Summer in Yosemite

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Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park

After experiencing gorgeous waterfalls, blue skies, granite cliffs, and colorful meadows, Yosemite is now one of my favorite places on the planet. Our family visited at the end of July, and I just couldn’t get enough of the cool hiking experiences and breath-taking views. I think I said “Wow” more times in one day than ever in my life. If you haven’t been here, please go.

My favorite hike was on Mist Trail, where we hiked the few miles and hundreds of stone steps to this incredible waterfall. You could actually see a rainbow in the sunshine and mist at the bottom of the falls. This was a great hike for our kids–challenging but doable, with a great reward at the end. We thought the end of our journey would be the falls, but to our surprise, just past the falls was a giant pool of water, complete with natural rock waterslide!

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Natural waterslide at Emerald Pools.

Despite none of us having swimsuits, most of us somehow ended up in the water. My son was the first to throw his shirt and shoes to the side and jump in. Then my daughter joined. My husband and his brother got in and swam over to the waterslide. Then my sister-in-law (more adventurous than I ever realized) said she was going for it, fully clothed. I started to realize this was not an opportunity to miss, so I counted down (my perennial weakness) and jumped in the frigid water alongside her. We swam over to the waterslide, hiked up the smooth rock surface where it was dry, then slid down into the water. Super fun!

If that wasn’t enough of a surprise, we also saw a bear (the only bear I’ve ever seen in the wild) traipse across the rock surface not 50 yards from where we had just slid down the rock. A bunch of teenagers who were on the same side of the pool started screaming and running toward the water. Luckily, the bear took no interest in them and just kept walking along until it disappeared back into the brush.

At night we camped just outside the park’s south entrance at Summerdale Campground. As we were setting up our camp, our camp neighbor shouted, “Scott, look!!” We looked up in the sky and there was a huge orange and pink meteor streaming across the sky, with tiny pieces breaking off so it looked like a dozen blazing shooting stars all together. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen in the night sky. Our kids were enthralled. Amazing! Come to find out, it was apparently some kind of Chinese satellite junk. Not quite as cool, but still.

The other neat and unexpected experience at camp was crawdad fishing. I haven’t done this since I was a kid, but our camp host said we had to try it. So we put a hotdog on a string and literally, within minutes, we could see the crawdads in the water creeping toward it and climbing on. It took us a few tries to get the things out of the water and into a bucket, but eventually we caught 8 or so. We kept 6 to cook because, well, why not? We are all about new experiences. We boiled them and cracked them open. They tasted fine. A lot of work for the two bites out of each one, but it was fun.

Our little family miracle of the trip happened to our 10-year-old son Zach. He had just picked out a souvenir from the trip that day, a neat wooden pocketknife with his name etched in. While we were fishing (pretty much in the dark) his pocket knife fell out of his pocket. We all looked around but couldn’t find it anywhere. After all, it was wood colored. We said we’d try again in the morning. We suggested to Zach that he say a prayer, and went to bed. The next morning, Zach and Scott went for a walk and I said a quick prayer that, if it be God’s will for him to find this little treasure, he would find it. I understood that God may want Zach to have the lesson about taking care of his things, and I was open to that result. But that lesson is of course much less fun. The other lesson would be that prayer works, and sometimes you even get the answer you are hoping for. Well, right after I said my prayer, Zach and Scott came back with big smiles. Zach said he remembered walking by a particular poky bush that made him jump the night before, so they went there. Lo and behold, they looked down, in the wood and grass and dirt, and there was his pocket knife. Yay for little miracles!

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Playing at the bottom of Lower Yosemite Falls.

Another adventure was, when we went for a hike to Lower Yosemite Falls, which had another little surprise waiting for us: fun pools of water and lots of rocks for the kids the play in. We hadn’t learned our lesson about wearing swimsuits in this water haven, but we got in, again, in our clothes. The kids climbed and swam and splashed for hours. Too much fun.

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Granite Point

For a view of the valley, we drove out to Glacier Point, where we did a short walk to a lookout point. From there, we could see two waterfalls and 360 degrees of rocks, trees, meadows, and mountains. Beautiful.

On our way out of California, we decided to stop at Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park, mostly because we wanted more stamps for our National Parks passport books. OK, not really. Well, partly. We of course were excited to see what made those places so special, especially as we considered the 100-year anniversary of the National Parks system. Both parks were incredible. I especially loved the Congress trail with the huge groups of sequoia trees–the biggest trees in the world. It was incredible to be so dwarfed by nature.IMG_1308

Overall–an amazing, wonderful incredible trip with some of my favorite people. We will definitely do this again.

