Saturday, August 31, 2013

Why WE Love Dakota…Grammy

This is the last day of Dakota’s “birthday month!” I have to say a HUGE thank you to EVERYONE who wrote a post for me and all those who were able to read these amazing posts. I know for me, being Dakota’s mom, they have been EXTREMELY special, touching, and emotional to read! They have strengthened my faith and testimony that this VERY hard trial I have been asked to bear has been worth it all!! Even though every day is a challenge and my heart still aches for the boy I once knew…I am understanding more and more the bigger picture and plan that my Heavenly Father had for Dakota! I am SO grateful for the true “angel” he has become and the MANY lessons he has taught me and those who have been blessed to know him! I truly feel it a privilege to be his mom and I thank EVERYONE from the bottom of my heart for your love, support, and encouragement that you continually give to our family!!

I must end this birthday month to Dakota with words from his Grammy (also known as Vicki, Zach’s mom). Besides Zach and I, her and Poppy (her husband aka Doug) have spent THE MOST time with Dakota and have loved him unconditionally!! Dakota was their very first grandchild and they were THE MOST excited grandparents you have ever seen. They would joke with the 3 kids in Zach’s family that were married (we all got married in the same year) that whoever had the first baby would get free diapers for a year. That’s how bad they wanted a grandbaby!! When Dakota came into the world they were right there to welcome him and love him from day 1. Ever since that day he has been and continues to be spoiled rotten (NOT REALLY ROTTEN ;) ) from these 2 amazing people!!

When they got the phone call about Dakota’s accident they immediately flew down to AZ (since that is where it happened while we were visiting my family) and stayed with us the whole 3 weeks we were there!! They put their lives, their jobs, EVERTYHING on hold to be there to support and help us and Dakota through the hardest time in our lives. They talked about leaving at the 2 week mark but even though I never told them to stay…they must have known in their hearts how desperately Zach and I needed them there, so they stayed!! She is not my birth mom but I love and adore her just as much as my own mom!!

When we were finally home with Dakota after the accident, these 2 were helping us EVERY week religiously because we were struggling so bad emotionally and physically to manage this new life we were trying to deal with! They would come up to give Zach and I a date night EVERY weekend which I’m sure they could have used for themselves! On top of that they would come up whenever they knew we were having a hard day or we had been up all night with Dakota just to give us a break or a rest. Even though they don’t come up weekly anymore they will be here ANY time we EVER need it! I really don’t know what we would do without them!!

They too have been a strong support for both Zach and I emotionally and spiritually! They have seen more then their fair share of tears then they probably ever needed! They have helped us through the different stages of grief as we transitioned from disbelief, sadness, anger, etc and they have been patient, loving, and understanding through it all! I have never felt like there was anything I couldn't share with Vicki or ever felt as if she judged me for feeling a certain way! She always seems to have the perfect things to say, story or scripture to share, or just a hug to bring us comfort when we needed it most!


They are THE MOST fun grandparents you have ever seen and their love for Dakota and ALL of their grandchildren is truly AMAZING!! They go above and beyond in their call to be grandparents and parents!!


Here are Grammy’s sweet words:

My sweet little Dakota,

Where do I begin to tell you of my love for you. My heart was so full of love for you even before you came to this earth.

I remember with joy, the day you were born. You were the first one to make me a 'Grammy.'  I will forever be grateful to your parents for that.


I remember that moment that your Daddy walked down the hall with you all swaddled up moments after your birth, with tears in his eyes.  That moment changed my life forever. It is written in my heart.


Little did I know you would continue to change my life from that moment on.  I always knew you were a special boy. I've never seen such a content baby that never fusses and is always happy.  I would always tell your parents, "You have no idea what an angel baby he is!"  Even the best babies cry.  You showed us right from the start that you loved life and were so happy to be here.

You also have been a fighter right from the very start.  You overcame challenges from your first few days of life.  You have always had that inner-strength that now looking back we didn't realize you would need to get through what was to come.


Your little family has faced many trials. All that you have faced testifies that you were meant to come into the family you were born into.  Heavenly Father chose one of his righteous, loving daughters to be your mommy.  He led her to find someone so full of love for her that they could face anything together.

 2011-11-28 14.20.21

Your daddy would experience his own trial first, so that they would be prepared  to undertake the challenges of mortality that they would face together. When your Daddy lost his sight, you were the rainbow after the storm. During those trying times, he would always ask to hold you.  You gave him the will to keep going. You lit up his darkness. You still do! 

IMG_0100 IMG_0138

Before the accident, we would always want to steal you and keep you for hours at a time.  You got to where you would want to come home with us whenever we were together.  Your mom and dad would say to you as we would take you, "Be sweet!"  You would say okay as if that was your ticket to go.  I remember a week or so before the accident you stretched out your arms for Poppy at church (wanting to go home with us) and looked at your parents, "I BE SWEET?"  As if to say,"PLEASE let me go." Those are some of the last words we remember you saying to us.

You continue to BE SWEET every time we are around you.  It is the sweetness of your spirit we feel now.  It whispers to me every time I hold you.  I love being in the quiet when I am alone with you.  You comfort me, you calm me, you give me a sense of complete peace.  You help me to understand that trials can strengthen us and change us in ways we never thought possible. 

You have taught me to trust in my Heavenly Father and that his will is what is meant for us in our lives.  He knows what we need, and what will change our hearts.  You were the vehicle through which many lives were touched and forever changed.  You have taught us so much and continue to teach us the worth of a soul.  Your precious little soul. 

Even though your life is lived in a body with limitations you have so much to give that others can't give us. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father let you keep your smile. He knew we needed it.  I don't know where all of us would be without that smile.   It lets us know you feel joy.  It has been a precious gift.  I remember seeing it the first time probably months after you were hurt.  I can't describe how happy we were to see that on your sweet little face.  We cried! We never imagined we would see that again. It's amazing what small things we should be grateful for.


Dakota, I know you were allowed to stay with us because you were willing to teach us to be more like our Savior Jesus Christ. I am grateful to you for you being righteous enough and worthy to be able to do that for us.I will forever be grateful to our Heavenly Father for his mercy.

Thank you for loving us enough to be willing to sacrifice the things we take for granted so that you could continually mold us into what we need to become so that we can be worthy to live as a family in Heaven. 

The day you were hurt, when I saw you lying there in the hospital I thought my heart would break.  I look back on that day now, and my heart is mending. It still hurts, but you have shown me heartache can bring strength.


I have a quote I have framed in my house that says, Perhaps strength doesn't reside in having never been broken, but in the courage required to grow strong in the broken places.

I always have dreams that you are running towards me with your arms outstretched, ready to wrap around me and I hear your voice say "I love you Grammy!"  That is Heaven to me!  I know that day will come and I know you will say to us, "I BE SWEET and that's why I did all this for you!" 

