Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's REAL!

I had an ultrasound yesterday. And I heard the heart beat. That experience always makes things seem "real" for me.

Last night I read a bunch of stuff about the development of the baby before birth. Every time I go through this, now being the sixth, I am always amazed at the whole process. The hourly and daily changes and growth to a fetus are sign enough for me that there is an all-knowing Creator involved. And to think that we are created in His image and likeness. Wow!

Official due date. . . June 12, 2010.

It seems so far away, especially since we're heading into winter and the baby won't come until summer time. But the fact that I have felt much better this past 9 days makes it much more bearable. If only the dish fairy would visit our house, and the laundry fairy, and the clean bathroom fairy. . .

All the kids are hoping for another BOY brother. This surprised me, especially towards Emma Claire. I thought for sure she'd want a little sister to play with. Why a boy, I asked? Her response was cute. "Andersen needs a buddy to play with. I have Abby, and Mason has Taylor. Andersen needs someone too."

John and I are indifferent. We'll just be thankful for a healthy child.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

All for the Love of Fruit Snacks

A few days ago as I was upstairs helping Emma Claire clean her room, I heard yelling from Andersen. "Mom, help. . . help, . . . MOM HELP!!!" The noise sounded far away, but I could tell Andersen really needed help.

I dropped what I was doing and ran downstairs, the whole time listening to him panic. . . not sure why. I came around the corner and into the kitchen to find my little monkey hanging from the top two shelves of the kitchen cupboards. As I got to him, his little hands slipped off the edge of the top shelf and I caught him in mid air. Had I been a second later, he would have fallen backwards about 9 feet down to the tile floor and could have cracked open his head.

He didn't cry, but I could tell he was very scared. After calming him down in my arms, I asked him why he was climbing up the cupboard. His response was "Andsen yubs boot nacks" ('Andersen loves fruit snacks', in case you don't understand his language like I do). I should have guessed. The top shelf of that cupboard is where I hide the fruit snacks. Smart kid. I was just grateful that we didn't end up in the ER for a head injury.

So, later that day the older boys were at the park playing football with friends when I got a phone call from a young boy, saying "can you come to the park fast? Mason is hurt and is bleeding bad. . . hurry."

So again I dropped what I was doing and ran to the neighborhood park down the street and around the corner. Mason had two big cuts in the back of his head and was pretty out of it. Apparently, he had been running for a pass and had gotten tackled by a bigger boy. The bigger boy fell on top of him, and Mason fell backwards and landed hard on the cement.

I applied pressure to stop the bleeding and looked at the cuts. Not big enough for stitches, thank goodness. But for peace of mind, John and I decided to take him to the Emergency Room for a CAT scan. Five hours and $125 later, we got that peace of mind. Mason was fine.

At least Mason won the football game.

Kids can sure be expensive and add a little stress to our lives. I'm just glad my boys are both safe.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

We're Going Public!

It's hard to believe the Holidays are already upon us. We just gave our children an early Christmas present for this year. A new baby is joining our clan and turning our 5 into 6. John says, "We're almost to our half dozen" . I laugh!

All the children seemed very excited. Abby hopes it's a boy so Andersen has a buddy, then thinks we need to have two more girls and two more boys after that to even things out! Whow! We are very excited about the new addition! I think I'm about 10-11 weeks along and due mid June sometime. First Dr. appointment scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Birthday Boy!!!

Andersen turned two years old today. The older kids wanted to wake him up with a birthday song, traditional of how I grew up. So we marched into his bedroom this morning at 7 AM, singing "Happy Birthday to You". He first started to cry (I would too--we sounded pretty horrible!) But the tears quickly turned to excitement as he jumped up and down in the crib with sqeels and smiles.

We marched downstairs to open presents. He kept saying, "present I want football" over and over again. (Funny that he'd mention it. How many footballs do we have lying around our house?) It was fun to watch him open each one. The first two were bags of clothes, which he desperately needs. With absolutely zero emotion, he quickly tossed them aside and waited for the next gift. The football came--a little one, just perfect for his small hands. Then a tractor that made lots of noise and a tee ball set with a tee, bat, and lots of balls. He opened the last few presents one handed, never taking a hand off that football. And as I tucked him in bed tonight, he wanted to sleep with the football. Pretty cute.

Tonight we had birthday cake. And I thought; "why didn't I make a football cake instead of a baseball cake"? But he seemed excited nonetheless. I caught him a few times during the afternoon climbing up on the counter and laying fingerprints in the frosting. Just couldn't resist! And a few red liccorice pieces were missing tonight too. Wonder where those went. . .

#1 Prized Possession

Notice the hand, never leaving his football.

Before swinging, he would yell "ready, set, touchdown". Just a little confused. We'll try to fix that one later.