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Happy kids, enjoying the outdoors at Sequoia National Park.

Time to Love Our Spouse

More from The Two-Minute Marriage Project…

“The ‘secret’ to loving is loving: the more we give of that vast and powerful force called Love, the more it returns to illuminate our days with hope, simple bliss and heart-happy wonder.”

-Margie Lapanja, author

Loving our spouse takes time and effort. Yet many couples today get swept away in the chaos of a distracting and busy life. We have sports and competitions and recitals and deadlines and politics and schedules to watch. We have texts and tweets and a barrage of information constantly ready for our review. We have streaming sports scores, advertisements everywhere, and endless pressures to succeed. How can we remember to show love to our spouse daily when there are days we hardly see each other?phone

For parents, the battle for time is even more difficult. Parenting has become busier than ever before as moms and dads seek to ensure their child has a rock-solid self-esteem and a leg up on the competition. We enroll our three year olds in sports and music and camps, hoping that they can keep up with the neighbor kid who is enrolled in even more. As parents, we want our kids to have every advantage and we want them to know we love them and would do anything for them. That’s all fine and good for the kids (for the most part). It’s not so good for marriage. Studies show we spend far more time with our kids today than parents of previous generations, which leaves significantly less time to our marriages (For Better 176). When researchers ask kids what they want? Rather than more time together, they want happier, less stressed out parents!

I can relate to the transformation from loving and attentive newlywed to distracted, busy parent. My husband Scott and I met 13 years ago at a college barbecue. A mutual friend introduced us and we couldn’t be separated the rest of the evening. In the months that followed, I found myself falling hard. We talked until the wee hours of the morning, he brought roses and wrote poems, we dated, we danced. The whole thing was as natural and effortless as breathing . . .but substantially more exciting. Nine months later, a ring was on my finger and we found ourselves debating an August or December wedding. The only point in the December column was Christmas lights, so we began planning for summer.

The wedding was picture perfect, even with the rain that poured down on us. Everyone else ran from tree to tree trying to stay sheltered as we walked around for our photos. We couldn’t care less that we were getting soaked. In fact, I’m not sure we even noticed. My cheeks hurt from smiling at the end of the day. This was my ideal life partner and our life together was going to be all roses and sunshine.

As newlyweds, we were still as happy as ever as we adjusted to our new life. No one else competed for our attention at home, and our only real responsibilities were to do well in our college courses and earn enough to pay for our 600-square-foot apartment and meals for two. We walked to school together, took classes together, shopped together, ate together, read books together, and played together. Showing our love every day in small and meaningful ways was effortless.

Fast forward a decade and then some. Things are a little different now. Responsibilities are many and time is scarce. Between us we have four beautiful kids ages 1 to 10, a lovely home with attached mortgage and two-car garage, two cars, a new business with all the added excitement and stress, multiple church responsibilities and volunteer hours at school, grocery shopping and meals for six not to mention soccer games and music recitals. It probably goes without saying that the number of love sonnets I once received has reduced dramatically.

Some days we don’t see each other for more than ten minutes as we both race in different directions. He’s up to go to the gym and the office. I’m up to get kids and breakfast going. He’s working hard at the office. I’m working hard at home cleaning, cooking, carpooling, shopping, washing, folding, ironing, writing, and finding moments to sit down and play with the kids. What a gift it is to raise a family with the partner I love. I wouldn’t trade it or go back for anything.IMG_0157

Here’s the tricky part: showing our love to each other in our marriage now takes more effort and deliberate attention. Much more. We must be doing something right. We still often get what we affectionately refer to as “tingles” when we see each other at the end of the day. And it’s not entirely a matter of luck (though we both are fairly cheerful people). I can say that we are still best friends and more in love now than on the day we married. Partly, that’s because we focus on loving each other every day.

Many couples end the honeymoon stage of their marriage and become so focused on their own paths that they forget one simple thing: their relationship needs tending. In the romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days writer Andie Anderson is assigned to write an article on how to make a man break up with her. One thing she does in her attempt to get him to throw in the towel is deliver a “love fern.” Andie dramatically explains to Ben that the fern symbolizes their love and that he must care for the little plant like he cares for their relationship. Later Andie pretends to be horrified when she finds the plant withering. “You let our love fern die? Are you going to let us die?” The scene is comical because Andie is so dramatic. Yet I see some truth in the metaphor. Just as a fern or a garden needs daily attention, so does a marriage. 

plantSo ask yourself today, what do I need to do to tend to my marriage?

