Tuesday, February 28, 2017

My Person

This is Thomas Judd. He has been my husband for almost 21 years. We have 9 children together. We've lived in 7 houses and 3 states together. Like everyone we've had some pretty crappy times. Life is hard. But mostly I choose not to think about all that. This guy, right here is my safe place. He gets me. He is my "person".

 At 36 weeks pregnant with this cute little guy I was diagnosed with choroidal melanoma. Eye cancer! My metaphorical carpet was ripped out from underneath me. It was one of those afore mentioned crappy times in our 21 years together. Was I going to die? How could Thomas possibly raise 9 kids without me? All I want is to raise my kids and see them grow up! We can't afford all the medical bills! How are the kids going to deal with this? Etc.

There is so much to write down, so much I want to remember and preserve about this frightening, horrible, yet beautiful and sacred time. But today I just want to immerse myself in the feelings of gratitude I have for my Thomas.

He always builds me up and makes me believe that he has supreme faith in me. He completely trusts me and my opinions and judgement. He is amazing at showing his appreciation for me and how hard I work. He loves people, doesn't judge them, and has the rare gift to be able to see things from others' perspectives.  He is fantastic at mediating and healing hurt feelings. He is open, honest, and sincere. He is fun, playful, a little irreverent, and is comfortable in his own skin. He doesn't like to conform just for the sake of arbitrary expectations placed on him. Sometimes it's hard for him to be a round peg in a square hole. But mostly he's confident. He's a loving father. Our kids call him "silly daddy". He works so hard to make them all happy.

While I was in the hospital, he stayed the whole week with me! I thought I would be OK without him there. But he knew before I did that I didn't want him to go. He slept on a tiny, hard, uncomfortable little couch. Because I couldn't see and was still recovering from childbirth he got up every 3 hours and set up the breast pump so I could maintain my milk supply while I had to be away from our baby.

I definitely don't have everything I want, but I am so overwhelmingly thankful for what I do have. Our marriage and family are the most beautiful gift. I could never have become the person I am today without Thomas' love. And I never want to see my world without him in it!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas 2015

Judd Christmas 2015

It’s been a good year for the Judd family. In June we added a couple of new family members to the crew. Cecilia and her son Andrew moved here from California to stay with her sister. We met when she joined the church. Her sister ended up having to move, Cecilia needed a place to stay and the rest is history. In August we embarked on an epic cross country road trip. We were able to visit with so many friends and family that we hadn’t seen in almost three years. We saw church history sites, the Pacific Ocean, the Grand Canyon and so much more. After 15 states and 7,000 miles with every seat in our 12 passenger van filled we were definitely ready to be home though. Then in September we added a spunky little black Miniature Schnauzer named Howell to the chaos. 

When Thomas isn’t crushing candy or fantasy football opponents he’s working hard writing procedures for the TSA. He’s also been skillfully navigating the murky waters of government bureaucracy and starting up a small business with his buddy in the taxi industry. This year he was also called as the ward mission leader. He loves his calling working with the missionaries. We’ve gotten to know some exceptional young men and women. And although it’s been hard to accept that we’re old enough to be their parents we really do love them like our own! More important than all of that, he continues to be a fantastic husband and father and will forever be my favorite human being!

What have I done this year? Uuummm, well I managed to keep everyone alive, so there’s that! When I’m not making large vats of food, teaching someone to read, or sweeping the kitchen floor I still like to run. I ran a Ragnar race through the outer edges of hurricane Joaquin in October. I was definitely the slowest on our team but I finished those soul crushing hills so I am happy with that. Of course sewing will always be my love and I’ve been working hard to make more time for it lately. I’ve also been teaching the gospel principles class at church for the past two years and I LOVE it!
Marley will be eighteen in just a few months. She’s been busy applying to colleges and dreaming about her future. She’s already been accepted to Southern Virginia University with a partial academic scholarship and she’ll hear back in February from the others. I can’t even imagine life without her around. In fact I do everything I can to avoid thinking about it! She is hard working, dependable, loving, and kind. Marley spent her time this year working in a cupcake shop, babysitting, watching and drawing anime, knitting, playing the piano, learning the ukulele, writing papers and wrestling with Chemistry.

