Fat Kitty: A decade-long celebration!

I can’t believe it has been 10 years since Fat Kitty came into our lives! Here is his introduction to the world!

I wouldn’t have believed it if you asked me if I would be a cat owner. Jamie had a beloved Cocker Spaniel, Duchess, growing up while I had Lacey the Bichon Frise. When I was younger, we had a spicy tomcat named Peppery who was the neighborhood bully. I used to dress him up in doll clothes and push him around in my doll stroller (which I’m sure went over splendidly) but he wasn’t what you’d call a beloved pet.  Rumor has it you’d be innocently sitting on the couch and he would pounce on your head from behind. His ultimate demise was getting in one of his many catfights at night and we had to put him down because his battle wounds got infected.

So, he was pretty much the opposite of Fat Kitty.

Jamie and I debated getting a pet because our Denver years were filled with so much travel that we didn’t know how we would manage it all. Though we loved dogs, they’re expensive and high-maintenance so when Jamie’s parents announced a move to Utah, we decided upon a cat to fill the void. I put it out on social media and a blogger friend had sadly relinquished her kitty when they moved and so we visited him in the shelter and were ready to adopt…but he was very sick, on a rigorous treatment plan and they didn’t know if he would make it.

I turned to Craigslist and made a posting about a loving family looking for a loving kitty and a woman reached out to us. She had a sweet kitty “Tiger” she had adopted from the shelter a few months ago but her current cat beat up on him (even taking a bite out of his ear).  They estimated he was about 3 years old and she had declawed him because of her leather couches; would we want to come see him?

It was love at first sight. Kind of. He was super shy and hid underneath the furniture. When we finally brought him out, he was a big, green-eyed beauty…but it wasn’t until we tried to put him in his crate that we realized just how big. The poor thing was terrified on the drive home (he still hates the car) and I pet him the whole drive home. I think he imprinted on me and I’ve been the favorite ever since.  We named him Remy but he has been Fat Kitty ever since.

It took him about 6 months to acclimate to our crazy clan and he spent much of that time hiding under beds and behind couches. However, on the first night we brought him home, he woke me up when he snuck into our bedroom. I pretended to be asleep when he jumped up on our bed and analyzed me for what felt like hours. Just when I wondered if this strange, new cat was plotting my death, he crept over to me and wrapped himself around my neck, purring. It was then I knew he’d be a good kitty.

He’s everyone’s favorite (well, except for Jamie because their relationship is dysfunctional at best) and here are a few of our favorite things about him for posterity:

Fat Kity has to find the softest blanket or pillow in the house to lay down (despite his permanent belly padding).

He is the least playful cat ever (and looks at you like you’re an idiot for even trying). We bought a lot of toys before we brought him home and couldn’t get him to play with any of them. We contacted the previous owner to see what he liked to play with and she hedgingly said, “He’s not really super playful.” Understatement.

He is, however, a lover and curls up next to us for marathon snuggles. He sleeps by my side or at my feet every night and becomes unglued whenever I’m out of town. Just ask Jamie; he gets the brunt of Fat Kitty’s neurosis every time I leave for extended periods of time.

The first time he caught a mouse at our house in Arvada, he didn’t know what to do so sat on it (undoubtedly a fate worse than death).

One our funniest memories is when Hadley and I were snuggled up in my bed and he walked into the bedroom. He was fairly agile when we first got him and liked to jump up on the window will. This particular day, the blinds were 3/4 of the way down so when he jumped up, he knocked right into them and flipped over backward. Hadley and I laughed for the next 30 minutes.

He has been an indoor kitty with outdoor tendencies so we slowly started letting him in our backyard. Our old yard was fenced in but a few times, he jumped up on the fence via the Powerbox and went on the lam. We found him a few doors down under our neighbor’s porch with their very enthusiastic Golden Retriever, Kozmo, excitedly pointing him out. He was hiding in a little hole so we ultimately had to spray him out with the hose which went over splendidly. He was covered in mud so it was one of his first baths where we were introduced to the “Meow of Death.” He hates water!

One of his other baths was when Bode finger-painted him with pudding. It took several years for Fat Kitty to warm up to Bode but they’re bestest brothers now. We estimate they were both 3 years old when we got Fat Kitty and if you know 3-year-olds, you know they’re not super great around pets. Bode never hurt him but just LOVED him so much that his snuggles were like being mauled.

Hadley, on the other hand, was obsessed. We got him when she was in kindergarten and every essay, drawing and conversation revolved around him for a few years.

After Fat Kitty went on the lam, we decided he needed supervised exercise so we bought him a leash to walk around the neighborhood. Do you know that scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding when Toula is working at the travel agency and sees Ian for the first time when she is wearing a headset to talk on the phone and she gets embarrassingly yanked back? That was Fat Kitty every time we put him on the leash. He would try to run away until he realized (too late) he was attached.

Fat Kitty hates change so our move was pretty traumatic for him. First, he had to go on field trips to the neighbors during our house showings and then he freaked out when we started packing up the house. And the 10-hour drive to Utah? Bad, bad, bad. We got him a sedative from the vet and tested it out on him a couple of weeks prior. He was a hilarious drunken sailer and we figured he’d conk right out but no such luck. Hadley and Jamie drove with him and he cried/meowed the entire 10-hour drive. When we arrived at Jamie’s parent’s house in Utah, he pooped in a few inappropriate places and then passed out on the couch from the trama. Poop is his weapon of choice when he is ticked off.

While our house was being finished, we stayed in my friend Kristen’s gorgeous Park City condo which didn’t allow pets so Fat Kitty stayed with Grandma for a few months. He was pretty traumatized those first weeks following the move and being abandoned but sure warmed up to her, Aunt Lisa and Grandpa. When we would come visit, he made very clear that GRANDMA was his new favorite person. They put him on a diet so he dropped a few pounds; it was the first time anyone has ever come home from Grandma’s weighing less.

He loved our old backyard in Arvada with his greenery and bushes to chill out in the shade. Our 0.5-acre property has been a dirt/weed patch but we finally got it landscaped this summer and he has had the time of his life! We back to some huge fields for prime mousing and he would sometimes disappear for a few hours. But we’ve never had any runaway incidents since our move. In his old age (13) he knows who butters his bread.