More to come…

Falling and staying in love

Below is an excerpt from The Two-Minute Marriage Project, a book I wrote about staying in love over the long haul. It’s a topic I’ve thought a lot about in order to find the secret of a lasting, fulfilling marriage. Here’s what I found it comes down to, from social scientists, personal experience, and interviews with happily married couples: the little things. Over the next few weeks I’d like to include excerpts here on what I found. For today, a bit of background on love:

Right now in the United States there are 60 million married couples. We still love and believe in marriage. We love marriage so much that we fight over how to define it and exactly who can do it. But marriage today, by most accounts, is not thriving. Experts calculate that only about 40 to 50 percent of married couples stay together. People quit their marriages every day, and here’s the sad thing: The majority of people who quit simply fell out of love. As author Pamela Haag reports in the book Marriage Confidential, more than half the couples who divorce had a relationship that was “amiable but listless.” Basically, they just didn’t thrive. According to studies on couples who divorce, the vast majority of people who end their relationship report that they simply lost a sense of closeness and did not feel loved or appreciated (as reported in Gottman, 2000 The Timing of Divorce). 

Even many couples who stay together aren’t fulfilled in their marriages. Of the couples who do stay married, according to a group of marriage researchers at the University of Denver, only half are actually happy. (Howard J. Markman, Scott M. Stanley, and Susan L. Blumberg, http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/consumer/10238.html).

What is going on? Most people, at least in the western world, marry because they are in love. But that wasn’t always the case. For thousands of years, marriage wasn’t about love or personal satisfaction. Marriage historian Stephanie Coontz reports in her book Marriage, a History, that marrying for love didn’t come about until the late 18th century with the Enlightenment focus on individual rights. Before then, most marriages were arranged by outside influences who would be positively affected by the union. Something as important as marriage couldn’t be based on “something as unreasoning and transitory as love” (p. 5). Yet during the Enlightenment, a marriage revolution began to occur. We started seeing marriage as what it could be–a private relationship with the potential to provide great happiness for the couple, regardless of family wealth or political alliances (New York: Viking, 2005).

Staying in love

So we came along way as a society. We decided that it should be in our control as individuals to choose who we marry, and that we should do it primarily for our own happiness and not for the betterment of our relatives. We decided that marriage could be our greatest human relationship and the source of our deepest satisfaction in life. Yet, as Coontz reports, “the very features that promised to make marriage such a unique and treasured personal relationship opened the way for it to become an optional and fragile one.” (p. 5). Marriages are breaking apart because people are falling out of love. We aren’t staying in the same state we were in before, and that scares people. As George Bernard Shaw humorously pointed out, marriage brings together two people “under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions. They are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausromanceting condition continuously until death do them part.” (Quoted in John Jacobs, All You Need Is Love and Other Lies About Marriage, New York: HarperCollins, 2004 p. 9).

We “fall” in love–suggesting something outside of our control. Our brain is malfunctioning, to a degree. Staying in love–now that’s something we have some control over. It isn’t easy. Over the years, as a culture, we have lost some of the glue that helped couples stick together. As John Jacobs, professor at NYU’s School of Medicine, has written, some of the martial glue that helped keep couples together from the past is now largely irrelevant. The glue of women’s financial dependency, the belief that happiness is rare or unnecessary, prevailing religious dogma, and legal constraints are all gone. The only glue holding couples together now “is the glue created by the two of you–the glue of mutual satisfaction, gratification, appreciation, and respect. The glue of mature love.” (All You Need Is Love and other lies about marriage.)

We simply cannot forget to show love and affection to our spouse every day. As Dr. Jacobs declares, one of the greatest threats to a marriage relationship is complacency.  “If you want your marriage to survive,” Jacobs writes, “you must actively cherish your spouse and protect your relationship” (Jacobs, 234). Staying in love isn’t as easy or effortless as falling in love. It takes time, attention, and deliberate effort. But if we do it right, our marriage relationship can provide the same tingles and excitement as it did when we first came together as partners, soul mates, and best friends. Indeed, if we do it right, and if we do it consistently, staying in love can be the happiest, most fulfilling part of our lives. The trick is to do that even while living in a chaotic modern world. 

More to come…

Temple Walk

A few month ago, the Young Women in our neighborhood ward went on a walk from the Draper Temple to the Salt Lake Temple in honor of stone mason John Rowe Moyle. Moyle walked those 22 miles every day, every week for years to work on the Salt Lake Temple. He even did it with a wooden leg for several years after an accident with a cow necessitated an amputation. The man’s spirit, courage, and dedication is unmatched in my mind.

