Sunday, November 1, 2015


I do blog still, I just don't hit 'publish.'

 The things I write about are less about the life of the Olson Bunch and more about the brain of Chris Olson, and it's not the same. My kids have almost all grown up. It's weird. We still do things together, we still are a family who is focused on bonding through shared, good experiences and embracing the weirdness that makes our family "us"-- but we're all in our own grown up-ish head spaces.  
It's not as fun to blog about grown -up head space stuff.

I have absolutely nothing new to share right now about my family that I love so much.
I don't have anything I feel like posting about New York these days either.
I never cook anymore. I've totally lost my will to bake with Zane being gone. I wasn't expecting that. I didn't realize how much he was the person I was baking for. 
Of course, I baked for Matt, but he and I are stuck in that 'perpetually on a diet' mode where we still eat garbage, but we hate ourselves for it so we tell ourselves every day that we will only eat healthy things and then we make a run to Five Guys and 7-11 because healthy food is depressing.

I have a new calling at church.  I'm the new Compassionate Service Leader. I think it is a good fit for me and I'm ready to be with the grown ups again.  I'm going to put together freezer meals in the next 2 weeks so that I always have something to bring anyone who may have a need. Our ward is Boss Level Service givers, though. I may never need to break those meals out for anyone but my own, newly starving, household.

General Conference was amazing.
I missed huge portions of the Saturday session because one of my kids threw a rod and had a meltdown and I spent an hour sitting calmly on the sofa in the front room while my child screamed and tried to kick the radiator to teach it a lesson. Sometimes that happens when you have a child on the spectrum and you just have to be with them to show support and also make sure they don't do something destructive as they freak out and lose it because that's just the way they are wired. It isn't fair in any way. It sucks for the mom and it sucks even more for the kid.  It seemed to suck a little extra on Saturday as I walked back to the family room after my child had calmed down and got the last 90 seconds of Elder Holland's "Moms are the best" talk.
Sometimes, you have to sacrifice the cheerleading to clean up a crisis on the field.
Ooh.... a football metaphor.
I'm sorry. 
(Also, Go Bears!)

The talk that stood out the most to me was Elder Nelson's talk.

That was the talk that made me feel like the Lord was speaking directly to me.
I'm paraphrasing what I remember from the talk, I'm sure I've messed up on the specifics because I am old and blonde.
He talked of his experiences as a cardiologist and how one family had a child with a congenital heart defect and he performed surgery on that child. The child did not survive.
Ouch ouch ouch in the heart.
The couple had another child and again went to him to perform the life saving surgery the baby needed. That baby also did not survive.
They then had another child and went through the same tragedy AGAIN.

When the third child died, Elder Nelson went home and laid on his living room floor and cried. He was done. He was broken and he vowed that he would never perform another surgery. He was finished with this painful and heart wrenching season of his life.
His wife comforted him and stayed beside him as he spilled his guts all over- as he went through this pain and he hit rock bottom. She loved him and was there for him, helping share his burdens.
The next morning, she lovingly said to him "Have you finished crying? Yes? Good, now get dressed and go back to work."
As he objected and said he would never return to that line of work,  she said "If you quit now, others will have to painfully go back and learn what you already know. "
He was lovingly reminded that he had a job to do. He had worked hard in that job and had invested countless hours of schooling and hard work into becoming a person who was good at that particular job. To throw it away was more than just some loss of a dream to him- it would be a choice to stop doing the work he had promised to do, simply because he hit a breaking point in his journey. If he stopped progressing- the work would continue, but someone else would have to re-do and learn everything he already had learned as they caught up to where he was when he quit.

I am a person who has always seen the hitting rock bottom as a sign that it was time to stop. I cut bait and bail and I have known for a long time that my doing so is not the healthiest of ways to live and I have worked to change that natural reaction to hitting the ground so hard that your heart splats on the pavement. 

Elder Nelson's talk taught me that hitting your rock bottom is not a sign that you should abandon the work. It is a changing of what your foundation consists of, a swapping it out for something better and after you have finished being broken and crying, get dressed and do the work you covenanted with God that you would do.
It is YOUR work and thee right path for you- even though there are times that you hit bottom and fall to the floor and cry.