Speaking of bread, Fat Kitty has dropped a few pounds and is back to his svelte figure from the Grandma days. He was throwing up a lot last summer. and he had a lump on his side. We started freaking out he was ill and started by cutting back on his food (we would always just leave a large bowl out for him). His forced “diet” did the trick. That lump was just a blob of fat and he was throwing up because he was purging after overeating.

So, now he’s just a kinda Fat Kitty instead of morbidly obese Fat Kitty.

And we’re pretty darn grateful to have had this sweet boy in our lives for 10 wonderful years.

And the winner is…..

2019 was a successful growing year for the Johnson men. Well, kind of.  Jamie pulled his outdoor plant early in the season and Bode’s died a month before the weigh-off but these pumpkin men prevailed!

We attended the weigh-off at Thanksgiving Point which, frankly, is a disappointment compared to the Colorado one at Jared’s Nursery where they build an entire fall festival and haunted houses around the weigh-off.  In Utah, they have a few booths in an uninspired parking lot. However, some things they do right here are they are very efficient with ensuring the weigh-off goes quickly + they had some cool features like a giant pumpkin carver, our favorite pear gourds and even a gourd grown in a Frankenstein mold!

There were about 10 entries in the junior division. During his pre-weight interview, Bode estimated his pumpkin as about 300 pounds and it turned out to be….299 pounds which was enough for first place! Just imagine how much it would have weighed if it had kept growing.  It was sad for the boy because he worked hard on his plant this year and hoped to sell it. 

He won tickets to Thanksgiving Point’s Luminara at Christmastime and pumpkin carrying straps (just what every 13-year-old boy wants) and most importantly, bragging rights for his dad.

Not that he needed it.

Jamie’s pumpkin “Uncle Sam”  was measuring between 1,200-1,300 pounds and it would possibly be his heaviest ever (his previous record “Stanley,” was 1,240 pounds). But in pumpkin growing, it’s important to keep your hopes in check because Stanley actually measured much bigger (closer to 1,400 pounds) and went really light on the scale.

Just with the eyeball test, it looked like Uncle Sam was the second largest pumpkin there and when it was Jamie’s turn, I was praying it would just be over 1,200 pounds.

Well, Uncle Sam delivered because he went 8 percent heavy, weighing in at 1,325 pounds, Jamie’s personal best, and was the second largest pumpkin grown in Utah. What a victory! 

And now the fire has been fueled for the elusive first place next year.

The 12th Annual Giant Pumpkin Party!

OK, I may be several months behind writing about my life but one thing cannot be overlooked and that is the giant pumpkin party and weigh-off! It was a doozy of a year. Midway has a shorter growing season than Denver (which already wasn’t ideal), cooler nights and our beautiful view of Deer Creek Reservoir also means we get slammed with winds roaring up Provo Canyon.

Jamie’s solution was to build a government-funded greenhouse and that made all the difference even though there was a pretty steep leaving curve setting the beast up (it took WEEKS), and then came all the ongoing internal work like setting up fogger misting lines, geothermal system and fertigation systems and new growing challenges like too much nitrogen in the soil and a battle with spider mites. It was a  wet and cold spring with late frosts so several growers lost their plants early. We had one plant in the greenhouse and two outdoors and Jamie pulled that plant a couple of months ago while Bode’s pumpkin stopped growing a month and a half ago so his latest efforts have been just to keep it from rotting out. This was a big disappointment for Bode because he was pretty self-motivated to take care of his pumpkin this year as he wanted to sell it.

Speaking of which, the kids are starting an online business of selling giant pumpkin seeds and they will be selling pumpkin starters in the spring. Go check it out and tell your friends! PumpkinsForCollege.com

It has been a gorgeous fall and of course, a big storm was supposed to hit on the day of the pumpkin party. Our basement is still an unfinished eyesore and our small upstairs is not big enough to accommodate the 60+ people who came so we were PRAYING the storm would would hold off and it did…in fact, we were awoken the next morning by a torrential downpour. It was like the destroying angel passed right over us.  :-)

Our backyard is FINALLY almost finished with the exception of the fence, having to redo the edging and the last bit of rock (we have hauled 70+ tons of it the last two summers). Oh, and the trampoline. Don’t mention the trampoline to Jamie. We have spent a lot of time leveling out the back area and building a retaining wall to go around it. He bought a used trampoline (frame, pads, netting) but we needed to replace the trampoline part. And twice, the ones we ordered were too big or too small. We’re just ready to be DONE with it but so the tramp saga continues.

But anyhew, back to the party. Now that we have a much bigger yard, we’ve added some new elements that include Aunt Tammy’s gourmet s’mores bar, cornhole, ladder toss and Monster Bubbles. The spread of pumpkin treats was delicious and we had five crockpots of soup (Ellen’s Thai pumpkin curry was a favorite). The pumpkin party was 6-8 p.m. and the Homecoming football came was at 7 p.m. so we knew we’d lose some people (including our own daughter) but we still had a great turnout and a lot of fun. 

We have had two years when getting the pumpkin out of the patch was complicated. The first was when it RAINED several years back and the forklift kept slipping in the mud and almost tipping with the weight of the pumpkin. The second was this year. Do you remember all that rock? It surrounds our entire half-acre with the express purpose of bringing in heavy machinery to pull the pumpkin out. The problem was Power Equipment Rentals sent a beastly forklift, much bigger than usual, and it was really complicated trying to maneuver it into the greenhouse (a tiki torch and my peach tree were almost victims). But the Pumpkin man also doubles as an expert forklift driver so he did a great job, thanks to the help of our entire village who were guiding him and typing knots with the lifting straps. Here are a few pictures I took.

And then here are few pictures our friend Justin Bowen who works for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC took.

Minor difference.

So, how much did The Great Pumpkin weigh? Stay tuned! It was Jamie’s heaviest pumpkin yet.

Maybe all that work on the greenhouse and yard were worth it after all.

