June 7, 2011

Dearest E.,

I am sorry it has been so long since I have written.  Life has gotten crazy around here.  I started my summer job.  Last week I was in training all week.  It was nice to learn so many new skills to prepare for the kids this week.  Nothing could have really prepared me for what it was going to be like this week.  We are only on day two with the kids and I am exhausted.  Overall it was just a bad day and I was really grumpy when I got home. I know tomorrow is going to be better. I really feel bad because after spending 8 hours with the kids at daycamp the last thing I want to do when I come home is play with Taco and Burrito.  

Burrito also graduated from preschool last week and we had a scare with Bean-Dip in the hospital with a head injury.  Burrito did really good at graduation.  I was in training and unable to go.  Grandma and Dad went.  I heard it was great. Until Dad went up to take Burrito's picture getting his diploma and two ladies came in and stole his seat.  They sat down right next to Taco, even though there were a lot of empty chairs and they spilled Dad's Pepsi everywhere!  Dad was very annoyed.  I am so proud of Burrito and how well he is doing with writing his name.  Tuesday was his last day at school.  Now he gets to spend the summer playing at Grandma's house.  I know he is very excited.  Taco is in a "year-round" school system.  So right now he is out and has been for two weeks, but next Monday he will go back to school until everyone gets out on July 1st.  Most of his friends will go back on July 25th but we changed tracks so he has a longer break and will go back in August.  I hope we will get to do something fun before the end of summer. 

Dad is loving his new job.  He comes home exhausted and filthy everyday.  He has moved up from dryer to prep-er.  Instead of hand drying the cars as they leave the tunnel it is now his job to spray off the mud and extra dirt as they come into the tunnel, get the cars on the track and in neutral so they can be pulled through, and to start the wash.  One of the hardest parts of his job is getting the cars lined up so they can move through the line quickly, but never crash.  I watched him through the window for a few minutes last Saturday (they did a record 513 cars).  He orchestrates the tunnel like a pro, getting cars through faster than they can dry.  He boss is very impressed with his work.  I am glad he found something he likes.  If only he could wear some safety gear to protect his hearing.  Now that he spends nine hours a day in the tunnel with it washing I have noticed he is starting to have trouble hearing.

The boys and I are doing well with our Book of Mormon reading challenge. I don't think I've mentioned it before.  In January our bishop challenged the ward to read the Book of Mormon in 6 months.  From Feb. to July 31.  We were super-slackers and just started reading about 2 weeks into May.  We just passed our one-quarter mark.  We have been trying to read one week's worth of the goal every 2 days.  We hope to get caught up a little faster now that we have a good routine.  I have actually never read the Book of Mormon all the way through, so I am excited to get through it as a family.

With Love,


May 25, 2011

Dearest E,.

When I started this blog I didn't intend for it to turn into Kira shares her testimony three days a week. I am sorry, I am just so happy with the changes in our family right now. On Monday we had a moment that made me very happy.

Bean Dip has been in our life for the last two and one half years. We tried multiple times to be involved before, but finally got court ordered visitation in the fall of 2008. The first Christmas we had with Bean Dip we quickly learned that he was unimpressed with homemade presents, hating clothing as gifts and in general completely ungrateful. At our house presents at birthdays and Christmas tend to get semi-ridiculous. We combined parties at Grandma's house and usually have 18 or 19 people present and giving presents. In the last couple of years the middle siblings (too old for a gift to be given on their behalf and not old enough for a real job) have started making homemade presents rather then "earning" a gift from the cupboard to give.

Christmas 2008 was a special year. It was the first holiday we spent with Bean Dip and our first unsupervised visit. My parents decided early on in the year that it would be a "homemade" Christmas. Everyone worked really hard to make their own gifts to give. At first he was excited to open the 18 or so presents before him. But as he started opening it became clear what he thought of our homemade Christmas. Soon presents people had spent hours on were being added to his trash pile without concern. Then I gave him the presents from Dad and me.

We knew that his mom was struggling to afford clothing and because of my super-deal powers we had been able to buy him enough new clothes to take an entire wardrobe to his house and fill a dresser (from Santa) here with things. He was furious. Clothes are presents! Santa doesn't bring dressers! You are just supposed to give those to me because I am a kid." (I guess he hadn't realized that his new dresser was five times nicer than the used one that Taco's clothes were in.) The Santa gifts that were approved he wanted to take to his mom's house. We tried to reason with him, "What will you play with here?" But in the end I caved and allowed several toys to journey to his mom's along with the books that Santa had brought just for him.

The next Tuesday the pile of Santa books was in his backpack. "My mom says I don't have to read these so you can have them back. She bought me a bunch of video games instead." Talk about an ungrateful six-year-old. We knew our work was cut out for us and we needed to teach Bean Dip about gratitude and how to appreciate all types of gifts.

Bean Dip's birthday was this week. Grandma knew that last fall we had ordered glasses for Bean-Dip and had been unable to finish paying them off so he could get his new glasses. She decided that they would pay the balance as his "big" present and only give him a few little things. (Bean Dip was wearing his glasses we got back in 2008. He had broken all of his newer frames. This year his mom got him a pair with her tax return and he broke them after two weeks.) Glasses were a major need. But we were nervous. Everyone had seen how he reacted to non-toy presents and in a way this was a major test to even decide if it was worth gathering everyone for his birthday next year.

