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

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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A couple of true Texas gentlemen

While we were camping at the Grand Canyon we ran into a small problem.  After our first night (17 degree low temp that evening) we realized that the amount of propane we had brought to keep our children from turning into popsicles in the tent at night, run our lantern, and power our stove was not enough.  We'd used more than the amount we planned for heating that first night and the nights were frigid so we knew we needed to do something.

We drove to the local store only to find that while they carried a lot of camping gear, and even some types of fuel, they didn't have propane canisters.

Well, oh well, I guess.  We started to work out new plans to manage our cooking and keep everyone warm.  It was going to be rough, for sure.  We talked it through and eventually the lack of fuel was a big factor in why we left a day early.

However, as we were making dinner that night, prepping for freezing night two (which honestly felt not nearly as cold although the temp was only 24 degrees) we got a visit from one of our two college aged camping neighbors.

These two had been polite and quiet, but also kind as we had spent some time near each other in the snugly places campsites.  Their license plate proclaimed them to be from Texas.

Anyway, one of the two headed shyly toward us.  He was almost embarrassed as he explained that he and his friend had overheard Josh and I talking about our propane issue that day.  He said he didn't want us to have struggles and then handed us what he said was a spare propane canister that they had brought.

Oh my goodness.  We were so touched.  What a kind and generous thing to do for people he didn't know at all and who were (likely) a little bit more loud and rowdy than he probably appreciated for neighbors.  We were so very grateful for his thoughtful action.  It almost made my eyes leak.

This spare canister meant that as our kids started waking up the next morning we could swap out the empty propane containers from the night for a full one and heat up the tent so that as our little ones woke up they weren't miserable.  It meant we could spend the morning enjoying time as a family rather than trying to keep from freezing.

When we packed up to leave on Monday morning, our two Texas neighbors were still snug in their green, two-man tent so we didn't get to thank them again in person.  Instead, we slipped a note into one of their shoes and hoped they would feel our gratitude for their actions and example and know that we hope to be a bit more like that as we headed forward in our own travel.

Thanks for the generosity of two true Texas gentlemen.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

One Grand (Canyon) Adventure

Over spring break, we took a trip to the Grand Canyon.

There is a story behind this trip, but we'll go into that another time.

But the gist of it is that our kids accomplished a goal so our celebratory hurrah to be glad of that was an electronics free camping trip to Arizona and the grandeur of this immaculate place.

Friday afternoon, we packed up our Suburban (and packing for five days of camping for eight people meant we had stuff strapped just about every which where) and headed out.

We stopped at a hotel in Page, Arizona for the night (so as not to have to set up a tent and campsite in the dark of night).  I had found this handy hotel which had triple queen beds so we only had to get one room instead of the two we normally need when we stay somewhere.  Score!

Saturday morning, even though we were far from home, the Easter Bunny still found us and brought us treats galore AND these nifty t-shirts (designed and printed by my uber-creative sister-in-law...thanks Jenny!!).

We took a quick jaunt to the Glen Canyon Dam and nearby bridge and did a bit of exploring on the rocky hills near Page and then we were on our way.  

A couple of hours later we arrived at Mather Campground which is within Grand Canyon National Park so we were really close to everything the park had to offer (p.s. it was a great little camp site).  

We set up our ginorma-sized tent, blew up our air mattresses (if you ever go to this place, bring mattresses, it is REALLY rocky), set up our camp and we were ready to see the sights.

Our first stop was The Watchtower on the southeast side of the canyon.  This place was really fun.  It offered great views, but also a lot of native history, and a fun story to boot (the tower was designed by one of the first successful female architects in the US...my girls ate it up).

The artwork inside the tower is NOT original, but was done by native artists when the tower was restored and the site was even dedicated by native tribes.  It is really beautiful.

Aaaaand, we even found a little bit of home in the building (hello, Utah!).

The Watchtower lives on Desert View Drive which also houses the Tusayan ruins and museum (which is not huge, but is a great little explore if you are making a day of driving Desert View Drive...which we did).  There are also several lookouts along the drive which offer gorgeous vistas and amazing scenes overlooking the canyon.  Mmmmmmmm, delicious!

Back at our campsite, we found that we were quickly able to make friends with the local wildlife.

Except, some of our "friends" were more friendly than others.

While we were VERY careful not to leave food out for our neighbors to chomp on, we didn't realize that our over sized raven pals would make themselves at home and explore EVERYTHING we had left out no matter what it was.

He doesn't look so big, but these guys were HUGE.

Meet the holes our raven pals pecked in our tinfoil, our matches, and our plastic water container.
He and his buddies were NOT good neighbors (but they did give us a laugh and force us to get creative in the way we stored things).

But, despite the issues with the locals we were still enamored with the beauty that surrounded us.

One member of our group had a hard time with the heights, which ended up adjusting some of our activities, but everyone had fun exploring the canyon's rim...some from more of a distance than others.

