...and they all lived happily ever after...

...and they all lived happily ever after...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chicago -- That Toddlin Town


Almost two years ago I came across a fantastic deal on a condo in Illinois and I dreamed up the idea of taking Josh to Chicago.

Josh served a mission for our church in and around Chicago 20 years ago and he's always wanted to go back.

Boom!  Wish granted!

I worked out all the details and planned all the bits and it really was an amazing adventure.

We decided to make this a couple's trip rather than trying to take the whole family.  Our kids had TONS going on the two weeks we were gone (like jobs, a pre-girls camp backpacking hike, scout camp, youth conference, musical theater performances, etc).

My parents courageously volunteered to manage our half dozen children in our absence and off we went (I say that like leaving them was nothing, believe me, it was rough for me to leave my babies).

We decided to make this excursion a road trip so we could stop and see things along the way.

First stop, Mount Rushmore.  


I have heard people who love this place, and other people who say it really isn't all that exciting.  I can agree that there is not a ton to do here...but I LOVED it.  I was so impressed with the love and care and focus and devotion that went into creating this work.  I loved reading about the artist and his vision and all that it took to make this project happen.  I'm really glad we stopped.


We also did a bit of exploring in the Black Hills while we were there (we don't schlep up to the area real often so good to get it in while it's convenient).  The area was beautiful.  We did almost hit a mountain goat as it came out of the bushes and we did very slowly chase a terrified marmot down the road because the rock walls kept him from being able to escape for a while, but it was a great drive.

We stopped for the night in Omaha and while we were there we went to the Winter Quarters Temple and visited some of the LDS Church History sites nearby.


Then we drove and drove and drove to Illinois and finally reached our condo in Sheridan.  Here you can see Josh's "why are you taking another freaking picture when all I want to do is go inside" face.


We did eventually make it inside and the condo was really comfortable (and surprisingly easier to keep tidy without our crew of youngsters).

On Sunday we attended one of the LDS branches were Josh had served as a missionary.  They had a building of their own (something new since he was last there) and there were a few people still in the ward who he knew from his mission.  It was really fun to hear them talk about old times and remember the work they did together.



Then I made us stop at this awesome, abandoned, haunted prison in nearby Joliet.  It would have been really fun to sneak through the fence and explore, but the signs said not to and Josh said I had to behave.


Our next stop was Starved Rock State Park which was one of my favorite places.  I love to hike and while there really aren't any mountains in Illinois (or even really hills...or large mounds), we "hiked" the trails into the "canyons" and this place was amazing.   


Plus, the trees were incredible.

Fabulous live tree.

Fabulous dead tree.
 Anyway, Monday morning we drove into Chicago for the first time.  

Driving to Chicago looked like this pretty much every time.

It was miserable (I may or may not have whined about it incessantly).



But once we got into the city and paid the $22 parking fee (gulp...and I thought Utah parking fees were bad) we had a lot of fun.  

First stop, the aquarium.  We found when we arrived that it just so happened to be free day for residents...which meant the place was packed!  It was crazy crowded, but it was still fun to see all the creatures.




We spent half the day at the aquarium and the other half at the Field Museum.  I do love a good museum.


Day 2 in Chicago we went to the Art Institute.  This was by far my favorite place that we saw in the city.  It was really great to explore all the cultures and time periods and just plain creative ideas of the artists.

Ye olde medieval hymn book

Armor for all ages (not sure who needs a tin suit for their three-year-old...but ok).

 This museum also features MANY works by my favorite artist, Claude Monet.


And there were plenty of other things to keep us...er...entertained.


Yes, this is an actual piece of art on display in the museum.

Chicago day three took us to the Museum of Science and Industry.

This is where I missed my children terribly.  They would have loved to touch all the things and try all the experiments.  In fact, it was sort of not at all exciting there without them.  

Science Museums -- not really very good without your children.