The rest of the kids worked hard making their own presents. One especially creative aunt took it upon herself to make him a very personal present. Bean Dip has been told a million times how much he looks like Harry Potter. At first he hated being compared to Harry Potter. This year he finally read the series (he likes reading now) and decided being called Harry Potter was cool. Knowing he had just finished reading it, Prima Donna crafted a wand and a book of spells so he could pretend to be Harry. (The wand was made out of a stick with ribbon and to age the spell book she rubbed the paper with sand to distress it. It was very authentic looking.) I eyed her gift nervously. I wasn't sure what he would think.

He open it early on. He smiled and waved it around and giggled a bit. I tucked it into the safety of my purse and held my breath as Taco brought the glasses case for him to open.
He shook it.
"Don't! It's breakable."
He looked at me curiously and began to peel off the paper. My brother, Sport, who is one year younger than Bean Dip came up behind him.
"What the...?" Sport questioned, "Mom, why did you wrap my glasses case!"
Bean Dip started tearing a little faster. Soon the blue PEZ case was out of the paper. He had Sport show him how to open it.
"NEW GLASSES!" he yelled as he took off the old ones and put them on. "Are these the ones I picked out a long time ago?"
"Yes." I looked at Grandma. I wanted to be sure she noticed the grin that was nearly too big for his face as I breathed a sigh of relief.

It was the best reaction we got all night, although he was almost as excited for the Legos. When all the presents were opened he issued a general "thank you" to everyone and trailed after Grandma who was heading into the kitchen for the finishing touches on the cake. "Thanks for the glasses," he said before dashing off to the trampoline.

Later that night as we were dropping him off with his mom the first thing he said was, "I got new glasses!" She admired them while I explained where to take him to get them adjusted. Then he asked for Prima Donna's present. He showed his mom the wand and spellbook while I unloaded the presents. For once he was excited showing her something homemade. I got into the car with a big grin on my face. Bean Dip has sure come far since that first Christmas.

With Love,

May 18, 2011

Dearest E.,

A few weeks ago at church the lesson was on tithing. And as I sat there listening I thinking about my first car, a Subaru Impreza.  The Subaru was purchased in 2003 after my brother totaled the Dodge Neon my parents gave me in high school. I was working at Sears and diligently paying my tithing. I started looking for a car the next week. I fell in love with the Jetta that was next to the Subaru on the side of the road and stopped. But my parents felt strongly that I should call on the Subaru so I did. The owner had been given the car by a friend that owed him $1800. He was asking $2500 for it. When he arrived to show the car there was obviously something wrong. He brought the battery and hooked it up. The stick shift was missing a gear knob and soon I learned it had a salvaged title. I took it for a test drive. It was a fun little car. My dad was talking to the owner and was able to bring the price down to $2200 while I drove.

Bringing a battery to your car was strange even for a roadside car. I asked about the battery being out and he confessed. It had an electrical problem and he didn't know what but you couldn't turn the lights off unless you unhooked the battery. Oh dear, major electrical issues. My dad and I still felt strongly that this was the car. With this information we were able to talk the seller down to $1800 the amount his friend owed him for the debt. Based on a gut feeling, I bought a car with "major electrical problems" and a salvaged title.

Looking nice from far away.  (2007)

Later that day I was reading my owner's manual (yes I am a dork) and I read about "emergency mode." By activating emergency mode and flipping a large switch on the steering column the car diverted all power to the headlights without needing the keys. I flipped the switch off and POOF major electrical problem solved.  Dad drilled a hole in a baseball and a homemade gearshift knob was in place.  The Subaru sailed through inspection and emissions and I knew I had been blessed.

After your dad and I got married paying tithing was a difficult subject to bring up.  He had been told some very wrong information about tithing and the LDS church and he was wary of paying 10% of our already small income to a church.  He accepted my decision and we paid tithing diligently for a couple of months and saw incredible blessings.  We found our first apartment that was in our budget.  One day out of the blue a stranger called up your dad and offered him a job.  Because she heard from a friend of a friend that he was a good worker.  Taco was born in Novemember and I did something incredibly foolish.  Instead of paying tithing I took that money to purchase extra Christmas presents, including a bunch of things for you and some to send to Bean-Dip.  We had gotten carried away and soon I was borrowing from January's tithe to pay our utilities. We didn't pay any tithing in December.

Then one snow January day Dad got in a wreck damaging the front bumper of the Subaru and we realized our insurance had lapsed.  We borrowed from February's tithing to pay for the insurance. We were getting more and more behind.  And then in February I lost my job.  Less then a week later and Dad lost his.  We went from thriving to surviving in two months. 
We could never keep hubcaps on.
 I am not saying that all those things happened because we didn't pay tithing.  But the spiral started when we cheated the Lord his share.  Interestingly enough, the package we packed for you that year never arrived in Texas, to this day we have no idea what happened to it.  The toys and clothes we purchased for Bean-Dip were thrown away without even being opened by his mother who was still very angry and wanted nothing to do with us.  

Jobless and sufficiently humbled we promised to do better.  And eventually we both found work again and started doing well.  But we still didn't pay our tithing first.  We paid the bills and food and entertainment.  At the end of the month if anything was left and I felt guilty enough about it we paid tithing, but only on my income.  We certainly weren't thriving, but we had food, shelter and safety.  About this time we started to notice the "salvaged" part of the Subaru.  The person rebuilding the Subaru hated hot cars and so they thought it was brilliant idea of putting in an a/c air compressor unit twice the size of the factory default.  And it did cool the car very well, unfortunately it place serious strain on the engine and especially the starter if you forgot and left the air on.  After a while the starter periodically went out. Since it was a manual we could always pop the clutch and get around the starter so we weren't too worried about replacing it. Thus became the car that started when it felt like it. 
Lovely matching dents.

