On the Power of Kindness

I heard an NPR interview the other day that washed over me in a very powerful way. (You can listen to it here) Here’s what suddenly became very urgent after hearing this interview:


It sounds simple, but it isn’t always that easy. Some people are prickly. Some have even hurt us. Some make us uncomfortable and they’re awkward and hard to love. We still need to be kind to them — because more and more it’s becoming clear that our ability to treat others with compassion and simple kindness could have a dramatic impact.

In the radio clip, the host is interviewing a young man who nearly blew up his family and school. He was angry, and felt inadequate, and yes, he was also mentally ill. But neighbors called the police because he was making pressure bombs in his family’s shed. And he was caught, and confessed, and went to juvenile detention and received years of counseling. He’s a felon now, but he’s out, receives mental health services, earned a welding certification, and he’s living an honest life. He spoke with eloquence and maturity about his experiences.

And, he’s in touch with other “would-be mass murderers” — a pretty chilling club to be part of. One of the young men recently committed suicide. Another is doing pretty well, and he describes what foiled that young man’s plan:

He was on his way, in the school, to go shoot a classmate (and presumably whoever else in the school that got in his way). As he’s walking down the hallway, a girl looks at him, smiles, and says hi. 

And he turns around and goes home, doesn’t kill anybody. 

A SIMPLE ACT OF KINDNESS SAVED LIVES. I stopped cold in my tracks when I heard this story. I wonder, does that girl know her small action of showing basic kindness to a stranger had such an impact on that lonely, troubled boy?

How much can we push and isolate and ignore and ostracize the “freaks” and “weirdos” of the world? How simple is it to say “hello” every once in a while? Yes, they might make you uncomfortable with their social awkwardness and their sullenness — but also: how we treat the weakest among us says a whole lot more about us than it does about them. Everyone needs a friend. Maybe, instead of thinking “oh well, they’re not my type, they need a friend but they need to find the right kind of person for them,” we could just… be that friend? Even for a few minutes in a day?

It’s easy to be nice to people who are likable. It’s another story with other people — the ones that are “not my type.” Sure, everyone should “find their tribe” and all that feel-good stuff, but some people seem to get all the friends and all the tribes, haven’t you noticed?

We could all reach out to someone outside our circle.

People are hurting, and troubled, and isolated. And yes, better mental health services are crucial. (And obviously, it’s important to protect yourself around people who genuinely make you feel unsafe. Reach out to a school counselor, HR person, or the appropriate authority if that’s the case.) But also, we can afford a little extra kindness. We can smile at strangers. We can teach our children to reach out to the ones no one else wants to sit with.

It’s not my intention here to oversimplify the complex issues around school shootings. In fact, this post isn’t really about school shootings at all.

What I am saying is that we can learn something, right now.

This one piece of the puzzle: it is ours to solve. And we have the ability to contribute to that one piece of the solution — now we know, simple acts of kindness can stop a young man with murderous intentions in his tracks and send him home safe to his family. THAT is powerful, and it is power you and I hold in our own two hands.

Kindness. Pass it on.


Blast From the Past: Some Ballroom Clips!

I found some clips of our past ballroom performances!

So I was trying to entertain my kids as I tried to print a double-sided document with lots of pages from home (no professional printing available in town… wish me luck!) and I thought “Hey, I’ll play them some videos of ballroom dance!” and then I googled the dates I was on team at BYU, and… found a few performances some random person had filmed short clips of! OK the quality isn’t amazing, I’m warning you, the person was off to the side in the audience, but still kinda cool because I had a massive hard drive failure a few years ago that wiped out all my videos from that time (it still breaks my heart just thinking about it… I can’t even. Ugh.)

Anyway. Here you go, for your viewing pleasure! Good luck finding me, I’m one of the blondes, ha! With hair and makeup and the same costumes, even I struggle picking myself out sometimes! (Which is kind of the point in a formation team — we’re supposed to blend together, not stand out.) Andrew is in both of these clips too, see if you can find him! (And I’m not dancing with him either — he’s quite a bit taller than me so we were rarely if ever paired together in the formation pieces)

Well that was fun! And now I’m going to go cry about lost videos all over again… sigh.


