Giving Thanks

KeC Clemens, Natalie 2017-10-18-66Today is Thanksgiving! It’s no secret that it is my least favorite holiday. But this year I am feeling extra blessed so I would be immensely ungrateful if I didn’t celebrate by sharing my annual thankful post.

Here are a few things I am thankful for at this time in my life.

1. Freedom. As I look at more and more violence and heartache in the world, I am grateful for the freedoms I enjoy. Does that mean I live in a country where I am completely safe? No. But I live in a place where people still fight for their freedom. A place where I can voice my opinions on what I like and dislike about my country. And a place where I have access to all of life’s necessities – food, water, shelter.

2. Naps. With a daughter that gets up before the sun, I have gained a new appreciation for naps. Not mine, but hers. She normally sleeps while her brothers are at school. That gives me a couple of hours to get stuff done and recharge. Hallelujah!

3. Photography. I have absolutely loved taking photos this year. I still can’t believe I get to do it for a living. I am thankful for the sacrifices my family made to allow me to go to photography school. I am also thankful for the people who let me take their pictures. What an honor!

4. Walking. I have NEVER been an early bird. But I am so thankful for a few friends who help me get my butt out of bed each week day to go walking. It has been a game changer for me. I get to walk off some of my stress while chatting with my closest friends. What could better?

5. Family. This year I have noticed how much I love about each member of my immediate family. They each have several special characteristics that I cherish. I love that they want to spend time with me. I love that they laugh at my stupid jokes. I love that they support and cheer me on. I love that they’ll still let me snuggle to them. I love that they are mine forever.

These are just a few of the things I hold close to my heart this Thanksgiving. I am tremendously blessed. I could never make a complete list of things that I am thankful for. And so while I get ready to sit down to a massive feast today, rather than let my annoyances with this commercialized, glutinous holiday overcome me, I’m going to think of the many things I have to be thankful for. I am going to focus on how I am so blessed.

Proud to be Patriotic


I haven’t felt very patriotic lately. I’ve been extremely discouraged. Discouraged by the corruption in politics, discouraged by my democratic representation – or lack thereof, discouraged by the divisiveness in this land of the free, home of the brave.

I have been frustrated by policy, disgusted by elected officials and unsettled by the helpless feeling that I can’t do anything to change any of it.

I brought these feelings with me to the Veteran’s Day program at the elementary school last week.

And by the end of the hour-long celebration, my heart was swelling with pride – with patriotism.

I sat in a gym with more than 600 students. They crowded onto the floor facing a stage full of local veteran relatives. They sang and sang and sang tribute to the soldiers and professed their gratitude for their service.

It dawned on me that my patriotism can be separate from my disgust for government.

As I watched the men and women who had devoted their time and sacrificed more than I could ever imagine to serve our country my heart was full.

I was reminded that there are a lot of good people in this country who care for one another. People who would risk their lives for our nation – for me.

I can’t tell you how amazing it was to hear all the student voices sound together in “I’m Proud to be an American.” They sang so loudly, so proudly.

They haven’t lost their patriotism. They believe in this land that they love.

It was inspiring, it was refreshing.

When and why did I stop believing?

Children are amazing. I am continually learning from mine. I couldn’t help but tear up while my oldest joined with his sixth grade classmates and sang about being united.

They sang “We Are One” a song that says we can’t remain free unless we remain united.

Children are a lot better at being one – being united.

I watched them join together to celebrate this nation. To celebrate its soldiers. To celebrate its freedom.

And in watching them I started believing again.

This country may have a lot of things that are getting me down, but every once in a while I am reminded that there is still hope. Hope for a better government. Hope for a safer nation. Hope for the leaders of tomorrow. Hope for patriotism.

The Seven Year Shutout

Self Portrait - Fear-1

One of our photography school assignments this spring was to do a self portrait. I chose to do a picture that represented my biggest fear – the fear of being alone, in the dark and so insignificant and helpless that my sadness consumes me.

The days are getting darker.

I’ve been worried all week that I’m going to slip into sadness like I did last winter.