For now, I will snuggle you and take in all that you continually give me.  I am so grateful for your life and the blessing you are to me.

I love you Kota-bug!  You are a precious gift to me.  I am so blessed to be your Grammy. XOXO
  I love........your shoulders when you giggle, kissing the back of your little neck, your cute little toes,
                        putting your arms around me, your stick skinny little legs, our finger kisses, our prayers together,
                        kissing your baby lotion face, reading stories, your smiles, getting you up from a nap, bath-time giggles,
                        holding your hand for as long as I want, how you roll over, feeding you treats, long walks together,
                        singing in the car, laying on the grass together, sleep-overs, just holding you.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Why WE Love Dakota…Nana

Of course I had to ask one of the people I know who loves Dakota VERY most…Nana (my mom) to write about Dakota!! Dakota was the 11th grandchild born into my family so my mom knew EXACTLY what she was doing in the grandma department when Dakota entered the world!


What she didn’t know, was how much Dakota and I were going to need her throughout his sweet little life!! Even though she lives in AZ, a whole state away from Dakota, she has never let the distance stop her from sharing her love to Dakota! She often puts letters, books, and cards in the mail to Dakota and almost weekly sends texts to just let us know she is thinking about us and loving us!

She makes time every summer and whenever we need her to come, to spend some quality time with Dakota. She will fly up at the drop of a hat if I even mention that we might need help. She maximizes EVERY minute she is here, serving and helping in ANY way she can to make Dakota and my life the easiest it can be!!


After the accident her and my dad were there for us EVERY day…whether it was forcing us to eat food, giving us hugs, words of love and support, or stretching and sitting with Dakota! They were by our side through it all…all the tears, pain, and heartache!

After the accident my parents were so concerned for Dakota to have EVERYTHING he needed….they bought him a brand new temperpedic bed that angles up and vibrates so that he would be in a comfortable position and not EVER get bed sores. They allowed us to trade cars with them so that he could have more room for his legs and in the back for his wheelchair. They paid for him to have horse therapy, and the list goes on and on!! They are ALWAYS trying to help in ANY way they can to make sure that Dakota has ANYTHING and EVERYTHING he needs!!

Besides the physical help and support they have given us they have been there for us emotionally and spiritually as well…even though I know this trial has been so hard for them as well! My mom often texts me a simple thought or scripture for the day to help motivate and inspire me to be the best I can be. My dad often sends handwritten letters (yes the old fashioned way…that I love) to us to share his love and support to us!! They have listened to me cry and vent through the pain and struggles. They are 2 people that I know I could count on for ANYTHING at ANY time!!


Not sure where or who I would be without them!!

Here is what she had to say:
(Grab some tissues!)

Lessons Learned from Dakota

The day Dakota was injured was the day my world fell apart. I was so excited to have all of my family together to celebrate Ty’s recent wedding to Heather. It was a day of celebration, not for tragedy. We were even going to have a live band. I was anticipating the joy of watching all the kids dance. . . Dakota liked to dance. Watching Dakota lie on the ground unresponsive sucked all the excitement out of my being.
After transporting Dakota to Maricopa County Hospital and getting him situated in ICU, his little body still lay there so lifeless. Just hours ago he had been playing so happily with his cousins.

They put him on a cold matt filled with ice water to slow his body functions, reserving his energy to allow his brain the ability to heal.

I watched Tessie hold his little hand, kiss his tender face and plead in Dakota’s ear, “Please stay here, Buddy, I will help you. I will help you.” The harsh reality of Dakota not being whole again was so painful. I was watching my baby hurt for her baby and I hurt for both of them. I felt like the worst grandparent. It was a grandparent’s nightmare to have a grandchild hurt on your watch. It was no one’s fault. I knew that in my head, but it wasn’t registering in my heart. The kids weren’t playing near danger; we were all right there; how could this happen?

The neurologist came in to talk to us. While his words were kind they were also stern. He told us that Dakota’s brain had been without oxygen too long. He explained that the next 72 hours would be critical. If he survived 72 hours, there would still be undetermined damage and questionable prognosis. Then his words cut sharp, “I am seriously concerned he will make it.” Then without hesitation and more determined he added, “I want you to understand, I am seriously concerned he will make it.”
In my mind I knew he was preparing us. All medical facts were against Dakota. But I also knew this was in Heavenly Father’s hands. We needed a miracle!
I believed in miracles. . .

In the next 72 hours I pondered and questioned if I really did have enough faith to believe in a miracle so personal. The words from a parable, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief,” (Mark 9) rang in my mind over and over. “. . .help thou mine unbelief.” This became my prayer and my test!
I have been hurt and cried in my life, but I usually don’t just sit and cry. Whatever is wrong, I just get over it and keep moving. For the first time in my life I sat and cried “air sucking” cries, uncontrollable and physically exhausting. I didn’t have any more tears to cry, and I was still crying! I had to pull myself together. I thought of the familiar words in Isaiah describing the Savior: He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” It hit me, “THIS IS GRIEF!” To watch my lifeless grandson and to hear my daughter’s pleas. . . . this was grief. I knew this was only a little drop of grief for Him, but now I understood a little better His suffering because now I too was acquainted with grief.

“Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. . . ” How could He endure the grief of the whole world? It overwhelmed me!

Then the words, “. . . and with His stripes we are healed.” Wow! What powerful words touched my heart like never before.

“Only He “with his stripes” can understand this grief and relieve me from it. Only He “with his stripes” can strengthen me to help Tessie and Zach. Only He “with his stripes” can allow Dakota to stay here with us or return to Him now.

These were the words that came to my mind as I quit crying: Everything really does depend on Christ. Everything in this life depends on Christ. Everything depends on Christ for hope in the world to come. I knew this in my head, but now it was really reverberating in my heart like it never had before.
Now I needed to Trust in Him.

Another scripture came to mind, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I needed to be patient. I needed to trust more and submit my will to His will. His way and his time would be best!

I remembered the parable of the man that was lowered on his bed through the roof by his friends to be healed. Jesus blessed him and said, “Take up thy bed and walk.” The man immediately took up his bed and walked. I believed this story to be true. I believed it could happen for Dakota too. If the Lord wanted Dakota to walk and talk again, Dakota would. But if not, then I still needed to trust that He knew what was best for Dakota and for all of us. I have realized that Dakota is here for us.

In my ponderings, I believe that Dakota knows Jesus personally. In those critical 72 hours I believe he saw heaven, he knew how wonderful it is, and he made a conscious choice to stay here on earth for his parents. Our Heavenly Father and Dakota both heard his mother’s pleadings. He answered that prayer. Dakota knows heaven. What a valiant spirit he is! What a blessing he is to us! He made a sacrifice to stay here and how frustrating it must be for him to watch us make so many mistakes.

The question was never, “Why Us?” The question came to be, “Why NOT Us?”
Why not us to learn the lessons Heavenly Father wanted us to learn?