February Moments


February was pretty cold and gloomy for the most part, so we spent all the time we could indoors, trying to find adventure in the little things.


But first, we kicked it off with a trip to Shriners.

It was a frustrating visit — there were some policy changes in the new year and we can no longer have new boots shipped to us when he grows out of them, meaning we have to make the trip to the hospital to get them. He went through five pairs of boots in the first year of his life, so it’s a lot of superfluous trips assuming he continues to grow as fast (which, I guess he won’t now that he’s not a newborn anymore… let’s hope!) and the hospital was SWAMPED when we went, so many families waiting to be seen hours after their appointment time, traveling from far away.. and here we were, taking up TWO appointments (doctor + orthotics tech) just to get the next shoe size up. It’s such a waste of their time and resources. The poor providers seemed really frustrated about it too, I’m guessing it’s an insurance-imposed decision… in the meantime, I guess people who travel from really far (some come from Mexico to this clinic!) will have to resort to buying the boots cash or something? So tough. Anyway, the plus side is Jonas’ feet look fantastic and we made it out of there in a reasonable amount of time, so I can’t complain — we have it pretty darn good compared to so many other families. But that’s what makes me mad: we were sitting in a patient room with another family who had to drive from far away, take off work, get their daughter molded for a scoliosis brace, then COME BACK to personally pick it up, etc. It’s expensive and difficult for these families.

All that to say, if you know a family whose child has a medical concern, remember that: they’re probably stretched really thin. Give them a break, maybe offer to help babysit kids or bring a meal on the days they have to travel. And if you’re their employer: find a way to make it work. Believe me, they’re acutely aware of the time they’re missing and guilty for having to take it off. They are sacrificing so much to give their child bright futures.

February is a big month birthday-wise: my mother, grandfather, aunt and husband all have birthdays! So the kids loved hiding in the dark and shouting “surprise” when Andrew came home the night before his birthday (he had to leave town for a few days) and baking (and eating) a fabulous Texas sheet cake.

They sure do love their papa! Jonas especially is becoming such a little daddy’s boy, it’s cute. He loves it when Adelina and Andrew play tag or horsey or whatever other active game and he follows them around giggling and trying to join in the action.

He also loves following Adelina around and imitating anything she does. (And vice versa sometimes, ha!) These two have gotten really good at playing together and I just love it!


(What a fun igloo they made at the library! Adelina didn’t want to leave it…)

They’re also really good at being naughty together… sigh. This day really made me mad — I had asked Adelina to serve him A LITTLE BIT and instead they decided it would be fun to dump the whole container on the floor and swim around in goldfish… oh boy.


Luckily I forgave them… eventually. Not before getting pretty mad though.


I read a good article on the studies surrounding gratitude and how we can teach it to our children — good stuff. (And also, based on her references I’m preeeetty sure the author is LDS, ha!)

We celebrated Valentine’s Day, and Adelina especially loved the bouquet of flowers Andrew snuck in the house while we were out 🙂


And the cute valentines we made for everybody!


We had a fun date night thanks to our Unbox Love subscription — highly recommend it!


(Ignore my crazy hair… ha)

Early in the month it was relatively warm, so we explored our backyard and found a fun hideout behind a clump of trees and the fence. Adelina loved playing hide and seek — we played that game a LOT this month.

Jonas loves playing hide and seek too, and it’s so funny watching him try to find his sister! Oh, and he’s really into “reading,” especially this cute book my dad sent when Adelina was little:

We had that one good snow day, and then we hunkered down into a deep freeze… which is finally starting to lift thank goodness!


We celebrated a very low-key Mardi Gras because I couldn’t find a single necklace or face paint kit or anything, so I just got some silly string and we played with it outside (I remember my dad doing that with me when I was about Adelina’s age), then had jambalaya for dinner and that was that. Oh, and the first week of the month was Chandeleur (French Groundhog Day) so we made crêpes (here’s more about the tradition + my recipe if you want to make some too!) — that’s a lot of February holidays including President’s Day!