As I listened to him speak, I looked over at that same child who had just 24 hours prior been so out of control and hurting. 

 I thought of how I felt like I was a terrible mother, to have a child who is having this struggle and not being able to fix it. 

I saw that as one of many 'rock bottom' moments I have had as a Mom and realized that I was doing better than I thought.

 Every single day, every hour- no matter how bad things may get, no matter how devastated or freaked out I may feel. When I was finished crying, I got up and went back to work- the work of being a mother who loves her children unconditionally. 
I hadn't quit when I was alone in that job, I hadn't quit when Matt's ex wife constantly was letting me know that I was *not* a mother, because I did not give birth to three of the seven children in our home. I did not quit when those kids made huge mistakes and didn't even stop making some of those mistakes. I didn't quit when they yelled at me, lied to me and tore my heart in two. I didn't quit during the sleepless nights and the lying on my own floor, racking with sobs days. 

So I missed the warm fuzzy "Mom is great" talk from Elder Holland, but for me, I was there for the better part- the talk that spoke directly to me and let me know I was doing better than I thought.  It matters that you don't quit more than you know. 

I have no great bridge to tie that in with any of the pictures I took during October.
I could come up with a few puns, but nobody wants that, so here are some pictured from Emma's trip to New Jersey this month.
We played tourist, saw a live taping of the Daily Show and went to Comic Con, where we bought a lot of rad shirts. 

  Rad shirts from Comic Con:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

City Folk

Kate is here for the week. 
Emma arrives tomorrow and we will have six of our seven home together for 2 or 3 days before the older girls return to jobs and preparing for the next year of college. Jane is here a little longer and it's been sweet to see the 'little' girls interact like teenagers. 
Everyone grew up so fast.
Matt had to work yesterday, so the girls and I headed to the city.

Kate & Jane had never been to The Met and there was a Van Gogh display I wanted to see while it was still in town : Irises and Roses.
It was beautiful, simply beautiful.
I am not a fan of everything he painted, but you'd be hard pressed to find me snub my nose at anything with an iris. Kate and I discussed the things we liked about the series and noted some of the nuances of that particular phase of Van Gogh's life and how it impacted his art. 
Subtle color changes and blends, flashes of white amid stark black, yet wavering outlines.
The beauty and intricate details he saw in the ordinary and we speculated how much his madness played a part in what he saw. 
As we talked, absorbed in the paintings, I heard a man mumble something to me and turned to look at him. 
He was one of those people that seem to be straight out of a TV show about people in an art gallery.
He was tall and skinny- with a tweed jacket (in July), round glasses and a salt and pepper goatee. He probably had a pipe in his pocket that he smoked organic tobacco in and a pocket watch he picked up from a flea market, that he wishes his granddad had passed down to him instead of all of those pairs of blue corduroy bell bottoms.
(I may possibly be giving the guy more of an imaginary backstory than is needed.)
You see at least 10 versions of this guy at every museum in the city.
 He said to me "Yes, I didn't note before how the  madness dictated the line work. I see it now."
I just smiled and inched away as I tried not to laugh at how my just off the-turnip truck art assessment that I was quietly sharing with my equally turnip truck trained daughter impressed this cliche' of a New York gallery attendee. 

I guess that means we're cultured now.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Confessions of an Uncool Mom

I was going to be such a cool mom.
I was going to have babies who wore name brand shoes and I was always going to say yes to my kids when the ice cream man drove by and I was going to take them to the movies and let them order Coca Cola if they asked for it. 
At 15, I knew that's what a cool mom would do.

I was certainly never going to have issues with whatever hair style my kids wanted to wear. 