Josh plays tic-tac-toe with a robot (he didn't lose)


Captures WWII German U-Boat -- yeah, that was pretty cool.
 On the way back to Sheridan that afternoon (after our obligatory stint in traffic) we stopped at a restaurant Josh has been bragging about to me since I met him.  He always tells me Giordano's is the best pizza on the planet and 20 years later he got to indulge in it again.

Eat at Giordano's was item #1 on Josh's "things to do in Chicago" list.


Item #2 on the list (and also the last item on his list) was buy a Cubs hat while in Illinois.  Done and done.


But, as we drove home that evening, Illinois had a surprise for us in the form of a pelting rainstorm that made it so we could barely see the road which was also quickly littered with leaves and branches.  The windshield wipers couldn't keep up so we slowly limped back to the condo.  


Our last day trip in Illinois was to the Chicago Temple (not exactly in Chicago, but still included the traffic to help us feel at home).


We also made a quick stop at the nearby Bahai Temple which was a beautiful building as well. (Favorite quote of the many engraved on the building, "O rich ones on the Earth, the poor among you are my trust, guard ye my trust.")



And then it was time to start for home.  We took a brief detour to Nauvoo to go to the temple there and explore the historical village.  That was a really cool place and we really enjoyed seeing it.  I can't explain the peaceful spirit there, but we learned a lot as we got to see for ourselves places we've read about in church history for many years.   Josh and I each have ancestors who were part of the company that settled and then fled from this area and that added a measure of care to the day as well.


That night we just barely made it to our hotel (thanks for giving out on us GPS) which was across the Mississippi River in Iowa.  By the way, Mississippi River -- yeah, we don't have stuff like that in Utah.  Impressive.

Our...um...sketchy hotel gave us this already battered and well-used paper folder with our key inside and we hoped the door would hold and that the stains on the floor weren't from anything too horrible.  It was not my favorite hotel we've ever stayed in.


Sunday morning we attended the local branch in Fort Madison in which the primary had as many children as we do, but they sang their little hearts out for Father's Day and it was super sweet.

We then trekked back across the river to visit Carthage and see the jail where the prophet, Joseph Smith, was held and eventually murdered.

I expected this to be a somber place, but it wasn't.  To me, it was peaceful and warm.  It was an inviting place.  I am really really glad we were able to stop.



And then it was time to hit the road for real and head for home.

We made it home in one piece and the kids were in one piece and the house was in one piece and my parents still liked us so all in all, it seems like the trip was a success.

Actually, it was a giant success.  I got to spend two weeks with my favorite person in the world doing one of my favorite things (traveling and seeing new places).  We met great people (and a couple of crazies...remind me to tell you about the guy who told us about the city under Salt Lake City and then the city under the city under Salt Lake City).  We spent time in the temple (another favorite place) and just got to enjoy life together without all the everyday distractions.

I loved it. 
(But let's take the kids next time).



Monday, June 5, 2017

We meet the best people: Garbage Dump Edition

So we've been cleaning some trees out of our yard.

It's a big job and has resulted in loads and loads of wood and debris which then needed to be carted to the dump.



So, last weekend, while Josh and Bryce were working at the park, the other kids and I took on the task (and I felt all tough and important about it because usually Josh does the messy, physically difficult types of things around here, not me).

We loaded logs and branches and twigs and everything in between into my parent's truck for six scratchy trips to the waste center.  Parker and Logan helped me empty and re-load the bed of the truck every time.  Aubrey and Gavin heaved limbs and wood scraps into the front yard to make loading the truck easier after each trip.  It really was a family effort.

But, the very best thing happened when we reached the dump to unload our haul.  As we pulled up to the attendant at the green waste area he peeked into the truck, took one look at the boys and said, "I see you brought some muscle with you," which immediately endeared him to Parker and Logan.  They flexed and strutted and loved showing off their strength while we worked.

When we returned an hour later with the next load, they looked for their new friend.  And again, he engaged with my guys and made them excited to be at the garbage dump (no easy feat).