As I walked the halls of Maricopa County Hospital every day for a month, there were others who were hurting and in such hopeless circumstances. Another child came into ICU because the mother’s boyfriend had injured the child. How my heart hurt for that child to be in such a condition because of abuse. Dakota was loved! When that child left ICU, who would protect, love and help him to heal from his injuries? Other grandma’s couldn’t spend the day at the hospital because they didn’t have a car, or gas for their cars, or the time to be there. My heart became more grateful for what I had and I developed more compassion for those who had other struggles in life.

I walked the halls of Primary Children’s Hospital and realized every child there had a story. They were each unique. Dakota’s story rocked my world, but each parent and grandparent there was dealing with the medical issue at hand, making adjustments, and surviving. It was inspiring! If they could do it, so could I. Why NOT me?

Tessie has always been tough. . . a tough cowgirl, a tough ball player, a tough scholar. But when life threw her a curve, she picked up the ball and threw it back into play. I always knew she was tough; I just didn’t know she would have to be this tough. She has taken motherhood to a whole new level. She is my hero! Dakota is my joy! Zach is my example of daily courage with steadfastness!

Top Ten Things I Learned From Dakota

1. Being with Dakota is near to Heaven.
2. “Why NOT us” to learn the lessons Heavenly Father wants us to learn?
3. Never take one single breath for granted. Cherish each moment together.
4. In the Lord’s time; In the Lord’s way. . . “for my ways are higher than your ways. . .” Isaiah 55:9
5. Christ is Everything! Trust in Him.
6. Eyes to see things that I once took for granted; a more grateful heart.
7. There are still miracles today. . .our miracle is in Dakota’s smile and the light in his eyes.
8. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL! Dakota makes life wonderful.
9. God does hear our cries, He is aware of our every desire & He can “help our unbelief”.
10. Everyone has a story. . . . What’s yours?

How I Love my Kota!

Nana, Cinda Winterton


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why WE Love Dakota…Jenell

Where to even start with Jenell?! Jenell reached out to me on my blog a little over a year ago and has been such a HUGE support to me and my family and one of Dakota’s BIGGEST cheerleaders ever since!! It is not an uncommon thing to see her sweet name with a sweet or inspiring comment under my blog posts or to see her name in my email inbox with a sweet quote, scripture, or thought that she just wanted to share with me! It seems as if she is ALWAYS thinking of others and how to lift and help them along their difficult journey even though hers I’m sure is just as rocky!

Without ever even meeting us she wanted so badly to do something big for us. She wanted to organize a race to raise money for us but that didn’t work out…but if you come to know Jenell she cannot be stopped! ;) Instead she signed her and her cute family up for a race and ran it FOR Dakota. She shared Dakota’s story with her friends and family and got people to donate per mile they ran!! She truly has a heart of gold and goes above and beyond what is required of her for the good of others!


On the last anniversary of Dakota’s accident she sent me the most special gift I have ever received…a poem that put everything into perspective for me (about angel Dakota) and a sweet necklace to represent Dakota and who he is! I wrote about it here.

When I think about people who emulate Christ in their lives I most definitely think about Jenell!! What has taken me some very hard trials with a lot of sleepless nights and pillows wet with tears to learn, seems to come so natural to her!

(The one and only time she got to meet Dakota…she was SO excited to get to hold him! It meant so much to me!)

As you read what she has written you can see for yourself! Here is what she had to say about Dakota:

Hi, my name is Jenell and I am wife to a wonderful husband, and mother to 5 incredible children who hold my heart in their hands, every single day. I am also proof of the fact that Dakota’s incredible influence, can and does span the test of time and distance. You see, it wasn’t until a little over a year ago that I even learned of this sweet family, and it has only been through Tessie’s blog, emails and texting that I have become very close to them, and have been forever affected by this giant of a spirit, clothed in a little boy’s body. I am very honored that Tessie asked me to share some of my personal thoughts and feelings about Dakota…my littlest hero!


I distinctly remember the day that I just ‘happened’ upon Tessie’s blog, and saw this picture…such a perfectly, beautiful family! I had no idea what “The Friedli Family” blog held, but as I looked into those amazingly, blue eyes of this precious, little boy gazing back at me, I felt utterly compelled to read more about him. I started at the beginning of this courageous family’s life-changing ordeal, and I read. I can’t explain how or why I had this immediate bond and love for the Friedli family, but I feel very strongly that in life…there are no coincidences.

I wrote the following post on my personal blog, and wanted to share it…
Anyone close to me has heard me talk about this precious, little boy.  If you know me at all, you know that I have a special place in my heart for him.

Even I don't completely understand why this little guy has had such a strong pull on my heart, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts and feelings as I learn from this most amazing, little boy. 

I have some personal 'life experiences' that would tie my heartstrings to Dakota and his family:
· I have had the horrific experience of finding my one-year-old daughter in the bathtub, lifeless and unresponsive. I understand that overwhelming fear of the possibility that this child, whom you love more than life itself, may no longer be with you here on this earth;
· My youngest daughter, Kate, is 2 years old, the same age as Dakota at the time of his accident;
· When I was 16-years-old, my older sister, Alexis (18), suffered and eventually died of a traumatic brain injury (TBI);
· My own, sweet, blond-haired, blue-eyed, little boy is not much older than Dakota.

I am sure these are all factors, but you really don’t need any ‘link’ to love this little guy! I fell in love with that cute mug from the moment I saw him, but as I follow this sweet, family’s journey, I have developed a greater love and respect for each of them, and the important role each of them plays in Heavenly Father’s plan. I also have a deeper understanding of our Heavenly Father’s love for each of us and that His plan is perfect, not easy, but perfect. I love and admire this family, and know I am a better person because of the things I have learned and continue to learn from them.

Through Dakota and his loving parents, I have witnessed powerful examples of faith and trust in a loving Heavenly Father, followed lessons of hope and courage, and have a newfound love for their ‘family motto’ that life really doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful!

I have also been taught more fully the meaning of ‘true gratitude’. True gratitude requires and active responsibility, not just a passive recognition. True gratitude not only makes us appreciate what we have but draws us closer to our most compassionate selves, allowing the stories of others’ challenges to extend beyond a thankful acknowledgement for our lack of such challenges and forcing us to analyze our own stories. How can I learn the same lessons? How can I relate? How can I better help those around me in dealing with their pain?

I have read on Tessie’s blog of the long months that they didn’t see one of those amazing smiles, or hear the sweet sound of his laughter. Not only do I try harder to listen to and relish the sound of my own children laughing, or replay in my mind my baby girl’s adorable, little lisp, you know, the small and simple things, but I feel such sincere joy for Zach and Tessie when I see pictures of Dakota’s sweet smile, or watch a video clip of his cute, little laugh. I know those moments are priceless for them after living without those small and precious moments for a time, things that most of us take for granted…true gratitude.