Townsend is now 15 and makes even the likes of Mary Poppins seem lacking. As he is quick to point out, he is practically perfect in every way! Aside from developing his robust sense of self-esteem he has also been growing like a weed and is pushing 6 feet. He is funny, mostly kind, has a heaping scoop of sensitivity and is generally a pretty lovable guy! He loves basketball, reading, music, making his hair tall, and girls. 

Aislyn is twelve now! She started Young Women’s at church and although she had to leave her favorite friend behind in Primary for a while, she loves it. Her biggest excitement is our new puppy Howell. He is happy and energetic and gives her lots of affection. It has been amazing to see her mature so much these last few months. She takes care of his every need completely on her own. We never have to remind her to take him for a walk or feed him. She still loves My Little Ponies with exuberance and has also recently decided that she loves having Asperger’s because she’s different than the rest of us. I love that she feels that way!

Our man Jairus turned 10 in October. His loves include Legos and Snap Circuits and has recently begun taking his turn as curator of our family dance party playlists. He’s a baby whisperer and tender soul. This year he started his first online writing class and loves it.

Ephraim turned 8 in October and was baptized! He is a sweet and intelligent boy who loves to ponder life’s complexities. He's not like his mother and has a deep love for math. But mostly he likes to play Legos and Mine Craft with his best buddies Jairus and Andrew.

Ada is 5 almost 6. She loves all things sparkly and glittering. She also loves the great outdoors and dirt and sticks. Her hair is always disheveled and her sparkles covered in dust. I would describe Ada as truly ALIVE! She has a passion and zest for everything she does, she feels things very deeply, and she never, ever stops moving!

Joan-Claire is a force to be reckoned with at the tender age of 3! She is a mighty dictator in a little body. She knows what she wants and will settle for nothing less. This trait will, I’m sure serve her well later in life (I’m just praying she makes it that far)!  She also has an amazing ability to sit still and pay attention to the minutest of details. When she is sweet, she is very, very sweet. And when she is bad, well……

Sweet baby Jane turned 1 in November. She started her cute little drunken toddler walking this month and gives the best open mouthed slobbery baby kisses! She is sweet, happy, and loving and we’re all so thankful to have her in the family.

Merry Christmas to all of you, the people we love! We are so grateful for our Savior and the peace and love He brings to our lives, and pray that you all may feel it too!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

No Denim Jumper Required

We've been home schooling for nine years now. I can't even believe that's true! I love it. I am so thankful to be able to do it. I will admit, it is hard. Some days more than others. I didn't always think it was a good idea. But, as with everything in my life God has a way of slowly working on me until  one day I look around and realize that I'm a passionate believer.

I saw a quote somewhere recently that said, "Home schooling isn't for everybody, but it is for anybody". And I think that's true. I certainly don't think any less of all my friends who's children go to public school. Some of my best friends are or have been public school teachers. They are wonderful, dedicated, and truly strive to make a difference in the lives of the children they teach. Sometimes a public school setting is  the best option. But I also see a lot of people who are interested, curious, or who want to take the leap but are scared out of their wits. And it's to those people that I want  to share my thoughts and experiences.

I think what scares most people off  of home schooling is that they picture it being a public school replica at home. Let me say that the wonderful thing about it is that it can be ANYTHING you want it to be. It absolutely does not take six to eight hours a day of rigid structure to accomplish. Although if that's your style  you can certainly give it a try!