The 8th grader, the sophomore and the crazy summer

OK, this summer was a wash for blogging and pretty much staying on top of my life. The fact that, just two posts ago, I was talking about the last day of school and only wrote once for Bode’s birthday should tell you something.

Soooooo many updates but first, we have an eighth trader and a sophomore!

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First day of 8th grade for this kid where he’ll be a saxophone-playing, student-governing, ski-teaming fool. He hates having his picture taken almost as much as he hates going back to school but no one is rejoicing more than me that my middle school mothering years are almost over.

Sophomore year! She kicks off Young Artists’ Academy next week and has been drawing/painting everything (including her clothes). She also secured a gig helping with horses and really, the biggest downer is she got a retainer on Monday and talks with a lisp (she laments that she sounds like Dustin from ‘Stranger Things.’) My wise parental advice this morning? “Talk to no one, head down.” Good luck, Dusty Bun!

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As for summer? It kicked off with a trip to The Broadmoor for Memorial Day and Hadley’s birthday.

Bode was BUSY with DEVO (Nordic ski team training), PGA Junior League, coding class (PYTHON) and Scout trips including a week-long trip to Boulder Mountain. He shot up this summer, got his hair lightened and is looking like a certified teen. Without the moodiness and attitude. So far.

Hadley was not-so busy but we tried to keep her busy with girl’s camp at Heber Valley Camp, a week at Outdoors for Youth in Idaho over the 4th of July and waaaaay more down-time than a 15-year-old should ever have but what do you do when she’s too young to get a job and not interested in sports/programs? She spent a lot of time painting everything including her hands, clothes and canvases, cooking and chilling.

Oh, and procrastinating her online P.E. class that she never ended up finishing but that’s OK because we later found out what a nightmare it was. In my teacher-friend Jillian’s words: “PE is THE. WORST. ONLINE. COURSE. EVER. Seriously. It’s the only course my kid ever dropped, enrolled in real life, and it is taught BY SATAN and the curriculum was written by his ex-wife and demon spawn.”

Live and learn, folks. Oh, and I am never, ever homeschooling in a gazillion years.

Jamie has been busy obsessing over his greenhouse and has a pretty sizable pumpkin. We are almost finished hauling the 71 TONS OF ROCK in our backyard. Yes, it has been a misery and I am so done with it. We have one last small section where our trampoline will go up but we’re all pretty tapped out and may not get to it until spring. Jamie’s rheumatism has been debilitating so he started eating a Paleo/anti-inflammatory diet a month ago. It has helped with the migraines but it remains to be seen if it alleviates his chronic pain. I’ve been eating “clean” as well and feel so much better.

But do you know who has a new and girlish figure? Fat Kitty. In the spring, he was throwing up A LOT. We were worried he was terminally ill. He is, after all, an older cat (13 years old) and he had a lump on his back. Turns out it was just a fat lump and we were overfeeding him by just leaving out a huge bowl of food because we’re gone so much. Since we’ve limited his food intake, he has stopped puking, has slimmed down and is now only obese and not morbidly obese. I wish I could say slimming down has helped his energy levels but I don’t think that cat has ever been energetic or playful.

As for travel, the kids and I had a wonderful, though shorter-than-usual vacation to Canada: 5 days in Vernon and 5 days in Calgary.

Why the quicker trip? Because we were invited by our friends the Olsens and Andersons for a week on a houseboat at Lake Powell a few days after we got back. Every other person in Midway has an RV and a boat and since we have neither, people aren’t exactly knocking down our door to travel with us . So even though the timing was inconvenient and it was more money than we had in our travel budget this summer, we knew we had to jump at the chance. And it was really, truly an incredibly memorable trip that I hope to write about soon.

So many details to share and hopefully I’ll get to them. Even though it was a good summer, it was overwhelming and exhausting for me trying to juggle 30 hours of work/week + freelance projects + girl’s camp director + travel + kids. I got zero downtime and because of it, feel frazzled and exhausted. The kids going back to school actually feels like a vacation to me because I don’t feel obligated to keep them entertained while working all sorts of crazy hours. So here’s to a more leisurely fall.

Well, after I survive the Hades-that-is-Swiss Days Labor Day weekend. And the fact that we’re out of town the following weekend. And that I’m so far behind on work and Mile High Mamas right now that I feel like I’ll never get caught back up. And I’ve taken on another freelance assignment of writing for Ski Utah this winter in trade for a season pass at all the resorts so I guess I’ll never get caught up.

Better luck never, I guess.

XO

Happy 13th Birthday, Bode!

Bode,

This is the first birthday I have spent apart from you, something Dad has become acquainted with because we’re usually in Canada this week while he works. I’m missing you like crazy but I know you’re having a great time on your Scout camp-out at Boulder Mountain. These trips have been a source of joy for you this year as you have conquered fears like the rappel trip to Skull Valley and especially white-water rafting the Green River where you learned you have swimmer’s itch-repellent skin because you were one of the few who wasn’t plagued with it. That’s something to be proud of, Son!

Twelve was a great year for you! As far as Middle School goes, you’re making the best out of some of the most awkward years ever. You have a good group of friends at school, have made the honor roll every term for the last two years, got into student counsel for eighth grade and are enjoying a variety of activities outside of school. Though you stay busy, make no mistake that you enjoy your quiet downtime with video games, Audible, and more video games (rumor has it you’re getting a PS4 for your birthday and you’ve spent your summer trying to prove you’re not addicted to your technology so as to become more addicted with your new unit).

(Antelope Island)

The toughest waters you navigated were in math. You have always been the top of your class but this year, you qualified for Catalyst, an accelerated program that combined 7th and 8th grade math into one year. You fell behind in assignments, did poorly on a few tests and at mid-term, were at risk for being booted down to 7th Grade Honors. We gave you the choice to pray about what to do and to make the decision on your own…and you put your shoulder to the wheel, got caught up on your assignments and ended up doing well in the class. That week where we grounded you from video games so you could get caught up was helpful, too!