Popping the clutch wasn't easy.  In most situtations it was a two person job, one to push the car and one to pop the clutch.  With a decent hill you could start it rolling running alongside and hop in and pop it by yourself.  We started referring to it as running on faith and prayers. Because if I cried and prayed hard enough on days when I was alone with baby Taco and it would start. That was just the beginning of car problems.  One of the worst was the day that Dad put a big dent in both doors.  He was trying to pop the clutch infront of Grandma's house and they have three large maple trees in the park-strip right by the street.  He had the passenger door open and didn't notice until it hit the big tree and got a nice dent.  Unable to pop the clutch he managed to push it into the driveway and turn it around so he was pushing downhill instead of uphill.  And smack this time the drivers door hit the tree.  At least it matched.

But as I was sitting in church (on May 8th to be exact), I realized that it was also a very real example of tithing blessings. When I first started to "cheat" at tithing the car started having problems (we got in a wreck, the insurance lapsed, the starter went out). It seemed like the money that should have gone to tithing was going to repair the car. I suddenly realized that the months I didn't pay tithing were the months of car repairs. The months that I paid tithing were months the Subaru ran great.  I think it was something I knew at the time, but refused to listen.  After all tithing is a principal of faith not finance.

The window started slipping shortly after Burrito was born.
The last couple of years have been incredibly difficult financially for our family.  I was finishing up school and not working and Dad has been mostly unemployed since Sept. 2008.  For many months the only thing paying our bills has been Taco's disability payments.  When we first started living on SSI I asked my bishop if I should pay tithing on it. Mostly because I wasn't sure the social security office would approve if I was audited. I was counseled that the Lord would understand why we haven't been paying.  As I listened in church a few weeks ago, I realized that I should be paying on Dad's unemployment.  In my heart I promised to be better and approach Dad with this story and ask if we could began paying again.  (Remember Dad had gotten a job less then a week ago and our income was about to change.)

On Monday the 9th of May I had an afternoon interview. While I was getting dressed for the interview, I sat down with Dad and told him about what I had realized about the Subaru and tithing. Together we thought back and he realized what I was saying. He listened carefully and thought about it and agreed that not only  should we pay tithing on my income, but we would tithe both incomes. He also agreed we needed to go back and pay tithing on unemployment for the first four months of the year so we would be full tithe payers at the end of the year.  I can't even begin to express how much his support means to me.  I know there will be many blessings to come from this act of faith.


May 14, 2011

Dearest E.,

I asked Dad what I should write about today.  This was his suggestion.

Bean-Dip had a rough Saturday.  We have been working hard to complete his scouting goal and finish his Wolf before his 9th birthday (in 9 days, believe me he is counting).  Unfortunately we had a late start to scouts.  Most boys work on their ranks for a full year. He became a Boy Scout mid January so we had less then five months to complete a year's worth of achievements. The wolf has twelve sections to complete. Each section has about 6 activities to complete.  Once a scout has earned three sections they receive a progress bead.   At first he wasn't really excited to earn things, but after a couple of pack meetings with boys being recognized he got the bug. 

The first three beads came easy.  We completed most of the fitness "feats of strength" the first night he became a scout.  Then we had a lot of discussion on safety and emergency preparedness.  Soon only two sections were keeping us from completing his wolf: collecting and duty to God.  The collecting was only an issue because Bean-Dip kept forgetting to bring his collection over to show to another scout.  We finally improvised and added another 10 rocks to his at-home collection just so he could present it.  But there was still that tricky Duty to God section.

I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) or Mormon.  I've been mostly inactive for the last ten years or so.  Dad was raised Catholic and left church as a teenager, he is still very spiritual but prefers to practice his faith outside organized religion and calls himself a Pagan.  Since the beginning of the year I have been attending church fairly regularly with Taco and Burrito.  Taco and Burrito have been attending church with Grandma and Grandpa for the past 18 months or so.  Bean-Dip's mom was also raised LDS she does not go to church.  He used to attend church with his Grandma D and Aunt Kitty but when he was six he stopped attending.  Last year he went home on weekends before church, this year he stays Sundays until 5pm.  Since his scout den is attached to Grandma and Grandpa's ward we decided it would be good for him to attend when he could, so every other weekend or so Bean-Dip joins us for church. 

In the LDS church children are baptized at age eight if they wish to become members.  Bean-Dip's mom felt strongly that he shouldn't make the decision until he was 18.  (In fact pressure for him to be baptized was one of the reasons he stopped attending with his Grandma D.)  For a long time we danced around the fact that he was attending church on a regular basis because we didn't want to upset her.  In March I nervously asked Dad what I should do with this section.  For a minute he became briefly unglued wanting to know what the LDS church had to do with cub scouts and why there was a religion sections and on and on.  I tried to explain that it was set up for all religions but now I knew this was a sensitive subject for Dad and Bean-Dip's mom and I wasn't sure how to address the Duty to God section in his wolf book.  So I kept procrastinating until we nearly jeopardized his chances at earning his wolf.

The discussion questions should have been easy: What is faith?  Why is it good?  What is Duty to God?  Not wanting to upset Dad I waited for a time he was in the grocery store and Bean-Dip was attentive. 

Me: "Hey Bean-Dip, what is faith?"
Burrito: "Believing in Jesus"
*Taco and Burrito launch into a discussion on Jesus while Bean-Dip sulks quietly.*
Me: "Come on.  What do you thing faith is?"
Bean-Dip: "I don't know. I am stupid."
Me: "You are very smart. Do you think it is believing in something you can't see?"
*silence and sulking* Dad returns and rescues him from the conversation, for now.