I held fast to that idea until the first time toddler Parker had shaggy hair over his ears.
I promptly drove him to the barber and introduced him to the buzzing miracle of hair clippers.
Every one of my boys is dragged to the barber, or the bathroom if they are in a trusting mood- and off goes the hair as soon as it starts to hang over their ears.
Zane doesn't care. He is happy with a buzz and he can't stand having any sort of length. He is also my furriest kid, so he gets more haircuts than both of his brothers combined.
Parker (instert dramatic music)  wishes I'd see the REAL him and love him in spite of his hair....
Because I am SUCH a cool mom I tell him that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard and I love him completely, but he looks like a hobo. 
We have settled on an agreement that Mommy will pay for the haircuts of a 21 year old, and he will just get them when I ask.
Greyson fights me.
He has a nervous habit of twirling his hair and when it is short, that habit transforms into nervously tugging- which is not good. 
I need to let go of the issue, it is starting to cause real conflict.

 I know I am the one who needs to change- it's just hair.

I have no room to even make it an issue- I don't understand why I care in the first place. I hadn't planned on caring, I really was going to be chill about hairdos.
I had some of the most horrible, stupid haircuts as a kid and I need to allow my kids to have hair that I don't love as well. I know that- but it's not as easy as it should be, I feel.
In 6th grade, I went to my mom wanting a short haircut. I'd never had long hair anyway and I was the child who got a lot of experimental perms and haircuts. What I wanted in 6th grade was a new animal.
I wanted this haircut:

Because I was a 6th grade bad***.
In Meridian, Idaho. 
And yes, I showed my mother a picture of Grace Jones and said I wanted to look just like her.
I know.

My mother pulled out the scissors and an hour later, I looked like this:

Pretty close, right?
Those purple pants were straight up corduroy. 
I had wicked awesome style.

I went through a phase where I slicked back half of my hair with gel and then did the wet perm scrunch with the other half.

(Two of these people were Christy's little brothers. Sorry.... but you have to admit they were dang hot.)

I shaved half of my head one year and gelled up the spikes on the side as it grew back.

There was also this hairdo that I thought would wash out, but I learned that my hair doesn't do 'wash out."

(I never understood girls who were on Team Feldman. Corey Haim was a dreamboat, Kids.)

I have no reason to be such a butt to my kids about hair. 

(The poodle years.)

(This picture probably needs to die. My kids have made tremendous sacrifices for comedy. )

After the last argument with Grey about hair, I decided to have a serious talk with myself. 
Cool Moms totally talk to themselves. 

As I type and process, I think I started to get super weird about controlling their hair after I married Matt and I would get in so much trouble for things like straightening out crooked haircuts, or encouraging the girls to express themselves with their hairstyles. 
I caught such hell for that - and for years. 
It was absolutely unfair to the girls and unfair to me- who was just trying to hep the girls to have clean, well groomed hair that they felt cute with.
As I resigned myself to just ignoring some of the more troubling things I saw, I also resented it.  It was hard for me to just accept that a level of care from a parent that I believed made a child feel loved and secure, was something that they were not going to have, simply because it was a territory thing. 
It mutated into a weird need to control the hairstyles of my other kids.  I allowed them to choose some things that many parents would not allow, but to be honest, I had total control of the length and we all knew it.

It's not a fight I should be having with my kids. 
I know better.
It's just hair, and it's not MY hair. 
I stopped remembering that in my grand effort to make sure my kids felt taken care of- I lost sight of what mattered there and I fought with my kids about hairdos.

I need to remember that I had the freedom to have whatever weird hair styles I wanted as a kid and even though I may have looked terrible- I usually loved my hair and all of it's gel and home perm glory.

I am the one who needs to change.
So, I told myself that the next hair thing that came up- I would just say yes.

I swear the gremlins that live in the walls and listen to me talk to myself took that information and RAN to Romy.
A day or two after I made this decision, she came to me and said "I want to a short haircut."
My knees began to shake.
 I had visions of her looking like Grace Jones and I weakly said "okay....."
She spent a few hours on Pinterest and we talked about what she liked and what she didn't like. I told her that all of those pictures on the computer were the result of styling, none of those people rolled out of bed like that.
She felt confident that she had found a hair style that was not only what she wanted, but would look good on her.
We printed some pictures and I called a local salon and she got a short haircut.
The stylist was as sweet as can be, and I think Romy has started her first grown up relationship,lol. I expect she will be with Albert for many years to come. 
He helped her express what she liked and why, suggested a few changes that would flatter her more and he taught her how to style it. 
It was a really positive experience, and Albert was wonderful.