In fact, as the day progressed, we became friends with all three of the men who manned the green waste area.  They were patient and helpful with me as I backed the truck into really tight spots.  Every one of them commented on how lucky I was to have boys who work so hard to take care of their mom.  They showed me secret tricks and exits they don't usually let people use that made our life easier.  But it didn't stop there.

These men really engaged with us.  They told us about their lives.  One of them had three grown boys who he said sadly he wished would work as hard as my boys.  One of them said his dad had passed away several years back but he works at the dump and has a second job to help take care of his mom.  And because of his work, she has been able to keep her house and her independence and he is very proud of that.  One of them took his sick sister in to live with him so that he could care for her.  I mean, these guys are incredible.  You might not know it to look at them (they were definitely a little rough around the edges, but if I worked there, I would be too), but these men are the kind of men I hope my boys grow into one day.

These three men made us look forward to each trip we took to the garbage dump.  And that doesn't just happen to everyone.  I am so grateful that they were kind and selfless enough to help turn an ominous task into a job we were almost sad to finish.

So, yes, we made six trips to the garbage dump all in one afternoon.  And what we really found there was anything but garbage.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Summer Vacation: Day 1

Today is the first day of summer vacation for my husband and my high schoolers (my poor, sad, younger children still have a week of school).

So, we thought we'd get a quick project out of the way this morning.

We recently removed some trees from our yard and had borrowed my parents truck so we could cart their sorry carcasses off to the dump.  And while had my parent's truck readily available, we decided to take out a stump that is in an inconvenient spot as well.

No problem, we've removed stumps before.

The trio got to work first thing this morning before it got hot.

But the stump didn't want to play.

It has put down enough roots to save it from a tornado, a landslide, an earthquake, and a zombie apocalypse.

But my crew didn't quit (as I watched them from inside the house where I was working because not all of us get the summer off).  They kept at it.

And kept at it.

And kept at it.

And they're still keeping at it because the stupid thing won't go away.  They've axed, they've chain sawed, they've pried and pushed and dug.  But so far, it's the stump that's laughing.

And then, one big effort brought with it a sudden wetness.

That's right.  Come to find out someone planted this tree right on top of a water line.  Like right on it. Right.  On.  It.

Which means this project now involves plumbing (which just may be the bane of my husband's existence).

The teenagers are exhausted.  My sweetheart is still at it.  And off I go to help now that I can.


Can't wait to see what day 2 bring us.

(No, Universe, that was sarcasm.  This is already enough excitement for one summer.)


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Our dog is the king of our flock of chickens

This is our dog, Finn (looks all regal doesn't he).


And these are our chickens (and also my feet).


Our girls are pretty happy, and they get plenty of love and attention from the family (I would never have guessed that mealworms would be a beloved item around our house...but everyone loves the chance to feed a handful to these voracious ladies).


During the day, we often let our little flock roam our backyard.  They explore things and peck at things and regularly get startled by a noise or an unexpected plant (seriously).  Then they run their squawky selves back to their coop as fast as their skinny legs will carry them and chat about the danger before venturing out again.  It's mildly comical. 

Finn, for the most part, just watches their antics from a distance.  I've long thought he kind of loved them (he's been highly fascinated with them since they joined the household), but my children began to think otherwise.  I started to get occasional reports from my kidlets that Finn was chasing the chickens in the yard.

Well, we can't have that, so I started paying close attention.


Sure enough, I encountered several occasions where the dog did, in fact, chase the chickens.

But not in the way I originally imagined it.

Through my observations, I have come to learn that Finn is, in all truth, the king of this flock of hens.  And so, he manages his subjects which in this case means that he keeps them safe and controlled by maneuvering the group so that they stay happily contained in the yard and not too far from their home.

So, if the ladies wander further from their coop than Finn deems appropriate, he takes action and gently guides them back home.  He stays close to his harem, and he does NOT like it if others intervene with the gals.  He also reminds his ladies to stay together (safety in numbers you know), so if one hen wanders off he carefully drives her back to the group so she knows she isn't alone.  



It's like an episode of Nature right in my own backyard.