I don’t know exactly what caused it but I’m guessing it had something to do with some unsettled emotions and anxiety – much of which was born seven years ago when my baby boy died.

I’ve been brainstorming ways to battle the blues. Ways that will help me – because I know that everyone is different.

The truth is losing Luca effected every single one of my relationships. It took me until this year to realize that when I lost him I lost closeness with everyone else.

Not because I meant to.

Not because I wanted to.

But because my mind secretly wouldn’t let me get close to anyone for fear that I would lose them too.

And I knew how losing someone felt.

If it felt like my heart would completely break losing my baby that I had hardly met, how would it feel to lose someone that I’d known for years? Someone that my life revolved around?

Somehow my subconscious wasn’t going to let me find out.

So I kept myself at a distance. At a distant from friends. At a distance from neighbors. At a distant from my own family.

Why would I get close to others if they might die too?

Typing those words makes me realize how crazy it sounds. But it’s how I felt for years.

Why would I subject myself to another loss?

Why? Because if I don’t, I won’t have anything or anyone to live for.

As I laid in my bed last January I felt lost. I felt sad. And I felt so alone.

Ironically my fear of letting people in and getting close to others was causing me great sorrow. I felt like I had no one to turn to. No one who cared.

Frankly my biggest fear in life is being left alone – alone to grieve all those who leave me. But what if there is no one to grieve? What if I have no one to miss because I have no one who is close?

I had to decide this year that I would much rather feel the extreme pain of losing someone than to have never had anyone to lose.

And that has made all the difference for me.

I’ve still got a long way to go, but I feel like I am slowly inching back toward the types of relationships I had before Luca died. I am putting myself out there and caring more about people than I have for the past seven years.

I know that means that I’m going to hurt. Somehow, somewhere, sometime, someone I truly care about will have to leave me. I know it’s going to be awful. I know that it will be almost more than I can bear. But I know that I will live through it.

And hopefully I will have many close friends and family there to help me through.

I think that’s what’s going to save me this winter too. When I’m feeling down, instead of crawling into my bed and pulling the covers over my head, I’m going to reach out to those close friends I’ve been letting in.

Hopefully they’ll help me get up, get out and get going.

The truth is that grief is complicated. Sometimes I think I understand what I’ve been through. Other times it takes years to figure some things out. Some things I will never figure out. I’ve gained a lot of insight this year into what grief has done to my relationships. While I’m sad at the time I’ve lost with those I could have kept close, I realize that I was doing the best I could just surviving.

All I can do it hope for a better tomorrow. One that has me surrounded by those I love – those I wouldn’t want to live without. Those that I let in to surround me during my darkest, bluest days. Those worth living for.

Fear of Stressing Out

FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. I heard that phrase for the first time this year.

What does it mean?

It means I’m afraid I will miss out on something. Something that I could do if I tried.

And as a mom it means I’m afraid of making my children miss out on something that I could let them do if I tried.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

I’ve been living my journey as a mother as an active member of the FOMO club. So many times I have thought that my kids needed to do something or else they would miss out.

Miss out on what?

I’ve asked myself that a lot lately.

My oldest two boys are getting busier and busier. I hear it’s going to get worse. And so I sit evaluating what we do as a family and why we do it.

Am I doing things because I want to? Or am I doing things because I feel like I should? Like if I don’t then my kids are going to miss out on some sacred right of passage.

There’s no rule that says my boys have to play every team sport. It’s not life or death if we don’t buy season passes to the local amusement park each year. And I know we aren’t going to miss out if we don’t make it to each story time at the library.

Do my kids care? No. How do I know? Because I’ve been watching them.

This summer was probably the best we’ve had. We sat at home a lot more and enjoyed each other a lot more. We didn’t make it to the drive in. We didn’t go to the State Fair. We didn’t have Lagoon passes and we didn’t make any of the children’s PVC crafts or water toys that I pinned on Pinterest.

We woke up, figured out what we wanted to do, and did it. And sometimes that meant we didn’t do anything.

Now that school’s started it’s a little harder. I kind of have to make my kids do some things or else they will miss out – like homework and reading.