After their journey, the Young Women’s president Jen Wilhite shared her testimony about the experience in church. Our 10-year-old son Zach was listening. Afterward, he said to Scott, “I want to do that too.”

My husband is not one who says no, especially not to amazing and challenging opportunities. So, he told Zach they would plan for it. Before we knew it, Zach was recruiting his friends to join him. Not many wanted to take on the challenge, but Zach found two friends who would.

Last Friday, Zach and these two other boys along with their dads did the walk. They started at 6 a.m. and walked all day. They had a few scheduled stops, three of which included a little parent presentation on an inspiring person. We figured that the boys would have a lot of time to think, and might need some pep talks, so we tried to inspire them with people who had succeeded in getting through their life challenges. I shared the story of Nelson Mandela, my friend Mariah shared the story of Mariatu Kamara who lost her hands in the civil war in Sierra Leone, and another friend, Anthony, taught about Mother Teresa. 13418736_10154239159024254_6126387665414988282_n

My other kids and I planned to arrive at the temple a little before the boys, but they made such good time we were caught off guard.  We were riding ponies at This is the Place Heritage Park when I got the text that they would arrive between 4 and 4:30 p.m. I expected them there at 6! So we packed up and booked it downtown, hoping to beat them. 13435496_10154239159399254_8006715581788676638_nWe actually passed them walking on South Temple so we hooted and honked and hollered, then looked for a quick place to park. I found a 5-minute spot and we spilled out of the car with our “You Did It!” poster in tow right as they walked up to the temple gates. They had made it! The boys collapsed on the grass, exhausted.

I hoped the lesson of perseverance had sunk in, hoped that the boys would remember this the next time they had a challenge. I didn’t have to wonder long. The next morning, our family was one of the families assigned to clean the church building at 8 a.m. I woke Zach up and he resisted, saying “I can barely walk!” I finally was able to motivate him to get his shoes on and make his way to the car, saying something like, “I bet John Rowe Moyle didn’t wake up thinking, ‘Yes, I get to walk 22 miles on my wooden leg today!.'” Zach paused for a minute and then said, “You’re right. He probably didn’t want to all of the time. But he knIMG_0815ew it was important. So he did it.” Then Zach got in the car.

We all have challenges in our life, whether that’s trying to heal after losing a loved one, fighting depression, staying awake all night for weeks with a colicky baby, being stuck in a job we despise, or inescapable physical pain. I suppose part of life is simply the struggle to overcome the hard stuff. I don’t think those experiences are meant to make us miserable. They are meant to make uIMG_0812s strong. The next time I am faced with something hard, I’m going to think of John Rowe Moyle, and of my 10-year-old son who wanted the challenge so he could see how strong he really is.

How You Can Keep Your Marriage Fun and Exciting While Caring For Your Kids, Advancing Your Careers and Managing Daily Life

Below is a guest post by marriage therapist Waverly Hanson on keeping marriage fun. This is relevant to my research into the little things couples can do to keep the love alive in their marriage over the long haul. Happy reading!

How You Can Keep Your Marriage Fun and Exciting While Caring For Your Kids, Advancing Your Careers and Managing Daily Life

Marriage is an opportunity for you to commit to spending the rest of your life with another person whom you love and respect. Often, the first year or two of marriage is filled with excitement. However, once children enter the picture, it can alter the scene dramatically. Instead of two, you are now three or more. This does not mean the end of your status as a couple unless you allow it to.

Unfortunately, many couples become so caught up in raising children and bucking for promotions at work that they forget to prioritize their relationship, taking it for granted. However, without intentional nursing, you will grow apart. You both need to reaffirm your love and relationship as an entity separate from, and a part of, your family.

Some people have a difficult time doing this because they believe or are told such behavior is selfish. Quite the opposite is actually the truth. You see, if you have the love and support of each other when troubles arise, you will be able to handle them more readily. So, you will actually be better, not worse, parents.

When you have younger children, you will need to plan for a babysitter for those occasions where you want to leave the home. Hire someone with impeccable references and CPR training for infants and children.

If you have friends with little kids as well, you may want to swap watching them on the weekends. One couple could go out Friday and the other Saturday. You could also plan for alternating weekends.

Plan for fun activities that you can do at home in addition to going out on a regular basis. Naturally, the frequency of your outings can depend on many external factors, and leaving home to have some adult only fun may not always be an option. Also, it can become expensive.

You may be able to arrange for the kids to spend the night with grandparents or other relatives so you two can have the house to yourselves. If this is not an option and your kids have friends with whom they spend the night, try to coordinate a night where they are all at someone else’s house.