Notice the little finger that just took a swipe out of that frosting.

Andersen has been such a joy since day one. He is ALWAYS smiling--always! A few weeks ago while up at the cabin with some friends, we heard one of the men saying to him, "Andersen, Let me guess . . . are you still smiling? Yep--still smiling." And when he smiles, his eyes light up and smile too. I love being his mom. He keeps me smiling and laughing more than I would have without him. We're glad he's part of the clan.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Small Town Halloween Experience

A few months ago John asked our two oldest boys if they were interested in deer hunting with him, their grandpa, and a few uncles and cousins. "Yes-dah--of course!" was their answer. Then came the dilemma; it fell on Halloween weekend, which meant that most likely, the boys wouldn't go trick-or-treating and enjoy the normal Halloween traditions in our neighborhood. Both boys thought about it for over a day, then agreed that they'd go hunting if the other would go as well.

So last weekend John left town Thursday evening with our two oldest. Their hunting area was close to St. David, where John grew up. So they stayed the night at Johns' parents home and hunted all Friday and all Saturday. I enjoyed a neighborhood trunk-or-treat party with the three youngest Friday night, then drove down to St. David Saturday afternoon and met up with the boys. The small community has a traditional school-sponsored trunk-or-treat on the football field every Halloween night. So we packed our costumes and planned to attend.

But by the time we got there (about a 3 hour drive), unpacked and finished up dinner, we realized that we were running out of time and it might not be worth the hustle to take the kids to the football field. And, the hunters were just getting home--hungry and tired from a full day. Really last minute, my sister and I decided to throw our own Halloween party at the house instead of hauling all the kids (9 in all) to the football field.

At first, the kids weren't too thrilled. Especially Abby, who had been dreaming about all the candy she would get at the trunk-or-treat. But we promised it would be just as fun celebrating it at home. All the kids got in their costumes, and we sent them outside while we schemed up our "fun and exciting" Halloween party. Here's what ended up happening:

First, the kids all trick-or-treated to all 4 doors of the house; the master bedroom door, garage door, front door, and back door. And a different face met them at each door, ready to load their buckets up with candy. Then we hung small chocolate bars on strings from the ceiling, one for each child, and had a contest to see who could eat it first without using their hands. Then we had a pumpkin toss, of course. After that, we all loaded in the car and drove a few miles and watched a deer get skinned. Totally spooky! Lots of candy was earned for each game, the kids seemed to be satisfied, and we were glad NOT to drag them all down to the football field.

Red neck Halloween? Of course. And I'll never forget it. I doubt the kids will either!

Andersen was the world's cutest cowboy. He even got to ride on a real horse for his photo shoot.

Mason was a pirate, Taylor was a sheriff cowboy, Abby was a nurse, and Emma Claire was a cat.

Here's a picture of the kids, trying to eat the hanging chocolate.

PS- And about the hunt, John and his brother both got deer. John's was a 2X2 point. I know, that sounds pretty big. Not really. The antlers weren't more than about two inches long. So small that John was embarrassed to bring the antlers home in case anyone asked to see it. We'll get some meat from it soon. Any ideas of what to do with venison? I'm a little grossed out by the thoughts. Poor Bambi.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Time Out For Women

I attended my first Time Out For Women in Phoenix a few weekends ago with some of my favorite women. Being with these girls throughout the weekend was definitely the highlight. I seem to learn more from them just being in their presence than from all those lectures. But I did enjoy some lectures/talks as well.

Here are a few notes that got jotted down during that weekend:

  • 1- "Happiness is a City in the State of Mind"

  • 2- Adam and Eve were given the commandment, "Be HAPPY and find JOY therein." (I had never thought of that as a commandment from God. . . major attitude shift)

  • 3- One of the presenters requested us to ask ourselves the question, "What is it like being married to ME?" This question has lead to some thoughtful insight. . . no need to go there.

  • 4- In order for a plant to grow, it requires being planted in healthy soil, regular watering, and then a lot of direct sun light. And so it is with raising children: the child needs to be planted in a healthy home, be "watered" regularly, i.e. showered with love and appreciation, lots of teaching, healthy motivation and guidance. After that, we have to make sure the child is put under the direct light of the Savior. In other words, create moments and an environment where the child can feel His love and direction. We do the planting and the watering, then pray for sunshine. We do all we can as parents, and the Savior does the rest. This analogy was very insightful for me.

  • 5- Find Abundance in life. Learn to be content with what we have.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Under the Knife

Family Night Fun!

Angels Among Us

Our family became acquanted with some true "angels" when we moved into our first house in Mesa 6 years ago. The Carneys were the prior owners of the home, and we got to know them through that transaction.