This is me at about Adelina’s age celebrating Carnaval/Mardi Gras in Nice — they have a huge parade with floats covered in flowers, it’s pretty cool! I actually have memories of it, it was such a fun day 🙂

And then, I started my social media fast for Lent which has been… a bit of a challenge. But it’s good for me to push myself.

I’ve been practicing my photography a lot — participating in challenges, pushing myself to get creative, seeking out light in a dark month… It’s been good! And resulted in adorable pictures of Jonas 🙂


Here are more photos about “love” that I took around Valentine’s Day 🙂

By the way, this came as a surprise to my sister the other day who hasn’t seen him in a bit, but Jonas is for real walking everywhere now! It’s so fun to watch kids this age toddle about, and this cute kid is no exception… see?!

This is me trying to get ready by myself with the kids on a Sunday morning… it’s an adventure, and sometimes they ruin my makeup because I can’t keep it out of their hands fast enough…


One morning, Jonas managed to get hold of my hair styling product (which is a very goopy, sticky mess) and had taken two fistfuls of it and stuck one hand in his mouth, which made him gag and throw it up… in the matter of about a minute. That kid! But he’s also super cute and the sweetest cuddle bug, so I always end up forgiving him.

We had a bunch of quiet days at home — but that didn’t mean the kids didn’t have plenty of fun! Jonas loves to go into his sister’s room in the morning, and climb into her bed with her when he can. It’s pretty cute!


Adelina took a nap one afternoon, which was a pretty monumental occasion since she NEVER naps. She wasn’t feeling so hot and sure enough I paid for it later when she refused to go to sleep until 10pm, but she sure was cute and peaceful… at first she had cuddled up with me, and how can I refuse that?!


More indoor magic… Adelina’s room gets such great afternoon sunlight, it’s the best!


She had her end of year dance recital too (her teacher/dance school director is having a baby any day now so she decided to end the year early), and she loved it of course.

So did Jonas 😉 AND he was really good during the recital, thankfully.

She loved spending time with her little friends on playdates and at a birthday party, she has a few little girls close in age to her that she just ADORES and asks me to go visit every day… poor girl, she can’t get enough!


I know she’s going to just love school when the time comes in the fall. I’m not sure how I feel about her starting preschool though, it feels so odd to imagine her being gone part of the day!

We had a yummy raclette night — as you can see, it involves lots of cheese… much to everyone’s delight!

Oh and also in February… I cute my hair!!! It’s the shortest it’s ever been — and I LOVE it.

I have to make sure I style it — I prefer it with some wave to it than straight — but I’m really enjoying it and I think it looks great. We’ll see how long it lasts but so far I’m really enjoying it!

We got thank you cards from our friends’ lovely wedding we attended this summer, complete with prints from their photo booth… (What a nice touch, by the way!)

Ha ha. I’m so funny.

And there you have it — just like that, February is over! I’m definitely ready for spring!

Kids · photography · Travel

Sandy Beaches Sound Pretty Great Right Now

I’m slowly sifting through photos from our trip to France last summer (yeah… months and months ago…) and it’s honestly kind of nice to get to relive those sunny days during this freezing cold snap! Since our snow day last week temperatures plunged into sub-zeros so we’ve been shut in at home, and reliving this trip is helping!

We sadly didn’t get to the beach nearly as much as I would’ve liked this summer — in part because we had some gloomy weather for quite a bit! On one day we set off for a boat ride in the bay and it was lovely, but we were covered up in sweaters and jackets to fend off the cold wind.

But. We had one beach day that was absolute perfection.


It was blazing hot, so coming out of the water didn’t even feel uncomfortable, we had the beach almost entirely to ourselves (minus a few nudists…) and the most perfect, gentle waves, and we spent it with a childhood friend of mine and her two cute kids who are close in age to ours! (You moms out there know how dramatically having other kids around can improve your day and make your life simpler, ha — plus my friend’s parents were with them so we even had babysitters!)