When going out, sometimes keeping things simple is best. Take walks in the park or along the beach like you did when dating. Play a round of miniature golf, or visit an arcade while you are out. Stop and get some ice cream or frozen yogurt. Planning a fun, teenager style date might even include “parking” somewhere and making out before going home. Just make sure you don’t break any indecent exposure laws!

Another inexpensive idea is to order some pizza and watch movies together. Each of you can pick a movie and the toppings for your half of the pizza. Women can wear one of his large t-shirts and snuggle on the couch during the latest action flick or whatever else has been chosen. The point is to enjoy the time together, not to focus on getting your way or only watching movies you like.

In fact, you can plan dates where you focus upon a particular like, taking turns to keep it fair. Technology should be turned off, snacks available and questions asked. For instance, you may give him a lesson in crafting with clay, explaining the various nuances and why it matters to you. In turn, enthusiastically listen and respond as he teaches you about the intricacies of hockey. While you may not convert each other into being fans, you will learn more about each other and grow closer as a result.

You can also leave sexy notes for each other, learn about sexting and have a quickie once in a while. Buy some inexpensive dice for romantic play or a similarly themed game. Go on a picnic together, have a couples massage or any other activity that will be enjoyable. Make sure to get in plenty of laughter-inducing choices.

Talk to your spouse now about planning some special time together!

About the Author

Waverly Hanson is the best-selling author of “How to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage” available on Amazon in print and Kindle formats. She has been assisting individuals and couples with relationship and life transformations for more than 25 years as a therapist, counselor, coach and consultant.  Visit her website <a href=”http://marriagecounselingonline.mywebpal.com”> marriagecounselingonline.mywebpal.com </a> to learn more.

 

 

Camping in Beautiful Sedona

For spring break last month we took our kids to the beautiful Arizona city of Sedona. I wasn’t sure how camping was going to go with Sam, being still so small, but we figured we’d give it a shot. When looking for our destination this year, we had three important criteria: 1) warm enough at night to camp without being miserable and 2) close to cool National parks or monuments that would give us a stamp or two in our kids’ passport books. 3) Close enough to drive to from our home in Sandy, UT. Sedona fit the bill.

IMG_1569Well, mostly. The temperature was great during the day and was supposed to only get to the 40s at night, but with a few nights stretching into the 30s it was less comfortable than I would have liked. Everyone was fine in their mummy bags except for Sam, who didn’t have one. I bundled him as much as I could but he would still wake up in the middle of the night crying (unheard of for this angel baby). That at least gave me my co-sleeping opportunity, something I’ve never really taken advantage of with any of my kids, with good reason. I mean, I just don’t sleep very well with a little person next to me. But I have to admit I did love snuggling this sweet little boy every night.

What I love about camping is getting so close to nature and so far from the typical distractions of our modern-day world. No cell phones to use, no televisions to watch, no Kindles to fight over. We literally were just IMG_1552outside all day, enjoying peace. (Until it came time to doing all the work that camping requires–then there was a little less peace. But the kids got the hang of it fairly quickly.)

I loved seeing the National monuments near Sedona. First we went to explore Montezuma Castle, an ancient cliff dwelling thousands of years old. It was fun to watch my kids think through what it might have been like to live so close to the earth (and even in the earth) every day. We also checked out a similar nearby monument that let us get a little closer to the ruins of an ancient people. Our last experience with ancient life was on the way home when we stopped at Canyon de Chelly, another site from the lives of ancient Pueblo people. First things first: we got our passport books stamped. Check! Then we did a hike down into the canyon, saw the ruins in the cliffside along with some cool wall art, and then hiked back out. This was our IMG_1556first hiking experience where all three of our older kids beat us to the finish line by a long shot. Scott and I were impressed.

Other favorites from this trip included a beautiful hike in Sedona, playing in the river by our campsite, visiting Slide Rock state park (with it’s 80-foot super cold natural waterslide) and my perennial campfire favorite: s’mores! After five nights of camping, luckily we were smart enough to check the weather and realize it was going to rain right at the time we needed to pack up our campsite. So we got on Priceline and booked a hotel in Chinle. Everyone was beyond excited to see actual beds. The kids slept for 13 hours straight, and I slept for most of that too. There’s nothing like appreciating simple pleasures after ruffing it for a few days!IMG_1625

All in all, a successful, beautiful, super fun adventure! I highly recommend this area as a wonderful trip for families.