And some of us were not so intimidated by the heights we set out to inspect some of the more adventurous bits and pieces that were readily available.

Three levels of adventurer: Parker -- no fear (almost), Me -- cautious but willing to try almost anything, Gavin -- wants to come with me, but needs some distance from danger (totally understandable).  Generally speaking Josh can't watch as we do things like this, we make him too nervous.  Poor daddy.

There were so many bits and pieces of fun along the way, it was a great trip.

Mountain lion crossing -- not a sign I've seen before.

Starting sooooo many fires -- 'cause it was DANG cold!!

Football, frisbee, reading, building, cards, hide and seek, and lots of other fun -- it is great to watch kids get creative.  I love that about camping.

We did end up leaving a day earlier than we planned for a few reasons:

1. It was REALLY cold at night.  It was 17 degrees our first night (and our propane heater ran out of propane halfway through the night).  The second night felt MUCH warmer (it was a balmy 24 degrees).  This made sleep rough and my babies very uncomfortable.  Fires in the morning were a MUST and we were all up with the sun at 5:00 each morning so that meant a bunch of wood, and we had a limited supply.  Mostly, we just weren't quite as prepared as we had hoped for that much chilliness.

2. Since one member of our crew had some struggles with the heights (we knew from previous experience that there were threads of this issue, but we didn't realize how severe it really was) we couldn't do the hikes that we had planned because pretty much all of them require walking tight edges and steep slopes.  While I do not shy away from pushing my kids to expand their horizons and grow, I am not a fan of terrifying my sweethearts and forcing them into situations that honestly petrify them.

3. We got sick.  We all shared a cold that blossomed while we were there making several of us (me and Ellie in particular) miserable.  It was NOT awesome.

A few other memorable moments:

*Josh and I woke up the first night to the screeching and howling of a pack of coyotes that were after something.  It was really loud and raucous.  I had thought I needed to use the bathroom, but after hearing that I decided I was wrong and I would wait.

*We were able to attend sacrament meeting at a communal meeting house used by all the local religious groups.  Every sect has an assigned time to use the building.  Because the LDS branch was so small Josh, Bryce, and Parker were asked to help bless and pass the sacrament.  I was very grateful that we packed white shirts and dress clothes despite the inconvenience of one more bag of stuff that would really only be used for an hour.

*Sitting around the fire together.  I am convinced that most people would really learn to love and appreciate each other if they sat around a fire together.  There is something magical about it.  

*We met amazing people.  That seems to happen no matter where we go.  

Anyway, it was uncomfortable on several occasions, but it was still a great experience and a very memorable trip.  Thanks, Arizona, for a wonderful spring break.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

When Prayer and Agency Collide

For a quite a while I have been praying for someone I love.

Now that in and of itself is not really something worthy of time on a blog (I imagine almost all of you fall into that category at this moment to some degree or other).

Here's the thing.  I believe deeply in a God who hears and answers my prayers.  So I have been pleading with Him to help my loved one, or help me know how to help my loved one, or to inspire someone else to help my loved one, or to soften the heart of my loved one or something, ANYTHING, to get this person what they need so they will find the courage and strength to make corrections and they won't struggle so much.

But it hasn't happened.

Not just an absence of grand attitudinal remodeling, but a slow and steady crumbling away of the sturdy foundation around this precious soul.

I've done everything I know how to do -- and lots of things I didn't know how to do -- trying to help. I've trusted and struggled and begged and pleaded and fasted and worried and planned and hoped. But to no avail.

The sad situation has remained just as troubled as ever.

Why is it that way?  Why can't I pray this sweet human out of their trial and onto a better path?

There's the rub.

One word.  Agency.

Because no matter how much I want it and no matter how much I am willing to work for it, this transformation cannot happen until the person at the heart of it chooses to change.

If God forced my loved one to do what I want (which is, very honestly, in their best interest) just because I asked Him for that blessing, He would no longer be God.  He would thwart His own plan and undermine the entire reason we are on Earth.

God encourages, He inspires, He corrects, He teaches, He rebukes...but He doesn't force.

Remember that Laman, Lemuel, and Alma the Younger were each chastened by an angel -- but only one of them chose to turn his life around.

So, why do I keep shooting prayers toward the Man Upstairs when I know that no amount of pleading is going to get me exactly what I want?


Because, like I said, I believe deeply in a God who hears and answers my prayers.

Despite the lack of radical improvement in the situation, I believe that God does help me to know the things to say and do to touch the heart of this person or to help them see that I love them.  I believe that God does inspire other people to say and do things that will plant seeds which will hopefully grow in time.  I also believe that God is giving this person every possible opportunity to soften their heart and choose to change.

Because He cares about me.
But also because He cares about them.

We are His children, both of us.  And He wants us to come to Him.

But, out of love and respect, He allows us to choose that for ourselves.