Our oldest, Marley went to kindergarten at one of the "best" elementary schools in our city. We were both so excited and I was so happy to have gotten her into that particular school. Marley has always been pretty sweet, obedient, and well-behaved, so she got along just fine. I volunteered in her class room and was increasingly disturbed at her teacher. She possessed the opposite of every characteristic I thought a kindergarten teacher should have. She was not kind or helpful and actually made fun of and mocked a number of the children on several occasions. I will always be thankful for that year though. Marley met a friend and I was able to spend time with her mother. She had home schooled the year before and was just taking a break because she was pregnant and feeling overwhelmed.

 My image of homeschoolers up to that point was of the frumpy denim jumper-wearing lady with ten kids, all of whom were social weirdos! But this lady was cool! She was successful, she was the farthest thing from weird. That's when the idea began to grow. Maybe I could home school?
Denim jumper convention
I started out teaching Marley and Townsend to read with the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It seemed like a miracle to me. I mean, I was not a trained professional and somehow my kids were learning to read. There was something so rewarding in being the one to teach them that life skill. As I think back on my life as a home schooling mother so far, this is the defining point of it all for me. I am the one teaching my children life skills in what I believe is the perfect learning environment, HOME. Really, spending a large amount of time in the family dynamic is the best teacher. Aside from academic learning, social intelligence or in other words, attributes like hard work, patience, love, forgiveness, respect, compassion, and trust are naturally and ideally learned in a loving home.

But what about socialization? I couldn't even begin to try and count how many times I've heard that one! Obviously it's a genuine question and I'll answer it with another genuine question. Do you know of any adult who spends eight hours a day working in a room with twenty five other people their exact same age? I guess my point is this, socialization is important but I don't think that the public school model of education is the optimal means by which to achieve the goal. I grew up attending public schools. My experiences in that world of unspoken rules was that adults and young people don't mix, aren't "on the same team" so to speak. It produces this weird Lord of the Flies social structure of dog eat dog. You have to be at least a little hardened to make it through, and it's absolutely essential that you find a group to identify yourself with. I want much more for my children. I want them to be confident and independent. I want them to value all people and not feel limited by a specific age group, socio-economic background., or any other difference while choosing their friends. In my experiences so far homeschooling has produced stellar results! My two oldest not only speak with adults with no fear but actually consider many their very close friends and mentors. While growing up they never felt it was beneath them to play with children who were younger than them, and again considered some their very best friends. They're not embarrassed to like what they like and pursue their own interests.If they want to do something, they find a way to make it happen all on their own. And here's the real clincher for me, my two teen-agers aren't even embarrassed by me! Now that's saying something. Thomas and I both went through  pretty acute and prolonged anti-parent phases so I've been bracing myself for the worst for years. But it just hasn't happened yet. Coincidence? I like to think not.

    There's so much more to talk about! It'll take a least a couple more posts for me to feel like I've covered it well. But here's the short list of why I love home schooling my children:
-I love my kids and I like being with them. I like being there when they learn something new and see the wonder in the world. It is vital that you make time just for yourself and your own passions and interests, but that's a whole other topic.
-I love that we are free to go with the flow and learn about whatever interests us at any given moment! Each kid is so very different and we have the freedom to encourage that.
-For the younger kids we only spend a couple hours at the very most on actual "school work". A lot of days we don't end up doing any formal school work. Fun fact- No one ever taught Jairus to read. He just picked it up on his own through everyday life. Human beings are naturally capable and intelligent and will seek out learning. The older kids do spend significantly more time on study though.
-I love not being restricted by a school districts' schedule! We are free to get up and go to bed whenever we want(I really love to sleep in), we are free to take vacations whenever we want and during less busy times and I don't have to worry that they're missing something important.
-My children aren't subject to arbitrary labels and time frames. Children reach learning milestones at very different rates. Townsend learned to read at age 4 and Aislyn didn't really start to take off until she was 9. She was just ready a little later. Aislyn did attend public school for one year and was placed in special ed classes which significantly affected her self esteem but did little to increase her mastery of reading and math. At home you don't learn to estimate your value by whether you are in a gifted class or a special ed class. You are just learning at whatever level you happen to be.