Since then, they have become such close friends of our family. The kids refer to them as "like grandparents". Whenever they see, or even sense a need, it is immediately filled. Every holiday we have all been spoiled with goodies, gifts, and warm cards. Every summer we enjoy numerous swimming parties in their backyard that always include yummy dinners and great visiting. Every winter we enjoy buckets of grapefruit and oranges, as much as we can handle.

Since moving about 30 minutes South a year ago, I wondered if we'd see them as much. I didn't expect the Carneys to drop off treats for the kids like they used to. But they still do. We enjoyed their visit this past Monday evening. They walked in the door with their hands full of goodie bags for the kids, Halloween home decor, a few Christmas accessories, and a HUGE bag of chocolate chips. (She knows I LOVE to bake). The kids' eyes were huge with excitement--just like Christmas!

The Carneys are some of the most Christlike people I know. They think of others, always serving and lifting others' burdens. They are complimentary towards others and towards each other. They work together well and support each other in their personal activities. They constantly show love to all around them. Whenever I am in their presence, I am inspired by their generosity and kindness. And whenever they leave, John and I always look at each other and say, "Wow, they are amazing." I hope to be more like them someday.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Giving it another try. . .

In our last house, we tried gardening a few times, all with no success. Here in our new house, there's not a lot of space around the yard that receives enough direct sunlight to plant anything. So, John and I built two 4 X 4 foot boxes and set them on some decorative rock in the backyard. With 32 square feet of space, we planted strawberries, two kinds of lettuse, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, and squash. It provided a great project for the kids to be involved in. We just hope things start growing.
Here's what we started with:

Here's how it ended up:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Try, Try, Try Again

John caught Andersen trying to put on roller skates the other morning. Here's a few pictures that tell the story.
Check me out Dad. I put these skates on all by

No problems here. I'm holding up just fine.


I think I've gotten enough for one day. Now help me take these things off.

One More Under My Belt

I ran my third half marathon last weekend, this time with my older brother. My training was sporatic, as well as my energy level and sleep schedule during the 8-week training. Because of these factors, I didn't have any lofty goals of reaching my PR but just wanted to finish and get it over with. It was probably my worst race yet. My chip time is 2:15:10--nothing to brag about. Someday I'd like to get it under 2:10. . . someday.

Around mile 8, my left knee started bugging me and caused a lot of pain with every step. The pain subsided when I walked, so I took it easy from then on and walked probably a minute for every 10.

The race itself isn't what I love about the whole thing. I love looking at a week-by-week calendar on my mirror every morning that dictates what I do for exercise that day. I love crossing each day off on the calendar after finishing the required work-out. I love seeing progress that comes with time. I love the motivation that accompanies a far off goal of running a race.

With the race behind me now, I have a harder time getting myself up and out the door to exercise each day. The motivation is not there anymore. Time to find another goal to work towards.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Some things Never Change

As a young girl, I remember listening to my mom talk about her good friends from her college years. She would see them occasionally (every couple of years), talk on the phone once in a while, and exchange Christmas cards.

I remember thinking how strange the whole thing sounded. You can't be friends with someone that you hardly ever see or talk to. "Friends", in my childish mind, meant someone that you saw almost daily out on the street, that you saw in church and at school, that you talked to and played with and spent time with--daily.

Now I understand. I went to college with a deep desire that I too could find "those" kind of friends--where friendship stays close and strong regardless of time or distance. That first freshman semester, I met up with some amazing women. Since then, we have moved far away from each other and have all been involved in different things. We don't play with each other, talk to each other, or spend time daily. But we're still great friends.

Since college 13 years ago, we have met up maybe 3 times for a short weekend where we leave behind our "mom" and "wife" titles and get to be simply "girl friends" again. I always return to my other titles refreshed, uplifted, and motivated to do better, be better, and become more.

This past week we met up at a beautiful cabin the the White mountains of AZ for a week. And this time, it wasn't just the 5 of us. With husbands and children in the mix, we have turned into 25. I loved being together. I loved watching them in their new roles as wife and mother. I loved learning from them in our late night visits. I loved seeing our kids play together. I loved cooking and cleaning the kitchen together. I loved visiting and relaxing on the porch together.

Thanks for coming girls! As always, I have come home refreshed, uplifted, and motivated to do better, be better, and become more. You inspire me!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fall Break is Coming to an End. . . all too soon!

I love having the kids home, all to myself. Being on a modified year-round school schedule, my kids have been home from school for the past 11 school days. One more day home before they all return back to studying, homework, piano lessons, bed times, scouts, and schedules. Tomorrow, we'll have to do laundry and get to bed on time. But today, we have done nothing but pure play. Yes, there is plenty of dirt in this house, laundry is piling high, and the lawns need to be mowed--but not today.

We visited the library, read lots of books, took naps, danced in the family room, jumped on the tramp, exercised together, played catch in the backyard, and talked to grandparents. A lot of my favorite things with my most favorite people.