I knew Brittany Spaniels were a breed of bird dog, I guess I just didn't realize exactly what that could entail.

Finn:  Chicken Monarch Extraordinaire  

Monday, May 1, 2017

Talking Porn at Church

So on Sunday, Josh and I gave a lesson on fighting pornography to the adults and youth in our ward.



Now, generally speaking, "hey we give a lesson in church" is not exactly cause for a blog post.

However, this happens to be a topic that I feel really strongly about.  Pornography has assaulted the lives of numerous people that I care about -- incredible people, I might add -- and probably more that I don't even know about.

So I'm gonna share a bit in case it can maybe benefit someone else.

In March, Josh and I attended the Utah Coalition Against Pornography conference in Salt Lake.
Sounds like a SUPER FUN event, right?  Let's go downtown and spend the whole day talking about the evils of pornography.

Actually, it was REALLY great.    Now, if you missed the conference but are interested in learning what we learned, don't fret, UCAP has posted videos of many of the presentations online so you can watch them for yourself.  The speakers were awesome with fabulous insights. We learned a lot and it really opened our eyes even more to the dangers of pornography and the way it can ruin lives and families.

My favorite thing I learned at the UCAP conference came in the first presentation I heard where the speaker said, "Sex is not bad, and porn is not sex."  I love that.  Sex is not bad, and porn is not sex...because sex is about connection and engagement and relationship -- and porn is about bodies on a screen.  Porn is Satan's hollow, twisted substitute for something pure a beautiful.

Like almost every family, we've had experiences with pornography.  I'm not going to go into the details, but I had a 7-year-old son who first encountered porn by accidentally mistyping a web address on a school computer.  Also, just a couple weeks ago, despite all of our filtering software and parental controls, we had a pop-up ad that included some pornographic images come up on a cell phone when one of our kids was playing a game.  This nasty stuff is everywhere, and its something we need to be very aware of.

However, just because pornography is a prevalent evil does not mean we are powerless to fight it. We can protect our families and teach our children how to be safe from its insidious grasp.  One of the sessions we attended at the conference addressed exactly that topic and it was GREAT!

We learned that a lot of the things that we do as a family are in line with what experts suggest.  We also learned we have plenty of room to improve, and we were reminded there is no 100% safeguard out there.  However, some of the things we have done to protect our family from the onslaught of porn include:

*we use parental controls and filtering software -- our favorite is Open DNS (it's free) which we added directly to our router to protect anything connected to our wifi

*ALL of our family devices are password protected so that kids can't just get on the computer/internet any time they like (I'm gonna be honest, sometimes this is really inconvenient for the parents involved, but it's something we are willing to deal with)

*we do not provide our children with individual cell phones -- we have one kid cell phone that is shared between our children so if someone has to stay late or has an event they get to use the phone (this one is bordering on cruelty if you ask our kids)

*our kid's phone is OLD which means it CANNOT send or receive pictures which I LOVE (sexting is real, and can be a horrible entry into the world of porn)

*our poor, picked-on kids are required to turn in their devices every night at 9pm -- and if a device is NOT turned in they lose it for a period of time (see, I said, we're jerks)

*Outside of our family computer (which is always available for homework etc), we don't have constant internet access on any device -- we put in the wifi code on weekends, but not on school days (see...jerks!)

Anyway, those are some of the big ticket items.  Like I said, this is some of what we do, but it isn't a perfect solution (because nothing is and every family is different).  I'd love it if you'd share some of the things that have worked for your family.

The BIG most important piece, though, is that when you are taking hold of the issue and doing what you can to address it and protect the people you love, that is NOT nothing.  There is power in that, and those efforts count.

Also, if you are someone or if you love someone who has been ensnared by pornography, please know that you are not alone.  I'll fight with you.  I'll support you as you work to get free.  And I don't think less of you because you are battling a problem -- guess what, we all are even if they come in different forms.