As we drive to the fishing hole I tell Dad about the conversation and why it is important and beg him to help me with this later. On the way home from fishing we try this conversation again. Bean-Dip pouts and refuses to participate. I needed to run into the store for Grandpa so while I was in there Dad and Bean-Dip had a heart to heart when I came out Bean-Dip had something to say. "I don't like church." he proclaimed. I got frustrated. We drove home in angry silence.

When we got home Taco and Burrito went inside to watch tv and Dad, Bean-Dip and I sat in the van for a heart to heart. Dad talked about his experience with religon growing up and why Bean-Dip had it easy. I talked about how attending church was a good way to make more friends and get to know his den better. About half way through the conversation we all realized something. Bean-Dip didn't understand what faith was because it wasn't something his mom talked about. We each attempted to explain this abstract concept in ways that weren't religious so he could understand it better for what it was. Toward the end of our discussion, Bean-Dip was clearly frustrated and wanted to know why we had to talk about everything so much.  He started listing the things we had discussed for scouts that he was sick of talking about.  When he was done I chuckled.  If he would have answered the questions in the first place instead of pretending like he didn't know the answers we could have finished all these scout discussions in 5 minutes instead of having hour long discussions.  

I thought he would be mad about scouts for a while when we finally came inside. I still wanted to show him the academic and sports belt loop and pin book I had purchased for him.  I showed him what he could earn.  He wanted to work on the bowling one right away.  Together he and Dad discussed the rules of bowling and youtubed professional bowlers while I cooked dinner.  I guess he does like scout discussions after all.  After our late dinner it was time for pjs and bed.  As they were heading up to change Bean-Dip lingered, "Kira, are you going to come up and read the story and scriptures tonight?"  Maybe Bean-Dip likes church more then he wants us to believe.  

With Love,


May 10, 2011

Dearest E.,

It has been a good month so far.  I say that because I often find myself being a pessimist and dwelling on the negative.  Since I began this letter writing project I have notice I seek more positive stories throughout the week and life is happier when you don't dwell on all that is wrong in the world.  Do you remember last week when I told you about how your Dad and I met?  After writing the story I realized I needed to tell you about a major change in our house this year.  On January 8th this year Dad stopped smoking.  

It wasn't the first time he had tried to quit.  Several years ago he decided to cut back and went from the Camel wides he was smoking when I met him to Camel Wide lights and then eventually light 100s and then plain old Camel lights.  He would try again and again to switch to ultra lights thinking it would be easier to quit if he could get down another tar level but he just couldn't handle it.  The stress would get to him and soon he would be through a pack twice as fast as he was when he smoked wides.  It was hard watching him struggle again and again.  He knew his habit was expensive and causing financial strain on our family but he was so addicted.

Dad and Burrito 2009
He told me that he had his first puff of a cigarette at age 12.  I believe he stole it from his grandfather.  At 15 he was smoking fairly regularly and one day Grandma Lala caught him smoking. She was furious and told Grandpa Ramon.  He went out and bought a carton and told Dad he was going to smoke the entire carton.  He thought it would make him sick and he would throw up and never smoke again.  Dad was just as stubborn and smoked the entire carton and became completely addicted. 

When your dad was in high school he wasn't very smart.  He had a friend that started messing around with heroin and then he started doing it.  Soon he forgot about smoking (except for social reasons) and focused on doing drugs.  When he was a senior his best friend was killed in a drug deal.  The experience sobered him up and he knew he needed to get clean.  Then and there he quit heroin and replaced his chemical need for heroin with nicotine.  Smoking saved his life.

Why I am telling you this?  Well this is a very important part of our family history.  See not many people are successful in sobering up after using heroin.  Dad has never relapsed because he was smart about quitting.  He found a replacement and managed to complete high school.  Years later he met your mother.  Together they were a somewhat toxic couple.  Just last week he was telling me when they were together he remembers waking up and smoking in bed and drinking a morning shot of whiskey to get going.  He was drunk all the time.  When they started fighting and choose to separate he really struggled, sensing a relapse he did the only thing he knew would prevent it. He moved thousands of miles to a place he knew no one, to Salt Lake City, Utah. 

When he moved you were only 9 months old, your mother had run away and left you with Grandma Lala. He found a two-bedroom apartment and went to claim residency and switch over his CDL.  Due to a clerical error in Texas he was not eligible for a CDL in Utah.  Without a CDL he lost his job and he was unable to return to Texas to get you and bring you to him.  He was stranded.

Dad and Taco 2004
Years passed and he met me. I smoked briefly when we met to get to know him, but quit when I discovered I was pregnant. We married in the Summer of 2004, just before your fifth birthday. Taco was born in the fall of 2004 and Burrito in the Winter of 2007.  In 2008 we learned Taco had asthma, and that even as careful as Dad was to not smoke around him, the smell of smoke on his clothes was still causing problems.  At this time he tried to quit by weaning himself off.  He replaced cigarettes with suckers and struggled after a terrible week of withdrawal and being sick he gave up.  Instead he tried started striping work clothes off and putting them straight into the washer and only smoking at work.  He tried again and again, but each attempt the withdrawal symptoms were too much for him.

So in January when he announced he was quitting I was prepared for the worst. I knew he was serious about it and wanted it badly, but I also knew what his previous attempts at quitting had been like.  This time it was different.  He didn't try to slowly wean off.  He announced to me on that Saturday when he had only a few left in his pack.  And he said he had been thinking about it a long time.  On Sunday he announced to the kids and my family.  And on Monday he announced to his friends via Facebook and he agreed to meet with his doctor and have medical support with his journey.  He was prescribed Chantix, but it took our insurance over a week to approve it so by the time he got his prescription he had already been a week without a cigarette.