15 things I love about being a Mom

Last night after a wonderful fun-filled night of family bowling, a very kind stranger gave my three kids one giant, green bouncy ball. They all had fun with it for a few minutes, and then it happened. Somebody started whining that they hadn’t gotten a turn. Then someone else wasn’t sharing. Before we knew it, our three older kids were in a full-out brawl. Tears were shed. I ended up taking the ball and giving it to some other unsuspecting family. All my children were mad at me.

Sometimes being a mom is hard. My days are filled with washing, drying, shopping, cleaning, cooking, carpooling, wiping up spills. They sometimes include breaking up brawls, motivating for the umpteenth time, and less sleep and personal time than I’d like.  And little people don’t always remember to say “thank you.” However, today I wanted to take a moment to think about the good side. The really good side. Because as hard as being a mom can be, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Here are some of my favorite things about being a mom:

  1. When my kids make me laugh out loud, either by singing a silly song, dancing, telling me a joke they heard during the day, or quoting a line from a favorite movie.
  2. IMG_1671When my kids love each other, like this morning when Addie spilled her cereal and Ellie helped her clean it up (without my asking), or when Addie came down to sit at the table and  when Zach finally looked up and noticed he said, “Oh! Good morning Addie!” Or when Addie writes one of her precious love notes. Or when they all hear Sam waking up and they ask, “Can I go get him Mom?”
  3. When my kids have worked really hard on something, like a piano or cello piece, and I get to watch the look on their face when they finally nail it with pride.
  4. When they surprise me with the things they want to do, like Zach asking to wake up at 6 a.m. for the past two weeks so he can exercise with us. “Really? Are you sure?” I still ask.
  5. Cuddling with them before they go to bed.IMG_0466
  6. When they mess up and then own it, as evidenced by the note I found on Ellie’s cello yesterday morning that said: “Thank you for teaching me cello Mom. I love it. Sorry I yelled.”
  7. Reading stories in bed together, either laughing at something funny or learning about something interesting, like last night when we read that in high school Barack Obama was dubbed “Barry O’Bomber” because of his jump shot. My kids loved that. Who knew?
  8. Having Sam snuggle up and rest his head on my shoulder while he holds his bear and sucks his thumb when he is sleepy.
  9. IMG_2289When my kids make each other laugh.
  10. When they can’t wait to show me something like a new fun game or a new trick they learned.
  11. Seeing them snuggled up at night with their Dad, who is known for letting them jump in our bed to watch an interesting 60 Minutes clip instead of getting them in bed when I’m away.
  12. Watching Sam copy everyone at the dinner table, like blinking his eyes tight or nodding his head or putting his hands up in the air or clapping when someone else does and having everyone else crack up at the cuteness.
  13. Watching them sleep, peacefully, quietly, in their beds.
  14. Getting to show them new beautiful or interesting things.IMG_1634
  15. Hearing them say “I love you Mom” even on the days when I haven’t been patient or I haven’t made the dinner they like or I haven’t let them go play with their friends when they wanted to. Like yesterday when I asked my son to turn off the computer for the third time. I lost patience and he got frustrated, but then he quickly said, “I love you Mom, you’re the best.” That’s love you can’t put a price on.

Sure, motherhood is hard. But it is also the greatest blessing in the world getting to be with these little people every day as we help each other grow. I’m sure glad to be the Mom.

Cruisin’ around the Caribbean!

OK, so I haven’t been in the habit of writing lately–something about having four little kids maybe? Well, I’m recommitted to jumping on here more regularly simply to share what is happening in my life. I’ve been inspired by the minimalists, who used a great phrase: “Sit in the chair.” As a writer, sometimes I feel like I need to wait to be inspired before I actually sit down (oh, and when I actually have free time, which is . . . let’s say rarely). I suppose you need to make your own time if you want to fit something in. So, here goes. I’m sitting in the chair.

The first thing I wanted to write about was Scott’s and my 15-year anniversary cruise. We snuck off for a whole week just the two of us to go explore the Caribbean. Wow. Can I just say, wow? I’m a big fan of getting away as a couple occasionally. It’s a wonderful way to reconnect with your spouse as husband and wife again, leaving Mom and Dad roles behind for just a bit (while kiddos are in good hands and loving their own adventures at home with Grandma and Grandpa and Grams and Papa in our case!).

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Yummy breakfast on the ship in the Solarium.

