Wednesday, November 11, 2015

We Do Stuff Sometimes

Every once in awhile, we surprise ourselves and do something fun. Here are those somethings:

1. Animal Kingdom Lodge. We have some friends who fly here from Vegas once a year to go to Disney. They live it up by staying in a cool Disney resort lodge and buying tickets to special Disney events (trick or treating with the characters, for example) and let us mooches come by and eat their food and stay at their hotel. It's a pretty sweet deal. I can see why they are dying to be our friends. This year, they saved up their timeshare points to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. This guy was mere feet from our balcony!

We were also able to go to the temple and hit up a restaurant we've been wanting to try, Tom and Chee. For those of you who watch Shark Tank, you know that this is a gourmet grilled cheese place that Barbara Corcoran invested in.

Verdict says? Meh. It was totally fine. And that's it. Not great, not bad. Fast service, GREAT service even, but the food was nothing amazing.

Except, we did indulge in this:

(Picture taken from

That, my friends, is the grilled cheese doughnut. It was disgustingly delightful. Horribly awesome. As in, I loved it but probably fits best in the "eat once a decade" category in the food pyramid. Unfortunately my favorite category (hello deep fried snickers!).

They had a face painting artist there who was painting kids' faces with a purchase of an entree.

2. Busch Gardens. We will also made it to Busch Gardens this weekend. It's an unusually warm November here in Tampa (90 is the high almost every day), and we pretty much just sweated to death. But we were sweating and miserable together, which is what family is all about.

(You can always count on me for horrible pictures. I'm nothing if not consistent.)

 I think the best part was hanging at the splash pad where our kids were the only ones without swimsuits but were so happy to get some relief from the hot, hot sun.

3. And some miscellany: (Good thing I'm numbering as I go along. I'm sure you would just be lost without it.)

I posted about my ear issues a couple of times in the past (here and here). My mom came for a visit recently and treated me to getting my ears pierced again. And so far, so good! It's been six weeks and I've worn real earrings the past few days. My ears like some earrings more than others (I seem to have the most sensitive skin on the planet), but it's been fun!

 And now back to my family. (Nothing like the realization that you have posted about your ears THREE times and about your own husband only twice to make you realize your own shallowness.)


June is still going to school and has had a couple of really rough days, but mostly really good days! She is talking a lot more now and even tolerating Gwen's existence, much to our delight.

Nothing cuter than a 3 year old in a school uniform:

Her obsession with being a dog continues. I think we are going on about 6 weeks straight. Every time you call her by name, she quickly corrects you by saying, "I'm a dog!" Even when you are waking her up to go to school at 6:30 a.m. I will walk into her dark room and say, "June, time to go to school!" And she will quickly respond from underneath her blanket, "I'm a dog!" In order to keep the peace, we are learning to call her June Doggy.

Daniel made her especially happy one day when he taped a "tail" to her nightgown, which is now part of the routine:

A small victory: wearing a headband! This is a victory I can't even claim in my own life. I think headbands hurt. But oh-so-cute.

And one day when she was driving me especially batty with the dog routine, I found her school pictures in her backpack. Be still my ice cold heart!


Gwen is an active, crazy, emotional, clingy, happy, ever-teething, good sleeping, climbing monkey of a child.

She has taken June's lead and has her blanket with her everywhere she goes. She's not a picky eater, which is great for my haphazard, throw a bunch of junk in a pan and top it with a dollop of cool whip kind of cooking.

(This picture has sort of an ominous feel to me. The picture of June in the background seems to represent that Gwen will never be able to escape her sister's influence. Or something. I'm a younger sister too. I get it, Gwen!) 

 She loves to climb and to say "HI!" to everyone she says. She loves running away and pouring water all over herself and even the ipad when she's feeling especially adventurous.


Of course, I have no pictures of my sweet husband. I've always thought our marriage is good, but lately it's even better. And that's due to him. He's the guy who works a lot and does church stuff a lot but takes it upon himself every night to be on kitchen clean-up duty. That's the secret to our happiness, I think. He's a champ.

And while I don't have a picture of him, I have a picture of his new bff:

We bought this used Bowflex from Craigslist, and it's been awesome. It's definitely way bigger than we thought it would be, and so we weren't able to fit it into our bedroom as we had originally planned. So it's a striking yet subtle new focal point in our living room. Definitely adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to the decor.