Anyway,  a couple of my VERY FAVORITE resources

https://www.overcomingpornography.org/  This website has TONS of great information and helps for overcoming and avoiding pornography.  It is a religious site, but I love that it focuses on hope and God's love for us and His desire to help us.

On the same site, this video is my absolute favorite for families.  This is what we teach our kids to do when they are exposed to pornography (because we know it is not a question of "if" but of "when" they will see this garbage).

At the UCAP conference, I was introduced to the work of a man named Matt Fradd who is a huge fighter in the battle against porn.  I've since read several of his books and I really appreciate his personal insights and point of view.  I think his work is a great resource.  Apparently, he also has a podcast on this subject.  I haven't listened to it, but it could be a good support as well.

Anyway, that's enough.

The point is, pornography is evil.  It will do everything possible to sink its teeth into you and not let go.  Keep it away from your family, do all that you can to inform and protect your children.  And if it has grabbed onto people that you care about, don't judge and degrade them, support and encourage them instead.  This is not an easy battle and they need all the support they can get.  Celebrate the wins, and help them grow -- and I'll bet you money they'll do the same for you when you are struggling.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Sometimes I'm a dork who can't use a screwdriver

Once upon a time, it was a Friday morning and I happened upon this interesting post about making your home more break-in proof using only a couple of 3-inch screws.  The idea seemed simple enough -- change out the standard plate screws for longer ones and increase the anti-break-in-ness of your house.

Awesome!

So I decided to put this new idea to work.  I found a couple of long screws, took out the short babies that were already there, used my handy-dandy drill to pre-drill guide holes for the bigger screws, then swapped out the drill bit for a screwdriver head and attempted to install the new screws.

And this is what happened.


Now, you can't tell from the picture but those screws are 3 inches long and STUCK!

They won't go in and they won't come out.

And that means that I can't close the door.

Which sorta stinks.

And even after lots of coaxing and pleading and begging those babies are still hanging out of the door frame mocking me with their stony, "We're here and we like it and we're not moving" glare.  Fiends!  Someone I know is getting their trouble-causing, metal behind tossed in the trash later!

This is the part where you tell me how impressed you are that I am ALMOST handy.  

And then this is the part where I sigh and think how grateful I am for a husband who will laugh with me (or at me, I'm not really sure) and then make a plan to fix the trouble I've caused.

Guess I really screwed this one up (see what I did there).

Monday, April 24, 2017

Golden Anniversary


This weekend, my parents-in-law celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary -- their golden wedding anniversary.

It seemed like an appropriate occasion for a little family shin-dig so Josh and his brothers got together and rented a building and catered a dinner and created a fabulous event.

The timing was pretty perfect because everyone was in town (even those who live in Texas) so it was the whole DeMoux crew all in one spot -- which can be raucous for sure but is also a TON of fun!

Our building at This is the Place Park.

We decorated the building (and I have to tiny brag here because my husband decorated the tables all on his own and I think he did an incredible job).  


We had a table that noted ALL of the Jim and Louise DeMoux progeny (as a side note, Louise is not her first name...but she doesn't like her first name so she goes by her middle name -- which may be a tiny bit genetic as her mother used to keep a running list of names uglier than her own because she hated her name too).  Six children, 15 grandchildren thus far -- it's a pretty good sized clutch of kin.



Upstairs in the building, we had an area for kids that let them do crafts and get all creative and stuff.  This also included a table with a huge canvas on which everyone put their handprint as a gift to the happy couple.



There was no fancy program or intricate presentation to celebrate fifty years of love and life, but that's the way they like things.  Simple, intimate, one-on-one.  There were hugs and laughs and stories and smiles and it was a really really beautiful evening.

Because of what these two started fifty years ago, our lives are eternally better, and we were all grateful to take a moment to look back and remember how thankful we are for these two humble, kind, sincere, uncomplicated people.  

And how we all hope to be very much like them.











A "precious" gift -- so cute!! 




Mom and Dad and their boys.



With all the grandkids.


True to life, kids are running like mad all around us -- and life goes on (or maybe that is what life is really all about after all).


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