Since receiving the priesthood when you were twelve, you take your responsibilities very seriously. You collect Fast Offerings on Fast Sunday, serve as the counselor in your Deacon’s quorum presidency and regularly attend the temple and bear your testimony in Sacrament meeting. You also pass the Sacrament every week. My favorite moment was the first Sunday after it was announced that 11-year-old boys would be bumped up to become Deacons and you were suddenly among the oldest passing the Sacrament, they miscounted and you were running back and forth giving and receiving the bread on the middle row. Other people noticed how calm and composed you were. I just laughed because I knew inwardly you were freaking out.

You have developed the wonderful habit of reading the scriptures before bedtime and listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on your Alexa (“God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again” is always your final song). You read the entirety of the the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants and have now moved onto reading the Old Testament cover-to-cover, something that even I haven’t done. As a reward for finishing the Book of Mormon, Dad took you on a father-son trip to San Francisco last fall where you had a blast touring the city on foot and on bikes and even ran into a giant pumpkin on the street, thereby proving we’ll never truly be free of them (though you’re still growing and hope to make some cash from selling yours this fall).

Your enthusiasm for piano has been waning (despite doing a fantastic job playing the Missionary Medley duet with me in church) so I let you quit this summer with the promise that you’ll pour your energies into playing the saxophone. You had two lackluster years playing the flute and your sax skills have really taken off. You’ve serenaded me with “O Canada” and I was surprised when you played “Careless Whisper” even after I told you it was a stellar song for wooing women. Maybe your aversion to girls is softening just a bit, too. You can *almost* sit through kissing scenes on TV, have taken more care in your appearance, have had a growth spurt (you’re now in the 68th percentile for height and 64th for weight) and your voice dropped even lower than Dad’s.

You’re living your best life this summer. After your third season Nordic skiing with Kickers and Gliders at Soldier Hollow, you got bumped up to the advanced group, leaving me in your dust…errr…powder?

(Rappeling Skull Valley)

Even though you could have had one more year of class instruction, you decided to take it up to the next level by joining DEVO, the center’s ski team and you have been training twice a week this summer. Hiking, rollerskiing (which you picked up right away!) strength training, yoga (yuck) and your favorite: mountain biking. It has been fun to see you care about your fitness and becoming more careful with your food choices. Most of the time. Until you’re really, really hungry.

You have enjoyed playing with your airsoft guns with neighbors Hunter, Will, Stockton and whoever else is around. You had a blast downhill skiing at Park City with us and your friends this year. It has been awesome to see you start to click on the slopes as skiing becomes a passion. You are still wise and cautious on the slopes but your skill allows you to conquer terrain that I’m now shying away from. And yes, I did use the word “shy” to describe myself.

You are also in your second year of PGA Junior League and are enjoying playing twice a week…and I enjoy watching my two boys enjoy this sport together while I don’t have to lift a club.  You were even able to golf with Dad at one of The Broadmoor’s world-famous courses in May! You have been attending free weekly coding (Scratch) classes with friends Eli, Jonas and Brett at the library and kicked it up a notch this summer by completing a three-week-long Python coding class.  You’re eager to improve your computer skills and Dad is eager for someone else to teach you so he can hire you for his gruntwork in a few years.

Another end-of-an-era is soccer and Spring 2019 was your final season. Dad has coached your teams since moving here, mostly because their rec league sucks and if he was going to yell at everyone on the sidelines, he may as well make it official as coach.  You have been the top scorer on your team since moving here and an especial shout-out for the game when you took a shot on goal, the ball smacked your teammate’s face, and you scored a goal off the deflection.

Timpanogos Summit

You have had some good travels this year. Christmas and summers in Canada. Family reunion at Yellowstone/Henry’s Fork. The Broadmoor.  Vail/Beaver Creek (we skied our 28th of 33 Colorado resorts). Monthly Scouting adventures that included winter cabin camping at Tibble Fork, rappelling Skull Valley, exploring Antelope Island and you aren’t too sad to miss their annual Mount Timpanogos climb because you’ll be out-of-town (but you did it for the first time with Dad last summer). Your Scout leader, Rob, calls you a “joy,” which is a nice compliment because I’m sure he encounters lots of boys who are “less-than joyful” on these adventures.

You are kind and a peacemaker. When your dad and I were bickering with Hadley on the chairlift, there was a long, awkward silence before you piped in singing a happy song that had us laughing and forgiving in moments. Thank you for bringing our family together, for being thoughtful and for rarely complaining when you are asked to do something. Really, you mostly parent yourself these days with the exception that you are a slob, can’t cook (though you learned to make crepes this summer) and play way too many video games so I suppose those are the only reasons Dad and I have been put here on the earth. Mostly, you just keep the rest of us in line and are a tremendous example to us every day.

I’m not known for my finger-nail-cutting abilities (I accidentally cut baby Hadley when she was a baby and she had to wear socks on her hands to prevent greeting blood everywhere). When you were little, as I was cutting your nails, in the sweetest little-boy voice, you said, “Be gentlwe.” Dad and I are asking for the same courtesy during your teenage years. ;=)

XOXO

Mom

P.S. For a stroll down memory lane, see birthday letters 1, 234 5,  6, and 78 910, 11 and 12.

Final Kids Adventure Games with Porter

Antelope Island

Troll Falls, Kananaskis Country

Fins Course, The Broadmoor

Chair hike at Deer Creek

Grandma’s funeral

Regrub in Calgary

Snowshoe Winter Camp

Christmas lights at Temple Square

Troll Falls with Dad

Surfing at Lake Okanogan

Farewell to the 2018-19 School Year!

We survived the school year!

I’m still woefully behind on updating the blog and feel like I’ve been sludging through mud in May.  A rainy and cold month hasn’t helped but it has fit my mood. Now that it’s officially summer, the sun is finally out. We spent Hadley’s birthday Memorial Day weekend at The Broadmoor which was a glorious pick-me-up after a tough month.

As the kids get older, the differences between their first and last day of school photos aren’t nearly as drastic. Bode has definitely undergone the most changes with a growth spurt and a drop in his voice. Apparently the biggest difference for both of them (according to these pictures): hats.