But there are a whole lot of things we don’t have to do. And we won’t miss out on.

I’ve got to keep telling myself that. Especially as our schedules fill up more and more.

Instead of fearing I will miss out if I don’t do something, I’m going to start fearing that I will stress out if I do.

I’m going to ask myself: Is this essential? Do I want to do this? Will my kids even care?

And if I say no to any of those three questions then I’m going to pass.

I’ve done it a few times this month already.

For example, this is the first year in forever that I haven’t sewn a bunch of Halloween costumes – I altered a dragon and patched up a morph suit – but I didn’t start searching and crafting in September only to barely be ready by Halloween. I didn’t want to make anything. So we put together things we already had and I bought a few things. Does that mean my kids missed out? Not. One. Bit.

Each of them walked around smiling from ear to ear while trick or treating because they were dressed as they wished.

What else did I pass on? I didn’t make a bunch of Halloween crafts for all our school and church teachers. Do I want to give back to the people who teach and care for my children? Yes! But did I want to make or buy anything this year? No.

So I didn’t. I’ll find other ways to let them know how much they mean to me. This week I didn’t have the time or the energy to get it done. And so I didn’t stress myself out.

Let’s hope I can keep this up. Life is too busy and time is too short to spend it worrying that I’m missing out.

I’m now the president of the FOSO club. And I think everyone should join. Are we doing things because we feel like we have to? Are we stressing ourselves out?

I’m putting the mom guilt aside. I’m putting the comparisons aside. I’m putting the coulds and shoulds aside. I’m going to do things when I can and when I want to.

And I’m not going to miss out on a single thing.

Simple Halloween Craft for Kids


It’s been a really long time since I posted a craft on here! I stole this darling, cute mummy craft from my neighbor. It was the perfect thing for my 5-year-old to help me. We made some for our grandmas.

First we took four baking trays that we bought at the dollar store and spray painted them with a light coat of white.


Then we took a roll of gauze and marked it with brown washable marker. My son made tick marks on the gauze at random.


Then we took a wet wipe and smudged the tick marks to make them look dirty.


We wrapped the gauze around the pan and secured it with hot glue. Then added two googley eyes and a stick on foam bat and pumpkin.

I think they turned out so cute! They were so easy and inexpensive. They would be perfect if you’re looking for a last-minute Halloween project.


Costumed Out

20171017_161003Props to all you moms out there working on Halloween costumes. Because if your kids are anything like mine, it’s a major ordeal.

Why? Because there are lots of details that no one thinks about but mom. And no matter how certain my kids are of what they want to be, it never fails, one of them changes their mind at the last minute.

My 5-year-old did it this year. He wanted to be a dragon. Then a ninja. Then a ninja dragon. That’s the one he was certain about. He wanted to be a ninja dragon. (He keeps making these things up. Last year he was a lava wolf – who know what that is lol.)

We had a couple ninja costumes from his older brothers so I bought him a dragon mask on Amazon. Wahoo! Easy ninja dragon. I thought we were done.

Then last week he told me he’s back to wanting to be a regular dragon – no ninja. I nearly went all ninja on him. When he said that I thought, “I’m running out of time before our family Halloween party this weekend and I know I’m not going to get much done during fall break today and tomorrow.”


But I couldn’t let him down. If you’ve ever since him in action, you would know that he would make the best dragon.

So I took him to the second-hand store and we found a dragon bodysuit.

That was the good news. The bad news was it was about 5 sizes too big.

You can guess what I did Tuesday. My house is still a mess from picking apart the seams and shortening the lengths. Then sewing it all back together.

In the end it all worked out. He’s going to make one cool, fierce dragon.

But it’s frustrating.

So is finding all of the tiny things to go with the other costumes. Like the bodysuit and dress shoes that need to go with my 3-year-old’s Elsa costume. And the necktie that my oldest needs for his cowboy garb.

There are a million things to think about.

OK, maybe not a million, but some days it feels that way.

I think I’ve got it all worked out. Each of my children will get to live out their make-believe dreams and dress up in their character of choice.