Marjorie Hinckley believed that unstructured days with her children taught more than a relentless pursuit of talents; "I hope you enjoy your children; if not, you're in trouble."

Some days, I might be 'in trouble'. But not today. Tomorrow might be another story, but today was perfect in my eyes. Even with a dirty kitchen floor.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I lost my Wisdom last weekend.

All four wisdom teeth came out last weekend. Because of some traumatic dental experiences in my past, I was a little nervous for Friday morning to come around (maybe more than a little). I was pleasantly surprised. It hasn't been too bad. They put me under, thank goodness, and I don't remember a thing. The dentist said it only took about 20 minutes to get the teeth out.

My mom-in-law took great care of me and my family for 24 hours post surgery. I'm pretty sure she's the best nurse EVER. And since then I have healed well and am feeling better and better each day. I had minimal swelling, which was nice. Being 5 days post surgery, I feel a constant dull headache, but in the jaw (would that be called "jaw-ache"?) but don't mind it too much with Motrin. Could that be addictive?

Long Lived Dreams are finally coming TRUE!

Emma Claire watched Abby go through two years of dance and has long awaited the time when she was old enough to go herself. Abby has since grown out of the "dress-up-like-a-ballerina-and-prance-around-the-room" stage and is more interested in school work, soccer, and riding bikes. EmmaClaire, on the other hand, is in the thick of it!

Emma Claire attended her first dance class yesterday with three little friends from the neighborhood and was on cloud 9 all day long. When the dance instructor was giving directions, helping the girls stretch, and doing role call, Emma Claire kept asking where the music was and when they could do twirls. She learned first position in ballet and practiced doing leaps over a pillow. All smiles for that girl! Next Tuesday couldn't come soon enough.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Happy 60th Birthday Dad!

My Dad turns 60 today. He's a one-of-a-kind Man. Everyone who knows him loves him. We're blessed to call him Dad and Grandpa. Since he's not close to home right now, we created a slideshow with pictures and reasons why we love him so much.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Happy Big Birthday!!!
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Friday, August 21, 2009

Our Studious One

Today I picked up the kids from school. On our drive home, I asked the kids individually how their day was. Mason's was "OK" but not great because at recess, the football game got a little hairy and some kids ended up angry at him because he made the touchdown. Abby had a great day and was pleased with herself for eating all her lunch (I had saved a bag of Doritos for her to share w/ cousin Leah for an after-school snack if she could eat all her lunch--bribes ALWAYS work for that girl!). Taylor's response was, "Great." After inquiring about what was so great, he, under his breath, mentioned that he had detention.

Detention? My smart, responsible son? Why detention?

His response cracked me up. "Well, I kind of chose to go to detention".

Why would any child choose to go to detention?

He went on to tell me that the class had been given an assignment to write three paragraphs, each talking about something they did or saw this past summer. When sufficient time had been given, the teacher collected the kids papers and sent them to recess. Taylor has a very creative and detailed mind. He had barely gotten into the first paragraph when time was up and asked his teacher if he could stay in detention during recess and finish up his assignment. He told me that one of his paragraphs was six pages long, and the other two were three pages. All the other children turned in one sheet.

Then he went on to tell me (chatter, chatter, chatter) that his 10-year-old life is too busy and he doesn't have time to write down all stories in his mind and that if he could have one wish, it would be to have two more hours each day that he would dedicate to writing his thoughts down. Weird? Awesome? Not sure what to think on that one.

But it's true. After friends are home and things are quiet around here, I frequently see him at the table writing. He has a few folders of his writings, organized to his liking. He's currently working on a story about a few boys that go back in time and search for clues about something or other. It's pretty impressive. Every couple of days, he asks me to do some editing for him. Maybe one of these days, I'll type his stories up for anyone interested.

Where did that brain of his come from?

I love 10-year-old boys!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Happy 10th Birthday Taylor