I'm ending now. If you have made it this far in this extremely long post, you deserve something special. May I interest you in my latest dinner creation from tonight? It's topped with a dollop of cool whip.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

June Goes to School

 “When June gets mad, she uses this crazy voice that doesn’t sound like it fits inside her tiny body!” is a line June’s pre-K teacher used to describe her the other day. Another time, our beloved Mrs. Price said, “She’s so little and so cute, but man, she’s got the FIRE in her.”

(Did I mention she was in a cast this summer? Because she was.)

Welcome to June’s world. June loves to sing, to pretend, to “jump” (her version includes feet never leaving the ground), to swing and to slide. June rarely talks to kids her own age, but instead latches onto adults she knows will give her the things she wants.

June started school this year. She is attending an all-day, everyday Pre-K program at our local elementary school which is intended to help kids with “developmental delays.” If you’re wondering what that means, so am I. From what I gather, it is a term used for young kids who aren’t meeting their milestones. June struggles with speech (talking) and language (understanding) and qualified for this special program in order to help sort it all out.

(June on a typical morning—singing while wearing her “glove.”)

When June was being evaluated by the school district for the ELP program, I didn’t know what my exact reaction would be to whatever they would tell me. Would they even see the problems I see? June’s pediatrician (who is awesome, by the way) didn’t view any problems with June’s speech because she was using three words together in a sentence. I didn’t know how to convey to her that, while meeting the technical requirement of a sentence, the words didn’t seem to be actually conveying anything June wanted or felt. Though June could say things, she couldn’t communicate.

The speech therapist evaluating June didn’t have a lot of time that day. The other speech therapist in the office had to take a sick day, so she was covering evaluations for the both of them. In the short 30 minutes she spent with June, I didn’t know if she could sense the disconnect that only I seemed to feel with June. The speech therapist played with a dollhouse, stacked blocks and sorted colors all the while talking about various subjects.

“What’s your name, June?”

“My name . . . June Jowwey!”

The therapist looked at me and smiled. June is nothing if not adorable. And yet very stubborn.

The therapist attempted to guide June to another activity. June refused, content with holding her little animals and making them talk gibberish to each other. The therapist tried another and yet another activity, to no avail. Finally she turned to me and said, “I sense some non-compliance from her.”

“You can call it that, if you want. I just call it stubborn.” We both laughed, me a little nervously. I couldn’t help but feel a little responsible for the fact that June rarely complies with requests.

At the conclusion of the hurried evaluation, the speech therapist sat on her knees in front of my chair. First she shared June’s test scores. “Now Ms. Jolley, I want you to know that these kinds of tests score against a child when the child is non-compliant and refuses to answer a certain question, so really this score is going to be much lower than June’s capabilities.”

“Here’s the wind-up,” I thought, bracing myself for the fastball coming my way. She shared the scores, which were more than a standard deviation below average. I felt a little sick.

“This is what I’m seeing here. June is using what I call ‘scripted language’. She has memorized lines she likes to say, but they are not appropriate for the situations she is in.”

“YES!!” I screamed. I felt so relieved. Someone understood me. It struck me at that moment that June and I were both struggling to be understood—June with her speech and me with my concerns about June’s speech. When the speech therapist validated what I had been feeling, it motivated me all the more to help June feel understood as well.

So June started school. The first day she came home and pointed out a triangle and talked about using the potty—things we had been working on for a long time. I knew school was going to be awesome after that.
(First day of school wearing her school uniform.)

And awesome it has been, though there have been setbacks—epic tantrums June has thrown over having to follow the rules, the first week where June wouldn’t stop stealing parts of other kids’ lunches and stuffing them in her face before the teacher softly suggested I start packing June her own pizza lunchable, the several days (still ongoing) where June has decided that she is a “doggy” and stays in character all day, etc. But she’s talking more. And responding more. And we are all feeling a lot happier.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Another relaxing family meal.

Today, our family had the rare occasion of going out to lunch in the middle of the week to celebrate some good news. We were quickly reminded why we never go out to eat anymore--our kids are nuts. I'm pretty sure that each Red Robin employee who witnessed our scene at the corner booth entered a convent or monastery upon our departure from the establishment.

June and Gwen took turns crying, screaming, running away, and our celebratory outing quickly turned into an eating contest between Dan and me, stuffing as many bites in our months as we possibly could so we could haul Hurricane Jolley the heck outta there.