Hadley’s Freshman Year Before and After

Freshman year of high school went a lot better than the entirety of middle school. Hadley is still struggling to find her friend group and activity but one thing I’m grateful for is that she has reconnected with art. It’s her love language and I love that she quickly cranked out paintings last night for her favorite teachers. This one is for her yoga instructor and I love the symbolism of the cairns which are used as trail markers to guide explorers. Her math teacher, Mr. Tree, has been a gem as well and if you know any of her history in math (and her many tutors over the years), you’ll understand the importance of a great mentor. She did much better in school and ended up with mostly As and a couple of Bs.

I have had a panic attack the last few weeks about her lack of plans for the summer. She’s too young to be employable but there aren’t many opportunities for camps around here (nor does she have much interest).  I have always kept the kids busy in the summer because downtime = technology time = trouble (especially as they grow older). So, after a power struggle, she agreed to let me sign her up for Youth Triathlon training for a couple of mornings a week in June. She will have YW Girl’s Camp for a week (with me as Camp Director; lucky girl) and I just signed her up for Outdoors for Youth, the outdoorsy equivalent to EFY. It was a financial stretch but I figure getting that girl active and outdoors while building her testimony is a worthwhile investment. We’ll be vacationing in Canada for a couple of week in July but we still have a looooooong stretch ahead of us and hopefully she’ll find ways to have a fun, productive summer.

Bode’s 7th Grade Before and After   Dare I say that Bode thrived in seventh grade (well, as much as you can thrive in the dreaded middle school years). He has made the honor roll for two years straight and learned how to really WORK with his advanced Catalyst math class which crammed 7th and 8th grade math into a single year. He bombed his mid-term and got really far behind on his class assignments…and was *this* close to being demoted to Honors Math but we left him with the choice to soldier through it or take the lower class. He opted to work hard to get his grade back up (a week-long grounding from video games helped as well). He was accepted into student government next year and switched from the flute to saxophone so my dreams of having a band geek in high school may be realized. Though who else thinks sax is pretty sexy? That boy played “O Canada” on his sax and he’ll be able to woo any woman, which will be helpful because he still can’t talk to girls. Which I’m quite happy about because I’m trying to keep Hadley away from boys.

Bode has a fun, full summer ahead of him. He has done Kickers and Gliders for the past three seasons at Soldier Hollow Nordic Center and made the decision that he wants to try their ski team so is entering into their summer ski training program a couple of mornings a week. He is also doing PGA Jr. League again twice a week, a Python coding class for a few weeks and a few Scout trips: His first white-water rafting adventure in the Green River next week, Boulder Mountain over his birthday and and then Mount Timpanogos again in August.  And he’ll have plenty of downtime to hang out with his buddies, have airsoft wars and play video games.

Jamie just landed a big client and his project deadline hits around the same time as our Canada trip. So, he will be dedicating his summer to work and pumpkins, which sounds pretty miserable to me but in his own warped way, I think he’s having a good time trying to figure out his new greenhouse except for suffering through the bad weather and rheumatism.

As for me, I thank my lucky stars I’m no longer at BYU and am able to work from home. Being gone for 9 hours/day with a 1.5-hour commute was tough and even though I’ll still be working all summer, at least I’ll have a flexible schedule and will be more present for my kids. Goals: Get back in shape now that my knee is fixed and do more water sports like Stand-up Paddleboarding.

Bring it on!

An Ode To The Lovely Chris

My dad wrote this to my mom 20+ years ago and he included it in her funeral program! I love it…except that Jamie wasn’t yet on the scene and an old boyfriend is included. :-)

An Ode To The Lovely Chris by Stan February 14, 1996

They met at curling, that roaring game

Stan of Fork River and Christine from Raymond she came

That Chris was a knockout, ere was no doubt But Stan was too shy to ask her out

Chris took the lead

And to dinner Stan came

And that all started the old dating game

First came love, and then “I do”

And off to Hawaii the happy couple flew

Taylor apartments was their first home

With that big Dodge Royal with which to roam

A year later Number 1 baby came

Patrick Shawn was the little guy’s name

A new home was now needed and as the story goes

Off the pair went to Mapleglade Close

A few years later, in 1972 I think

We got baby Number 2 and the color was pink

For a girl arrived at the stroke of midnight

While Stan was at home sleeping quite tight!

On summer vacations we traveled quite far

Off to B.C. or Disneyland in that faithful old car

First with a tent, then a tent trailer we went

Finally a -fist class trailer was money well spent

In 1977, the last bundle of joy came

Jade Barrett Borowski was Number 3’s name

Sports was a big thing with the kids I must say

Baseball and soccer and volleyball and hockey they play

Those were great times, a chance to go out

To cheer and to holler and let out a loud shout!

Pat finally got married and it seemed to be

That would leave Chris, Jade, Amber and me

But no – I remember utter surprise When Pat, Jane and Ashton on our doorstep arrived!

We managed quite fine but they needed something new

And after awhile, out of the nest they all flew

It was Amber’s turn next and off to Ricks she went

And the big expedition was money well spent

For she made good friends and found a boyfriend named Scott

He was No.1 whether we liked it or not

But she wasn’t prepared to just settle down

A missionary call would change things around

Geneva Switzerland, she said was the place to be

With Heavenly Father, my companion and me

That left just Jade and he was growing up fast

Enjoy him while he’s home. It wasn’t to last

Hockey was over when Jade broke his right leg

But it was on to golf with great passion instead

On crutches to school and on crutches to play

On Mapleridge course, it was the talk of the day

Two holes in one during only one year

Was cause for celebration and a loud cheer

But a golf ball came flying and much to his surprise

It caught Jade squarely between his two eyes!

Chris became a business lady under The Curiosity Shoppe name

Tea room and gifts were her new claim to fame

They came to the tea room from near and from far

And it was a great business, well above par

But the landlord and city lowered the boom

With more rent and more taxes to send them to doom

And out dear old Chevron way,

Stan was bundled up and bid a good day

After 33 years to new ventures he went

You still have to eat. You still must pay rent

And Jade has now left and so you must see

That leaves empty nesters, Christine and me

We still have our quarrels, our troubles, the lot

But I am still happy we decided to tie that OLD KNOT!