Taylor turned 10 today. A few times this past month, he has asked what we could do to celebrate. His ideas for a party just wouldn't work: Pool party (we have no pool and he's too big for the little slip-n-slide), football at the park (not fun w/ 110 degree weather), laser tag (too expensive).
A few months ago he and Mason both invited a bunch of friends over for a party, and I still have a bad taste in my mouth from that experience. The bigger boys ganged up on the smaller ones, a few boys got mad, and one went home crying. Complete disaster. So since then, I haven't wanted to do it again.
We decided to lay low this time around. And I sensed that Taylor was a little disappointed. Last night as John was walking out the door to the store, I asked him to pick up a few presents for Taylor. (We had already gotten him a few gifts, but I knew Taylor was in the room and I wanted him to know we were still excited for his birthday). John's response surprised me. He's such a tease. With the straightest face, (and with Taylor right there listening), he said "Gifts? What do you mean? Taylor doesn't need presents; he'll be 10 years old tomorrow. Presents are for little kids. He's getting a little old for presents. Maybe I can pick him up a small pack of gum, if you think he needs it." With that, he walked out the door. Taylor turned back to his book, and his eyes slowly turned red and he blinked really hard to get rid of the tears. Then he whispered under his breath, "I'd really like just a few presents, even if it's just clothes." That comment made me crack up so hard, and I told him Dad was just teasing. A huge smile of relief came across his face. I remember those same feelings at that age.
So this morning, we gave Taylor some presents. He got a few of his favorite treats, some needed clothes, a reading lamp, a new bike, and a BB gun. What more could a 10 year old want? I think he was pretty excited about them all, even for the needed package of underwear.
I took ice cream sandwiches to his classroom during their lunch. He was a little embarrassed when I asked his whole class so sing to him. All the kids sang at the top of their lungs, and by the end of the song, all the kids in the whole cafeteria were singing to him (probably around 150 students). His face was pretty red, but I think he liked it.
Tonight he invited over three friends. They made their own pizzas for dinner, played football, and ate ice cream cake. It was short and sweet, and everyone seemed to have a good time. After friends left and we cleaned up a bit, Taylor found me in the kitchen and gave me a hug and said thanks for making his day a good one. It does my heart good to know he had a great birthday.
And for the record, our new 10 year old is 4 feet, 9 1/2 inches tall. He weighs 87 lbs. Big boy! I remember weighing that much--weird!

Abby's First Tooth

She has been wiggling and wiggling her bottom tooth for over a month now. Frequently after walking in the door from playing, she'd ask me if I thought it was more loose than the day before. And until about two days ago, I really didn't feel anything different. Her cousin, Leah, who has already lost a tooth, was the one who could really tell though, being the experienced tooth-looser that she is. If I thought it didn't feel loose, Abby would tell me that Leah does think it is loose; therefore, it must really be loose. So today, as soon as it came out, Abby called Leah to spread the good news! Such an exciting thing for a six year old.

I was surprised that Abby was brave enough to let John pluck it out with floss. When it came out, he told her that if she didn't put her toungue in the hole, she would grow a golden tooth. After about 5 minutes of trying NOT to touch the hole with her toungue, she gave up and said to me, "It's OK. I already have a silver tooth anyway." (from a cavity).

Friday, August 7, 2009

Crazy for Balls

"Which ball do I play with? Which do I drop?" Such has been the dilemma of this one-year old. I have never known a little boy who is as crazy for balls as Andersen is. Notice his shirt--it has a picture of a soccer ball on it. If he can't find it in his drawer, he heads to the laundry room and pulls out all the dirty clothes from the hamper until he finds it. It's a little tricky to get it washed.
Yesterday I took the kids swimming at our neighbors house. They have a b-ball hoop connected to their pool. Andersen quickly found the hoop and realized that he could get within a few inches of the rim on his tip toes without falling into the pool. For the next hour, he stood there and shot balls into the rim. I was his official ball-boy. I was amazed at his focus; he never got board, never lost interest, and never got frustrated. He probably made over 100 baskets. For the record, I should have counted.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Kind of Emotional

I don't like farewells. We've gone through two this past week. My heart is full, and my tear ducts are empty.

1-Uncle Ben passed away. John and I and our three oldest attended a beautiful funeral where his life was recognized and honored. Lots of tears, lots of resolve to be better, do better, and "become" better--definitely a life long process. Lots of quiet, inner reflection.
I held my newest nephew, Sweet Baby James, during Uncle Ben's viewing. Looking at a new baby who has just come to this world, I thought about The Plan and how short this life really is compared to our eternal existence. The knowledge and understanding that the family is a "forever" unit provides such peace at times like this. What a blessing!

2-My parents and two youngest brothers got on the plane for their new home in the Caribbean. We are excited for their adventures there and for all the people who will be influenced and guided under their direction, care, and example. But we'll still miss them terribly.
We spent the evening with them before the plane departed. A few moments were extra hard for me to watch.

When Grandpa is around, Andersen most always prefers him over anyone else. Grandpa had held him for a while, and it was getting time to go. So John pulled Andersen away from Grandpa and Andersen started crying, reaching back to Grandpa. He cried for "Bompa" all the way to the car, and then some more. Most nights, that's not a big deal. But knowing that this would be the last time in who knows how long made it extra tough to watch. Andersen is so little now, and chances are, he won't recognize his Grandpa next time we see him.