So, in the mean time, I will try to be patient.  I will try to love and encourage without being too pushy.  I will support and praise whenever I get the chance.  And I'll even chastise from time to time (which isn't fun, but that's the way it is).  I will hope like crazy, the kind of hope that is more than just wishing for something to happen, hope that has faith attached to it.

And I will pray.

I will pray my little heart out.

Because this is a miracle I am not willing to give up on.

And neither is my Father.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

We's in the juice

Child: "Mom, we're almost out of orange juice.  Please get some more."
Me: "Ok.  No problem.  I'll do that."

And then, when I got home from the store, I found this.

That's right.  Tucked into the furthest recesses of the fridge there are three partially drunk cartons of orange juice, all less than halfway full.

Yea, that's awesome.

No wonder there is next to no room in the refrigerator (and I thought it was just because we were storing food for eight people).  

Also, maybe I need to clean out the fridge a little more often (that is a regular Saturday chore which rotates through the kids, but I guess I don't follow up often enough).

Sigh.  That stinks.

Gotta love orange juice!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Don't try to tell me God doesn't care

Last week, I attended a speech/language conference in Provo (about an hour away from my house) for CoughDrop, the company I now work for.  It was a two day conference and I learned a lot while I was there and am grateful I had the chance to attend.  I work with wonderful people, and I am really grateful for both of my co-workers who were patient with my newbie status.

Anyway, on Friday afternoon when things closed up I headed out into the sunshine and loaded myself into my car and started for home.  As I got on the freeway, I tried to accelerate to a zippy sort of speed, but my car refused to cooperate.
The culprit.

I pushed down on the gas pedal and could hear the engine rev but there wasn't much response at all in the 'get-up-and-go' level of the car.


Was the car going to quit?  Was the engine ok?  Was some sort of catastrophic problem going on? What was I supposed to do about this?

Honestly, I was scared.  I was quite a way from home, had no one to help me, there was plenty-o-traffic, and to make matters worse my cell phone had fallen in the toilet earlier that day (yeah, I'm not used to constantly carrying it with me and I completely forgot it was in my back pocket) so it was out of commission.  That meant I was pretty much on my own.  I had no real way to get help if I ended up stranded on the side of some road.

I kind of panicked and in my mind called out to the only help I could think of, my Father in Heaven.

I explained (really fast) what was going on, told him I planned to get off the increasingly busy freeway at the first possible exit but that I had no idea how to get home via side streets and had no idea if my car was going to explode or not, so I asked for help.

And He helped.

I had a very strong impression that I should not exit the freeway, but instead should pay close attention to the rpm's on the car and keep the needle on that dial close to two.  I should also watch the road closely and manage my momentum by gradually increasing speed before hills or inclines so that the car would have enough oomph to handle the drive.  Finally, I felt like I needed to glance at the engine temp occasionally and adjust the rpm's if the dial started to head toward the "too hot" end of the dial.

Now, you should know that my understanding of the workings of engines is poor (at best), so the thoughts and answers that flooded momentarily into my brain were NOT from deep in some dark recess of my mind.  Such things do not reside in my head.  This was a message from God directly to one of His daughters just when she needed it.

But, back to the story.  By maneuvering the rpm's I was able to get up to speed (slowly, yes, but still I got there) and paying strict attention to the readouts I didn't overheat the engine.  It took longer than normal to get home, and there was no fanciness about the process, but I got there.

Once I exited the freeway, it was much easier to keep speeds where they should be.  On the road home, I stopped for gas (the car was near empty), and as I was entering credit card info I had another impression, something along the lines of "Why bother putting much gas in a car that you aren't going to be using for much longer.  It's time to get something else."

Yeah, that wasn't exactly what I was hoping to hear, but we have had problem after problem after problem with that car this past year.  Josh had felt at the start of the year that it might be time to replace it, but I hadn't been sure (I am much more prone to use things until they die and work to care for them rather than just throwing them out -- waste not, want not you know).  This impression put us both on the same page.

But, new car or no, it is really the miracle of a God in Heaven who is still interested enough in the lives of His children to comfort and guide them through small disasters that I am more impressed with.

I'm pretty grateful to have someone like Him watching out for me.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Aubs plays Beauty and the Beast

This week, Aubrey performed with her jr. high school peers in a production of "Beauty and the Beast."

We had the chance to go and watch her perform for two nights in two different roles and it was a lot of fun to see all the work the group has put in for the last couple of months come to life.

Aubrey played a wolf and a villager one evening and one of the silly girls the other night.  We are proud of her and the effort that she put into the play and we are grateful to the teachers and school for allowing these kids to expand their talents by giving them a venue to perform.

Thanks to family and friend who came to support Aubrey as she took the stage.  
We're glad she had this opportunity (but if we're honest, we're also glad that all the before and after school practices and the stress of performing are done for now).

Take a peek at pictures of her performance or watch the video below.  We love to show off our girl.

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