I sent Tessie a poem 2 years after Dakota’s accident; It is a conversation between a brave, little soul who was asking God why bad things happened that caused people to suffer. God explained, ”The suffering soul unlocks the love in people's hearts much like the sun and rain unlock the flower within the seed. I created everyone with endless love in their heart, but unfortunately most people keep it locked up and hardly share it with anyone. They are afraid to let their love shine freely, because they are afraid of being hurt. But a suffering soul unlocks that love. I tell you this- it is the greatest miracle of all. Many souls have bravely chosen to go into the world and suffer- to unlock this love- to create this miracle for the good of all humanity."

Just then the little soul got a wonderful idea and could hardly contain himself. With his wings fluttering, bouncing up and down, the little soul excitedly replied, "I am brave; let me go! I would like to go into the world and suffer so that I can unlock the goodness and love in people's hearts! I want to create that miracle!”

The bravest, little soul I know!

Sweet Dakota,

I am so grateful for this opportunity to tell you Happy Birthday, and send you my love, sweet, little friend! Even though I live 200+ miles away, please know I will always be cheering for your successes and praying for your happiness. You make this world brighter with your light and love, and remind everyone around you, what it feels like to be just a little closer to Heaven. You are a master teacher of all that is good, and I will do my best at taking notes, because I draw closer to our Savior when I follow your perfect example. I am better for knowing you, Dakota…thank you for being you!

Love and {{hugs}},


Guest Post for Ashley Sullenger

The AMAZING Ashley Sullenger (who just wrote a post about Dakota here) asked me awhile back before she had her twins to write a guest post for her blog about what I have learned from Dakota. Since this ties in perfectly with Dakota's birthday month as we are all sharing what we have learned and LOVE about Dakota I will share the link here if you would like to hear what I have learned from my sweet angel boy!

I was so grateful for this opportunity because it is ALWAYS good to have to sit down and think about some of the important lessons you have remind you NEVER forget and continue to learn from them!! (I DEFINITELY don't want to have to relive and relearn them!!) ;)

If you haven't been following her blog you MUST!! She is such an inspirational and motivational person and writer who has been through so much herself!! I absolutely ADORE her and she is for sure one of my "heroes"!!!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why WE Love Dakota…Lori

I asked Lori to be a part of Dakota’s birthday month because he stole her heart when she was his bus aid his first year of preschool. I still remember the day she stopped by to tell me with tears in her eyes how much Dakota has touched her life. She was doing a long term subbing position on his bus and it was coming to an end. It melted my heart to hear how much she had come to love him just from being on a short bus ride with him and how sad she would be to not be on his bus anymore!

Lori has such a huge heart and has always been so sweet to Dakota and our family! She often times would drop by a Toy Story book or little toy that she found…just because she thought Dakota might like it! She has become a dear friend to us and I we love her to pieces!!

Lori with her husband and 2 of her 6 cute kiddos!

Here is what she had to say:

When I was lucky enough to be Dakota's aide on his school bus, he caught my eye because of how cute his mom dressed him and did his hair. As an aide on a school bus, you don’t get to see most of the special needs kids dressed very well.

When I looked in his eyes  I saw a piece of heaven on Earth. Every time, to this day, when I look at him I am over whelmed by the spirit off the man upstairs. The most important lesson that I have learned from Dakota is as follows. I have treasure box days on the bus, the kids get to pick out of it once a week. It is full of stamps, stickers, and toys. He taught me that all children, special needs or main stream, should be treated the same.

As my aiding came to an end on his bus, I couldn't stand the thought of him not having treasure box, sticker, or stamp day anymore. So I went to the store and bought him enough for the rest of the school year. He taught me all kids of his capability and others with other conditions know what is going on around them. I saw that with the smile Dakota would give, or looking at his face, he was wishing to come back to a normal life.

I took what I had bought to his house and his sweet grandparents were there. While talking to them, I learned that Dakota was born a perfectly healthy baby. A terrible accident happened which left Dakota a special needs child. The biggest lesson he taught me would have to be; no one is promised to be perfect tomorrow, or even here on Earth tomorrow.

He taught me that we should treat people like they may never be the person they are today, or even here today. Everyone would be more accepted as perfect angels, no matter color, looks, capabilities, age, etc…
You see, I thought I was here to help Dakota to be treated “normal” but, in so many ways he came into my life to teach me lessons on this Earth. We need to be reminded of this every day. Hold your kids a little tighter, don’t fight about the petty things, love everyone you come across with all your heart. We need to be open minded because there are many lessons for all of us to keep learning in this life for the next life. Dakota you along with your parents are my heroes.

Thank you SO much Lori for being a part of Dakota’s birthday month and for always caring for him with such love and concern!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why WE Love Dakota…Sarahn

Sarahn is one of those truly beautiful people from the inside out!! She has a heart of gold…that is for sure!! I honestly didn’t know that she had met Dakota before his accident until reading her sweet letter to Dakota but the way she has loved and embraced him from the minute she met him since his accident has meant so much to me!

Sarahn has been one of those incredible cheerleaders for Dakota and our family on my blog for sure! I often see her sweet name in the comments and it makes me smile that she cares so much to check in on our crazy life and leave encouraging comments to keep me going!

This summer was the first times we have really gotten to hang out and be around each other and the way she treats Dakota and has taught her boys to love Dakota is truly honorable. She is another one of those people who isn’t afraid to just come up and kiss his sweet face or jump in and help him at the zoo when I’m not paying attention.

2013-07-22 12.20.45
Sarahn helping Dakota feel an elephant tooth

She has helped her boys learn to love Dakota and all people with differences and Dakota and I are SO grateful for their friendship!

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Dakota with Memphis and Dempsey (Sarahn’s boys)

Sarahn just being a cute mom

Here is what she had to say about Dakota:

Whenever I see Dakota, I’m overcome with the greatest urge to kiss his handsomely sweet face! I just can’t seem to help myself! Not only is he a seriously good-looking dude—but he absolutely sparkles!
Dakota has always been this way.

The first time I met Dakota (as a little, teeny boy), he left an impression on me. After our brief “meeting”—my husband and I walked away so darn impressed with not only Dakota’s stellar behavior, but how awesome his parents seemed. We wanted to track them down and be friends, but it took almost three years until we connected again! (I know—we missed out on some priceless time with the Friedli’s!)

About a year after his accident, I got to see Dakota again. I braced myself for a flood of emotions. After having my only sister, Kelsey, contract a virus on her brain as a baby (which caused nine years of epilepsy), and then watching her suffer through a traumatic brain injury as a 7-year-old girl, Dakota’s story was close to home. Although I steeled myself, I quickly realized I didn’t need to do it. That same sparkle was STILL just a-shining away in Dakota! I instantly felt my heart swell and I knew he was one of those extra-extraordinary “earth angels” Heavenly Father has carefully placed with us. I immediately recognized the incredibly strong spirit inside of Dakota’s little body.