She looks different, a little older.

She is also super happy with her new hairdo.

Leave it to my Little Romy to give me that push in the right direction that I was needing- right in the tiny window of my being open to change.
 Greyson and Parker will no longer be forced to get haircuts. 
I will even keep my mouth shut when I see hair skimming the top of their ears. 
It's just hair, it grows back, it changes and it belongs to them. 

I am not a Cool Mom, but I am a Good Mom and hopefully, that's enough. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015


It's been one of those days.

With all of His love, He lets go.....

The picture this song paints is how my heart feels as I try and keep my balance today..
I need to remember that in coming to Earth, I asked Him to let go so I could fly and so I could grow. Skinned knees and fear are part of it, it's better than to never go forward.
Just don't take your eyes off me, let go, but stay by my side.

The air feels feather-light
Against my apple cheeks in the driveway
I try to balance right
And push the pedals as I

You by my side
Holding on for dear life
With the sun in my eyes
And with all of your love you let go of
My little red bike

I trace a figure eight
And fall to pieces on the pavement
You scoop me up and say
Life's meant to be this way so get up and

You by my side
Holding on for dear life
With the sun in my eyes
And with all of your love you let go of
My little red bike

I brace the handlebars
And coast against the breeze
I'm chasing after cars
While time is chasing after me and I

You by my side
Holding on for dear life
With the sun in my eyes
And with all of your love you let go of
My little red bike

Friday, April 10, 2015

My Soul Remembers the Way

Last weekend was General Conference and we were able to enjoy it with the Sister Missionaries and our friend, Richard. Richard recently joined the church and we've been lucky enough to get to spend some time with him as he comes to learn and grow in his journey. He is an amazing man and we just love him. The Sister Missionaries are pretty lovable, too.

The talks were amazing, as always and I think my favorite was the talk by Elder Holland during the Sunday session. If you missed it:

I did some family history between the sessions, as I usually do and came across some information about the Westfall line that connected them to a town that is just over an hour away from where we live. Sometimes, doing family history work is emotionally taxing. There are so many broken branches among the living, so many people who take those broken branches and sharpen them into spears so they can stab others.  I have decided it is just about impossible to get information from members of the family about the history and have resigned myself to just having to collect the same information that others have already gathered, to drawing the same conclusions because heaven forbid, we share. Let's all fight about who owns the dead. They'd be so proud.
It's a rant for another time and place. 
Because of the issues and bad blood that never seems to stop flowing, I have not looked into my matriarchal line very much. I know there are family members who actively research those lines, who have more experience, better memories and more resources than I ever will. The line of my mother's father can be traced back to the 1100's and there isn't much to be discovered there. I don't have super great emotional association with that line, so I never really looked into it until last Sunday. Finding that they lived so close to my current home sparked my interest.
I learned that they started out in Germany- from Westfalia- surprise, surprise. 
From Germany, they went to the Netherlands and from there, they came to New York, which was founded by the Dutch and called New Amsterdam at the time. My ancestors were some of the original settlers in what is now New York City. 
That's pretty awesome. 
The ancestor who came from the Netherlands was a just a boy, ten or thirteen years old (I forget as I am sitting here, typing and watching Desperate Housewives.) His parents either died on the voyage to America, or he was sent alone and he lived with a friend of his father until he eventually left Manhattan and went about an hour north, to Orange County, New York. He stayed there until he was killed by Indians. 
His son moved to a town that is about a 15 minute drive from there, in Sussex County New Jersey. He purchased a plot of land on Minisink Island, right in the middle of the Delaware river. It was said that it was one of the safest places to live, because it was an Island and it was pretty shielded from Indians. Knowing his father was killed by Indians, that makes  sense. Some of his siblings went to Virginia, some stayed in New York. 
My ancestor's children went on to Ohio, but some of them came back to New Jersey to fight in the Revolutionary war.From Ohio they continued West and settled in Wyoming, then Idaho and Utah in my grandparent's generation.
My direct line had a lot of farmers who fought in a lot of wars. 
I never would have guessed that they started here, though. On Tuesday, after I took the kids to school, Matt suggested we take a road trip and go see the area. Parker was home to help if anything went south at school and we loaded up Kate and Jane and headed Northeast.

