May 22, 2017

English Teachers

Kyle and I started doing something a little crazy...we started teaching English to Syrian Refugees. It all started about two months ago, when a good friend of ours from church, whose calling (or job) at church is so assist the community with any needs of local refugees, told the congregation that he was in need of English teachers. I have a degree in English, and took elective English Teaching courses in college, knowing that Kyle and I would likely be overseas, and thinking those might come in handy! And then there's Kyle: the most charismatic and likable man you'll ever meet, who, though he would never ever tell you so, is an excellent Arabic speaker. As soon as I heard the announcement, I ran to Kyle's class and pulled him out in the middle of church! My mom offered to watch our kids each Monday night, and the rest is History--We started teaching a week later!

From the moment I met our students, I fell in love. I have never met people so generous and warm, so faithful and resilient, so devoted to their families, and so eager to learn! Our first night teaching, we told the students about our family. When it was their turn to share, our students talked about their brothers who had lost their lives fighting ISIS. Kyle and I drove home that night in humble silence.

Last week, a family we teach invited us over for Sunday dinner. We walked in the door and were greeted by beautiful, smiling faces. They picked up our children, squeezed their cheeks, kissed their faces, threw them up in the air, and graciously welcomed us into their home. Our children were passed from person to person throughout the night, and London was like their red-headed porcelain doll. We all sat on the floor and ate a traditional Syrian meal, with our hands! There was beef, stuffed eggplant and zucchini, soup, pita bread, stuffed grape leaves, tea, pineapple, cherries, chocolate frosted cake, apples, bananas, and hot chocolate. Each time I ate one thing off my my plate, our host would reach over and add something else for me to eat! There were six courses, and every. single. thing. was SO DELICIOUS! How I have missed those Middle-Eastern flavors!

Their little girl, who is just a few weeks older than my twins, didn't leave my side the entire night. I held her and read her stories, and she cuddled up on my lap like an angel.

How is it possible? Forced from their homes, losing their friends and family, their communities, their jobs, all of their belongings, everyone they have ever known is scattered all over the world in whatever country would allow them to escape to, and they are in a foreign country whose language they cannot speak---and yet, they have enough love in their hearts to welcome me and my family into theirs. Sitting in their living room, listening to the beautiful Arabic language, I felt completely overcome.

I can't believe that Kyle and I have this opportunity. Teaching our students each week brings me so much joy, there are not words to express it.

I was hesitant to blog about this, but then I realized---So many of us are so caught up in the absolute insanity of our lives, that we forget to look outward and serve others, and maybe reading our story will inspire you to write one of your own. Find something, anything, that you are passionate about giving of yourself to, and a zillion little pieces will fall into place, making it possible. It might be refugeeshomeless veteransat-risk youth, cuddling NICU babies at your local hospital, or something else entirely. Your life will become infinitely richer because of it, I promise.

"Even the smallest of things that you do blossom and multiply far beyond you."
-Nancy Tillman

May 11, 2017

Time to Ourselves

Usually, when we go to San Felipe, we bring cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends---and the people we bring with us are almost as wonderful as the trip itself. But this year was different: The Adams moved to South Carolina, family members were traveling in England and Costa Rica, and others were unable to take time off work. But I made the decision that we were going to Mexico anyway! So, it was just Kyle, me, our kids, and Nani, and it was every bit of everything we needed as a family.
Our WONDERFUL Nani, taking the kids to find shells. We love her so very much!
Elle has an alter-ego called Sparkles. Sparkles is a unicorn. She's pink all over. Even her mane is pink-- just ask Elle. Elle spent the week in San Felipe as Sparkles, galloping her little heart out, around the great, circular room, catching wolves. "Neigh! Neigh! Oh, no! There's another naughty wolf! I'm gonna catch you! Not so fast! Oh, no! He's getting away! I can do it!" And she'd rear up on her hind legs, and run, galloping, faster and faster. And then, she'd corner one, and use a magical rope to tie it up, sound effects and all, before spotting another one. She entertained herself endlessly.
Henry was in paradise. He had all the sand shovels and buckets his tender heart could dream of, and he dug in the sand from the moment the sun appeared across the water, until I forced him to come inside to eat or get his diaper changed. I must confess that he was permanently filthy. In his down-time, Henry followed Nani's dog Iggy, petting her gingerly and hugging her softly, saying in the cheeriest little boy voice, "Hi, Ii-eee!" 
Juliette absolutely loves birds. At our beach house, flocks of pelicans fly at eye-level across the sky. I captured this moment, but it happened countless times during our trip. Juliette would see the birds and run outside to watch them, twirling and clapping her hands, and calling, "Tweet! Tweet!" 
On a side note, it took her three days to touch the sand.

