Saturday, August 31, 2013


Shaggy and I were married 16 years ago.  It doesn't seem like it's been nearly that long.  Until I take a look at my 14-year-old daughter.  She's incontrovertible proof of the passing of all those years.

Some have been better than others.  Some have been wonderfully boring and low-key.  Others have been full of excitement and decisions and stress.  There's been a constant level of noise and chaos and unpredictability each year since we had more than one child.  With each successive child, we've faced new and different parental challenges.  Some of which we've overcome, and others which seem to overcome us.  We've had plenty of laughter and plenty of frustration.  Sometimes all at the same time. 

I can't say that our years together have been glamorous, but glamour was never really my thing anyway.  We chose, instead, to settle in and build a family.  Sometimes I think we're doing a good job, and other times I'm convinced that we're not.  Such is parenthood, I suppose.

But through it all, I have been grateful to have this man at my side.  He truly is my better half in so many ways.  Here's to another 16 years . . . at least.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

 Despite all the sad stories about gardening fails we've been hearing, I'd call our gardening efforts this year a success.  Mostly because we learned a lot.  But also because we did actually have a harvest, even if it was too small to make much of a dent in our family's appetite.
 It was very satisfying to be able to send the kids into the backyard to get some snap peas, or tomatoes.
 The marigolds were supposed to repel various insects.  But they seemed terribly enticing to a certain kind of beetle.  Which is just another way to protect the produce, I suppose.
Dandelions thrived despite us.  But they sure make it fun to make wishes.
We had some strawberries and blackberries, but they were eaten faster than I could get my camera out.  Our fruit trees have years to go.  Onions and carrots didn't make for very good photos.  The blueberries were possibly the most exciting crop we had, although it will take many more years before we have enough to make blueberry milkshakes.

This guy was the master gardener.  I admit that I let the stories of gardening failures get me down.  I rained on Shaggy's gardening parade pretty consistently.  But he just kept planting and tending and ignored my doubts.  Good for him.  He earned every bit of this harvest.

4th of July

 Independence Day loomed hot and muggy.  We've been so scattered with all the camp and trek hoopla that we decided to just lay low.  We did a little work and had some mandatory family fun. 
My children have had a severe lack of water fighting in their lives.  So we planned a sneaky attack on Shaggy.
 He was doing some gardening in the back yard.  The kids kind-heartedly brought him some water to quench his thirst and I pretended to be taking some group pictures.
 And then they attacked.
 All in the name of helping him cool off, naturally.
I wish I could say that a wonderfully fun and chaotic water fight ensued, complete with lots of laughter.
But no, sadly that isn't how it played out.  B was scared and just wanted to drink her water and stay dry.  R wailed when someone dared to get her wet.  J screamed.  And S got mad and stomped into the house.  Epic fail.
But after everyone had scattered, I thought about how ridiculous their reactions were.  How can I send these children into the big, wide world when they haven't yet learned to be good sports during a water fight?
So we dragged them back outside in the name of mandatory family fun.  We're mean like that.  We roll out this mandatory family fun when their attitudes leave much to be desired.  We explained that the water fight would continue until everyone was actually having fun.  Anyone getting someone else wet, had to be willing to also get wet, and with grace.  Our only exception was little B, because all the crazy shouting and running around really did scare her.  So she was off limits.  But everyone else was fair game.
We had to work through some more grumpiness.  Drag kids back outside a few times.  But eventually, it worked and we had that wonderfully fun and chaotic water fight, full of laughter.
 By the end, we were all soaked and quite cooled off.  Maybe next time we won't even have to force them into it.  But rest assured, we will if we have to.  Mean parent award.  Bring it on.
 The rest of our day was filled with ice cream, and games; wall climbing and explosions (thankfully not of the emotional variety).
 These explosions were the diet coke + mentos variety.  And they were a huge hit.  The pictures tell a better story than I could.
Maybe next year we'll go see some fireworks.  But for now, our homemade geyser and mandatory family fun was enough for me.

Dad's Day

I'm so grateful for this man and the influence he has on my children.  I'm grateful for his humor and for the differences in the way he was raised and how that impacts our family.  I'm grateful that he usually goes along with all my picture taking without too much complaining.
But mostly, I'm grateful for the way he loves these kids.
Even when they pile grass on his head.
Happy Father's Day! 

Pioneer Trek

In lieu of a traditional youth conference this year, the stake put on a two and a half day handcart trek.  It was an enormous production, for everyone involved.  So much planning, organizing, sewing, and cooking.  It's amazing to me how much volunteer effort goes into our youth activities.  So many leaders lived and breathed trek for months on end to make sure it would be a positive experience for our teens. 

Not that they all went into it with stellar attitudes, mind you.  K was feeling a little homesick for her friends back in Cali this summer.  Girls camp was the last thing she did before we packed up and moved across the country last year.  And she wasn't sure how her experiences here would measure up.  She said to me, "If I survive camp, I'm going to die at trek."  No, she's never dramatic.

But happily, she did survive camp, even calling it "welcoming," which warmed this mother's heart.  And, thankfully, she also survived trek, despite her gloomy outlook on it.  She even enjoyed it and allowed it to change her.  Which was the whole point.