I didn't expect to find anything, but I thought it would be kind of cool to see the town my ancestors helped settle, the land they tried to start a life in. 
We went to the little town of Port Jervis and found the cemetery where it is said that my ancestor who came to America is buried in. 

There were two areas, one was a newer section and one was the old section with most of the headstones so worn that you couldn't read anything on them. Thankfully, there was a map and a legend kept by the sign at the entrance and we were able to find the worn headstones of some of my ancestors from the 1800's and we read that there were over 300 buried there in unmarked graves from an attack by the Indians and the Tories. That was the attack my ancestor was killed in. 

I stood at the headstones of the long dead Westfalls and had a quiet, reverent moment there. As the wind howled and the rain started to fall, tears also started to fall from my eyes as I thanked them for the sacrifices they made, for the hardships they endured and for coming to this place.
 I thanked them for calling me back to it.
I thanked them for the peaceful, but warm feeling I had, for the gentle spirit of love and family that I felt for them and I was feeling in return. 
The dead forgive. 

We visited the local library, where they had a room filled with archives and records of families who lived there. When they asked who I was researching and I told them "Westfall" they all knew the name and led me to the huge section of Westfall records they had. When they asked how distant my relation was and I told them my mother was a Westfall and I was a direct descendant of Johannes and Jurian Westfall- I got a couple of raised eyebrows and one of the women there said "oh, you're the real deal- you're an actual direct ancestor. We get a lot of people with Westfalls in their family, but you're an actual descendant!"  They said lots of people research the line, but they couldn't recall anyone who was in the direct line ever having been there unless they were from the area. They told me there was a big farm and winery just outside of town and this was the place where I came from. 
It was all a little overwhelming, but it was kind of fun to be in a room with people who felt like they knew me, because they knew so much about my 11 times great grandfather. 

We checked out the local church that my people were affiliated with. Their building was burned to the ground by the Tories, but they had eventually rebuilt and the 'new' building was massive and gorgeous. 

I made a lot of copies and have a lot of information to go through, but we found baptism records of my ancestors and history books with the names of my grandparents and Aunts and Uncles in them. I even corrected the spelling of my Aunt Vernelle's name in a book they had. 

We wrapped up the day with a trip to Dairy Queen and we stopped and snapped pictures of the Westfall Winery.

As we drove away, I daydreamed about what it would be like if we bought a little plot of land out there and settled where I began. 
It will never happen, I never want to live in the sticks, but if I did...Port Jervis would be an amazing place to be. There are beautiful rolling hills, trees and green grass everywhere and the Delaware River, just begging for someone to sit and drink lemonade in sunglasses and a floppy hat off her shores. 

The roads and paths were once traveled by my people and there is something almost holy in walking those same steps. It's like your feet are led by a memory that only your soul knew.  You watched your loved ones walk those paths and memorized them before you came to Earth and when you return to those places, it remembers and it all feels strangely familiar.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Creative Messes make me Happy

I am a project junkie, everybody knows that.
I am happiest when I have at least a couple of different, messy projects in the works. 
Lately, I've been having way too much fun reclaiming my craft room. 

I miss Zane like crazy, but moving Parker into his old room and having the sewing/craft room again has been really great. 
I can spread out my creative mess, binge watch crummy shows that my family hates or crank 90's easy listening music or listen to the scriptures without anyone getting annoyed.
My brain works best this way, in the center of some sort of nest of creative chaos.

Poor Kyle and Rebekah and going to be sick of handmade crap from Auntie Crazy, but there are just so many cute baby things out there-  I can't resist. 



The onesie turned out so cute, and yet, it's not anywhere near as cute as Baby Brady and his happy parents.

I also monogrammed a set of bath towels.
They will be part of a wedding gift for Parker's step-sister, Vanessa, who is getting married in May. 