London's favorite thing was finding crabs and sea snails in the tide pools, just like me as a little girl! I would spend hours in the tide pools, catching everything from crabs to sea cucumbers to octopus. I love that London has reached the age where she sees beauty in the world around her!

Easter morning. The Easter Bunny brought the girls unicorn tails and horns, which they LOVED!

And then there's me and Kyle. Of course we loved making memories with our kids in the best place on earth, but our favorite part of the trip was the evenings, when all the kids had fallen fast asleep to the sound of the ocean, and we had time to ourselves! We played intense tournaments of Bananagrams, rocked on the back porch swing, and took romantic walks on the beach. It felt like a second honeymoon!

Peanut somehow managed to end up in our bed every night...
Our last morning there, while Kyle was busy packing up the car, I brought the kids down to the water, one last time. London grabbed a shovel and immediately wrote in the sand, "I love my family."

And so do I :)

March 17, 2017


I swore it was impossible. A YEAR, people. A YEAR of giving my all to every single potty-training theory ever written about in the history of the internet, and my three-year-old had broken me. How do you convince a child who doesn't care in the slightest if they go potty in a diaper forever, and has no interest in being a big girl but would rather be "tiny" until the end of time, that they need to go in a toilet?

I'll tell you how.
"Oh, Elle, Bella really wants you to go in the toilet."
...and when she has an accident..."Oh, no, Elle. Bella and Chief are going to be so upset!"
...and when she goes where she's supposed to..."Elle! Bella is going to be SOOOOO proud of you!!! You can tell her ALL about it at your riding lesson!"

It was immediate. I'm still in shock, and I don't actually believe it's true--But oh my goodness. This child will do absolutely ANYTHING for her horses.

While I'm writing about Elle, let me linger for a minute and share some of her hilariousness. A couple of quotes, for your enjoyment...

"Perhaps we can watch Paw Patrol? Would that be a good idea?"

"Juliette is my apostle. She follows me everywhere! And she also likes horses."

And it's not just her vocabulary, but the seriousness of her face, and the matter-of-fact-ness that comes out of such a little girl with such a big personality. I wish I could record her all day.

My sisters and I went on our first ever girls trip last month! We stayed up late, slept in, showered FOREVER, ordered pizza, did mud masks, ate at a fancy chocolate restaurant---like-a restaurant for chocolate(!), and watched our brother Noah in his debut performance with Music Dance Theater at BYU! Sisters are just the best thing in the whole world. Because this trip was such a roaring success, we decided to make it an annual thing, and pick a new city each year! What's your favorite city in the US? Where should we go next?
The girls at a Pioneer Festival in Old Town San Diego

The twins are 18 months old, which means only one thing to a Mormon...NURSERY! Henry and Peanut now go to their own class for 2 of the 3 hours of church, and I am in heaven! (no pun intended)
Their first week!

And sweetest London. I don't know how it happened, but she is so big. She went to her first school dance last week: A daddy-daughter Sock Hop. She stood there, perfectly still, while I dolled her up, and squealed with every new addition.
"Mom, I get to wear MASCARA?! EEEEEEKKKK! Um, would it be okay if I wear lipstick, too?"
"Mom, this is so beautiful. Wow! I LOVE IT!"
"Thanks, Mom! You're the BEST mom in the whole entire world!"
Oh London, I assure you, the pleasure is all mine.

