  Well aren’t you cute.  I told him he was right.  Yes, I need to learn to dance in the rain.  I’m definitely a work in progress

When You’re Between Two Paintings

 

Two paintings hang on the wall in our living room.  Our oldest daughter, Taylor, painted both of these masterpieces.  She was only 6 years old when she painted the one on the left.  I can still remember her sweet face and how she beamed with pride as she showed me her very first painting.  She’d only been going to art class for 2 months.  I was amazed at what she was able to accomplish in such a short time.  Taylor was 19 when she completed the painting on the right.  She was all smiles as she turned it around for me to see.  My mouth dropped open and I squealed with delight.  I grabbed it out of her hands and I hung it on the wall in the living room.

One day as I was sitting on the couch admiring Taylor’s artwork I started thinking about all that had happened between those two paintings.  It took 13 years to get from the painting on the left to the painting on the right.  So many things happened that people will never see.  Taylor spent many hours learning how to paint and practicing over and over again.  She painted over mistakes that none of us will ever know about.  I drove her to class every week and I waited 2 hours for class to get over.  I wrote more checks than I can count.  And there’s dad who worked hard those 13 years to pay for the art classes.  And we can’t forget about Grandma.  Grandma took Taylor to art class for an entire year after Mikayla and Hope were born.  She didn’t want me to have the stress of packing them up and taking them with us.  Getting from one painting to the next painting cost our family something.  It wasn’t always easy.  But it was worth it.

In the last two months our family has been faced with two extremely difficult decisions.  We’ve had a lot of sleepless nights.  Anxiety wrapped itself around me and nearly choked me.  My sweet husband and I have had a lot of discussions (um….I mean fights) about what we should do.   I’ve consumed a lot of chocolate.  And finally we’ve found the answer to both situations.  The answer to the first decision is yes.  This yes came with a lot of questions, uncertainty, and fear attached to it. Our family will be going through a lot of changes because of this decision.  But even in the midst of fear we chose to say yes.  The answer to the second decision is no.  This no came with a lot of disappointment and heartbreak.  I wanted the answer to be yes.  I dug my heels in and I wasn’t going to change my mind.  Why can’t Brett see that the answer is yes?  It’s so obvious that the answer is yes. And then the day finally came when I heard God whisper the answer into my heart.  And His answer was no.   I was devastated.

Something happened to me once the decisions were made.  Even though I knew we’d made the right decisions I felt empty and hopeless.  I didn’t go to church for 3 weeks.  The process of walking through the decisions has been difficult.  I’ve had to give up something that I really wanted.  I’ve had to say yes to something that scares me out of my mind.  Life’s going to look different than I thought it would look.  As all of the disappointment and uncertainty were swirling around inside of me God reminded me of the paintings.

He said: You’re between two paintings.  This is the part that no one sees.  This is the part that costs something that no one will ever know about.  This is the part when you feel like your heart has been ripped out and yet you choose to go on.  Trust me during this time of disappointment.  Trust me when My plans look different than your plans.  You’re acting like this is the final painting in your story.  But it’s not.  You’re in the middle of your story.  I know the plans that I have for you.  And they are good.   

This moment with God gave me hope.  God can paint a better picture for my life than I could ever paint.  He’s taken the paintbrush and He’s painting over my mistakes.  He’s painting over the plans that I made.  He’s painting over the disappointment that makes my heart ache.  And I believe one day I will step back and look at His painting of my life.  And the no that broke my heart in 2017 will suddenly make sense.  Because I will see that His plan was better than my plan.  I will see that He painted things into my life story that I would’ve never thought to add.  I pray that if today you are feeling hopeless and disappointed that you will turn to the One who will give you hope.  If life doesn’t look anything like you want it to look turn to the One who is writing your story.  And trust Him.  Trust that His Word is true.   For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

 

Mikayla and Hope Go To Camp

It’s been an exciting summer.  Mikayla and Hope went to church camp for the first time.  My friend Joni asked if she could take them to camp.  The girls spent 3 days at camp and I spent 3 glorious days resting at home.  Thanks to several friends I have pictures of my girls at camp.  I don’t have any idea what to write about camp since I wasn’t there.  So Mikayla and Hope had to help me out.  So here’s what happened at camp through the eyes of Mikayla and Hope.

Mikayla:

Played games

Ate snacks

I got wet

The zip line was fast

The water slide splashed me in the eye

Ate grapes, watermelon, and strawberries

Hopey pushed me

I painted

Hopey:

I went on the water slide and the zip line.

I got points

I ate candy, crackers, oranges, grapes, and carrots

I eat the sandwich

I made a craft

I slept at their house (a.k.a  Joni’s house)

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When a Man Shares His Kite

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Hope was excited the minute that her feet hit the sand.  She’d spotted a kite flying in the sky.  Look Mommy a kite!  Daddy, Daddy I see a kite!  Taylor look!!! Brynna, Brynna I see a kite!  She didn’t care about the water or the waves.  All that mattered in that moment was the wind and that kite.  The man flying the kite approached Brett and said he’d noticed Hope’s excitement.   He asked if she would like to fly his kite for him.

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And then Mikayla took a turn.  DSC01408

I prefer to fade into the woodwork when we’re out in public.  But Mikayla & Hope almost always thrust us into the spotlight.  My introverted personality often feels quite uncomfortable while the spotlight is shining on us.  But something happened while we were at the beach.  When the spotlight followed us around we weren’t given judgmental looks.  We received compassion and understanding.  Our girls made people smile and laugh.