There was a time I was too bitter to think this way, but after nearly 20 years of tears, trials, and triumphs with my sister, I now know Heavenly Father gave Kelsey and Dakota to us to make us better. They were just too good for this world, so our loving Father in Heaven protected them. I know where they will be when all is said and done, and—darn it—I want to be there with them!

I guess you could say I have a particularly special place in my heart for Dakota—and his amazing parents! They handle their trials with such grace and I am always in awe of their strength. I am a lucky lady to know their family!

Dakota’s sparkle never ceases to brighten my day! His smiles make me smile—and I can’t get enough of that little chuckle of his!

Sparkle on, Dakota Man!



Thank you SO much Sarahn for being a part of Dakota’s birthday month and for being one of his biggest fans!!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why WE Love Dakota…Aunt Jenny

I asked Zach’s sister Jenny to be a part of this birthday month because she is one of the few people besides Zach and I that have spent the most time with Dakota since his accident.

Jenny is a respitory therapist so she was comfortable with all of Dakota’s equipment and trach after the accident…so fortuantely for us (not for her) she was one of the few that could watch and help with Dakota after his accident. The thing that you have to know about Jenny is that she has the BIGGEST heart on the planet! I don’t think we ever hardly even had to ask her to come up…she was the one who was like what day can I come up and help this week? Or I have this day off so I’m gonna come up and watch Dakota for you. She serves and gives all that she has without ever asking for anything in return.

She worked nights at the hospital so that was her prime time. She spent countless nights up here at our house helping with Dakota at truly is hardest times when he wouldn’t sleep, when his condition was least stable…just because she loved us and him so much and wanted to help us through this crazy HARD physcial and emotional time in our lives.

Truly without Jenny and Zach’s parents during that first year after the accident I really don’t think we would have been able to make it. Just having a few hours break to be together alone and not have to worry about Dakota saved us individually, as a couple, and as a family!!

Jenny not only came to take care of Dakota but was ALWAYS concerned about Zach and I and making sure she could help us in ANY way possible. She would always come with something to be helpful around the house…whether it was dinner, baskets to organize all of this new medical equipment I wasn’t used to, cleaning, etc. She was there for us through every step of the way and THANK YOU will never quite do her justice!

She is an AMAZING sister, aunt, friend, mom, wife, and all around woman and I feel SO blessed to have her as my sister!!!

As you read her sweet post about Dakota…you will for sure see what I am talking about in her!!

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First time Dakota got to meet Aunt Jenny

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Here is what she had to say:

I was excited when Tessie asked me to write about some of my favorite things about our sweet boy Dakota! I hope I don't ramble & it is not too long. She didn't give me a limit, so apologies! Let me start off by telling everyone what an aMAzing family these guys are & how much I love them. I know that SO many people read Tessie's blog & you can tell how awesome their little family is, but might not have had the pleasure of actually meeting them. I need to gush before I get to the point of this, & so you can see where Dakota gets his awesome-ness from! My brother is the HARdest worker, who gets his excellent work ethic from my parents (who are equally amazing), he is the nicest guy who would do anything for anyone, he is handsome, funny, smart, & I love him so so much. I am so lucky to have him as a brother! He is SUCH a cute dad & loves Dakota so much. He has also picked the most wonderful wife. Their differences compliment eachother & I think balance eachother out. Tessie is JUST as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. I am so glad my brother married her. She is a wonderful wife, mom, sister, & everything else you can think of. She is talented, giving, a hard worker, & such a great mom to Dakota. Her love as a mother is so admirable, & so fun to watch. She give Dakota every opportunity that other kids get. I admire that a lot, & of course think he deserves it too! We are so blessed to have her in our family. Sooo...these two AWEsome people have not one bit surprisingly created the most gorgeous, sweetest, angel-boy ever.

Dakota was my first nephew & grandchild on our side of the family. I had moved away for awhile when he was born & it was SO hard to be away from my family in general, let alone this new little bundle of joy. He was the cutest baby I had ever seen! I've always thought of him as a little "angel-boy." He & Tessie had a rough start with her emergency c-section & his heart problem, & then him being life-flighted to Primary's. He has always been such a tough kid. He has always had the sweetest little temperament, & been such a GOOD kid from a baby even into a two-year old. Always happy, always sweet, never naughty, & such good manners....When I got the phone call that our little angel-boy had been injured I was sick to my stomach. It was so awful to have them be away & not see them, give them support, & care for them. I'm so glad they were surrounded by her family, & of course my parents went out there too. I was especially worried because Dakota WAS such an angel boy that I was scared Heavenly Father wanted to take him from us & make him a little angel. I could not bear the thought of this for Zach & Tessie. Now that I have my own child, I cannot imagine the pain they must have felt during that emotionally excruciating time. It turns out Heavenly Father wanted him to be a little angel on earth with us. How blessed are we to have this sweet spirit amongst us!?

I have often thought "Why Dakota???" "Why Zach & Tessie??? They have been through so many trials! It just isn't fair!" I came across a quote the other day that reads, "God enlists his strongest soldiers for his toughest battles." How perfectly fitting to describe this whole family...I've wondered why Dakota couldn't be completely healed, & argued with Heavenly Father about it for awhile. As I was discussing this with my mom one day, she told me she thought Dakota chose to stay here. He chose to survive & go through these trials because he wanted to, for us. He wanted to stay here & teach us so many things. This really helped to heal my heart, & I truly believe it because he really IS our "angel-boy." That shows how LOVING he is. Dakota teaches us to enjoy everyday, to enjoy everyday with our families, that each moment is so precious; he teaches us PATIENCE. He is so patient with US! I am SO happy he can communicate with us as much as he can now. When they got home from Primary's I used to babysit him & I would always worry, "What does he need? What can I do to make him comfortable, happy? Am I causing him pain? Am I anNOYing him?" How awful to not be able to communicate! He's come a long way!!! SO proud of you buddy!...He shows us APPRECIATION in many ways. The sweet smile you receive when you've figured out what he wants...I appreciate my job. I'm a respiratory therapist & I had the opportunity to take care of Dakota when he came home after the hospital. I am so grateful that I was able to serve this little boy & appreciate the knowledge I've learned from my career...I realize this has been a long entry, & maybe not exactly what Tessie had intended, I just really wanted to paint a picture of how special this boy was from the start, & how wonderful I think their family is. I love you guys! So to end....