Have you seen a sweeter thing in your LIFE?! 

And I had to include a picture from her 100th day of school!

January 30, 2017


I've had this blog for over four years now. I started it when Kyle, London, and I moved to Amman, Jordan, because I wanted our families and close friends to know what we were up to on the other side of the world. And then, when we came home, I found that I enjoyed writing it so much that I wanted to keep going. I never imagined I would still be writing it today, but when I go back and read the posts, the memories make me SO COMPLETELY happy that I can't imagine ever stopping. That being said, I feel like for my birthday this year, instead of lumping it in with my Christmas post like I always do, I want to write a little bit about myself. Because the reality is, this blog is no longer just followed by family and close friends, and---for some reason, I keep feeling like I want its readers to get a better sense of the person behind the computer screen, on my 27th birthday.

Where to begin? How did I get here? I'm not your typical 27 year old, and that's okay with me. When I was growing up, there were two things I knew I wanted in life. First, I wanted to be an author. I zipped my way through college because there were no wasted classes, no changing of majors, no questions about who I was or what I wanted from school. Second, I wanted to mother a whole lot of children. I got married really young, which definitely isn't for everyone, but worked out wonderfully for me. We started having kids almost right away, and I seriously found my calling in life. Mothering is my JAM. I love the nearly impossible challenge of it. I love organizing the chaos. I love how much I am changing because of my kids. I love playing with them, reading them stories, teaching them new things, and kissing their beautiful faces a million times a day. Motherhood brings a kind of joy to my life that completely consumes me. Was I expecting the debilitating exhaustion? NOPE. I'm hoping to sleep again in ten years or so. In conclusion, don't be super surprised when I'm pregnant again someday, because if you've met my kids, you'd want more of them, too. You heard it from me first.*
London brought me breakfast in bed on my birthday! She climbed directly over Kyle.

*Kyle wants everyone to know that I am NOT pregnant.

Love. I love love. I am the sappiest person I know. The super cheesy almost sickeningly silly love stories make my heart skip a beat. I'm not ashamed. Give me all the books, movies, and TV shows about romance. Speaking of books, I'm an avid reader. I can get lost in a book and read until 3 am without even realizing it. I enjoy all genres of books: historical fiction, biographies, dystopian, romance, self-help, religious...

My faith is everything to me. I'm a Mormon- which is basically a fancy way of saying--I'm a Christian who believes that God still talks to people today. The best thing about being a Mormon? Definitely our belief in eternal families. We believe that families continue even after death, which means our children, our parents, our grandparents, will always be ours. It's why Mormon funerals are joyous, warm, and peaceful. The second best thing? Probably callings. A "calling" is a job at church: every single person has a job, and no one, not even the Bishop, gets paid. My job right now is teaching the 14 year old girls, and it is one of my favorite callings I've ever had! My faith in Jesus Christ helps me conquer and endure all of the challenges that come my way. I feel purpose and direction and light in my life.

I have a really really loud, super distinct laugh. I used to be embarrassed by it, but not anymore. It's me!

I am a people person. I love the story behind each new face, and I love finding goodness and commonality in everyone I meet. My love for people draws me to travel. When I go somewhere new, I want to immerse myself in the culture, the customs, the food, the museums, the art, the History---everything fascinates me. I'll live all over the world someday, I'm sure of it!

There is a bond between me and my siblings that is unlike any I have seen. I'm sure it stems from our tumultuous childhood, when we leaned on each other and protected each other from the challenges we faced as a family. We are a team, and we love each other endlessly.

I have a completely irrational fear of large bugs. And although I'm humiliated to admit it, I have a real phobia of cleaning toilets. I am capable of bleaching the outside and wiping it off, barely, and the rest is up to Kyle.

I love love love the outdoors.