To wrap it up for now, here's a great infographic with stats on homeschooling families.The Skinny on Homeschooling in a GREAT Infographic  Home schooling is not for everyone but it is definitely for anyone(and no denim jumper required)!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I Made A Coat....

...an extremely warm coat! I've never been what you might call a "cold" person. If anything I get hot easily, but winter out here in Virginia has given me the overwhelming desire to snuggle up under as many layers as possible. Just yesterday it was six degrees outside when I woke up! I know for some people that is nothing. But this western Washington girl isn't used that kind of frigid air.

So here it is!

I used a navy wool with a minimalist plaid print. I underlined it with a wool jersey I had laying around from a previous obsession with make wool soakers(for cloth diapering). And then I lined it with a navy ployester satin. I definitely pushed my machinge to the very edge of it's ability with all that thick fabric. All complete, the coat weighs about five pounds and because I didn't put much effort into fitting so it's really big on me. But man, it is cozy, comfy, and delightfully warm.

I used the new Albion pattern from Colette Patterns. They make the best patterns and the instructions cannot be beat.

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. It was a ridiculous pain in the butt trying to match the plaids and in the end I didn't do a perfect job. Sometimes you just have to let things go a little. I'm just proud of myself for actually finishing it with a few months of winter left to wear it in. Go me!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Judd Christmas Letter 2013

Another year has passed us by. Our first year here in Alexandria Virginia has been a good one. We love the sunshine and the seasons. We love all the amazing things to see and do. And although we  miss our families and friends more than we can say, we count ourselves very blessed for the new friends we've made here on the east coast. 

Thomas started out the year in his new position writing procedures for the TSA. He loves his team of co-workers and has never been so happy in his work. At church, Thomas was called to be the second assistant in the High Priest Group, which makes him officially an "old man". He hasn't let his advancing years hold him back though, as this has been his year for physical fitness. Thomas ran his first half marathon with me back in April and has been doing P90X in the mornings with a buddy. He's so proud of his newly aquired lats! And speaking of buddies, he has made some great ones here.

I found a new love this year in the George Washington Memorial Parkway Trail. It runs along the Potomac river and is just beautiful in every season. I spent many an hour there, training for the Nike Women Half Marathon.  I also worked for nine months this year as a temporary employee for the Nike Women's Marathon doing social media and customer service. It was definitely a blessing and I was able to work from home and further hone my multi-tasking skills(that's the nice way of saying I lost a little bit more of my brain). I've also been so blessed to make some wonderful friends out here. 

Marley has had a busy year. She attends early morning seminary and has a pretty heavy work load in school this year. She is attending live online classes through Williamsburg Academy and is really loving it. She also has a pretty booming career as babysitter extraordinaire and is saving money for her first car. She just got her learner's permit last month and will be sixteen in March. That is just plain crazy! Best of all, she's still the best big sister ever and such a huge help to me!

Townsend, who officially became a teenager this year is also taking classes at Williamsburg Academy. Aside from a few hard life lessons in time management and saving your work is doing really well too. His real loves in life are basketball, pizza, and bacon. He spends four nights a week playing basketball and just as many days begging to have bacon for breakfast or pizza for dinner. Although prone to being just a tad antagonistic, he is a fun and loving big brother!

Aislyn just turned 10. She’s a lover of everything My Little Pony. She took a science class this year and is now an expert on all wetland creatures. She's got a keen memory when it comes to animal facts. She also wants to be a chef when she grows up. She has a little “cafĂ©” every day at lunch. She takes orders and gives excellent customer service. She recruited Townsend as her assistant and affectionately calls him her sous-chef. It’s pretty cute!

Our little Jairus, I'm realizing is not so little anymore. He turned 8 this year and was baptized. This year he started cub scouts and piano lessons and is loving both. His other loves in life are Mine Craft and Legos. He and Ephraim are best friends(most of the time) and are often off together having what they call "brother time".