[in no particular order :)]

1. He ROCKS the faux-hawk.

2. He has the sweetest, CUTEST smile I've ever seen. When he was little it took up his whole face! A real smile. It is just as cute now, it's just a little bit softer :)

3. I love his GORgeous eyes & eyelashes.

4. I love his laugh. I love it when he laughs so hard his trach cap pops off across the room :)

5. I love to sit &; snuggle with him. He's the best.

6. I love the sound of his breathing. He sounds like a little kitty-cat purring. It is so calming & peaceful.

7. He is the sharpest dressser I know!

8. I love what a hard worker he is & how hard he tries. He has acquired so many talents from all his hard work at therapy & rehab. He rocks at rolling, he will communicate sometimes with his gorgeous eyes, he can enjoy some foods. I love to watch him tasting his yogurt or applesauce.

9. This is more of a favorite memory. We put Tater (my little boy) on Dakota's lap & said what a good big cousin he was. He got the biggest grin ever like "Yeah, I know it." It was so cute! I LOVE to see this little boy have joy. It is so special to share those sweet smiles.

10. Another favorite memory was right before his accident. We were at my parents house & they were babysitting him. We were trying- without much luck- to get him to count in Spanish (Zach taught him) or say his ABC's . It was time for bed & all of a sudden he perked up & pulling out all the stops he counted & said some ABC's as we cheered him on & then he said "again?" so sweetly & showing off, all so he could stay up late! It was so funny. My mom & I laughed hysterically!!

11. Oh & I just thought of one more :) Dakota has the best manners! When he was little instead of saying "no" Zach & Tessie taught him to say "No thank you." So it was SO funny when he was a little upset, say someone took a toy from him, he would say "No thank you! No thank you!" furrowing his little brow & an upset face. Does this give you a clue at how special & sweet a boy this is, when he is a TWO year old & says this?? He is the best!


Aunt Jenny
A collage of some of Jenny’s favorite pictures of Dakota

Thank you SO SO SO much Jenny for EVERYTHING you have done for our little family!! We love you more then you will ever know!!!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why WE Love Dakota…Pam

I asked darling Pam to write about Dakota because she is one of the few people that new Dakota both before AND after the accident. She has ALWAYS been so cute to him and has loved him so much! I still remember the first day (several months after Dakota’s accident) that we decided to start taking him back to church. It was a VERY hard decision and there was a lot of anxiety about how it would go. As sacrament meeting got over, we stood up to walk out and Pam was right there to say hello and to see Dakota. She then, leaned over and kissed his face.

Now that may not sound like that big of deal but it was HUGE to Zach and I. It meant she wasn’t afraid of him because he was different now and she truly has had this most pure love for him every day since. She has even shared so much of him with her two girls that they love him just as much. Dakota is even Sadie’s boyfriend!! ;)

Pam and her cute family

Here is what she had to say about Dakota:

Happy birthday Dakota!! Tessie, thanks for inviting me to share a little bit about sweet Dakota for your blog readers.

First of all, the first time I met Zach and Tessie, I thought they were the most beautiful people and I just couldn't wait to see what their future baby was going to look like. When Tessie announced she was pregnant, I was super excited! I remember telling her that I pictured her baby to have really dark hair, dark skin, and brown eyes. Boy was I wrong, Dakota came out with light color hair, beautiful fair skin, and the most gorgeous big blue eyes I had ever seen! I just adored watching them be first time parents! Little did I know this sweet new baby would grow up to teach me and my family many things.

I remember very vividly the Sunday before Dakota's accident. I was walking down the hall trying to gather my kids up and dodging the crowd when I decided to back up and say hi to Dakota for a minute. He was just coming out of nursery and happy as can be to be with his Daddy. I touched his hand and spoke to him and he looked right into my eyes before being shy and looking away. So thankful I stopped that day to talk to him.

That following week, I remember my husband receiving a text message from Zach. By the look of his face, I knew something was wrong. He got choked up as he read the text to me about Dakota. It was heart wrenching to hear, and we immediately prayed for Dakota, and never stopped including him in our prayers. Dakota taught my young little girls what it meant to truly love someone who was not in their family and to pray for someone to get well. They prayed for him every day. They asked about him every day. And they still do!! He holds a very special place in our hearts and have shown us that he will never stop fighting. We love you Dakota!! Sadie says she wants to hear you sing again!

Love Pam

Pam thank you so much for being a part of Dakota’s birthday month and for loving him SO much!!

Why WE Love Dakota…Jodi

Each person I post about, I can’t seem to say enough good about them to give you a true description of what amazing people they are. Jodi is definitely one of those people!!

Jodi is for sure on my top list of “heroes” even though she is one who I have never gotten to meet and hug in person!! Jodi reached out to me through my blog but with a perspective that most people don’t have. Jodi suffered a stroke very young…after the birth of her third child.

Because of this trial and the miracle that she survived it…she is able to relate and understand Dakota in a way that no one else can…including me!! After her stroke she was in a similar physical condition as Dakota…unable to even sit up on her own with a trach and a g-tube. Because she has struggled to relearn SO much like Dakota is doing, she has a deep compassion and strong understanding of his day to day struggles.

She has allowed me to ask her TONS and TONS of questions about her experience…what it felt like to have a trach and have it suctioned out of, what does a g-tube feel like, etc. To read just a few of them go here Dear Tessie. She has helped me to understand my little boy so much better and has given me hope through her successes to not ever give up!! Often times when I am tired and frustrated at doing the same things over and over with Dakota and not seeing much or VERY slow improvement…I think maybe I should just stop wasting our time….but Jodi is a constant reminder and example to me that it is ALL worth it! No matter how long it takes…no matter how many times we have to try…you never know how far you will get…especially if you quite trying!!

Another cool think about Jodi is that we are related!!! I had no idea until I wrote a blog post about her and my great aunt emailed me after reading it that she is my cousin. Her father-in-law is MY dad’s cousin!!! Small world and I am honored to call her my cousin! ;)

To learn more about her crazy hard journey through life go to her blog
She is a true inspiration!!

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Jodi holding Ana Jain a few days before her stroke.  This is a recent pic of these darling two.

Here is what she had to say about Dakota:

On my sons soccer team is a boy named Dakota and every time I hear them yell his name, I think of Dakota Friedli and a little smile comes to my face.

This may seem like an odd reaction to thinking of him. One would assume sadness, anger, or some other negative emotion might be more appropriate. But, if you have ever met, seen, or heard about him, happiness only seems the  natural reaction.

This is a boy who can't even tell his mom if he has an itch,  or  can't express his fear at trying new things, things other kids take for granted like getting on the bus or meeting a new teacher. It must be terribly frustrating to him. Yet, almost every picture or video of him he is wearing the sweetest grin or laughing the funniest laugh! He seems to have a talent for finding ways to be happy and for making those around him happy as well.

Dakota also shows such strength and determination.  It is my honest feeling that when he had his accident, he had the choice to stay or return to Heaven. It would have been sooo much easier for him to go but he chose to stay. Now, although he may not be able to say so, I am sure that every day is a struggle. I never understood until recently, how difficult being handicapped is. Just BEING. Things such as going to church or attending a family get together are exhausting! I imagine his brain telling his muscles to do something and it taking all of his mental and physical strength to do something (relatively) huge like pushing a button to start or stop music.  