At the ward level, we had our hands full getting our girls ready for trek.  Everyone had to have two sets of pioneer clothing.  They had to be physically ready to withstand walking and pulling a handcart for 14 miles.  And they needed to be prepared spiritually, so they'd be open to the lessons that can be learned on such adventures.

Fortunately, good people stepped up to help.  One woman opened her home as a sort of one stop pioneer clothing shop.  She had fabric and helped us cut it, gave us sewing instructions, and even made a set of bloomers for every girl.  She was amazing.

Sadly, however, I find seamstress-ese completely incoherent.  I thought I would die of irritation trying to sew K's clothes, until youtube saved the day.  I found a video that walked me through what I needed to do.  Sewing still irritates the daylights out of me, but the video made a whole lot more sense to me than the paper instructions.  I guess I should have taken some sewing lessons back in the day.

We also had a couple from our ward that was called to be the Ma and Pa of a youth group. 
They planned a couple of hikes, even arranged to borrow a handcart, to help us get ready.  They're awesome.  And fun, which make them doubly awesome.
I was impressed that we had such a great turnout, even with such short notice.  J and I tagged along.  He absolutely loved it, didn't mind a bit being there with all those girls.  As long as they all ignored him, he was happy as could be.  I knew he would enjoy the hike, and if he was with me, he wouldn't cause trouble at home with S in charge while we were gone.  Win/win.
He was especially proud of all the wild onions he collected.  And he insisted on a picture in this exact spot "because it's so beautiful."  I love how intensely this boy loves nature.
But he wasn't about to pretend to eat cow bones, like these crazies.
Some s'mores came out a little challenged.
And some came out perfectly.
Everyone had fun.  They were even trying to plan another hike that would include camping out overnight.  It's fun to hang out with the youth.  Their enthusiasm is refreshing, even if it also sometimes exhausts me.  ;)
I love to see the genuine friendship and support they offer each other.
By the time the real trek was about to start, our youth were ready.  With the young women, we had even found a 10 day spiritual trek program which we had them do right after girls camp and right before trek.  We had just enough time.  Busy June?  Yes.  Yes.  Yes!  But it was a great way to get them thinking about what the pioneers went through in an attempt to get themselves and their families to a place where they could have true religious freedom.  Where they could escape the violence and hatred they encountered in the Midwest.
Our girls knew that trek would be hard.  But they also understood that it would be just a tiny taste of the true pioneer experience.  Everyone would have enough to eat.  And drink.  They had comfortable shoes.  There were no children to care for.  Winter wasn't on the horizon.  And no one would have to bury anybody.
This was the group from our ward.  Aren't those costumes awesome?  We had two other boys there, but I couldn't track them down.
I loved the fog that was hanging over the site as the youth got checked in.  And I was having a terrible time just dropping off my van load and leaving like I was supposed to.  I found myself suddenly, desperately, wanting to go on this journey with my girl.
But all I could do was take a few pictures and send her off with my love and the letter I wrote to all the young women.
As much as I share your distaste for no showers, muggy weather and too many creepy-crawlies, I wish I was going on trek with all of you. Truly, I do. Because I believe it will be an amazing experience. Not because it will be easy, but because it will be hard.

I want to witness the kindness that you will both give and receive. I want to see how much taller you stand as you look around and notice that you are part of an army of youth (some of whom might even be cute!) who are fighting for righteousness in a world that isn’t. I want to see your frustration and exhaustion fall by the wayside because your determination to push forward overpowers it. I want to see the look of humble understanding spread across your face as you begin to feel in a very personal way what the pioneers went through to stay true to their faith. I want to see the lump in your throat as your own faith and gratitude grow by leaps and bounds. I want to see the look in your eyes as you realize you are so much stronger than you knew. I wish I could experience your cheerfulness in the face of challenges. But most of all, I wish I could see your radiant smiles as you discover just how much joy can be found in a journey that is also so very hard.

That’s my challenge to you. Find the joy in this journey. And then, report back to me so I don’t feel so left out. ;)

Judging from the photos I took before my lonely drive home, I was pretty confident they would meet that challenge.
These next three pictures were taken by K's Ma during the trek.  There was a professional photographer along for the whole journey, who supposedly took lots and lots of photos that would be distributed to the youth.  But sadly, nobody seems to know anything about those alleged photos now.  So I'm forced to make do with the handful I have access to at the moment.
 I especially love this one.  It was during the women's pull where the guys had to sit out.  But even when everyone could pull those handcarts, I have it on good authority that K voluntarily pulled a whole lot.  She didn't lag behind and let the guys do all the work.  Good girl.  I've been telling her that she's stronger than she knows.  Maybe it's sinking in.

She arrived home dirty and exhausted.  And a better person for having done this.  Seeking to understand, in such an intimate way, what our ancestors went through gives her an opportunity to see more clearly who she wants to be.  It gave her the motivation to be more grateful for the abundance she has in life, and a greater ability to find joy in the journey.
And we were sure glad to have her back.  Even though it was terribly hard waiting until after a shower and a nap to hear all about her experiences.
Naturally, we ventured out for some photos before trek, once the pioneer clothing was finished.  My reward for sticking it out, I suppose.
I hope this experience will help my girl find the strength to be a pioneer, to stay true to her faith for the rest of her life.  Regardless of the challenges and hardships she may face.  And that she will find joy throughout her entire journey.