I was relaxing under the shade of my umbrella while the girls were playing in the water.  Mikayla ran up to me and said “I love you!”  I smiled and said “I love you too!”  She went back and put her feet back in the water.  A few minutes later she came back to me and said “I love you!”  I smiled again and said “I love you too!”  This routine went on for at least 10 minutes.  The woman sunbathing next to us abruptly sat up and said “I don’t know…..I don’t think she loves you enough!”  We laughed and talked about how the other twin didn’t seem to love me.

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One evening as we were walking back to the condo a man started a conversation with Brett.   He had been watching Brett holding both inner tubes while Mikayla & Hope floated in the waves.  He asked about their diagnosis.  He said his friend has a child with a similar diagnosis.  He told Brett he looked tired and he knew that he has his hands full caring for our girls.  As we neared our condo he told Brett that he would say a prayer for him.  Brett told him he appreciated the prayers.  We never saw the man again.

All of these people entered our life for only a moment.  The lady helped me find my way to a much-needed laugh.  The man who offered to pray brought new hope into our lives.  And when a man shares his kite it just makes the world a better place.

Learning To Laugh My Way Through The Crazy

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Our family just got back from Florida.  We had such a great time last year we decided to go back again this year.  We stayed in the same condo, went to the same beach, and did some of the same activities.  We had fun but this trip didn’t go as smoothly as last year.

On our first evening at the beach we watched dead fish float up on the shore.  We had heard the algae was bad and people were seeing dead fish the week before.  But we were hoping it would be better for our week of vacation.  This was definitely not what I had pictured happening on our first day at the beach.   None of us got in because it was just too gross.  The next day we went to a public beach.  The girls got in the water and had a great time.  But I was hoping we wouldn’t have to travel to public beaches all week.  On the third day the beach by our condo was clear and the girls were able to swim.  And I rejoiced.

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Last year the highlight of our trip was the dolphin cruise.  We saw 20 dolphins last year and we were excited about taking another cruise.  This year we saw 2 dolphins.  Only 2 dolphins?  I couldn’t believe it.  Apparently we were spoiled last year.  A crew member told us it’s really unusual to see 20 dolphins.  The girls still had fun because they got to feed fritos to the seagulls.

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As we set sail this year the captain announced that we would be traveling out into the Gulf.  We weren’t able to go into the Gulf the last time because the waves were too choppy.  The captain announced that if you started to feel queasy you needed to go to the back of the boat.  I don’t remember the nicely phrased words that he used. But basically he said to puke off the back of the boat where it won’t fly in someone’s face.  Because we don’t want your puke to ruin someone else’s good time.  Ok.  Now I’m feeling a bit uneasy.

Mikayla got really quiet just moments after we started this voyage into the Gulf.  Then she said “Don’t feel so good.”  Oh great!  So we rushed to the back of the boat and stood by the rail.  She told me she wanted to sit down.  We sat down on the nearest bench and I quickly noticed there was a trash can to our right.  Oh good.  If she starts to get sick I’m going to get her to that trash can.  Another one of my girls wasn’t feeling well either so she joined us at the back of the boat.  Then I started feeling queasy.   We were only 1 hour into this 2 hour cruise.  Suddenly a woman came running from the side of the boat.  She was holding a paper towel up to her face.  She ran over to the trash can and deposited her breakfast. She did it without getting any on her fellow passengers.  Good for her.   I spent the last hour of the cruise wishing I could abandon the ship.  Please don’t let any of us puke.  Please don’t let any of us puke. Please, please, oh please don’t let any of us puke.  And none of us did.   Half of our family didn’t want lunch when we docked.  Was that really the same ship that we had so much fun on last year?

The next day we went to the Gulfarium because Mikayla and Hope insisted that we go see the dolphins.  We went to the dolphin show as soon as we got there.  The doors opened at 9:30 and we came in at 9:36.  The only seats left were at the top.  We sat down and one of our little sweethearts started yelling “I can’t see! I can’t see!  I CAN’T SEE!!!!!”  They sat on the front row last year so they were expecting to sit on the front row again this year.  Brett remembered that last year people stood around the rails that surrounded the dolphin pool.  He thought the girls would be able to see better if we  moved down there.  The little sweetheart who couldn’t see was still not happy and continued to let us know.  It was extremely hot.  Sweat was running down our foreheads and our backs.  Our other little sweetheart started yelling “Fix my bra! Fix my bra! FIX MY BRA!!!!” Our girls are new to this whole wearing a bra thing.   I guess the sweat, the bra, and the sensory processing disorder all mixed together was driving her crazy.  And the other little sweetheart was still yelling that she couldn’t see.  People were staring. I felt totally overwhelmed.  My bottom lip started trembling.  The tears were starting to come but I was determined I wasn’t going to cry.  We’re here on vacation and I’m not going to cry.  The dolphin show started and the girls settled down.

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As soon as the show was over our sweetheart once again started yelling “Fix my bra! Fix my bra! FIX MY BRA!!!!” So I did what any overwhelmed, slightly embarrassed mom would do in the same situation.  I took my little sweetheart in the bathroom, peeled her bra off, and put it in my purse.  There.  Now we can enjoy the rest of our day.

I sent a message to my friend Evana.  I told her I was having moments when I wished we had never come to Florida.  She reminded me that even though it’s hard to go out and do things and battle the meltdowns we are giving our girls life experiences.  And that’s what’s really important.  She told me to try to laugh off the times that make me crazy.  That’s really easy to do when you go in a gift shop and your girls turn into a horse and a crow.

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Taylor decided she needed to experience parasailing.  Brett booked an early morning time for them to parasail while the rest us slept in.  It was  a really good plan because I didn’t want to see my husband and my daughter 500 feet in the air.   I’m funny that way.

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We had some fun and we had some trying moments.  I laughed some and I never cried.  Maybe I’m finally learning to laugh my way through the crazy.  I’m thankful for every memory made with these 4 girls who call me mom.

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