I am constantly amazed at this boy and truly feel that when we all get a chance to meet him in the next life, we will be speechless at his greatness.

Of course I can't talk about Dakota without mentioning his parents. The whole reason he is so happy and most likely reason for his choice to stay on the earth, is because of them. His struggles are their struggles and his triumphs are their triumphs. I am awed by their strength, courage, and choice to be happy. They are a true example of a good mommy and daddy.

I recently read a quote that seems perfect for their whole family.
"By taking Jesus’ yoke upon us and enduring, we learn most deeply of Him and especially how to be like Him. (SeeMatt. 11:29.) Even though our experiences are micro compared to His, the process is the same."-- Neal A Maxwell

This world is a better place because they are in it!

Thank you SO SO much Jodi for being a part of Dakota’s birthday month and for being the great example you are to me and everyone who knows you!!!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Why WE Love Dakota…Emmi

Emmi…where do I even start?! Emmi entered our lives several months after Dakota’s accident. Dakota was chosen to be a part of the Western Wishes Organization…a wish kid type organization that is just for cowboys and cowgirls…so OBVIOUSLY Dakota fit right in!!

She was one of the few amazing people that helped out with this organization that we were privileged to meet and Dakota captivated her heart from the very beginning.

She has loved Dakota and always spoken about him like the little cowboy he IS and not once was. Even though he can’t ask to wear his cowboy boots or throw his hat on anymore…she saw the cowboy inside of him and has always treated him just like any other kid…not a kid with a disability. She would tell him that when he grew up he and Stoan (her son) were going to be team roping partners. I know that is something so simple but it meant the world to me!!

She has been an amazing friend to me and she continues to amaze me with her strength, humor, and realness. If you have never checked out her blog it is She can ALWAYS make me laugh!!

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                   Sweet Emmi                                     Her cute boys Stoan and Lake

Here is what she had to say:

Dakota has a way of creating PEACE around him. From the moment I first met Dakota, he put my anxious soul at rest. It was as though I was able breathe in life for what it was in that moment. I know probably many who have met this little guy feel the same, but I knew that Dakota had something  that I needed. Peace. He gave it so willingly. He shares the fruits of his spirit to any and all who are privileged enough to know him. He is that of a WARRIOR. Pleased with so little, yet gives so much. The things I cherish most about this little cowboy are the lessons he teaches Stoan, Lake and myself.......without saying a word.

When I look at Dakota and interact with him, I am reminded so gently of this simple truth....There is more! There is more to life than what we see! We are only passing through and this life is so temporary. Thank goodness, right?

Might I add, He is stunningly handsome and the soft skin on his cheeks is quite yummy. =)

Thank you Emmi for being you and for loving my cowboy like you do your own!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why WE love Dakota…Annie, Brigette, and Jena

Annie is my sister, best friend, hero, go-to girl, example, laugh until we pee girl all wrapped up into one!! She is also one of Dakota’s BIGGEST cheerleaders and fans! Of all my family (everyone lives in AZ) she was able to be around him the very most because in the summers her husband always comes up to UT for lots of things and her and her kids would always come and stay with us for weeks at a time sometimes.

She was also the one who was there at my mom’s with us when Dakota’s accident happened. She is the one who drove Zach and I to the hospital after Dakota left in the ambulance. There was just silence shattered with sniffles and sobs throughout our drive. There was nothing anyone could say to me that could make anything that was happening any better. I sat in silence with a constant prayer in my head and heart, trying to cope with what was happening to me in that moment. I can only imagine how hard that was for her to have to be the one with us.

She said to me with tears and with complete sincerity, “I wish this would have happened to one of my kids…not yours.” To this day, those words she spoke to me amaze me. I know dang well…especially after being the one who has gone through it, that I would NEVER be able to tell someone that and truly mean it as she did. As would most mothers. BUT she is SO Christ-like in every way that she would have truly been willing to change places with me and sacrifice one of her own precious children to save mine. She has loved and supported us through EVERTYHING…even throughout my whole life!! Wouldn’t trade her for the world!!!


So of course I had to ask her to write about sweet Dakota…here are her words:

What don’t we love about Dakota? He is in every real sense an angel, before his accident and after!!! We LOVE that Dakota has always loved his cousins. We LOVE that Dakota was SOOOOO polite at such a young age, I mean it was unreal! His smile and voice were and are angelic. His voice was very pure and innocent.

I can’t really express what Dakota has taught me without including his stellar parents! I mean they are literally all in one. They are the most spectacular team and one is not without the other!!!!! & the lessons are endless.

I personally LOVE that Dakota has strengthened my testimony about this life NOT being the end. He has helped strengthen my testimony of countless gospel principles! It is watching him and his amazing parents go through their everyday that is a pure witness of our loving Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ’s intimate involvement of our lives. (Especially if we let them!) Living with happiness and laughs would be impossible without that Heavenly blessing. Dakota has brought this into clear existence for me!!! He has taught me to change my whole perspective. When I don’t want to get up and go running or exercise I think “Dakota would do this in a heartbeat if he could!”. When I feel I can’t take another hardship or struggle I think of Dakota, of Tessie, and of Zack and kick myself in the large behind and think “buck up”!!!! Dakota has definitely taught me to STOP and enjoy my children, a priceless gift. That if milk spills don’t fret just be happy it can get spilled and it can get cleaned up. He has taught me that all things righteous and worthy are worth fighting for. I mean REALLY fighting!!! If I feel a relationship suffering or my testimony faltering you bet there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do. A stronger eternal perspective I would say.

Thank you Annie for being our sister, our aunt, and our friend!!!

Dakota was privileged to have 2 blog readers email him a message to share with him!!

The first one was Brigette…


I had a son pass away almost 5 years ago from a neuromuscular condition. He was 5 months old. Not a day goes by that I don't think of and miss him. I wanted to write to Dakota though because every time I see your blog and see an adorable picture of him my soul shines. I can see the love in his eyes and just feel his sweet spirit. I would love to just give him a big old hug. He brightens my day every time I see him. Thank you for sharing his sweet life and all of your stories of him. He continues to remind me that each day is priceless and no matter how hard we have it other have it tougher yet can still deal with it with a smile on their face. I pray for your sweet family. I can feel the amazing love and strength you have for your family just by reading your blog. I to live in Utah and would be happy to help any time. Being with these sweet kids like Dakota totally makes my day and helps me feel closer to my son and to heaven.

Thank you Brigette for being willing to share a little piece of your journey through life with us and for being one of Dakota’s biggest fans!! To read more about her story go here

The second was was Jena. She also happens to be a very special person to me and my family because she is the birth mom to one of my sweet nephews! I admire her so much for her unselfishness and sacrifice in giving up her sweet boy to bless my families life!!