I even found myself a Anna costume to wear along with my 3-year-old’s Elsa costume – she told me I had to be Anna because Elsa needed a best friend. Who would say no to that?

Let’s hope no one else changes their mind in the next three days before our party. Or I may have to go buy me a giant bag of Reese’s Pumpkins to get me through.



img_4527.jpgThere’s nothing like an elementary-school field trip to make a parent feel like trash.

I went to the dump yesterday with my son. Technically it’s not a “dump” it’s a landfill, but hey I have always called it the “dump”. I thought I was good a recycling. I thought I was good at minimizing my trash production. But that field trip changed me.

The people in my local area have produced more garbage in the past 16 years than the 50 years prior. We, as a general population, are garbage machines!

Why? Because we have so many modern conveniences that we just trash. Fifty years ago people didn’t have paper towels, swiffer mops or disposable diapers.

Now we have it so easy. We clean something up. We throw the paper towels in the garbage. We take the can out to the curb and it’s taken away once a week.

It’s gone. Right? WRONG. It’s sitting in a dry tomb in a 70-acre landfill 10 miles from my home.

I have been so naive when it comes to my trash. I thought for sure it was compacted then it magically decayed. Nope. I found out that the landfill lines the trash on top and bottom with plastic. In a way it preserves it and houses it forever beneath the soil.

Sure there’s a tractor that runs over top of the trash with spiked wheels. It breaks it up a little. But Utahns on average produces 8 pounds of garbage per day. Per day!!! That’s 3.5 pounds higher than the national average. It can’t be breaking it up THAT much.


Why does this matter? Because eventually we will run out of room to dump our trash. At the current rate, my landfill has 15 years until it will be too full. Then they will have to ship my trash an hour and a half away in a location in Utah County that took 20 years to secure.

That’s going to cost more, take more time and produce more pollution than I want to think about.

So what can I do? What can you do?

The answer is the same thing I learned when I was in elementary school – reduce, reuse, recycle.

Stop using so much trash. Honestly, I don’t know if I would ever switch to cloth diapers but it bothered me that 2 percent of the waste of the dump is made up of disposable ones.

That is a lot of poopy keepsakes entombed forever in my neighboring town!

So what can I do to reduce waste? I feel like recycling is my number-one goal. I know it’s a pain to rinse out things like plastic containers and metal cans, but it’s one way I can lessen my trash output.

Second, I’m going to try to stop cleaning up spilled milk with paper towels. Sure it’s not as convenient and sometimes the rags I’m using smell milky after (especially because I do laundry as infrequent as possible) but simply using items I can reuse will drastically decrease my trash output. Tupperware instead of sandwich bags, cloth grocery bags instead of plastic ones, those are they types of things I can use to help reduce my 8-pound-a-day amount.

Third, I’m going to look into purchasing a composter for my food scraps. I love to garden. This should be a no-brainer for me. If I can figure out how to use the nutrients from my leftovers to benefit my plants it is a win-win.

Finally, I’m going to make sure no one would want the things I dump before I dump them.

I found out yesterday that before the items are pushed off of the unloading dock at the dump, workers sift through the piles looking for hazardous waste as well as items that can be recycled like tires, metal and glass.

They also search for treasures – things that are in good condition that can be resold.

They have actually opened a second-hand thrift store on the grounds similar to the DI or Savers. They employ workers who may have disabilities and teach them to work while selling things that don’t need to be trashed. They call it the Pioneer Adult Rehabilitation Center. It’s really cool.

The dump was an amazing place. They are taking my trash – many of it I really shouldn’t even be producing – and they are trying their best to make it smaller for me.

They sift through the trash to remove items that can be disposed of differently and they also help mulch down green waste into wood chips. They actually lose $350,000 a year by taking people’s green waste and smashing it down. But they do it because they want to keep it out of the landfill.

They do a lot. Now I’m going to give them a hand. I challenge you to do the same. That way my great, great, great grandkids won’t end up on a spaceship orbiting earth like the people in Wall-E. They deserve better. I’ve got to do this for them.


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