Chantix is meant to be started while you are finishing that final pack.  He didn't really get the full benefits of the medication.  But the insurance quitting coach was still there.  They called once a week to see how he was doing and talk.  After chatting with her he decided to also call Grandma Lala once a week and update his progress with her.  Then he asked me to hold the bank cards and not send him to the store alone for the first month or so.  The first month was the big milestone and soon he stopped really counting the days and started enjoying things like being able to chase the boys without coughing and smell things again.  For us the hardest transition was walking the dog.  In the past walking the dog was an excuse to go smoke.  We got Taco involved in walking the dog and after a while walking the dog was just walking the dog.  

Dad and Bean-Dip
The times I was the most nervous for him were when we were outside and other people were smoking.  It wasn't a factor we could control.  I remember the first time he turned to me after talking to a lady at a grocery store that reeked of smoke.  When she was safely out of earshot he said, "I can't believe I used to smell like that.  That is the worst smell in the world."  I was so glad.  I was worried he would want to smoke after being around her, instead he was repulsed.  When he started his new job last week he came home the first day and said, "You will be so proud of me.  Today one of my coworkers offered me a smoke and I turned them down."  

I know that Heavenly Father eased his burden and allowed your Dad to successfully quit smoking with minimal withdrawal symptoms this year.  I know that the outpouring of support and love from family and friends helped immensely and the prayers of those loved ones has strengthened him.  I am so proud of his accomplishment.  Our anniversary this year will mark his six-month mark and I have no doubt that he will make it easily.  I know that he made this decision for all of his kids.  Because he wanted to be there for you and play with grandkids and grow old.  I leave you with his Facebook announcement to his friends:

Well everyone. I did a lot of thinking on this and finally admitted to myself that it was time I came out of the smokers closet and quit doing something that is going to take me away from my loved ones. I told my wife (Kira) on Saturday I was quitting. told my in laws on Sunday. Tonight I am telling everyone else. After 18 years of smoking I am quitting the habit. I will try to update everyone on Fb about how I am handling this. Everyone i love and care for is 100% behind me on it and willing to support me on my decision.
With love,


May 8, 2011

Dearest E.,

I wanted to write today and try to sort out my feelings about being a step-mother and relationship building with step-kids. For me the hardest part of this letter writing project was getting started. Not because I am new to the blogging world. And not because I don't feel like I have enough to say, I love to talk. But because I didn't know how to sign a letter addressed to you. In fact that is one of the reasons I still haven't tried to initiate communication with you through your custodial grandparents. I just don't know where I stand as a step-mom.

Several years ago, before Bean-Dip was in our lives. I thought I understood what it meant to be a step-mom. I had two other kids that I didn't give birth to, but who I loved the same as my own kids. I sent birthday and Christmas presents. I asked about school. I constantly checked the stores for clothes your size to send in my boxes. When your dad and I spoke of you will called you Mija. The distance made it difficult to have a real relationship with you. And Dad's estrangement made it nearly impossible. But I never gave up hope. I continued to send care packages and pictures and hoped that one day your dad and grandma would start speaking to each other again.

The birth of Burrito changed everything. After three years of marriage and now two children Grandma Lala realized that I was around to stay and she began making plans to come and meet her grandchildren. After that a line of communication was open and we began speaking with you on the phone. I learned your favorite color is blue and you hate pink. You loved to scrapbook and dance. And you wanted to be a cheerleader. I packed the perfect birthday box that year and you sent me this picture afterwards. Do you remember?

Everything was so simple.  You were my daughter and I was your new "Mommy."  Unfortunately shortly after Christmas Grandma Lala had her first heart attack and after that visitation was stopped and so did our phone calls.  Suddenly my daughter was gone.  And now I don't even know if you remember me. 

You haven't been forgotten in our house.  Your picture(s) hang proudly on the wall with those of your brothers.  I still check the girls section every time we go to the store and imagine how cute you would look in outfits. I look at my little sister, only one year younger then you and imagine what it would be like if you lived here. At this point my own fear of rejection prevents me from attempting to contact your grandparents. 

Now that I have had a few years to practice being a step-mom to Bean-Dip I have learned so much about what "step" means.  There are good moments, often fleeting.  Times when he forgets and calls me "Mommy."  Times when he accepts when I say "I love you" as I am tucking him in.  But most of the time there are reminders that I am not his mother and never will be.  Times when he corrects people who assume I am his mom in public.  Times when he tells me he hates our house.  They always hurt.  Although I am sure your dad is hurt far more by Bean-Dip refusing to call him Dad and telling him he doesn't have a dad or calling him his step-dad. 

But days like today still hurt.  Mother's Day, the day Bean-Dip went out of his way to remind me I wasn't his mother.  After complaining all weekend about how much better it was being an only child. He spent the morning sulking at our house and literally threw the present he was provided by Dad at me and left the room.  I know he doesn't really hate me.  And I love him and you the same as Taco or Burrito.  That is why it hurts so bad.

With Love,


May 5, 2011

Dearest E.,

Happy Cinco de Mayo! We celebrated yesterday for a special reason. Very soon I will tell you more about that. When your dad read my last letter he had many points he wanted to correct me on. He finally agreed he would write the "real" version of the story. Shortly after that the phone rang. Could he make it to a job interview in 30 minutes? He raced to shave and make himself presentable. It was the first nibble of possible employment he has gotten in months. He has been out of work since last July. Well, out of temporary work. He was really laid off in September of 2008 and just been working anything he could find since then.