There were even little pools left after the high tide, including the most perfect kiddie pool for the babies. It could not have been a more splendid beach day ❤

(The beach is called Montalivet, it’s a bit north of where we usually went growing up (Arcachon), but it was worth the drive if only to fend off the crowds! This one was a “secret” beach, my friend led us over some dunes and through some trees to get to it. She and her family were camping there for their summer vacation.)


(We’ll just forget the drama in trying to actually get there… ha. Poor Andrew had just flown in the day before, had to drive stick for the first time in a long while in bumper-to-bumper traffic only to realize an hour or so in that the GPS was taking us the wrong way and there was a much better road to take… we made it eventually but it was already afternoon and everybody was a little cranky. Once we got to the beach and stepped into the waves, though, it all melted away.)

Maud and I became good friends when she joined the american section program in 9th grade — she’s 100% French, but she was just that hard of a worker that she managed to get into a bilingual program out of sheer hard work and perseverance. We took the same bus line to school (AB Chemin de Leysotte!) and I have plenty of good memories with her. She was one of those kinds of friends who isn’t afraid to be smart or ambitious or silly, and doesn’t make you feel like you needed to change who you are to fit in. Looking back, I was really lucky to call her a friend at a time of my life when I was pretty easily influenced.

She ended up getting married around the same time I did and we have kids that are close in age, so it was awesome to get together again years later! Her daughter Chiara even brought a sweet little gift for Adelina, a necklace with her name on it that she still cherishes today, even though she has put it in her mouth so often the text is rubbing off… ha. (She’s wearing it in all these photos, of course!) Chiara is older than her but they still became fast friends and loved those waves ❤


Yeah, I’m pretty sure the ocean was a smashing success 😉

My friend’s dad played with the girls a lot, they loved going crazy in the waves and waiting for the last possible minute to jump up. Chiara showed her how it was done and Adelina picked up very quickly: before soon, she was bravely running straight into the waves!


She also learned the meaning of the expression “boire la tasse” (to drink the cup) that day… oops! Ha no worries, she got over it quickly.


The guys even got in a good nap in the shade!


(Don’t look too closely, but there are definitely nudists in the background of some of these photos… ha ha. This beach is near a nudist colony so I guess they tend to spread out to the other beaches… oh well, when in France! Andrew’s special moment of the day was when one fully nude man came up to him to ask him something — the time, I think — ha!)

That water felt so good. It was what you call a “mer d’huile” (oily sea) that day, meaning the waves were very tame, so it was perfect for little girls and really pleasant for us adults too. I’m not the super adventurous body-boarding type, so it was perfect!

That kiddie pool was so fun too, the kids loved it and the water was extra warm from sitting in the sun all day, so it was perfect.


Sadly the only picture I got of my friend and me was a phone shot, but it’s only because we were all having too much fun — and I definitely enjoyed a chance to get out the camera 🙂


I only wish I had handed it off more so I could be in the photos, that’s the challenge with being the “designated photographer.” It’s something I love doing and I got great shots that day, but I wish I were in more (any) of them. I’ve taught Andrew some basics but I need to be better about setting the camera up and then asking him to get me in the photo.

Either way, we had a blast.


Truly, a perfect beach day.


And a great way to kick off the rest of our mini-vacation-within-a-vacation… Switzerland! More to come soon…

Life · Traditions

Social Media Hiatus: an Update

I decided to give up social media for Lent again this year — I’ve blogged about it before here and here. This time I’ve been needing to pull away for a while and decided to go cold turkey again, unlike last year when I did a modified version (only using it when my kids were asleep). Frankly, it’s been a little hard. I don’t miss wasting time so easily, but I’ve been working a lot on photography lately and I have taken some photos I REALLY wanted to share on Instagram. Yes, it’s silly or probably vain, but I miss that feedback — if I show a picture to Andrew he’ll say it’s nice and then that’s that. It’s over. He doesn’t quite have the gushing gene, even though he does appreciate my talents (actually, he had printed out and framed some photos of mine when he asked me to marry him!) But maybe it’s a good reminder to print and display photos I love, so that they’re sticking around for longer.