Ephraim is 6. He loves Jairus so much and gets the saddest puppy-dog face you ever saw when his big brother is off doing things without him. Ephraim is our tender and quiet little guy. He says the most thoughtful prayers you ever heard and then out of no where can pull out some pretty awesome wit and humor.

Ada will be 4 in a couple of weeks. She feels everything very deeply. Every day she tells me,"You're the best mom.....(pause for effect) EVER! And then five minutes later she's expressing her grave displeasure at the injustice of my parenting decisions. She's full of life and energy and was born to be in charge of something. Her siblings don't always appreciate her attempts at leadership, but I'm always happy when they do. It's a lot more peaceful at least for a little while.

Joan-Claire. She'll be 2 in March. Her first year was a little rough. She was pretty somber and would smile for no one. But I'm happy to report that the last few months have opened a whole new world for her. She's a very independent little thing and I think babyhood was just holding her back. Now that she's walking, running, climbing, and talking more she is so much happier. More messes for sure, but I'll take a happy baby any day!

Life is a gift. It can  often be frightening or mundane or confusing or overwhelming . But it is a gift. I am so thankful for those moments when everything seems clear, when I can see just what it's all about. Those moments come more and more frequently as I give a bigger place for my Savior, Jesus Christ in my life. I know that He is real and that He lives and that all light and beauty are from Him. My heart is filled with gratitude for all the love and peace I have been blessed with. I pray with all my heart that each of you can feel that peace, too. It is the love of the Savior of the world!
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 6, 2013

One Year

It always happens, but time has truly flown by! We have been in Virginia for almost a year now. It has been a wonderful year. So many amazing experiences seeing history and art and the beauty of the world around us. And so many experiences with knowing that God is a very real and active part of our lives, that He listens and answers prayers, and that he tailor designs each opportunity for struggle and growth. I am not always so great at appreciating those struggles in the moment but I can always see the wisdom and loving care in my experiences once I've come through.
Today, I attempted to get a picture with all the kids together for this year's Christmas card. Definitely not an easy task getting seven wiggly and opinionated people to hold still and smile! This is how most of them came out.

It's crazy being a mother. Just minutes before these photos were taken I just about lost it. Aislyn was throwing a fit about having to brush her hair and someone had left honey on the table and Joan-Claire was covered in it and Townsend was busy antagonizing someone else to tears. Luckily, instead of saying "forget it" we pushed through. And now as I look at these beautiful, silly faces I just feel so grateful to have each one of these people to share my life with. I love them and even better than that, they love me too!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Nike Women Half Marathon in DC! I did it!

There is so much to tell! I don't feel like I could ever possibly catch up. But let me just say in all caps, "I LOVE VIRGINIA!" Seriously, I do. There are so many reasons to share, but the one I'm focusing on today is the opportunity I had to run my first race because I'm here....in Virginia. I've always wanted to run the Sound to Narrow in Tacoma which is a 12k. But I have always either been pregnant, had a small baby, or just generally lacked the confidence to go out and try it. But this was the year! I have a wonderful new friend who got Thomas and I in even though registration was closed. And I commited to run 13.1 miles!

I've learned some lessons through the process of training for this. Most important is this...Your mindset is everything! Everything I tell you! The most I had ever run consecutively was four miles and I just truly believe it was impossible for me to do more. I've always been an exerciser, but it just seemed so hard to go more. So, one day I just said to myself, "Self, we're going to go six today. And it doesn't matter how long it takes." And guess what? I did six that day, I walked some but ran most of it and it wasn't really too hard. The next week I did seven, and on and on until this Sunday when I ran 13.1 miles in 2 hours 12 minutes. It was such an awesome experience. I've learned that when I'm thinking negatively that I can just STOP and change it. I've learned that I can do  things that seem really hard(of course I already kind of knew that, what with the seven kids running around here).
I love running! I'm seriously thinking that a marathon might be up next. At the very least I'm running another half and shooting to do it in less than two hours.
I have to thank Marley and Townsend for all the hours of babysitting they did for me. I could not have accomplished this goal withou you two!