-Love, Stan

Spring Break in Colorado!

Since it’s almost summer break, it’s only befitting I talk about SPRING BREAK!

The Redwood Forest has been on our family bucket list for ages and we had planned to go there for Spring Break…but back when I was at BYU, our biggest event of the year is the following week. I knew I wouldn’t be able to slip away for an entire week and a few days is just too short to drive all the way to California.

So, when I was approached by the glorious Westin Beaver Creek about doing a Spring Break campaign in trade, I was all-in. We already have season passes for Vail Resorts so that, coupled with lodging made for a fun and affordable family vacation.

This was our third time at the glorious Westin Riverfront.

Stay #1: Bode and I went a day early, skied our hearts out in the torchlight parade, dined fireside and then he was up all night with the stomach flu. We went home early before Hadley and Jamie drove up.

Stay #2: Rescheduled a few months later for Spring Break. Hadley got the stomach flu at home so Bode and I left with the plan that she and Jamie would join us when she was feeling better. Bode and I dined at the chophouse and it was Groundhog Day when he caught the stomach flu that night. Hadley and Jamie joined us the next day for a sick day in our room…and then Jamie had to go back to work the next day while the kids and I skied.

So, the questions on this trip were:

1) Would Jamie ever ski Beaver Creek?

2) How long did it take before Bode puked?

BEAVER CREEK

Well, I’m thrilled to tell you that Jamie finally had his day at Beaver Creek! The late-season conditions were crunchy at first but quickly softened up for an amazing ski day with sunshine and zero crowds (yay for mid-week, late-season skiing!)  and we had a fun time grilling our own burgers atop Mamie’s 360-degree perch.

Pictured: Bode pretending to vomit. Not pictured: Hadley playing an April Fool’s Day joke by telling her dad she was feeling queasy right before we skied. Because what could be funnier than the stomach flu ruining three Beaver Creek vacations in a row?

After an over-the-top dinner at Richard Sandoval’s MayaModern Mexican Cuisine, we went hot tubbing, which is secretly the best part of any ski vacation. Nothing beats soaking your muscles after a long day on the slopes.

And Hadley looking like she is flipping me off.

Here is a fun glimpse at parenting our beloved Hadley. She skied down an unfamiliar resort early for her first-ever massage and headed to the gym by herself after hot tubbing. Just as I was starting to get impressed that she is becoming independent and oh-so capable, she never came back. It was getting late so Jamie eventually went to find her. And there she was trying to jimmy the door open because she was locked INSIDE the gym after the attendant left.

And did she think to call or text? No, she DMed me on Instagram, which I don’t check regularly.

The good news is she wasn’t alone: She was locked inside with an old Asian man who had about 10 water bottles of weird tea lined up around his workout area.

Or is that bad?

VAIL

My first job out of college was as Ski Utah’s Craaaaazzzzy Canuck ski report where I skied all 14 of Utah’s resorts that season.

Our family set the goal of skiing all 33 of Colorado’s resorts which has become a bit trickier since moving away but the kids finally skied #28: Vail Mountain!

The first and only time I skied Vail was shortly after we got married. We walked a mile with all our gear because we didn’t want to pay $20 for parking, skied to one of the back bowls, got caught in a blizzard, Jamie forgot his goggles so I loaned him mine and it was a hot mess with zero visibility. We went home early.

Fortunately this time around, it was an amazing end to an amazing ski season!

And best of all, nobody puked.

HANGING LAKE

This iconic 2-mile hike outside of Glenwood Springs has been on my bucket list for years. Due to popular demand and their small parking lot, the forest service recently announced they will be implementing a paid shuttle system beginning in May. And because paying $50 to hike is ridiculous, I suggested we finally hike it on the drive home.

The parking lot was abandoned (bonus for mid-week, early-April) and the trail was dry as we started out.

But before long, the steep terrain turned to snow, then long, icy stretches. We carefully navigated it all but only had one-fourth of a mile left when we ran into an avalanche blocking the path that we turned back.

Or at least the wise 3/4 of us.

If there is anything Adventure Girl HATES, it is prematurely turning back. I get it. I’m the same way and hate to have unfinished business.

However, this was one of those cases where there were a lot of avalanche chutes in the valley, the snow was melting fast and conditions were dangerous. She insisted she climb around the avalanche to see if she could find a trail, which she did but after a few minutes, she refused to come back despite our shouting match for her to return. I thought Jamie was going to explode at her recklessness and it wasn’t until we heard The Voice of God in the form of a WHUMPF (the sound of the collapsing snowpack as a boulder was launched from the cliffs above) that we convinced her to high-tail it outta there.

Colorado River

Hanging Lake is still on my bucket list but the good news is we’re still alive to climb it another day.

 

Happy 15th Birthday, Hadley!

Dear Prinny-Princess,

Just as your nicknames frequently change, so do you! You’re wrapping up your freshman (9th grade) year and though you’re still figuring out your path, high school proved to be exponentially better than middle school and have pulled off mostly A and A- for grades! Unfortunately, you got cut from the volleyball team but fortunately, you took two art classes–painting and pottery–and reminded yourself that art is your passion and talent. You spend hours in your room painting and people have taken notice: you’ve had some friends ask you to paint their laptop covers, which I think could turn into a business opportunity. You also love photography, much to your brother’s chagrin, who takes every chance he can to avoid “the paparazzi.”

Oh, and let us not forget about your “My Little Pony Addiction” and the hundreds of hours you spent in Equestria this year. It could be worse, right?

I introduced you to yoga when you were around 7 which you described as “the worst pain ever” so I was surprised that you wanted to take a yoga class at the high school and even more shocking: you enjoyed it! You went from the least flexible person in the world (barely able to touch your knees) to a passably flexible person and can almost touch your ankles. However, your yoga enjoyment only goes so far. You went on a class field trip to a hot yoga studio at Thanksgiving Point, which you described as “the worst experience of my life.” No judgment here about your hatred for hot yoga; I won’t even do “cold” yoga.