After giving multiple hugs and kisses, then some more, we finally walked out to get into the car. My youngest brother was alone on the front porch, shaking with tears. Both brothers that are going have been so brave, so positive, and such great examples to the rest of us. I haven't heard a negative word from either of them about moving. And for a teenager, changing countries, schools, languages, culture, and moving away from all things familiar would be tough. Watching those tears come down pulled at my heart strings. I'm so proud of both of them! They are living by the motto, "We can do hard things!"
Grandma with all her granddaughters.

Grandma with Abby and Emma Claire.

We love Grandpa!

We are proud of them and what they will accomplish, but they'll be missed-BIG TIME!!!! Thank goodness for Skype, email, blogs, and the phone. With all that, being on the other side of the world doesn't seem soooo far away anymore.

Of All the Nerve. . .

Bathing the younger kids is not one of my passions. I don't like bending over the tub and breaking my back, and I don't like getting wet and having to clean up the wet floor; but I do LOVE having clean children.

Emma Claire missed her Saturday bath because she fell asleep in the car on our way home from an activity that evening and went straight to bed. Sunday morning was a little crazy and we missed her bath. After sitting with her during church and smelling something a little stinky, I realized that it had almost been a whole week since she bathed (unless you count swimming, of course!)

So this morning after getting the older kids off to school and Andersen dressed, I filled the bath water for Emma Claire. I knew it would be a temptation for Andersen to jump in, so I shut the door and brought him into the kitchen while I cleaned up. I'm still not sure how he got in so quietly and quickly. But this is what I found a minute later. Shoes and all. And they were both having the time of their lives.

Gotta love that boy!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

First Day of School

Wow. I'm having a hard time believing that our summer is over and school is already up and going. I love summer. I love having the kids all to myself, doing what we want to do when we want to do it. Our school district is on a modified year-around schedule, which means our summer break is only about 7 weeks long. Not long enough. And I'm not quite ready to give them up yet. But ready or not. . .

They all had a good day, except for Taylor. He came home saying it was the worst day ever. Apparently, he was supposed to bring two big binders to school on the first day. And the class spent a lot of their time organizing their binders under the teacher's direction. He was one of only two kids in the class who didn't show up with the binders and felt dumb during that time. Then at lunch, a few kids teased him about his lunch box.

"What's wrong with your lunch box?" I asked.
His response was that it is old and crusty.

"Does it work?" I asked.

"Well, yea. I guess it works just fine." was his response.

This lead into a great discussion about peer pressure and being resourceful and frugal. My guess is that a few other kids had brand-new lunch boxes; compared to theirs, Taylor's box looked a little used. Great teaching moment.

Here's the two left overs. Emma Claire smiled for the picture, but as soon as the big kids drove off to school, she broke down into sobs. We wiped away the tears and found her a workbook, pencil box, and a folder to keep her "homework" in. Today she asked me to sign her homework, like I do with all the other kids. So far, so good.
Andersen, on the other hand, cried the whole time as the big kids got ready to leave. He kept saying, "I go. . . I go. . . " Then as soon as they drove off, he found a few footballs lying around and turned those frowns into smiles. Gotta love those balls.
As for me, I missed my kids while they were gone and was glad to pick them up at 2:55 that afternoon. I love having them all to myself!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Trucking through the Country--Yellowstone Vacation

We just returned from spending two and a half weeks in the mountains; two days camping at Jacob Lake and Bryce Canyon, five days in Provo with extended family, five days living in a motorhome through Yellowstone National Park, and six days at the cabin. Here's the detailed recap:

DAY #1

We left Wednesday afternoon with our minivan packed to the max (no one had ANY leg room except for the driver, which didn't happen to be me) and drove to Jacob Lake, close to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We got there after sundown and set up our tent in the dark in record-breaking time. As soon as the tent was up and kids were inside, it started raining and lasted most of the night.

DAY #2

The next morning we packed up at sun-up and drove an hour south to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We spent a few hours there hiking and admiring the view. Pretty amazing!

After our visit, we got back in our cramped van and drove north a few hours to Bryce Canyon. On our way, we stopped for lunch at the famous Three Bears Restaurant in Kanab. Taylor, Mason, and John all ordered the Chicago-style hotdog with all the works. And we got more ice cream than we needed. Taylor, who has been eating like a teenager since he was three, was in absolute heaven.

When we got to Bryce Canyon, it started raining again. John was determined to see ALL the sites, so we drove around the whole park and stopped at each lookout. The higher we got in elevation, the colder it got. And the rain kept coming down. Bryce Canyon has some amazing "hoodoos", or rock pinnacles created from years and years of decay and water runoff. The rain stopped just in time for John and the three oldest to enjoy a night of star gazing at the Visitor's Center.

DAY #3

I love everything about camping except for one thing: Sleep. Or should I say, the lack thereof? After two night of feeling rocks under me, Andersen crying through the night, Emma Claire needing constant drinks, Abby needing to go to the bathroom (what bathroom?), wishing we had a few extra blankets, and always wondering what kind of animal is making 'that' noise, I woke up feeling a little groggy. John did too, but commented, "It's all for the kids, right?" Oh yea, right. All for the kids.