Here is her message to Dakota:


Why do I love that little boy?  I love him, because of the shining example he is to his cousins. His family. His, friends.  I love him, because you can see it in him, that he knows. You can see him trying so hard, fighting all the way, and still, being strong.  You can feel his love, and his happiness. I love him, because how lucky are all his cousins, aunts, uncles, and so on, to have this example in their lives. Because, he is here:).
Love ya Kota Man!

Thank you Jena for sharing this sweet birthday message, for loving Dakota, and for being one of his biggest fans!!
To read more about Jena and her journey through the process of adoption go here

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Why WE Love Dakota…Ashley

Another special little lady, who is one of my biggest heroes that I asked to write about Dakota man is Ashley Sullenger! I have written a handful of times about her and her blog and she is listed on my list of blogs under the hero section for many reasons!! I just LOVE her!!

She lost her sweet daughter Preslee in a drowning accident...and through her tragedy and trial she has been a support and lifesaver to me...more then she will ever know!!

Even though she has never met Dakota in person she has been a cheerleader for him and me and I think he has been important to her through her healing as well. Dakota and Preslee suffered almost identical brain injuries just through different accidents and with a different outcome.

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                      Her and sweet Preslee                  Her and her darling son Ledger
 (now she is a new mom to 2 new twin boys!)

Here is her sweet message about Dakota:

I think if anything, Dakota has taught me that there is a plan for each and everyone of us. And that plan is specifically tailored to fit each individual.And even though things might not turn out how we expect, Heavenly Father will be there to help us as we learn to adapt to a new life. Every time you write about him, or I see pictures, when you look at his eyes, you can tell he has an incredibly strong spirit. I really believe that. And one day when we cross over to the other side, I think both of us will be amazed at how much Preslee's and Dakota's plan was apart of our plan.

I think both Ashley and I have come to realize that neither of our situations were ideal or what we wished upon ourselves...BUT...there was a purpose and a plan for both of our children FAR greater then what either of us could have imagined!

Thanks Ashley for being a part of Dakota's birthday month!!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why we LOVE Dakota...Andrea

We finished up Dakota’s birthday celebrations this week but the month is not over!! ;)
We got treated to the movie Turbo for Dakota’s birthday by our sweet friends the Wards. It was so fun…we even grabbed some ice cream after!

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Not that you can tell from this picture…but he really did like the movie…and the fun company!!

We had our family party for Dakota last night and we just reused the pirate theme since I had all the stuff and didn’t wanna try and do anything more! I’m all pirated out now! ;)

All the kiddos

Uncle Ry & Aunt Lindsay

Aunt Jenny, Uncle Bobby, Olivia, & Tate

Aunt Ashley, Uncle Beau, Maelee, & Houston

And us! We all make a bunch of cute pirates don’t you think?! ;)

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We had some yummy peach cobbler. Aunt Jenny was so nice to help Dakota!

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He got lots of new clothes and money to go towards his new trampoline we got him!!!

It was a HAPPY day!!!
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Sure is great to be 5!!!

It’s always so fun to be with our family!!

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ALWAYS something going on!! ;)

One of my favorite birthday traditions that my mom started when I was in high school (you might have already heard about this before) was that every person in the family had to go around and share what they love about the birthday person. It’s always embarrassing to hear compliments and things about yourself but yet it also warms your heart to hear how much you are loved by those who are so dear to you! You hear things that they love about you that they don’t normally tell you on a regular basis.

So…to finish off Dakota’s birthday month I asked a handful of people to share what they love about Dakota…what they have learned from him…or how he has touched their lives! Since Dakota is loved by SOOO many…even some we have never met I thought it would be fun to hear what it is about him that has touched the hearts of SO many!! Every day til the end of the month I will try and post a new one.

If you would want to share something too…shoot me an email @ and I will for sure post it on here as well and most importantly read it to Dakota!! I don’t think he realizes how much he is really loved by so many!! ;)

The first person whose I will post is very dear to Dakota and our family. Her name is Andrea Fife. She was Dakota’s sweet nursery leader before his accident and he loved and adored her. After his accident she found me in the halls at church when we first came back and with tears in her eyes expressed how sorry she was and how special Dakota was to her. It meant SOOOO much to me that she felt some of my pain! She then became one of my faithful weekly helpers with Dakota’s therapy and then later was called to be Dakota’s personal primary teacher. Every Sunday she takes him from me and allows him to be a part of the primary in our ward. Because of her…he is included in EVERYTHING that all the other kids get to do and Zach and I get a 2 hour break to refill our spiritual buckets in our classes. There are not tons of people who I felt comfortable leaving Dakota with…especially in the beginning but I have ALWAYS felt that he was so safe and loved in her care.

Andrea with her granddaughter

So…this is what she wrote:

From the first time I met Dakota, he won my heart. He has always had a Hollywood smile and fun personality. I have always felt that there is something special about this little spirit from the very beginning of his life. When he came into Nursery at church, he walked around with his blanky and he worried a bit about being around so many children. He would sit in my lap and I would rock him back and forth and talk with him until he was comfortable enough to get down and play with the other children. He loved books and trucks the most when he was in nursery. He was quite a talker. I was shocked at how large his vocabulary was at that age. I absolutely loved the cute conversations that we had during that time of his life.

After the accident, I had the privilege of helping Tessie with Dakota’s therapies. It was like a miracle to me to see his sweet personality is still there. His little body doesn’t work the same but he is still the same sweet little boy inside. One of my favorite moments was in Sharing time in Primary when we were learning a new song and as I sang the wrong words he started giggling. I looked at him as said, “Kota, are you laughing at me?” He laughed even harder to the point where he could hardly breathe. We have had a few moments like that and it absolutely makes my whole day and my whole week to see him enjoying primary. There are some favorite songs that I noticed he likes. When he hears, I Am a Child of God and If the Savior Stood beside me, My Heavenly Father Loves me, he makes an effort to sing along. Those are the moments when I feel like angels are surrounding us. Sometimes when he gets bored we go out and walk through the halls of the church and talk about the paintings on the walls. There is one outside of the chapel that he loves to look at. It is a huge painting of Jesus Christ. We will sit there and watch it for a long time. I know that Dakota knows Him personally. For such a little guy, he has such a strong faith and I have no doubt in my mind that he receives strength from many angels on the other side of veil. Even though our conversations are not the same as they were before the accident. I still enjoy the conversations we have and am so grateful for the opportunity to have been his Primary teacher. I have heard many comments about how good I am with him or that my calling is such an important calling and that I do so much for him. Although I appreciate the kind words of gratitude, I see things a little differently. Dakota has done so much for me. His sweet spirit and love has given me a great deal of strength on days when I have needed it the most.

I will always have a special place in my heart for you Dakota.

Love, Your Primary teacher
Sister Andrea Fife