You have had some fun trips this year. Canada for Christmas, Grandma’s funeral and last summer at the lakehouse in B.C. and Calgary.  The Johnson family reunion at Henry’s Fork Landing near Yellowstone. Our beloved Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs. Youth Conference at Bryce Canyon National Park.  Especially for Youth (EFY) in Provo. Trek in the middle-of-nowhere Wyoming. YW Girl’s Camp at Bear Lake. Vail and Beaver Creek Resorts for Spring Break where you skied #28 of Colorado’s 33 resorts.

A broken shoulder (Aqua X Zone), a busted back (skiing) and last summer was The Sailing Disaster, which has prompted me to officially pass my Murphy’s Law torch to you.  Your tiller broke at sailing lessons at Jordanelle, your sailboat capsized and while you and your partner clung to the side of the boat, the wind whipped them to shore, almost running over a [terrified] elderly woman in a kayak. You somehow emerged unscathed but the bright side is you were a celebrity when I checked you into sailing lessons the next day. Takeaway: Being a Murphy is nothing if not notorious.[/caption]

You’re still suffering PTSD from last year’s ski accident so you skied down Beaver Creek by yourself early for your first-ever massage at the Westin’s spa. That night after we went hot-tubbing as a family, you headed to the gym by yourself and just as I was starting to get impressed that you are becoming independent and oh-so capable, you never came back so Dad eventually went to find you. And there you were trying to jimmy the door open because you were locked INSIDE the gym after the attendant left…with a creepy old Asian guy who had lined up about 10 bottles of weird tea around his workout area. It’s like trying to parent myself.

You have been begging us to get braces and we will just as soon as we pay off my knee surgery and all of your medical accident debt (it never ends). You’re hankering to get a job and make your own money but pickins are slim out in these parts and 16 is the golden age. We need to make a plan for  summer because it’s wiiiiiiide open. You have had a tough time since we moved to Utah and that’s hard to witness as a mom because I felt–and still feel–we made this move for you. You have had a lot of setbacks and you often feel so defeated you just want to sleep. But sometimes we get glimpses of your former self and it’s reconfirmed to me that this journey, as hard as it is, is the path you are supposed to go through.

Broadmoor Santa

During our recent trip to Colorado for Spring Break, we saw the return of Adventure Girl (AG).  I have wanted to hike popular Hanging Lake for years and their recent announcement requiring a $shuttle$ starting in May spurred us to action. The steep pitch didn’t deter us, nor did traversing the long, icy stretches but when we came across an avalanche 3/4 of the way up that completely blocked the path, you climbed over it and wouldn’t leave until you relocated what was left of the icy “trail.”

The three sane ones in the family turned around, an argument ensued that we were ruining your life and it was only when we heard The Voice of God in the form of a WHUMPF (the sound of the collapsing snowpack as a boulder was launched from the cliffs above) that we convinced you to high-tail it outta there. Takeaways: You may the most stubborn person on the planet, even at the detriment of your own safety but my gosh, you’re determined.

You recently had a Young Women retreat at the Kuch’s cabin and I was asked to write a little something about you:

Hadley is artistic, hilarious, free-spirited and when she sets her mind to something, she is unstoppable. Don’t ask her to turn around on a mountain because you’ll never hear the end of it. You were born to Summit.

And don’t you ever forget it.

Love,

Mommy

P.S. For a stroll down memory lane, read letters for your 14th birthday,  13th12th11th10th, 9th 8th7th6th5th4th3rd2nd and your birth story.

Teaching art for FHE

Beaver Creek Girls

The Broadmoor

Bryce Canyon

Deer Valley

The Duck Whisperer at Wasatch State Park

Cascade Springs

Ice Castles

Hanging Lake

Moraine Lake

Lover of babies

Razor racing

Trek with Allie and Jodi

Troll Falls, Canada

Yellowstone

Singing “As Zion’s Youth in Latter-days”

Waterton Lakes, Canada

sfafd

A final farewell

I returned from Calgary on Friday and I’m still processing the myriad of emotions from burying my mother.

Mom took a turn for the worst shortly after Christmas and we were sure it was time. She spent several weeks in the hospital as my family started planning her funeral. I stressed about immigration. My passport and green card expired in March. Should I roll the dice and send everything in to be renewed, praying she didn’t pass away and I wouldn’t be able to get home? Or should I delay the renewal until March and run the risk of letting everything expire? I ended up rolling the dice and submitting everything in January…which turned out to be a big stress because my passport application got returned, along with a myriad of other problems.

Mom has been on the cusp of needing to go in a care facility for a few years now but my Dad has somehow continued with her care with the help of daily visits from Alberta Health.  The week prior to my mom’s passing, he took a mental health vacation to Mexico. My mom has been vehemently opposed to being left in a care facility for fear that she would never come home again. Fortunately, my brother and his family have been living with my parents so they were able to watch her at night while women in our ward stayed with her during the day.

Her Passing

When my mom returned home from the hospital a few months ago, she had bounced back and though she still had a poor quality of life, she was in a much better place. She attended family dinners (including Easter where they rolled her wheelchair to roll Easter eggs down the hill) and was happier than she had been in a while.

The night before my dad left for his early-morning flight to Mexico, she told him, “I’m not even going to have a chance to say good-bye to you.” My dad interpreted that to mean saying their farewells the next morning but maybe it went deeper than that.

The week she spent with my brother’s family was the best she had in a long time. She had some semblance of her former self and was in good humor. When Jamie and I were saying good-bye to her at Christmas, we saw a glimpse of her former spunk when she reacted incredulously to our 6 a.m. flight. It was good to hear her laugh again.

She was also manic at times the last week of her life. My brother and his wife Jennifer would hear her rummaging through the kitchen at all hours. On Saturday, she fell–hard–and her glasses cut her face. They rushed her to the hospital for her to get stitches and did an MRI because she hit her head. Nothing showed up and amazingly, she was still in good humor. “I can’t figure out why I have such a bad headache,” she said in the hospital. Maybe because you slammed the floor, hard!