I handed him the last copy of his resume I had printed as he rushed out the door and wished him luck. After nearly an hour he sent me a text. "I work tomorrow at 9am..." with the rest of his schedule for the week. He did it! I am so excited for him. He was eager to get to work today. Without either of us working we suspended the policy on his car and parked it for the winter. We weren't expecting this job at all so his car wasn't running and I had to drop him off at work. "I want to be there 45 minutes early so I can do paperwork." While he was at work I made several phone calls and charged the battery in his car. But the time Taco was out of school we were able to arrange with Grandma to drop it off for him.

I am glad to see him excited to work again. He is working for a car wash. They want him to be a cashier, but they start out as a "tech" and work as a dryer and washer before moving to inside. That way he can really learn what each package means and better sell to customers. He works with a lot of teenagers. They were giving him crap at first thinking he wouldn't be able to keep up.

Since he has been out of work for a while he has put on a couple of pounds mostly in the belly. When he arrived at work there were only a couple of others there. At the detail station were two Hispanics. As he approached he heard them speaking in Spanish to each other about him. "That guy is supposed to keep up with us?" "Look at his belly," they teased. "Silly white boy." His manager was just a few steps behind him. "You need to watch out for these two they will talk behind your back," he grinned. Dad smiled a big smile and repeated in English everything they had just said about him. Their jaws dropped. "Where did you learn Spanish, White Boy?" they asked. He laughed and told them he was ESL and grew up speaking Spanish and they didn't believe him. All day they asked him questions about his family trying to decide if he was lying and testing his Spanish. He manager said it was the first time the two detail crew guys interacted with the rest of the crew like that. Your dad was super pleased with himself for making new friends.

The work is hard, but he is loving it. He came home so tired today. He was bragging about how fast he was. He said that a lot of people were surprised at how fast and efficient he could dry a car. I teased him and reminded him that he had lots of practice helping our annual Relay for Life car wash and bake sale. He went to bed happy and exhausted. I am afraid we might not ever get his "real account" of the night we met.

With love,


May 3, 2011

Dearest E.,

We survived graduation! The past couple of weeks have been so stressful for me. The graduation party on Sunday was a huge success. We had family gather together that hadn't been together for years. It was wonderful to be supported by so many family members both near enough to visit and those too far to travel. I thought once we got through graduation life would slow down for a while. Boy was I wrong. This week we have a family event planned almost every night. One of my favorites this week is our annual Cinco de Mayo celebration.

When your dad first celebrated Cinco de Mayo with us he thought we were nuts. After all why were a bunch of non-Hispanic, Mormons throwing a party to celebrate Mexico's independence? I don't remember the year we started are Cinco de Mayo party but I do know that it started because of a scouts badge. We had so much fun at our inaugural event and really like any excuse to party. So it became a family tradition. So how did a Mexican from Texas meet and fall in love with this crazy Utah girl?

It all started at Sears. Well kind of. I was working at Sears on their In-Store Marketing team. One of my main job requirements was putting up the sale signs on merchandise prior to the store opening. Often Sears had a Saturday only specials. For whatever reason our manager preferred the Saturday ad be place on Friday night after the store closed. On Saturday my friends from Sears and I would often hang out after Friday night ads. A favorite place to gather was Denny's but the night manager was getting tired of us so we were looking for a new place.

That new gathering place happened to be a hobby shop called Hastuer's Games and Hobbies. My coworker's boyfriend was into Dungeons and Dragons. And he had heard of a gamemaster with openings in Friday night campaigns. Since it was less than five blocks away from work, we started gathering there. It turns out your dad was also spending far too much time hanging around Hastuer's.

We both remember the first night we met clearly. It was February 13, 2004 and the Valentine's Day ad specials had forced us to stay later then usual. The boys were already hours into the game. They were battling a great troll and expected it would take most of the night to complete. I didn't play in the campaign, instead I sat and watched my friends yell at their dice and pretend they didn't know the GM was cheating in his covered roll box. Perhaps love was in the air because my attention was immediately drawn to a quiet new member to the table.

He was sitting directly across from me. His black hair kept falling into his face as he leaned over the table. He subconsciously brushed it back and I saw his warm brown eyes glance in my direction. I knew then that I had to get to know him better. I was mesmerized. I stared at him throughout the night. He claims I followed his every move from table to register for drinks and back. My friends teased me about drooling on the table the next day. After a while he went outside for a smoke and like a sick puppy dog I followed him out.

I was nervous but determined to have a conversation with him. In desperation I asked him for a smoke. (I had smoked in high school and college but had quit about a year prior.) I didn't know he smoked Camel wides and I was in for quite the shock at my first inhale. He laughed at my attempts to remain cool while gasping for air and teased me about staring so intently. Shortly after our conversation I had to leave for the night. I was working two jobs and had to be up early for my Saturday morning job. My friends took care of the rest for me.

My friends chatted with "Tweety" the name he gave us and discovered they had a few mutual friends. After some coaxing they convinced him to join us on Sunday for another game. It was a good thing my coworker decided to play matchmaker. They arranged to meet again and soon he was part of our group. And the rest is history.