The twins at my birthday dinner.
I truly enjoy music of every kind. I grew up performing in Musical Theater, and I still get goosebumps whenever I see a play. Thankfully, I married a talented musician. When Kyle sits down at the piano and especially when he plays his acoustic guitar for me, I melt into a puddle on the ground. Sometimes, I think it's an unfair advantage, but mostly, I'm just really glad he's MINE.

I'm a perfectionist. I have never met a challenge and thought, "Huh, not sure if I can pull that off." It can get me into serious trouble sometimes, because I really shouldn't do some of the things I have already decided I can do. I get these ideas, I start planning, I figure out every tiny detail, and I can't stop myself. Which leads me to my greatest flaw...

Time. I don't get it. I can't do it. I fail miserably. I am never, and I mean never, on time. After 27 years of it, and being psycho-analyzed by the poor people I torture with my lateness, I have come up with a theory: I do not know how long anything actually takes. It has nothing to do with me being selfish and narcissistic, and everything to do with a loose screw in my brain that thinks every task I accomplish will take just a minute. I'm genuinely sorry and I will never stop trying to fix this crazy flaw.

Health is really important to me. I have never tasted alcohol or smoked anything, and I don't drink soda. I make all my family's meals from scratch and only snack on fruits and vegetables. But...I love Haribo gummy bears and expensive good chocolate, and I believe in treating myself when I want to! I exercise daily, and I always have. My body is not perfect, but it is healthy, and I don't take that
blessing for granted.

Finally, I love writing this blog. So thank you for reading and laughing along with me. I can't wait to see where the next four years take the Garvin Family...

January 27, 2017

It's magic

Tara and I grew up together. We spent summers sleeping on her trampoline or her driveway, went to summer camp, kissed boys, spent three hours getting each other ready to go to the movies, and laughed our way through adolescence, while Dashboard Confessional played in the background. AND, much to our dismay, it had been three entire years since we had last been together. I planned to fly to Connecticut, where her husband is in school, but then news that her husband might have an opportunity to work in a clinic in Utah over the holidays changed everything. Instead of a cross-country flight for me, a twelve hour drive for me and Kyle and our four littles was arranged. 
We stayed with my mom's sister, whom my children love to death. She gave them candy, had an entire box of play-dough on the kitchen counter at all times, and played pretend with them fervently. And for three days, Tara and I talked endlessly, while Henry tried his best to demolish everything in sight. There is something so special about a friendship like that took a lifetime to create, and one that will never ever change. It was my greatest pleasure to spend a few days in Utah with her. And how adorable is her baby girl?! 

Temple Square in Salt Lake City...

We returned home to San Diego just in time for Christmas.
I used to look hopefully under the tree on Christmas morning, wishing that all the things I asked for were waiting for me to unwrap. But now, the only thing I care about at all is the look on the faces of four little children who believe in magic.
Annual sibling picture...
Here are a few of the gems I wrote down from that magical morning...
Elle, opening up a pair of Paw Patrol pajamas, "Mom, look at all these characters! These are SO adorable! I can't WAIT to wear these!"

Elle, opening up her "real horse", a Furreal walking pony, "WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?! EEEEEEEE!"

London, opening her flying unicorn, "Mom, Santa found it! I can't believe he found it! This is exactly what I wanted!" ----Yeah, London, Santa deserves an award for that one. London was so happy that she didn't realize that the flying unicorn did not possess the ability to also grant her unlimited wishes.

Henry walked around the entire day holding a basketball, and shooting baskets with Kyle in his new mini hoop. It became his favorite word. "Ba-ball! Ba-ball!" And Juliette sat in her new doll stroller while all of her siblings, including Henry, pushed her in circles downstairs. 

I can easily say that this Christmas was the best day I can remember. I felt so overwhelmed with love for my family and gratitude to God for giving them to me. I am so proud of my kids- for the brilliant, kind, good little people they are. And when I look at these sweetest smiling faces, I think-- There is no greater love than what I feel for them! But it's Christmas, so these thoughts lead me right to where they should; to my Savior.