We packed up our things and spent the rest of the day hiking through Bryce Canyon. Oops, we forgot our hiking backpack for Andersen, which meant John and I both had someone in our arms on those trails. Bryce Canyon is beautiful and different from anything I have ever seen before. We enjoyed our time there.

After we saw all we wanted to see, (in other words, when Emma Claire was DONE hiking and needed a nap), we got back in the cramped van and drove a few more hours to Orem and rented a 31-foot motorhome for the next leg of our trip. We spent that evening visiting with James and Shawnne and their new baby Jackson, then we spent the night with cousins in Lindon.

DAY #4

Happy 4th of July! We watched the parade in Provo, then had lunch at Grandma Bennion's house, then loaded into our "house on wheels", as the kids called it. It was nice to have a little more space than what the cramped van offered us.

The motorhome had two comfy seats in the front, a couch (not so comfy) and a sofa chair, a table with padded bench seats, microwave, oven, stove, fridge, sink, bathroom, shower, and queen bed in the back. It also had a sleeping area above the front of the cab. Very comfortable for everyone. There was no squabbling over who was in who's space, who was touching who, who didn't have any room for their legs, who needed to go to the bathroom and who else didn't want to stop, who stinks, who was hungry but couldn't get a snack in the cramped van. . .The queen bed in the back provided a nice place for wrestling matches when the kids had too much energy, and John and I would just keep on driving. There were plenty of windows for all pairs of eyes, and even a TV/DVD player for movies when the kids got really board (which only happened once).

With John leading (along with John Denver), we sang a lot and ate a lot of red vines while driving. The evening of the 4th, we camped on the banks of the Snake River in Idaho Falls and watched the "greatest firework show west of the Mississippi". And it was! Abby was amazed. With the river and the Idaho Falls Temple in view, it was quite spectacular.

Emma Claire also loved watching the fireworks. :)

DAY #5

Welcome, welcome Sabbath Morning. And thank goodness the campsite had showers. We were especially grateful after figuring out that the hot water in the motorhome didn't work, and the motorhome shower had a few leaks in it, which made the water spray toward the door around our knees. Not so good.

It felt a little funny driving our "house" to church. After attending our meetings, we had a picnic lunch on the lawn then spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the temple, spending time in the visitor's center, having gospel discussions, and seeing the Falls. We returned to our campsite in time to have dinner, visit with some camping neighbors, and play a few games together. It was a peaceful day well spent.

Standing in front of the Falls. The noise from the water was so loud, we had to yell at each other in order to hear.

Enjoying dinner Sunday evening at our campground.

DAY #6,7,8

Yellowstone, Here We Come! We woke up Monday morning, unhooked the motorhome, and started our drive into the west enterance of Yellowstone. For the next three days, we enjoyed learning at the museums, having campfires, visiting hotsprings and geyers, singing more John Denver, and seeing lots of wildlife. We saw a ton of buffalo, some up really close, lots of deer and elk, different kinds of birds, and a grizzly bear. John was bummed that we didn't see a moose.

Being in the motorhome made things pretty convenient. One morning, John wanted to leave early in hopes to see some wildlife. So he unhooked the water and started driving while the kids were still sleeping. I made breakfast, the kids woke up and got dressed, brushed their teeth, used the bathroom, all while John was driving. We didn't waste any time in the car. Nice.

Viewing mud pots

Emma Claire wanted to pet the elk. None of them had antlers yet, as they had just shed the old ones and were starting to grow new ones. Their antlers grow at a rate of 2 inches each day.


On the road again . . . Just can't wait to get on the road again. . . .

John took the three oldest on a hike at the highest peak in the park. There was still lots of snow on the ground up there. I hung out at the motorhome and made lunch while the younger two took naps. Mason and Abby made a point to pick every kind of wild flower they saw. They returned with a beautiful arrangement.

Grizzly bear. We saw one way up on a hill, pretty far away. An older couple let us watch him through their telescope. After a while, the bear started coming down the hill. John tried to get a little closer to get a few shots. As I yelled at him to get up a little closer, another man yelled at him that "it would be in your best interest to come down from the mountain, Sir." The man probably thought I was crazy. We all had a good laugh about it. After a while, John did come down and we watched the bear walk down the mountain, then cross the street and continue going down the mountain. A few cars had to stop as he crossed right in front of them. Pretty awesome!

Andersen at the wheel. This was his favorite seat in the motorhome.

Buffalo--lots of them, everywhere! On one of our hikes, Mason found a big wad of buffalo hair/fur that had been rubbed off (they grow it for the winter then shed it in the summer). He brought it home as a cool souvenir.