With Love,


April 30, 2011

Dearest E.,

Do you remember how I told you about Bean-Dip being a Cub Scout?  Well, every year all the scouting groups in the state hold a big party called Scout-O-Rama.  Scouts of all ages and genders come for it.  Tiger Scouts, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Ventures, Explorers and others.  A few months in advance the scouts sell tickets as a fundraiser for their troops.  Bean-Dip signed up for scouts in Janurary and he must have missed the fundraiser or they did hold it because I had no idea it was today until Grandma called around noon.  Hurry up and get there she said, it is only five dollars for the entire family.
Bean-Dip's fast hands.

We decided to go and see if Bean-Dip could earn and elective points.  We were sure glad we did.  There was so many fun things to do.  Bean-Dip and Taco and I worked on the science belt loop while Burrito and Dad when to look for Grandpa.  We made some creepy ooze, paper bag puppets, secret decoder rings, and helped sand a canoe.  

We did a couple of obstical courses, walked through the history of scouting exhibit and saw how fast we could throw.  Bean-Dip threw 31 mph, Taco 19 mph, and Burrito 17 mph.  We sat in a teepee, went on an orienting scavenger hunt, drummed pacific islander drums, fished, and played board games.

Taco on the drums
 One of Taco's favorite activities was a seat belt exhibit. The boys got to draw a face on an egg.  The egg then got into a car on a "hill" without wearing its seat belt and crashed to see if it would survive.  Taco thought it was funny to draw me on the egg.  He giggled when the Mom-egg's "brains" spilled onto the box.  The event was supposed to end at 3pm but most of the booths stayed open until after 4pm.  The last thing we did was play a game.  

 They had ping pong balls a a big box with round holes and a big box in the middle.  The goal was to get it in the box in the middle, but the edges were slanted so the ball would bounce out.  If you got in through the small holes you won a pencil and the box was the grand prize a collector's coin.  If you missed both you won a candy.  You got four tries to win a prize. 
Burrito drumming away.
Bean-Dip went first and won a pencil. Taco went next and won two pencils. Burrito went last, the scouts running the booth enjoyed watching him throw it and it bounce out and Mom go chasing after the ball.  The bounced it out eight times.  The let him try all the balls and decided he needed on extra turn.  The guy in charge lifted him up and held he over the box so he could throw it straight into it.  He won the coin but I think he would have been happier keeping a darn ping pong ball. 

Over all Bean-Dip earned 2 belt loops (science and manners), 10 achievements that will count for 1 arrow point, most of the Fun for Family "Developing Personal Skills" pin, some of the Ability Awareness patch, and several requirements for his Orienteering belt loop.  He has been super busy.  Next Pack Meeting is on his birthday and he will be moving up to Bears.  I know he will be getting his wolf and I think 5 arrow points, the belt loops, and a couple of patches.  We hope to finish up his World Conservation patch by then too.

Burrito's Easter Miracle flower.
That reminds me.  Graduation was great.  The announcer whispered to me to make sure he had my name correct before I walked across the stage.  And I didn't trip or anything. After graduation Grandpa and Grandma took Dad and I out to eat at the infamous Purple Turtle, a hamburger and shake shop by my school.  I was glad I could finally say I had eaten there.  The food was pretty good, but I can't wait for Grandpa's bar-b-que chicken at my party tomorrow. Yum!

With Love,


April 29, 2011

Dearest E.,

Have you ever worried yourself sick over something silly? Well I have succeed in doing that over my commencement tomorrow. I don't even know why. It isn't like UVU isn't going to let me graduate. I have had my diploma for months and I have official transcripts that show I finished last August. No, I am actually terrified for the poor announcer that has to pronounce my name. (And that I will step on my gown and fall flat on my face going across the stage.) 

I am pretty sure that even if they do butcher my name tomorrow my family and friends supporting me will still know who I am. And I've had so many teachers trip over it during my years of schooling, what is one more time? Well for me it means walking across the stage and feeling cheated because I wasn't properly announced. Because my name is Kira not Kyra, Kara, KEY-ra, or any other variation and I love it.

That reminds me of a funny story, I actually just learned last spring. For the first two years your Dad and I were married he was not 100% sure on how to pronounce my name, so he called me, "Baby." When we first met he heard me rant about someone mispronouncing my name and after that he was afraid of saying it wrong. Last spring I asked him why he stopped calling me pet names and he chuckled and said, "because I figured out how to say your given name." Maybe I am to hard on people for silly mistakes.

We decided the boys won't be attending the ceremony so we want to document for all of you. Hopefully tomorrow I can get some good photos at graduation. While I have the camera out, tomorrow in the daylight I will also take a picture of Burrito's plant for you.  He is so excited to show it to everyone, we may just have to included updates as it grows.  I guess I should explain why he is excited.

Burrito is in Head Start this year. He is on a scholarship and has an all day classroom. They do a lot more activities then the 2 hour classrooms. At the end of March they were learning about Spring and plants. So for a project they made a planter out of a small plastic cup. They only had grass seed to plant so to make it more fun they drew faces on the cups so the grass would become "hair." Last week was Spring Break and they didn't want the plants to die while they were gone for a week so they sent them home. Burrito was super excited to put his plant on the front porch. On Easter Sunday I reminded him he needed to water his plant. He dutifully filled a cup with some water and opened the door to water it. With the door still open I heard:

Burrito: "Mom, Mom! You need to come see. COME SEE!"

Me: "Come see what?"

Burrito: "My plant. My plant grew a flower!"

Me: "Your plant grew a flower?"

Burrito: "Yeah it grew a flower."

Me: "How did your plant grow a flower?"

Burrito: "It was a..."

(Pause for dramatic effect.)


Me: "Easter is full of miracles, let's see your flower."