And hey, if you’re here you get to see them now! 😉


And nobody clicks over here unless I post to social media to let people know I’ve posted, so I’ve had roughly three views in the last two weeks, ha! (I might enable auto-posting to Facebook when I publish to remedy that, come to think of it. Done!)

So yes, I’ve been feeling disconnected. I miss checking in on some friends’ lives — but on the other hand, I’ve also texted friends and actually communicated with others face-to-face. We’ve been to several play dates. So it’s been good for me, I think. And I realized the other day Lent is actually closer to 44 days… gah! But that’s the point, right? It’s supposed to be a sacrifice.

I’ll admit it: I snuck onto Facebook once or twice on the computer and caught a baby announcement (yay!) and plenty of political debates I hadn’t missed one bit. I even just re-downloaded Instagram and almost posted before telling myself how silly I was being and re-deleting it. The pull is strong.

So what have I done with all those extra in-between moments, what have I made of this that’s good instead of just plain white-knuckling?

Well, I don’t have my phone nearly as constantly on me (in my hand, in a pocket, at arms’ length) and therefore have been more available for the little requests like wanting to be held, playing a card game, giving extra cuddles to Jonas… I’ve pulled out my real camera more and captured some beautiful moments that make me happy…


I’ve spent more time with my husband instead of on my phone… I’ve read two books and just started a new one. (Hands Free Mama is really life-changing. The book is excellent but her blog is a great place to start grasping at what really matters ❤ It was a great way to kick off this social media fast.) We played outside in the snow and made treats together and I’ve also had mental energy to complete tasks for my church work.

I’ve also still used other things as time-fillers — it’s so easy to try to satisfy those bad habits. The photography forum I joined has become my go-to “I’m bored, let’s see what’s new” place, which isn’t ideal. I should go there to accomplish a specific purpose. And reading books in the evening can prevent conversation with my husband even if all the screens are off.

But this afternoon I set down my phone and spent some time reading an Ensign article that it turned out I needed to read, then texted a friend about it and received more pearls of wisdom and needed encouragement. And I got some real rest to fight off this nasty cold. And I held Adelina in my arms immediately when she asked for it.

So yes, it hasn’t been super easy. I honestly really miss Instagram sometimes. But I’m grateful for the chance to pull back and focus on the things I need to hone in on. This isn’t permanent, only a needed exercise to re-assess my priorities. And I’m sure grateful for these beautiful children who fill my days ❤




Snow Day

We got a really good snow this weekend, and we actually loved it this time! It’s been a super dry winter, which I haven’t complained about too much considering how bad last winter was… but by February my goodness it’s crazy how dry it’s been around here! For some perspective, this was last week:


And here is what we woke up to this morning!


It was much-needed. And Andrew was off since it’s Presidents’ Day, so we took full advantage of all that fresh powder!

Don’t be fooled by this face, Adelina loved it — until she was frozen and wet and ready to get back inside, ha!


Andrew built a little luge run, and a fort for Adelina, and they had a blast.


Adelina couldn’t get very far on the slide, but Jonas… he was in an awesome puffy snowsuit that was perfectly aerodynamic, and he loved it!

He can’t really walk or do much of anything in this suit anyway, so this was probably quite thrilling! (And I kind of want a snowsuit of my own, it sure is toasty and snow proof!)

Oh and we spent plenty of time indoors relaxing too — reading a good book on a snow day is the best!


So glad to have a good, fun family snow day out of this season ❤


Cherish 365 · photography

Peekaboo with Jonas

Our Jonas has loved peekaboo for a good while — at first he would use a pair of pants (usually while I was changing him) and cover his face and remove it and it was the cutest thing ever. Now, he’s getting so good at using his hands, and it’s so sweet how he giggles with delight and anticipation when get a peek between those photos… he’s just the most delightful little boy ❤


And that toothy grin… it just melts me!