For me, the towel shows me how much I have progressed in learning my machine. Something like this would have taken me hours before and the back would have been messed up enough to need a patch. I was able to do these quickly and they look nice on both sides and will survive the washing machine. Many of my first towels most likely fell apart in the wash. 
I made a dog toy for the new dog my friend and her family got. The dog's name is Amelia Pond and I looked all over for Doctor Who dog toys and didn't find anything, so I invented one. 

If their dog is anything like Badger, it will be chewed to bits in a couple of days, but that's okay. 
I know her kids will get a kick out of it. 

I need to get it mailed, along with the gifts I made her kids. 
They each have a book bag and I put a new book inside each bag, as a fun treat. 
I need to get them mailed, I hope they like them. They have names that are not common, and I'm hoping they get a special kick out of something personalized, just for them. 

I also realized that last year, when we went to Washington DC for Easter, I probably made my last Easter Basket for Zane. 
Because we had been traveling all day and the kids are old, I'd purchased candy and we planned to just give the kids the candy. Romy and Zane insisted that we needed to do an egg hunt, so I filled up the plastic eggs we had n storage and just tossed them on the back lawn. 
They may have even used grocery sacks to collect them.
Super classy. 
If I had thought about it being Zane's last year as a kid living at home at Easter, I might have put more effort into making it special, but as I said, we had been traveling all day, so probably not.
Thinking about that made me kind of sad though, so this year I'm going to pretend my kids are still little and I'm going all out. 
Kate and Jane will be here- I think it is the first time we have had them home for Easter and I picked up these baskets and embroidered names on them.

The machine started eating Grey's, so it's not lined up very well, but I also know that none of the kids will care, I did this project for me. 

I don't know what the next year will bring.
I know Kate is leaving for college in the fall and I doubt we will have Jane home for Easter again, because it doesn't usually work with her school's Spring Break schedule. 
 Maybe Parker will have had his fill of curfews and Mommy hugs this year.
I want this Easter to be special and my kids actually seem to enjoy it when some of the cheesy things from when they were little make it into the special days.

For my kids who will not be here for Easter, care packages are coming.
I did these for Emma:

I also have a package going out to Zane and his companion.
It is packed full of treats and there is an Easter egg hunt included. 
Matt and I looked up different scriptures about missionary work and service and they can't open the egg and get what is inside until they find the scripture.

 (FYI, the Twizzlers grass is delicious.) 

I'm pushing myself to try more advanced techniques with my machine and feeling more confident about the things I do on it. 
It's helping me to push through the times when I am so very aware that Zane isn't home, and he won't be back anytime soon.

I have decided to set up a website to share the pictures and emails that he has written for 'everyone,' I just don't have everything posted on it yet. His Arizona Family and his New Jersey Family are all going to contribute to it, and I ask that if Zane actually sends pictures to anyone that reads this, that they share those pictures with me, so I can post them.
 Emails and letters are for the people he writes them to, but I suspect pictures will be a bit of a rare thing from Zane. 
You may have to register, but the address to the site is: 

If people want to add to it, please do. 
Because Zane--errr-- Elder Smith is part of two large blended families, he has a lot of people who love him and he cannot write to everyone. It isn't personal, he only has an hour each week to use the computer and write and in that time he has to write to his parents and his mission president. He also has that pretty brown haired girl that he wants to stay in touch with. 
After thinking about it and talking with his Dad, I think this is the right way to go. I'm very protective of the privacy of our family, but this will help Elder Smith to not feel so pressured to write individual emails and letters to those who are sending him words of support. I know he appreciates it, but between the two families, he has 12 siblings and four parents and that's just the first tier of family he has close relationships with.  
 Please be understanding of that if you are a person who is getting frustrated because you haven't heard from him.
 He is doing what he is supposed to be doing.

He also has a sprained wrist on one hand and a broken wrist on the other. 

I'll be posting weekly updates or emails, as will his Dad. 

I believe the email where he explained his bike accident is posted, so hop on over and read the exciting tale of how Elder Smith met a wall in Seattle and now he needs new pants.