Let’s start with the ship. We sailed on the Oasis of the Seas, the biggest ship on the ocean. We stepped on board and set off to explore (no simple task). This ship had 17 floors. 17! That is a lot of floors. Swimming pools, hot tubs, restaurants, rock climbing walls, theater, ice rink . . . you name it, this ship had it. I still don’t understand how it even stayed afloat. My favorite moments were sitting in the hot tub at the top of the ship, watching the ocean or the towns as we pulled in to port, reading a book next to Scott on the top deck in the sunshine, and eating at the top floor restaurant for breakfast, where every morning greeted us with a beautiful, colorful buffet.  Anyone who knows me well knows I love breakfast food and am quite happy enjoying breakfast for any meal of the day (and snacks too!).

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Does this look like the Caribbean? Yeah, I didn’t think so either!

We stopped at three ports–Nassau (Bahamas), St. Thomas, and St. Martin. When we pulled in the the Bahamas, it was pouring rain with 25 mph winds. It was February, remember, and I had just left months of cold, gray, and snow. I was so distraught over this unpleasant welcome that I literally broke into tears when I realized we couldn’t go on our little beach outing in the sun like we had planned. I know that sounds pretty pathetic, but we only had three days to get off the ship and enjoy the beach (my favorite part of vacation) and now Day One was a gonner. Sigh.

But I pulled it together and determined to enjoy. We decided to go explore Atlantis, the resort I had heard so much about. Trying to get a cab was a bit comical. One of the locals would put us in the cab and then we sat there for five minutes wondering what happened. Then we got out and asked for another cab, and they stuck us in a different cab and left. This happened three times. We realized that the locals were trying to fill their cabs so they could earn more on the 10 minute drive over to Atlantis. Crazy! We finally made it over there after a woman promised to leave “Right now” and spent the rainy afterIMG_0248noon wandering around inside Atlantis, checking out their aquariums and grounds. I imagine it’s beautiful when it is sunny and warm. Windy and gray made it less than magical.

One thing that made me smile was this funny sign at Atlantis, their best attempt at asking people not to leave cigarette butts on the ground!

We made it back to the ship and crossed our fingers that the sun would come out for the rest of our journey.

Luckily, it did! On St. Thomas we wanted to see Magen’s Bay, dubbed one of the world’s most beautiful beaches by National Geographic and the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die (my regular go-to resource).

By the time we got there, sadly, we only had 30 minutes before it was time for us to head back for our kayak tour. We only had a few hours on the island, so we had to make it count. I’m glad we went to see the Bay, because it really was beautiful and peaceful. It would have been more so without all the people, but I guess that’s the price you pay for seeing the most beautiful places in the world. Everyone else wants to see them too!

Magen's Bay

Magen’s Bay

After our brief jaunt at Magen’s Bay, we took a cab back over the top of the island to our kayak spot. This was a fun way to mix things up. We got to kayak through a lagoon, then pull over and walk on a pebbly path to a blowhole on the island. (Basically where the waves crash into a rock that has a hole at the top and water sprays out of the hole.) Pretty cool. Then we snorkeled for a bit in the lagoon. That was fun, but a little chillier than I expected and frankly not as much variety of fish and things to see as I was hoping for. (I think I got spoiled in Maui by Black Rock where there are so many colorful fish!). Still, it was fun, good exercise, and beautiful. Scott and I had a great time.

Our last port was my favorite. We went to St. Martin, where we went with a IMG_1278snorkel company on a boat tour around the island. The sun was out all day, thankfully, and the water was a beautiful blue. We enjoyed a yummy barbecue lunch on a pretty secluded beach and then stopped at a couple different places to snorkel. Again, the snorkeling wasn’t as spectacular as I would have hoped, but the water and island were lovely and fun to circumnavigate. One of our stops was to the island of Pinel, which I think you can only access by boat. There was a little restaurant and a few shops and it just felt really quaint and relaxing. My favorite moment was sitting by Scott on the dock and dipping our toes in the water, while we did some people watching.IMG_0287 We also watched a woman pull up a big crate of lobsters, fresh caught that day, and let a customer pick his meal!

I wish we could have stayed longer, but I guess that’s the nature of these port stops. You’ve got to keep moving or you’re going to get left behind!