Jen and Jade took away her walker when she wasn’t supervised because they were worried she would have another bad fall. On her last night on earth, my brother Jade woke up at midnight to her cooking toast in the kitchen. He was frustrated and tired.  Jade has had poor health for months as he has battled kidney stones, failed surgeries and other major hardships. He patiently waited for her to finish and he was granted a sacred moment with her.

“I want to go home,” she quietly told him.

She has said this a few times the last several months, which my family interpreted to mean she was confused with where she was. “You are home,” my sister-in-law, Jane told her. But slowly it started to sink in. “OK, Christine. You can go home.” After years of fearing death despite her hellish condition, she was ready to go home.

My mom started to have trouble breathing that final night and Jade debated taking her back to the hospital but when he went to check on her around 2 a.m., she had fallen asleep in her beloved chair. Four hours later on April 30, 2019, Jen went to check on her and realized she had passed. Or rather, Jen was “99% sure” she had passed away.  She frantically called my brothers. Pat called me at 7:05 a.m. with the news. Dad was flying home from Mexico that day he eventually got the message to call home. After years of taking care of her, he was spared the horror of being the one who found her, calling the funeral home, and seeing her taken away. It was a tender mercy for her to pass away at home, in her chair.

The Dressing and Viewing

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our view of death is an eternal one. We believe we lived as spirits in a pre-mortal existence with God (but that we have always existed as Intelligences). That we came to earth where our spirits gained a mortal body where we grow in wisdom and faith. When we die, we are reunited with loved ones in a world of light: the spirit world, where we await judgment and resurrection through Jesus Christ. (Learn more about the Plan of Salvation, Great Plan of Happiness here).

My mom didn’t want a large funeral. Her final requests were for a simple graveside service with a closed casket at the Okotoks Cemetery. I flew in a day before Jamie and the kids so I could go to Pierson’s Funeral Home with my Aunt Sue, sister-in-laws Jane and Jennifer, and nieces, Ashton and Emily. Our purpose? To dress my mom’s mortal body. Mike Pierson walked us through the process and we began with a prayer prior to entering the Rose Room (which I thought was the perfect location because of her love of roses).

Seeing her for the first time was a beautiful experience. She had sustained a large bruise and stitches on her face from her fall a few days prior to her death but she looked at peace. Mike assisted Jane and me in dressing her in her temple dress and clothing. Her skin was cold and hard, yet smooth. My nieces did her hair and make-up to look like the beauty she always was.  “She is not here,” the spirit kept whispering. She was free. We placed her in the beautiful pink! coffin. Attending to her–as she always attended to me–was a final act of service.

That evening, we had a viewing for family and close friends. Many traveled to honor her and it was a close-knit, memorable night as stories and tears were shed. My mom’s best friend, Brenda, passed away when I was 12. Her daughter, Stacey, attended the viewing and the grief of losing her mom resurfaced and she struggled to leave my mom’s side. It made me think about her loss..and mine. I was about 13 when Mom was diagnosed with MS. Her journey has been a long, difficult and painful one but unlike Stacey’s mom, she was still here. As it came time to leave, we gathered around her coffin. I kissed her for the last time, softly placed her veil on her head and covered her face. The last, hardest good-bye.

The Graveside Service

On Friday, we met at the Willow Park Chapel to caravan to the Okotoks Cemetery. I was touched by the outpouring of friends and family on that cloudy morning. I hopped in the back of my Aunt Sue’s van with Jamie and Bode for the 30-minute drive. We were part of the caravan…until we weren’t. Jamie and Sue had assumed the cemetery would be outside of town so missed the turnoff. We finally pulled over to Google map the route and turned back.

Then, the phone rang; it was my brother Jade wondering where we were. “At least it was the nice brother,” Sue joked, but then the “not-nice” brother Pat came on the phone to not-so-nicely guide us back to the cemetery.

When we arrived 15 minutes late, everyone was already seated but with two pallbearers (Jamie and Bode) and the eulogist (me), we figured they couldn’t start without us. I wish I had time to regain my composure from being late but immediately, the pallbearers carried the coffin to the graveside before I was able to process what was happening.

The service was short. The bishop shared some remarks and then it was my turn to give the eulogy. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to hold it together but the previous day’s dressing and viewing were my good-bye; this eulogy was about sharing funny stories and touching tributes about my mom (I will post it separately).

Then, we had Open Mic. My dad shared the story of winning a vacation to Hawaii when I was 5. My dad was out snorkeling waaaaaay past the reef when he heard my mom yell at him from across the waves, “Stan, get back in here. You’re going to die and ruin everyone’s vacation.”  Always thinking of others. :-)

Aunt Sue shared stories of my dad’s devotion and losing her sister. Pat shared a story that he was out playing street hockey with his friends and Mom threatened him to come rest and get cleaned up before his hockey game, saying he would be too exhausted to play that night. They made a bet that she’d pay him $100 if he scored two goals…he went on to score three and she gave him a $100 bill after the game. For Jade, he had the special experience of being the final one to be with my mom and he shared her story of wanting to go home.

Granddaughter Ashton shared some of her fun Grandma Christine stories and the true showstopper was my nephew Jaxson. We all held our breath as he walked to the pulpit because he’s often king of the inappropriate but my gosh, he gave the most beautiful tribute to his grandma. Mom’s cousin Lynn Wilde gave a spiritual message, longtime family friend Colleen Low led us in song with”God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again,” Jade dedicated the grave and Jane gave a beautiful prayer of farewell.

It was perfect.

Our family’s tradition of going out for Chinese food was rooted in Southern Alberta years ago when we would drive into Lethbridge and the Chinese restauranteurs would declare, “The Wildes are here again.” It is one of our favorite traditions and my dad generously took everyone in attendance out for Chinese food. It was the perfect way to honor her–with stories, laughter and ginger beef.

====

As we raced in late to the graveside service, several people told me I was my Frenzied Mom Incarnate. When I gave the eulogy, I shared the story of when my mom was late (as usual) for a class at BYU. Her instructor required latecomers to announce their last and first name and so she hurriedly shouted in the quiet room:

“WILDE CHRISTINE” which was met by laughter.
Wild, indeed.
How honored I am to be her daughter…and for her great legacy that will forever live on.