Driving and cooking at the same time was a little tricky. Any little curve would make things slide around (yes, we learned through experience). A few times, Taylor took over for me at holding things down. Here, he's boiling pasta for dinner.


This is a shot of the upper falls down Yellowstone River. Standing there, it looked surreal,
like a backdrop or a painting. I have never seen anything so beautiful.

This is Lake Yellowstone. It covers over 128 square miles and stays warm all year long because of all the hot springs surrounding it.

DAY #9

We left Yellowstone National Park and drove through a lot of beautiful country to Jackson, Wyoming. We visited the elk refuge and museum, then spent a few hours eating lunch at a park and going down the Alpine Slide. We rode up a mountain on a ski lift, then rode little go-carts down on a slide. Very fun!

Here comes Mase

From Jackson Hole, we drove a few more hours and camped at Bear Lake that evening. We were the only ones in a RV campsite and enjoyed feeding carrots to some horses in the next field, swinging, and playing catch on a big lawn.

DAY #10, 11, 12

After getting up and ready Thursday morning, we drove straight to Lindon where we dropped off the motor home (which meant back into the cramped minivan). We spent that evening and the next few days attending a Bennion reunion. We attended the Oquirrh Mountain temple open house, camped at Heber Family Camp and had a lot of time to visit with cousins, aunts and uncles, play games, canoe at the lake, obstacle course, eat, and visit some more. I had an accident with a big swing which put me into a state of shock for a few hours (details upon request), but other than that, we had a super time.

One side note that's worth journaling: At the camp, our family slept in a little cabin with lots of bunk beds. We shared it with my parents, Sam and Spencer (brothers), and my brother Clayton, his wife and two children. I laid in bed for a few hours, trying to go to sleep. Every turn in a sleeping bag, heavy breathing, sleep talking, snoring, etc. . . made SO much noise, it was unbearable. I'm pretty sure that most of the snoring noises came from my dad. A few others that contributed to the snoring symphony were Mom (occasionally), Spencer, Taylor, and maybe Clate. Sometime in the middle of the night, Andersen started waking up and fussing, so I took him outside so he wouldn't wake anyone else up. John followed me and put him back to sleep. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep a wink in that cabin, so I grabbed my sleeping bag and headed for the van. After moving a few car seats, I slept like a baby for the remainder of the night on the back seat of the van. The funny thing was, the next morning after comparing notes on everyones sleep in the cabin, my dad was the first to deny making any noise and blamed it all on mom. We all had a good laugh.

From left to right, here's our youngest, Andersen, playing in the sandbox with his two cousins, Tyler and Mack.

Emma Claire, getting hooked up to do the BIG swing. We were impressed
she had the courage to attempt it.

Grandpa's biggest fan is Andersen. When grandpa's around, he often prefers him over me or John.

My Aunt Marcia has a little girl Emma Claire's age named Laura. These two hit it off well and enjoyed playing together.

We enjoyed doing a challenge course. Here, Taylor and Mason are trying to cross wires with only each other to hold on to. It's much harder than it looks.

Aunt Marcia also has two boys the same ages as my two. From left to right; Matthew, Taylor, Mason, and Tyler.

Abby and Andersen at the temple open house.

DAY #13-18

After packing up, we left Lindon and drove a few hours to Monticello where we attended church meetings and had lunch. Then we continued driving to the cabin in the White Mountains.

We spent the next six days with most of my siblings and parents there. With the help of a few older uncles, Taylor and Mason designed and built some impressive forts in the forest, we relaxed together, exercised, hiked, went on trail rides, played games, ate great food, and visited a lot.

We spent the next six days with most of my siblings and parents there. With the help of a few older uncles, Taylor and Mason designed and built some impressive forts in the forest, we relaxed together, exercised, hiked, went on trail rides, played games, ate great food, and visited a lot.

Here's Abby, Leah, Emma Claire, Elli, and Ashley--all ready for their horse rides in the arena.

Gotta love the boots. True cowgirls.
Andersen, warming up for the real deal.

We were impressed that Emma Claire wasn't scared to ride. She couldn't get enough and was the last to get off her horse.

Emma Claire, Leah, Abby and Elli--hanging out at the stables.

Mason, Taylor, Tanner and Uncle Spencer got to go on a trail ride with some of the adults.

Home Again.

After being away from home for almost three weeks, we were all glad to get home and sleep in our own beds. (But not so glad to be back in triple-digit weather.) We had fun times together and created good memories and a few new traditions. One of my favorite parts of our vacation was that for most of our time away, it was just US. No friends to play with except for siblings, no distractions to pull us away, no work meetings, phones ringing, or jobs to do. Just a lot of playing, singing, eating, story telling, hiking, animal watching, and more playing. We just had each other. And that's how I like it.