Back at the ship, we enjoyed ourselves completely with more food and rest and reading time. And some more food. Wow, there was a lot of yummy food. I couldn’t get over the fact that if I couldn’t decide what I wanted for dinner, I could order two things! How fun is that? I even asked if I could have a tiny bit of two different desserts one night (since, again, I couldn’t decide) and our awesome waiter brought me this:

IMG_0323That made me laugh! Then he brought me out another plate with some decent portions. I can’t remember what it was, but it was tasty. After all this food, it’s a good thing the ship had a pretty amazing gym (where Scott spent a good portion of each ship day) and a running track that went around the outside of the ship. I had so much fun running around the track, looking out at the sea and listening to the soundtrack of the new musical “Hamilton.” Way cool. I also spent my time while Scott finished his workout for the day on our balcony, with more deliciousness and a good book. The ocean, the sun, some chocolate, some reading, and then a short nap to energize me before the evening festivities. Wow–I’m looking back at how extravagant that was. Taking care of four little kids every day is a wonderful, amazing blessing, but it is hard! I look back at this and think “Did I really get to do that for a whole week?” Alas, real life is not sunshine and chocolate. If it were, then this wouldn’t have been a dream vacation and it wouldn’t have tickled me every time our room attendant left us a towel monkey or grabbed a cup of fresh fruit at the Park Cafe for no charge. Oh, it was fun.  At least now I have these amazing memories and pictures of the time we had. I’ll look back every now and again and remind myself of the beautiful adventure. Some days, that’s just what I need to pick me before getting back to the daily grind. Luckily, I have a pretty blessed life, and four little people who made it happy coming home. Still, I don’t think it will be long before I start planning another sunny escape…IMG_1306

15 years together!

On August 18th Scott and I celebrated our 15 year anniversary (yes, I’m a little behind!). I can’t believe how fast, and how wonderful, the time has been. I can’t believe how much I didn’t know then about life and marriage and parenting and careers and bills and compromise . . . and I can’t believe it has been as rich and rewarding as it has been. I am so grateful for the man I married and all the potential that was in him that I didn’t even know. I didn’t know what a wonderful husband he would be–how he would take care of me, and make me laugh, and listen to me, and bring me flowers, and tell me jokes, and rub my shoulders when they are sore, and take me out on date night every single weekend, and change baby’s diapers, and be my biggest fan, and bring me Ben and Jerry’s for no reason at all. I didn’t know that he would be the kind of Dad who studies scriptures with his kids, and wrestles with them, and takes them out on dates, and coaches their soccer teams, and snuggles them on the couch during movies, and laughs and plays and takes them on adventures. I didn’t know he would be more than just a good student but that he would be great at his career–and love it too. I didn’t know he would be a devoted church member and Priesthood holder and home teacher and spiritual leader in our family.  I hoped all these things. But 15 years later, I can look back and say I didn’t know for sure then, but I know now. What a blessing it is to have chosen the right guy–to have found the best friend to spend all my days with–the first time around. My kids sometimes ask me about my parents and how they got divorced, and why. I just say to them, “Sometimes two people get it right the first try, and sometimes they get it right the second try, and sometimes they don’t even get it right then. Mommy and daddy nailed it the first try.” IMG_0301

To celebrate, Scott planned a backpacking trip to the Tetons. I had never been backpacking, but I’m all about new experiences and I like being out in nature. So I figured, why not? Lucky for me, it was beautiful and sunny the whole time. We hiked up Paintbrush Canyon and came down Cascade Canyon. It was an incredible experience to be in such a beautiful place in our country, away from modern distractions, for three days. We slept in a tiny backpackers tent, and with the top flap open, we woke up to a pink sky the first morning (well, I woke up to it briefly and went back to sleep. Scott stayed up to enjoy.). We discovered it was freezing to sleep like that, so we woke up to the closed tent flap the second morning. Besides the beautiful scenery of trees, lakes, waterfalls, streams, and wildlife, I also loved simply spending time with my husband to talk about our experiences, thoughts, dreams, things we’ve read, things we hope for, or just to be quiet together. It was an experience I will never forget. Thank you Scott for being who you are, for planning this adventure, and for being my best friend for 15 years and counting.  IMG_1625

Summertime…we miss you!

Where did summer go? So much fun playing, swimming, relaxing, running around, and being together. I remember when the summer started, I was nervous about having all four kids home all the time (minus a few little play dates and camps). The when school started, the same exact thing happened that happened before the start of last school year–I felt sad. Although it was stressful at times helping everyone find things to occupy their time happily (which mostly, they are pretty good at on their own) it was been so fun just being together. I knew I was going to miss Zach and Ellie, who are now back to school for all the live-long day. Luckily, breaks like UEA help–where we got to spend days together visiting the Golden Spike, going to a BYU football game, and playing at home. I guess no matter what phase you are in, there are things to be happy about, and things that might make you sad. Like today, it’s Monday and all my favorite people are gone doing their important things. On the other hand, my baby is asleep, and the house is quiet…and I just got to finish the last leftover piece of birthday cake. It’s a good day.