Yes, he really did pause to build the suspense. I think he may be an actor someday. I went outside to look at his planter and sure enough, pushing up from the grass is what appears to be a tulip. On Wednesday he finally went back to school and I asked his teacher if they had snuck a flower bulb into the cups to surprise the kids.  Nope, they only planted grass.  

When I was reading this letter to Dad he told me I needed to add that he said miracle at the top of his lungs.  In fact I am pretty sure our entire apartment complex heard him.  Burrito has what we jokingly call, a microphone embedded in his throat.  Try as he might he can't contain the volume of his voice and he talks really loud, especially when he is excited.  In church they have been talking a lot about Our Savior and his sacrifice and the miracle of Easter (not to be confused with zombies as Taco says).  For all of us Burrito's Easter miracle was a reminder of this special day. I hope you had a wonderful Easter, E. Alas I better get to bed or I will be sleep-walking tomorrow.  
With Love,


April 28, 2011

Dearest E.,

Life is crazy here.  We are getting ready for my big graduation party on Sunday.  I finally finished my Bachelors degree last summer.  It seems like ages ago I was done with classes, but Utah Valley University only hosts one ceremony and summer graduates walk the following spring. I can't believe I am actually nervous for graduation.  I walked a million years ago in high school, but never in junior college.  I already have butterflies thinking about Friday.  Will I trip across the stage?  Will they pronounce my name correctly?  I am so stressed I can't sleep I am beginning to wonder why I wanted to walk in the first place.

We can't decide if your brothers will be attending the ceremony.  I think they would find it super boring but I want them to understand the importance of school. Speaking of the importance of school, E. your father and I want you to know that we will pay for your first two years of college if you come live with us after you turn 18 and graduate from high school. It is very important for us that you attend college. If you need help obtaining a GED we will be glad to help you complete what you need to get into college. I know it seems a long way off, but you are eleven now, before you know it you will be a teenager.

Sept. 2008
 I can't believe it has been four years since we spoke.  Back then Burrito was just a baby and Taco was 2 years old.  We didn't get to see Bean-Dip at all.  Many things have changed mostly for the better.  I don't know if you remember everyone.  I am Taco and Burrito's mother.  They were born after I married your dad in 2004.  Before we were married your dad loved another lady and together they had Bean-Dip he was born in 2002 and will be turning nine next month.

Bean-Dip's mother and your dad are on speaking terms.  Bean-Dip stays with us most weekends and this summer we will have two full weeks with him around.  He is in the third grade and his math and science skills are well above grade level.  He hates reading and English tests because is reads too fast for his own good.  When he reads he tends to forget what he just read because he is always racing through it. He is in Cub Scouts and will be earning his Wolf rank next month.  He loves sports and his cousins.  He is full of energy and wants to try everything from karate to dance.  This summer we are hoping he learns how to ride his bike without training wheels.

Taco started kindergarten this year.  He is in a special all-day class and we are so proud of him.  Taco was really sick for a long time.  Someday I will tell you that story, but the important part is now he is a regular 6 year old boy.  He can read on a first grade level and he is learning how to tie his shoes but he still struggles with it. It probably doesn't help that I explain one way and Dad explains it another.  He is super smart with electronics he can work anything he touches and can figure out any password I use to lock them.  He is taking swimming lessons this summer and hopes to get the training wheels off his bike too.

 Burrito is four and is nearly finished with his first year of preschool.  He is learning how to write his name and recognize numbers.  He is a great author and illustrator and loves to write in his journal and tell stories.  He is big for his age and very grown up.  The boys go to my parent's church (Grandma "Mom" and Grandpa "Dad") and he was moved up a class to four year old class when he was three because he was so good at sitting quietly and listening.  He is a very spiritual little boy that loves his Savior.

This letter is getting very long. I think I will stop tonight.  I can tell you more about your brothers in detail another time. 

With Love,

April 27, 2011

Dearest E., 

I can't tell you how many times I've re-written this letter.  It seems no matter what I say I can't fully express what I need to say with this first letter, but I have to try.  Today a friend of mine replied to an incredibly old e-mail I sent her.  It was all about you and I knew that this letter I have been putting off needed to happen.  The e-mail was dated July 7, 2007 and it marked the last time I had contact with you.

E. I need you to know that I love you very much and I think of you often.  It seems daily I long for you to be here with your brothers.  I know that right now contact with you isn't possible so I have started this blog as a collection of letters to you about our lives; stories for you to gather into the scrapbooks you love making.  I hope that someday when you google your name this blog pops up and you read it and realize that your Dad and I have loved you all along.

Last fall we came to Texas.  We drove right past your grandmother's house.  I wish we could have seen you.  We came to see your paternal grandmother, Grandma Lala.  Grandma Lala has been very sick for a couple of years.  You were only nine when she had her first triple-bypass after that your visits to her house stopped.  We didn't know that when the visits stopped all communication with our side of the family stopped.  When we stayed at Grandma Lala's I was saddened to see Birthday and Christmas boxes I loving wrapped for you for the past three years stacked in the corner of your room.  I cried knowing you would never wear the blue skirts I picked out for your tenth birthday or the rag-doll ballerina you'd never seen.  I was devastated when I realized the last batch of pictures of your brothers had never arrived for your scrapbooks. 

And so came the beginning of this blog.  I write now for you.  I only hope that way day you reach back to form a relationship with us.  Like the one we had four years ago.  I miss hearing your voice and opening your Mother's Day cards for your new "Mommy."  I hope we can start again and someday when you are old enough you can understand why your grandparents raised you and not us.  In the meantime I send these letters to you.  Letters I hope you will someday read.  

With love,