I took June on a walk toward the end of the meal, and took my eyes off of her for two seconds. Two seconds. I know, I know--why would I ever take my eyes off this child? I cannot even blink most days for fear of arson or other criminal activity. When I turned around, I found her inside one of these:

A claw machine. See that grey door on the right? The machine at Red Robin had a door that was closer to the ground. Girlfriend June opened that door and climbed right in. She succeeded in crawling through the door, and it SHUT BEHIND HER. She was standing up, and her head was inside the glass next to the toys.

It's hard to describe, but the space was really small, even for a person like her. She had to squeeze herself in there. Once the door shut, it was next to impossible to push the door back toward her while also squeezing her body underneath it. It's not like someone could just get in and out of it whenever she wanted.

A Red Robin employee looked over and saw a child's head floating in the machine and started screaming. I ran over to the machine just as Dan was coming over with Gwen. He gave me a look that let me know I had lost my nomination for Mother of the Year. And I was so close! Haha.

Daniel bent over and pushed on the door and tried to force June's legs back under. But June was in heaven and kept pushing the door at him from the opposite side. An employee called a manager. It was really exciting.

We began to worry that we wouldn't be able to get her out without having someone open the machine because the crawl space was so tight and it was much harder to crawl back out than to enter. And, like I said, June was working AGAINST us. Dan was yelling at June through the glass. "COME BACK OUT. NOW!" and June was not complying in the slightest.

Finally, he yanked her out, just as the manager was coming up. We called out an apology to the employees and ran to the car. The girl who had first seen June in the machine was pretty much hyperventilating.

Now THAT's how you celebrate something.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Nine, Five, Three

March is full of important numbers for me.

NINE years ago in March, I became a full-time missionary. I entered the Missionary Training Center to serve the people of Romania for eighteen months. I don't think anything in my life has changed me more than those eighteen months. The Romanian people live in my heart and have changed the way I see the world. Someone once told me, "Once you come home from your mission, you will think about it every single day for the rest of your life." And it's true. I think about those people every day. I think about the kind of missionary I was, the kind of missionary I wasn't, and the kind of missionary I wanted to be. I think about the oh-so-little I really did, and the huge amount of stuff the Savior did. He has so many names--the Savior, the Redeemer, the Son of God, etc. On my mission, His name was the Gap Filler. He took my teensy tiny offering, full of holes and weaknesses, and filled in the gaps and reinforced the weak spots. My goal on my mission was to live up to Elder David A. Bednar's challenge that we no longer need missions to be good for the missionary, but instead missionaries who will be good for the mission. As I tried daily to be a contributor, a helper and an instrument to the Lord's work, I couldn't help but notice that I was given ten-fold back. It took me a long time to realize that I was never going to catch up to the Lord and His blessings. And that I didn't need to. That all He wanted from me was my heart.

FIVE years ago in March, I became a wife. In those short five years, I have learned so much about why God commands us to get married. For me, marriage has been my personal classroom for understanding the Plan of Salvation. While marriage has been full of high moments, it's the hard moments that have made me appreciate it. Dan is the man who will always hold strong during tough times and who will always do what needs to be done for his family. This includes being the best listener I know. And the most even-keeled person around. And the guy who is up for any crazy idea of mine, any time. 

THREE years ago in March, I became a mother. Sandra June Jolley was born March 26th. When I was 6 months pregnant with her, I had a dream that she was a baby one day and then the next, she was a toddler with a blonde ponytail. That dream has been pretty accurate. She has grown up so fast. She has not been the child I predicted she would be, but she has been the child I have needed. She is happy, funny and stubborn. She keeps me guessing. We knock heads a lot, and she wins a lot. 

For her birthday, we had a birthday party at the park. 

I was so touched by the gifts she was given. Homemade, heartfelt, thoughtful gifts. Made me kind of want to do the same thing for others, but I will probably just stick to my Target dollar bin route since my crafts tend to make little children cry for their mothers.

A couple of the gifts:

And just some randoms from the month:

Gifts from Aunt Heidi. This woman knows how to give. Elsa shoes, crayons and an Elmo loofah. If that doesn't scream June, I don't know what does. Besides someone just screaming, which also describes June.

 Passover with the teenage girls at church. These girls make everything better.

Easter dresses.

And finally . . .

I've decided this is the picture I want used for the "About the Author" section if I ever write a book.